• The Prologue


  • Tom

    He loved the sound the rain made hitting his bedroom window. The mesmerizing repetition of what he interpreted as his name breaking the silence of his stone-cold bedroom as it hit the cracked and rotting rectangle one could call a window.


    Tom, Tom, Tom, the raindrops fell in perfect balance with the rhythm in his head; he pretended each drop was an individual spirit that cherished him. Whispering his name, Tom, Tom, Tom; promising to stay with him through all the fear, embarrassment, betrayal, and loneliness. Tom knew these feelings better than any other. Sure, he had fleeting memories of happiness but could argue that the first sixteen years of his life had been mostly filled with disappointment and neglect.


    He blamed his mother for this.


    She was a tawdry person… too consumed with her next fuck and the paycheck that was sure to come with it to recognize him as a person, let alone her son.


    Tom, Tom, Tom… but at the moment, none of that mattered. The comfort he felt through the rainstorm was enough to assure him that life would be better when he was on his own. An adult that only needed to answer to himself.


    This was the night, he vowed he would always put his feelings and desires first. He’d never trust another person with his deepest thoughts and instead live a life shielded from the hurt that people inherently brought with them like unclaimed baggage that should have stayed abandoned at the terminal. In his mind, he made a silent bargaining plea with the darkness that consumed him-maybe it was his shadow self, maybe the Devil. Either way, a deal was struck. It’s a shame that he’d lost patience and couldn’t see into the near future where he would break that promise to himself.


    Little did he know, he would fall head over heels in love with a young, bouncing blonde named Kim. Then again, meeting her might have been his part of the reward from the damning agreement.


    Kim had it all; a beautiful smile that entranced him the first time their eyes met in math class, a bubbly personality resulting in what seemed like a million friends, big blue eyes, and even bigger boobs.


    He wasn’t sure which he loved more - those full, ocean-colored eyes or those voluminous breasts…. they had so much personality of their own. It was crazy to think that a person’s single body part could attract more interest and attention than another person could in their entirety. But at the moment their eyes first locked, those enchanting pools were all he saw. Her pureness shined a light out through her pupils, penetrating straight through him. He swore every time she looked at him she was seeing right into his soul; reading his thoughts before he could even think them…


    Some may say it was love at first sight because it wasn’t too far into sophomore year that he became hers. And she, his.


    They spent almost every waking moment together when they weren’t being forced apart by annoying class schedules or some overbearing demands Kim’s family sometimes made of her. He would hang off her shoulders in the hallways at school, laughing about some secret joke that they shared. Other times, wiping away one another’s tears, trying to calm some brutal reality that was out of their control.


    Kim knew more about him than he knew about himself. He understood her too, but there were always things he didn’t know about Kim. Maybe if he had known more of the secrets she held, he could have saved himself and possibly her.


    Kim would sneak out through her bedroom window every night and crawl through his rotting rectangle so they could spare each other the isolation that night inevitably brought. Tom’s solitude was unforgivingly obvious; his mother spent her nights, evenings… hell, even afternoons, at the local bar trying to lure in another tool to first sucker punch in the cock and then in their wallet.


    He wasn’t very old when he first realized how and why his mother chronically entrapped men. It didn’t take a neuroscientist to figure it out. What the fuckers saw was her tiny, toned body, manicured nails, bleach-blonde hair, and fake-filled lips. Those stupid enough to fall for her didn’t see the toxicity that was underneath it all; like the cancerous cells that camped out on her skin and in her lungs from years of smoking and fake baking. The filth and tar collecting underneath those plastic shards she called nails. Even she didn’t know about the infections that her body was housing from bad Botox injections. Then again, shouldn’t you expect some kind of funk to infect your junk when you get your Botox shot up in you in a neighbor’s basement in exchange for sexual favors?


    It was palpable why he never felt respect or compassion for her or any of the dopes she brought home to pay the bills.


    What awaited Kim at night was something that not even Tom knew about. Kim was escaping her cruel Hellmouth by sneaking out and sharing his bed. The alternative was to share her bed with someone else within her own family. She figured her secret sneak-outs were safe from coming to light since it would be odd for her stepfather to know she wasn’t sound asleep in her room; quickly bringing the forced “relationship” to her mother’s attention.


    Tom didn’t know a lot of things about Kim.


    At the time, Tom saw her as an unadulterated outlet where he could relax and feel grounded. There was consistency in his life for the first time. He came to rely on their romance. And solely on her.


    Until one day he couldn’t.


    It was Kim that called it quits.


    Even now, he could recall every detail - like it happened yesterday.


    They made it all the way to the middle of senior year. On the morning it happened, it seemed like the sun had risen extra early and was shining brighter and hotter than it ever had before. Tom remembered feeling hopeful... giddy even. Maybe a trip to the beach with Kim was due, he’d thought.


    He dressed in his favorite plaid cut-off (because, yeah, it was the nineties) and shredded, white-washed jeans that were two sizes too big for him. Clothes he'd found shoved underneath the couch cushion - surely belonging to one of his mother’s escapades. He'd collected a menagerie of findings; unintentional apology gifts he imagined. In his nightstand drawer, he kept abandoned watches, belts, gutted wallets, a single gold chain necklace, and next to it, a whole garbage bag full of clothes. Tom was a resourceful scab and though not quite a fashionista, he always made them work for him and his young, skinny bones.


    His mom noticed, but well, didn’t give a shit.


    She never did about much.


    Kim was standing in front of his locker when he arrived at the high school, tears filling her eyes. She wouldn’t make direct eye contact with him as he approached…. right away he knew something was wrong. He assumed that there had been another fight at home, maybe another domestic between her mom and stepdad. But as he got closer to her, he didn’t recognize the look of guilt on her face. No, this was something different, something new for her. His mind went to what he thought was the worst scenario possible–she had cheated on him. He sucked in his breath, and clenched it in his lungs, not allowing his eyes to release the tears that were welling up.


    What came out of those beautiful rose-colored lips was not rose-colored at all.

    Instead, her words stank of decaying garbage.


    Tom heard her words, but his mind had stopped processing their meaning.

    It was over.


    She said she worried that they would grow apart since they each had been accepted into two very different colleges. For her, "home" would soon be on the west coast with the east remaining his. She further “excused” her decision by saying that if they were to stay together through their entire senior year, it would make their move to college even harder. She feared that one of them would fold and give up going to school to be with the other person.


    He recalled her saying, “If we don’t start spending some time apart before college and we both actually make it out to campus… we won’t be able to stand on our own. I just need to know that I can do this without you.”


    That last sentence would stick with him for the rest of his life. Why should someone you love want to, quote, do this without you?


    Memories from the past two years started reeling through his mind. Were they just a phase for Kim? Did she play him like his mother played those idiots at the bar? How could he have let himself trust her?


    To say that it hurt barely scratched the surface of the crater-sized hole the disastrous exchange left. He was devastated, wrecked, shattered, and completely lost.


    Just as he was entering adulthood he sensed that he had lost all connection with his own identity… what fucking timing. Even Satan couldn’t be relied on; their deal was off, apparently, and Tom would be left alone to rebuild a tougher, more iron-clad version of himself.


    His response to her: “Fuck off, whore.” Racing past her, he broke through the school’s doors that had been holding him prisoner for the past four years and ran. He didn’t stop running until he crashed through his bedroom door, back at the shithole he called home.


    It didn’t matter that school had not even technically started; he was done as far as he was concerned. He was done for the morning… the day… the week… fuck, possibly the rest of the year.


    He lost all motivation to get up in the mornings, let alone attend any classes. How was he supposed to react when, inevitably, he’d see her in the hall or in the few classes they shared? He needed time to figure out a plan and to get his head right.


    And he did according to him.


    The next time he “dated” a woman wasn’t until graduating college with a 4.0 GPA in finance. He got his head straight alright, with a whole new outlook and goals for his life as an adult.


    There were still nights when he awoke expecting to find her lying next to him; tucked into the crevices of his body like a warm blanket, shrouding his insecurities. Her essence had permanently woven itself in with his and he didn’t know how to remove it without completely unraveling.


    He promised himself that he would never have to feel heartache like that again, starting with his mother.


    With no effort on either of their parts, he chose a life of estrangement from dear old Ma and wasn’t at all devastated when he learned that she had passed away from an alcohol-related incident only a couple of months after he started his first “big boy” job.


    No tears were shed and no grievance leave was taken.