Castiel stared at his scuffed blue sneakers kicking the gravel path leading home. The trees had finally lost their leaves and the air began to chill. Tucking his hands into his green-stripped hoodie’s pockets Cas turned the corner into his family’s yard. Hoping up the stairs, opening the screen door and placing his backpack full of his research assignments books from the St. Benedict’s School Library. Castiel bent over to dig around the front pocket of the bag in search of the house keys, pushing aside coins and a leftover candy bar wrapper. Unlocking the front door he removed his shoes and looked to the cross hanging on the wall.
“Blessed Father, I thank you for being watchful and thankful upon this day and this house. Amen.” Turning from the cross Castiel called out to the house, “Mom! I’m home!” With no response he walked into the kitchen to find a note posted on the fridge.
“I picked Anna up at school and went to assist Mrs. Taylor with the Lord’s Lucky Pot Luck Dinner for the homeless. Be home before dinner. Warm up leftovers.”
Castiel scrunched his nose up as he opened the fridge to find last nights Tuna Casserole sitting partially eaten in a glass dish. Groaning and closing the door Castiel trudged up stairs to his room, clunking the bag of books on his desk and flopping down on his bed. With his feet on the floor and back to the mattress Castiel watched the last remaining leaves on the tree outside his window drift out of site. Releasing a sigh, he sat up on the bed and looked down at the grey covered mattress. Picking at the edge of the mattress with his fingers he stared through the mattress to what rested beneath. Worrying his bottom lip between his teeth he got up closed the door and slowly walked back to stand by the side of the bed. Still biting his lip he nods to himself and slides his hands underneath dragging out the hidden magazine. Holding the magazine between both his hands stroking the sides he sits on the edge of the bed. Lifting his head and listening to the silence of the house, reminding himself that he has at least 3 more hours before Anna and Mom return, he takes a deep breath and opens the item. Across the top of the magazine it reads, Men’s Health. If he’s being honest he snatched the magazine from the library and never returned it. On the cover it discusses the articles proclaiming the best fitness regime for “Gym Free Abs” and “WAKE UP! (your sex life)”. But Castiel sits and opens the cover flipping through looking at the men within. Clothed or not, built thick or thin, to Castiel they are all the physical manifestation of what he shouldn’t want.
His Pastor expressed last spring that in Leviticus 20:13 “if man also lay with man, as he lay with woman, both of them have committed an abomination and therefore shall be put to death and blood will be upon them”. His mother nodded with him and boldly with his community choired amen. As Castiel lightly touches the face of model with plush lips and long eyelashes, he wonders if it is truly wrong when the Lord Saviour himself proclaimed that he loved them as his Father loved him. Would the Father and the Son truly deem him a sinner to the likes of murders and adulaters? How could the heavens truly hate one appreciation for the beauty they created? Castiel lightly followed his fingers as he danced them across the shirtless man’s waist and over his thighs. The twisting of desire laboured his breathing as he began to imagine what the man’s skin must feel like warm to the touch.
Suddenly the glossy image of the beautiful man is torn from his gaze and sharp slap hits his face. Castiel looks up with his ears ringing and eyes watering shocked to lock eyes with the blue of his mother’s. His mother is sharply breathing in and out; pinching her lips and brows together is fury and disgust.
“Why Castiel?! Why have you chosen… chosen this?” she shakes her clawed hand in his face. Her nails have torn a hole across the man’s face. Unable to respond Castiel shifts his gaze from the magazine to his mother’s eyes pleading for the answer he knows she wants to hear. But nothing comes.
In a rage the magazine is tossed into the corner of the room and his mother grips his wrist harshly, digging her nails into his flesh. Castiel still in terror is dragged off the bed and onto his knees on the floor. His mother begins to drag him out of the room as his knees scrape across the carpet. The pinching of flesh and skinning of his knees prompts Castiel to find his voice.
“Please Mom! Please I’m sorry! I’ll never look again!” His mother harshly pulls him to his feet and drags him through his bedroom door down the hall. Passing his sister crying silently by the threshold. He pleads with his mother, “Mom! Mom!! Stop! Please! You’re hurting me!” He hiccups as his breathing increases, tears and snot begin to coat his upper lip. “Mom!!” His mother bangs the door to the bathroom open and tosses him into the shower. Screaming his shoulder rams into the wall and his wrist send a sharp pain as he catches his fall only to have his ankle slam into the edge of the shower stall. Castiel holds his wrist to his chest and rolls in on himself as his mother finally speaks.
“You will wash away the filth that has taken your flesh. You will clean your skin of these… sins.” She throws the showerhead on not bothering to check the temperature, “Father Bartholomew will be here when you are done.”
Castiel shivers on the floor as freezing water cascades down upon him and his mother turns towards the door. In a distance he hears his mother speaking to someone, but all he hears clearly is the water pounding on the floor beneath him and his own voice silently trying to calm his heart.
“Blue skies smiling at me, nothing but blue skies do I see.” Staring at the open door in a trance Castiel notices the arrival of a pair of dress pants in the door. “Bluebirds singing a song, nothing but blue skies from now on.” The pants walk towards him turning the water off. The person crouches down to eye level, making his voice stop and focus upon Priest Bartholomew’s face.
Steeling his eyes upon the man of faith Castiel responds curiously in a raspy voice “Hello Father.” Father Bartholomew responds with a tight smile “Hello Castiel my child. Your mother has asked me to speak with you.” Taking a deep breath the Father continues, “She tells me you have fallen to the temptations of the sodomites. Is this true?” Unsure how to respond and not wishing to lie to the man Castiel only lowers his eyes. With a heavy sigh Father Bartholomew stands and places his hands on the boys arms. Lifting him up and turning to grab a towel he drapes it over Castiel’s shoulders. “Come my child. God will forgive you of your sins but you must repent and train your mind and faith to reject such things again.”
Castiel and Father Bartholomew walk down the hall and the stairs to the entrance of the house. In confusion Castiel stares up at the cross he prayed at not long ago then down at his feet to a duffle bag. Rotating around to look at the Father he asks, “Why is my bag down here?”
“Castiel. Your mother has agreed to have you come with me to St. Angela’s Center for Hope.”
“What?” shaking his head he looks for his mother finding her cradling Anna to her side. “Why?”
Father Bartholomew speaks up, “There is hope for people like you. Those that are ill and only need the strength and support to find God and our Lord’s forgiveness.”
Still confused Castiel looks to his mother for answers. She speaks through her teeth holding Anna tighter, “The center will fix you Castiel. Now go.”
The Father picks up his bag, opens the door and tightly grabs his wrist. Castiel screams across the deck and the front lawn, “Mom! Mommy please! Please don’t! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to!” pulling his arm and dragging his feet, “Please Mom! Please! MOM!!”
The father tosses him into the backseat of the Prius slamming the door in his face as Castiel bangs on the window screaming. “Please! Please! NO PLEASE!” The Priest starts the car and begins to pull away.
Castiel takes in a shaky breathe as the house begins to disappear through the window. His mother long turned away, Anna silently waves goodbye. The last thing Castiel sees of his home is his sister’s bright red hair surrounded by leafless trees as the car turns the corner.
Castiel opened his eyes noticing that the car had finally stopped. Holding his hands to his head warding off a headache caused by the tears. The Father is no longer in the front seat. Finding the child lock on the door is off Castiel opens the door and stands up to look around. Behind him is a high security gate, around him a parking lot surrounded by lush greenery and in front to him an entrance way that reads, St. Angela’s Center for Hope. Casting his gaze down the entrance he sees Father Bartholomew speaking with a bald man. The Father laughs lightly and walks out speaking joyfully to the man, making his way towards Castiel.
“Castiel this is Zachariah Harrington he is the Head of the Center. Zach this is Castiel Novak.” Zachariah steps forward to shake his hand.
“Hello Castiel. Here at St. Angela’s myself and our staff will do everything we can to make you better. Comfort, Joy and Faith are our principles.” Castiel eyes the man’s hand hesitantly shaking his hand. Zachariah quickly retracts his hand smiling brightly at Castiel and the Priest. “Thank you Father we will take it from here.” The priest tightly smiles at Castiel, nods and gets in the car. “Castiel follow me.” Watching the car pull through the gate and returning his attention to Zachariah, Castiel walks forward with his head down. Stopping briefly at the front desk, Zachariah reaches across to pump hand sanitizer into his hands and grabs the key resting on the counter. “Come along.”
Castiel follows the man through a lobby and out a backdoor towards the back of the compound. In the back are two small buildings. Between them rests a sculpture of an angel, wrapped in vines. Zachariah leads him towards the building on the left and opens the door. “This will be your home.” Walking into a room full of bunk beds Castiel freezes. Heads from a few beds look towards him, all young men. Castiel thinks to himself 'if this is what he believes it to be, it’s an irony that they all sleep in the same room. A room full of people just like himself.’ Zachariah stops at the third bed, only one away from the far wall and places his bag on the bottom bunk. Castiel stares at his bag. “Dinner is already complete, but one of the girls will be over with a light snack.” Castiel nods. “Get a good nights rest. You’ll be up at 5 in the morning for a run, breakfast then bible studies. After lunch we have Healing with Imagery, Group Therapy, Dinner and Prayer.” Zachariah walks out of the building slamming the door behind him. Castiel faintly hears the turn of a lock. He walks towards his bunk and sits down silently staring at his duffle bag. His fingers pick at the edge of the mattress.
“Alright ladies I’m here for the newbie. Where is he?” Castiel lifts his head to see a small woman with bouncing curls walking towards him with a tray.
“Well hello there Hot Stuff, I’m Meg.” She places the tray on Castiel’s lap and plops down on the bottom buck across from him.
Castiel looks in her chocolate brown eyes and clears his throat, “Castiel”. Meg smiles, gesturing to the food. Castiel lowers his head and picks up the sandwich, slowly eating through the jam and peanut butter.
Meg crosses her legs on the mattress, “So who sent you to this hell hole?” Castiel quietly replies, “My Mom.”
“Ooo that sucks. Find you with the boy-toy?”
Clicking his tongue on the roof of his peanut butter painted mouth Castiel quickly glances up, “No she saw me looking at a Men’s Health Magazine.”
“Really? That’s it?”
A boy popped his head up from cross the aisle, “My Dad walked in on me not so subtly enjoying porn. I forgot to put the headphones in. Super awkward.” Waving his fingers at the pair below, “Hi I’m Alan.” A slow smile reaches his eyes as he welcomes Castiel.
Castiel glances at the bunk below Alan where a quiet boy puts his book down and smiles at Castiel, “I’m Samandriel, but you can call me Alfie.”
“Alfie?” Castiel scrunches his eyebrows together noting the nickname.
“Yeah Alfie cause Sa-man-driella over there is a mouthful. Hey I’m Andrew.” A dopy-eyed boy from the first top bunk by the door salutes him.
“So Castiel,” Meg demanding his attention once again, “What do you know about Center for the Hopeless?”
“Nothing really.” Castiel finishes his sandwich and places the tray on the floor.
“Well all I can say is rule number one we stick together. The Hens and the Pups,” pointing to herself and Castiel, “we protect each other.”
“Protect?” Castiel tilted his head to the side.
“Protect. That’s all I’m going to say.” Meg bounces up and lightly taps Castiel’s head, “See you tomorrow bright and early Clarence.” Meg saunters out the door.
Castiel turns his face towards Andrew, “What did she mean by the Hens and Pups?”
Andrew huffs with laughter, “The lesbians are across the way in the other building. ‘The Henhouse’ and we are the ‘Doghouse’” Smiling brightly at Castiel, he continues, “The girls call us Pups.”
“Oh. I see.” With a tight smile Castiel turns his face back to the duffle bag beside him and opens it. On top is his father’s Bible and below a navy blue hoodie with St. Benedict’s silver blades crossed in a crucifix surrounded by a set of white wings. Castiel picks up the Bible running a thumb along the seam, lifting the hoodie out with his other hand. He glances briefly at the hoodie before looking in the bag to find a pair of PJs, his favourite: A grey t-shirt with Bee-lieve across the front and blue pants with a little bee at the hem. Quietly Castiel sends a pray to his mother in thanks because he knows she truly believes she was helping. With silent tears Castiel places the Bible under his pillow, hangs the hoodie on a hook by his bunk, stuffs the duffle under the bed and quickly gets dressed into his PJs.
Crawling into bed with one hand under the pillow brushing the Bible, Castiel silently prays, “Blessed Angels and Saints, please forgive my mother she does not understand. Protect Anna and take care of her.” Breathing in deeply Castiel concludes, “and please blessed angels and saints, help me find a way through this. Amen.” Turning on his side still touching the Bible, Castiel closes his eyes and hopes for sleep.