MEND

Well done well done so you're a rent boy yes good how does five hundred sound good yes sounds good doesn't it would you like five hundred do you think you could do that perfect there we go there's five hundred for you now you look after that won't you good boy now come with me it's not far to my house I'm sure you'll be quite comfortable there won't you come on now steady take your time you're pleased aren't you yes good boy there we go

There we go and Good boy...

They were faint recollections.

"Here," said the man as he carefully handed me a glass, almost opening my fingers for me and closing them at the right points around it, holding my closed fingers tenderly as if he were afraid my hold on the glass might fail at any moment without the right kind of help. I didn't look at it, but watched him almost tentatively as he stood back, hands switching uncertainly between his pockets and his other pockets and his hips, sides, face. His voice stumbled. "Do you want the TV on?" I didn't say anything. He pushed the button on the side of the black box and the picture flashed into life. It was brilliant; one of the new sets with a screen so big you could hardly tell it was rounded at all, the buttons and knobs all neat in a discreet row at the bottom, hidden away behind a glassy shield. I didn't really care for what was on the screen, only the colours, and their crystal clarity, and the motion I had never had the opportunity to savour like this before.

"Are you alright?"

My eyes snapped away from the screen to him, still standing there to the side of the set, hands shifting on the rim of his jeans.

"Is there anything I can get you?"

Now this was a multi-choice question. Not just yes or no, not rhetorical, not one he could figure out just by looking at me if he really was such an eejit.

So I let my voice box crack open. "I'm a wee bit hungry, sir."

"Sorry?"

"Hungry."

"Oh. What, you want sweets, yeah?"

I was hungry. He just stood there, fidgeting slightly when he didn't get an answer, flushing in the face, completely fucking clueless.

"Jasus..." he sighed, "I'm sorry."

He stood scratching the back of his head for a few moments. Thought. Then walked quickly past me on the sofa and through a doorway into his kitchen. I sipped my warm milk, hating it. Hating it despite the sweet memories its bitter taste brought back.

I heard metallic sounds, wet sounds, and high-pitched beeps. Then a warm, deep, quite noise like an unwavering wind.

He came back with a plate and a bowl, and a spoon and a roll of bread. I caught their smells, enticing, seductive. I ate the soup without saying a word while he watched without saying a word. Looking on, I thought, he must have imagined I'd been starved for four days, but I didn't think he would have guessed that was the truth.

"That was nice, was it?"

I wiped my mouth on the tissue he rushed to get me, knocking over my half-empty glass of milk in the process, swearing softly and rushing again to get more tissues to soak up the mess. Clumsy, stumbling man. Fumbling, stumbling hands.

"My name's Sheedy," I said.

I heard him let out a long, ragged breath as for a moment he stopped sponging the carpet. "I know," he said.

"You the same razzer that took me from my mam's?"

"Might have been," he said, indifferent, maybe trying to seem confused, maybe genuinely confused, maybe it was just me that didn't understand what he was feeling in return.

"D'you remember me?"

"Hey, look," he said as he stood up, "It's nearly two in the morning, why are you up so late, cub?"

"I don't..."

"You run away from your uncle's in the end, did you?"

I wasn't about to admit that to a GARDA.

"Been on gur, have you? I'm okay with that. How long you been out?"

"About four days."

"Got caught up in some shite, didn't you? Stayed in a kip? Yeah, I know. Didn't make you do anything, did they?"

"Yeah."

"What, they did?"

"No, I didn't do it."

"Oh. Oh."

He fell quiet for a moment, so I could hear the beating of my own heart in my ears, bringing the blood to the surface.

"How old are you now, 15, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I turned 15 last week."

"Have a party?"

"No."

"Oh."

He was quiet again, flushing. Flushing and rushing his words.

"So, uh... You'll be wanting to earn that five hundred now, won't you?"

As I burned, I felt the scars whispering heat under my fleece.

"Bedtime."

 *         *         *

He had a nice bedroom. Big, clean, not so tidy that it didn't feel like a bedroom at all. There was a pile of clothes near a sliding door on the opposite side of the room, jeans and shirts and boxers poking out from the soft rubble. Coins and a clock and pictures on a bedside table. Pictures on top of the dresser. Pictures on top of the cabinet. A lady's slip hanging over the back of a chair.

"How you feeling?" he asked. His voice was soft enough.

I waited a few seconds before saying, "OK."

He said, "Alright," in finalisation.

I didn't want to look at the man who'd aid my initiation into the world whose path I'd follow for the rest of my life, but the twisted mess of emotions that stirred up his face was one of the things I couldn't help but notice in the reflection of the mirror hanging on the far wall. The other things were the way he never looked down at himself as he stripped, and the way he carefully peeled off my clothes, and folded them on top of the dresser, next to the picture frames and the unlabelled sets of keys. The way he whispered gentle things, stroking my hair as I laid myself down on my stomach. He was gentle enough, I suppose, but I didn't yet know any different. Clumsy – a bit slippery, but I guess that was to be expected when he creamed himself up to the point of dripping. He was so careful. So clumsy and clueless and naïvely twisted.

"You can hold onto the bars if you want."

And I did, as he fucked me gently on an iron bed of feathers.

How fucking twisted.

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