376. Push

They smuggled us back across the street in a laundry van this time.

I kind of wished there was a way to smuggle myself from the service elevator to my room without having to pass the suite. I knew if I walked past there, I would go in, and if I went in, I would talk with people for an hour at least, and part of me wanted to just soak in some hot water and then go to sleep. I wasn’t sure where Jonathan was, but I was sure he’d understand if it was my turn to collapse. I felt like Ziggy’s cry had taken all the energy out of me, too.

We came to Ziggy’s door first. He looked at it longingly.

“You don’t have to hang out, you know,” I said.

He gnawed at his thumbnail, thinking it over. “Yeah, but I suck at being alone.”

“Want me to come in for a little while? We can channel surf until you conk out.”

“That’s probably going to happen pretty quick, now that you mention it,” he said, and got out his key.

Once inside the room he kicked off his boots. “All right if I take a quick shower?”

“It’s your shower, isn’t it?”

“I mean, don’t run off while I’m in there or anything,” he said. I could see the wheels turning in his head, though, as if trying to decide whether to invite me to join him in the water or not. He didn’t. He added, “I’m so wiped,” as if explaining why he wasn’t being obnoxiously forward like last night.

“You deserve the rest,” I said. “You got through it. You did it.” And I’m proud of you, I thought, but didn’t add, because how patronizing would that sound?

“Yeah. On half a brain cell, vitamin B 12, and amphetamines,” he said with a grin. “Remind me not to make this a habit.”

“I will.”

He got in the shower. I lay down atop the bedspread, propped up by both pillows, and turned on the TV.

It felt like a while since we had channel surfed like this. Our usual mode was to watch several things simultaneously, swapping back and forth among them. Ziggy was a good channel-surfing partner since we seemed to have about the same attention span and were interested in the same things as each other. He emerged from the bathroom pretty quickly, toweling his hair, a second towel around his waist.

He sat on the bed across from me to pull on a shirt. I couldn’t help but sit up a little. Colin had warned me about the bruises, and I’d seen them in the dim light earlier today, but I’d forgotten about them. Seeing them in better light now–bite marks on his neck, a hand print on his upper arm–startled me. I didn’t say anything, and I tried not to stare, especially since he suddenly seemed shy about me seeing them, pulling the towel around himself like a cape.

“That reminds me,” Ziggy said quietly, and he dug out a bottle of ibuprofen and took some.

Then he got under the covers and we watched some MTV and a movie and a documentary about sharks, with occasional passes at CNN, all at the same time.

“So what did you think of my mother?” he asked at one point.

“She seems really sweet,” I answered. “Are you her only child? Or did you tell me you have brothers?”

“I was raised like an only child,” he said. “I have two half brothers who were already in their late teens when I was born and who lived with their father. I only met them a few times.” He shrugged like it was no big deal, which I guess it wasn’t. “They’ve got a different last name. It’s like they’re not even my family.”

“Oh, I probably messed that up then, didn’t I? If you’ve got your father’s last name but she’s–?”

“No, no, Farias is her family name.”

“So you didn’t get your father’s name when you were born.”

“She told the hospital she didn’t know who the father was and she didn’t care, it was HER baby and it damn well better have HER name.” He smirked. “But she did know. She told me about him when I asked.”

“What did you ask?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I was four or five and had started school and it dawned on me one day that other kids often had two parents instead of one, so I asked what my daddy was like.”

“What did she tell you?”

“She told me a bunch of stuff I think, but the thing I remember is she said, ‘Your daddy was a free spirit.’ I didn’t know what the words ‘free spirit’ really meant then, so I made up a meaning. Like he could turn himself into a ghost and go anywhere he wanted, right through walls.” He yawned. “Later, I knew better, and you know, turned into something of a free spirit myself.”

“I’ll say.”

He yawned again, but then he said, “I’m going to sleep as long as I can, but we should rehearse a little tomorrow, don’t you think?”

“Yeah. That would be a good idea. I don’t think there’s anything else we have to do, though, so we’ll have time.”

“Good.” He snuggled down under the blankets.

My attention wandered back to the TV, and I figured he would drift off.

A few minutes later he said, “Can I ask a favor?”

“Of course.”

“Can I have a goodnight kiss?”

I turned and looked at him. That question could have meant so many things at different points in our relationship. It could have been a prelude to something more. It could have been him asking for the acknowledgement of some meaning he attached to it. It could have been motivated by jealousy. Right then, though, I think he just wanted some comfort. I think he just wanted to feel loved. If me kissing him could do that, then why shouldn’t I?

I got off the bed and bent over him, and kissed him first on the forehead and then on the lips, brushing his wet hair back from his face. “Good night, Ziggy.”

“Good night, Daron. I’ll be okay. You go check in at the party.”

“You’re sure.”

“Mmm-hhmm.” He closed his eyes.

“TV on or off?”

“Turn it way down, but leave it on,” he whispered.

“Okay,” I whispered back, and turned the volume down, put the remote where he could reach it, and left.


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