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I got writer’s block while working on “Playstore” and decided to switch gears for a bit. This is another slow burn. Let me know what you think.

Chapter 1: “You were the last good thing about this part of town”

(from Grand Theft Autumn by Fall Out Boy)


Caleb saw smoke fuming out the hood of his Jeep as he pulled off to the side of the road. He crashed his hands into the steering wheel, feeling the cold leather against his palms. Muttering a few “fucks”, he looked over to see his phone nearly dead- a habit he wished he’d broken. He could hear his mother’s voice now, dripping condescension and hitting him with nags like “Make sure your phone is always charged”, “I told you to take the main streets when driving around town” and the one that really stung just now, “It’s your car, so it’s your job to take care of it”. Still, he never listened, instead thinking about how rich it was that his mother tried to parent him when she and his father were only home half the time.

He turned off the car, seeing the smoke die down. After a few minutes of self-deprecation, the heat in his car won and he stepped out, walking aimlessly down an empty street of a part of town he wasn’t familiar with. “At least it’s not raining”, he said to himself as he locked the doors and fumbled with the keys in the pockets of his dark jeans.

He stumbled upon a diner straight out of the fifties, with candy apple red booths and a checkerboard floor that seemed to move as Buddy Holly played in the background. The place was nearly empty, so he found a lonely corner booth where he was able to see his car out the window, and hopefully drown his sorrows in french fries and a chocolate malt.

“Hey Holt, there’s a customer!” yelled a voice from the kitchen, nearly drowned out by the sizzling of a burger on the flat top.

Caleb heard footsteps from behind as another voice approached him, “Hey, sorry man. What can I get for you?” A tall brunette came into view with eyes focused on the notepad in front of him, still scribbling out orders from the other table.

Caleb did a double take, “You look familiar” He tried to move his eyes around and match the still concealed face with the one he remembered. “It’s Willy right?”

The server put down the notepad, seemingly jolted awake at hearing that name. He looked over at the stranger, trying to place him among those who would have known him by that name. A few seconds had passed before it finally clicked. “Wait, Caleb? Caleb Torres?” He asked, looking down at the tan boy with a smile as white as the vanilla ice cream he’d been scooping all afternoon. Liam smiled as the boy nodded, admittedly for the first time that entire day, “Jesus it’s been so long.”

Caleb beamed too, finally recognizing someone in this town that wasn’t washed away from his memory. Even through the extra few feet of height and tired look the older boy wore so well, he could still make out that baby face from when they were on the edge of being teenagers. Willy Holt was probably the only thing he knew he’d miss when his parents packed up and decided to move East. And the way the other boy looked back, only told him that maybe the feeling was mutual.

“It’s been what, almost seven years? How the hell have you been, Willy?”

“I actually go by Liam these days”, the brunette replied, almost embarrassed that he had to correct him. Caleb furred his brows, puzzled at the switch. Liam made sure to soften his tone, reminding himself that unlike the rest of the neighborhood that couldn’t be bothered to change, Caleb was clueless about the whole thing.

He took a breath, “My Dad’s also named William, and everyone calls him Willy. And so I kinda wanted to be my own person, hence Liam.” He averted Caleb’s gaze, preparing himself for the signature laugh that came from someone who wouldn’t understand. “It’s stupid, I know. I just prefer it that way.” The boy stopped himself from saying much more. Regardless of how nice Caleb was, there wasn’t a need to spill everything on the table.

Caleb nodded, “I get it. Trust me, I’m kinda the poster child of not wanting to be my dad’s shadow.” Liam finally looked at him with- a pair of blue eyes making contact with hazels, as if playing a game of chicken to see who would confess their secrets first. Both surrendered, not pushing the other and instead letting the information shared so far, be enough.

The moment was killed by the ringing of a bell coming from the counter. Liam looked over to see two burgers letting off steam. Caleb added, “Sorry for distracting you, if you have to go back to work that’s cool” He eased into the red fabric, “I’m just gonna chill here for a while anyways.”

Liam checked the time, seeing the shorthand at ten after three. “My shift actually ended a few minutes ago. I just need to serve those plates over there.”

“Oh cool.” Caleb said, sounding almost disappointed. “Say do you wanna, have lunch with me? I mean unless you have to run off somewhere. Üçyol travesti It’d be cool to catch up.”

Liam smiled once more, setting a new record for the day. “Sure, that sounds good. I’ll go grab us some food. Anything in particular?”

Caleb took a look at the counter, reading his way through the retro font, “Chocolate malt, extra cherries?”

A soft chuckle escaped Liam’s mouth, “Coming right up, man.”


Liam came back about ten minutes later with three plates of food balanced on his forearm with his right hand holding onto two milkshakes filled to the glass brim. Chicken wings, a large platter of fries, and some onion rings set off so much steam, that the edges of their milkshakes began to sweat condensation. He set them down carefully and took his place across Caleb.

“I know I eat a lot, but this is kinda much” Caleb said as he took one of the cherries in his mouth.

Liam rolled his eyes and pointed towards the old man working the register, “I’ve worked for Sal for years and he’s always shoving food in my face, telling me I need to eat more.” He picked up a french fry that burned his mouth as he chewed, “He’s worse than my mom sometimes.”

Caleb laughed, looking over at the muscular boy across him. Liam was filling out that black and white striped polo almost to the point of needing the next size up, leaving Caleb wondering how he’d managed to stay so fit while being surrounded by ice cream and onion rings. “I’m guessing you don’t eat like this all the time.”

“Nope, most days I just go for one of their house salads or like some chicken”, Liam replied, lying through his teeth. Truth was, he didn’t want to feel like he was taking advantage of the guy, so he rarely ate here. Sal had given him a job long before it was legal for a kid of his age to work. And in those days, he willingly ate up whatever Sal put in front of him which meant it was one less meal his mom had to worry about later. These days, with a lot more pride and some extra cash in his pocket, Liam didn’t want to milk Sal for anything more than compensation for an honest day’s work. Most shifts, Liam would run across to the convenience store nearby and get something decent to eat. Yet today, upon hearing that he’d actually be eating here, and with a friend nonetheless, Sal pulled out all the stops.

Caleb swiped a fry and dunked it into his chocolate malt with hesitation. He savored the salty sweet combo, asking, “So Liam” he said, emphasizing the preferred name, “what have you been up to all this time?”

Liam shrugged all the chips off his shoulders, “Just trying to get by.” It was the most non-specific yet honest answer he could give. Caleb nodded, again not demanding an explanation.

“Aren’t we all? Hell I turn eighteen next week and I still have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing with my life,” He said, twirling a figure eight in his ketchup with a fry.

Liam bit down on his straw, “Take it from me. No one really knows what they’re doing. We’re all just faking it until something falls into a place that doesn’t completely suck.”

“Glad to know I’m not alone”, Caleb said, raising his glass. The older boy brought his up, sending a clank throughout the diner. “I’m really glad I ran into you, man. We just moved back a few days ago and I swear, it’s like this entire town changed while I was gone.” He reached across and shook Liam’s shoulder, “It’s nice to see a familiar face.”

Liam smiled, trying his best to hide any ounce of disdain in his face. The past years had felt like a reaping of every mistake his family has sowed. And change wasn’t a wind that blew in his favor, at least not on this side of the tracks.

“So what are you doing in this part of town, anyway?” Liam asked, breaking away from his own thoughts.

Caleb chuckled, “I kinda got lost. My mom had given me a bunch of errands to do while she was away and I didn’t really know my way around so I ended up here. My car actually broke down right outside and my phone is completely dead, so here I am.”

“That’s like something out of a bad movie, you know?”

“At least it didn’t start raining. If it started to come down, I’d know for sure that I was cursed.” The younger boy shook his head as Liam laughed along with him.

“Well it’s your lucky day.” Caleb raised an eyebrow. “My friend’s brother owns an autoshop just up the street and I’m sure he’ll be able to take a look and see what’s wrong.”

Caleb breathed a sigh of relief, “You’re kidding! Jesus dude, I just ran into you an hour ago and you’re already saving my ass.” He looked out the window, remembering a time from back when they were kids. “Just like old times I guess.”

Liam nodded, repeating the words as if saying them twice could somehow bring him back to a simpler time. But it didn’t work. He was still here in this run down part of town across a kid who only served to remind him of how much things can change in the course of time. He was so caught up in Alanya Travesti nostalgia that he didn’t even see Caleb slip away to try and pay for their meal.

He rushed up to the counter fast enough to hear Sal yelling out from the kitchen, “Your money’s no good here, kid!” He said with a smile as he flipped a couple burgers with the flick of his wrist. Sal turned towards Liam as he strolled up to the register, “I keep offering to whip up something during his shifts, but that one-” he pointed towards Liam with his spatula, “that one never takes me up on it.”

“That’s cause you’re too good to me, old man.” He said with a shrug.

Caleb muttered a “thank you” as the man tended to a serving of hash browns in need of a flip. He opened his wallet and slipped a five dollar bill into the mostly empty tip jar.

The two boys left the diner and walked towards Liam’s Jeep that stood in contrast to the old pick-up trucks and suited up vintage cars. Liam whistled at the reflection shining off the car. It was practically brand new without so much as a dent from a turn that was too wide.

Caleb explained, “It was a gift- actually more of an apology” He placed the car in neutral as the two started to push it down the empty street. “My parents felt bad that they were putting me into a new school two weeks into Senior Year.” He turned towards Liam, “So they bought me this- you know, instead of actually talking to me.”

“Is that something that happens a lot with you guys?”

Caleb nodded, “Let’s just say, these days I talk to my mom more via iMessage than through actual conversation.” He stopped for a second, not knowing why he was revealing so much. It wasn’t like him to be so open. Caleb Torres was as guarded and secure as one of the many safes hidden within his home. But somehow he felt that Liam was someone he didn’t need to create an illusion for- no combinations, no secret passwords, just honest thoughts.

“Is it any better over at your place?” Caleb asked, hoping his pity party wasn’t falling on deaf ears.

“My mom’s always at work. And when she’s not at work, she’s sleeping for her next shift.” He looked over to Caleb with a plain smile, “Not much communication at the Holt house either.


They made it to the auto shop, easing the car along the empty sidewalk. Putting it in park, Caleb stayed behind as Liam went up to talk to the tall, burly guy that stood at the center of the garage doors like a guard dog. He flashed Caleb a meaningless stare before turning towards Liam.

“What is this?” The big guy asked, making sure his voice was low enough that it didn’t carry over the sidewalk.

Liam replied, “My friend’s car broke down just up the street and I was hoping you could fix it for him.” He exhaled, remembering his place, “Please Kev? I’m not asking for a freebie here. The kid is good on the payment.” He looked up, meeting the blank stare on the mechanic’s face, “When do I ever ask you for anything?”

“You don’t”, the mechanic replied, wiping his hands with a towel that hung out his pocket. He looked over towards Caleb then back to Liam, “I’ll do this for you- not him.”

Liam was about to question what he meant when Kev added, “He’s not one of us.” He looked over at the shiny car that stood just a few feet away from the run-down Honda Civic he was working on. “That’s a top of the line model from this year. No one in this neighborhood could even afford a used model from last year.” Kev shook his head, “The last thing I need are some rich assholes storming through my shop and accusing my guys of fucking with their expensive toys.”

Liam sighed, knowing he couldn’t reason with the one-sided logic. “Kev, he’s a good guy- trust me.”

Kev’s frozen facial expression finally thawed. He softened his lips to what could only be described as less of a scowl. “Come by tomorrow. I guarantee that I’ll fix whatever’s wrong with it by then.

Shaking his hand, Liam could feel the calloused skin against his like battle scars of a hard-worked life. The people in this side of town were in their own self-contained world, unwilling to let an outsider disturb their version of peace.

“Thank you for this, really. We’ll be back tomorrow.”

Kev nodded, adding, “And tell him I don’t accept fancy checks.”

Liam turned away without a reply and walked over to Caleb who leaned against the hood, seemingly oblivious to the conversation. In a simple t shirt and jeans, the only indication of Caleb’s wealth was the car he drove around- something that Liam would learn more about soon.

“Was everything okay?”

Liam nodded, “He said he’ll keep the car here overnight to fix whatever’s wrong. We just have to come back tomorrow when it’s ready.” He paused for a second, “And he only takes cash.”

The younger boy exhaled, feeling relief was over him in hopes that his car wasn’t completely shot. “That’s no problem at all. Shit, I’m just glad you knew someone who could help me Konyaaltı travesti out” Caleb replied, unbothered by it all.

“Now why don’t I give you a ride home before the sun starts to go down?”


The short walk back to the parking lot was quiet. Liam trailed behind, still reeling from what Kev told him. Caleb Torres wasn’t one of them. Yet he couldn’t explain what it was that made him want to cash in favors for this kid he hadn’t seen since middle school. Every time he looked into those hazel eyes, he could see the boy who showed him kindness- that was the Caleb that he remembered. And if this six foot kid pushing eighteen was anything like that, then sticking his neck out wouldn’t be in vain.

Liam made his way around, giving the younger boy time to marvel at the car in front of them. It was an older model Dodge Charger- probably from before either of them were born with a paint job that only managed to shine in the right light. The interior was more of the same- a stitched up body that was solid, yet mismatched. Caleb sat down, feeling the decades of memories seep into his body as his jeans mended with the worn out fabric.

“It may not be much, but it gets me where I need to go.” Liam said in a voice that hung onto it’s last ounce of pride. “I scraped up the money I saved and managed to find it at a used lot for next to nothing. Kev helped me figure out what parts it needed and I slowly pumped money into it until it was up and running.”

Caleb ran his fingers through the sun-kissed leather, “It’s like every inch of this car has a story to be told- some past life that ended so it could make its way here.” He looked over at Liam, “It’s amazing, man.”

Liam muttered a “thanks” as he drove off into town. The ride was quiet with Caleb reaching his head out the window to take in the buildings that bore no resemblance to the place he remembered. Liam held onto the steering wheel, watching the skyline change before their eyes as they left the inner city and made their way across the tracks into Lakeshore, a gated suburb which housed each of the city’s politicians, CEO’s and recently, the Torres’s.

It was the first time Liam had been in this part of the city in a while. This neighborhood offered nothing more than overpriced coffee and shops filled with handcrafted items you could find on Etsy at much cheaper price. Worst of all it served as a reminder of what he’d never be able to get- the freedom of knowing what it’s like to grow up in good circumstances; of not needing to struggle or worry about what would happen if the paychecks stopped coming.

The look of anguished flushed through his olive skin, nearly bubbling at the surface. Caleb took notice, “Hey are you alright?”

He shook it off, forcing a weak smile as he continued down the line of boutiques. “Yeah I haven’t been down here since we were kids.”

Caleb looked around, spotting a few burger joints and ice cream shops, “No good restaurants worth coming all the way here for?”

Liam shook his head, “You were the last good thing about this part of town.”

Caleb didn’t know how to respond, instead offering up a simple smile as the shops came to an end. Liam turned into the gated community, taking turns before Caleb even tell him where to go. And before they knew it, that old Charger was easing its way down street lined with palm trees and giant houses on either side.

“I can’t believe you remember where I live.” Caleb said as he rolled up the window, watching the sky turn a light shade of pink.

“How could I forget. I remember the first time I followed you home after school- I had never seen houses that tall”, Liam said with a laugh.

Caleb brushed it off, not taking the bait of a compliment. He pouted his lips slightly, “You know, my mom was so happy we were able to buy our old house back.” He chuckled, reminding himself how nonsensical it was. “I mean why get all this space when she and my dad are gonna be out of town half the time?”

“Look man. My mom and I are lucky if we share a meal together between school and shifts.” He looked over to the younger boy, giving him a reassuring grin, “Our cramped two bedroom row home manages to feel too big- it’s like it’s half lived-in.”

“It’s nice to talk to someone who understands.” Caleb sank back into the stitched up upholstery, feeling that bitter truth crack along the façade he built to trick people into thinking everything was okay. It wasn’t. And for the first time, he was willing to let someone else know that.

Liam pulled up to the large two storied house bathed in the sunset and accented with marble cladding. He parked right in front of the For Sale sign still hammered into their obnoxiously green yard. He lightly drummed his fingers against the steering wheel as neither boy felt like parting ways.

Caleb unbuckled his seatbelt, asking, “You’re welcome to come inside if you want. My dad’s off on some business trip and my mom’s out of town for the next two days.”

Liam hesitated slightly, not knowing if he should. “I actually gotta head home. It’s my turn to make dinner tonight.” He wasn’t lying. But yet he still felt this sense of guilt wash over him as Caleb’s face was framed by the large empty house behind him.

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