Different

by disperser

Different

By E. J. D’Alise (Disperser)
Copyright March 2013

She slammed the door on the way out.  The sound of it closing, finding herself looking at the empty corridor of the apartment building, the sudden quiet after the loud argument . . . all of it overwhelmed her, and she started to cry.  

She hated herself for it; she was stronger than this.  But . . . sometimes it felt as if the world wanted no part of her.  For not the first time, the thought crossed her mind the world might be better off without her in it.  It was not a serious thought; more of a “I’ll show them!” impulse she would never consider following through on.  “Too rational for that!” she thought with a touch of irony.  

She could not stay out here in the hallway, but she had not grabbed her wallet, and no way was she going back in. The five miles to one of her few friends was out of the question because of the snow storm raging outside.

She heard the stair’s door open, and quickly wiped her tears.  Probably one of her nosy, judgmental neighbors.  She could not just stand there and suffer their stares; she decided to head to the basement’s storage areas. Samantha headed toward the door, determined to hold the stare of whatever old bitty had just returned home.

~~o~~

Bill stepped onto the worn carpet, and started toward his apartment.  The girl from a couple of doors down was coming the other way.  He flattened against the wall, and held his grocery bags along it so she could pass.  

He was trying not to meet her eyes, but could not help notice she had been crying . . . again.  She went by, and he peeled off the wall, resuming walking to his apartment.

“Are you OK?” Bill was as surprised as she looked at hearing his voice ask the question.  He had not meant to speak, but had reacted to her distress.  Having asked, he hoped she would shrug the question off, and continue on her way.

~~o~~

Samantha did not know his name, and like most teens, she was not good at judging the age of older people; he was older, but not ancient, so that put him somewhere in the early 30’s to late 40’s.  A big guy, very muscular, and had a rough look that did not match his eyes.  He looked away when she defiantly met his gaze, just before he drew to the side to let her pass.

His question stopped her.  It sounded rough, but the words themselves did not.  She meant to reply with the standard “I’m fine, thanks”, but that’s not what she said.  She answered with a “No”, and then stood there, shaking, not knowing what to do.

~~o~~

Damn!” . . . when will he learn to shut up!  Now what?  He looked at her, and she was shaking, her eyes focused somewhere near the vicinity of his shoes.  It took only a split second for Bill to make up his mind.  

“Here,” he said, handing her one of the shopping bags, “come with me.”

~~o~~

Samantha grabbed the bag out of reflex as the man turned and walked down the hall.  Her instinct was to go hide someplace, but she still held his bag.  He was already opening his door when Samantha went after him.  She was just going to hand him the bag, and walk away.

By the time she reached the door of his apartment, he had put his bag on the counter, and was walking toward the back, removing his coat.  

Hesitantly, she stepped in, and slowly walked to the counter.  “Hey, mister,” she spoke loudly, not knowing where he was, “I’m just going to leave this here, and go.”

The sound of the door closing made her jump.  He had walked around the other side of the center wall, and had closed the door, locking it.  Samantha did not know what to do.  No one knew she was here, and he was walking toward her.  He did not look friendly.

“Let me take that,” he said, grabbing the bag, and walking past her. “Do you want anything to drink?” He had put the bag on the counter, next to the other one, and had grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge.  When she did not answer, he shrugged, and closed the fridge door.

Samantha eyed the apartment door as he made his way to the sofa.  As he plopped on it, she casually wondered how it had not snapped in two.  He unscrewed the top, took a drink, and pointed to the recliner.

“Have a seat.”

To Samantha it sounded like a command, and she considered making a run for it.  Would she be able to unlock the door before he reached her?

~~o~~

Bill was out of his league.  He should not have done this.  Christ!  But, having started it, he meant to go through with it.

He had tried to sound casual when speaking to her, but knew how even his calm demeanor and voice came across to others.  He was now trying to look friendly, but wore it like a bad suit.  “I probably look like a creep,” he thought.  

The girl was leaning slightly toward the door.  “Run!” he thought, “Run before . . . “

They both turned to stare at the door as they heard a key in the lock.

~~o~~

Samantha had made the decision; she was going to make a run for it.  She tensed slightly, and . . . was that a key in the door?!

She looked at the man on the sofa, and then at the opening door.

Two guys, long leather coats draped over their arm, entered the room.  She could see the tattoos on their necks and forearms.  “How the heck does one wear short sleeves in winter?” was her first thought.  Her second thought was “I’m in trouble.

The two guys looked like bikers.  Rough bikers.  Samantha considered screaming.  “That would just piss them off” she thought.

The two men looked up and down at her, then over at the sofa.  She followed their gaze.  The man on the sofa nodded.  She looked back at the two men still at the apartment door.  They nodded back, and one turned to close the door.  

“Hey, Bill,”  spoke one of the men, laying the coat over the chair.  Walking up to Samantha, he continued “What’s going on, and who is this?”  He smiled, but it did not look too reassuring.  Meanwhile, the other man leaned his back to the door, and folded his arm, an amused look in his eyes.

“Hey Frank, hey Mike. That’s Samantha.” The man on the sofa answered, so that must have been his name. “She lives a few doors down.  She needed a place to hide from her family, so I invited her in.”

Samantha was surprised, and not thrilled, that he knew her name.

“Wait . . . her folks don’t know she’s here?  Jesus, Bill . . . she’s what, 14? 15?”  The man looked at her up and down.  “Are you nuts?”

“She’s gay.  Her family does not approve.”  Bill’s statement shocked Samantha.  How the hell did he know that?!

Bill, noticing her reaction, continued.  “Sorry, Sam.  You guys scream a lot, and you can hear it fairly well in the hallway.”

Frank, the big man in front of her, made his way to the sectional.  He sat, and called Samantha over, patting the seat cushion with his hand “Come here, Sam.”

Samantha looked at the door, the man leaning on it, then Bill, then Frank.  Tears welling in her eyes, she slowly made her way to the sectional, sitting as far from Frank as she could.  

“It gets better, you know.”  For such a big guy, his voice had gotten incredibly gentle.

Samantha looked up.  “What?”  She was not sure what he meant.

“We,” he said, pointing to Mike and himself, “can tell you that it gets better.  It never goes away, but it gets better.”

Samantha looked at Mike, then Frank.  “I . . . you mean . . . “

“Yeah, we’re gay.”  He did not move, but leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.

“Look, it’s crap now, because you have no voice, and you apparently have assholes for parents,” she smiled at that, and he continued, “but you are still young, and it will pass.  Four or five years from now, you will be in control of your own life.   And it will be a better life.  Not perfect, but better.  Like us, you will find someone, will draw on each other’s strengths, and help each other through your weaknesses.”

Samantha looked down at her hands, now in her lap, one over the other.  “It’s . . . I don’t have anyone now.  Sometimes . . . “  She closed her eyes, shutting them tight, and raised her head, as if she were looking at the ceiling.  

She felt Frank’s hand on her shoulders, and just lost it.  Burying her head on his chest, she let go.  Finally released, her tears flowed freely, her sobbing the only noise in the room.  At some point Frank had put his other arm around her, and was rocking her gently.  

She was not sure how long it was, but she finally straightened, his arms releasing her at the movement.  She did not want to look up, ashamed of her moment of weakness.

“You can always talk to us.”  Mike had come to sit on the recliner, and Samantha could swear his eyes were perhaps a bit misty as well.  Must have been her imagination.

Bill rose, and went to the drawer in the kitchen island.  He came back to stand in front of her.  “Here,” he said, “you are welcome to use it whenever you need to get away.”  He pointed at the bedroom visible through one of the semi-open door.  “You can stay there.  It’s an extra bedroom, and I never use it.”

“Are you . . . “ The lack of confidence in her own identity made it difficult asking others about theirs.

“Gay?  No.”  He hesitated.  “Look, it may sound weird these days, but I have honor.  You don’t have to worry about me ever trying anything.”

“Besides,” Frank interjected, “we would beat the crap out of him if he ever got out of line.”

“You and what army?” Bill’s tone had some mirth in it, as this must have been an old joke. “Oh yeah,” he continued, “I forgot.”

“I’m starved,” said Mike, getting up, “let me put something together.”  He headed toward the kitchen, and stopped at the coat over the chair.  

“Here, I bought the Blu-Rays.” He said, tossing a DVD case at Bill.

Bill caught it, put down the water, and turned to Samantha.  “Sam, have you ever watched Firefly?”

She shook her head. “No; what is it?”

“WHAT?!” Frank’s mock surprise made her smile.  “Well, young lady, you are in for a treat!”

~~o~~

A few days later, the snow storm a memory, Samantha contemplated her life as she walked home from school.  It was already a little better.  Just knowing she was not alone, knowing others had survived, thrived even, made all the difference.  She turned the corner, and stopped.

Damn!  She needed to be more aware of her surroundings.  She had nearly run into some of the boys from her class.  She turned to go back the way she came, but two more blocked her way.  

“Well, if it isn’t the Snap-on girl.”  The speaker got really close to her as he continued.  “You know, we’re taking bets you just never saw a real man before.  What do you think?  You want . . . “

The sound had been growing, but now it became nearly deafening.  The motorcycles came around the corner, and a few went past the group before turning and riding up onto the sidewalk, the other did the same, encircling Samantha and the boys.  Leather-clad, dark sunglasses, the bikers sat there for a few moments, gunning the engine before, one by one, switching them off.

The closest man got off his bike, and stood, all six-feet-four-inches of him, exuding a fair amount of displeasure.

“Hey, Samantha.  These guys giving you trouble?”  As he spoke, the other bikers got very close to the boys, now huddling with their backs to the wall.

“We were just . . . “ the boy, his voice shaking, stopped when Bill put his finger to his lips.  He grabbed the boy by the coat, and pulled him over.  

Putting his arm around the his shoulders, Bill spoke.  “You listen; I talk.” He leaned a bit more to speak directly in the boy’s ear.  “What’s your name?”

“J . . . Jason.”  

“Jason.  I’ll remember that.  You see, Jason, Samantha there,” he pointed at her, “is a friend of ours.  Now, what I want you to do, is pass the word around;  none of us . . . “ he pointed at the other bikers, some of whom also had arms around a couple of the other boys, “ . . . like it much when she is unhappy or upset.”  Bill straightened.  

He slapped the boy on the back.  “Understand?” he asked.

Staggering, the boy managed a reply. “Yes . . . yes, sir.”  

“Good!  We’re clear, then.”  Bill motioned with his head, and within a few minutes, after roaring to life, the bikes carried the bikers off, their engines sounds slowly fading.

“Jesus!”  One of the other boys spoke the lone word.

“I . . . we’re sorry, Samantha.  It won’t happen again.”  The boy who had accosted her spoke even as he backed away, pulling up the rear of the group that was already retreating at a pretty good pace.  He turned, and broke into a run.

Samantha resumed her walk home.  “Shiny!” she said out loud.

The End

<><><><><o><><><><>

So, I am neither a teen girl, nor gay.  I always wonder when I write about other people, people who are not me, if I come close to representing them in a realistic light.

I know that as a writer I have certain leeway in telling a story.  I can shape characters, places, objects, and events to a desired effect.  With practice, with the opening of the world through the Internet, and because humans share common drives, desires, fears, I am relatively certain I can hit on what is common to most humans.

I don’t know if the nuances are spot-on, way off, or in the plausible range.  Nuances are what can connect a character to a reader. Nuances are what can bring a character to life.  I typically avoid detailed descriptions, trying instead to deal with emotions, and letting the reader fill in the gaps.  

With that in mind, here’s another poll.

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10 Responses to “Different”

  1. I didn’t vote because I didn’t like my options. I think your story is just fine. It reads like it is written for young adults.

    As for the the characters. The men: the only problem I had with them was in their dialog. It seemed to formal. Think about using contractions–it’s more in line with how real people (especially bikers) speak. Another minor glitch I noticed was in this part: “…when will he (I?) learn to shut up!”

    The only reason I knew Samantha was a gay teen is because you told me via the men. Otherwise, I would have thought she was a distraught female for reasons unknown to me. Maybe include her internal dialog as she leaves her apartment like “I can’t believe my parents won’t accept who I am.” or “I’m confused enough about who I am, why do they have to make it harder by hating me?” That would suggest to the reader without totally giving it away that something is up with Samantha. Then you could maybe you could describe how she throws away some article of clothing or make-up or jewelry that’s oozes femininity because she’s disgusted by her parents attempts to make her “girly.” Maybe that was the genesis of the fight between her and her parents? I don’t know–just a thought.

    • It’s OK . . . the poll is more self-amusement than serious opinion-taking.

      The “I” versus “he” thing had me pondering for a few. It did not seem right using the “I” outside of the quotes as this was not written in first person. In the end I went with “he” strictly because it sounded right to my uninformed ears, as coming from the narrator. I suppose were I less lazy, I would have researched it.

      The speech is something else I wondered about. Most advice I have read says not to use slang, or a particular “lingo”, unless very familiar with it. As surprising as it may seem to some, I was not raised by a pack of wild bikers, so I have no idea of how they talk. Or elves, or demons, etc.

      As a reader, I get taken out of the story when authors use idioms, accents, slang, or dialects. As a consequence, I tend to not use it myself. For me, both as a reader and a writer, the important thing is the story itself, and if that does not carry the reader along, using correct slang, dialects, and lingo is not going to do it.

      Please don’t think I am arguing; just explaining why regardless of the character, you’re never likely to see anything but plain language in my stories.

      However, I do know of bike “gangs” that are basically ordinary guys (layers, bankers, other professionals) who like to dress the part.

      In the end, I was more concerned with being able to control the pace and tone, and to especially get the message across clearly. And to not prejudice the reader with anything more than superficial opinions.

      As for the girl, I have a tendency to leave out information, and use it later in the story to spring surprises. Probably a bad habit, and it’s certainly a cheat of sorts because having the facts about a character come out early would mean I would have to have a deeper plot than I typically present.

      Mind you, I am by no means consciously planning this; it’s just how my writing style has evolved.

      On the other hand, it parallels life a bit. When you meet someone, you tend to find out things about them slowly, and often they surprise you by not meeting expectations, or by the experiences they have and views they hold.

      I think in a longer piece I may be more apt to describe the character in detail, and rely more on events and actions to either refine the character, or challenge their beliefs, etc.

      But, most of all, I want to thank you for adding your input. I always consider stuff, and everything I hear eventually, to some degree or other, affects how I write.

      Unless, you know, you suggested the characters would be better with wings, hooves, and flaming swords.

  2. I liked both the characters and the story. At first you had me wondering if this was a serial killer story, lol. I was scared for her – so good misdirect there. 🙂 I loved the guys once I realized they weren’t going to harm her, and especially at the end. They were like these super-cool big brother figures.

    • There is something one might notice about my stories. For the most part, they are not stories that leave a bad taste in the reader’s figurative mouth. Mostly because I don’t like those stories, and because my wife reads these, and she does not like these stories.

      If a “bad” event is a part of the story, it has already happened, and the story is likely about justice or retribution.

      I only ever wrote one “bad” story, and that was as a challenge from a friend, to see if I could “stretch”. It was not good for me to put myself in that frame of mind. I’m fairly confident in saying no one will ever see it outside a very select group of people. In fact, my wife will never see it.

      • I can totally understand that. I’m the same. It’s one of my book and movie biases – even if there was pain and suffering in the character’s past, I need some kind of uplifting ending. The bad guys getting what they deserve. The couple living happily ever after. Some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. Hope in general. Lol, I do have an emotional response to books and movies that end in misery. Then I need chocolate cake to make it better. 🙂

        I’m actually working on something that’s going to challenge me a lot in this area. It’s a story where the reader can make decisions, and some of those choices will lead to less than pleasant endings, lol. That’s going to be hard for me to write, especially since in some of these endings the hero is not quite so heroic anymore.

        • Sounds as if the lure of the dark side is strong in you.

          • Lol, I’m going to have to pretend it is – because I’m so sweet and innocent and all, totally not darkside at all – *malevolent laughter*

            *cough, cough* Ummmm… just ignore the Darth Vader laugh there… I’m am *NOT* darkside… I’m watching Firefly. 😉 I can’t be darkside if I’m watching Firefly, right? *tries not to laugh quite so malevolently* 🙂

            Yeah, this character is going to challenge me a lot – some of the choices that will be open to readers lead her down a dark path. On the other hand, she could be totally non-darkside – much like myself. 🙂 The endings are going to range from ultra happy, sunny, all is right in the world, all the way down to ultra darkside, morally repugnant, all is most decidely *not* right in the world. And I’m going to try to write it so that her relationships and interactions with others reflect the reader’s choices.

            As a side note – I’m totally loving Firefly!! 🙂 I’m on episode 4 right now, and Mal is my favorite. 🙂

            • I envy you . . . you have not even hit the “good” episodes yet. When I first rented the DVD, I had only the first. Had to wait an excruciating three days for the others. Then we mainlined them in two days.

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