The Empty Spaces Between Us - 19. Chapter 19
It was a bitter cold night when Tyler was awoken by the ringing of his phone. At first, he didn’t recognize it through his half-dreaming state. It had been a snowy November and he hadn’t much work through the last four weeks going into the beginning of December. He’d saved enough through the rest of the year that it wasn’t hurting financially, and Alex had been doing better at keeping up on his end of the bills, so he was able to relax a little. But being cooped up most of the day with nothing to do but play video games had started to wear on him. He’d texted Andy a few times, but he had been occupied with Brian and the kids. Jacob was all over the place finishing up some last minute projects and everyone else just seemed busy.
He reached for his phone, being careful to not wake Alex lying next to him. His Aunt Julie’s name was on the screen and he was more awake now as he answered it. “Aunt Julie? It’s three in the morning.”
“Tyler,” she said, sounding like she was in a hurry, “I’m with your dad now. He took a bad turn last night and I think he’s going to go soon. If you wanna see him one last time, you better get here now.”
“I’m on my way,” he responded without thinking. He ended the call and got out of bed, trying to be quiet as he dressed himself as fast as he could. He left a note for Alex next to the bed, explaining where he was going and within a few minutes, he was in his truck, heading out of the town, hoping to get to his dad before the sun rose.
The longer he drove, the more his mind started to go over the last few months. A year ago, he wouldn’t have dreamed of taking off at three a.m. to go see the father that had all but abandoned him as a child. But now, after spending time with his dad, on the phone and in person, he was reluctant to let go of him for some reason. He’d sounded hopeful the last few times they had talked, and he had sounded better in the last month.
But Alex had become harder to live within that time. He would get unhappy whenever Tyler left the house at times and at other times seem disgruntled that he was there. Their sex became completely one sided to the point where Tyler wasn’t enjoying it, much less getting anything close to an orgasm. When he decided to bring it up, Alex told him that he was doing it wrong and that it wasn’t his fault if Tyler couldn’t get off.
Alex berated his choices of friends and would stare daggers at him if he left the house to go visit Drake or Andy. He’d been invited to Thanksgiving at Jacob’s house, but knowing Kyle would be there and Alex’s baleful glare when he mentioned it prompted him to tell Jacob that he already had plans. The latest blow was Alex talking about his mother. They went out together and Colleen had been less than impressed with Alex and shared her opinion with Tyler privately. Alex told him his mother was jealous of them being together and she was a bad mother for making him live in a trailer park. He tried to explain their situation to Alex, but he was convinced he was right, and any time Tyler went to see his mother Alex spent half an hour asking him question after question about what his mother said during his visit.
The entire situation started to wear down the self confidence that had been growing over the last year. Alex caused him to second guess his decisions and frankly strained his relationships with his friends. It was never something that he would say directly. He would just infer something but not give any details. Just a shrug and some muttered, “you know what I’m talking about.” Alex had proven Tyler wrong when he never heard from Sean. He’d seemed like a genuine friend and he couldn’t deny that there was some kind of odd attraction between them, but after a few weeks, Tyler finally got up the courage to call him only to find that the number was no longer in service. It was a hurtful moment, but he never gave Alex the satisfaction of knowing he’d been proven right.
It was a long four hour drive, made shorter by Tyler staying above the posted speed limit and being careful whenever he got near bigger towns where state patrol cars tended to lay in wait. During the entire drive, a part of him kept praying, hoping for a miracle. It had taken him months to figure it out, but he finally understood that his dad was a part of him. A link in his life that if severed, could never be replaced. His mind replayed the few faded memories of his times with his dad as a little boy. His dad pitching balls to him in the back yard. His first Tee-ball game. His father’s loud, boisterous laugh. He didn’t want to lose it just yet. Maybe there was more of their relationship they could recover? He realized, a few months ago, he wanted a father. He needed it.
Tyler resolved that once he got there, he was going to tell his dad everything. That he really does forgive him for those lost years and, even if it’s just for five minutes that they would be a family again. He was craving that feeling of being connected. He felt it at his dad’s house. When he was there, he didn’t feel unwanted or ignored. He didn’t feel a wide open gap between them that seemed uncrossable. They were just father and son. A family. And he wanted that feeling desperately.
When he got to the assisted living facility his dad had moved into, he jumped out of his truck and hurried to the door. The sun had just fully risen and was casting its cold light over the world as his breath puffed out of his mouth, going up the stairs and inside to the front desk.
He pulled out his driver’s license when he stepped up to the receptionist at the desk. “What room is Philip Brewer in?”
The woman behind the desk looked at his card, looked at her information and said, “room 225. The elevator is down this hall to the left.”
“Thank you.” He fast walked down the hall she pointed out, found the elevator and rode it up to the second floor. He followed the signs and went down a hall before taking a right hand turn towards were room 225 was located. The moment he turned his steps slowed. In the hallway, he could see his Aunt Julie and Uncle Terry standing near an open doorway with forlorn expressions on their faces. A chill crept into his stomach as he came closer to them.
Julie looked up from where she had been staring and saw Tyler approach. Her face said everything he needed to know and in that first second, it felt like a part of him broke off inside. It didn’t hurt as much as he expected, but there was a new emptiness inside him now. “Julie...?”
She bit her bottom lip, swallowed hard and said in a soft, monotone voice, “he passed away. About an hour ago…”
Tyler stood still as his breath caught in his throat. He exhaled audibly and blinked his eyes to clear them as he turned his head. With his hands on his hips, he focused on his breathing and trying to get to a point where he trusted his voice to not break. “Is… ah…” He wasn’t sure what he should say, and he just grasped at the first thought in his mind. “…Do I need to do anything? Do you need anything?”
Julie smiled through the obvious pain in her eyes. “No, dear. They took him away a few minutes ago. He didn’t want a funeral or any service. He’ll be cremated and have his remains buried in a plot near here.”
Tyler absorbed her words and nodded vacantly. He wouldn’t get to give his dad a real goodbye then. The thought brought a renewed tear to his eye. He wasn’t even sure why he was reacting the way he was. “Is there anything else?”
Julie let out a breath, like she was expelling the last bit of air in her before recovering. “Come inside for a second.” She motioned him to follow her into room 225.
Tyler was vividly aware of every step he took as he walked into the room where his father spent his final days in this world. Inside was a small but tastefully decorated room that looked less like a hospital room and more like any other bedroom. There was a comfortable bed with a nice frame. A small couch and two plush chairs in the corner, he guessed in case his dad had had any visitors. A single door that presumably led to a bathroom and a nightstand near the bed were the only other noticeable normal things in the room. There were also medical monitors and what appeared to be an empty IV bag on a stand near the bed. In Tyler’s eyes, it was the medical equipment that was more out of place than anything else in this quiet, empty room.
His aunt stepped around the bed to the nightstand and waved him over. As he went around the bed, she picked up a picture frame and turned to him. “I think he wanted you to have this. Tyler, believe me when I tell you he loved you so much and he was so proud of you.”
Tyler looked at the picture in the frame and snapped his mouth shut to prevent anything from coming out. It was an old, grainy picture but he could clearly see himself as he had been when he was a little boy. Dressed in a little baseball uniform clutching his kneeling father as they both smiled brightly up at the camera. If it had to be the last gift his father ever gave him, then it was a good one. He realized he’d never get to say half the things he wanted to say to him or hear all the things he wished he could have heard. In the back of his mind, the young boy standing at shortstop knew his father was never going to be in the stands watching him play. He sniffed to clear his nose and throat, took a breath and said, “thanks.”
Julie wrapped her arms tight around him as she quietly choked out, “I’m so sorry.”
He hugged her back and allowed himself a moment to shut his eyes and express the deep sadness he felt inside him. “I’m sorry too.”
With nothing else to say, Tyler quietly left, clutching the picture in his hand. He kept his head up and showed no feeling as he walked out of the hospice and back to his truck. When he got in, he carefully laid the picture on the passenger seat and sat there for a moment, staring out at nothing. He felt devoid of feeling. The chasm left inside him from his father’s death seemed like a black hole, sucking the rest of him inside. He felt no pain, no loss, no joy, nothing.
Reasoning that sitting there wasn’t getting him home any faster, he started up his truck and set off back through Pennsylvania to home where Alex would likely be waiting for him. He didn’t touch his phone during his trip, sensing he couldn’t deal with the added distraction. He drove slower on the way back as if he was suddenly aware of the less than perfect roads which still had patches of snow and ice nearby. An unnatural quiet took hold in the cab of his truck and in his mind. He kept the radio off and didn’t make a sound until he stopped for lunch a few hours after leaving Philadelphia.
Tyler ate as quietly as he had driven. He took his time to eat, tasting nothing of what he put in his mouth as his mind was preoccupied by the sudden change in his life. The blackness inside from his father’s death slowly started to fade, leaving him with a peculiar confusion. For the majority of his life, his father had not been present, but Tyler’s reaction upon hearing of his death seemed wrong. The idea that he would nearly break into tears upon hearing about his father’s death would have been an almost ludicrous thought to him a year ago. This was a man who forgot all about him and wouldn’t do the hard work of raising a child, preferring instead to just send a check that barely made ends meet.
A long list of things and opportunities he had to live without because of his dad started to form in his mind. College, his first car and who knows what else he missed out on because of his circumstances. Circumstances his father’s absence created. He sat there, chewing his food, trying to remember the anger he used to feel. It was still there, but it was tempered by the last time they talked on the phone. The look on his dad’s face when they saw each other back in September. The sudden rush to his bedside which turned out to be too late. There were still questions and few answers. He just wanted to go home and crawl back into bed.
Eventually, he got back in his truck and resumed his journey. The truck remained silent and his thoughts turned more towards what he was going to do and tell Alex about what happened. Their relationship wasn’t perfect, he knew. There were disagreements and at times there were a few arguments. But he could be comforting at times and right now, he just needed to be comforted.
Despite his desire to get home, he still didn’t drive as fast as he could have. The white noise of the engine and the wind was the only thing that filled the silence around him. By the time he turned off the interstate and onto the highway that headed back to town, the sun had started slipping under the horizon. It was another half hour before he entered town. He made the few turns onto his street just as the sun sank under the horizon and started to feel a sense of relief that lasted until he got up to his house and saw a familiar car parked where he always parked his truck on the street. Alex’s car was in the driveway and there were no lights on in the front of the house, but he could see a hint of light through the windows coming from the bedroom area in the back.
The other car belonged to a co-worker. One of the new guys who got hired at the beginning of the year. Dex. Quiet, unassuming Dex. Tyler parked his truck and made his way up to the door. He stopped there, listening to the sound of Alex moaning and the moans of another younger voice mixed in. Tyler only stood there for another moment before quietly heading back to his truck and driving away.
The numbness he felt before only intensified inside him as he drove aimlessly through the darkened streets. Tyler felt so inadequate. He could put up siding, replace roofs, and a host of other menial, unimportant chores, but when it came to what was important, he constantly failed. He wasn’t even sure why Alex was having sex with someone else. He never thought their relationship was worthless. Maybe he was just the one that was worthless. This entire day was just so worthless. He had wanted to go home and climb into bed, but he couldn’t even do that because it was being used.
Without any conscious thought, he found himself pulling up to the Howard house and parking. The snow had mostly dispersed, and the driveway was cleared. Maybe talking to Jacob could get him feeling something. At this point in his life, getting to feel anything would be an improvement.
He walked up the ramp to the back door, which was still glowing, like some sort of magical welcome sign to those who came to this house. He knew better than to knock so he just turned the knob and the door opened into the dimly lit kitchen. He could hear the sound of the television in the front of the house and a few lights as he closed the door and made his way down the hall.
“Andy? Is that you?” Mr. Howard’s voice carried a pleasant hint of curiosity to it as Tyler stepped into the doorway, looking around like he was lost and didn’t know how he came to be here. “Tyler,” David said with a surprised smile. “I didn’t expect to see you here. What can I do for you?”
Tyler stood there, looking around the room. Other than David, it was empty, and the rest of the house seemed dark and vacant. “I, ah… I was just looking for Jacob.”
David’s smile faltered a little, showing concern for Tyler’s stunted voice. “I’m sorry but he’s not here. He’s in Harrisburg for the winter with Kyle.”
Tyler’s hopes had already been crushed twice in one day and suddenly remembering that Jacob wasn’t here and likely wasn’t going to be here anytime soon left him feeling like his heart may never recover from this. He stood there for a second staring blankly at the floor before he said, “I must’ve forgot. Sorry to bother you.” He turned and slowly headed back the way he came.
“Tyler,” David called as he got up from his seat to follow him.
Tyler didn’t stop moving. He knew if he did, he wouldn’t be able to make it out of the house. A small, pained noise came up from his throat despite his attempt to remain stoic. He felt so empty and hopeless.
“Tyler, wait.” David’s voice sounded a little more insistent as he caught up to the young man. David could tell by his walk that something was terribly wrong with him and his paternal instinct urged him to put a gentle but restraining hand on the boy’s shoulder.
Tyler stopped. He was so tired, and his life felt like everything he’d put effort into had been wasted. He turned slightly and looked up at that face that had first intimidated him over a year ago that now looked down on him with eyes full of compassion.
As their eyes met, David said in his gentle, infinitely caring voice, “what’s happened?”
Tyler blinked as he felt his eyes well up. A tiny note of pain came out of him before he said in a broken voice, “my dad died today.”
Before he was aware of it, David wrapped his arms around him and held him close. “I’m so sorry.”
Hearing those words were all his heart could take before a sob escaped from his lips followed by another and then another until the tears he had held back from a lifetime of disappointments and failures came flowing down his face as he wept in David’s comforting arms. Once it started, Tyler couldn’t stop and the feel of David’s warmth and caring only fed into his heart’s need to cry over this crushing loss that he couldn’t understand.
David held the boy, running a hand through his hair softly, in an effort to soothe him. “It’s okay. Just let it out.” He kept a hold on him while slowly leading him back into the living room, coaxing him to sit while he continued to release his tears. He kept an arm around his shoulders as they sat there together.
After a few minutes, Tyler recovered enough to choke out, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to--”
David shook his head, still speaking in that same voice that helped Tyler to get his tears under control. “You have nothing to be sorry for, son. Tears are a natural part of grieving.”
“But I shouldn’t be grieving,” Tyler replied. “We barely saw each other, and I spent most of my life not caring about him.”
David was silent for a moment. “You mentioned you didn’t get along with him. Why is that exactly?”
“He… he left when he and Ma divorced. I was just a kid and after that, I barely ever saw him. It was like he suddenly decided he didn’t want me.”
David sighed and nodded as if he seemed to understand. “He was kind of absent. Didn’t do the things a dad should’ve done for you? Is that what I’m hearing?”
“More or less,” Tyler replied.
“Yeah, that’s not an easy thing to get over is it?”
Tyler’s tears had stopped as he thought about it. “Did your son play baseball?”
David smiled a little. “No. He was on the swimming team in school. Well, more or less they started the team. Troy, Kyle and Andy did along with Brian. The junior high and high school had never had their own swim team before them. But it was something they wanted to do, so me and the other parents made it possible.”
“Oh yeah. Andy showed me the pictures.” One side of his lips lifted a little in amusement seeing the glimmer of pride in David’s eyes. “Did you go to his competitions?”
“All of them.”
Tyler’s eyes shifted down. “I would’ve liked my dad to come see me play. But he never did.”
“It’s his loss, Tyler,” he replied gently. “Don’t weigh yourself down with his mistakes.” A few moments passed between them before David said, “my father and I… We didn’t get along all that well either.” He sighed, leaning his head back. “My mom died when I was a little kid. About ten, I think. And I don’t think my dad knew how to take care of a kid on his own. He wasn’t mean or hit me or anything like that. He was just… cold. I think when my mom died, the best parts of him died with her. He nearly lost this place too.” He looked up towards the ceiling and over to the walls. “He just didn’t know what to do to run a farm, I guess. I remember my grandfather being a good man. As I got older, I wanted to be more like him.”
He looked down at Tyler and said, “did you know I was running this place nearly from the second I got out of the marines? My dad said I was big enough to do it and before Helen was moved in, he took off. Stuck me with a couple hundred thousand dollars’ worth of debt to pay off too.”
Tyler looked up at him, a little surprised. He figured with the house and the orchard Mr. Howard was rich. “How did you manage to pay it all off?”
David smirked and chuckled. “Well, first off, I planted more trees. I got some of the money paid off with help from my veteran’s benefits. But, just between us, I worked hard. Worked hard in the orchard and took on other jobs whenever I could to make ends meet. I figure I was working three jobs or so by the time Kyle went into first grade. As he got older, I had most of it paid off. The boys don’t really remember those lean times. But, that’s mostly because they weren’t the ones lying awake at night trying to figure out how to keep a roof over our heads.”
“So, your dad just left you like that?”
David nodded. “Yeah. Took off and the last I heard from him was right before he died. I had to go get the body and bring him back home to be buried.”
“Sounds a lot like my dad.”
“Maybe,” David said. “But I still cried when he died.”
David’s face took on a hint of sadness. “Because he was my father. But, more than just that, I was mourning all the missed chances we had together. All the times we could have been a closer family. And I think that’s why you broke down just now too. I don’t think you started crying because you missed a father you never really got to know. I think you cried because you know now, you’ll never get that chance to know him the way you wish you could have. And for that, I am sorry for your loss.”
Tyler sat there, feeling that ache well up inside him again at David’s words. “Thanks. I appreciate that.”
“Jacob didn’t tell you he was going to be gone all winter?”
Tyler sighed. “He did. I just forgot. I guess I sort of just… drove here on auto-pilot.”
“Okay. I was getting ready to call him up and chew him out for forgetting.”
Tyler smirked. “He told me him and Kyle were getting married, too.”
David’s eyes seemed to shine a little brighter. “Yeah. Been a long time coming.”
Tyler wasn’t so convinced. To him, it sounded like Kyle convinced Jacob to marry him and is trying to hurry it up before he can change his mind. “Andy proposed to Brian too. I’m kinda glad he did.”
“Me too,” David agreed. “It’s hard having five boys to keep an eye on.”
Tyler chuckled silently. “They’re not little kids, sir.”
“Not to you, maybe,” he replied. “One thing about being a father; you tend to look at your children like they’re still the little boys you loved when they needed you for everything. Did your dad tell you he loved you before he died?”
Tyler nodded. “And I told him I loved him. I don’t know why. I think I said it just to make him feel better.”
“I’m not an expert on the heart of Tyler Brewer, but from what I’ve seen over the last year or so, I don’t think you have it in you to hate anybody. I think you did love him. Maybe you should just leave it at that and not over think it.” They continued to sit there together as Tyler seemed to gain a sense of acceptance from his father’s passing.
He still felt an odd hitch in his heart, but he felt it came more from David’s presence than grieving for his lost father. He wished his father had been like this when he needed it through the years.
Tyler closed his eyes and took a long, shuddering breath. As he let it out, he said a silent goodbye to his father. It wouldn’t happen in that moment, but over time he knew all of those unanswered questions would eventually go away. The final thought on his dad would be that as much as he may have loved his son, he was an imperfect person and made mistakes. He let go of his anger and disappointment that his father’s absence had been like a weight on his shoulders all his life. It left him feeling tired and another slight squeeze of David’s hand on his shoulder brought another small sting of loss that he was going to have to get used to living with.
“Why don’t you lay down here and get some rest,” David said as he gently removed his arm around Tyler and stood up. “I’m gonna start dinner soon and you probably need to eat.”
Tyler smiled a little despite himself. “I should just head home. It’s getting late.”
David smirked. When he spoke again, it was still that comforting voice but with a sliver of authority in it. “It’s not quite five yet. Lay down. Get some rest.”
Tyler laid down on the couch as David stepped out of the room. He knew he should go home and deal with Alex and that problem. But he didn’t want to think about it right now. The couch was comfortable, and the house was quiet. Even though he knew he should leave, the fatigue from the drive and security he felt being there made it impossible for him to get back up before he fell asleep.
When he opened his eyes again, Tyler felt a little disoriented. He knew it was already dark when he fell asleep earlier. But now it felt as if it was even darker. It took him a minute to realize that the difference was the lights in the living room were turned off. The only dim light in the room came from somewhere in the hallway. The sound of quiet voices in the house prompted him to get up and stretch. He let out a small yawn before making his way towards the sounds in the kitchen.
When he stepped through the doorway, he stopped and blushed. “Mr. Adams.”
Sam looked up from his seat at the table and frowned slightly. “Sam, Tyler. You’re not on the clock.”
David turned his head and looked up at Tyler standing there. “Grab a seat, Tyler.” He rose from his chair and moved to the stove. “I kept some dinner warm for you.”
“How long was I asleep,” he asked as he sat down next to Sam.
“Couple hours,” David replied casually. “Sam just came for the free food so don’t let him scare you.”
Sam grunted in something close to a chuckle. “Don’t pay him any attention, boy. He’s just jealous I got three grandkids and he only has one.”
“For now,” David said with a private smirk.
Sam looked over at Tyler and said, “Davey told me about your dad. Sorry for your loss, kid.”
“Thanks.” Tyler could still feel a small ache inside him, but it didn’t bring about any new tears or anything else. Just a small empty space inside him. “I’ll be okay.”
Sam nodded in approval as David turned and brought a plate over and set it down in front of the young man. “It always happens in time, son. Don’t it, Sam?”
“Just don’t rush it,” Sam muttered.
David put a glass of water in front of Tyler before returning to his seat across from his guests. “How is our newest family member,” David asked as he let Tyler eat.
Sam’s smile was partially hidden in his nearly white beard. “As beautiful as she was yesterday. Troy’s taking on most of the burden while Liz is recovering. And I’m tending the office with Colleen. It’s been barely two weeks. You’ve had a kid. You know they don’t do much the first few months.”
David smirked. “It’s been awhile since Kyle was two weeks old.”
“How’s he been lately?”
David shrugged. “Okay, I guess. I got a call from Jacob two days ago. They seem to be doing great.”
Sam’s eyes went from Tyler and back to David. “So, they’ve put everything behind them, then…?”
David’s eyes squinted for a moment as he stared at his best friend. “Yes.”
Sam got the message and shrugged. “Well, that’s great. Maybe when he gets back, I’ll have Jacob make me a door like yours.”
Tyler ate quietly, listening to the two older men talk. It gave him a peculiar sense of normalcy in his life that he could sit there and just experience a normal, somewhat playful, conversation between two old friends. They would laugh, verbally spar and speak to each other with a familiarity that Time has gifted them. He hoped that one day he could have a friend like that in his life.
The food tasted better than what he had earlier in the day. As he sat there finishing up the meal David provided him, he was reminded that he had another problem and that one wasn’t going to go away any time soon. He wished he could just stay here but he knew he would have to go home and face Alex.
As he stood up from the table David and Sam both looked up at him. “I can’t really thank you enough for everything.”
David smirked and shrugged. “It’s just dinner.”
A small smile lifted Tyler’s lips as his cheeks reddened slightly. “I meant everything else.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Kid, Davey’s just like that. He’ll baby you to death if you give him a chance.”
“Quiet, grouch,” David said. He turned his attention back to Tyler. “You don’t have to leave if you don’t want too. And, you can come back and visit any time you like. Just because Jacob is gone doesn’t mean you can’t come over once in awhile and visit.”
Tyler didn’t know what to say other than the obvious. “Thanks. I may take you up on that at some point. But for now, I need to head home and deal with some stuff.”
David rose from his seat and embraced the young man again. “Be careful on your way home. And just come by anytime you need anything, okay?”
Tyler felt that same warm and safe feeling as he hugged David even as the sharp little pain in his heart returned for a moment. “I will.”
Sam turned in his chair to look up at him. “I got a job for you if you’re interested. Thursday afternoon. Putting in some flooring in an old lady’s hallway. It’s only about a two hour job, but you and Andy could do it if you wanted.”
Tyler felt a little relief. It wasn’t much, but it could get him some extra cash and some much needed time out of the house. “Yeah. That’ll be no problem.”
Sam nodded. “Alright then. I’ll see you on Thursday.”
“See you then.” Tyler exited the house and headed out to his truck.
Sam turned back to smirk at David across the table. “Another stray, huh?”
David shrugged. “He needs a place to call home, that’s all.”
When Tyler got into his truck, he realized the whole time he had been in the house, he had left his cellphone in the phone holder in the center console. The little light on the top was blinking and he picked it up to find ten text messages and two missed calls on it, all from Alex.
“Where are you?”
“Are you coming home tonight?”
“Why aren’t you answering?”
“I wanna know where you are.”
“Where the fuck are you!?”
“Are you ever coming home???”
“Answer the damn phone!”
“What the fuck is going on?!?!”
“You better answer the goddamn phone.”
“This is just like you to be all bitchy about your dad. If you’re not back in ten minutes, don’t expect me to be there when you get home.”
Tyler checked the time and found the last message had been sent an hour ago. He sighed as he started up the truck and headed home. When he got there, he found Dex’s car gone but Alex’s was still were it had been when he first got home hours ago. He parked and trudged through the snow, unsure of what to do when he got to the door and went inside.
He heard thunderous footsteps roll through the house as Alex appeared from the hallway and marched up to him with his face only an inch away. “Where the fuck have you been,” he bellowed.
He wasn’t sure where he stood with Alex anymore and felt a little sliver of fear creep into him. “I went to see my dad, but he died before I got there.”
“And you just now got home?! How come you didn’t answer my messages?”
He couldn’t look at Alex. All he saw was anger and it wasn’t what he wasn’t up for a fight after everything. “My dad died. It took me awhile to recover from that.”
The look on Alex’s face let Tyler know he wasn’t feeling sympathetic. “You could have taken a minute to text me. What, were you too busy telling everyone else? Did you go over to Drake and cry on his shoulder?”
“No.” He didn’t feel inclined to tell Alex anymore about where he was considering what he had been doing. “I’m tired. I’m gonna take a shower and lay down.” He stepped around Alex and headed to the bedroom. When he walked in, he stopped and saw the same sheets that had been on the bed when he left that morning. He stood there, thinking it over, and then started stripping the sheets and blankets off the bed.
Alex came in behind him and glared at him. “What the hell are you doing?”
“What’s it look like?”
“Don’t talk to me like I’m an idiot. Why are you changing the sheets?”
Tyler straightened his back and looked him in the eye. “I want to lay down in clean sheets. These smell funny.”
Alex’s gaze lost a little bit of its fire for a moment but then it returned. “Fine. Go ahead. I’m going out.”
“Where,” he asked, already guessing to himself.
“I don’t answer to you.” He stomped off and said, just loud enough to be heard, “no wonder no one else wants to fuck that.”
If he had had any tears left, that might have caused a few to fall. But he was too numb after everything he’s been through in the last twenty hours and all he wanted to do was lay down and disappear. He heard Alex’s car leave as he put clean sheets on the bed. After he was done with that, he looked at the old sheets he just pulled off and opted to throw them away. He’d rather not remember what had been done on them while he was gone.
After his shower, he shut the lights off in the house. He wasn’t sure if Alex was going to come back and in that moment he didn’t really care. Slipping into bed, he pulled the blankets up and let out a long sigh. The last time he was in this bed, he had a father and a boyfriend. Then his father died, and his boyfriend wasn’t what he had wanted. Tyler felt lonelier than he ever felt in his life as he lay there. A part of him wished he had stayed with David.
Tyler had no idea how long he lay there in bed. Thoughts of his father brought a new tear to his eye. The part that probably hurt most was that there would be no more phone calls. It wasn’t easy to admit at first, but he actually found enjoyment in talking with his dad after the first few times. But his hopes of a better relationship with him were ended. He knew he was never going to hear what he wished for. Just one more talk. One more I love you. Maybe if he had said it and heard it one more time, he might not feel so bad about his passing. He tried to gain a measure of acceptance that his dad had loved him even if he had made bad choices in his life. Let that be his legacy and leave the rest of it behind where it belongs. A few more tears fell, and the ache of loss grew inside him again, but this time he didn’t fight it. He knew in time, it would heal and life as always would go on.
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