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Your Life Is a Map With No Compass

Chapter Eleven

Zack smiles when he sees me coming up the stairs of the bus, his slightly bloodshot eyes widening at my tearstained face. I smile back at him the slightest bit, and that’s when his face shuts down, and he just looks down at the jacket that he was stuffing into his backpack. I can see the bruises that are circling his wrists, and they me sick. I can’t believe I ever even laid a hand on him in that way. People can get arrested for that. I looked it up. Zack could press charges against me for assault.
“Zacky, do you want me to put-” Rian freezes when he comes into the front lounge, holding a half eaten snickers bar in one hand and Zack’s shampoo in the other.
“Hi Rian,” I saw sheepishly, smiling softly at him as I play with the sleeves of my Man Overboard crewneck. He just stares at me for a minute, then just scoffs and shakes his head.
“I’m only okay with you being here if Zack is okay with you being here.” Rian sets the shampoo bottle down onto the counter of the kitchenette, then goes over to Zack and speaks to him softly. “Zack, is it okay that Jack is here?” Rian is speaking to Zack in the little kid voice that I know that Zack hates, that makes him feel like he’s stupid which is in no way true. I can see the way Zack’s mouth twitches as Rian talks to him like that.
“Yeah.” Zack’s voice is incredibly small, the way it always is when he feels overwhelmed. But Rian doesn’t pick up on that.
“Okay, bud. But if you want him to leave, just tell me and I’ll make him get out.” Zack nods, then gives me a sideways look and a slight eye roll.
“Rian, can I talk to Zack for a minute, alone?” I take a deep breath. All of this depends on if Rian lets me talk to Zack or not.
“Do you really think I’m going to say yes to that?” Rian looks up at me with a look of disbelief covering his face. “Do you know what you did? Do you?” Rian grabs Zack and pulls him over to us, then pushes the sleeves of his hoodie up so that I can see the bruises in all their glory. Black and blue and purple, they form a ring around his thin wrists. There’s another bruise in the shape of a thumb on each side that’s a little higher up than the rest.
“Let go.” Zack pulls his arms out of Rian’s grasp then moves the tiniest bit closer to me. “I want to talk to Jack. Alone.” I grin at that.
“Zack, come on. He did that to you.” Rian gestures to Zack’s wrists. Zack rolls his eyes, exasperated.
“Oh my god, Rian. You only ever see the bad in people. Let me talk to Jack.” Zack rubs his upper arms with his hands. “I know for a fact that he’s not going to hurt me. And if for some reason he does, I’ll scream as loud as I can and you can come running onto the bus and save me, okay?” Zack bite his lip and looks at Rian expectantly. While he really wants Rian to leave, he can’t force him to. Rian has to be the one to decide to leave, or Zack will feel like a bad person. It’s not just the autism, it’s him as a person. He has to be nice to people, it’s part of who he is.
“Fine,” Rian grumbles, peeling back the wrapper of his snickers bar and taking a bite. He looks at me. “I swear to God and coffee, Jack, if you hurt Zack I’ll-“
“I’m not going to hurt Zack, Rian I won’t-“
“Stop talking about me like I’m not here!” Zack looks hurt. Rian just glares at me, even though he’s the one who started it, then brushes past me and walks down the steps of the bus.

Zack’s P.O.V.
While I should be scared of being alone with Jack, I’m not, really. He just looks so goddamn cute when he’s unsure of himself, pulling the sleeves of his crewneck down and staring at the floor of the bus as he tries to figure out what to say to me. He doesn’t look like somebody who could actually hurt someone. And then I press down on the bruises just a little bit, so Jack won’t notice, and the pain reminds me that he can. That he did, just yesterday.
“So, um…” Jack sits on the arm of the couch and finally looks up at me. “I just…I just want you to know that I’m sorry.” Jack stands back up and walks closer to me. “I am so fucking sorry, Zack. I am sorry for what I did and for what that asshole did-“ I shift uncomfortably at that. I don’t want him to talk about that. I don’t want anyone to talk about that. “-And I just…I’m sorry. I was so rude and I wasn’t listening to you and I’m not even going to try and make up any excuses. I just fucked up, but hopefully I didn’t fuck up our friendship.”
“Jack” I laugh a little. “I’m autistic. Our friendship has always been fucked up and it’s always been because of me. Even now, with this.” I had been annoying Jack. He was fed up with me, that’s why he got so mad. He wished that I was normal, I could see it in his eyes, the exact same look Dad had right before he left. He didn’t even hug me. He just looked at me and shook his head, like he couldn’t believe that I was his son. Mom ran after his car as he drove away, shouting ugly, awful words. Then she came back and kissed my face and told me I was perfect. But he had that look too. If I were normal Dad wouldn’t have left.
“No no no, Zack. This is not your fault. Do you understand me?” Jack grabs my face, so gently that I can barely feel it, then forces me to look at him. “This is my fault. It’s not your fault that you are the way that you are. It’s my fault that I got mad at you for it, when it’s something that you can’t control.”
“I wish I wasn’t,” I mumble, so quiet that I thought that Jack wouldn’t hear it.
“Wish you weren’t what? The way that you are? Autistic?” Jack shakes his head frantically. “No, Zack. Please don’t say that.” Jack has tears in his eyes.
“Why not? I wish I was fucking normal.” No no no. I can’t say this to Jack. But it’s coming out and I can’t stop and it’s against the rules but right now I couldn’t care less about them. “If I was normal I would still have a dad, and my mom wouldn’t have aged as fast as she did, and my sister would have actually been able to bring friends over without having to worry about her weird little brother embarrassing her, and I would be able to talk during interviews and onstage without being terrified that I might say something autistic and people would find out. If I was normal you wouldn’t be standing in front of me saying you’re sorry right now, and Rian wouldn’t have to be so overprotective, and you and him and Alex could have so much more fun on tour because you wouldn’t have to be worrying about me all the time. If I was normal I could like you like I want to and not be worried that-“ No. No. I’ve gone too far. No! He wasn’t supposed to find out! But I just spilled it and he’s going to figure it out and that’s against the rules.
“What?” Jack looks at me, shocked. “Did you just say that you like me?” His voice is quiet, but he’s smiling and God, I love that smile.
“No. I didn’t. What are you talking about?” I try to deny it, but Jack knows, and his face falls when I don’t say yes to his question. The smile is gone, and that makes me so sad because I want that smile to be there forever. But I don’t what to do to keep it there without telling Jack the truth.
I wish I were normal.
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:) Love you guys so fucking much. I'm too lazy to make a list, but THANK YOU to everyone who commented. Keep em coming!!!!! Also, House Party Tour! So fucking excited to go, especially cause I couldn't go to spring fever. If you can't go for whatever reason, my heart goes out to you <3