18. The Fire Within
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He wakes up to the sound of crickets and he realizes that his body aches a little. Probably it’s out of tiredness but it must also be because he was lying on the hard grassy ground. He gets up to a sit, staring at his surroundings. The air is cold and it looks like it’s about to get dark soon. He smells like a mixture of wet grass and sweat. He then saw the brunette-haired boy in front of him whose, at the moment, is piling up woods on one part of the ground. In that instance, he can’t help but think of how handsome the boy is but he quickly dismisses the thought. “Where are we?” He asked the boy.


Caleb looks over at Lucca whose face looks pale and unfeeling. “This is a camping site. Have you ever slept in a tent before?” He answered and posed a question. To that, Lucca shakes his head as an answer. Caleb smiles at him sympathetically. “I’ll teach you how to pitch a tent later okay. I’ll make fire. We need to keep warm for the night,” he simply informed.


Lucca looks around, refusing to argue. He is actually not interested in learning how to pitch a tent. He just wants to have a good rest. Especially after a difficult night of being on the run. Constantly having to look over his shoulders and worrying all the time are all starting to take a toll on him. He wants to be at peace. He saw that, not far from their camp site, there are other campers too. He can hear sounds of laugher and people chit-chatting inaudibly from the distance. He saw smokes coming out too as an indication of camp fires. “Are they on a family vacation or something?” Lucca asked aloud out of curiosity.


Caleb lights up his match and watches the fire flickers in his hand before blowing it out softly. “They’re not. Most of them just don’t have a home, Lucca,” he told. He knew. Because once upon a time, he was like them. He was homeless. He ran away from home once before and grouped with the campers. He had learned a lot. Back then, though, he wasn’t strong and determined enough. He couldn’t take living a rough life so he had crawled back to the arms of his wicked mother. Back then, he was too dependent. Too weak. But he is certain now that he is stronger. Wiser. He will live a harsh life no matter what as long as he can be away from monsters like his mother and Edmund Codrin.


“How sad,” Lucca commented. But then, he quickly changes his mind. Home, he thinks, doesn’t necessarily mean just a place to sleep, eat, or rest. It should be loving, lively, and safe. None of which his enormous wealthy estate had provided. None of which his family had given to him. His papa’s love for him is twisted. It is sick. And it makes him nauseous to the fact that some time ago, he was sick like his papa too. “But their family look more functional than ours,” Lucca added, feeling slightly envious of the poor campers.


Caleb looks at the other campers too, observing, and remotely feeling resentment grew within him. He is envious too. But in this life, we can never judge what others are going through. “Maybe. We never know,” he simply stated because that’s the truth. We can never compare our lives to another’s since everyone has their own troubles in their own special way. Everyone has their own demons in a special place. And everyone is corrupted in their own special means.


“So you’ve met Luke, huh?” the sudden question from Lucca surprised Caleb immediately. He was not accusing. He was simply stating the fact. Like he had known it all along. And Caleb thinks that, after last night, it’s almost impossible for Lucca not to notice since the last moment he might have had consciousness was back in the hotel room before Luke took over. Caleb himself wasn’t sure when Luke had taken over but it had been a long while. Last night, it was still Luke responding to him before he bid goodbye with a simple “I’ll be off resting now. Say hello to Lucca for me.”


Caleb smiles slightly at the memory. Luke was witty but also careful. He appears to be uncaring but also thoughtful. But out of all, the only feelings Luke ever actually obviously displayed was when he saw that painting last night. It was just of complete fear and panic. Caleb knew then that Luke must’ve known more that he let on. He realized that Luke must’ve not trusted him enough to tell more about Lucca’s past. He knew that he should also be careful around Luke. Luke is cunning and not worth of trust. That means, he has to be careful around Lucca too. For he knew that somewhere deep within Lucca, Luke is still there watching and bidding his time. So he answers Lucca in the most calming manner. “Yeah,” Caleb admitted. But he is even more taken aback by the next question shot by Lucca.


“Have you had sexual relationship with him?”


To the question, Caleb gulps a little and begins to think. How much is it that Lucca remembers exactly? “Well what do you think of it?” He answered with a question.


I don’t think much of it’ was what Lucca wanted to answer but he can’t get the blurry visions away from his head. He wanted to be specific at first. Like, ‘did you engage sexually with Luke because he has my body?’ or ‘do you have feelings for Luke or me?’ but he couldn’t bring himself to ask those. He remembers the sexual dream he had previously and how coincidental it was for Caleb to have mentioned the morning after that he had had a blowjob the previous night. He also vaguely remembers a doll-like person smiled at him and a surge of unwelcoming panic rushed through his body. So he chooses to explain himself about how it was between him and Luke instead of asking more about the relationship Caleb had with Luke. “It was like waking up after being too drunk from the night before. The memories are vague. Sometimes it came in the form of dreams, sometimes distorted memories. That was how it is with Luke appearing. I hadn’t felt his presence in years. I wonder how he had kept hidden so well all these years,” Lucca explained.


“Are you not happy with his presence?” Caleb asked.


Lucca shrugs at the question. “Not really not happy. Part of me is angry. But the other part is relieved. I guess I missed him. I needed him,” he stated. It was the truth. No matter how abnormal it sounds. Silence fell between the two of them as Caleb chose not to comment further on the input. He keeps quiet as he stashes more flammable items like dry leaves and pieces of torn papers on his stack of woods. “Why are you doing this, Caleb? You know you’re in danger, right? Papa will hurt you. Worse, he’ll kill you. Perhaps we should go our separate ways from now on,” Lucca suggested. The silence was overwhelming for him. He wanted to say more but he was quickly cut in by Caleb.


“Perhaps we should stop talking about this,” he advised, which sounded more like an order. It manages to silence Lucca from babbling further. They both keep quiet for quite a moment before Caleb breaks the silence as he sets his bonfire alight. “You see the fire, the more you fan it, the more it’ll spread and grow bigger. Sometimes, you fan the fire just to get burn just because you’ve longed for the warmth after being cold for so long. Even when you know it’ll turn you to ashes and you’ll perish. That temporary warmness was worth it,” he spoke metaphorically.


That was when Lucca feels a sting in his heart. Like it was being struck by a pointy needle. So, despite of his logic and conflicting emotions, Lucca leans closer towards Caleb forcing him to turn to look over his shoulder in surprise at the indicator. He understood the gesture and took him in. And they kiss. The little peck of a kiss grew passionate within seconds as Caleb pulls Lucca nearer by the neck, compelling him to not let go of the kiss and gluing them closer together. There’s a fire burning inside him. He wanted Lucca all to himself.


He explores Lucca’s mouth, feeling lost in ecstasy. Kissing someone he has feelings for is something foreign to him. Kissing someone he had longed for is something alien yet so inviting to him but he didn’t know that at the moment, the boy he has in his arms has nothing but one thought in his mind. Lucca wanted to give all of himself away to Caleb and experience real love for once in his life but also, he wanted to leave him for good. He’ll stay away and leave him behind. So that he won’t get hurt. Lucca knew deep inside that he doesn’t deserve this. He is cursed. He doesn’t want to be the reason for Caleb to perish. He would rather be gone and keep at least this one good memory in his life safe, away from his cursed self.