Secret of the Tenei Star Chapter 8
A Heart Consumed
The next week, completely oblivious to Emily's wrongdoings, Gremio lead Teo's son back home after a short day at the market. Gremio was heading toward the house when he spotted-
"Hmm." He frowned as his gaze landed upon the lone gangster, who was standing by the fountain. He didn't seem to be doing much as he remained still, staring toward what appeared to be absolutely nothing, his hands buried in his pockets.
Gremio turned to the boy and knelt down. "Young Master, do you want to play over there for a minute while I quickly take care of something?"
The child nodded, and then his little legs rapidly took him to the side of a building nearby.
Gremio took a deep breath, then walked over to the young man. "Hey Shark. . .a moment of your time, please."
Shark nonchalantly turned his head and scoffed. "I don't have a second to waste with a stupid queenie bit-"
"It will only take a minute." Gremio's eyes narrowed at the insult.
Shark displayed a bored look, but agreed. "All right. Fine." Sluggishly, he stepped over to Gremio, folding his arms. "You have one minute. Talk."
"It won't take long," Gremio told him with a contemptuous expression.
"So? Out wit' it!"
"Well. . ." Gremio started. "I just want to know what you have against me. What fuels your hatred for me? Why do you have it in for me?"
"Oh that," Shark sneered, rolling his eyes. "I thought you'd already figured that out. It's 'cause you're a queer."
"Why do you think that?"
Shark stared at Gremio as if the answer was clear as day. "Well, 'cause. . .'cause you are! Always goin' around like the fag you are."
"What are you talking about?"
"Like you don't know." Shark's eyes narrowed as his voice took a cold tone. "Just the way you talk, the words you say-"
Suddenly the little boy ran over and bumped into Gremio, wrapping his tiny arms around the teenager's leg. "Gwemio, I gonna go with Cleo after, 'kay?" He then zipped off as fast as he had come.
"Don't wander off too far, Young Master," Gremio called after him.
"And 'cause you say things like 'Young Master,'" Shark snorted. "I'm surprised you don't creep out that kid. What do you do, follow him around all day, watching him in every thing he does, like a stalker? Are you planning on marrying him one day? I can bet on him wearing the tuxedo."
"You're disgusting," Gremio snapped. "And for your information, Master Teo hired me to look after his son, as he did Pahn and Cleo. We all watch him."
"Hmph. Well, you don't have to call him 'Young Master' all the time like you can't live without him or something."
"Um, what are you talking about? Cleo and Pahn call him that too."
"They probably only started because they became used to hearing you say it so much," Shark continued, apparently disinterested in the conversation. "You follow a queer enough, soon you'll be acting like one. Which reminds me. I'd rather not hang out with you, so I'll be going now. No offense."
"Look," Gremio said firmly. "I honestly don't know what you have against me-"
"Helloooo?" interrupted the gangster. "Anybody home in that fruity mind of yours? I said you're a queer, and I don't like you."
"But you've never told me why."
"Yes, I did!" he insisted. "I said. . .uh, I said. . ."
Gremio was on the verge of tapping his foot. "Yes?" he asked impatiently.
"I said. . .you don't. . .um, you don't have to be following that kid so closely! It makes you look so gay!"
"Why?" asked Gremio. "Because I look after him?"
"Uh. . ." Beads of sweat formed on Shark's forehead, concealed by the brim of his hat. "Yeah, that's exactly why." He looked off uncomfortably to the side, as if unsure of what he had just retorted.
"So let me get this straight," Gremio began angrily. "You're saying you think I'm a 'queer' because I take care of a child?"
Shark hesitated for a second, then nodded. Half-expecting to hear a rattling sound, Gremio was tempted to smirk.
Instead, he glared at the hoodlum. "Then this must mean that. . .by your definition, almost every parent, babysitter, and caretaker in the world. . .are gay."
"Huh?" Shark was taken by surprise. "W-wait. . .I mean-" He balled his hands into fists and pressed them to his temples, eyes closed. "EEEEEAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!" he screeched in his high-pitched, grinding voice. "Stop filling my head with your queer-ish logic!!"
Gremio let out a snicker. "You really have no reason to hate me, do you, Shark?"
Shark dropped his arms and stared at Gremio. At a last attempt at a comeback, he pointed a finger at Gremio, ready to chew him out. He opened his mouth to reply, and. . .
. . .nothing came out.
He tried again. . .and nothing. Nothing at all.
Shark's eyes narrowed and he brought his hand down. "This isn't over yet, queer boy. You're damned lucky Aaron still has my knife, 'cause if I had it with me now, I'd wipe that stupid look off your stupid mug right now!" A peculiar expression then formed on his face. "Or better yet, maybe I'd just. . .cut it. Heh. . .hehehehehehe."
Surprise registered on Gremio's face. Strangely enough, this reaction was not something he was expecting.
"In fact, if I ever get my knife back, I'm gonna cut you like there's no tomorrow," Shark continued, an insane look in his eye. "Yes. Hehehehehehehehehehehehe." He started to walk away, the disturbing merriment still evident on his face. After taking a few steps, he whirled around. "Do you hear me, you damn pansy? I'll be coming after you. You just remember that." With a chortle that seemed to run forever rampant, he turned back around and went on his way.
"And it seems Shark doesn't even know why he hates me," Gremio explained, not certain whether to laugh or to pity the man.
"Give him more time," Emily said absentmindedly. "I'm sure he'll warm up to you. . ."
"Emily, are you even paying attention?" Gremio asked her. He walked over to the other side of her apartment where she was. "I'm talking about Shark. The guy who almost jumped me when he met me? Remember that? Or don't you even care about that either?"
Emily scowled. "Gremio! That isn't-agh!" Her eyes flashed angrily at him for about a second. "That's not what I meant! Now you're just as mean as your friends are."
"Oh, I'm mean now?"
"Yes, you are!" she practically snarled at him. "It's bad enough Pahn and Cleo hate my guts, and now you're starting to sound like them!" She rolled her eyes. "Emily is bad. She probably was the one that called Shark on you," she finished in a sarcastic voice.
"Huh? It's not like that, Emily," Gremio informed her. "You don't even know what they say."
"I don't have to be around to know what they say! I can see it in their eyes as they look at me. They feel nothing but hate for me."
"That's not true, Emily! They don't hate you, they just hate the idea that you don't respect me enough to dump those jerk friends of yours, and frankly, I'm starting to believe them!"
Emily was shocked. She opened her mouth to speak, but all that came out was silence.
Gremio shook his head in disappointment. "Heh. I'm right, aren't I?" he said, his tone dripping with weariness. "I don't know what to do about you, Emily. I'm giving this relationship everything I've got, and the least you can do is meet me halfway. I mean, sheesh! I thought we had something good going. . .until your friends crashed into our lives. Soon after, you're starting to turn away from me, acting cold, and distant. . .and it's just gotten worse when Aaron left last week on a trip! And now, any half-decent moment with you is scarce. . .it's like playing love roulette when it comes to you!"
Suddenly, the sadness formed on Emily's face. "I. . ." she started, turning her face away. "I'm sorry, Gremio." She lowered her gaze to the floor as the moment passed. "I-it's just been rough ever since I had to flee from my old town." She sniffled. "You know I've told you how I hadn't really made any friends here. . .s-so when Aaron and them came here, I just. . .I don't know, I guess I was. . .just happy to see someone I knew. That's why I couldn't just turn him and his friends away. They were pretty much the last thing I could hold onto, the only memento I had of my old life. I just miss it so much. . .and-and I've never felt so lonely. . ."
"But that's where I come in, Emily," Gremio told her, concern on his face. "You don't have to feel lonely. I'm here. And if you'd just give Pahn and Cleo a chance. . .they would be there too. Just don't shut us all out." He put a hand on her shoulder.
Emily turned to him, tears streaming down her face. "I'm so sorry, Gremio," she whispered. "I promise I won't do this anymore. I-"
Gremio put his arms around her, and she returned the embrace.
After a long moment of tears, Emily spoke again. "Make love to me." Her voice came out tiny, needy. Moving her head upward, her lips were met by Gremio's.
"Heh. . ." Gremio scooped up the remains of the minced onion and boredly dropped them into the pot. Plink. Plink, plink, plink. The violet pieces splashed the tomato-based liquid against the inner sides of the aluminum container. Plink. Plop. Plink.
He went back to the cutting board, expressionless. He proceeded to cut up another vegetable, but scarcely paid attention to what it was. When he was done, he transferred it to the pot in the same fashion as the onion, barely catching a glimpse of what it was. Imperfect ribbons of orange streaked downward as he let the bits fall. Plink, plink. A carrot. Oh happy day.
"Gremio?" came the voice from the door.
"Gremio is not in right now. But if you could kindly leave your name, he will get back to you as soon as possible." Not realizing he had made a joke, he continued along with his chore.
"Hey, Gremio," Pahn tried again. "You okay?"
"It depends on your definition of 'okay,'" Gremio said slowly, his tone dark, perhaps too dark for Pahn's liking.
"Is it Emily again?" Pahn inquired sympathetically.
The only word to stop Gremio, to immediately take him away from what he was doing, to cause him to freeze in place.
Gremio did not face his friend. "It's none of your business," he replied coldly.
Pahn entered the kitchen. "None of my business? I'm your friend, Gremio. I have a right to know what's going on in your life at least once in a while. . .and I have a right to know what's making you act like a holed-up jerk right now."
Gremio stopped and slammed the knife so hard against the board, he startled his friend for a second. Turning around, he looked at Pahn with sheer annoyance. "Fine. You really want to know? Yes, it's Emily. Score another point for you and Cleo. The evil vixen is ruining my life again."
Gremio's excessive sarcasm shocked Pahn, almost frightening him. Even he had never seen Gremio so choleric, so solemn, so. . .downhearted. His inner tumult had begun to affect his appearance. His hair, which had grown somewhat long, had been uncared-for, as it was left tangled in knots, and reached down nearly to the shoulders. Blackened rings encircled his eyes. He looked terrible. "G-Gremio," he stammered. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean-"
"No, no, it's all right," sighed Gremio. "I'm just. . .yeah, you're right. It is Emily again."
"Um," Pahn started. "What's wrong now? I-I mean, if you don't. . .uh, mind-"
"No, I'm okay," Gremio insisted. "It's just. . .I don't know." He told Pahn about the events of the past week up until a few nights ago with his confrontation of Emily, with Pahn's expression ever-changing. "I mean, I thought she would continue to confide in me, and we might be closer than ever, but. . .I guess she broke yet another promise. We're growing apart even faster than before."
"Gremio. . .I know this is gonna sound weird coming from me, but. . .the last thing I want is for you to give up on your girl." Pahn shifted his weight uncomfortably and lowered his eyes to the ground. "I-I mean, I know we, uh, me, and Cleo, haven't made her feel too welcome since her friends came around. . .but I really don't want you guys to split up or anything. Seriously. You guys were meant to be. O-o-or that's how it. . .seems." He nervously scratched the back of his head. "Um. . .why don't you try talking to her again? Uh. . .may-maybe that might, uh, you know. . ."
Gremio's expression relaxed. "Yeah, maybe you're right. Maybe I should try again. . ."
But not even a miracle save the relationship. At least, not right then.
Outside of the McDohl residence a few days later, Gremio and Cleo were coming home from some sort of errand. Before they headed inside, however, they had started to converse about various things, when-
Cleo looked over the young man's shoulder to see an troubled girl heading their way. Above them, the clouds began to come together, stretching across the skies in a smooth grey roofing.
"What is it?" asked Gremio. He turned around to see what Cleo was staring at.
"Um, Gremio," Cleo started. "I think I'm going to head on inside. See you later." She squeezed his arm, then quickly retreated to the door and disappeared.
"Emily?" Gremio's face showed concern as the girl hurried up to him. "What's wrong?" A low, rumbling sound from the sky seemed to resonate around them.
"G-Gremio," she said in a scratchy voice. "I, I. . ."
"What is it?"
She uttered a sob. . .a painful sound that carried with it a weight of sorrow and regret. "Gremio, I can't see you anymore," she wept. "I-I'm sorry. It just. . .it, uh. . .I-"
Gremio's jaw dropped as a shower descended from the heavens. "Emily, y-you can't mean that. Whatever it is, we can work it out. We could step inside for a second to talk about-"
"No, no," Emily told him. "It has nothing to do with you, Gremio. It's me. And I can't be with you anymore. It's not right to do this to you anymore, dragging you along. It isn't fair."
"Dragging me along? What are you-"
"I've been seeing Aaron for the past two weeks, Gremio," she explained directly between sobs. "And I can't lie to you anymore. I can't keep making you think you and I have something."
"But Emily, I thought we did have something!"
"We did, we did, but. . .that was long ago. It's over now." As Gremio advanced toward her, she backed away. "Please, Gremio, you just have to accept it. You-" She paused and sniffled, the rain growing thicker. "You deserve better, Gremio. I hope you find someone better, someone worthy of your love."
Someone. . .worthy? thought Gremio in confusion. What does she mean by that?
"I have to go," she wailed. "Good-bye, Gremio." With that, she turned and ran off, her sobbing fading in the distance.
"Emily, wait!" Gremio called after her.
But it was no use. He was left standing there, all alone. He shivered as the rain finally seeped though his clothing, soaking him to the skin.
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