“We ended up walking down a dark street towards what we hoped was the shitty hotel we holed up in for the night.”

We were too fucking stupid, full of ourselves, and full of youth. You can’t say that to a kid, though, that kind of stupid new adult shit won’t make sense to them.

“What happened?” he asks, and I can see the smallest of movements from him. He’s leaned in.

“We got attacked by twelve guys. Twelve big, mean men who didn’t take kindly to our kind there. They came at us from the front and the back, hitting us with sticks and bottles. Beating the life out of me and another guy named Brent. The other three guys we were with ran off. They slipped the trap and got to bright lights, able to make it back to the hotel, safe and sound.”

“But? What about you and Brent?”

“We didn’t make it back to the hotel.”

My body is here, but somewhere in my mind, I can smell the shit in the gutters, the dirty human bodies as they slam fists and weapons against us.

We fought back pretty damn well, but two against that many never wins.

“We got our asses kicked pretty bad. I had a couple of broken ribs, and my right two fingers were broken badly. That’s not counting the cuts and bruises. Had a concussion too, I think. That’s where your brain takes a really hard hit and it gets all kinds of fuzzy. By the time they were done beating us, we were knocked unconscious.”

“When we were finally noticed it was by the local police. They also didn’t take kindly to people like us, so they dragged us to the jail and left us there for three days. Wouldn’t say anything to us. Just left us there. Well, they wouldn’t answer me. Brent went into some type of coma. I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty sure if he got treatment he would have been okay.”

Shaking my body, I motion to him. “If you can come here, or I can come in, I can show you something.”

Charlie looks around himself. He’s hasn’t been paying attention to the fact I haven’t moved from my spot without his permission. “Umm. What is it?”

Letting my legs down, I show him my hands, making fists. “You can see where one of my knuckles got flattened by a guard after he slammed a metal baton on it. He wanted to punish me for being a rich, privileged, white boy. That fucker hated me. Hated me with all his being. He hated Brent too, but Brent was dead by the time they transferred me to the closest prison.”

Motioning for me to come in, he looks at my hand as I scoot into the room and sit about five feet from him. Him on the bed, me on the floor.

He needs to know he is above me in his safe place. Gotta keep him feeling confident.

“Brent died?”

“Yeah, he never woke from the coma he got knocked into.”

I don’t tell him, though, how they beat Brent even when he was unconscious. How they punished him for not waking up. I don’t know what they did, but the beating I got for trying to protect his dead body nearly ended me too.

“Dragged me to a prison, where I was the only white guy in a prison full of angry men who wanted my death. Two long months and some change, defending myself every single one of those hours. I remember the nights and the showers where, naked men would try to make me do things. Where I had to fight for my very survival. They do stuff like that to you?” I ask.

I try to make it as gentle as I can, but I need to know if they did that.

If they did, I’m going to have to get some kind of mental help here, more than I can hope to do myself.

Shaking his head, his eyes wide. “No… A… Big guy came to play with me, but the other guys wouldn’t let him. I… I don’t think he really wanted to play.”

Fuck. Thank fuck. “I… know that you don’t want to tell me a lot of stuff, and you’re scared kid. But you need to know I’m here now. I promise you nobody will ever come near you like that again.”

His eyes well up in big, wet pools of tears, and it’s all I can do not to move. “They killed mama and daddy.”

“I know kid, I know.” I open my arms up to him, spreading them wide as he flings himself down from the bed and onto my lap.

What the fuck do I do now? Shit.

“I got ya, kid. I promise.”

I never knew a body could rock and shake as hard as his little body did in my arms.

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