Chapter 11
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Brent

I'm not going anywhere in the morning, I'm waiting for Aiden to wake up. I should have talked to him long time ago, but I kept putting it off. I won't do it anymore.

At ten Aiden opens his eyes, looks around uncomprehendingly, and sits back. I know he’s thirsty and probably has a headache. And despite all my concern, I want him to be punished for his behavior. However, after 10 minutes I hand him a glass of water and an aspirin.

What did you do yesterday?”

Aiden rubs his head and doesn't answer me right away.

We were just walking...”

Drunk?”

Aiden is silent. He's like a teenager... how can I entrust him with responsibility for his own life?!

Jack is not the most suitable company for you now...”

Stop acting like you're my father.”

Don't you dare say that, Aiden! Should I remind you of what our father did to you? Or our mother?!”

Aiden trails off again, gritting his teeth. I could not build this bridge between us, I only pushed him away. I can't be both: a friend and a brother and at the same time be responsible for everything that happens. I'm angry... because I’m lost...

I sit on the bed next to him. I don't know what to say, but I want to fix something.

I know.” I clear my throat. “I know about you. I know why you tried to commit suicide. This... mother told me.”

Aiden doesn't look at me, just swallows the lump. His eyes are covered by his hand.

I wanted to say… I want you to know that it doesn't matter to me. Gay or not, it doesn't matter to me. You are my brother and I love you. This is how it has always been and will always be.” I say.

Aiden swallows again and purses her lips as if he’s about to cry.

I am silent for a while, and then I continue:

But I want us to be a team. Now it's just you and me. And we have to decide what to do next. Do you understand? And I want to trust you. I want to know that I can rely on you. I can't do it alone...”

Silence reigns. Aiden doesn't show me his face. My gaze stops on the clock. I’m very late for my work. I look at Aiden and decide that I told him what I wanted. I should give him time to think it over. So I get up to leave. I can see Laura from the window, but it's too early for dinner. She notices me and waves her hand. I exit and close the door behind, leaving Aiden alone.

Father asks you to come in. Something happened? You are so late today,” she speaks to me almost as if nothing has happened, but I feel a hidden resentment in her voice. Now I don't have time for another conversation. So I just nod to Laura and walk to the Phelps house.

Mr. Phelps is not very pleased with my lateness, but he gives me a new job, shows me the ropes. As I leave the living room, I squint in the direction of Jack's room. But the hallway is quiet, I can only hear Laura preparing dinner in the kitchen.

On the street, I put my hand in a pocket and realize that I left the keys to the pickup in other pants, so I head back to the shack. I notice Jack's car at the barn. I don’t know why, but I slow down and step softly, almost sneak to the window and freeze when I hear their voices. More precisely, at first I hear indistinct sounds... Then heavy breathing, abrupt whispers of Aiden or Jack...

“… so you will come?” Jack asks.

I… I don’t want to fight with my brother over this again.”

Come when he’s asleep.”

I don’t…”

Aiden. I won’t force you to do anything. I just want to talk to you.”Jack pauses for a long moment. “Please. Will you come?”

I can tell from the sound of Jack’s voice that he’s saying this with a smile.

I'll try.” Aiden's voice sounds confused.

I'll be waiting behind the barn after 10. Okay?”

Okay,” Aiden says after a pause. I bet he's blushing from head to toe right now. I sneak a peek and see Jack kissing Aiden on the lips greedily. My brother does not resist, rather, he gives up under Jack’s pressure. But it doesn't seem to be unpleasant for him.

Jack pulls away and rests his forehead against Aiden’s.

I have to go,” Jack says, exhaling.

I go back down. From the sounds I conclude, he kisses Aiden a few more times and finally leaves the house, starts the car and drives away. I wait five minutes and enter the shack. Aiden is sleeping or pretending to be asleep. I silently pick up the keys and leave too. I will have a lot of time to think, but not enough time to figure out what to do next.

No, I wasn’t shocked by this scene. As a student, I have already seen gay couples. It didn't bother me, although I must confess it's a little unusual especially when your younger brother is involved.

But what I said in the morning is still true, and I don’t doubt it for a second.

I'm worried about something else. What will happen when Jack leaves. I'm not sure if "last night" is what my brother needs...

I finish work at half past nine, leave the car outside the Phelps' house, and walk to the barn. I go around it and see Jack sitting on the ground, back against the wall.

Hey.” I say. Jack gives me a quick look.

Hi,” he replies. “Tough day?”

Not really. What are you doing here?”

Just chilling,” Jack lies. “I wanted to say... about yesterday... it was wrong... But...”

Listen, Jack, you're a good guy, really. But you must leave my brother alone.”

Jack studies my face, I don't care if he guesses that I eavesdropped their conversation today.

What do you mean?” He asks.

I mean, leave him alone. Find yourself another boy for fun.”

Jack's face changes. Eh... We’ll never be friend again, won’t we?

Who said that it’s only fun for me?”

Aren’t you leaving tomorrow?”

So what?”

And it seems that you are not going to come back here any time soon...”

What's this all about, Brent?”

I wanna know it too! I think you’ll find yourself a better match at university, so leave Aiden alone.”

I think Aiden can decide for himself.”

Not in his condition. You're eight years older than him, what have you been thinking?!”

What does age have to do with it?!”

Given that one of you must be smarter, I offer this role to you. Have you slept with him yet?”

Don't you think this is none of your business?!”

It's my business! When you go and leave him to me with a broken heart, it will be my business! To sit next to him and make sure he doesn't commit suicide again!”

Again?” Jack looks at me in bewilderment.

I stop, but there is nowhere to retreat.

Aiden is quite vulnerable. The first time he tried to commit suicide was on his birthday, because our parents found out he was gay. I don't know what they told him, but it was enough for him to open his veins. I took him out of the hospital because our mother was going to send him to a mental hospital. She wanted to cure him so that he would stop being gay.”

So your parents did not die? And there was no accident?” Jack asks in utter shock.

In this situation, sometimes I think that it would be better if it were true.”

No, I haven’t slept with him,” Jack answers after a pause.

Just leave it like that. I'm afraid this will be too serious for him.”

Jack looks away and absently twists the dry stalk in his hands. It's going to rain. The sultriness was almost unbearable today, and it looks like the sky is about to get free from the burden. It’s covered with clouds, a gusty wind brings more and more of them. Jack doesn't say anything.

I hope we’re clear now,” I say. “And… it still doesn't affect my attitude towards you. I am still very grateful to you for everything you’ve done for me... for us.”

Jack doesn’t answer, continuing to examine the dry stem. The first drops fall from the sky. Jack gets up and walks away. And I stay. I stay to select words for my brother, who appears around the corner in five minutes. Jack is already far away. The storm is gathering strength.

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