Chapter 11 – Role reversal
Thursday, November 24th, 2016
‘Neo?’ Mom’s voice sounds worried, waking me up from a weird-ass dream in which I sat on a dinner table with Calo’s family, them all mocking me, laughing at me. Calo telling me it was all fake and simply a trick to lure me in, evidently causing me to wake up while crying.
The door to my room opens hesitantly, while I push myself upwards, rubbing my eyes, wiping away the tears right afterwards.
‘Oh, honey.’ Mom sighs, walking inside to sit on the side of my bed. ‘Did you have a bad dream?’
‘A weird one,’ I shrug ashamed of myself. I’m nearly seventeen years old and here I am, being comforted by my mom because I was crying in my sleep. ‘What time is it?’
‘It’s almost nine. I called school to tell them you were going to be late, but they didn’t mind because they are sending you out for your replacing assignment anyway.’ She holds up a printed e-mail. ‘You have to go around town, photographing whatever you can find that is still evidence of the history of this city. The older, the better.’ She smiles because I smiled at the thought of again being allowed to do what I like most.
‘And it seems like Calo is going to keep you company, isn’t that great?’
‘What? He’s staying with me?’
‘Apparently, he didn’t go on the field trip either.’ She pushes my hair back to peck a kiss on my forehead. ‘Go get showered, I’ll call Mrs. Delgado to see if we can meet up with them.’
And despite waking up feeling shitty because of that weird dream, the thought about going to hang out with Calo makes me feel all the better.
I shower, I get dressed in the clothes Pyper already picked, I get to leave my room in one fluent try. All is going well, simply because hanging out with Calo makes me happy.
But as soon as I enter the kitchen, I notice mom’s worried frown. She places my plate and glass in front of me before she sits down across from me.
‘What’s going on?’ I ask while preparing myself for the worst. Calo is probably sick of hanging out with me and wants to do the assignment on his own.
I get that. It was only a matter of time. I just wished it would have lasted a while longer. Now that I tasted part of a life witha friend, I’m sick and tired of living life without one.
If Calo is sick of me, I might as well end my life now, freeing everybody from having to adapt to me.
‘Calo… has a bad day. That’s why he isn’t on the field trip. They just called him in sick.’ She smiles carefully. ‘But we can still do what we initially planned. We can go together. We’ll even go to the park and grab an ice cream…’
‘I want to see Calo.’ I tell her firmly. ‘Or is he adamant about not seeing me anymore?’
‘I don’t know, honey. Apparently, his mom thinks it’s better for you to not see him right now.’
I let her words sink in, realizing Calo didn’t decide to not see me, his mom did. And she might not know that I know about Calo’s chronical depression.
‘Can I call Mrs. Delgado? I have to ask something.’
‘I think she has to focus on Calo right now –,’
‘I think Calo needs a friend.’ I simply tell her. ‘I think I know why he is sick, and if I’m right, he needs a friend.’
Mom cocks her head to the side, staring at me in wonder.
‘I have two weeks to finish the assignment, so we could always do it later, right?’
‘We could, but you always want to get started right away.’
‘But now I think Calo needs me and the assignment can wait.’ I ruffle the table with my fingers, biting on my lip. ‘Please, can I call?’
She sighs and nods.
I retrieve my phone, calling the number Calo send to mom only yesterday.
Come to think of it, this isn’t a total surprise anyway. He did get increasingly more silent throughout dinner, and afterwards he said he was tired and that I should go home soon. We had school in the morning.
I didn’t really think about it, because I felt exhausted myself too.
But now I wonder if it had been a sign about Calo’s upcoming bad mood.
I wait for Mrs. Delgado answering the phone, and when she does, she sounds different from her cheerful self like she was yesterday.
‘Hi, it’s Neo… I know mom just called…’
‘Oh, hi Neo. Yes, I don’t think it would be good for you to see Calo right now. He has… problems. It’s nothing to worry about…’
‘It is, mam. He told me about his condition.’
‘He did?’ She sounds surprised, while Lorenzo thought it had only been logical for Calo to tell me about it. ‘Well, then you probably know why I think it’s best for you two not to see each other today…’
‘I just wanted to let him know that if he wants, I can come over. I want to be there for him, like he has been there for me when I needed him.’
‘Oh, that’s really sweet of you, dear. But I have to warn you that he can be… a bit mean… whenever he has one of his episodes.’
’Could you ask him if he wants me to come and support him?
‘I’ll know the answer is going to be no, Neo. He doesn’t even want to see Seino, or Harper.’
‘Mom, just let him come over and see what happens.’ Seino sounds in the background, a bit annoyed. ‘Neo’s been putting Calo in good moods ever since they met. He even got Calo to go to school on a bad day.’
‘I’m coming over,’ I simply tell her, hanging up the phone before she’s able to protest. Seino’s words encouraged me to go. And his words tell me that Calo really likes to be around me, which unavertable puts me in a good mood.
‘She’s okay with it?’
‘Calo’s twin brother.’
‘There’s another one of the blessed angels?’ Mom chuckles a bit, before she nods. ‘Twins always have a special bond, and if Seino thinks you should come over, then we’re going to visit. I’d like to meet his mother anyway.’
I’m growing a bit anxious by the time mom steered the car through the gate and onto their property. All I had to tell her was to go over to the new mansion that is considered way to big by people all over town.
‘I can see his parents make good money with their jobs.’ Mom smiles at me, though I know she might be a bit jealous. Our house is a bit cramped for four people. My parents had to remodel the house to add a third bedroom for Pyper.
They only recently managed to pay off the loan they had to take to do so.
‘Well, Mr. Delgado is a psychiatrist.’ I shrug with a sigh. ‘My psychiatrist.’
‘And you don’t sound very happy about it. He cleared parts of his schedule to offer you two appointments a week.’
‘I just don’t think he’ll be any different. Four failed to help, so why would he be able to?’
‘At least he tries, more than the previous doctors.’
Who all refused to see me more then once a week. They said I didn’t need more therapy, just the right help to get rid of my angst of losing Pyper. According to all four of them, that had been solely my problem; my fear to lose another sibling. They just didn’t know how to get rid of that fear.
‘I know, but still.’
‘Let’s just focus on Calo for now. You said he needed a friend, so go and be a friend.’
I nod, getting out of the car with her, walking up to the front door, that is opened by Seino and his mother, the latter visibly displeased with me forcing myself upon her son.
‘Hey.’ Seino smiles at me, him still wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt.
‘Don’t you have school?’
‘My buddy needs me.’ He shrugs. ‘Calo’s health is more important and mom and Calo aren’t a great combination right now.’
Mrs. Delgado clicks her tongue, sending him a displeased look. There’s sadness in her eyes.
‘Mom tries, but he just snaps at her.’ Seino explains, gesturing for us to walk inside.
‘Hi, I’m Caroline, Neo’s mom. We talked on the phone.’
‘Ah, yes.’ Mrs. Delgado smiles, shaking her hand. ‘Evita Delgado, nice to meet you.’
Seino gestures for me to follow him, his mother shortly looking, but sighing in defeat, letting us walk upstairs without further complaints.
‘Can I offer you a drink…?’ I hear Mrs. Delgado offer my mom, while I follow Seino upstairs. I remember the way towards Calo’s room, remembering I don’t have to watch my footing at all.
I feel comfortable in this home, though it had been exhausting to observe each new room to make sure I didn’t have to execute any of my weird habits.
‘Just be careful, and prepare for the worst, because he’s at his worst right now.’
‘Can I ask what caused his mood to change so suddenly?’
Seino bites his lip, sending me a look I can’t describe. ‘Let’s say Harper and Yasmine caused most of it, but not on purpose. But I think it’s best if Calo explains when he’s ready.’
I nod, agreeing that it might be best not to gossip about Calo without him being able to explain anything. I hate it when people talk about my condition when I’m not there to explain myself.
‘Cay?’ Seino knocked on the door to his bedroom, opening it carefully.
‘Get lost!’ Calo’s voice is croaked, filled with agony. ‘Just go to hell, Sei!’
Seino pulls a face and rolls his eyes. ‘You have a visitor.’
’I don’t wanta visitor, you idiot.
Seino pushes the door open far enough for me to see Calo, who’s on his bed, curled under the comforter with his back towards us.
‘I swear I will kill you…’ He sat up, staring towards Seino with hatred in his eyes, his voice faltering as soon as he notices me. ‘Go away!’ He cries out, pulling the comforter back over his head.
‘Cay…’ I manage to press out with a squeaky voice. ‘I thought you might need a friend…’
‘I don’t have any friends!’ He shouts in anger, though the sound is muffled by the comforter. ‘I don’t deserve any friends.’
The last part came out with a broken voice, a broken spirit, and it caused a sad feeling to take grip of my heart.
‘You do!’ I answer, Seino pushing me inside the room with an encouraging nod. I swallow away the nervous feeling that settled in the pit of my stomach. ‘You do deserve a friend. You’re the best friend anyone could wish for.’
‘I’m a monster.’ He cries out refusing to show his face again.
‘You are not a monster.’ I answer in shock.
I thought I would know exactly what to do, since I have these moods myself too. But quite frankly, for once standing on the other side of the comforter, I have no idea what I could say or do to help him.
Whatever I’ll say, it won’t get through to him. The darkness that is clouding his thoughts is oh so recognizable, yet I know it’s always different. And none of what mom always tells me whenever I have one of these moods, gets through to me, because I simply don’t believe her words.
‘I am, Neo. Get lost.’ He’s still crying, not so much shouting. He’s not as aggressive as he was towards Seino.
‘Okay, so, you are a monster. Still, you’re my friend, and I like hanging out with you, even if you’re a monster.’ I shrug, deciding on a different approach.
The first time Pyper did it with me when I had one of my moods, I was completely taken aback, and it did calm me down a bit.
‘What?’ Calo, on the other hand, snaps at me. ‘You’re calling me a monster?’
‘You called yourself a monster and I said I don’t care if you are one.’ I snap back, suddenly feeling on edge.
‘You’re an idiot, Neo.’ He grumbles, forcefully wiping away tears. It doesn’t help. His handsome face is a mess, his eyes are bloodshot and full of anger and hatred.
’Sure, I’m an idiot. I shrug, walking towards the bed. ‘But you picked me as a friend, and I may be an idiot, at least you called me favre.’
He stares at me while I sit down in the foot end of the bed.
‘You could use a friend, and I’m not leaving until I’m sure you’re going to be okay.’
He’s still staring at me, the anger and hatred further slipping out of his demeanour with every passing second.
‘You’re a freak.’ He bites towards me, though there’s not as much venom in his voice anymore. It falters a bit and I can tell, knowing by experience, he at least didn’t mean it.
So, I laugh, also trying to hide the fact it still hurts to hear him say that. ‘Really, Cay? You think calling me a freak is going to scare me away?’
‘Faulty Favre.’ He tries, but his face lacks expression, hatred now fully gone.
‘Yeah, and prima ballerina, teacher’s pet, freak or faulty freak…’ I sum up with a shrug. ‘I’ve been called worse.’
He leans closer, slapping me against the side of my head while his eyes turned angry again. ‘Don’t do that.’
‘Do what?’ I scowl, covering the side of my face he just hit me in.
‘Don’t denigrate yourself.’ He snaps, pulling the cover back over his head, flopping back down on the bed. ‘I hate you.’
I frown, wondering what the hell caused him to hide again. ‘What? You hate me because I denigrate myself?’
‘No! Because I can’t get you to leave!’
‘You want me to leave?’
‘I want to die in peace. I don’t think an OCD freak is gonna let me do that, huh?’
‘Don’t say such things.’ I grumble, pulling the cover off him, holding it in my arms. His scent is in the comforter and weirdly, it is calming me down despite the fact he just hurt me with his words.
‘What? Freak? OCD freak? Faulty Favre?’ He snaps the words, trying to pull the comforter out of my arms. ‘Let. Go. Of. My. Comforter!’
I can’t help but smirk, before I end up in a fit of laughter, causing him to stare at me in confusion, his eyes still bloodshot and sad, his face tearstained, his hair dishevelled.
‘Why are you laughing?’ He demands, managing to pry my hands of the comforter while I laugh louder.
‘Stop. Touching. My. Stuff.’ I repeat one of the first things I snapped at him, causing him to blink his eyes while I wipe away the tears of laughter that rolled down the corners of my eyes. ‘You kept moving my notebook. Seems like roles have switched.’ I pull the comforter back to me, contently nuzzling my face in it. I can’t help but enjoy cuddling his comforter close to me.
‘Neo!’ He calls out in annoyance. ‘Give it to me.’ He pulls the comforter, pulling me forwards while I let him. I roll over, ending with my head on his lap. I stare up at him in amusement. So, being annoying makes him less angry?
I can do annoying.
‘Why are you not gone yet?’
‘I like hanging out with you. You accept my flaws, I’ll accept yours. Besides, your comforter is way to comfortable.’
’It’s mine.’ He, however, sits completely silent, staring down at me, while I stare back up at him.
‘What happened, Cay?’ I ask in a whisper. ‘Yesterday everything was perfect. You where happy, and for once, I was happy too…’
‘I’m sure you were happy.’ He grumbles, moving to pull the comforter again. ‘Let it go, Neo!’
’That rhymes. ‘Go and Neo.’ I chirp with a smirk. ‘You know my name means “new” in Greek and gift in African? And my parents named me Neo because I was born on the first day of the new year, of the new century?’ I blabber while he stares at me in shock.
‘What are you?’ He gasps in annoyance, before tears start rolling down his cheeks again, causing me to frown yet again. ‘How can you still sit here and act cheerful why I feel this shit and I just want to die!?’ He cries out, now full-on crying.
I push myself up, biting down on my lip, doubting for a second, but still leaning in to pull him in my arms.
Instead of fighting me, he resolves in crying into the croak of my neck and I have to keep myself from pushing him away because he might smear snot all over me and get his germs on me.
It’s not too hard though, because on the other hand I don’t mind, because at least he lets me hold him, while he seeks comfort in my arms.
At least he likes me enough to allow me this close. So, I should allow him to come this close too, as it is obviously comforting him.
We sit there for a while, while all he does is cry and cry, whispering how badly he wants to die because it’s never going to get better.
Eventually, there’s a soft knock on the door and it’s his mom who peeks around the door. First, there’s surprise in her eyes, but then she smiles contently.
The nod she’s giving me, the smile she’s showing me, is telling me she’s not only thankful for me being here, but she’s accepting me to be the one who comforts him.
And suddenly, I have another place I feel welcome.