Love's Penance

 

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Chapter 1

"My man, where have you been?!" asked Jacob. Jacob was tall, and always combed his hair old style, like the men did in the 50's and 40's--neatly parted and perfectly combed. The first few weeks of the new year have blessed this little town with extreme cold weather.

"I have been away taking care of stuff," I answered, saluting Jacob with a brotherly fist-bump.

"Excuse me," said a customer trying to pass. Jacob and I moved to the side, the woman strolling along with her cart.

"I thought you had quit," he asked, his brown eyes holding a fire-like curiosity at my sudden leave. I had been working at Wal-Mart for the two years, in the receiving department. The job paid well, and the work itself could get cumbersome sometimes, but it had been good to me.

"I left for a few months to take care of some family business. It was important," I told him, the entire time our hands still in unison.

"What happened to you eye?" he asked me, gently pressing his hand over my eye patch.

"I overused it, my eye," I said.

"How?" he asked, trying his best to remain calm, but the tone in his voice was aceartive and more than just inquisitive.

"I--"

"Lucario, come to my office," commanded my manager as he walked by us, stopping only to wait for me.

"We'll talk later," said Jacob, leaving no room for argument. I saluted my good-byes as I followed Mr. Rick to his office. We passed many hallways, all lined up with wrapped-up pallets of merchandize, while other hallways had merchandized ready to go.

"Here," he said, pointing to a small office located on the other side of the receiving dock. Mr. Rick sat down, the screen to his computer coming to life as he clicked a few keys on his keyboard.

"Where have you been?" he said, serious. Mr. Rick was a man in his late fifties, incredibly built, and looked like those men you see in the cover boxes of do-it-yourself-hair-dyes. He smelled good, and his facial hair was just the right combination of white hair and brown hair, trailing along his defined jaw. I could never stop myself from staring at the way his shirts contoured to his muscular physic, showcasing his square and defined chest, at the way his six-pack seemed ripple under his taught and tan skin, and how his shirt's sleeves perfectly stretched to accommodate Mr. Ricks pectorals.

"I have been busy with family affairs Mr. Rick. I had no other choice," I responded, taking a sit apposite of him.

"You turned in all the proper paperwork, and all necessary steps were taken to ensure that you still had your job when you returned," he told me, looking at me with such ferocity and seriousness. "But, you just left without notice, only to hear from you from a third party like the FBI."

"My family suffered a great loss," I said, looking down, even after all these months the memory still fresh in my mind.

"What kind of loss demands the interference of the FBI?" he asked. The click of the mouse sounded off, as Mr. Rick's attention turned towards the screen.

"Oh, sorry," he said, wide-eyed as he realized he had spoken out of turn. I shook my head, trying my best to make lite of the situation as a strange feeling arose in the air. "I--"

"I am sorry I just left," I said.

"It's alright, Lucario. You are welcomed," he said, smiling at me genuinely as he stood up. "Welcome back."

"Thank-you," I said, taking his hand, the handshake firm and reassuring.

"Start small for now. Go tell Jacob to let you tag along with him as we recover todays truck," he said. I nodded as I turned and walked out of his office.

"Hey Lucario!" exclaimed Lian. "Oh..."

"Hey Lian," I responded, having gotten used to the reaction of people as they notice the bandages around my eye-patch.

"Are you--"

"My eye is just covered for the sake of rest. I still have it," I said, trying to make lite of her pity.

"Oh, okay," she said, a genuine smile spreading across her face. "How have you been? Why did you leave?"

"I had some family matters to attend to," I responded. "It was of the outmost importance."

"Oh okay," she said, keying in her humber.

"Hey..."

I turned around, Jacob in front of me, with a big dashing smile and his brown eyes alight. I smiled in turn, happy to see him as well.

"Let's go dude!" he exclaimed, dragging me along. It was my first day and I was not properly uniformed, but that was a problem for tomorrow. Jacob, the entire way towards the sales floor, had my hand as if I didn't know the way.

"Watch where you're going," the man said as he bumped against me. The man took me by surprise, a particular memory of that day surfacing. He looked like that man, the only man left in the mid of the destruction and chaos. It made me sick to remember the enjoyment I felt as the stranger knelt before me, bloody and barely conscious, begging to be let go.

"You okay?" asked Jacob, the memory refusing to let me go.

"Yeah...," I uttered, trying my best reaffirm not just Jacob but myself, about that man's identity. It could not be the same man.

"Hey!" Jacob exclaimed this time with more emotion, putting himself between me and the man, who had disappeared within a group of passing customers. He took my face into his hands, gently and with a masculine firmness that I had not felt in a while.

"I'm fine, really," I said, trying once again to reaffirm not just him, but myself too. He did not look convinced.

"Well, just help me recover the merchandize--"

"Lucario Pike, please come to the manager's office immediately," sounded off in the intercom.

"Oh, I have to go," I said.

"Yeah, you do," said Jacob, his smile hiding the disappointment that ate the light in his eyes. I was hurt as he knelt before the trolly laid out with boxes, and began to cut them open, his back to me, forcing me to leave him there. On my way to the manager's office, I stopped to help some customers who had questions, passing the men's clothing department, and the woman's clothing department.

"Lucario!" exclaimed one of the cashiers. A young guy, about 20, waved at me with a huge smile.

"Hey Estevan!" I exclaimed, waiving back. He was slim, but built and lean, along with always having his hair cut as short as possible. Estevan raised his hands in salute to my where abouts. I hoped he could read my lips as I mouthed 'out and about.' He chuckled. The manager's office was at the end of the narrow hallway, which was located in-between the emergency exit and the public restrooms.

"Come in," she said, an elderly lady. It took me by surprise to see another person sitting before her desk. The man was wearing a very elegant suit. Mrs. Patricia waved at the chair next to him, leaving no room for me to decline.

"This lawyer has somethings to talk to you about," she said, sitting down, her slim frame looking like it was going to break at any moment.

"You have been served," he said suddenly, handing me an envelope, then standing up and leaving.

"I am not surprised," I uttered out loud. "May I go?"

"We just will like to disclose that if you need more time off, you just need to turn in the proper paperwork," she said.

"No, it's alright," I answered, trying my best to convey confidence as I walked out of her office. On my way back to Jacob, the events of that day kept popping into my head, and I so much did not want to remember them.

"Excuse me," said a young girl, about fiveteen. It caught me by surprise when she slapped me, but more so the amount of hatred reflected in her green eyes. "You will pay for what you did!"

"Hey!" said Jacob as he stepped between me and her, stopping her from slapping me again.

"You fa--"

"That's enough!" he said more sternly. "Leave."

The man from before suddenly materialized from the four-ways, as the rest of her family dragged her away. It was the same man who had bumped into me before.

"Are you okay?" asked Jacob. I nodded.

"I am leaving for the day, since my day does not officially start tomorrow," I told him.

"Okay," he said. "I will see you tomorrow?"

"Yeah," I responded, forcing him to hug me. I almost cried at how warm his embrace, at how accepting he was then. It took a lot of strength to force him to release me, and it took more strength in my part to turn around and leave. My taxi was waiting for me on the front.

"Where to?" the elder man asked me.

"Do you know of the Pike residence that was recently on the news?" I asked him.

"Yeah?" he asked.

"Take me there," I commanded.

"Alright..." he answered. It did not take long for the taxi to arrive at my past domicile. The gate (along with the fence) that we used to have around our gargantuan property was in shambles. Our terrain was once luscious and green, and the oak trees that took my entire families' life-time to grow were hunched over and on the brink of death.

"What happened here?" the man asked, driving carefully, even though this place was sequestered by the government as inhabitable. "Rumors say that a family was tortured and then murdered here by unknown persons."

"There was only one survivor..."

"What?" he asked. I shook my head, as he parked in front of what used to be my home. My family of five, refused to live in the mansions that other people with similar properties had. My parents had always been humble people, and for many years lived in the southern regions of Texas, in a falling-apart trailer for most of my life. It was not late in life that they decided to move north, and dive into their roots, and build a ranch.

The small house of four rooms; the memory of its standing clouded for a brief moment what little remained of it. My mother's screaming as she opened the door to call back Chestnut, her chiwuawa, as he bolted out the door. My father would probably be asleep at this time of day.

"What really happened here?" the elder man asked. "Are those crosses?"

In the distance, in the front lawn, crosses stood upright with the scorch marks of that day's brutality, signifying the end of my family.

"Yes," I answered, turning towards the cab with some bills in my hand. He took the thirty dollars. "Keep the change."

He nodded, looking at me skeptically. I waited for him to start driving, growing impatient as the yellow cab took its sweet time to leave my property.

"Good-bye you all," I said, willing the ground to rise, rolling over the remaining shambles of my home. The wooden skeletal remains were swallowed by the ground, the broken brick and the shattered glass going along with it. In the distance, the crosses also sank into the ground, more slowly as distance required more power and I was still recovering. In minutes, a blank slab was all that remained of my only love in this world. I poured more power into the land, new and fresh grass coming to life, but more so to hide the scorch marks that for some reason refused to go along with my will. I wanted them to disappear, yet, in the end only the dirt road for the occasional car to drive remained.

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Chapter 2

"Lucario?"

My name broke through the nightmare I had been struggling to awaken from. I stood up, startled and breathing heavily, the tent I had set up flapping with the morning's gentle wind. Jacob pushed the curtain aside, squatting to get inside.

"Where have you been? You work today, remember?!" he exclaimed, sitting beside me. The blue shirt and the kaki pants was the standard uniform for Wal-Mart employees, but Jacob has always been a rebel about it. Sometimes he would wear a purple shirt or a different shade of blue.

"I fell asleep late," I told him, not lying.

"Doing what?" he asked me, forcing my very warm covers off me. I shivered violently at being forced to the cold morning air.

"I was cleaning up," I responded, trying to cover myself again but Jacob was adamant in me getting up, surprising me when he sat atop me, looking at me with such intensity and will.

"Did you really have to go without saying a word?" he asked. I struggled to think clearly. "Did you really have to come back, and not say a word you were here?"

"I--"

"Mr. Pike?"

Through the tent's flapping entrance, a pair of dress shoes could be seen.

"Mr. Pike, my name is Gerardo, and I have come to represent you."

Jacob got off me, resting beside me as I got up. I could not find my shirt, only to realize Jacob had purposely taken it, and refused to give it back. A smug smile colored his face as he waved it front of me. I squinted my disapproval, and covered myself with the blanket instead.

"Hi," the man said, extending his hand to me. I took it, a gentle strength reminding me of the many hands I shook when greeted by agents, people of the government, journalists, and reporters. "My name is Gerardo, and I have come to represent you in the coming legal battle. By what I have been told, I truly regret what has happened to you."

"Me too," I responded. He had hazel eyes, his suit tailored perfectly to his muscular physic.

"Is there somewhere we can talk?" he asked then, looking around the empty expanse of land.

"We can try a coffee shop close by," I said, turning towards the black BMW parked in front of the tent. "It's a Moon's Beans that is in front of some new apartments, close by the penitentiary."

"Right," he said, flashing a smile. Sweat stained his brow, as the morning's cool wind was replaced by the noon's sudden coming of the sun. "In an hour?"

"Yeah," I responded. He nodded, turning towards his car. The BMW rumbled to life as he got in and turned it on. Jacob stood beside me as we both watched the car disappear in the distance, leaving behind a desipitating cloud of gravel.

"You owe me an explanation. It was a year of hell, not knowing..." he said then, giving me my shirt.

"Tell Mr. Rick--"

"I know," he said, not turning around to look at me as he said that, but instead continued walking towards the green small truck in the distance. It was an old car that he bought off a friend at work. The protective greenish skin was peeling off, revealing the silver paint beneath. Jacob's car rumbled to life, a cloud of gravel dispersing into the air as he left too.

I took out my phone and ordered a Lyft. The application said that my ride was six minutes out, so I straightened my shirt as best as I could, and put it on. I cleaned as best as I could, but all I had to my name was the clothing on me, the tent, and the ten bucks in my pocket. Which I was going to use to buy myself coffee in a few minutes. A medium sized truck--a chevrolet--parked in front of me.

"Lucario?" the woman asked.

"Yeah, that's me," I said, opening the door to the back seats. She slowly pulled out of my property while I tried to make myself comfortable.

"It says here that I am to take you to Moon Beans, located in the corner of Star Str and Movie Ave," she said, looking at me through the rear-view mirror, her blue crisp eyes looking right through me. I nodded. She nodded. The small town in which my sister used to work in, was close to San Antonio, TX, about an hour away. Sarah, she was hired as a case worker about three years ago, but before that had been working on other prisons close by in other towns.

"Here we are," the woman said. My phone pinged with the processed payment, as I got off her car.

"Thank-you," I said. She nodded, then driving off. The coffee shop was not full, and I caught no sight of the lawyer. I made my way in, towards the counter.

"How can I help you?" the barista asked. He was a young fellow, probably still in high-school. "Don't I know you from somewhere?"

"Can I have a decaf coffee, please," I told him, hoping he did not recognize me.

"Sure," he responded, tapping the screen. "Two dollars is your total.

I fished out my wallet, taking two old and withered one dollar bills.

"Here," I said, giving him the money.

"It will be out momentarily," he told me.

"Alright," I said, turning away from the counter. Ever since I can remember, I have always enjoyed looking out the window. As a person of detail, a constant view relaxes me. A family was enjoying some pastries and coffee in the table resting in the middle of establishment. A man was sitting in the corner, to my right, typing away on his laptop. The group of girls, being extremely obnoxious at the moment with their loud chit-chat.

"Excuse me."

The young barista stood there, holding the steaming cup of coffee.

"Your coffee."

"Thank-you," I said, enjoying the new warmth between my hands. The smell of the strong coffee infiltrated my sense of smell, slightly awakening me, pipping me to go sit at the far left corner of the coffee shop. It did not have a good view, and the sun's rays pierced down at that location quite strongly.

"Some cream? Sugar?"

The lawyer surprised me, leaving me speechless, as he had some cream capsules and sugar packets in his hand.

"I was going to buy us both coffee, but traffic was a bitch," he said.

"Thanks," I said, taking the creams and the sugar.

"Here you go sir," said the barista from before. The guy seemed nervous for some reason, trying to avoid eye contact with the lawyer.

"Thanks," said the guy, without even looking at the barista.

"What was your name again?" I asked.

"Gerardo--"

"How did you come to hear about me? My family?" I asked.

"My name is Gerardo Farias, and I am a representative of a life insurance company called Eternity," he said, taking a sip of his coffee. "Your parents had a life insurance, along with your older sibling Ms. Pike having a life insurance through her job. The company that she worked for has a contract with us."

He unlocked his tablet, and gave it to me. 

"As you can see, through the numerous signings, on both contracts you were made the beneficiary if anything should happen."

The contracts were in small-print, and almost reached a hundred pages of gargled-policy-redundant information that explained what he just said in a simple sentence.

"You are now a very wealthy man," he said as I returned the tablet.

"You said something about helping me with what is to come?" I asked, intrigued. Gerardo took a sip of his coffee.

"Yeah, umm, I am a representative of the company Eternity, but I have also done some independant work. Mr. Pike, I would like to represent you in the legal battle against the surviving asailant," he said. Gerardo straightened his back, broadened his shoulders, and crossed his fingers as he lay his hands on top of the tablet. I was taken aback at his proposal.

"I know it's a little too much at the moment, but I would like you to consider," he said, then reaching into his coat and fishing out a contact card. "I can bring you justice, and if not, closure."

"I don't know what I am going to do. This past year has gone by so fast. I returned to this home, because I thought it would offer me a little bit of peace. It's a small town in the middle of nowhere, where everyone knows each other. My older sister used to tell me it was the most annoying thing about living in a town this small," I told him, trying my best not to get lost in the emotion in his hazel-golden eyes. He smelled good too. "I just thought of it, to come back, but I never considered how prominent the event still was. People still recognize me; journalist and reporters still find me."

"I..."

"I will call you if I want you to represent me, but concerning my family's estate..." I said. "Are we done?"

"Yes, the papers were finalized in the event of their death, and you should begin to see some of that money in a few days," he said, not once looking away. He stood as I stood, extending his hand to me. "I hope to hear from you."

I shook his hand, nodding, then made my way out of the coffee shop. The phone in my pocket began to ring.

"Hello?" I asked, answering.

"Lucario, this is Mr. Rick."

"Oh, hello Mr. Rick, how can I help you?" I asked, wondering how he had gotten this phone number. It was a disposable phone that I had gotten with the last few dollars I had in my savings account. The remainder was what I took out, and used to buy my coffee today.

"I am just calling to tell you that you can take the day off today. Jacob came by, and told me about the urgent family business you had to care of," he told me.

"I can still come in, Mr. Rick. My shift does not start for another thirty minutes," I said, wanting to start as soon as possible. I was bored out of my mind.

"Would it not be best for you to take the day off. You are officially hired, and your a special case Lucario. You can take all the time you need, in my eyes," he responded.

"I would like to work. I have had enough time to think, more so than I will ever need," I said, trying not to sound desperate.

"Okay, but if you need to leave during your shift, just tell me so."

"Okay. I will see you in thirty minutes," I said.

"Okay," he said, hanging up. I looked both ways before crossing the street, taking a sit on the bench, opening the Lyft app and requesting a ride, when I remembered I had no money. There was another way to get there, but I didn't know if I could do it. I'd only tried it once, and when I was barely conscious. I reached deep down inside me, and grasped at my strange powers, focusing on the Wal-Mart close to the penitentiary.

"Young man, are you okay?"

People passed by, carrying along their groceries bags and empty carts. It was past midday, so the McDonalds next to me was full of people.

"Sir?"

"I am fine, thanks," I told the greeter. He was an old man, who had been working for Wal-Mart for at least thirty years. Mr. Alexander even claimed that he was here to see the opening of the first Wal-Mart store.

I stood, feigning strength as the world wheeled dangerously. My breath left me, and for a moment I thought I was going to pass out, but I pushed on. I took my time walking to the receiving dock, saying hello to a girl that was keying in her associate number when I arrived.

"Are you sure you didn't need the day off?"

"Oh, Mr. Rick... No, it was fine," I told him.

"Okay...," he said, walking past me, the girl from before hurrying on after him. "You are going to be with a partner until further notice."

"Okay--,"

"Let's go."

Jacob dragged me along, his hand grasping me firmly from my elbow. I strived to catch up, surprised that when I forced our hands to join, he did not try to push me away or told me anything of it. He led me along the corridors of the store with his cart fully stocked with merchandise to be put away, people looking sideways towards us, and others not hiding their disdain at all, at us holding hands.

"Let us start here, in the gift cards section," he said, letting go. We both took out our safety knives and began opening the boxes, pricing the cards, and recovered them appropriately by category. In time we finished, and once again we walked back to the dock, hand in hand. I could not quite shake this strange unease I felt, as the afternoon was passed going back and forth, hand in hand, with people's strange and ill-willed side-looks.

"You are coming with me," he blurted out, not stopping to look at me, but instead continued to work. Jacob had been here since six in the morning today, and his shift was going to end soon. He was head-strong, stubborn, willful, and always spoke his mind with the things that mattered to him.

"Done?" he asked, looking down at me. I looked into his eyes, hoping he could not see the many questions bouncing around in my head.

"Let me just finish this small box," I said, and opened it, the bottles of cleanser a sudden sore. They didn't belong in this department. "I'll be right back."

He nodded, cleaning up the area. I quickly made my way to the isle of face creams and cleansers. The brand itself was at the end of the hall. Avoiding people as much as possible, I quickly made my way towards the product, but someone bumped against me. The bottles of cleanser fell to the floor.

"I'm sorry--"

I recognized the man. The same person who had bumped into me yesterday, and had caused a scene. For some reason I could not understand why he looked so familiar.

"Hey! Wait!" I exclaimed, reaching out to him, but he dashed for it and disappeared into the incoming crowd.

"Hey."

Once again Jacob forced me to face him.

"That guy from before. Do you know him?" he asked me.

"He feels familiar to me, like I have seen him before," I responded.

"Let us just go, Lucario," he said. "I am done if you are done."

"Yeah--"

I almost tripped as Jacob grabbed my hand and lead me along. The evening usually does not bring so many people, but today was the exception. We had to push our way through at some point, as the isles became riddled with customers, until we reached the dock. Jacob keyed in his associate number, the machine propped against the wall beeping as it accepted.

"Mr. Rick already knows about you," Jacob told me, once more leading me out of the dock. We traversed through the store, unable to stop or to take a breather. Stepping outside was shocking, the cold weather and the rain the opposite of the hot weather that was predicted.

"Here," said Jacob, taking off his jacket.

"No, the car is really close by. We can make it," I said. Yet, he was adamant, persistently holding the jacket out to me. I reluctantly took it, and shivered at the warmth that slowly enveloped me. A certain scent profiled my sense of smell.

"It smells good?" he asked. I looked away, trying to hide the redness I could feel spread through my cheeks.

"We are going to spend the night together at my house," he told me with a straight face, as we waited for an opportunity to present itself in the incoming and outgoing parking-lot-traffic. 

"But--"

"No," he argued. Once again he grabbed me by my hand and forced me to tag along. We quickly crossed the street, practically running to his car, which was at the far side of the lot.

"Okay," I said, Jacob starting his car. The old 4X4 Kia rumbled to life. I waited for the coldness inside to be replaced by the warm air from the heater, and for the humidity clinging to the windows to dry. We had to be careful with the passing pedestrians. The roads in time became lonelier, as the sun disappeared. It got colder too, and it began to rain harder.

"Five points for the kids; ten points for the adults; and fifteen for the old people," Jacob said.

"No!" I exclaimed. He laughed with me.

"You still live in the same place?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "But it's not going so well right now."

"What do you mean?"

"Stuff keeps disappearing from our farm," he responded. "We have tried cameras, infrared, sound recorders, even private investigators, and nothing."

"Maybe someone in your family is selling the stuff, or using it for their personal ends," I said. "Family can be greedy like that."

"I don't think so, since its just me and my parents right now."

"What happened to your elder brothers?" I asked, intrigued. Jacob and I have been friends since high school. I was the one who went to college first, while he decided to do his own thing. We kept in contact with each other, but over the past year it was difficult for us, and it did not help that I vanished from the face of the earth.

"My brother Elderan, decided to elope with his new girlfriend, while my other brother Alex decided to join a cult. Literally," he responded, nodding.

"A cult?" I asked, confused, and could not quite believe it. "Really?"

Jacob nodded. We turned into his drive way. His parents were not the eccentric type, and were quite humble and simple folk. The farming life to the north of Texas was quite stuck in the grey area between major cities and the lower part of the state--which were small cities. It offered giant expands of lands, and very good money, but the life that was lived was in the middle of nowhere. Jacob parked, and made his way inside. I followed suit, the cold and the rain being a strong motivator.

"Hello?" I asked, careful of what I touched and what I stepped on.

"In here," was heard down the hallway. Jacob was in the kitchen. When I entered, he was busy going through the refrigerator, already with some packaged stuff in hand. "Want some left-overs?"

"Your mom and dad?" I asked, the silence of the house apparent.

"They are away to the valley on family business," he said." The house is ours for the time being."

I nodded, walking over to help him. In time we both seated ourselves on the sofa, Jacob going over the Netflix catalog, as we both munched on some left-over lasagna, chicken and pasta, rice, beans, and some artichoke-shrimp dip.

"This looks good," he said, looking at me as he nodded. It was new show called "La Mante," a detective-mystery show. "You still like these kind of shows?"

"Yeah," I said, as he sat next to me. Jacob grabbed his plate of food, and prepped himself as close to me as he could. I hoped he could not see me blush, or feel my racing heart beat. The show started, and it captivated me the first few minutes of it. Jacob had to remind me to eat throughout the show, but eventually I just found myself resting against him. He was so warm, and inviting, and this experience itself was long over-due for me.

"Hey, the show," he said, nudging me awake.

"Tomorrow...," I uttered under my breath.

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Chapter 3

When I came to, I didn't recognize my surroundings.

"There both asleep in the couch," someone whispered.

"Like, together-together?"

"Yeah, it's so adorable," the softer voice responded. Last night's events flashed in my mind in a series of jumbled memories. I chuckled at the embarrassment of it all. Jacob was laying against me; his head on my chest; his legs intertwined with mine. I carefully peeled him off me, sliding onto the floor. The living room was in complete darkness.

"Oh, hello."

I almost tripped when I whisked around to see who had saluted me, trying my best to balance myself with the coffee table.

"Hi," I said, grateful to the darkness, as it masked the redness that colored my cheeks.

"You must be Lucario?" she asked. I nodded, rubbing my eyes. The light that bled into the darkness of the room, made it even harder to see.

"I am," I responded. She walked towards us, a blanket in hand. Mrs. Torres was a short and petite woman, with long red hair (and like her son), with deep brown eyes that enchanted. I helped her drape the blanket over him, when it caught us both by surprise when Jacob grabbed my shirt. He pulled me towards him, in a violent manner pinning me under him. The blanket suddenly stripped from her.

"Where--"

"Jacob?!" she exclaimed, looking down at us. I smiled, trying to convey my innocence.

"What?" he asked groggily, turning to look up at her. Jacob let out a breath as he once again rested his head on my chest. "Morning mom."

"You let him go, right now!" she said sternly. Another sigh escaped Jacob. My breath was stolen as his hands traversed my upper body. My shirt riding up at his behest. I was never so glad as I was then, that we were in complete darkness. The only light came from kitchen.

"Jacob?!!" she called out again, with more force this time.

"It's all right," I said, hugging Jacob closer to me. "He is more asleep than awake at the moment. I am sure when he comes to his senses, he will understand his trespass."

"Uh-huh," Jacob mumbled. "My trespass..."

"Uh-huh," she mumbled, squinting her eyes. I had to hold in a squeal when Jacob playfully bit my chest. Mrs. Torres turned around and walked into the kitchen.

"What are you doing?!" I asked, squiggling as he bit me again. Jacob grabbed onto me as if I could get away.

"I am enjoying this--you," he told me, a trickle of light bleeding into the darkness. Our eyes met.

"I--I--I need to go," I uttered. "I don't even know what time it is, or even what day."

"It's Wednesday, and it's five-thirty in the afternoon," yelled out Mrs. Torres. Once again I was embarrassed, and even a tad ashamed.

"You have to work today, don't you?" I asked.

"You too," he responded, inching closer. I saw it coming, but I made no move to stop him. We kissed. Jacob had soft full lips, his tongue knowing no remorse or mercy. I brought him closer to me as he grabbed me by the nape of my neck. The kiss was broken when Jacob jabbed my crotch with his knee.

"Is everything alright?" asked Mrs. Torres. I inhaled, gathering my thoughts when Jacob kissed me again. In the darkness of the room, with his mother just a few feet away, the fever that took us brought us both to the edge. Yet, rationality did not abandon me.

"What?" he asked between labored intakes of breath.

"Should we be doing this?" I asked. Jacob and I, since we first met, have had a strong connection. He was straight, and me being bisexual, it took us a while to figure where we stood as not just co-workers.

"I feel for you what I have waited to feel in my very short life, man," he said, kissing me. I was not exactly your fit type, but with ease Jacob dragged me and accommodated me under him. "You are the one for me. It hurt like a bitch that you just disappeared."

He kissed me with a fever that did not leave me room to think, or to follow what consciously I knew to be wrong at the moment.

"So, this is the infamous Lucario."

The darkness receded as Mr. Torres turned on the living room light.

"You could respond to your mother," he told us. I wanted the earth to swallow me up, as he towered over us.

"Hey dad," Jacob said, resting his forehead against my chest, chuckling.

"I reheated some left-overs. Invite your friend to dine in with us," Mrs. Torres was saying. Mr. Torres just stood there, looking at us both with such coldness and scrutiny. He was in his early to mid sixties, skinny, and most of his facial hair had greyed out. Yet, like Jacob, his piercing brown eyes made me feel like a bug. He nodded towards the kitchen.

"Alright, alright," said Jacob, getting off me. I practically jumped off the sofa, standing beside Jacob. Mr. Torres nodded once again towards the kitchen. Jacob dragged me along, our senses coming to life at the sound of whatever she was warming up. The smell of meat and spices assaulted our sense of smell, our stomachs growling.

"Hola!" she exclaimed in spanish. Some seats were arranged neatly around the table, with much of the table-wear and utensils fit put on display. Jacob sat without a second thought. Mr. Torres sat beside his son. Mrs. Torres walked around me, and lay the steaming-hot-cut steaks on the center. She quickly also lay mash-potatoes, green-beans, potato salad, and a twelve pack of cokes.

"Dig in," she exclaimed, seating opposite of Jacob. I awkwardly sat opposite Mr. Torres, waiting for everyone to serve themselves before I did. Yet, Jacob did not have that kind of patience, and served me a hearty spoonful of everything. I nodded my thanks.

"How has work been?" asked Mrs. Torres.

"Good, but a little boring," said Jacob.

"You go to school, Lucario," asked Mr. Torres.

"No, not for a year now," I said.

"Oh, I see," he responded, looking at Jacob strangely. "What will you do?"

"I don't know," I said, the question bringing back memories of all the people who had asked me the same thing. "For right now, I want to keep working. The rest can only be figured out with time."

"Oh shit!" exclaimed Jacob, startling everyone as he suddenly got up. "Work!"

His parents and I watched him run out of the kitchen. The house was strangely silent then, Jacob's footsteps heard throughout the vicinity. It felt like only a minute passed, when Jacob again ran passed the kitchen's entrance.

"Aren't you coming Lucario?!" he exclaimed. The front door slammed shut then. I rose from my seat.

"Thank-you for the meal. Sorry for leaving like this," I said.

"No problem," Mrs. Torres responded.

"We'll speak another time," Mr. Torres said, getting up and extending his hand in salutation. I shook it, nodding.

"Lucario!" Jacob exclaimed again. I could sense him, sitting in his car, his head poking out the window screaming my name.

"Go!" exclaimed Jacob's parents. I made my way outside, Jacob's green kia rumbling loudly in the cool afternoon.

"Come on!" he exclaimed, waving towards the passenger seat.

"I don't work today, remember," I said as I got in.

"You told me earlier that you did."

"You presumed that I did," I answered.

"You are going to wait for me then," he told me, turning into his driveway, then making way towards the exit.

"I am not going to wait for you until you get out. Are you insane? You are working a twelve hour shift," I told him. He chuckled, locking our hands together.

"You have always been so smart, but at times you can be such an air-head," he told me. My face got hot, and no doubt it was burning with redness. I looked out the window, making no move to separate us. We passed by empty pastures of land as far as the eye could see, while others had grazing cows and sheep. On occasion a person was seen attending the land, or rebuilding a fence. With time, the empty roads were filled with traffic, and the empty lands were replaced by sidewalks and commuting people.

"Here," said Jacob, turning into Wal-Mart's parking lot. When I had my car, I always tried to find a space that was secluded and not that trafficked. I enjoyed not bearing the difficulty of dealing with traffic, or people. Of just turning on my car, and leaving.

"I am not taking your car," I said, when Jacob turned to me and handed me the keys. His smile, along with the gentleness and earnesty in his eyes, almost made me change my mind.

"Lucario, just take my car, and pick me up when I am out," he said, the keys producing a jingle sound.

"I have no need for a car," I responded, not budging. "I can take a Lyft."

"Here," he said, dropping the car keys into my hand and stepping out of the car.

"Wait!" I exclaimed, stepping out, but Jacob had already walked quite the distance. He gave his back to the incoming traffic, smiling coily at me, and raising his eyebrows in defiance.

"Remember, at six tomorrow!" he exclaimed, then turning around once more. I stood there, watching him cross the street, and head into the store.

"Bastard...," I uttered. I stepped into the drivers seat, got comfortable, then turned on the car. It rumbled to life. The car was clean, and smelled like his cologne. I carefully backed out of the parking space, and made my way out of the lot. It being late into the afternoon, most of the malls and stores were closing, so I headed home. My house was on the outskirts of the small town; a thirty minute drive from where Jacob and I worked. Halfway there, my phone ringed.

"Hello?" I answered.

"Hello, Lucario, this is Mr. Pike. I have called to tell you that the paperwork concerning what we had previously discussed has gone through. An account, per your family's wishes, has been created. I have the card and the information. Can we meet?"

"Ummm, sure. The same place, Moon Beans?" I asked.

"Sure," he said. I hanged up first, then changed lanes. The cafe was just up ahead, on my left. A small plaza they recently build was buzzing with people, traffic making it hard for me to reach my destination. At last there was a break-through, and reached the small and old cafe. Mr. Pike waved me over, sitting in the same spot we had sat when we met. The cafe was lonely at this time of day, with the music playing easily heard.

"Lucario, thanks for meeting me," he said, getting up and extending his hand. I shook it, nodding.

"I was on my way home, when you called," I told him, sitting apposite of him.

"Hopefully, it was not too much of a bother," he asked, a thin smile on his face. I began to notice the bags under his eyes. He was not combed; his suit was wrinkled; the shirt and tie did not match.

"No, not at all," I responded. I was quite nervous, flinching when he reached into his suit. This tight feeling in my gut did not dissipate when he rested a card, a vanilla folder, and a set of keys in front of me.

"I know that when I showed you the paperwork, you only breezed through it. Yet there are certain elements that your family wanted complete in the event of their passing," he said. "A day ago, I tried to reach you at your domicile, but you were not there. I took the liberty of going ahead and begin the process of reconstructing your home."

He opened the vanilla folder, displaying a jumble of pictures, diagrams, and blue prints.

"This," he said, tapping the blue print that looked like a house. "Is the model of your new home."

I paid more attention, speechless.

"Your parents were on the verge of building a new house, but it fell through. Yet, I spent some time going over your policy, and that of your sister, and I found out I have some leeway on some deciding factors."

"Like what?" I asked. "I am an adult."

"You yet are not twenty-six, and your parents along with your sister, made it clear that some assets are to be controlled by the state or governing body until your twenty six years old. One of them states clearly, that in case something were to happen to your home, it will be the company's responsibility to ascertain that the proper assets are chosen to help you rebuild."

I was speechless. 

"When does construction begin?" I asked, having regained my composure.

"It will begin next week," he responded, gathering all the paperwork into the vanilla paperwork. "Here."

Mr. Pike threw a card across the table, along with a set of keys.

"The card is connected to an account that you solely control. The keys are for a car that by the rules of the contract, is considered a necessary commodity."

"Really?" I asked. He nodded.

"The car will be delivered to your home estate," he said, smiling.

"I don't how to thank-you," I said, bewildered.

"Your welcome," he said, standing to leave. I took his hand and shook it. He nodded, taking his leave.

"Can I help you?"

"I would like a decaf coffee," I told the young barista.

"Sure," he responded. He walked me over to the counter, and took my order. I payed nervously, afraid that the card was not going to pass. It did.

"Here you go," the other barista said, handing me my coffee.

"Thank-you," I said, turning around. I made my way towards Jacob's car. The car rumbled to life. I got comfortable on the drivers seat, and rested my cup of coffee on the cup holder. Then pulled out of the space carefully, and made my way out the lot. My way home was quiet, tranquil. I parked close to the tent, slowly got out of the car, and made my way towards my home.

"At last," I exclaimed, pulling apart the flaps and falling onto the jumble of blankets and pillows.

"Things are looking up," I uttered.

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