Four Corners Of A Boy
by Buffonia

At first, Billy thought that Orlando had left him. It didn't make sense really, although neither did anything else. Not just the fact that he'd fallen asleep to the sound of Orlando's breathing, but Billy always woke up whenever Orlando so much as rolled over; which he often did. Yet Billy had slept peacefully all night.

Even if Orlando had somehow, carefully, purposefully, coaxed himself off the bed after Billy had fallen asleep, that didn't explain the half empty closet. All those clothes, the event of packing them and getting the suitcases down from the top shelf. Besides, none of the suitcases were missing. Nothing added up.

Yet there Billy was, at seven a.m., lying in a bed that was cold where Orlando should be. Not even the memory of Orlando's body dipped into the mattress. The sheets were undisturbed, unwrinkled. And staring from Orlando's side of the walk-in closet was a row of bare naked hangers, dangling innocently as if they'd never held a piece of clothing in their whole copper wire lives.

Those were the first things Billy noticed. And then that terrible theory popped into his sleep boggled mind: Orlando had left him. Billy blinked, sat up and realized that Orlando couldn't have done it all without waking him. Plus, Orlando would never leave without warning.

The second theory kicked the first one right out of Billy's brain. A prank. No, of course Orlando couldn't have done it all while Billy slept. But Orlando wouldn't have organized such a feat by himself then, would he? Ideas rushed to mind like perfect sense. Dom secretly taking a flight in to Glasgow, a private rendezvous between him and Orlando, Dom gathering Orlando's things while Orlando kept Billy occupied downstairs on the porch.

Billy recalled the previous night and the feeling of the window screen on his cheek and the pressure of Orlando from behind. Orlando's hot breath on Billy's ear, his tongue on Billy's neck.

"Upstairs," Billy had found the strength to murmur. The screen would leave a mark.

"Can't wait that long," Orlando replied, his hands impatiently cajoling Billy beneath them. Orlando pushed so hard that the screen creaked, threatening to break. "Oh fuck, Billy." Short breaths like bits of fire. "I could stay inside you forever."

It must have been a trick. Dom must have been upstairs packing the bags, chuckling at the sound of Billy's moans. And now, as he trudged barefoot down the staircase, his boxers not nearly enough to fend off the chill of a Scotland morning, Billy swore revenge. They were clever in their conspiracy, granted, Billy hadn't seen it coming. But he would get them back.

Billy waited on the couch until noon, his third cup of coffee cold and still full in his hands. He'd been staring at the surface pattern of the cream for an hour, watching wispy white swirls as they curled through the tan liquid. Dom would want him to panic, to go looking, to get in the car and drive for hours. Billy wouldn't give them a sweet victory. Their bluff would be called. Billy would win.

Billy was sitting at the kitchen table when the old clock chimed two. Knees pulled up to hold his chin, the blanket from the couch draped over his bare shoulders. Billy wasn't amused. His stomach hurt; the toast he'd forced down stubbornly sat in his gut, refusing to digest. The clouds started releasing the showers that had been promised yesterday and by two-thirty it was raining hard against the windows. That's when Billy gave up.

Perhaps they had anticipated his figuring it out. Perhaps the joke was to make Billy sit around all day, sick to his stomach, watching the rain and thinking he'd won. Well, Billy was more mature than that. The game was over.

He turned the phone over in his hands; he had expected them to call hours ago, from a local pub maybe, laughing and asking Billy to meet them up for drinks in celebration of their exploit. Billy mentally rehearsed a chastising guilt trip as he dialed the familiar digits of Dom's cell.

"Hello?" Billy almost threw up the bits of undigested bread when he heard Elijah's voice.

"Where's Dom?" The lowness of his own voice surprised Billy. He didn't have the wits to attempt a polite tone.

"Billy?" Wherever Elijah currently was, he had to yell slightly over the background noise.

"Elijah, tell me you have Dom's phone and that Dom is here." Billy was too tired for this. His head ached.

"What?" Elijah had obviously heard the words and just couldn't make sense of them. "Hang on." A muffled conversation between Elijah and a voice that Billy feared wasó

"Hey, Billy, it's me." Dom. Concerned. "What's going on?"

Billy swallowed. "Orlando. Where is he?"

"With you. I thought tható"

"He's not." The lump in Billy's throat rose to split the words.

A pause. "Tell me what happened."

"I'll call you when I know." Billy didn't even wait for Dom's assent before hanging up.

Orlando would never just leave. It wasn't in his nature. There wasn't any evidence that could even suggest Orlando was unhappy. Or restless. Or anything other than perfectly satisfied with how things were between them.

Billy needed a shower. He needed some morphine and a fucking rational explanation, but all he could do right then was shower. His head buzzed with ideas and a new scenario sprung to mind with each step up the staircase. Billy was pondering the possibility of kidnapping when he saw It. At the end of the hall, straight ahead, after the bathroom.

"What the..." Billy dropped the phone, his arms gone slack. The plastic tumbled roughly down the wooden stairs.

Of all the things that made no sense that day, It was truly the greatest. Billy blinked. Billy wiped his eyes. Billy reminded himself to breathe. As slow and cautious as Billy could possibly bear, he started down the hall, never taking his gaze from It. He paused when he got just past the bathroom where the hallway used to end.

But not anymore.

Billy reached out with surprisingly steady fingers until he touched Its smooth surface. He rested his palm flat on It. It was real, there was no mistake. A door. A door where the window once was. The window that looked out over the front yard. Because that was where the hall ended. Had ended. Was supposed to end.

Because there was little else to do, Billy turned the knob. "Jesus Christ."

Billy couldn't be sure where the light came from. There were no windows in the room, but it was somehow illuminated, using its white walls to magnify the brightness; accenting the golden hue and brown wood trim around the edges. It wasn't blinding, but it left no shadows or any hint of a source. The light just was.

Billy stepped inside. If he hadn't been so numb with shock, the drastic change in temperature would have alarmed him. A warmth that had failed to drift out the door, that never touched Billy when he was in the hall, radiated throughout the room. So warm, in fact, that it ought to have been stifling. Yet the heat was comfortable, breathable. Inviting.

The pleasant scent it carried caused a violent upset in Billy's gut. He stumbled back, falling into the hallway and onto his arse. The door closed. Billy sat there, breathing hard for a moment, face near aching from the anxious furrow in his brow.

Maybe the calm with which Billy got to his feet and headed back down the stairs was just pretense. It was possible that everything had numbed his brain into silence.

The living room had a dull gray quality to it as the rainy sky offered little in the way of light. He stood solemnly at the table full of liquor bottles that were neatly arranged in order of height; courtesy of a bored Orlando on a similarly dreary day. As if it were routine (find a room, fix a drink) Billy poured himself a glass of scotch but took the bottle to the couch with him instead.

Never before had Billy been so exhausted at four in the afternoon. He had neither the strength nor ambition to retrieve the blanket from the kitchen. He bent his arm and used his elbow for a pillow. The cool glass pressed into his bare chest as he curled up, fitting on half the sofa. He hoped his sleep would be dreamless.

The crash of the bottle being kicked to the floor woke him. Billy was surrounded by pitch darkness. He detested waking in the middle of the night, despite being used to Orlando's constant tossing and turning.

Orlando.

Billy remembered and suddenly wished that he could fall back asleep and never wake up again. Because there was a nagging suspicion that he would be waking up without Orlando for the rest of his life. A cramp in his calf muscle distracted him and when he stretched his leg out, something hooked on his toe. He sat up and reached for the bit of fabric that peeked from between the cushions.

It took a bit of pulling because the shirt had been wedged so deep, but once freed and recognizable in its entirety, Billy clenched his jaw. Even in the dark he could see the rip at the breast pocket and the buttonless gap beneath the collar that robbed all purpose from the corresponding buttonhole. Ugliest thing Billy ever loved, all white and red stripes and falling apart.

And, Christ, the smell of the material flooded his insides with nausea. Thick, familiar; a spicy wood aroma with a linger of cinnamon. It was the last thing that touched Billy's nose when he went to sleep every night and the first thing to greet him in the morning. The same scent from the room.

Orlando's favorite shirt. Billy abandoned it on the couch and made for the downstairs toilet. Pissing offered the only relief in that past thirty-two hours. When he went back to retrieve the shirt, it was gone. Billy merely sighed, no surprise left in him.

Billy found the door still closed after he climbed the stairs, not bothering to turn on any lights. No use in it really; he could navigate the house blindfolded, or so he discovered one night not too long ago. Orlando and his impossible knots.

Opening the door confirmed that the light existed simply on its own accord. Billy had to squint, his eyes still accustomed to the dark. One thing did take Billy off guard: the walls were no longer a stark white. Billy almost laughed at the sight of the wallpaper, if it was indeed wallpaper; seemed a bit too seamless. Red and white stripes all around.

After his eyes adjusted, Billy realized that the light sort of... shifted. Continuously, in fact. Giving the walls a slight illusion of life. Like they were breathing. Yet it was so subtle that Billy had to concentrate to notice. He touched the wall and it burned his hand. A fiery sensation, but with no pain. Billy couldn't feel the wall move, so he wasn't sure if it actually was just an illusion after all.

"What the hell are you?" The words didn't echo even though the room was bare. Something absorbed the sound. Gave Billy chills despite the heat. "Where the fuck did you go?" He punched the wall without even thinking to. It felt good, and he punched it again.

Billy hated Orlando. It wasn't right, but neither was anything else. And over grief and insanity, Billy chose anger. He slammed his hand into the wall again. And again. Right and left, over and over, until his knuckles started bleeding and the wall groaned beneath his fists.

Billy slid to the floor, the tan carpet scratching his face as he sobbed into it. It felt like twenty minutes before Billy grew quiet, but he wasn't sure if time existed inside Orlando. Made him think that a joke about Orlando's disdain for punctuality lingered somewhere beneath the heartbreak of reality.

There was nothing to tell anyone. Nothing they'd believe. Nothing he could show them. Nothing that would come of any good if he did. The phone rang, sounding much farther away than just down the stairs. It would be Dom, of course. And Billy couldn't think of any good reason to answer it. He was too busy thinking of fire, and what a terrible thing to think, after all Orlando had been through. But Billy still wondered how long it might take Orlando to burn.

It started as a creak, long and low. Billy shouldn't have hesitated. When the slam shook the whole room, he jerked upright to check the door. But there was no door. Only four uninterrupted walls of red and white.

Billy remembered the night on the porch. Or possibly the room was remembering for him.

"I swear I could." Orlando's teeth soft on Billy's neck. That harsh whisper. "Couldn't you?"

"What?" Billy had clawed so hard into the screen that it tore beneath his nails. Anything for Orlando.

Pushing just right, groaning kisses into Billy's jugular. "Stay in me forever."

 

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