j a m e s *uneditied*

A boy. A girl. A horrible truth. ----- The rape of men may come as a surprise to you. In this fictional documentation of a young high school senior named James Smith, you will learn the unfolding of a rape that will not just change the life of James, but also that of everyone around him.

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12. Chapter Seven

 

 

 

 

‘I think I was raped by a woman.’

 

 It didn’t happen.

 It never happened.

 It was a gap – a blank space. No similar matches. It just…did not happen. Panic flooded James as he stared at the words on the paper. He had printed it off over a month ago, yet the words still seemed freshly inked.
 No similar matches.  
 Was he really hurt? Or did he just let it happen? He had to have wanted it. He wanted it.

 It wasn’t her fault.
 He stared at his reflection in the window. He looked dead.
 It wasn’t her fault.

 It didn’t happen.

 He could have done something.

 He let her.

 The bus bumped down the road. His head thumped back and forth. His brain felt like a ping pong ball. The overly-cheery Christmas lights decorated on the store fronts made his eyes hurt. He stretched his legs out onto the seat next to him. It was okay.
 It was empty.

 

 The bus wheezed to the curb of the station. James felt a surge of nausea shock through him as he stepped off. His legs wobbled, and he automatically gripped the side of the bus stop bench. Black dots appeared in his eyes. He felt like he was going to throw up.

 But nothing came.

 After a second, the fuzziness subsided. James slowly straightened. He felt…wobbly, but he took one step, then another, then another and another and he felt just a little bit better.  The air cooled the sweat on his brow. Then he saw the grass turn into linoleum and the reflection of the asylum lights above him framed out his shadow. The feeling returned. He did not look up.

 In his head he imagined rows of students passing him, ignoring him. Knowing that whatever happened, or if something happened, that it was none of their business. But still.

 He felt their eyes.

 Their stares.

 He knew what he looked like, why was it so important for them? Jesus, didn’t any of these people have a life? It felt like they knew.

 Did she tell them?
 He risked a glance up. He caught the eyes of someone by accident. A girl. Freshman. She had dyed red hair. She gave him a soft, sad smile. James locked his movements. He couldn’t look away. The girl’s smile faltered. James stared at her. She looked down at the floor, then turned her head to a group of girls behind her. James was glued to his spot.
 The sound of the bell shook him loose. He bolted to the nearest bathroom, shoving aside a group of boys walking out. He tossed his backpack onto the floor, locking the door behind him, and quickly walked to one of the stalls. James sat on the toilet, holding his head in his hands. Tears threatened to spill over.
 Get a grip.
 He pinched himself. He didn’t feel anything. Fuck, how long has it been? The tears didn’t go away. He was acting like a crybaby. His skin was white and felt rubbery. He caught his reflection in the metal door of the stall. He was right. He looked like shit.
 Guys didn’t get…didn’t get hurt. That was the rule. That was the standard. Guys were the ones that hurt. It was impossible to them to be hurt. He looked down at his arms, his legs. They had started to thin. Before he could have wrestled anyone that was average weight to the ground. Why was it that he couldn’t have pushed her off him? A shudder ran through him. Where was she? James hadn’t seen her since the party. It’s been so long. But her face was plastered into his head. It was seared into his eyes.
 Pressure.
 Was it because he wanted it? The thought of it made him almost retch. But, couldn’t he have? His body had acted one way. His body responded to her touch. His body wanted her.
 So he wanted her.
 So what if he was drunk? He liked that feeling. He was drunk. And he wanted her. It was his fault. Chloe had said he kissed Anna.
 Wasn’t it a can of beer?
 He shook his head, clearing out his thoughts.
 Guys don’t get hurt.
 It just didn’t happen.
 The sound of a toilet flushing and the faucet being turned on startled James. He shut the door to the stall, locking it. The faucet stopped running. Silence. James’ breath felt dry.
 “James?”
 He cursed.
 It was Zack.
 James didn’t say anything.
 “Dude, I know you’re in there, man. I see your backpack and that is the only stall occupied.”
 He let out a shaky breath. Slowly, he unlocked the door. As it opened, he saw Zack lean against one of the porcelain sinks. His hands were in his pockets, and he flipped his hair from his face, and a smile that twitched into a smirk he could never get rid of. It was like he had practiced that move a thousand times already. It made him seem so laid-back. Uncaring. For a second, a flicker of jealousy spritzed through James.  Zack had the privilege to feel that way, to look that way. James was the one that was forced to feel something else.
 “Hey,” Zack said softly. His hands bobbed in his pocket. James played with the sliding lock on the door.
 “Hey.”
 “I never see you on the morning bus anymore. And when you come to class you’re always late,” Zack glanced around the bathroom, “and why are you hiding out in here? You’re acting like a freshman on the first day of school.”
James didn’t answer. He had been skipping out on the usual bus in the morning, only because he was afraid he would crack under the pressure. Zack wasn’t the one to continue asking questions if nobody would give him an answer, but the heavy weight of a guilty conscious was laid out on James’ mind and he knew that if the bus stopped at a red light or if a pothole was too deep, it would make all the words spill out of his mouth and onto the floor.
 Besides, he would never believe him. Guys don’t get hurt. Zack sighed.
 “Well, you look like utter shit so I’m guessing it has something to do with your d-, I mean, Marcus?”
 James blinked. Marcus? He hadn’t seen him in…since the lunch. Has he called? He didn’t know. He shook his head. Thoughts were thrown around like they were in a blender. Zack puffed out his cheeks.
 “God, don’t make me go into all those feelings n’ shit, okay? I’m just trying to look out for you, dude.”
He stopped. Suddenly a new look came to his face.
 “Ori said you haven’t been going to work.”
 That was partly true. He ditched after Thanksgiving. Too many lonely late nights equaled too much thinking. He hated thinking. He tried selling some of his old stuff for money. Barely covered his weekly pay so Mom wouldn’t get suspicious. Zack chewed on the inside of his cheek. He looked uncomfortable. Good. James wanted him to be uncomfortable.
 Wait.
 No.
 He imagined punching himself in the face.
 Don’t blame others. It was your own fault.
 Zack pushed his hair with a hand. Then his face dimmed into a smirk again.
 “I also have amazing news…”
James didn’t want to hear amazing news. He didn’t give a damn about amazing news. But the look on his best friends face was happy. Happier than he was when he smoked his first joint at a frat party last fall.
 “What amazing news?”
 Zack’s grin grew wider.
 “I met a girl.”
 Now this was news. Zack did not settle for one girl. James had thought it was impossible for him to just like one girl. Just like it was impossible for a girl to overpower him. He swallowed.
 “What girl?”
 “Well, I met her at a party a couple of weeks ago. Actually, the one where in the morning Ori had to take us home. She’s really different from other girls, sweet, nice, actually called me by my first name, incredibly hot,” he sighed wistfully, “and just between you and me, she’s a freak in the sack. Handcuffs all the way.”
 He held out his hand for a fist bump. James obliged.
 “Is she a senior like us?”
 Zack frowned.
 “No, I think she’s actually a sophomore. Or maybe even a freshmen? I don’t know, I don’t care. She’s amazing. You wanna met her? I’m hanging with her during lunch today.”
 James looked down at the floor. It was unusually clean for a high-school boy’s bathroom. Did he want to meet up with them?
 “No, I gotta lot of studying to do.”
 Zack rolled his eyes but grinned anyway.
 “Ahh, so that’s it. Studying. Man, you’re really going after Chloe, huh?”
 James shrugged inside his head
 "Sure.”
 Zack patted his shoulder, and left the bathroom, calling out a ‘happy early Christmas.’ When the door came to a shut James felt himself relax. He didn't even know he was stiff. His muscles ached as he stood from the toilet. The meeting wasn't expected, but, somewhere in his mind, the little part of the innocence James once had fluttered.
 Maybe it was possible to go back to the way he was before.

Maybe.

He stood near the front of the classroom. It was his punishment. The teachers had obviously caught on his Houdini act and made sure James was regretful for the "irresponsible" and "immature" actions from skipping out on class. He was already embarrassed - the teacher, Mrs. Mac, had gone off him the second he was in the classroom, saying he couldn't avoid finals or school just because he was a senior blah blah blah blah. She asked him why he was late. Obviously he couldn't answer that. So he said nothing.

She called him a freshman. He wished he was a freshman. Maybe go back in time to warn himself not to go to that party.

 Mac had made him stand in the corner of the classroom, facing the wall for the rest of the period. When the bell rang the students filed out, each giggling. Not at James, he realized, but for him. It was a childish punishment. They were laughing at Mac.

 James still felt like they were laughing at him.

When he gathered his things Mrs. Mac stopped him at the door. She had a expression mixed with worry and anger. In her hand James spotted a yellow pass. A late pass.

"I need to talk to you." She said. James just nodded. He couldn't say anything. He didn't want to say anything. But he tried to listen. Then she started off with "I know" and he zoned out. The teachers, the parents, the "guardians" all tried to use that trick.

I know.

No.

No, they don't.

James waited as Mac droned on about senioritis, the Christmas season, blah blah blah.

Blah.

The bell rang again, and Mac handed him the pass.

"You will think about it, won't you, James?" She asked with her eyebrow raised. James nodded.

"Yes, ma'am."

She smiled.

Adults are stupid.

 

When he arrived home, he ignored his homework. He didn’t need to do it. He was leaving this year, so why bother? Maybe he did have senioritis.

 He flopped onto the couch in the living room. The old TV they had was rusted and almost broken. They couldn’t afford a new one if it did break. Shit. His life was pathetic. Partying, breaking rules, ignoring work, dismissing school. Then it hit him.

 Maybe that happened because he deserved it? What did he do to Anna? Or was it just karma? Karma for what? Being a teenager? Not caring? He didn’t have to care. He wasn’t going anywhere after school was over. He had nowhere to go. He couldn’t go anywhere. Even if he wanted to.
 Mom needed him.

 He had to stop acting like this. He’d been in a rut for, what, months now? Has it been months? It had felt like an eternity. James felt the ghost touch of her fingers, and forced them away.

 No. No, it didn’t happen. He hated the way she had practically hurt his mind. It was like nothing was his anymore.

 She had taken everything.

Every blue eye had made him stop in his tracks. Every red head made him want to crawl into his own skin.

He fucking hated it.
 As if on cue the front door opened. He could hear the violent whistling of wind pierced the air as Mom struggled to close the door. Once it was locked she called to him.
 “James, I have a surprise. Come down and help me unpack these groceries.”
He jumped at the chance to tell her. When he raced downstairs he saw her at the kitchen island. It was covered in bags of food. She was smiling. It took up her entire reddened faced. She pulled off her gloves with her teeth.
 “Look, do you see this?” Her voice was so excited. James stared at the amount of food on the counter. There must have been at least ten bags. They’ve never been able to get this many before. And as he looked through it he saw that some of the stuff was things they didn’t really need; makeup kits, nail kits, a box of Marvel superheroes, hot chocolate bags with marshmallow bits, CD’s, a portable radio – “What is all this stuff?” James asked, pulling a Loki action figure from a bag. Mom’s grin wavered.
 “I got this at work. They were sent to me with a little note-“ she pulled a Post-It out of her purse “- so here, you may want to read it.”
 James took it warily, setting the figure aside. He instantly recognized the penmanship.

 

James
 I’m sorry. For everything. You deserve better, but I’m trying. Mom told me you were having trouble these past few months since school started. You’re not out at college parties are you? Anyways, I know these bags of gifts won’t make up for what I’ve done, but at least you’ll be just a little spoiled. Merry Christmas. I love you. Marcus.

 

 Mom watched as James set the note on the counter. He rubbed his eyes.
 “Jesus, does he have to spill out his heart like that? God, he sounded like a lovesick boy writing a love letter to a teacher.” He said, but his voice betrayed him and cracked. Mom smiled. Without another word, James clutched the note in his hand and walked back up the stairs. Neither Mom nor Marcus had any idea what had happened. They didn’t need to.

 It never did happen.

 Later that night, after James ditched work again, he smelled the scent of hot chocolate rising from the floor of his room. The TV was turned onto a Christmas special. Something like Rudolph or Grinch or something. He didn’t know. He sat up in his bed, trying to concentrate. He could see outside his window onto the front of the lawn that Marcus had also gotten them an inflatable mini snowman. It waved to him from its perch near the curb. Mom must’ve set it up just so he could see it.

 He waved back.

 The floorboards creaked when he came back downstairs. He carried a blanket with him, almost tripping several times when it caught under his feet. He used to do this when he was just a kid. How time flies. Mom sat cross-legged on the carpet, holding a mug of microwave hot chocolate. The brightness from the television shined on mini marshmallows bobbing in her cup. James didn’t say a word – he walked right in front of her and dropped himself and the blanket in front of her. He held the cover like a cloak, and watched the television.

 Rudolph.  

 He felt a warm hand on his back. He tried not to flinch.

 But the blue of her eyes kept appearing in his mind.

 

 

 

 

‘I think I was raped by a woman.’

 

 It didn’t happen.

 It never happened.

 It was a gap – a blank space. No similar matches. It just…did not happen. Panic flooded James as he stared at the words on the paper. He had printed it off over a month ago, yet the words still seemed freshly inked.
 No similar matches.  
 Was he really hurt? Or did he just let it happen? He had to have wanted it. He wanted it.

 It wasn’t her fault.
 He stared at his reflection in the window. He looked dead.
 It wasn’t her fault.

 It didn’t happen.

 He could have done something.

 He let her.

 The bus bumped down the road. His head thumped back and forth. His brain felt like a ping pong ball. The overly-cheery Christmas lights decorated on the store fronts made his eyes hurt. He stretched his legs out onto the seat next to him. It was okay.
 It was empty.

 

 The bus wheezed to the curb of the station. James felt a surge of nausea shock through him as he stepped off. His legs wobbled, and he automatically gripped the side of the bus stop bench. Black dots appeared in his eyes. He felt like he was going to throw up.

 But nothing came.

 After a second, the fuzziness subsided. James slowly straightened. He felt…wobbly, but he took one step, then another, then another and another and he felt just a little bit better.  The air cooled the sweat on his brow. Then he saw the grass turn into linoleum and the reflection of the asylum lights above him framed out his shadow. The feeling returned. He did not look up.

 In his head he imagined rows of students passing him, ignoring him. Knowing that whatever happened, or if something happened, that it was none of their business. But still.

 He felt their eyes.

 Their stares.

 He knew what he looked like, why was it so important for them? Jesus, didn’t any of these people have a life? It felt like they knew.

 Did she tell them?
 He risked a glance up. He caught the eyes of someone by accident. A girl. Freshman. She had dyed red hair. She gave him a soft, sad smile. James locked his movements. He couldn’t look away. The girl’s smile faltered. James stared at her. She looked down at the floor, then turned her head to a group of girls behind her. James was glued to his spot.
 The sound of the bell shook him loose. He bolted to the nearest bathroom, shoving aside a group of boys walking out. He tossed his backpack onto the floor, locking the door behind him, and quickly walked to one of the stalls. James sat on the toilet, holding his head in his hands. Tears threatened to spill over.
 Get a grip.
 He pinched himself. He didn’t feel anything. Fuck, how long has it been? The tears didn’t go away. He was acting like a crybaby. His skin was white and felt rubbery. He caught his reflection in the metal door of the stall. He was right. He looked like shit.
 Guys didn’t get…didn’t get hurt. That was the rule. That was the standard. Guys were the ones that hurt. It was impossible to them to be hurt. He looked down at his arms, his legs. They had started to thin. Before he could have wrestled anyone that was average weight to the ground. Why was it that he couldn’t have pushed her off him? A shudder ran through him. Where was she? James hadn’t seen her since the party. It’s been so long. But her face was plastered into his head. It was seared into his eyes.
 Pressure.
 Was it because he wanted it? The thought of it made him almost retch. But, couldn’t he have? His body had acted one way. His body responded to her touch. His body wanted her.
 So he wanted her.
 So what if he was drunk? He liked that feeling. He was drunk. And he wanted her. It was his fault. Chloe had said he kissed Anna.
 Wasn’t it a can of beer?
 He shook his head, clearing out his thoughts.
 Guys don’t get hurt.
 It just didn’t happen.
 The sound of a toilet flushing and the faucet being turned on startled James. He shut the door to the stall, locking it. The faucet stopped running. Silence. James’ breath felt dry.
 “James?”
 He cursed.
 It was Zack.
 James didn’t say anything.
 “Dude, I know you’re in there, man. I see your backpack and that is the only stall occupied.”
 He let out a shaky breath. Slowly, he unlocked the door. As it opened, he saw Zack lean against one of the porcelain sinks. His hands were in his pockets, and he flipped his hair from his face, and a smile that twitched into a smirk he could never get rid of. It was like he had practiced that move a thousand times already. It made him seem so laid-back. Uncaring. For a second, a flicker of jealousy spritzed through James.  Zack had the privilege to feel that way, to look that way. James was the one that was forced to feel something else.
 “Hey,” Zack said softly. His hands bobbed in his pocket. James played with the sliding lock on the door.
 “Hey.”
 “I never see you on the morning bus anymore. And when you come to class you’re always late,” Zack glanced around the bathroom, “and why are you hiding out in here? You’re acting like a freshman on the first day of school.”
James didn’t answer. He had been skipping out on the usual bus in the morning, only because he was afraid he would crack under the pressure. Zack wasn’t the one to continue asking questions if nobody would give him an answer, but the heavy weight of a guilty conscious was laid out on James’ mind and he knew that if the bus stopped at a red light or if a pothole was too deep, it would make all the words spill out of his mouth and onto the floor.
 Besides, he would never believe him. Guys don’t get hurt. Zack sighed.
 “Well, you look like utter shit so I’m guessing it has something to do with your d-, I mean, Marcus?”
 James blinked. Marcus? He hadn’t seen him in…since the lunch. Has he called? He didn’t know. He shook his head. Thoughts were thrown around like they were in a blender. Zack puffed out his cheeks.
 “God, don’t make me go into all those feelings n’ shit, okay? I’m just trying to look out for you, dude.”
He stopped. Suddenly a new look came to his face.
 “Ori said you haven’t been going to work.”
 That was partly true. He ditched after Thanksgiving. Too many lonely late nights equaled too much thinking. He hated thinking. He tried selling some of his old stuff for money. Barely covered his weekly pay so Mom wouldn’t get suspicious. Zack chewed on the inside of his cheek. He looked uncomfortable. Good. James wanted him to be uncomfortable.
 Wait.
 No.
 He imagined punching himself in the face.
 Don’t blame others. It was your own fault.
 Zack pushed his hair with a hand. Then his face dimmed into a smirk again.
 “I also have amazing news…”
James didn’t want to hear amazing news. He didn’t give a damn about amazing news. But the look on his best friends face was happy. Happier than he was when he smoked his first joint at a frat party last fall.
 “What amazing news?”
 Zack’s grin grew wider.
 “I met a girl.”
 Now this was news. Zack did not settle for one girl. James had thought it was impossible for him to just like one girl. Just like it was impossible for a girl to overpower him. He swallowed.
 “What girl?”
 “Well, I met her at a party a couple of weeks ago. Actually, the one where in the morning Ori had to take us home. She’s really different from other girls, sweet, nice, actually called me by my first name, incredibly hot,” he sighed wistfully, “and just between you and me, she’s a freak in the sack. Handcuffs all the way.”
 He held out his hand for a fist bump. James obliged.
 “Is she a senior like us?”
 Zack frowned.
 “No, I think she’s actually a sophomore. Or maybe even a freshmen? I don’t know, I don’t care. She’s amazing. You wanna met her? I’m hanging with her during lunch today.”
 James looked down at the floor. It was unusually clean for a high-school boy’s bathroom. Did he want to meet up with them?
 “No, I gotta lot of studying to do.”
 Zack rolled his eyes but grinned anyway.
 “Ahh, so that’s it. Studying. Man, you’re really going after Chloe, huh?”
 James shrugged inside his head
 "Sure.”
 Zack patted his shoulder, and left the bathroom, calling out a ‘happy early Christmas.’ When the door came to a shut James felt himself relax. He didn't even know he was stiff. His muscles ached as he stood from the toilet. The meeting wasn't expected, but, somewhere in his mind, the little part of the innocence James once had fluttered.
 Maybe it was possible to go back to the way he was before.

Maybe.

He stood near the front of the classroom. It was his punishment. The teachers had obviously caught on his Houdini act and made sure James was regretful for the "irresponsible" and "immature" actions from skipping out on class. He was already embarrassed - the teacher, Mrs. Mac, had gone off him the second he was in the classroom, saying he couldn't avoid finals or school just because he was a senior blah blah blah blah. She asked him why he was late. Obviously he couldn't answer that. So he said nothing.

She called him a freshman. He wished he was a freshman. Maybe go back in time to warn himself not to go to that party.

 Mac had made him stand in the corner of the classroom, facing the wall for the rest of the period. When the bell rang the students filed out, each giggling. Not at James, he realized, but for him. It was a childish punishment. They were laughing at Mac.

 James still felt like they were laughing at him.

When he gathered his things Mrs. Mac stopped him at the door. She had a expression mixed with worry and anger. In her hand James spotted a yellow pass. A late pass.

"I need to talk to you." She said. James just nodded. He couldn't say anything. He didn't want to say anything. But he tried to listen. Then she started off with "I know" and he zoned out. The teachers, the parents, the "guardians" all tried to use that trick.

I know.

No.

No, they don't.

James waited as Mac droned on about senioritis, the Christmas season, blah blah blah.

Blah.

The bell rang again, and Mac handed him the pass.

"You will think about it, won't you, James?" She asked with her eyebrow raised. James nodded.

"Yes, ma'am."

She smiled.

Adults are stupid.

 

When he arrived home, he ignored his homework. He didn’t need to do it. He was leaving this year, so why bother? Maybe he did have senioritis.

 He flopped onto the couch in the living room. The old TV they had was rusted and almost broken. They couldn’t afford a new one if it did break. Shit. His life was pathetic. Partying, breaking rules, ignoring work, dismissing school. Then it hit him.

 Maybe that happened because he deserved it? What did he do to Anna? Or was it just karma? Karma for what? Being a teenager? Not caring? He didn’t have to care. He wasn’t going anywhere after school was over. He had nowhere to go. He couldn’t go anywhere. Even if he wanted to.
 Mom needed him.

 He had to stop acting like this. He’d been in a rut for, what, months now? Has it been months? It had felt like an eternity. James felt the ghost touch of her fingers, and forced them away.

 No. No, it didn’t happen. He hated the way she had practically hurt his mind. It was like nothing was his anymore.

 She had taken everything.

Every blue eye had made him stop in his tracks. Every red head made him want to crawl into his own skin.

He fucking hated it.
 As if on cue the front door opened. He could hear the violent whistling of wind pierced the air as Mom struggled to close the door. Once it was locked she called to him.
 “James, I have a surprise. Come down and help me unpack these groceries.”
He jumped at the chance to tell her. When he raced downstairs he saw her at the kitchen island. It was covered in bags of food. She was smiling. It took up her entire reddened faced. She pulled off her gloves with her teeth.
 “Look, do you see this?” Her voice was so excited. James stared at the amount of food on the counter. There must have been at least ten bags. They’ve never been able to get this many before. And as he looked through it he saw that some of the stuff was things they didn’t really need; makeup kits, nail kits, a box of Marvel superheroes, hot chocolate bags with marshmallow bits, CD’s, a portable radio – “What is all this stuff?” James asked, pulling a Loki action figure from a bag. Mom’s grin wavered.
 “I got this at work. They were sent to me with a little note-“ she pulled a Post-It out of her purse “- so here, you may want to read it.”
 James took it warily, setting the figure aside. He instantly recognized the penmanship.

 

James
 I’m sorry. For everything. You deserve better, but I’m trying. Mom told me you were having trouble these past few months since school started. You’re not out at college parties are you? Anyways, I know these bags of gifts won’t make up for what I’ve done, but at least you’ll be just a little spoiled. Merry Christmas. I love you. Marcus.

 

 Mom watched as James set the note on the counter. He rubbed his eyes.
 “Jesus, does he have to spill out his heart like that? God, he sounded like a lovesick boy writing a love letter to a teacher.” He said, but his voice betrayed him and cracked. Mom smiled. Without another word, James clutched the note in his hand and walked back up the stairs. Neither Mom nor Marcus had any idea what had happened. They didn’t need to.

 It never did happen.

 Later that night, after James ditched work again, he smelled the scent of hot chocolate rising from the floor of his room. The TV was turned onto a Christmas special. Something like Rudolph or Grinch or something. He didn’t know. He sat up in his bed, trying to concentrate. He could see outside his window onto the front of the lawn that Marcus had also gotten them an inflatable mini snowman. It waved to him from its perch near the curb. Mom must’ve set it up just so he could see it.

 He waved back.

 The floorboards creaked when he came back downstairs. He carried a blanket with him, almost tripping several times when it caught under his feet. He used to do this when he was just a kid. How time flies. Mom sat cross-legged on the carpet, holding a mug of microwave hot chocolate. The brightness from the television shined on mini marshmallows bobbing in her cup. James didn’t say a word – he walked right in front of her and dropped himself and the blanket in front of her. He held the cover like a cloak, and watched the television.

 Rudolph.  

 He felt a warm hand on his back. He tried not to flinch.

 But the blue of her eyes kept appearing in his mind.

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