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Do You Ship Us? - 49. Double Lives

“So, it looks inviting.” Ryan taps his fingers on the steering wheel, they had been sitting out the front of his parents house for 20 minutes already and Jasper had barely taken his eyes off the front door.

“I am so sorry. I know this isn’t fun.” Jasper sighs, his thoughts were racing but he felt glued to his seat. The idea of getting out and walking the 10 steps to the front door to face his parents was too daunting.

“Ok, as I’ve said 100 times already, we don’t know what they want until we go in there and it mightn’t be that bad.” Ryan tells him confidently.

“I very much doubt that.”

“Yeah, you’ve said that 100 times too.” Ryan sighs.

“Ok.” Jasper undoes his seatbelt. “I’m going in.” Ryan undoes his seatbelt and opens his door, following Jasper from the car to the front door.

“Are you going to knock?” Ryan whispers.

“No.” Jasper shakes his head and turns to walk back to the car before stopping dead as he hears Ryan knock on the door. Jasper looks at him horrified, but only has a moment before the door is opened.

“I didn’t realize you’d be bringing a friend.”

“I didn’t, this is my boyfriend, Ryan.” Jasper introduces.

“Hi, you must be Jasper’s Mum. I’m so glad to finally meet you.” Ryan steps forward, extending his hand to shake hers, however she doesn’t even look at him.

“Grace is in her bedroom, she won’t tell us what’s going on.” She suggests, getting straight to the point. Jasper looks from his Mum to Ryan, then crosses his arms.

“Wow, but you’re so nice and non-judgmental, why wouldn’t she want to tell you anything.” Jasper rolls his eyes and takes Ryan’s hand then walks inside, leading Ryan in with him.

“Excuse me, I’d prefer if he didn’t go with you to her room.” Jasper’s Mum stops them. “I’d actually like to have a talk with him myself.”

“Sorry, talk to who?” Jasper asks, watching his Mum avoid looking at Ryan. “You don’t have to talk to my parents, especially if they can’t even use your name. It’s only fair.” Jasper shrugs to Ryan.

“It’s fine, I’d like to talk to them anyway.” Ryan was clearly faking confidence, but Jasper had gathered by the many questions in the hour and a half drive here, that Ryan was determined to make a good impression, no matter how many times Jasper had told him that’d be impossible.

“Feel free to leave if you feel disrespected. I’ll understand and we can catch up later.” Jasper fakes a smile at him and then leaves him in the living room with his parents while he makes his way down the hall to his sister’s old bedroom. He creeks the door open and looks in at her, lying in her bed with a pained expression on her face. “Gracey?” Jasper asks gently as he walks towards her. Grace looks up at him surprised, her face softening to a smile.

Oh thank god they called you! I didn’t know where to go so I came here but I really need you J.” Grace bursts into tears, but they seemed to be more of relief than pain or stress. Jasper rushes to her bed and sits beside her, not sure whether to hug her or not for fear that she had been hurt by her boyfriend.

Of course I’m here, what do you need?” He asks.

“Can you drive?” Grace asks, her question so unexpected that Jasper just laughs it off.

Not other than Grand Theft Auto. Why?”

“How did you get here so fast then?” Grace frowns at him.

“Oh, Ryan drove me here.” Jasper answers.

“Ryan’s your, uh. Boyfriend?” Grace grimaces again for a few seconds then relaxes. “Is he here?”

“He’s in the lounge room with Mum and Dad. Grace are you ok? You seem like you’re in pain.” Jasper’s eyes scanning over what he could see of her that wasn’t covered by the blankets piled on her bed. She had faded bruises on her face and shoulders and her blonde hair was messy, she looked like she’d been living on the streets.

“You brought him here and left him with Mum and Dad?” Grace gasps. “They are probably telling him to break up with you.”

“Probably, I’ll deal with that later though. Anyway I didn’t exactly bring him here to meet them, I came for you. What’s happened to you?” Jasper asks gently, watching her eyes again fill with tears.

“I’ve really fucked up.” She starts. “Will you and Ryan help me?”

 

“Well this is about the last place I expected to find you. What are you doing in here?” Jasper asks, leaning against the doorframe and looking over at Ryan who was sitting on his bed, looking through old school books. “If my parents saw you in my bedroom, I’m pretty sure they’d lose it”

“Your Mum actually sent me in here.” Ryan replies with a shrug, looking up at Jasper with a hard to read expression, his eyes seemingly scanning him all over.

“Oh, well that is weird, I would have expected boys in my bedroom to be a big no no nowadays. There must be an anterior motive for that, I can’t see them sending you in here for any good reason. My guess is they are setting me up somehow.” Jasper shakes his head, looking down the hallway towards the lounge room where he assumed his parents were. “Probably just wanted you to see who I was before you corrupted me with gayness.” He jokes quietly and walks over to Ryan and sits beside him.

“Yeah, they wanted me to see who you were that’s for sure.” Ryan turns his attention from the year book to Jasper. “Is there something you think you should tell me?”

“I did eat the rest of your doritos, I’m sorry. I had every intention of buying another bag and eating half of it then putting it in the cupboard and having you never realise that it’s a different bag.” Jasper shrugs.

“I noticed that when I kissed you, could taste it on your lips.” Ryan answers.

“Busted.” Jasper laughs, but Ryan wasn’t as amused.

“I just didn’t think that was important enough to talk about. But every photo of you in this room having the name ‘John’ seems like something that is important enough to talk about.” Ryan turns the yearbook to Jasper and points to the photo of Jasper at his graduation with the name ‘John Reid’ under it.

“Oh! Yeah ok that’s fair, I forgot about that.”

“You forgot about your name?” Ryan asks.

Kinda, it isn’t my name anymore and I never really felt like it suited me so after I changed it I did feel like I was a completely different person.”

So your name is legally Jasper?”

“Of course, it has been for years.”

“But I thought you had to be 21 to change it which would have been after we met.”

“Well unless you have permission from your parents. My parents signed off on it after my gap year didn’t end the way they wanted it to.” Jasper gets up and grabs a journal off the bookshelf and passes it to Ryan. “If you really want to know, this is what my parents tell everyone their son ‘John’ is doing.” He sighs and climbs on the bed, sitting cross legged and watching Ryan cautiously take the journal and open it. Ryan frowns at the photos of Jasper surrounded by a group of malnourished children with massive smiles plastered on their faces.

“When was this?” Ryan asks, skimming through the pages and pages of photos with Jasper and this group of children.

“Straight after graduation, I was on the plane going to volunteer the day everyone else was off getting drunk and celebrating their freedom. It was something I was passionate about and wanted to do for years. My parents helped fundraise for the trip and the day they waved me off was the last time they seemed proud of me.” Jasper leans forward and turns the page, showing a photo of a few of the children sitting in the dirt with sticks copying letters Jasper had written in the dirt. “My original plan was to become a voluntary teacher over there, and I loved it. Those kids had nothing but they were so happy to be able to learn. These photos were ones I use to send home with post cards to keep my parents up to date and they would take them to church and brag about the good work I was doing.” Jasper had a smile on his face as he looked at the photos.

“How long were you there for?” Ryan asks, flipping the page and seeing a photo of Jasper and the kids singing.

“I was meant to be there a year but I came back after 10 months.”

“That’s amazing, why have you never mentioned it?” Ryan asks. Jasper just looks at him sadly and takes a deep breath.

“Because being there was heartbreaking. It was so devastating to be around these beautiful kids knowing that they were not going to make it into adulthood. When I was briefed about my job volunteering there it was basically ‘give them some time to enjoy before they die’. It’s awful and confronting and I’ve just locked away the whole experience in my head because there was nothing I could do to improve their lives enough to make a real difference. They would spend days singing and playing and learning and they were happy, but of all the kids in that first photo there is only 2 that are still alive today. There were 3 that died within a week of each other and that’s when I bought my return tickets and left. My parents were disgusted in me.” Jasper shrugs and crosses his arms.

“How did they justify being disgust by that? That is a massive thing to go through, and I can’t even imagine the pain you would have been going through building relationships with these kids and then... That would have been awful.” Ryan looks at Jasper who was just staring off into the distance in deep thought.

“I was selfish because this is their reality and I had a home and clean water and food to come back to. I know I was leaving their shitty situation because it was too real for me and I came back to all of this and just kept going with my life, but I really wanted to take them all and change their worlds and I couldn’t do that volunteering, I couldn’t do that there. I felt like shit coming home from that experience and when I got home I was put down for valuing my own comfort over theirs and not being ‘humble’. My parents literally told me they were disappointed in me. I had been talking about wanting to change my name for years by this point and they decided to sign off on that so they could keep telling people what their son ‘John’ is doing overseas. How strong he is for being able to look after these kids above all else and how selfless he is and so no one would know that I’d actually been selfish enough to come home from living in poverty, and join a boyband to in their words ‘become rich and live a lifestyle of privilege.’ I think I’ve separated myself as Jasper so far from the ‘John’ they tell everyone about that it really feels like that part of my life was all make believe by my parents. ‘John’ is just a story they tell. I really just never think about it as my past anymore, it doesn’t seem real to me, not like my life has been since changing my name.” Jasper sighs and finally looks back at the journal in Ryan’s hands.

“That is insane. I really can’t believe they thought of you as selfish for not being able to handle living helplessly in that kind of situation. I think you’re so strong for being able to do it for that long. What have they been doing for these people, other than lying that you are still over there?” Ryan asks, Jasper just scoffs and nods.

“Right? I joined the band so I could earn large amounts of money and be able to make donations that would actually help. I had been offered the opportunity to audition with Chris before I went away and turned him down initially, when I came back my intention was to get rich, not for myself but so I could financially contribute to the community I’d volunteered in. That’s the real reason all my songs are easy to sell pop songs with little depth. I don’t really care what I’m singing about, I just want to make enough money to help these people. I mean I could definitely have gone with a less extravagant place and donated more from that first cheque, but I figured once I’ve got a place for myself sorted my priority can be put on making donations. I’m just keeping that all quiet because otherwise people will make the connections and it’ll open that can of worms with the whole changed name and messed up family stuff.”

“You’re still protecting them? They send you away and pretend you’re not their son, and you don’t want people to know of this beautiful thing you did and are continuing to do just so people don’t find out your parents are lying about you?” Ryan was astounded, and somehow hearing it put like that, Jasper realizes himself how ridiculous it sounded.

“That’s a pretty good point, but either way, what’s going on now with Grace, it’s probably for the best that people don’t know who my family is.” Jasper sighs and rubs his temples.

Oh I feel bad, I didn’t even ask, is she ok? Does this have something to do with her boyfriend?”

“Ex. Although we’ll see how long that lasts this time. I can’t really talk about it here.” Jasper looks at his watch. “I know it’s a bit early for dinner, but we need to hang around fairly close, just rather not be here longer than I need to be.”

“Yeah sure, show me where’s good in this town and we’ll kill some time.” Ryan gets up from the bed, handing Jasper back the journal. Jasper puts is away and takes Ryan’s hand, quickly kissing him on the lips before they leave his room, part of him feeling extremely rebellious for doing so knowing his parents would be so mortified. On the way to the door they are caught by Jasper’s Mum.

“Did she tell you anything?” She demands, again back to pretending Ryan wasn’t there, not even the slightest glance at him.

Oh you know, Jeremy blah blah. She’ll be fine, I’m handling it.” Jasper answers vaguely.

“I asked you here to help, the least you could do is tell me properly what is going on.” Ryan felt for Jasper, it seemed like his Mum was extremely manipulative in the way she was using guilt to try and get more information out of him.

“I just told you I would handle it, you asked me here to help Grace and that is what I’m doing. If she wanted you to know, she would have told you herself. We’ll be back to check in on her tomorrow, for now she just wants her privacy and needs to sleep. If he turns up here, call the police, otherwise leave this to me.” Jasper insists, his Mum is visibly reluctant to accept his word.

“You can stay here, to be close by.” She suggests.

“With Ryan?” Jasper asks.

“No.”

“Didn’t think so, we’ll get a hotel, call me if anything changes, otherwise we’ll come back maybe around lunch time.” Jasper shrugs and continues walking out of the house, again stopped at the door as his Dad walks in through it, pausing and looking Jasper up and down, his eyes linger on Jasper and Ryan’s hands. Jasper squeezes Ryan’s hand and steps around his Dad, not a single word between either of them.

“Oh.” Ryan stops and turns to Jasper’s Mum. “Thank you by the way, for letting me see what Jasper was like before we met. I had no idea that he’d done that humanitarian work, it shows how selfless and humble he is that he’s done that out of the goodness of his heart and not been seeking attention or thanks for it. It’s great to finally know what really drove him into his music career too. I’m sure the people he’s donating so much too are very thankful. Says a lot about his character. You must be so proud.” Ryan tells them quickly before he follows Jasper out of the house. The moment they were outside, Jasper looked like he was going to cry. Ryan knows better than to ask anything until they are in the car, but before he even opens his mouth, Jasper is overcome by the safety of the privacy and starts crying, it was a gentle cry, not what Ryan expected at all. The relationships Jasper had with his family were so vast and so distant that it seemed like Jasper didn’t even feel like they were worth the small amount of tears he was shedding over their visit.

“Where do you want me to go?” Ryan asks as Jasper wipes his tears and takes a deep breath.

“Just drive around the corner, there’s a park there we can sit at until I find us accommodation.” Jasper suggests. Ryan nods and starts the car, heading down the street and around the corner to a small nature park, it was already getting on dusk so they were unlikely to be disturbed or recognized there. As they pull up Jasper is making a phone call, Ryan stays in the car with him until he is finished. “Easier than I expected to get a room on short notice.” Jasper muses.

“Did I hear you say it was just a single room?” Ryan asks.

“Yeah, I’m probably not going to be with you so we only need a single bed.” Jasper comments then takes a deep breath. “Ok so here’s the thing, I didn’t know if my Mum was listening in before which is why I didn’t tell you what was going on before, but Grace is pregnant and has asked if I can take her to the hospital once Mum and Dad are asleep so they don’t know.” Jasper tells Ryan who just stares back in disbelief and shock.

Claire Rosalind
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Wow what an interesting chapter. We find out that Jasper was previously known by another name and that Grace is pregnant.

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This was an interesting chapter. It seems that Jasper is not a upstanding person because he couldn’t take the fact that he was only on his humanitarian mission to make the lives of the children he was supposed to be teaching fun for the amount of time they had left. His parents resent him for not being strong enough to stay and do what he was supposed to be doing especially when he had a soft bed and food to eat, when he came home 2 months early they agreed to sign the paperwork to allow him to change his name legally. You can sense the disappointment in the way that they act towards him and Ryan.

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Well, I sorta called it last chapter on the pregnancy though I was worried it was abuse related, though sadly the person who is the father is not the best choice. I’m shocked at how mentally unbalanced and psychologically abusive Jasper’s/John’s parents are. I’m glad Grace has Jasper to rely on.

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Jasper’s parents seem to have some kind of vicarious savior complex/white man’s burden mentality, don’t they? 

The realization you’re not going to make the difference you thought you were - especially at such a level - would be hard for any kid. And begrudging him his success? That’s just...odd. Not sure what they’re expecting of him.

The strange thing is they clearly think everyone else will think the same way - his mum wanted Ryan to find out hoping the discovery would hurt their relationship, not expecting Ryan to act like a rational human being.  

Suspect Grace is getting an abortion - certainly doesn’t sound like she’s in labor...

Edited by Israfil
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