.. | angel eyes | chapter 1
Alexander threw down the phone receiver with a growl. Fine, enough was enough. Without compunction he would quit this job if he could, though well-written and hastily signed contracts would make that virtually impossible. He damned his haste of three years ago, when he had needed the work and had trusted in his looks to get him far. But now the clothes they'd given him to wear were suddenly suffocating him, their presence, or absence rather, having been the beginning of the whole argument. Alex stripped them off hastily and pulled on a simple white shirt and his favorite, most non-fashionable ripped jeans he'd swiped up from the floor. Screw this shit. He was by no manner prude, but asking that kind of nude shoot was a bit too much, on top of his already strained workload, lack of relationships of any substance, lack of sleep too for that matter, and a million and one other little things that had made him a wreck for the last few days. Contracts or no, he needed a break, and he would have it or risk going insane.
"Alex, please-" his friend pleaded, picking up after him and folding the clothes he’d just shed. "It’s not like you haven’t done something similar in the past. You've come this far with putting up with it...You're a model, get it? You don't have a choice. They pay you ridiculous amounts of money to sit where they want you to and look pretty-"
"Kev, do me a favor?"
Alexander looked at his friend, who lately had doubled as his assistant, and softened his expression so as not to hurt him too much. "Don't talk to me for a while, OK? I'm taking a break. Just for a bit, I have to have some time of my own and figure some things out."
Kevin watched him for a moment before saying, "Does this have anything to do with Charlotte?"
Alexander had begun shoving some of his things into a shoulder bag, but at the name he stopped for a moment. "No," he mumbled quickly. "I told her she couldn’t go with me to Paris for the shoot, and that I was thinking about quitting.”
“She got pissed and damned me to hell.”
Kevin didn’t say anything; there was no need to. It was a fairly well known fact that Alex’s girlfriend, though quite attractive herself, was more than willing to let her equally as attractive boyfriend rake in the money and work the long hours so that in his absence she lived a comfortable life, and when he was home, hung on his arm proudly in public as if she herself were responsible for his beauty. In his younger years Alex had put up with it more than well, so long as he had her to show on his arm, but lately he had seemed to change. He had, in a sense, grown out of it. That relationship had long been strained, and though Alex didn’t go into more detail, the look on his face gave away that it had apparently come to a breaking point.
"It’s fine,” he said, starting to pack again. “But that's it, don't you see? Everyone's wanted something of me or to be near me because of the way I look. I could see it in her face. I see it in the faces of people who see my picture in a magazine..." He turned to the mirror above his dresser, and spoke to his reflection. "I would get rid of it if I could."
"You don't mean that-" Kevin tried.
Alex relented, meeting his own eyes again. "Maybe not," he admitted. "But I can only pretend to be vain and arrogant for so long." He smiled sadly. "It's exhausting. I just want to be me for a while..." He gave his friend a swift hug. "Lock up when you leave, ok? I'm going out for a while."
Now he knew better than that. He smiled on his way to the door. "Just out."
In all honesty he hadn’t meant to be that cagey, since he himself hadn't given a single thought to where he would go. He was tired of schedules and agendas and appointments. To be spontaneous for once, that's what he wanted. It was too sheltered a life for him- he'd let it go too far.
He strode down the street, hands shoved in his pockets in direct defiance to the shoulders back, straight-grace and posture that he'd been laboriously taught. With his new resolutions, he fancied he could see things differently than he saw them when he was property of the agency. Things were simpler, more genuine when he was on an every-man level and not perched above their society on some pedestal he had made for himself. He watched a woman tend to her baby in a stroller. Two kids with their baseball hats on backwards skateboarding down the sidewalk with earphones. The sun high overhead, the hustle of this midtown city street, and he felt gloriously alone and obscure.
He walked for a while, mechanically directing himself between crossing streets, avoiding other pedestrians and traffic. But his mind lingered stagnant. He wasn't an object. He had his pride too, and he'd be damned if he was going to let someone else run his life forever. And Charlotte! That woman had wanted nothing from him but money and sex, in that order. To hell with what companionship meant to him, in her concern. She had her boys to do with what she pleased, and he was just another pretty face to her. Well, fuck her. The sex wasn't that great anyway, he wouldn't miss it.
He actually smirked to himself thinking about it. He was being foolish, he knew, since he had fed into her shallowness just as much as she had into his, with this new change of heart coming about quite gradually, one argument at a time. In a way he felt sorry for her, both because the change in him must have seemed sudden, and that she had not shared in it. He sighed and squinted at the sun, pulling his sunglasses down to cover his eyes.
So what comes next? Find someone else? He wasn't even sure if that's what he wanted. He'd had enough of the superficial people, including himself. He knew very well that he himself was guilty of being attracted to beauty; he couldn't help it, and he knew that too. So how was he supposed to trust someone to want him for him, when he couldn't trust himself?
About the time that thought was crossing his mind, he hit someone else on the street with the full force of his distracted stride, and they both went sprawling on the sidewalk. Sitting up he nursed his sore backside. "What the-" The young man who'd run into him was struggling to get up and having a hard time righting himself.
"Hey, are you all right?" Alexander asked, pushing his sunglasses up. The young man had an odd, wide-eyed look and he wasn't picking up the stack of books he'd been carrying, which had gone sprawling on the sidewalk around them. He didn't even meet Alexander's eyes. He just sat there for a moment and then started to feel around on the sidewalk for his books. He was really just a kid- wiry built, wearing a snug white tanktop and loose ripped jeans.
He's blind... was the fleeting thought in Alexander's mind as he hurried to gather the books up for the boy, finding himself fascinated with the deep, deep emerald green of his open, empty eyes. They had to be the most beautiful color he'd ever seen. But books..?
"Here, uh, let me help-"
"I can do it," came the sharp reply. He was still feeling around but Alexander had already picked up the books. He reached out and touched the boy's long hand and the blond head snapped up to him, his eyes suddenly closed.
"Here," he said softly, putting four of the heavy books in the boy's arm. He gathered the other four and took the other's arm to help him stand up. "I can carry these for you," he said. "Where are you taking them?"
The boy hesitated a moment. "To the store on the corner," he answered. "But now I'm so damned turned around, I have no clue which way I'm facing."
Alex looked around, found the store he assumed to be in question, and took the boy's arm to start him in the right direction. The blond kid shrugged his hand away, but as they walked he kept his elbow in contact with Alexander's arm.
"You do this a lot, I take it?" Alex asked.
"Run into people?"
"Ha ha," he said dryly. "No, I mean take this route. You seem to know the way."
"Oh." They walked a bit further and then he said, "I live around here. The lady who owns the store is is a friend of mine, and I wanted to give these old things to her. I obviously don’t need them anymore."
Not blind his whole life then? Alexander mused. He was curious about this boy. His name, how he came to be blind, how he lived, and the balls it must take to make this trip without help or guidance. His sudden detachment from his other 'life' made him really want to delve into the world around him. Might as well start here- he'd never known a blind person.
They entered the store and the boy gingerly headed right for the counter in the back left corner, where a black-haired woman was reading a magazine opened on the desk under her elbows. He eyes of course flicked up to Alex first, she smiled a little shyly, and then turned her attention to the other.
"Ah Isaac. Thanks again for the books, they're worth something, you know." At the sound of her cash register opening, Isaac shook his head.
"I told you, I don't want anything for them, Jazz."
She pushed bills into his hand anyway. "Take it, you stubborn boy. Buy Obie something for me then."
Her eyes flicked back to Alex and the look he knew well crossed her face. "And who is this handsome young man, Isaac? Have you finally gotten rid of-"
"No, Jasmine," Isaac said, stuffing the money in his pockets and turning to leave. "He's a friend I just ran into on the corner." Alexander felt like a spectator, and liked it. He cocked his head at her knowing smile and then followed Isaac outside. He shoved his hands in his pockets again and followed he boy, Isaac, as he made his way down the sidewalk again.
"Are you going to be all right?" he asked.
"Of course I will," Isaac answered. "I can take care of myself." He stumbled a bit on the pavement and Alexander continued to follow him, even though the tone of Isaac's voice had clearly dismissed him. His interest aside, he could never forgive himself if he just let this boy go and then have him fall or robbed or hit by a car.
"Don't you have a dog or something?"
Isaac angled his head back towards him to hear him better. "A dog?"
Alex skirted around a pair of girls who giggled at him. "You know, like a seeing-eye dog?"
Isaac let out an exasperated sigh and kept walking. "Honestly..." he mumbled.
Alex let himself fall behind a bit. This was fascinating. He caught up to the blond again. "Still," he said. "I'm walking you home. This isn't the greatest part of town you're going into."
"I don’t need your help," Isaac snapped, whirling around. Alexander stopped in his steps and stared at him. Isaac drew back, frowning. "I mean, I can get home fine by myself. Really. I’m sure you have other things to do."
Alexander blinked for a moment, confused by the sudden heat of his outburst. He hesitated, but then shook his head resolutely. “I don’t mind," he said. "Where do you live?"
Isaac's head dropped down and, after a short hesitation, he murmured, "Behind this center with the bookstore. The brick building. Room 23B."
It was a dump of a place, that's all he could say. The building was small and hot with odd, dirty looking people lounging in the hallways, leering at the both of them as they edged up the stairs. Isaac seemed to know the way after he'd gotten to the building, and he only stumbled once on the stairs.
The door to room 23B creaked as Isaac opened it and Alexander followed the boy inside.
"Obie!" Isaac called sweetly into the room. "Where are you?" He fell back into a discolored reclining chair with a sigh. Alexander leaned back against the door as a big fluffy white cat came bounding into the room, meowing as it leapt onto Isaac's lap.
Well, that was just about the damn ugliest animal he'd ever seen. Sure, its fur was thick and solid white, and the cat appeared to be healthy, but it was one of those with the flat faces, and the big orange eyes that looked like they might pop out any second..
"So, this is Obie?" he said after he'd gotten his snickering under control. It wouldn't do that he made fun of such an obviously loved pet. Isaac, unaware, just nodded, burying his nose in the cat's fur.
He loved on the cat for a few moments, until an unseen clock began to chime. Isaac let the cat go and stood, his face averted from Alexander. "Thank you for helping me," he said. "I think I'll be all right now." He seemed nervous.
Alexander quirked an eyebrow. He could take a hint. "Well, then I'll be on be on my way," he said, heading for the door. He stopped with his hand on the knob and turned back to the blond boy. "Are you alone here?" he asked softly. "Isn't there someone who, you know, takes care of you?"
Isaac's brows furrowed. "I told you, I do fine by myself," he snapped.
As soon as he heard the door close, Isaac fell back into his chair. He felt his cat jump into his lap again and he leaned his head back, his eyes open. "That was close," he breathed out loud. He had forgotten how late it was, and if that man had stayed longer and Noah had come home while he was here-
Pounding footsteps down the hall outside made him jump, upsetting the purring mass of fur in his lap. Isaac sat up straight in his chair, willing his heart to slow from its racing at the familiar sound. He heard the door open and then hit against the wall behind it and Isaac stood up from the chair, facing the door.
"You're up," Noah commented with mild surprise. "I didn't expect you to be up before four. Did you return those books?" Sounds of footsteps told him that Noah was wandering into the kitchen. He heard the refrigerator door open and bottles clinking.
"Yeah," he said. "I went myself."
"Good. Now maybe we’ll have some space in that closet," Noah mumbled and he threw himself into the recliner Isaac had been sitting in. “That piano sure takes up all lot though.”
Isaac felt a cold stab of fear. “But you said it was fine to keep it there-”
“Relax, I’m not going to get rid of it.” An arm snaked around Isaac's waist and he was pulled onto the man's lap. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of sweat and grease Noah always carried with him when he came home from work, though the contact was nice after having been alone all day. Well, not completely alone.
Noah nuzzled Isaac’s throat, the rough stubble on his chin scratching a bit. "I missed you today," Noah purred. He pulled away, took a swig from his beer bottle, whose chill he rested against Isaac’s arm. "You should have seen who I passed in the hall on the way up here. Someone must have ordered out.” He chuckled to himself. “Didn’t know those types serviced people ‘round here," he mused.
Isaac turned his face away. He was still stuck on the ‘You should have seen it’. But it never did good to linger, so he snapped himself out of it. "Speaking of which, I kind of wanted to talk to you about something," he said, pushing away so he could get off the big man's lap.
"Mmm," Noah mumbled from the chair, the sound of another swill. "Your thinking usually ends up making me angry at you."
Isaac wrung his hands. "Well, I-" he took a deep breath. "I was just thinking maybe we should move," he said. "I mean, there's all sorts of things that happen around here, why don't we move somewhere safer? We could-"
"This again?" came the mildly annoyed reply. "Isaac, I've already told you, we're not movin'. I can get to the shop easier from here than anywhere else, and the rent's cheap. Why do you want to move? What's wrong with this place?"
Isaac cringed away quietly. These were not questions Noah meant for him to answer, he knew better than that now. He let his head down a bit and shrugged slightly. "Nothing. It was just and idea," he said softly.
"Good. Go get me another beer, would you? I’ve had a shit of a day." The sound of him reclining back more with a great sigh.
Isaac complacently turned to go to the kitchen. He supposed Noah was right. There was also a benefit to staying here in that he knew the layout of the apartment well. However, that couldn’t help him much when, as he turned, the cat at his feet misjudged his direction and bolted. As Isaac turned he barely managed not to step on the animal, and instead stumbled around the legs of the table of the small dining room. He gave it a good knock and something crashed to the floor. He froze where he was, gripping the table that had broken his fall.
"God dammit!" Noah snapped, getting up from the chair. "What now? Why the hell didn't you clean the table this morning, huh? Are you too helpless to do even that?" An unexpected blow in-between this shoulder blades as he righted himself had him sprawling on the floor, his hands flung out to catch himself scraped against whatever had broken. “You broke it, you pick that shit up. I'm gonna go take a shower and you'd better be done by the time I get out."
There were heavy footsteps down the hall and then the door to the bathroom slammed.
Isaac sat on the floor where Noah had pushed him, frozen there. He sniffed and stumbled to his feet into the kitchen to search for a rag to gather the pieces with. He moved back into the other little room and knelt down again, gathering the pieces with the rag. On shard made its presence known under his knees as he leaned and he yelped, jumping back and rubbing the little cut it had made. Then he broke down. Biting his lip, he collapsed the rest of the way to the floor, crying softly, his fingers digging into the carpet.
He hadn't asked to be with Noah, he hadn't asked for this life at all. So what had he done wrong to deserve this...? All he had wanted was a nice home, wide open for him to move around, maybe a balcony he could stand on and feel the breeze. A balcony, that was a laugh. 'What's a blind kid want with a balcony?' Noah had said. Then he'd laughed.
Soft fur brushed his cheek and he embraced the cat away from whatever broken glass was left, and buried his face in the fur. Finally, he let Obie go and sniffed, wiping his eyes. "Careful, you'll cut your paws," he said, trying to calm himself down.
He fleetingly thought of the man he'd met today, irritatingly arrogant, but with a smooth, calming voice. He bet that man had a nice home, probably with a lover. Some girl he could wake up to in the morning who was clean all the time, as he himself liked to be. Who called him loving names and had gentle hands...He sniffed again. That sort of thing would never exist for him; he'd already convinced himself of that.
Gathering himself together, he picked up as many shards of glass in the rag as he'd found and prayed he'd at least gotten most of it. Trashing them, he felt out the sink and let his slightly nicked fingers run under the water from the tap. He rubbed his eyes with his bare arm and cleared his throat, taking deep breaths to calm himself down. It was better not to let Noah see that he’d been crying.
"It's okay," he exhaled. He sniffed and padded his hands dry on another towel he'd felt out on the counter. He stumbled to the refrigerator and sought out a bottle of beer that seemed to be the only thing that was ever in there. He made his way back to the TV room and sat on the floor beside the reclining chair and left the beer on the stand next to it. The little warm body of his cat climbed into his lap and licked his hand, as if in apology. Isaac lifted it up, touching his nose into the soft fur. "I know, I know," he whispered.
The door to the bathroom clicked open and he let the cat go, freezing in fear of what he might've done wrong now. Noah collapsed back into his chair and there was the familiar sound of the bottle opening.
"That's better," the man murmured, smacking his lips.
"Noah?" Isaac said softly, digging his fingers into the carpet.
"Did.. did you get some cat food? You said you would-"
"I forgot. I'll get it tomorrow."
Isaac lowered his head and closed his sightless eyes. It'd been the same answer yesterday. Obie had always been a quiet cat, but if he got hungry enough he would start mewing, and Noah only tolerated a quiet cat so much. "Are you going out tonight?" he asked timidly.
"Probably." More smacking.
He reached out and touched Noah's leg. "Can I go?-" It’s lonely here.
"Hell no," the man said as he stood, patting the top of Isaac’s head. "You think I have the time to baby-sit you? You'd get into all sorts of trouble." There were noises in the kitchen as he got another beer for himself and then footsteps on the soft carpet into the bedroom, presumably to get dressed.
He sighed and sat where he was for a long time until there were footsteps again and Noah's voice over the squeaking door opening. "I'll be back late, don't wait up." Then the door slamming.
Isaac waited a decent amount of time just in case Noah should come back, then stood up and straightened his clothes. He made his way back to the bedroom and quietly opened the closet door to where he kept the most precious thing in his life, besides Obie. Opening the worn cover over the keys as he'd done a million times before, he let his fingers trail over the smooth ivory, too lightly to press them. He felt into the side of the closet and pulled out the folding chair he kept hidden there and sat in front of the old upright piano, shoved crudely into the large cubbyhole of the closet. Isaac pressed his forehead to the smooth paneled wood, his fingers lightly pressing the keys in different chords to test them. Low keys to match his present misery, blending together to make music of his thoughts, playing them out as easily as if he were speaking them aloud. The sound filled his ears, and he didn't feel quite so alone anymore. It was still dark, but not deafeningly silent. It was bearable.
His played until his fingers ached in protest, until he'd pounded out melodies he couldn't possibly remember, much less repeat. They were like thoughts and ideas he dreamt up late at night that were too fleeting to even write down before they were forgotten. He stopped abruptly, his hand flying to cover his mouth and he shut his eyes tight, squeezing tears down his cheeks. After a few heaving breaths he collapsed over the keys in a fit of sobs, loud now that he didn’t have to stifle them for fear of being overheard.
It was quite some time before he wiped his face and took a deep breath. It was too dark, too quiet once again. He could deal with the darkness, he'd had to. But the quiet would kill him he knew. He had to get out. There came the sputtering of cacophonous sounds from the keyboard and then the brush of whiskers to his cheek. The little warm, body next to him reminded him and he took the excuse to just get out of the small, stuffy apartment.
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