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Something in Common

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When V had first lost his virginity, it had been when he was 16, to his next door neighbour, Jared Wallis.

God, that takes him back.

Back to a time of an extremely lonely and insufferable childhood.

He and his mother had been in a car accident when he was only six years old, his mother died at the scene and V had been left in a critical condition (“fighting for his life” as the newspapers had put it).

He recovered, thankfully, (though his broken hip never quite healed) but V’s father wasn’t convinced. He’d lost his wife and had almost lost his only child, his precious son and he would be damned if it almost happened again.

V’s life changed as soon as he was discharged from hospital. Gone were the days of freedom and hello to imprisonment in his own home! V was removed from school (“you’ll get a far better education at being homeschooled than you’ll ever get in a public or private school.” his father had told him) and was taught 6 days a week from 8 in the morning till 4 in the afternoon with half an hour breaks at 10:30 and 12:30 for lunch and to use the restroom.

What was worse was that on Saturday afternoons his father would come and ‘inspect’ how V was doing, waltzing into the study dressed in a pressed shirt and designer jeans looking as casual as he could in brogues. He’d never talk to V’s tutor, only ever addressing his questions to his son, asking him what he was working on. When V would tell him, his father would scoff and turn to sneer at the now cowering tutor. “Why are you teaching him that? He doesn’t need to know that!”

The tutor would gulp, sputtering out about how it was a part of the school and educational curriculum before they’d be rudely cut off by V’s father who’d demand they teach his son a topic of HIS choice. In a way, it did benefit V to learn some of the topics that his father picked for him, even if no one else in his age group was learning such subjects (what kind of man insists that you need to learn about the holocaust at seven years old?).

Although intelligent for his age, the stress of working for such long hours on subjects that only children twice his age were supposed to learn was about to take its toll on V and at the age of 9, he had his very first panic attack.

It was Saturday afternoon and his father had yet again dropped in to see if V had learnt his spellings. All was going well at first, his tutor would ask him to spell a word and he’d spell it vocally for him. He spelt the first five correctly and confidently, like always, never once wavering or giving it a second thought.

“Spell ‘indict’.” Said his tutor, not even looking up from the sheet of paper he was reading them from.

“‘I’-“

V froze. His mind suddenly blank.

He knew this word.

He knew it!

What came after ‘I’?

What was the word again?

His mouth went slack, gaping in an ugly, dumb manner as he felt himself freeze. His fathers eyes were boring into him, the tutor had looked up from the sheet.

They were waiting for an answer.

It was hot, had someone turned the heating up?

And why was it so hard to breathe suddenly?

They were still waiting.

What came after ‘I’?

What was the word again?

Why was it so hard to breathe?

Moving almost on auto pilot, V made for the door, not even sparing a glance back at his father and tutor as he exited the room. He ran straight into the arms of his nanny (best he could with a bad hip) and burst into tears, sobbing about his sudden difficulty to breathe. He was panting uncontrollably to the point he started to feel light headed and all his nanny could do was pick him up and walk up the stairs to his bedroom, whispering soft words and cradling his lithe body to her own.

“He’s gonna kill me! Dads gonna kill me!” V sobbed in between breathes, his heart beating so fast he was certain he would pass out. “I’ve never done this before! I’ve never done this before! He’s gonna kill me!”

Sitting down on his bed, his nanny placed him on her lap and rocked him gently, hushing his sobs best she could as the child sobbed and panted against her, his body burning up feverishly. V’s father had come to the doorway of the bedroom, curious as to why his son had abruptly left halfway through his weekly spelling test. He kept his distance upon hearing his sons panicked cries (and seeing the death glare the nanny sent his way) yet eventually scoffed, rolling his eyes and walking away sneering about how “babyish” V was acting over a spelling test.

“He’s overreacting.” He snarled at the doctor who’d come to check up on V. “He didn’t know a word and instead of owning up that that was the case he instead chose to have a tantrum!”

V stopped working Saturday afternoons for a long time after that and he promised himself he’d never have another panic attack (his father, still to this day, brings the incident up, though he calls it “that embarrassing moment during the spelling test.”).

The doctors suggested that V’s anxiety may improve if he were to socialise with children his own age, having only been around adults the majority of his life; maybe through joining a local club?

So his father decided to get V a black cockatoo called Griffon.

He would have to make do with socialising with a cockatoo.

And when V’s anxiety still didn’t improved, he got him a black sphynx cat, Shadow. Then a stick insect, Nightmare.

When that didn’t work he finally allowed V to meet their next door neighbours son, Jared.

Jared was only a few years older than V, taller, broader and had little to no interest in anything V himself liked. He found reading dull, poetry boring and history was just drab. He preferred sports, TV, parties-

He was nothing like V.

And V loved it.

Jared showed V a world he never knew existed, introduced him to new people (the ‘gang’ as he called them). As they got older, Jared and his antics got more extreme and V always came along for the ride. Jared taught V how to sneak out at night, to come to parties where he’d drink alcohol and smoke strange tasting cigarettes. It meant that V would have to attend his lessons the next day with only two hours of sleep but he didn’t care. He was finally getting the freedom he’d always craved for and that made Jared his saviour.
Only, Jared wasn’t his saviour.
Jared was an ass.

On V’s sixteenth birthday, Jared offered to be his first and V, naively believing Jared was the ‘love of his life’, had said yes.

In all fairness, it wasn’t a ‘bad’ first time, in fact it had been very good! It was the morning after that ruined it really.

Upon waking up, still naked and pressed close together, Jared had smiled at V, cupped his face and whispered huskily that V had better go.
“My girlfriend will be here by nine and I wanna clean up before she gets here.”

He never saw Jared after that.

He ignored his texts to “come hang”, refused invitations by Jared’s parents to attend their dinner parties, cut ties with all of Jared’s friends, he wanted NOTHING to do with Jared ever again.
Instead he focused hard on his studies, Saturday afternoon teachings were re-established and V insisted that his lessons now run from 8 till 5 and would continue to work independently till 6:30. All the time he’d wasted on Jared had affected his grades and he’d be damned if he let that fucker take away anything else from him.

So he continued to work hard, and he eventually was accepted into his first choice university, Redgrave. At first his father had wanted his son to come and work with him as a partner in his firm but V had argued that he wanted to study English literature, get a degree and then come and work at his fathers firm as it would make him more qualified (he knew it didn’t but hey, whatever works).

“One of my work college’s has a son at Redgrave, I’ve arranged for us to go and meet them at the university next week.” V’s father said one afternoon whilst V was packing up his room. “Vergil says his son is more than happy to look out for you. And it’ll put my mind at ease-“

“You got me a babysitter.” V spat.

V hated to admit it, but he knew this would happen. After all these years his father still didn’t want his little boy out of his sight. If it wasn’t illegal, V was sure his father would keep him under house arrest for the rest of his life, still controlling what he ate and what TV programs he was allowed to watch. It was bad enough that his father controlled his own bank account (though that was understandable since as soon as V had turned 18 he’d gone and gotten his entire torso tattooed, something his father still hadn’t forgiven him for) but now he’d hired someone to babysit him at university?

“You need a shrink.” V had spat through his teeth as he slammed his bedroom door in his fathers offended face.

Getting V a babysitter at uni was possibly the worst mistake his father had ever made and V had spent the entire meeting trying to hide his smugness. Vergil, “a classy and well educated man” as his father said, was nothing like his son, Nero, who was taking a degree in mechanics/ engineering and was aiming to eventually become a demolition derby driver, like his uncle.
Nero had no idea where the library was or if there was a debates society but he did know which bar you could buy the best drink for the cheapest price was.

V’s father and Vergil spent the entire meeting green faced whilst Nero babbled on about how he “got super pissed one time!” (why he added the “one time” was beyond V because as soon as he finished that story he went on to saying how he got “super pissed” another time). V had to hide his laughter behind his glass of water as Vergil finally seemed to recover from his shock and politely asked his son to “shut up”.

V and his father left quickly after that.

They didn’t talk the whole journey home till they walked through the front door when V’s father declared that V wasn’t going to university.

They argued all night about it.

His father said he was only trying to protect him.

V said he was smothering him.

His father insisted that V needed him.

V insisted he didn’t.

His father said he was fragile.

And V had just about had it.

“I’M NOT WEAK!” V screamed. “You just want me to be! You want to control everything I do! What I eat, what I spend my money on- like I’m incapable! If mum hadn’t died-!”

“But she did die! She died because she was over the alcohol limit and I stupidly let her get in the car with you!” His father yelled, face red and fists clenched. “I chose to let her drive that night with you in the back seat! I lost her that night and almost lost you! And I’ve never forgiven myself and I never will! Because I let you both down that night!”

“Then why are you punishing me?!!” V spat. “If you’re so sorry about what happened to me and mum you’d let me be happy! And going to university would make me happy! You’re controlling, me not protecting me!”

“I’m not controlling you, Vitale.” His dad sneered. “I’m trying to give you the best and easiest life you could ever have hoped for-“

“No it’s a life you want me to have! I never wanted to be homeschooled! I never wanted to learn how to play violin! I hate that my diet consists of celery and water! I don’t want to work in your firm! I want to go to uni and become a poet! Or research poetry! I don’t care- just anything to get me away from here-!”

“A poet? Ha! You understand you actually have to write your own poems, right? Not just plagiarise and quote William Blake!”

“I’m serious, Dad-!”

“I’m being serious as well! You’re talentless! The day you become a famous poet will be the day Britney Spears becomes a nun.” His dad scoffed rudely, a sickening grin spread across his face. “If you hate me that much, go to university! Go get your stupid degree in poetry! And don’t worry I won’t pay for any of it! Just don’t bother crawling back to me when you’re washed up and broke with no future!”

V didn’t even bother answering his father, barging past him and heading straight to his room where he slammed his door shut and went straight to the window seat. His heart was racing again in the same way it did during that dreadful spelling test he took as a nine year old, but upon picking up Shadow, who had come rushing over upon seeing her owner so distressed, he felt himself relax.

Shadow purred as V cradled her against his chest, rubbing her head as he took deep breaths in an attempt to calm himself.

“Well,” he whispered, scratching behind the cats bald ear. “Guess I’m going to university.”