Episode Three « The Caliente Affairs

Act 3: The Goth Mask

“Morning!” Alex came down the stairs of his new house and waved to Nina and Don who were sat at the dining table. Nina yelped and dropped her cereal spoon upon seeing him, and Don simply laughed. Sporting shoulder length hair that was dyed purple at the tips, and a black overcoat, Alex calmly sat down and ate as much breakfast as he could stomach after last night’s partying.
“Where did you get the coat?” Nina asked, intrigued at Alex’s new fashion statement. It was a far cry from the Alex she had met yesterday, who had worn a jacket and tie and had had his hair slicked back.
“A friend gave it to me for my birthday.”
“Who are you friends, with the guy from The Matrix?!” Don laughed. Alex rolled his eyes, not replying to his soon-to-be step-uncle’s comment.
“Has Mortimer seen your new… attire?” Nina questioned.
“What, my get-up? God, no! He’d floor it if he saw me… in more ways than one.” Alex thought about his ageing dad.
“Floor it? Get-up? What kind of English are you speaking?!” Don asked.
“Sorry, Granddad, do you need to turn your hearing aid up?” Alex mocked Don, who laughed dryly in response.
A groan from the den interrupted their conversation. “Dina, don’t overdo it!” Nina called to her sister.
“Overdo what… or should I say, who?!” Don laughed to himself.

Little did he know the ‘who‘ was the exact reason Dina had announced she was exercising every morning from now on. Nina figured nothing of it, but Dina was using the exercise as punishment for her behaviour last night.

If she punished herself enough, she figured it’d teach her to never cheat on Mortimer again. And get toned muscles at the same time. It’s a win-win situation.

No, I’m not winning. This is punishment, now start acting like it, Dina thought to herself, groaning in agony once more. Whether or not she liked it, Dina was going to be down there for a long time because no matter how hard she punished herself, she couldn’t get the thought of Ed Wilson out of her mind… and her heart.

After she had finished, Dina went upstairs and was alarmed to see Nina dangling upside down. “What on earth..?”
“Oh! Hi there, sis, do you wanna join me? It’ll really stop those muscles of yours from aching after that work out!” Nina offered, as she stretched her limbs into unnatural positions.
“Um, no thanks!” Dina knew why she was exercising, but why was her sister getting with the program?

“I’m doing Yoga now so I don’t become all stiff and sore when I get older. Plus, it’s good for the eggs.” Nina held her breath and counted in her head.
“Eggs? Are we having omelettes?” Dina asked, confused.
“No silly, my eggs!”
“Your eggs?” Dina said, a little startled.
“Sure, it makes them fertile.”
“You’re fertilising your eggs?” Dina squeaked out, as she tried to act normal.
“Well of course I’m not now! But I hope it won’t be too long before I am.” Nina winked, and continued to arch her back.
“Ha! Oh, that’s wonderful… I’m just gonna make a call.” Dina excused herself, as she began thinking about Ed again.

“You know you should really think of taking up Yoga, Mr. Goth. It’ll add years to your life.” Nina told her sister’s husband, who had done nothing but nap since his morning jog.
“Yes… I could do with adding a few more years. Though I doubt this old ticker’s got enough juice left in it to stretch in to those kinds of positions.” Mortimer said, deciding to get some peace and quiet in his bed.
“I thought you were staying up to talk to Alexander?” Nina asked.
“I’ll catch him eventually, from what I can assume he’s been avoiding me.” Nina laughed softly, as she knew exactly why Alex was staying away from his father.

That afternoon, Alex had come home from school with an older friend and quickly avoided seeing anyone in the house by going upstairs, trying to engross himself in a game of chess. Alex enjoyed chess, but he rarely found a challenging partner. He had grown up with interests in science and genealogy, and was ahead of his classmates in many subjects. He’d been lucky enough to be part of some study groups with older teenagers – lucky, because in his opinion, many teenagers his age didn’t live up to his standards, and simply acknowledged him on the basis of his last name. It was partly due to this why Alex had decided to embrace a more goth-like appearance, hoping to finally find out who liked him for him, and more importantly, whom he liked. Unfortunately very few people had said anything at all, and certainly nothing bad. They were too busy vying for his attention in the hopes of getting to see his new house (and in the case of the guys, getting to see the ‘Hot Twins‘, as they were known). Buckling under pressure, Alex had settled on a girl whose name he did not know, in the hopes that maybe he was just being cynical and they could actually get to know each other a little better.

“I can’t believe your dad let you go to school wearing that.” She commented on Alex’s look with disdain, masking it with a laugh that just ending up coming across as pity.
Sighing, Alex scolded himself for having ever let his guard down. No longer caring what she thought of him, or what she might report back to his other classmates, Alex put on the most fake voice he could manage and tried to look sincere by throwing in copious amounts of hand gestures. “Well, I told him; I said, Pop’s, if you can’t deal with who I am then you’d better disown me now!
“You said what?” Mortimer walked over, stirring from his sleep.
“Dad!” Alex cried, dropping his act. “I, I was just joking with… uh…”
“I hope this is a joke! Because it certainly wouldn’t be funny if that dye was permanent. And is that make-up you’re wearing.” Mortimer surveyed his son.
“Uh, dad, can we talk about this later?” Alex felt his cheek’s growing red from embarrassment.
“No we cannot! I want you to march right into that bathroom now and scrub that paint off, and I don’t want you to stop scrubbing until I say so.” Mortimer shouted.
“Look, dad, I’m not go…” Alex started.
“You’re not going to?” Mortimer said, shocked at his son answering him back.
Figuring she’d get out before things got ugly, Alex’s friend piped up, “I’m gonna head home now.”
“Hold on, I’ll show you out.” Alex replied back, wanting any excuse to duck out of the way of the firing squad.
“Alexander!” Mortimer cried, slowly but surely catching up to him. Luckily there were two flights of stairs Alex could use to his advantage…

Don lied back on his bed, relaxing after a hard shift at work, thinking about his future wife… and how strange Ed had acted when he had seen him at work! All his thoughts were interrupted though, as Alex rushed in and closed the door behind him. “Oh, Don, you’re back! I was hoping to hide in your room until dad calmed down.
“So he finally saw you, eh?!” Don laughed, as Alex sighed and sat down on the edge of bed. He was tired from running away, not just from his dad but away from everything. He needed to get so many things out into the open, so he could finally hear them for himself and perhaps stop having to run.
“Don, I know we’re not really that close, but can I talk with you, man-to-man?” Don smiled inside. This was the first ever man-to-man talk he’d had were he was the one giving advice. “It’s just, I guess you can tell I’m a bit different now I’m older,” Alex started. “These changes I’m going through, I hate them. That’s partly why I’m wearing this.” He referred to his outfit. “I’m desperate to blend in with any crowd at school so no-one will see that I’m changing.” Alex could see Don was thinking hard before he spoke.
“I’m sure they won’t notice, they’ll be too busy going through their own changes.”
“I doubt it. It seems everyone knows their place except me.”
“You feel different, huh?” Don asked, feeling sorry for Alex.
“I am different. These changes, they’re not all good, some are..”
“Really confusing?!” Don offered with a laugh. “It is for you and about ninety-five percent of other kids your age.” Don added.
“I bet you never went through this.” Alex sighed.
“What is it, is it your body?”
“No! I know about all those changes, they teach you that at school.” Alex cringed.
“They teach that at school now?!” Don laughed, as Alex sighed. Don composed himself and motioned for Alex to continue.
“It’s my thoughts that are different. This, this look, it’s just a mask.”
“You’re a tad early for halloween!” Don joked.
“Oh, you know what, fine! I knew this was a bad idea.” Alex stood up to leave, losing his patience.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I’m trying to be sincere; help me understand what it is you’re going through.” Don apologised. Alex sat back down and closed his eyes.
“I wanted to hide myself from me, from what I think I might be.” He said quietly, eyes still closed.
“Might be?” Don said concerned.
“What it is, is… I sometimes don’t… my thoughts… they’re not always about girls… if you know what I mean?” Alex confessed and opened his eyes, but looked toward the floor, ashamed he’d finally told someone about his new feelings towards the same-sex.
Don breathed in and thought long before he spoke, “I know you feel like you’re the only teenager in the world going through this, but I assure you you’re not alone – especially in this day and age. A lot of hormones are flying around at your age and it’s perfectly natural to go from fantasising about girls one day, to fantasising about… well… the opposite.” Alex smiled, admiring Don for his attempts to understand.
“So, these feelings I’m having now, they’ll probably go away?” Alex hoped.
“They might… but they might not.” Don admitted, as Alex looked dejected. “But if they don’t, it’s nothing to be ashamed about. And you need to know, no matter what, that I’ll still be here to talk to you, if you ever need me.” Don smiled.
“So I can trust you to keep this between us?”
“You can, as long as you promise me to go into that bathroom and take off your mask.” Don said. So Alex did just that!

In the bathroom, he removed his clothes and make-up and took a shower, washing the dye out of his hair. And when he was fully shed of his former self, he planned to step out of that shower naked as the day he was born and look at himself in the mirror! Alex couldn’t actually think if he’d ever done it before now.

Stand in front of that mirror and go deep into that reflection staring back at you. Look at everything, and don’t be afraid to embrace who the person is staring back at you; gay, straight, or just confused. Don’t hide yourself, is what Don had said. Never in his life had Alex thought Don was capable of such wisdom, but that was part of the problem with old Alex. He was too quick to judge people on first impressions. So taking a deep breath, ready to bid goodbye to that Alex, he looked down at the floor and positioned himself in front of the mirror.

He looked up… first thought: it wasn’t pretty! The make-up had caused quite a few spots to pop-up and his hair looked stringy now he had washed out the dye. His body was weak, and in need of a tan if he were to ever go to the local pool with… Meadow. Looking at his new self in the mirror, Alex thought of his school friend, Meadow, and found himself smiling. She had a personality that Alex desperately aspired to emulate; not caring about what anyone thought of her, and, for the first time ever, Alex felt comfortable admitting she was hot! But lately he had avoided getting too close with her in case she grew too fond of him. It’s not that he didn’t want to date Meadow, but she was one of his true friends and he couldn’t bear to hurt her if in the end it turned out he didn’t have romantic feelings for her, or any other girl. But it seemed with the mask washed off, things were clear to Alex. He looked into the eyes of the person staring back at him and smiled.

Yet despite accepting his new self, he was still at a loss about what he was to wear. The only clothes he had that weren’t black were his school uniform. Going back to Don for help, they searched through the many stuffed wardrobes inside the spare room Alex had been sleeping in (his new bedroom was just having the finishing touches put to it), and Don came across some old green pants he’d worn as a teenager. “Green?!” Alex looked at them in disgust, and then at Don.
“What?! It was a different time back then… Anyway, what’s with the hat. Did the dye not come out?” Don said, finding that he was enjoying the time he spent with Alex.
“Oh it came out, but it just made my hair look stupid again. This hat stays on until I come back from the hairdressers.” Alex sighed, thinking about how much of his birthday money he was going to have to spend on himself.
“Well how about you get this new ‘get-up’ on me.” Don offered, reaching into his pocket and handing Alex some simoleons.
“I can’t borrow this.” Alex said, knowing that he’d never be able to pay it back, despite being in a great job as a teenager, he made nowhere near enough money to buy stylish clothes.
“Then don’t borrow it. Call it a belated birthday gift!” Don smiled.

Alex waited until Don had left the room before throwing on his work uniform. It was the best outfit he had at the moment, but he didn’t want to insult Don by not wearing the clothes he had given him. He picked up the phone and ordered a cab to take him to the local clothes shop.

When he arrived, Alex expected to rush in and out of the hairdressers and quickly pick out the simplest clothes in the store. But he had a panic attack when he saw Meadow was also out shopping.. And she’d spotted him.
“Alex! I can’t believe you’re here. You never go shopping.” Meadow greeted her friend with a hug.
“Well, I don’t exactly have the best fashion sense.” Alex sighed.
“Well that’s true! Was that you I saw with the purple hair and long black coat? What were you doing hanging out with ‘those‘ people at school? I thought your dad might have gotten you brain surgery for your birthday, which reminds me, I was mortified when I heard you’d had a great time even without me! I’m so sorry I couldn’t come.” Meadow had a habit of talking without breathing, it was quite the gift.

The two relaxed on a sofa in the store after Meadow had devoted her time to helping Alex pick out the most fashionable clothes. Alex could sense once again that Meadow was enjoying his company a little too much, but Alex couldn’t, and didn’t want to do anything to stop it. He liked Meadow… he really liked Meadow. But how could she ever like me, he thought to himself, as he kept glancing in the mirror at his spotty face and greasy hair poking out from underneath the hat. Alex had had to schedule an appointment with the hairdresser, so until then he and Meadow were free to shop, talk, and maybe do other things too!

“Oh, my god! You are so not my friend anymore, Alexander Goth.” Meadow cried with happiness, upon seeing the new Alex.
“I’m not?” Alex replied, confused a little at his friend’s reaction.
“No, from now on if anyone asks, you’re my boyfriend!”

Oh no, I was right, Alex thought, as Meadow began talking without breathing again.

“It’ll be fun because you are gonna turn heads when people at school see you looking like that. Every girl is gonna be after you, so you tell them you’re with me then when we get together and I can advise you on which are the nice ones and which are the bitches! Plus everyone’ll hate me for dating you – which means they actually love me, cos they wanna be me!” Alex laughed and calmed down. Meadow didn’t want to really be Alex’s girlfriend, she actually wanted to pick out a girl for him.

He felt like he was the luckiest guy in the world, as he went back home. He had new clothes and a new bedroom, but best of all, he had a new look; a new look that would hopefully grab him some desperately wanted attention from the opposite sex! Yet a nagging voice in the very back of his mind couldn’t help but feel he’d replaced one mask with another. Ignoring it, he realised all those fears he had would instantly go the moment he finally locked lips with the girl of his dreams… he just didn’t know who that was yet!

Across town, back at her home; Meadow sighed whilst writing in her diary, Mrs. Meadow Goth. She got out a red pen and began drawing little hearts around it. Bringing the diary close to her heart, she imagined what it would be like to be Alexander’s girlfriend.