Taking It Back Ch. 01

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I’m thinking of starting a new series. Would love to have your feedback and critique on the prologue and 1st chapter and see if it has the bones to carry on.

Prologue

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a good life up to this point. It’s been filled with highs and successes, many professional and personal, such as becoming a senior family law associate at one of the most prestigious firms in the city before I hit 30. But it’s also had its downs, but whose hasn’t? If someone were to read my life’s story in a book, some might say that there have been more lows than highs. I suppose it’s in the eye of the beholder. You can never judge your own life unbiasedly, because you’re too close to it. But I do feel I’m a happy and successful lawyer at 28, which is near the official middle-age mark, if you consider the average life to span about 70 years. If you thought 50 was middle age, I’m sorry to break it to you. But very few people hit the 100 year mark, so chances are, you’ve already joined the middle age club. Welcome.

Looking back, I’m sure some of my downs have been really low, but I choose not to focus on it too much. Although, I admit my downs have influenced how I approach life. While I try to be a helpful, positive and kind person, I freely admit that I don’t like men. Why? Because of a particular down I lived through when I was 11.

But that’s so long ago, I hear you say. True, it’s been a few years. But I think the passage of time has just helped me to realise that my resentment towards men is well-founded. Some might say my chosen field of legal practice is a direct result of my animosity towards men, and some might be right. Not to brag, but being on track to become the youngest ever junior partner at Kelly, Flock and Associates, I’ve built my reputation on only representing women in their divorces from their husbands. Don’t get me wrong, a break up of any family unit is something to mourn, and I don’t delight in seeing the demise of any union. But I pride myself in being there for my clients when they realise what I’ve known all along: that all men are entitled pigs.

You may wonder how, as a proud and out gay man I have so much disdain for the male sex. Well, just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I like men. In fact, I actively dislike them. I can name a number of reasons why I feel this way, but it would be exhausting for both you and me to do so. Instead, I’ll try to summarise it in one sentence: I feel men are self-important, ego-centric, entitled, disproportionately narcissistic, power-hungry, self-obsessed, self-aggrandising, shallow, selfish, ego tripping scallywags who assume the world owes them everything and everyone should care what they say when they enter a room because they’re men.

Now that we’re on the same page. But it’s not to say that I don’t believe there are good men out there. I do, my dad taught me that there are always exceptions to every rule. And I’ve met a few good guys along the way who still force me to believe in the goodness of man. But like I said, they’re the exceptions to the rule. I’ve just found, and especially in my line of work, that most men aren’t that pleasant to be around, the fact that I’m attracted to them notwithstanding.

Women have always been my saving grace, quite literally. They’ve saved my bacon more times than I can remember. From protecting me from bullies on the playground, to helping me keep my sanity when having to deal with bullish colleagues. I’m of the firm belief that gay men have a debt to their girlfriends that can never be repaid, but I try to pay it forward in life, by helping women get out of bad marriages and to leave better off than what their soon-to-be-ex-husbands would want them to be. If I can stick it to the exes in the process, all the better.

This is how I’ve arrived at what some would call my meteoric rise in my career. I’ve never lost a case in court in my entire record. A few years after graduating and entering the job market, I started getting a bit of a reputation as a bulldog, which meant that I hardly ever the inside of a courtroom anymore. Most of my cases end in settlements because of my reputation as a dogged fighter for my clients, who all happen to be women. It confuses my opposing counsels, and their clients. Am I a man hater? Why do I fight so hard for my clients? Why do I exclusively represent women? I like to keep them wondering, because while they’re trying to figure me out, I’m running circles around them and securing the best outcome for my clients.

You too may wonder why I take such a hardline against men, and it’s a fair question. I don’t usually share the origin of my outlook on life, but since we’re getting to know each other a bit better I’ll indulge your curiosity.

Chapter 1: Emotional damage

I grew up on a farm in the heart of corn country, the only son of a farm manager. The hot weather of our home state mixed with the open plains of nature was all a kid like me needed to go on many adventures with Malatya Escort my best friend, Noah. Noah’s father, a kind man who owned the farm, was my dad’s boss and friend. They got along great, as did my mom and Noah’s mother, which was even better for us, since we had even more opportunity to hang out together.

Noah was two years older than me, and everything I wanted to be when I grew up in those two years to get to his age, which seemed to take forever. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I caught up with him, he’d be two years ahead of me again. I’d often wondered what it would’ve been like to be in the same year as him at school. We could’ve hung out more, sat together in class, had lunch together. But I still got the benefit of having him as my best friend, because he took care of the annoying schoolyard bullies, which is what you would expect from a best friend who was actually more like a brother. A brother that I liked very much.

Look, I didn’t understand it at the time, I just knew I liked Noah. Liked him a lot. I liked how I felt when I hung around him. I definitely liked it when he ruffled my hair and smiled at me, and I loved it when he praised me for doing something entirely banal yet made me feel like I’d achieved some major invention. I even secretly liked it when he put me in a headlock and rubbed my head until I squirmed free and then he’d grab me again and push my face into his sweaty armpit and keep it there and make me inhale his almost-teenage-boy scent until I nearly passed out from lack of air or from an overload to my senses, I could never figure out which.

I don’t know if Noah’s affection towards me leaned in the same hero worship than I had for him, but I think he was fond of me, as fond as you can be of a small-for-his-age gay boy who worshiped the gravel you stepped on. In retrospect, I can appreciate that the pedestal on which I’d placed Noah was an impossible standard to maintain. But that’s as much leeway as I’m willing to give him.

My favourite memory of growing up with Noah as my neighbour and best friend came one extremely sunny summer afternoon when we were desperate to cool down. The farm had a small pond, which to us seemed like a whole entire lake. It was there to act as a watering hole for grazing stock and an easily reached water source when needed, but Noah’s dad had built us a dock leading into the pond so we could sit and catch fish when we wanted.

Noah was always good at building stuff, and designing stuff too for that matter, and had built us a small raft that we used to go out into the pond and just spend hours drifting around from one side to the other, talking about everything that existed under the sun and nothing whatsoever. When we reached the other side of the pond, one of us would kick out our foot and push the raft back to drift us to the other side of the world again.

Mom had only allowed us to go on the raft after we both completed a swimming course, even though the pond wasn’t that deep honestly. Whenever I threw that argument at her, she’d look at me seriously and say ‘Arthur, you can drown in a glass of water if you’re not careful,’ as if that explained everything. But we did the course, and we got to ride the raft, and we got to dream for hours on our backs, head to head, feet dangling in the cool water of our lake.

On that afternoon, we’d taken a dip to cool down and had been laying on the raft to sun dry when we noticed Mr Orwell, the grumpy foreman, walking up and down doing something really important. We didn’t much like Mr. Orwell. He just about tolerated us because my dad was his direct boss, and Noah’s dad was his boss’s. It was easier just to stay out of Mr. Orwell’s way, but I blame the folly of youth on our really poor decision that followed.

Mr. Orwell was a hunk of a man, and I’m not talking about him being a hunk. He was basically a slab of muscle mixed with fat. That came in handy in his job as a farm foreman, but it didn’t make him very nimble, which is why we mistakenly thought we could get away with our deviously genius plan. The sweat of the day’s work had soaked Mr. Orwell’s shirt to his shoulders, and he was shuffling along hauling a wheelbarrow around with feed for the small number of livestock kept on the farm.

From our vantage point, we had a good view of Mr. Orwell, but he wouldn’t have noticed us unless he’d been paying attention. But his attention was on the call of nature. We saw him look around, then disappear into a patch of bushes. We rowed back to the embankment and followed him. It seemed Mr. Orwell had answered the call of nature, and dropped his pants right there, behind a little mound of bushes, and proceeded to do his business.

Noah had scrounged together a bunch of large leaves and we pulled it underneath Mr. Orwell. When he was done with his business, we pulled the leaves back and dumped it into a shallow a few feet away from Mr. Orwell’s position. When he turned around to Malatya Escort Bayan presumably bury the evidence, there were none, and he was instantly perplexed. He turned around, looking this way and that, growing more alarmed by the second.

To be fair, it was pretty hard for us to keep a straight face, looking at this hulk of a man shuffling around like an awkward ballerina looking for his poop. Looking back, I acknowledge it was cruel, but to my adolescent self, I say bravo. It was a great prank, albeit an unsuccessful one, because we couldn’t contain ourselves and soon became overrun with our merriment, to the detriment of our own butts.

Mr. Orwell noticed us guffawing in the bushes and instantly knew we’d been up to no good, and at his expense no less. He hooked his suit around his shoulder and set after us, but we were way ahead of him. It wasn’t whether Mr. Orwell could catch up to us or not, we’d known when we spotted him, we’d be able to outrun him. But we wouldn’t be able to outrun our dads.

That afternoon, Mr. Orwell recanted with stark clarity a play-by-play of our ingenious plan to our very unamused dads, both of whose gazes became steelier by the minute as they listened to an outraged foreman who’d been innocently answering nature’s call while doing an honest day’s work.

You may ask why my favourite memory with Noah is one that ended in us both getting a hiding for the ages, but it made us closer together. We were united in our misery and our belief that the universe was against us. Yet we were content, because we were together, even with our burning backsides. We spent the rest of the afternoon in silent commiseration, comforting each other with our presence and quietly staring out at our ocean of dreams.

The humiliation of having the skin of our butts pulled off by our dads equalled us, removed the politics of our age gap and our economic statuses. We were just two boys, miserable and pissed off at the world and united against all forms of authority.

“The world sucks, Archie,” Noah said, dangling his feet over the edge of the raft.

“Yeah,” I said.

“But at least we get to face it together.”

That made my heart swell. And from that day forward, I didn’t allow anyone else to call me Archie. That was only for Noah to do.

Even though Noah and I were two years apart in school, we still hung out with each other whenever we could. On Tuesdays and Fridays, we had lunch period, so I’d get to sit at the older kids’ table twice a week and have lunch with kids two years my senior. I won’t lie, this did wonders for my street cred. The bullies in my class tended to steer clear of me, even though I still saw their sneers in the hallways. Honestly, I didn’t care about it back then, I was too busy living a great life. I tried to pay it forward by covering for the kids in my class who had no protection and got the brunt of the bullies, and my street cred allowed me to get away with it for the most part.

During my two hours a week of being let into the world of older boys, I would soak up all the stories Noah and his friends told each other. It was mostly about cars, video games, sports and girls. While none of those really piqued my interest aside from video games, I still took it all in. It might sound funny, but I saw it as my weekly testosterone injection. Come on, I don’t completely lack self-awareness, okay? I’d known, even back then, that I wasn’t like most boys. I didn’t care about things boys my age were supposed to care about. I’d rather talk about what popular girls in school were wearing than what they had on underneath their clothes. And I got strangely aroused whenever the boys at the table would horse around and wrestle with each other.

I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew I should keep it to myself. But even though I knew it was something that set me apart from most of the boys my age, and even older, I never felt self-conscious about it with Noah. How could I? He was my best friend. Even though I didn’t have the words to express that part of myself yet, I instinctively knew Noah would accept me, accept all of me, and would protect me against anyone that would try to point out my differences as wrong.

There was just one bug in my ointment, and that was Shirley O’Neil. I didn’t like her, and she didn’t like me. Her father was also a farmer, and had a ranch a few miles down the road from Noah’s dad’s. To her, I was just the kid of the hired help. To me, she was the crush of my best friend, the competition for his affection, and my sworn enemy.

I couldn’t help but be pulled out of my daydreams of watching Noah’s friends’ horsing around always moving on to something different whenever I heard Shirley’s name, which was every lunch period. The conversation would inevitably turn to girls and all the boys would discuss their crushes of the moment in shameless detail. However, Noah had had the same crush for the past three years, and she Escort Malatya continued to haunt my dreams all that time.

Shirley was becoming more than a thorn in my side these days. She was starting to occupy Noah’s weekends, and even his evenings during the week. Whenever Noah wasn’t doing sports, or helping his dad with chores, or playing video games, he seemed to be devoting whatever time he had left to Shirley. How was that fair to me?

Noah sensed I didn’t like Shirley. I got weirdly quiet whenever he brought up her name. And the fact that I never reciprocated by talking about a girl I liked made it a bit more awkward. Awkward for me, that is, because Noah was just such a laid back guy and didn’t get awkward, because he chose not to. He just laid on his charm in overdrive and made you feel comfortable again and by the end of your time together, you’d feel like you were soaring on clouds again.

Well, Shirley certainly wasn’t as laidback as Noah was. I first noticed her hostility in subtle but distinct ways. Quips she’d make about my family staying on Noah’s farm, commenting on Noah’s more expensive outfits, shrewd but clever digs she’d know that I would speak up on.

The last day I ever saw Noah Dawson started out like any other. It had been a normal day, a Friday, and I was excited for the weekend. Even though we were coming up to the end of summer, with the new school year looming, I was still excited for the endless possibilities that the weekend promised. I’d asked Noah if he wanted to hang out after we got done with our chores, but he blew me off. He told me some excuse of having to help his father with something or other, but I knew it was a blow off. He’d been spending more and more time with Shirley lately, and I guess I couldn’t blame him. She was pretty, for an ice queen, and I guess at 13 Noah’s hormones were starting to kick in. I was getting nervous about what that could mean for me, because at 11, I was about to become a man too. I could feel the hair follicles in my armpits starting to tickle.

That afternoon, I decided to kill some time and wash off the afternoon’s sweat from my chores in the lake. I heard voices across the small hill on which Noah’s house was built. I instantly recognised Noah’s voice, and then Shirley’s shrill tone pierced the air. There was another voice flowing down the hill, Mark Layman’s, Noah’s stand-in partner-in-crime when I wasn’t around. They were all in the same class, so it made sense that they would form a clique. It was normal, I told myself, for Noah to have friends outside of me. I had friends outside of him, right? I was so busy defending Noah’s extramural relationships that I didn’t notice I’d scaled the small hill and had automatically made my way to Noah’s house that I had done countless times before. That’s when I saw Noah, Shirley and Mark standing a few hundred yards from an old fence near his house. Noah and Mark both had slingshots in their hands, aiming at a can precariously balancing on an old post holding part of the rickety fence up.

Noah was by far the most proficient shot in the entire school, and my heart swelled again at how proud I was of him. His prowess with the slingshot was legendary, and had often gotten him and me into legendary trouble.

I saw Mark taking aim at the can with his slingshot and put an extravagant effort into directing the shot just right, then fired his try.

“Missed,” Shirley teased.

“Bad luck,” Noah said.

“Freaking wind,” Mark mumbled under his breath.

“Sure, blame the wind,” Shirley laughed. “Show him Noah,” she said, just as Noah loaded his slingshot and pulled it back valiantly, readying to fire his shot. Noah made the shot with no effort at all, as everyone knew he would.

Shirley flipped her hair. “Nice shooting, Noah.”

I rolled my eyes, but stayed out of view and decided I’d rather spend my Friday afternoon by myself than stand around quietly fuming as Shirley hung all over Noah and made snide little digs at me. I turned around and was headed down the hill on which I’d strayed when I heard my name being called.

“Hey, Arthur, come here,” Shirley called after me.

I turned around to shout at her to buzz off, but when I did, I felt Mark’s strong hands around my shoulders pulling me to the raggedy fence.

Somehow, Shirley had gotten hold of Mark’s slingshot, and was aiming it at my head. My very head on which Mark had placed the can they’d been slinging shots at just moments ago.

“Stand still, if you move, you’re dead,” Shirley yelled, training the slingshot right at my forehead.

“Listen!” Noah yelled. “Let’s go shoot geese.”

“No, no,” I kept saying, paralysed by fear. What should I have done? I was afraid that if I ran, the crazy necromancer would still try to aim at my moving head and hit me in the temple and I’d be dead. “No, no,” I kept crying. “Noah, please!”

Shirley handed the slingshot back to Mark, arguably the school’s second-best shot, but still not inspiring confidence in me that he’d be able to hit the can and not my soft 11-year-old forehead.

Shirley gave Mark the pebble to load into the slingshot. “If he moves, shoot him.”

“No, Shirley, please!” I pleaded.

“Shut up!”

“I’m gonna tell my mom!”

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