Title: Phone Call
Author: thestorymaker aka Lou
Spoilers: Non particular, set in season two after Bree leaves Andrew on the roadside.
Disclaimer: Don't own em, don't make money from writing about them.
I pick the dime up from the side walk. It's been glinting at me for the last five minutes like a twinkling star just preying on my emotions. Like it knows it's waiting for me to pick it up and use it to make a call. A call I've been making for the past I don't know how many months. I've tried giving it up, but it's like a drug, something I need to do. Like it's keeping me sane or something. Or perhaps it's a personal cruelty, knowing what I could have had, what could have been if I'd just stopped needing the control all the time. I've got spare change in my pocket, but I've avoided the phone booth. But that dime, just twinkling in it's little corner, laying discarded, calling out for me to pick it up and make use of it.
A few months ago I'd not have given it a thought. Heck, I'd not be in this neighbourhood, never mind scouring the pavement for spare change. Still, here I am, picking it up, my feet already leading me at their own accord to the phone at the edge of the street. I pass now familiar faces, the prostitues getting ready to sell their wares, some of them eyeing me up, making sure I'm not infringing on their territory. I nod to Steve and he gives me a thumbs up as I pass by his little corner of the alley.
"Gonna' be a cold one tonight kid, best bed down here at my place." He tells me, shifting round his boxes.
"Sure thing Steve, thanks." I tell him.
On the streets, you learn not to mind curling up to some old coot and sharing a cardboard box. It offers each of you a bit of warmth and sometimes it feels nice to know you're not alone.
I can feel my heart pumping a little harder now as I reach the phone. I was hoping it was in use, I'd have headed back to Steve's, maybe seen what I could do about begging for some food in exchange for his hospitality. But the phone is free, the box all empty and waiting for me to accommodate it. I step inside, slide the door closed, surprised that the door and actual glass are intact considering the area and stare at the receiver for a few moments, screwing up the courage to pick it up. Taking a deep breath I do quickly dispensing the glinting twinkling dime into the slot so I don't have to look at it any more, before my fingers automatically punch in the number. It's the only number I've plugged into a phone these past months.
Leaning against the glass I listen as it rings a few times. I might get lucky, he might not pick up but my stomach churns a little when the ringing stops and a voice answers. I groan inwardly at the sound of John's voice.
"Hello?" His disembodied voice talks into my ear.
"Justin?" I say in a muffled tone, half covering my hand so he doesn't recognise my voice and hoping he'll take the bait, think I don't know who he or Justin are. I roll my eyes to the ceiling and breath out a sigh as John replies.
"Hang on I'll just get him."
The line goes quiet, I can hear John's voice talking in the distance but all I'm aware of is my heart beating faster, hitting my chest with hard thump thump thumps. I swallow a breath as he talks down the line.
I swallow hard, because there's so much I want to say to him and tell him. But no matter how many phone calls I make to him, I can never make myself speak. He's used to the calls now, knows it's me. After the silence kicks in, I hear him breathe in a sigh.
He knows I won't answer, but he says my name like he's hoping I will one day. Instead I cover the mouthpiece with my hand so that any sounds I do make he won't pick up on. He falls silent again and it's like a connection, even though I'm miles from him, it feels like he's right beside me and right now that would feel so good. I'd tell him I want to make everything right, try again, make things work for us. Because he deserves that from me. Because I guess, I guess maybe I deserve it for me too.
"Been a while since you last called." He says to me, like we're carrying on a normal conversation.
I grimace and nod. I shouldn't have made this call. But I just can't help myself. Sometimes he just stays silent, sometimes he begs me to talk to him Sometimes he vents, he thinks I ran away and he tells me he hates me for doing that. He's begged me to tell him where I am, begs me to come home. And sometimes, like today, he just talks. About everything and nothing and it feels nice to just hear him speaking. I dig around in my pocket for my spare change and place a handful on the top of the phone ledge, sliding a few quarters into the slot for good measure before leaning on the glass again.
Outside the box, this side of town is waking up. The seedy nightclubs, strip joints and bars are all starting to open up for business. More whores start marking their spots, some of the pimps keeping an eye on things from their cars or doorways. A few of the homeless make their way to the soup kitchen in time for an evening meal, I see Steve wandering that way himself. I feel removed from it all, like it's a world I'm not part of. Right now, it's just me, in a box, a voice keeping me grounded in my new little world. I'm not even paying attention to half of what he's saying. It's not about the words for me, it's the fact that he does this for me. Maybe he thinks it will make me come home. I wish it were that simple.
My mother left me on the road side in the middle of nowhere. Right then I was so far gone inside myself, so much hate and rage that I didn't care. I want to tell him that. That this is my punishment, that I need to be here. That I deserve to be keeping company with pimps and whores and homeless old guys who get pissy over their little piece of turf on a back alleyway.
"...and then out of nowhere this guy just jumps up and starts chasing him down the street. Dude it was so funny. John and me, we laughed our asses off. Oh John's met someone, can't remember if I told you about her. He seems pretty serious about her, I've a feeling he's about to pop the question. Her fathers got a good business, John seems to think it's going to change things for us. Remember how people thought we'd fail, well we haven't, we've proved them all wrong."
He pauses for breath and I swallow down the lump rising in my throat. He sounds happy, I'm glad of that. I should let him move on, I shouldn't keep calling. If I stop he can get on with things, stop thinking I'll come walking in through the door.
"I was thinking about you the other day. Miss Britt asked me to go over to the old 'Young's' house the other day and clean up the lawns, clear the pool. She's trying to spruce it up you know, for new owners and all that. Sure brought memories back of when Mrs Mayer caught us in the pool, thinking it was Julie and a guy. Saw your Mom too, doing her gardening, said Hi to her as I passed by. Look I know this is probably a waste of time, but I'm going to say it anyway. You should come home Andrew. If things were bad at your place, you know you could come here. I want you too. I want to know you're safe."
I suck in a breath and fight the tears which are gathering in my eyes, blurring my vision. Running a hand through my hair I try to ignore the words as he says them but they filter through, weighing on my mind. He doesn't realise how much I want to do as he asks, but I've done things now. Things which I can't turn my back on. When you get this far down in the pit you've dug for yourself, you always sink in a little deeper, find that it's much harder to climb out of.
I wonder if he'd still want me as much if he knew I'd been sucking cock to get a little cash. Middle aged men finding the invitation of bedding a young man like me too much to ignore. I'm not safe but I am surviving.
I have to shut him out now, I can feel my hands shaking just hearing him ask me to come home. I wipe my hand across my face, wiping away the tears and trying not to let him hear me sniffling like a baby.
I put down the receiver, grab the change I put on top of the phone and shove it back into my pocket. I wipe my sleeve over my face, cleaning away the tears and pulling in a few deep breaths to compose myself.
Sometimes I hope that one day he'll stop answering the phone, that he'll just stop talking. Because if he did, then I'd stop calling and we'd both just move on. He's be successful, get another boyfriend, one who treats him better than I ever did. And I'd stop torturing myself when I become desperate to hear his voice like a drug that keeps me going.
Maybe that day will come. Until then, I keep an eye out for twinkling dimes on the sidewalks.