If you haven't read part 17, do so here. Or you can start from the beginning.My fantasies usually involved a huge confrontation with Mr. Hale. I would yell, he would bluster and flush in shame of the searing truths I would hurl at him, and I would slam the door so forcefully that the frame would crack. Sometimes the fantasies involved him attacking me in indignant rage, and the subsequent use of combat skills that in reality I did not possess. The household staff would watch and be ashamed that they had never thought to help me, and would resign posthaste. The fantasies never went any further—I never had any clues as to what I could possibly be doing without Mr. Hale.
On Friday I tell my boss that I will not be in the following Tuesday, because I will be moving. She sighs, attempts to make me feel guilty, and then admits that they'll survive without me. On Tuesday, instead of going to the library, I go through the whole house, finding every item that I can claim as mine alone (it is unsurprisingly little, mostly mementos of my parents) and stuff it into a backpack. I grab the suitcase that was given to me for my high school "graduation" (from one of Mr. Hale's business associates) and stuff clothes into it. I resist the urge to feel guilty for taking that which I did not buy. I may not have paid using legal tender, but I earned them nonetheless.
I wait, because I will not be a coward.
When he walks through the door that evening, Mr. Hale does not seem surprised to see me sitting in the foyer with a backpack at my side. I stand up.
"I'm moving out," I say.
Mr. Hale's face does not change. "You need to think about what you're saying, Bunny." He says it without any hesitation.
My name is Tucker , I almost say, but think better of it. "I've been debating it for a while, and it's time that I moved out."
"You won't survive out there, Bunny," he says gently, as if I'm simply confused. "You have no skills, no training." He strokes my cheek with the back of his knuckles. "You're the sort of boy who needs a protector."
I stiffen. "I'm a boy no longer, and it is thanks to your influence that I have few marketable skills." I do not know why I continue to keep my employment at the library a secret.
"Bunny," he says, his voice low, soothing, seductive, "Bunny, you need me." He trails a finger across my jaw, down my throat. My body starts to heat up so I knock his hand away. He makes no effort to hide his satisfaction.
"I do not need you anymore," I say fiercely. My voice is rough; I don't sound like myself. I don't sound like Bunny, I think, almost proud. I don't need to justify myself to Mr. Hale. I shoulder my bag. "Goodbye."
"Bunny—" he chokes. I wonder if this is the only time he's ever lost something, and pity him. I place my hand on his cheek, and doubt that Mr. Hale knows he's leaning in to me. I kiss him gently, surprised to taste his desperation. His left hand fists in my collar, the other skims down my chest to my zipper.
I step back and remove his hand from my shirt. "Goodbye, Arthur."
I close the door behind me.