Gentry slammed the locker angrily. Fuck.
He knew what that look meant; that stupid mix of cow-eyed hurt and confusion. He had seen it before, didn’t need to see it again.
“Gentry. I saw the picture.”
No, really. Well, there was the confirmation he needed. His mind drew a blank as those four words resonated through the empty locker room. And there stood Zach, with his hands unknowingly curled into fists and lips pressed flat together. Gentry had never wanted to punch him harder.
“What your dad did to you is wrong.” That grating voice almost stumbled over the words it formed. In response Gentry took a deep breath and closed his eyes to think.
“Gentry. I didn’t know---”
“The picture. Give it back.”
“Why would you want to keep it? Does it turn you on, Zach?”
“What your dad did to you was disgusting.”
“Then give it back.” Gentry said with an urgent discomfort, “No one else needs to see it.”
The memory was his, that picture belonged to him. No one else, no one. He never wanted to see it again, yet here it was; a silent reminder of something he should’ve burned but never could bear to look at, something he should’ve thrown away but couldn’t bear to part with. His father had documented it, Carly had stolen it, and now Zach had it in his grip. Everyone but the rightful owner---Violated again and again.
“I’m not giving it back. I’m giving it to the police.”
His heart throbbed in his chest, and he felt a cold sweat of fear break out over his skin. He had no right--- it was not his memory. Zach never had his father give him that funny look. He never had to wonder what a hug meant, never had to wake up in the middle of the night to see his father standing in the doorway with that hunger in his eyes. No, Zach could sleep at night because he never kept the vow of silence. This was not Zach’s place. Not Carly’s. No one’s but his. Gentry feigned calmness and asked,
“What do you want for it, Zach?”
“Nothing,” his features twisted in disgust, “because I’m giving it to the police. Other people might be at risk.”
Gentry slammed him against the table. The wooden structure shook as he fought to restrain Zach’s hands over his head.
“It’s not your business.” Gentry breathed with a low growl in his voice, “Don’t make decisions on things you don’t understand.”
“I don’t need to understand to know that he poses a risk.” Zach kicked up at him, only to be forced into the table again. This time, the edge chafed into his spine.
“Don’t TALK to me like that.”
“I can do what I want.”
Gentry gave him a searing look then pulled away. Zach pulled himself onto his feet again and exclaimed,
“What the fuck is wrong with you? Don’t you want to punish him for what he did? Your dad’s a creep.”
“My dad made a mistake. My family moved here because of it. I lost everything.” He inhaled jerkily, failing to meet Zach’s eyes, “I’ve spent years trying to move on and be as normal as possible. Don’t drag me back.”
“This isn’t about you. He could hurt other people.”
“You’re the only one hurting people.” Gentry pulled close again and Zach flinched. There was a note in his tone that seared, a rawness that hit like an iron pressed to skin. It wasn’t an observation, it was a full out accusation.
“If anyone else finds out, my family will become a freakshow. People didn’t care about me before, why would they care now? Zach, it’s so obvious…” his heart pounded in his chest, straining each breath and every word, “everyone is just waiting for the fall; they’ve been jealous all these years. They pretend to care but then they talk behind my back, and they’ll wonder how I could be my dad’s assmonkey despite being so normal--- being such a man. They’ll wonder if I’ll fuck their kids, too. That’s all they will talk about--- It’s the only thing they’ll see. It’s entertainment to them, fucking entertainment, Zach---”
His voice broke.
“---but not to me. This is my life… It’s mine.”
There was no other sound in the room but that of his own heavy breathing. It felt as if he were drowning, getting pulled deeper and deeper into murky black. He slid up against the wall and down to the ground, wrapping his arms around his legs.
The tears stung his eyes, and he knew when the first one coasted down his cheek the others would follow. They were unstoppable like the ocean.
“Are you crying?”
Zach pressed his lips together, averting his eyes. He couldn’t see this, couldn’t bear to hear it either.
“I have to give it to the police. Gentry--- do you want this to happen to other people?”
“I don’t give a fuck.” Hissed the redhead, “Other people never cared about me. Why should I care about them? You talk about helping everyone, Zach, but what did everyone ever do to help you?”
Zach frowned, and reached his hand out only to have it hit away.
“You’re worse than Carly, Zach. At least Carly was fucked up enough to know what he was dealing with.”
Zach winced at the comparison, and Gentry felt sick satisfaction even as he sensed the footsteps throbbing on the floor, audibly moving farther and farther away.
“You can replace everyone, Zach. But you can’t replace me.”