Russell awoke to the booming sounds of his father's voice.
His mother ignoring him like he didn't exist in the world.
The sickly scent of sex and booze that forever permeated the stuffy air within the house, his clothes, his nostrils, and his everything. The feeling of his father giving him a solid smack to the jaw so hard Russell could see stars.
Chris awoke to his mother's absence in the morning, a note pasted to the nearly empty fridge.
"I'll be out late, again.
I have a
thing date after work.
I left some money for you on the counter, it's all that I had.
Chris cringed a little at the sentiment throughout the letter, but he knew it wasn't a "date" his mother was going on. It was probably going to be another fuckfest with another married bastard. He was glad for the money, though small, it was still something. Grabbing the meager six dollars left for him he left out the house on the path towards the schoolhouse. Ignoring the creepy stare of a rather large man giving a large, almost painted, smile. Chris made sure to give the man a good glare followed with a quickened pace.
The morning light seemed to bask off of nearly everything, except for the alleys. The alley ways of Chris' neighborhood always seemed to swallow all of the light no matter what time of day it ever was. Made them perfect spots for selling items of the not-so-legal nature. Sometimes when both him and Russell were together and Chris had a supply (which he didn't now) they would sell some for extra cash. Chris always gave Russell a share of their earnings, though Russell never seemed to use it for himself. Always saying he had to use it "for his father". Russell never went into detail about his father or his home life, but Chris wasn't stupid. He could tell that whatever was happening was not good, no it was wrong. But, Chris has an oath for snitching; "Don't." Simple. Besides, Chris had no doubt that Russell could handle it. This was Russell. The kid hardly ever spoke, but he always seemed melancholic. But something tells Chris that he wouldn't want to piss off the blonde. A saying, "You gotta watch out for the quiet ones" that applies wholeheartedly. His mother told him that the first time she met Russell.
Suddenly, Chris stopped a flash of golden blonde hair and sky blue eyes in the near distance. Chris couldn't help but smirk a little. He didn't want to go to anyway, maybe he could convince Russell to skip with him again. Than Chris spots Gardenia (the crush of his life) bound over to a very grim looking Russell. She looks worried as she continously pouts and points at Russell's face.
What could be wrong with Russell's face? Did his father....?
Chris decided to jog up to Russell and Gardenia, catching a snippet of Gardenia's worried voice:
"-happened to your face?!"
Russell stared darkly at the floor, that could only mean.... Not again...
"Hey, Gardenia, uh, what's up?" Chris spoke immediately to the white-haired beauty in front of him.
"What's up?! What happened to his face?!"
"Now it can't be tha-" Oh. It was. It really was this time.
Chris took one look at his friend's face and cringed. An ugly dark bruise lay on Russell's face, blooming like a purple flower. Russell's father must have gotten him good this time around. Wrapping an arm around Russell's stiff shoulders Chris gave Gardenia a warm, forced, smile.
"Don't worry about this too much, Gardenia."
"Are you sure about that?" Gardenia crossed her arms. She didn't really believe a word that came out Chris' face. That bruise looked really bad. "I think he needs to at least see the school nurse."
"No," Russell muttered. "I'll be fine. I just tripped."
"I re-" Gardenia was interrupted by the school bell that announced the beginning of the first class period. Saved by the bell.
"You should get to class, besides you heard him he'll be fine." Chris hoped that Gardenia would rush off to class. And she did, albeit with a questioning glance before rushing off to class. Chris gave a sigh of relief before turning his attention back to his eerily quiet friend.
"Do you wanna skip?" Chris didn't bother asking on how Russell was feeling. Russell may be naturally quiet, but never this quiet. It was extremely disconcerting to have his friend be this unspoken for this long of an amount of time. Russell kept his eyes trained to the ground with his fists clenched as he nodded as a reply to Chris' inquiry. "Do you wanna talk about it?" Chris' question was immediately met with an almost murderous glare instead of an expected blank look. Chris decided not to push his curiosity.
"Okay, I won't ask," Chris made sure Russell was actually following when he started walking "I found some weird medicine shop that sells herbal shit near where I live."
Russell gave no response.
"We could go and get something for the bruises, if you want?"
Still no response.
"The guy who runs the place might give us a discount..."
"How about the zoo?"
Chris turned to his blonde friend. He didn't expect Russell to be breathing deeply, Chris immediately rushed to his friend's side.
"Geez, are you okay?"
Chris could barely make out the words his friend spoke; "N-no zoo, those damn monkeys...."
"Alright, alright no zoo," Chris pat Russell's back as an effort to calm his friend. It seemed to work. "Do you just wanna go back to my place?"
After a long and tedious moment Russell gave a nod and took Chris' hand. Any other time Chris would have definitely reacted negatively to such a touch, but he could see that Russell needed this right now. Chris could feel his cheeks burning and he hoped they weren't red. It's a good thing that Russell was focused on the ground, and it's also a good thing that his mother wouldn't be home until late at night, or even the next afternoon depending on how many rounds she goes through.
The trek back to Chris' home was made pregnant with silence yet Chris didn't really mind the quiet. It generally came with Russell's presence, just now it was slightly uncomfortable.
"I know a few card games, we could play Egyptian Ratscrew?" Chris looked hopefully into Russell's sky blue eyes as they entered the small apartment.
Russell shook his head, "Not really in the mood for hitting..."
Damn, how could Chris forget that?
"Right," Chris searched for another game they could play. "Poker? Chinese Poker? I Declare War?"
All of his suggestions were rejected, and Chris was out of card games. Okay, time to bust out the console.
"We could play on my console?" Chris hoped to not be rejected. Luckily, Russell gave a small nod and, dare Chris say, a faint smile. That smile (was it even there?) disappeared quickly as Russell took a seat in front of the rather cheap TV in the living room. Chris prepared lackluster snacks to tend to their stomachs and hopefully let Russell know that he is appreciated. Chris never gets the sense that Russell knows he's appreciated, not even by his parents. Than again Chris has never really been that open with his feelings either. Looking to Russell, Chris could see a quant look on his face as if he was distracted from the earlier pain he was in. Maybe, his mom would let...
"Do you want to stay over tonight?" The question was out in the open before Chris could even try and think beforehand.
After a few moments of silence Russell responded with a quiet "Yes, if it would be fine with your mom..."
"She'll definitely let you, I will make sure of that."