The whole car ride, Kris felt so paranoid that somehow a police man would know that they had a stolen case of beer and they'd end up in a high speed car chase that would be airing on the news later that night, but no matter how many cop cars they passed, none followed them. Kris let out a breath of relief every time they passed one successfully.
\"Seriously, there's no way they could know we did anything. Relax a little," Robert had said again and again. Kris nodded but still felt like they were leaving a smoke trail that the police would catch onto at any moment. He only truly relaxed when they pulled into the driveway of a small ranch-style house. As Kris stepped from the car and looked up at the house, even in the dark, he noticed some of the roof shingles were falling off, and there were small maple trees growing in the uncleaned gutters. One window had a huge crack in it, but had ducktape over it in an attempt to fix it. There was a soft blue glow in the other one. Kris looked over to Robert, who had just grabbed the case of beer from the car and was now looking up at his own house with a sad smile. "Well, welcome to my house. It's not much," Robert shrugged and closed the car door, motioning to Kris to follow him. Kris was bubbling with anticipation. He was going to get to go inside Robert's house! He almost couldn't keep himself from jumping for joy.
"I like it. I've never been in a ranch-style house actually. Do you have an attic?" Robert chuckled and opened his unlocked front door.
\"Yes, we have an attic," He said softly, ushering Kris into the house and closing the door behind him. Kris looked around, his bubbly feeling dying down. He was standing in what appeared to be the living room. It was small, but had just enough space to hold the couch, coffee table, and the shelf with a TV. The walls were bare of any family pictures, and the off-white paint flashed different colors in the light of the TV. Kris watched as Robert stepped over multiple empty beer cans and TV dinners, until he reached the far end of the couch. He crouched down, and it was then that Kris saw the bundle of blankets spread across it. Robert softly shook the lump. "Mom? Hey, mom," He whispered. A muffled, sleepy, groan came from the pile of blankets. "Mom, I'm home, and I got you more beer like you asked. Mom?" A small head poked out from under the covers, and as Kris's curiosity got the best of him, he shuffled over to the side to try and get a better look. He couldn't help but feel a bit bad though. He had thought the beer was for Robert, and that he was secretly an alcoholic or something, but it was really all for his mother. That phrase "don't judge a book by it's cover" went through his head. He bit his lip nervously. Perhaps he should leave...
\"Mm,\" the frail figure of a woman slid out from the top of the pile, and her head rested on the arm of the couch. She had long brown hair that had seen better days, and deep, sunken eyes. She looked at Robert and waved her pale hand at him. "Gimme one,"
\"You know they're warm. Why don't I get you one later? You can go back to sleep. I didn't mean to wake-,"
\"Jus' gimme one," Her voice gentle, yet slurred and she rubbed her face in annoyance. Robert sighed, but opened the case and handed the can to his mother. Before he could open it, she pulled it to her chest like she was hugging a teddy bear, and her eyes drooped. "Thanks dear. I can alwaysh count on you,"
\"You're welcome, mom," He glanced over and seeing Kris, suddenly remembered he was there. An awkward tension filled the room between them as their eyes stayed locked, and Kris wished he could just disappear right then. He felt like he was intruding on something extremely private. "Oh um, I brought company over. We'll just be in my room though, ok? Mom?" Robert said, finally breaking eye contact with Kris. His mother's heavy eyes fluttered open.
\"What did I tell you about bringing company over when I look a mess?" Her voice carried no emotion. She beckoned Robert closer to her with a finger. He leaned forward, and she attempted to slap him across the face, but her palm merely brushed it then fell limply to the side. "Jus' don't do it again,"
\"Ok, mom. Get some sleep. I love you," Robert placed a kiss on his mother's forehead and stood up with the now open case of beer.
\"Mm, whatever," Robert sighed, and looked over to Kris, who was trying to blend into the wall. A part of him wanted to run from the house, while another part wanted him to ball his eyes out at the scene before him, and an even stronger part really wanted to give Robert the comfort and love that seemed to be missing from this place. Robert waved him over and Kris followed him, shuffling across the living room and into the kitchen. The kitchen was, like the living room, small, filled only by a table with two chairs, fridge, and counters with a leaky sink. The tiled floors were littered with more beer cans, and Kris had trouble trying to step over all of them. A large window above the sink let in the moon light from outside. Robert opened the fridge, flooding himself in refrigerator light, and placed the case inside.
\"You want anything to drink? We've got water, Mizz Fizz, or beer," He turned and smiled at Kris.
\"Oh, no. I'm good," Kris said.
\"You sure?" Robert said, popping out of the fridge again with a soda in his hand. Kris nodded. "Alright, follow me," Kris did so, and they went back through the living room and turned into a small hallway, Robert pointing out what every door was. "Bathroom, Mom's room, closet, and the best one yet, my room," He smirked and opened the door at the end of the hallway. Kris walked in, and heard Robert close and lock the door behind him, along with the ceiling light being flipped on. His jaw dropped, and he gasped at the room around him. He had to spin around twice to look and take everything in.
The walls of Robert's room were lined with drawings, an uncountable amount. Each one was different, but they all revolved around a theme of wings. Bird wings, angel wings, bug wings, you name it, and there was a drawing of it in full, detailed color. There were so many covering the walls, Kris couldn't tell what color the walls were supposed to be, or where one stopped and the next began. There was even one on the back of the door, though this one was different from the others. This one was a jumble and mangle of blacks and blues, the colors seeming to have been clawed onto the page in rage. Then straight down the middle was a thick, dark red line. The picture almost seemed to drag Kris in, but he was snapped from it's mesmerizing pull by the crack and fizz of an opening soda behind him. He turned to see Robert sitting and leaning back on his bed, taking a drink from his soda. The bed was about the only thing Kris could see that wasn't covered in drawings. The others being a huge stereo system with adjoining speakers, and a small desk holding a handful of CDs. A closet was cracked open on one of the walls, and inside clothes black in nature were strewn around. Kris looked to Robert.
\"Ok, the first day of school, you said you couldn't draw," He accused Robert, his hands on his hips. As the can left his lips, Robert gave a refreshed sigh then looked to Kris.
"I can't," Kris's arms shot out to the side as he motioned to all the drawings in a wild flailing motion.
\"Then who the heck drew all-,"
\"Uh, what?" Robert sat up, then hunched over by putting his elbows on his knees, still holding onto his soda can. He looked up at the stunned face Kris. "I mean, I'm not, all these, uh, not you, it's just, your mom?" Kris tried to stammer something out, and in the end he had his thumb pointing back the direction they came, indicating who he was talking about. Robert nodded.
\"Yeah, she used to draw all the time,"
\"Used to?" Robert set his can down on the black carpet beneath his feet before swinging his legs over onto the bed and laying on his back, his arms under his head.
\"She hasn't drawn anything since my dad died. Hasn't even picked up a pencil. Actually, I don't think she's picked up anything except a beer can since then," He sighed, and again Kris felt somewhat awkward. Fidgeting, he pulled at the hem of his shirt, not knowing if he was allowed to be hearing this much of someones life, but he didn't do anything to stop Robert from talking. "When she did draw though, oh man, she loved it," Robert's eyes lit up and a small smile graced his face. "She'd sit there and draw for hours at a time, sometimes all day long! Then she'd forget to do the laundry or the dishes, so we'd order Chinese and steal each other's fortune cookies. Then my dad would always take the fortunes and make these hilarious sayings out of them," He chuckled at the memory even though Kris could see sadness in his eyes, and hear it in his voice as he talked. He made his way from the middle of the room over to the side of the bed, sitting precariously on the edge of it. Robert looked down at him and moved one arm from under his head in a way that it seemed he was reaching for Kris's hand, but instead he moved it just in time to let it lay across his stomach. The room was quiet for a moment before Kris couldn't stand it anymore.
"If you don't mind me asking, you mentioned your dad is, um, he died?" Kris silently hoped that the rumor from school was a lie and that Robert didn't really kill his dad."I was just kinda wondering h-how it happened. If you don't mind talking about it," Robert closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Kris bit his lip and fiddled with the hem of his shirt again.
"It was a little more than a year ago," Robert started, his eyes still closed. "My dad worked as the gravedigger at the Rest N' Peace Cemetery up the road from here," Kris raised his eyebrows. What an odd job, but he guessed if it put bread on the table it was ok. "I know, it's a weird job, but it put food on the table. Anyway, one night he was working late, and my mom and I were here at home. Everything is normal, I'm watching TV, mom is drawing, and then the phone rings," Robert opened his eyes and looked to the ceiling as Kris scooted more onto the bed so he wasn't quite so much on the edge. He watched Robert's chest rise and fall as he took in a deep breath. "It's the police, and they tell us that we need to get to the cemetery as fast as possible. So, me and my mom race down there, and of course it's raining like no other so the roads are crap and it takes forever. Well, we finally get there and inside there are three police men, one's just standing there, and the two other are holding this big guy back," Robert gritted his teeth and glared to the ceiling. His hand on his stomach clenches into a fist, and Kris has to hold back from taking it into his own. "We soon found out that son of a bitch killed my dad after he was caught trying to steal from an open grave. He had overpowered my dad and smacked him over the head with his own shovel, causing him to fall into the open grave. The guy tried to bury my father, but that fucker was caught at that moment," Robert's face went from a smirk to a frown. "But it was too late for my dad," He turned his head towards the wall as Kris looked down at his feet. He was almost sorry he asked anything more about Robert's life. He opened his mouth to say how bad he felt when Robert began again.
"It was then that my mom drew her last picture. It's on the door over there," Kris looked back at the picture of the garbled black mess. Looking at it, knowing what he knew now, he could see the pain and sadness put into in. He could see the blood and sweat that was used to create this image of pure emotion. He could see the life that it had taken away. He didn't know how Robert could live with that reminder of what happened posted on his door, and for that matter, all over his walls. Kris thought about it. Ff he had so many pictures on his wall that reminded him of all his past friends and everything that happened to him, he'd probably be overtaken with emotion every time he walked into his room. Robert must be very strong in order to be able to live surrounded by so many memories, Kris thought. "After that, it went downhill. We haven't hit rock bottom yet. We've got money for the necessities, and we can just nab whatever else we need, as you've seen and helped with. I'm hoping to get a job soon though. Most likely drop-out of school,"
\"No!\" Kris matched Robert's surprised face with his equally surprised one at his outburst. "I mean, uh, just because you're in some tough times does not mean you give up your education," Kris stood from the bed and threw his hands into the air. "You've got to keep going, don't give up! You never know what you'll learn next, or where it will take you! You could be the next Einstein for all you know. You've got to-oof!" Kris caught a pillow to the face as Robert started to laugh.
\"Fine, I won't quit as long as you stop the preaching. Happy?" Kris stuck his tongue out and threw the pillow back at Robert, who dodged it easily and just kept laughing. He sat up and swiped his soda from the ground, taking a drink before setting it on his desk using a CD case for a coaster. He stood from the bed and stretched his arms over his head, ruffling Kriss hair when he let them back down. If you look here, Robert pointed to a picture on his wall of a purple and green dragonfly. Thats my personal favorite,
Very cool, Kris said examining it, and feeling relieved at the topic change. He didnt think he could listen about family problems anymore. He had enough to deal with in his own life. Sometimes he felt like he was going to rip out his hair. He reached up to feel said hair as Robert flicked a part of it. A light bulb went off in Kris's head. Thats why you said put green and purple in my hair. Its the same colors as this drawing,
Maybe, Robert said, elongating the word into three syllables while turning around and opening his closet. He leaned into it, and it just about ate his entire upper body as he dug around in it. So, California, got any other plans for tonight?
No, not really. What time is it anyway? Kris looked around the room for a clock, and he found one on the stereo. In bright green numbers it read 10:23. Oh, my gosh, Ive got to get home. I wonder if my parents are back yet. Theyre probably worrying about me, though I did leave a note. Still, Ive got to-
Wanna just sleepover? Robert suggested, still rummaging through his closet. Kriss mouth shut and a blush wormed its way onto his face. Sleepover? At Roberts house? He couldnt possibly, but he wanted to so bad.
I- I dont know. My parents might wonder where Im at, He said, trying to think up some more excuses that he could push through his teeth. His parents wouldnt mind if he was gone for a week then showed up as a hobo. As long as he gave them an excuse, they believed him.
Just call them, or you said you left a note, Robert countered.
I have no pajamas or sleeping bag or whatever else you bring to a sleepover, Robert leaned back from his closet excavating, and he threw a large black shirt to Kris who caught it automatically. I
You can wear that and your jeans, or boxers. I dont mind, Kris stared at Robert, his face growing redder by the second. Robert quickly caught his words. Y-you know. Not like neither of us are girls, so it'll be fine. At least, I dont think you're a girl. Is there something you're not telling me?
Hey! Kris punched Robert in the arm, and he just laughed.
Kidding, California! Chill, Kris pouted, but held out Roberts shirt in front of him, trying to make up his mind about staying or going. He sighed and quickly swapped his colored shirt for the black one. He folded his shirt and placed it on the floor, wrapping some of his bracelets up in it so he didnt have to sleep with them on. Then the decision about sleeping with or without jeans came up. He bit his bottom lip and looked to Robert, who was getting ready himself the whole time Kris was. He now sported no wristbands or chains or any other rebel material. He wore black and red plaid boxers with his own black t-shirt on that displayed the logo to a rock band. His shirt was less baggy than the one Kris wore, thought they looked the same size. Kris immediately blushed again and looked away, quickly deciding that hed possibly look stupid if he wore jeans when Robert didnt, and slid his own off speedily, afraid he'd change his mind if he waited to long. He folded them and placed them on top of his shirt, then stood and started subconsciously fiddling with the hem of his now huge black shirt. Robert looked over at him. "Lookin' good, California!" He grinned and Kris chuckled nervously, slapping himself mentally. He needed to stop being so awkward or else Robert would catch on to his slight crush, and that would not be good. "I like the rainbow boxers, they go well with black," Robert chuckled.
\"Yeah, yeah. You know you're jealous of them," Kris said, putting his hands on his hips. "And you know technically black is all the colors put together, so this shirt is technically rainbow," Kris smirked knowingly.
\"Well, in that case, I must wear more rainbow things then you do!"
\"Ha, you wish! I can...out-rainbow anyone,"
\"Sure,\" Robert rolled his eyes as he dragged the word along for a few seconds. They continued to playfully bicker until the subject somehow changed to armadillos, and then to podophiliacs, and then to eraser shavings in that way that teenagers do where they know exactly what they are talking about, when no one else does. As the hours ticked by, and their voices and eyes started to fall, Kris decided that he was glad he stayed. He was having fun sitting on Robert's bed with him and laughing about nonsense. The clock ticked to 3 o'clock when the boys finally passed out together on the bed. The last thought going through both their heads was how they loved the warmth the other one gave off.