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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

For Everything You Were - 6. Is it Really You?

Two days had passed by, and I'd had no further communication from Ethen. Perhaps this was just a cruel joke, I thought. But then, someone had to be pretty sick to do a thing like that to me, but why was it all so authentic?

Cody had been distant with me ever since I had revealed all in the lounge. I couldn't blame him, though. This act by Ethen or whoever this person was had thrown up a shitstorm of questions that inevitably played on Cody's insecurities.

I was trying to handle it the best I could, darting from one emotion to another. Feelings of frustration led to sadness, and sadness led to joy that he was alive, then uncertainty around how I would feel if and when I saw him again. One things I was certain of though - despite mum, dad and Cody saying I could not see him, I was going to anyway. This was not something I could simply ignore. I had to know… I had to know he was alive, and more importantly, why?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Sitting in the garden with my shirt off, I soaked up the rays that were beating down from the midday sun. Cody, upstairs playing on the Xbox, had not said two words to me since we both got up. Dad was at work, and mum was leaving me to have some much needed alone time to think.

Lately, thinking or overthinking seemed to be my forte, and I wasn't sure if it was doing me good or wrecking my nerves. Or maybe it was wrecking my family. Part of me didn't care and I was confused why I would ever think like that. It's just not me. I loved my family; I loved Cody.

Pulling the small phone, I had guarded day and night out of my shorts pocket, I looked at the screen. Nothing! Ethen had said he was on the next flight over here. Even if he flew out the next day, he should still be here by now, I thought, trying to calculate in my mind how long it would actually take.

With a strange feeling of loneliness coming over me, I placed the phone back in my pocket and let out a heartfelt sigh.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It finally happened at one forty-six in the morning. A dull vibration from under my pillow threw me into awake mode as I looked at the alarm clock on my side of the bed. Trying hard not to wake Cody, I got up and went downstairs into the lounge and closed the door, frantically trying to answer the phone before it stopped.

"Hello, Ethen… Ethen?" I whispered quickly.

"Hey, I'm sorry it took-"

"What the hell took you so long?" I cut him off, annoyance in my tone. "I thought something terrible had happened, either that or this was a sick wind-up all along.

"Jake, I'm sorry, I had some loose ends to tie up, but listen, I'm here… I'm in the UK."

A surprising feeling of dread came over me, making my stomach turn over. Hearing Ethen was here should have filled me with, I don't know, happiness maybe? But no, quite the opposite, it put me on edge."

"Jake, are you still there?"

I swallowed hard. "So, where are you?" I asked finally, my voice shaky.

"A hotel about five miles from Heathrow airport." Again, I went silent, trying to figure out what I wanted to do… what I needed to do, or rather what Ethen was expecting me to do.

"You uh… you want me to come and see you don't you." It was not a question.

"I could meet you halfway? I think it's best I don't approach your house for several reasons."

"Yeah, I dunno how that would look."

"Not very good, seeing as no one knows I'm alive, well except one person, but we'll discuss that later."

"You mean me?"

"It doesn't matter Jake, the only thing I care about right now is seeing you."

"Well, I'll have to get the train in the morning. Everything has stopped now. Fuck, it's so good to hear your voice," I suddenly blurted, feeling a wave of nostalgic emotion drench me.

"You too, baby, I'm-"

"Please don't say you're sorry again. I'll be the judge of whether it is warranted when you explain to me what the hell has happened. Right now, it doesn't mean anything to me."

"I get that, really I do, but none of this was my doing. You have to believe that."

"Yeah."

"Jake, call a cab, please just call a cab and come meet me now."

"Ethen, I've had three hours sleep. It's almost two in the morning, and how am I supposed to get away now? My parents are already going psycho that you have contacted me from beyond-"

"WHAT?! Jake, you didn't tell them, did you?" Ethen hissed down the phone at me.

"I had to," I loudly whispered back. "Cody already knew I went to whizz phones and-"

"Shit, your dad… does you dad know?"

"Yeah, they all know-"

"Oh fuck, this is bad… did your dad say anything unusual to you these last few days, anything at all that might seem out of the ordinary?"

"No, why?"

"I don't wanna go into that over the phone. Look, I need to see you ASAP. What's the earliest train you can get?"

"They start running about four a.m. But Ethen, if I come to see you, my parents and Cody are going to try and stop me."

"You shouldn't have told them, Jake, Jesus, this is a mess that could have been avoided."

"Ethen, YOU could have avoided this mess if you hadn't faked your death. I think your little trick there trumps mine a thousand times over."

"I know you're angry, and everything you say is accurate, but I really need to see you to make you understand."

"You keep saying that, but why won't you give me anything over the phone?"

"Jake, there are some things you'll never understand. I don't mean that to sound patronising, cos I know it does, but speaking on the phone about things is not a good idea."

"Bugged?"

There was silence at the other end. Then Ethen spoke again. "All I'm saying is right now; you can't trust anyone."

"Should I trust you?"

Silence again. "I'll earn it by giving you an explanation, but if right now, you don't trust me? Well, that is perfectly reasonable. But I think you know."

"Know what, Ethen?"

"That in my heart, I would never do anything you hurt you."

I bit my bottom lip thinking about that statement as I gazed into mum's plate collection, which stood proudly in a glass cabinet. 

"I have a plan, don't worry about it," I said, almost confident-sounding, even though really, I didn't have a clue what I was about to do I could come back from. "I'll get the first train out, but where to?"

"You suggest, I don't know your country. Make it somewhere between your place and the airport, and I'll book a hotel for us to meet in."

"Fine, I'll text you the details now. I seem to have a number for you." Ethen didn't say anything to that comment except that he agreed.

We left the call there.

Sleep, since my phone call, had been out of the question as my brain charged along like a runaway train. "Madness, madness," I kept whispering to myself as I snuck around the house, putting a few clothes into a bag with a couple of other items essential to my travel.

Wandering into my dad's study, I wrote two short letters. One to Cody and one to my parents. I didn't know the legality of what I was doing, but I assumed that they would stop short of calling the police when they found me gone.

It felt like some driving force was within me - willing me to do this no matter the consequences. In the end, I guess you could say Cody was right because, in this moment of madness, I was jeopardising and quite possibly crashing my relationship with him for Ethen. But this was not about sex or the like. Meeting Ethen was about satisfying my own burning desire to find out the truth. Right now, No other feelings were there whatsoever, and this desire for truth was the only thing stopping me from coming to my senses and putting an end to this.

For Cody, I wrote that I was sorry and explained why I had to do this. I added that it was possible he might not be able to forgive me and that I understood. In reality, I was not okay with him ending with me. But if I didn't do this, I would forever be locked in a loop of regret for which right now seemed more important than relationships; fuck, even family.

To my parents, I simply asked them to trust me and not to worry that I would be in contact soon. I asked them to forgive me for going against them and hoped they too understood why I was doing this. It was all very heroic and dramatic, but it was how I was feeling at the time, so I didn't care.

I took one final look at my watch and saw it was twenty to four in the morning. Tiredness was not biting yet, but that was just because I was pumped up on a constant stream of adrenaline. One half of it because of Ethen, and the other half because of what I was about to do – walk out against everyone's wishes.

I crept into the hall with a deep breath and collected my duffle bag, which I had placed at the bottom of the stairs. Then, taking one last look up them into the darkness where they all slept, I turned around and gently pulled open the front door before stepping out into the warm night.

As I walked up the street, I could see the first hint of light starting to appear with a very faint change in the sky as it changed from black to navy blue. All was dead quiet apart from the creaking of my duffle bag as it lightly swung by my side.

Things started to liven up as I approached the end of my street and turned right onto the main road. The petrol station across from me already had queues of cars waiting to fill up. I could see trucks and vans were starting to arrive, ready to deliver their goods to the small shops that were due to open in the next couple of hours.

Finally, I got to Bell Street tube station and brought a ticket. I'd arranged to meet Ethen at a well-known hotel chain that sat around halfway between where he was and where I lived.

For me, I just wanted this journey to be over with already.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

"Tickets please," I heard the voice say, nudging me on the shoulder.

I cleared my throat, a little groggy. "Uh yeah, sorry," I said, pulling out my ticket from my pocket. I waved it across his face, and he nodded grumpily before moving on to the next person.

To speed up my journey, I had jumped off the tube and got aboard an overground train as it stopped a few stations. It was not my intention to fall asleep, so the fact that I did told me I was shattered.

I looked up at the LED marquee screen on the train ceiling, seeing I had two stops to go before I had to get off. It was almost five a.m., and I knew dad would be getting up in the next hour or so and wondered how long it would be before he called. The thought of that scared me because I was already running through the various scenarios in my mind as to how each of them would react, and yes, none of them ended well.

The train pulled to a stop at my station, and I alighted, feeling shaky and tired. I wasn't sure I would be able to deal with the emotional rollercoaster our meeting would likely create in this state. With the sun now up, I stood for a moment on the platform, taking deep breaths before pulling out my phone and Googling the hotel to get directions and an estimate of how far away it was.

The phone worked out a calculation that told me I was looking at a mere ten minutes by foot. Ten minutes seemed an awfully short amount of time to get my shit together as I pulled out the other phone and called Ethen.

"Tell me you're here," were the first words out of his mouth when he answered a little after two rings.

"I am, and I feel like a wreck. What the fuck have I done, Ethen?" Ethen didn't reply, his silence telling me all I needed to know, which was he didn't know.

"Where are you?"

"I'm walking to the hotel now. What should I do when I get there?"

"I'll meet you out front, is that okay?"

"Is that okay? I don't know, Ethen, this all seems out of this world. I keep thinking I am going to wake up, and this all be a horrible dream."

"Is that how you see me?" he asked, in a rare and out of place touch of humour.

"I'm serious, Ethen. Something is screaming at me to go back home."

"But you won't, right?"

"Too far in now, wouldn't you say?"

"We'll work something out. I'll see you soon, baby, okay?"

"Please don't call me that; it makes me… sad," I replied, looking up and the sky and all but hanging up on him.

As I got to the top of a small hill, I could now see the enormous hotel sign that dominated the horizon. Mild panic seemed to take me down as I connected that hotel to Ethen, knowing he was there. Finally, after a whole year, the boy I thought was dead was actually in my country, alive and meeting me. The anticipation was palpable as I neared the building.

Getting closer still, I could see a few people standing by the entrance, about seven or eight in total. One of them had to be him, but I wasn't quite close enough to get recognition. Taxi's seemed to come and go at an alarming rate, telling me this was a big hotel.

I stopped for a moment and brushed down my clothes. I don't know what for, but I wanted to look tidy for him, stupid really. I used the reflection on my smartphone to see what state my hair was in as I had been resting my head on a train window for some time. It all looked okay, although my eyes looked tired, and I hope he understood why. Which a quick hunch up with my bag again, I started walking.

That's when I saw him!

I stopped again, just staring. Our eyes hadn't met yet, and I was glad because my knees went to jelly, and my heart started to race furiously. He looked… older, losing none of the looks he had been born with. Wearing a black vest that showed off his torso, feelings of love came flooding back to me… thousands of images of our times together floated through my head. All of the anxiousness and dread I felt, at least for that one moment, disappeared until suddenly, his eyes met mine, and they came back.

I saw his hand slowly raise until it was covering his mouth. Then a lurch forward as a sob must have escaped him. After that, we both just stood there frozen, around a hundred feet separating us, me watching him sob and him watching me with my mouth open.

I couldn't move. As much as my mental being compelled me, my physical mechanics would not shift me forward. I wanted to collapse in the road, or be sick, whichever came first. Finally, he edged off the hotel window and started to walk towards me, slow at first until his pace quickened, almost ending in a jog. I dropped my bag to the floor as a fizz of emotion entered my cheeks, and tears started to form. He came at me with his arms held open, and we crashed into each other, ending in a tight embrace.

"Oh my god, oh my god… fuck me, you're real," I choked out.

"Yeah… yeah, I'm real," he sobbed.

We stood for ages until he tried to break our hug. I latched onto him tight, my nails digging into his back as I craved his embrace. His smell, his breathing, his skin… nothing had changed. It was Ethen, he WAS alive, and he was holding me.

The only action that brought me back to reality was when he tried to kiss me. It was probably innocent in hindsight because he was pleased to see me, but that brief event seemed to change my emotions as I dodged his kiss and stepped backwards, looking at him.

"Sorry, I just-" He went to say before I slapped him hard across the face and started to beat franticly on his chest with my fists.

"How could you do this? How could you do this to me," I yowled in the street. Ethen just stood there, letting me pound him as I got the built-up anger out of my system. I collapsed to my knees and cried hard at his feet while he leant down and placed his hands under my armpits, and pulled me up again.

"Let's get to the hotel room. I'll let you sleep. You look exhausted," he declared. I just nodded and wiped the snot from my nose onto my t-shirt before drying my eyes.

"Anyway, I can't sleep. I don't think I'll ever be able to sleep again."

"You will," he replied, placing his arm around my shoulder comfortingly. "I'm gonna make this okay."

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

"I got you some mineral water, I know you can't drink certain stuff, so this was all I could think of," Ethen said, passing me a bottle. I looked up at him from one of the beds I had collapsed on, thinking how sweet it was he remembered I was a diabetic.

"Thanks," I sniffed, sitting up.

"Do you want the air-con on?"

I shrugged. "Up to you."

Ethen went over to the control panel and pressed a few buttons, and I immediately felt a cool presence consume the environment around me.

"Have you got your kit with you?"

"Yeah, it's in my bag… Ethen…"

"How?"

I pushed the palm of my hand into one of my eyes and shook my head. "This is all just so confusing."

"Look, I will tell you everything, but before I do, I need to know you are okay. Are your sugars okay? Do you need to call your parents, and are you sure you don't want to try and get some sleep?"

"Yes, no, and yes," I replied. "I'll wait for one of them to call. I don't want to call this early they will freak out anyway."

"Okay, well, just let me know if I can do anything to make this easier… oh, and here, I want you to have this," Ethen said, gesturing me with two twenty pound notes.

"What for?"

"Your travel, I didn't expect you to pay to come and see me."

"I don't want any money, Ethen. I just want to know the truth."

"Well, I'll leave it on the side, and I still expect you to take it. So, where do I start?"

"At the beginning, perhaps?" I replied, bringing my knees up to my chin. Ethen tilted his head towards the ceiling and took a deep breath before letting it out.

"Well…"

©Copyright 2014 James Matthews, Mark Baker; All Rights Reserved.'
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Jake's parents and Cody are naïve if they didn't think Jake was not going to see if the Ethen on the phone was in fact Ethen. The buildup to their reunion is palpable so I do hope we get some answers soon.

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The mystery continues.  Not sure what it is, but if there is a tracking devise on Jake's phone then Alan is in on it.  That would make me very mad at Alan. Cody is a concern, but both Jake and Cody are responsible for their co-dependancy and feel they need to be apart in order to become friends again.  It is obvious that Jake and Ethen have never stopped loving each other.  Both of them have made extraordinary efforts to be united. Both have gone against what they were told and expected to do. I hope we can get answers in the next chapter.  

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