Home > Gay for Pay (Stories from the Sound #1)

Gay for Pay (Stories from the Sound #1)
Author: T.M. Smith

Prologue

 

January 2010

 

Chris rolled his shoulders before laying his head on the couch, the pulsing bass of the music blasting from the stereo thrumming in his ears, his eyes closing almost involuntarily. A shriek that fell off into a laugh drew him out of his semi-comatose stasis. He sat up, blinking, watching one of the cheerleaders run through the living room. One of the wide receivers, Cliff, was hot on her heels, her shirt soaked through with the beer that had obviously just been dumped on her. Chris laughed out loud with his friends at the sight, catching his girlfriend, Amanda, as she flung herself into his lap.

 

They’d won the state finals, and the scouts at the game assured Chris he would be awarded a scholarship to Alabama in the fall. Roll Tide! So, of course, a celebration was in order. Football was his life for as far back as he could remember—PeeWee league as soon as he could walk, basically, grade school, junior high, and on into high school—it was the second most important thing in his life, next to Amanda.

 

The party finally started to dwindle around four in the morning, several people passing out where they sat, Michael walking through the house, throwing blankets over bodies. “Later, dude.” Chris saluted his best friend as he stumbled out the front door, moving awkwardly toward his truck with Amanda wrapped around him. Michael trailed behind, trying to convince them to stay.

 

“Chris, seriously, you’ve had way too much to drink. There’s plenty of room here; just crash on the couch for a few hours, then drive home,” Michael protested.

 

Chris opened the passenger door of his truck and poured Amanda in, fastening her seat belt. One hand on the buckle, the other flailing in the air, he waved him off. “Nah, Mikey, I’m fine. I have a high constitution, and the alcohol just burns right off.”

 

Michael glared at him, arms crossed over his chest. “Seriously,” Chris yelled as he went around the truck and climbed into the driver’s seat, “I’m good!”

 

He cranked the engine and rolled down the window. “I’ll call you tomorrow,” Chris promised his friend, and Michael shook his head before he turned and walked back up the sidewalk into the house. Shifting gears, he gunned it and jerked the truck out of the driveway.

 

He set the cruise control at sixty and turned the radio up, both windows open as he hit the highway heading toward Amanda’s house. Looking to his right, he thought about how beautiful she looked just then, asleep and oblivious, long blonde hair falling over one side of her face, a little line of drool pooling in the corner of her mouth. He steered with one hand, holding Amanda’s with the other.

 

Music blaring and the wind rolling in through the open windows—even the warmth from Amanda’s tiny fingers laced with his own couldn’t keep Chris from starting to nod off, and before he realized what was happening, there was a blinding light as he came around a steep hill. The sudden impact of an eighteen-wheeler slamming into his Ford F-150 was jarring, rattling his teeth. His truck flipped several times before landing upside down in a drainage ditch. As the world went black, the last thing Chris could remember hearing was the pounding of his heart in his chest and sirens wailing in the distance.

 

 

Chapter One

The Verdict

 

January 2011

 

The sky was dark and gray with ominous black clouds and patches of dense fog. A crack of lightning flashed in the distance, a loud clap of thunder following, rolling, the sound reverberating in the small, quiet room. “Chris, please. Come sit and eat something,” Michael begged for the third time in the past hour.

 

“Not hungry.” His stomach was in knots; anything he choked down wouldn’t stay in his belly for long. Not to mention the near-constant pain in his back, the pins in his spine still acclimating with the bones and muscle. Almost one year to the day after the accident and he could still feel the twisted metal shard digging into his flesh, still hear the screeching of the tires of the truck he’d collided with head on. He often wondered if his body would ever be fully rid of the pain, much less his heart. There was a dark void continually growing larger within his soul with each passing day.

 

The eight weeks Chris had spent in the hospital after the accident were the darkest time in his young life. Living with the knowledge that he’d killed the woman he loved was bad enough. But being abandoned by his parents, shunned by his friends and the community he’d grown up in—it was almost unbearable. He’d thought himself truly and utterly alone until the day Michael had burst into his hospital room, teary-eyed and apologetic, with his mother and Max right behind him.

 

“If only I’d made more of an effort to stop you from getting in that goddamn truck! If I’d taken your keys, had the other guys drag you and Amanda back into the house…” Michael was sobbing, his face red and splotchy.

 

Chris cut him off with a wave of his hand. “Don’t. This is not your fault, Michael, it’s mine. It was I, and I alone, who made the decision to drive that night. This is not on you.”

 

Staring out the tiny window into the blanket of gray water soaking the cars in the parking lot, Chris was reminded of where he was when his attorney cleared his throat. “You okay, Chris?” He turned to look at the man, nodding once sharply. Another bolt of lightning split the dark clouds like the red sea, his friend’s reflection in the window jumping when an angry clap of thunder boomed. Chris didn’t even flinch. He was broken…despondent and bereft. Way down deep in his soul, he felt almost hollow. The gut-wrenching guilt over what he’d done to Amanda, the ramifications that resonated within his small community—it was almost too much to bear. More than once he’d considered suicide, how easy it would be to swallow his entire bottle of pain meds, fall asleep, and never have to feel anything again. But then, that would have consequences as well, ones that Chris couldn’t be held accountable for. He’d ruined enough lives already. God, you’re such a fucking coward! the voice in his head chimed in. What was that old saying? The truth hurts? So he got up every day, got dressed, and lived the shitty, solitary life he’d inadvertently chosen for himself that night.

 

Chris turned when he heard a rap of knuckles on the door, and the bailiff stuck his head into the room. “The jury is back, and the judge sent me to collect you.”

 

“I’m confident you won’t serve any time, Chris. We’ve presented a solid case for DUI registry, license revocation, and community service. Not to mention, this is your first brush with the law, ever.” His attorney whispered as they followed the bailiff along the short hall and into the courtroom. The man’s words reassured Chris, and he made a mental note to thank Michael’s parents for the umpteenth time for hiring their family attorney to represent him. Otherwise, he’d surely have wound up with some crappy court-appointed moron.

 

As he made his way to the front, Chris let his eyes roam, some of the tension in his shoulders releasing when Carolyn, Michael’s mother, smiled at him and mouthed the words…We love you, good luck as Max stood so that Michael could take the seat next to his mother. While he didn’t dare meet their eyes, Chris could see his and Amanda’s parents in his periphery, in the front row, right behind the prosecuting attorney. Only his father had bothered to visit him in the hospital, just long enough to tell Chris that he was no longer welcome in the house he grew up in. True to his father’s word, when Chris was finally released from the hospital, he found everything he owned packed up in boxes in the spare bedroom at Michael’s house.

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