Rustled by a light, warm breeze, the treetops swayed back and forth, moonlight winking in and out between their branches. A chorus of crickets chirped, harmonizing with the buzzing of mosquitoes and other bugs as they hovered and bounced off the street lamps, their tiny, flitting wings made almost transparent by the glare above. A perfect end to a perfect day.
But that was outside. Inside was a different story.
Inside, upended furniture had been strewn among the chaos of torn books, ripped clothing, and broken dishes and knick-knacks. A shattered porcelain urn lay in the middle of the floor, its contents--none other than the pastry queen Sarah Pilmsley herself, or at least her ashes--surrounding it like a macabre sort of halo.
Even that didn't have Jack's full attention, though. He stood in the living room, gaze riveted to the sight in front of him: the door to his writing office ... ajar. He took several unsteady steps forward, the tight fist of dread clenching his guts. More destruction in here: his netbook bore a footprint in its center, his dictionaries and research books had been tossed and scattered. Jack closed his eyes with a gasp. There on his desk was his jump drive--his life's work--covered in bright blue ink from the now-broken glass inkwell Alan had given him as a gift. His first gift.
Jack jerked and snapped his head to the side, spying Alan over his shoulder.
Alan stood hovering just inside their busted front door, wide-eyed and pale-faced. "I called Craig, and we can stay with them until we get things sorted out here. The cops are wrapping up. They're gonna have someone board the door for us."
Jack smirked. The cops. What a farce they were. What had the older one said? This sort of thing happens, you know. Considering your situation. Seems they didn't mind protecting the little old ladies, but when it came to a couple of faggots, the cops had better things to do.
"Was anything stolen?"
Jack shook his head. "I can't tell. There's a footprint on my netbook."
"Aww, babe, I'm sorry." Alan came close and rubbed a hand up and down Jack's back. "C'mon. Let's go. We'll sort this mess out tomorrow."
Jack's attention remained fixed, the weight of reality settling down on him. He'd never felt like a minority--aside from his father, he had never encountered any extreme anti-gay sentiment. Not to his face, anyway. Though not everyone welcomed him with open arms, most people had been at least polite or professional. "Do you really think they did this because we're gay?"
Alan sighed. "I don't know. There've been a few break-ins in the area over the last year. None of those people were gay, as far as I know." He tugged on Jack's arm. "Come away, babe. Come on. Let's go. It's just stuff. It'll keep 'til tomorrow."
Just stuff. The words twisted like a knife in Jack's heart. Alan didn't mean it--Jack was certain that if Alan had stopped to think, hadn't been exhausted and upset himself, Alan would have chosen those words more carefully. Just stuff. Of course it was. Stupid of Jack to think otherwise. But taking it all in--the violation of this, Jack's special place, his sanctuary--Jack would rather the intruders had held him down and raped him. Would've hurt less.
Jack sighed. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm coming."