"I ... I don't think I'm hungry," Max said trying not to show how upset he was. Heck he was more than upset, he was scared. Something didn't feel right.
"Okay. I'm a little off my feed myself. Let's get out of this crowd though. I feel ... twitchy. I shouldn't, most folks seem nice, even the ones I don't know that well but ... I just ... I don't know ... feel twitchy."
He grabbed my hand and almost pulled me out of the crowd and off down a hall behind the choir loft and then leaned against the wall and slid down it.
"Max? You wanna talk about it?"
"You know don't you. You know."
"Maybe. Maybe not. I'm not going to put words in your mouth. So if you feel like it, tell me what I know."
He put his head on his knees. "I don't want to go with him. Sometimes ... sometimes he takes me places and the people there ... I just ... don't ... want ... to ... go."
"Max," I said sliding down the opposite wall despite the gypsy skirt I was wearing. "Max has your dad ..."
"He's not my dad. He's not. I don't have a dad."
"Okay, relax. We'll call him ... er ..."
"Annie calls him the sperm donor. Grams and Gran both hate it when she does. I know what that means though."
"Er ... uh ... well, it's ... it's the truth but let’s pick another title for him. Just call him Terrance for now."
"Fine, but don't call him my dad because he isn't. And I don't know why everyone keeps thinking that him and me have to spend time together. It don't change him and it don't change me."
Carefully I said, "But it does change you doesn't it Max. It ... makes you feel all crumpled up inside. It makes you change the way you are with people because you don't know whether they are going to be like him or not."
Max turned his head briefly and looked at me. "See. I told you that you knew. How come you can understand and no one else does?"
"Because when I was fourteen there was this jerk that tried things with me. Dirty things. I was ... unprepared on how to deal with a person like that. For a little bit I wondered what was wrong with me and thought it might be my fault until I finally got up the courage to tell someone and they helped to set me straight. I told on him but not before he'd already hurt my friend's little sister like that. Now she's really messed up ... first from being a victim of such a creep and now by victimizing herself and passing along the bad things to other people to suffer with. Eventually you have to say no more and try and do what you can to stop what ..."
"Uh uh ... not him. He never. But some of the people he hangs with are ... they're like that. They tell Terrance to do stuff and they'll give him drugs. Then he went to prison for a while but now he's back because there isn't enough room at the prison to keep him and he's worse than he was before. He keeps trying to get me to go places with him and I just don't want to. He behaves when there are other people around but if he takes me off I just know ..."
"Ok ... its' ok."
"No Syd. He steals things to sell to buy his drugs with." He was almost hyperventilating. "What if he ... what if he sells me?"
"Are you having a feeling about this or has he said something?"
"I heard him talking to his friends on his phone. It sounded like they wouldn't be friends with him unless he brought me along like he was supposed to."
"Are you sure of what you heard?"
Max shifted angrily. "You don't believe me."
"Did I say that? I just asked how sure you are of what you heard. If I'm going to the mat for you I need as much info as I can get."
"You ...? You believe me?"
"Max you have never given me any reason not to believe you. Plus we have our agreement about always being honest with each other."
Suddenly he scooted over beside me and begged, "Don't let him take me Syd. Please don't let him take me."