We left early the next morning; Aubrey said that we had a long day of driving ahead of us. I wasn’t particularly eager to sit in the van for hours on end, but what had to be done had to be done. There I was, sitting in my seat while starring out my window and into the infinite (yet small) world I had known.
It was a sunny and warm day outside, definitely a summer day, and that reminded me that I didn’t know the date.
“What day is it?” I asked to nobody in particular.
“Wednesday,” Josh answered.
“No, I mean, like the number?”
“It’s the twentieth.”
“How long have we been gone?”
“Okay.” I stared out the window again and thought about what my mom might have been doing. She would probably be calling everyone she knew, trying to get a hold of me, and calling my phone; which I then checked. 435 missed calls from: Mom. 90 missed calls from: Dad.
I dialed my mom’s number and waited her to pick up.
“Ben. Ben, please tell me this is really you!” Her voice rang through the receiver, I smiled.
“Hey mom,” I replied.
“Oh, my God; BEN, where are you? What are you doing! How...”
“Mom, I’m fine, really.” I tried to keep my voice from shaking. “I’m with friends. I just needed... a break.”
I flinched as soon as I had said it. It was the exact thing my father had said to me.
“Friends; what friends, who are you with, Benjamin Lucas Snow?” I winced at the sound of my full name. Mostly because I hated my actual first name, but also because she sounded so sad and worried for me.
“I made friends before I left.”
“Is it drugs? Because we can help, you know. We can get the help you need! Just please come home. Please sweetheart, come home.”
“Mom, listen to me: I’m fine, okay? I like where I am, and the people are nice.” Josh looked back at me and smiled, I smiled back. “They’re really nice.” I hung up on her before she could get another word out.
My eyes prickled with tears, I had starting to forget what she sounded like.
I put my phone in my pocket and looked at the black leather seat in front of me. I could feel the tears trying to fall.
“You okay?” Aubrey asked me from the driver’s seat. I nodded in response and tried to think of other things. My mother had sounded so sad while talking to me, like she had just seen an animal get hit by a car. Her voice had been scratchy and deep, like when someone wakes up, but it wasn’t from sleep; it was from crying.
“Seriously, dude.” Aubrey said. “Do you want to go outside? Get some fresh air?” I looked at her in the rear-view and she looked back. I nodded. Aubrey pulled over and I got out.
I put my hands on my knees in desperation and tried not to cry. ’Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.’
I folded myself onto the gravel at the side of the road and curled into a ball of tears. Faint voices came from all around me, but they were inaudible. It was just me and my depression. A sob escaped my lips and I could barely feel Josh as he tried to pick me up.
’Don’t cry... Don’t cry...’ It came in waves, tidal waves, like a tsunami. I tried to stop everything from happening; the Earth from spinning, the people from walking, my life still being, but it didn’t work. All of my work failed, and all of my emotions spilled into that instant.
Rage, sadness, destruction all came out and I wanted to rip the world into millions and millions of pieces.
’Don’t fall into it... It will keep you there for all eternity and there’s no escape. Keep fighting; Life’s Hell but Death’s even more so. Stop beating yourself up... You can do it... You... Can’t...’
“I WANNA GO HOME!” I screamed so loud that it made my own ears pop. Josh let go of me and I thudded lightly against the sharp rocks. Part of my cheek scraped open and I could feel the blood trickling out.
“No you don’t,” Josh whispered. I cried harder and nodded my head. “NO YOU DON’T! THIS ISN’T HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO GO AT ALL,” Josh screeched, “You’re supposed to like us and we’ll keep you forever. You were supposed to stay silent and not do anything.”
“Josh...” Aubrey tried to calm her brother.
“I WASN’T SUPPOSED TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU!” Josh collapsed onto the ground beside me and we sobbed together. Aubrey stood near the van’s open doors and waited for us to stop, a blank expression on her face. Her jaw was set and her green eyes looked like stone emerald.
’Wait, did Josh just say that he loved me?’ I stopped crying and hiccupped a little. My gaze went to Josh as he cringed and sobbed at his feelings. I felt sorry for him, he didn’t do anything wrong, yet he felt like he had. He felt like the whole world was against him because of his sexuality, but really, I was just like him.
I lifted my hand and put it on Josh’s cheek. He opened his eyes and looked at me, I smiled at him. “I won’t leave,” I said quietly, “I am scared though. Scared of what my family might do without me.” Josh nodded, as if he understood what I meant, but I knew he didn’t.
His family didn’t care about him, but mine did. They cared so much that my mother called me at least fifteen times a day, give or take a few. His family was the reason why he left, mine was too, but not in the same way.
“I’m scared too,” he said. “I’m scared were gonna get caught.” I smiled wider at him and tried to think of something to say in return. Josh got up and brought me up with him. When we were standing he whipped his eyes and then mine. “C’mon,” he said. “Let’s get going.”
We climbed into the van and Aubrey started to drive down the road again.
We were soon driving through a small town, and we decided to stop at A&W for lunch. Since my last visit to a town I had wanted another burger and fries; they had tasted so good and greasy.
“I have never tasted something so delicious in all of my human existence,” Josh said as he bit into his Teen Burger. Aubrey laughed at him when he came out with mustard and lettuce on his chin. I smiled at him sadly, and I knew that he knew that I was sad.
We were sitting at the window near the drive through, and Aubrey started to make funny faces at the people driving by in their cars. I laughed this time, and then she started making funny faces at the people around us.
Josh and I laughed at her and started doing it ourselves.
People watched us and laughed, or they made funny faces back, but none of them were mad or annoyed of us. This made me happy, it felt good to know that people weren’t as cold hearted as you thought.
They were funny too, making the strangest faces, as though it were a competition with the person beside them or across the room. It made smile to see everyone having fun in a fast food restaurant.
“So, what do you guys think of this town?” Aubrey asked us as she took a sip of the best root beer in the world. Josh looked as confused as I felt.
“Waddy’a mean?” He asked his sister.
“I mean,” Aubrey explained. “Do you guys like it here? We could stay in a hotel and then we could rent a place.” She took another sip of her root beer. Shock rolled onto Josh’s face, and my brain felt like it was melting into a puddle.
“What? Like, have a home and stuff?” Josh muttered, dumbfounded.
“Well, yeah,” Aubrey answered. “We could start a new life guys.” She spread her hands on the white and grey speckled table as she explained her thoughts. “A life without hiding,” she looked at Josh, “a life without lies,” she looked at me, “and a life without fear,” she looked at both of us. “We could live how we want.” Her green eyes shone like emeralds, and I could tell that she was very serious and very excited about her idea.
But in truth, her ‘idea’ scared the Hell out of me.
“I dunno, Aubrey,” I said and scratched the back of my neck with my hand, “It’s just... Um, I kinda wanna go back to my mom.” Her smile faded and the shine in her eyes flickered, “Like, not right away. Just after a while, maybe a few more weeks, two months at the max. But I want to go back to my mom before school starts; I want to be around the people I know.”
This, once again, was not the right thing to say.
Aubrey’s face went red with anger (or was it embarrassment?), smacked the table with her hands and she stood up in her rush. Josh jumped in surprise from beside me; tears formed in Aubrey’s eyes. It was then that I realized how tired and worn she looked. She had deep bags under eyes, her hair was a mess of blond tangles, and her eyeliner was smeared a lot; like she had been rubbing her eyes from crying.
In this moment, she looked absolutely insane, like she was about to jump off a building or drive her car over the Edge.
“WELL MAYBE SOME OF US JUST WANT TO BE LOVED AND NOTICED!” She screeched at me, and ran out of the restaurant in a flurry of tears and sobs.
“What,” Josh said and turned to me, “the Hell just happened?” I shrugged in response. I didn’t know what happened; girls were complicating creatures of beauty and elegance.
Josh put our food into doggie bags and raced after Aubrey. The parking lot was surprisingly empty for how many people were inside.
We caught up to Aubrey, who was leaning against the van and crying her eyes out. She wiped her eyes dry when she saw us, and her makeup smeared all across her cheek. Josh ran over and hugged her, which I thought was really sweet, but couldn’t do it myself. They were siblings and I wasn’t.
Aubrey cried into Josh’s shoulder as I stood to the side and awkwardly shifted from one foot to the other. I tried to be as invisible as possible.
Aubrey came over and hugged me. Her hugs were warm and cozy, like a parent’s. I hugged her back, Josh joined in and it became a three-way group hug.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you.” Aubrey said into my hair.
“I’m sorry I said it so straight forwardly.” I said into her side, trying not to squish her boobs. She laughed, and her stomach tickled my chest, and then I started laughing, and the Josh started laughing because we were laughing.
All in all, I think we were all pretty tired, sad, and completely fed up with fighting.
I sat on the sand of a beach I had completely forgotten the name of, and looked out into the blue-grey waves of Lake Ontario. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen in my entire life. Not many people were there that day, since it was a school day, and I wanted it to be like that forever.
Josh was beside me, shirtless and trying to grab a tan. He looked peaceful and at home on the beach; like he was one with the sand, water, and sky. Aubrey was playing in the water with Violet, who was barking, howling, and jumping through the white froth of the waves. It made me laugh to see how much that dog loved the cold water.
The sun beaded down hard on me, and I tried to squint past it to look at the horizon, just to see what was there, but I couldn’t see anything through the bright light.
“Have you thought about Aubrey’s question?” Josh asked from beside me, keeping his eyes closed against the sun.
“About staying here in town.” He sat up and looked at me in the eyes. I couldn’t meet his demanding gaze.
“Not really.” In truth I had, but I wasn’t going to admit that. “I mean, I do want to go back to my mom and my dad.” I glared at the tiny grainy rocks of sand; I kicked them out in front of me.
“Even after what he did to you?” His question made me mad, and I glared harder at the sand.
“He’s still my dad.”
“Yeah, but he left you. He cheated on your mom.”
“Look,” I growled at Josh. “Just because your dad’s an asshole, doesn’t mean mine is.” I knew I had hurt him, and it was his turn to look away and glare at the ground. Regret made a home in my stomach, and I wished I hadn’t said anything. ’God, I’m the asshole.’ I looked at Aubrey and Violet again, and saw that they were walking towards us.
Aubrey was wearing hot pink shorts and a black tank top, because she didn’t pack a bathing suit. None of us did, actually. Meanwhile, Violet’s sleek black fur had turned shaggy and wet, and she smelled really bad when she came up to give me a kiss on the cheek.
“Hey girl,” I said and patted her on the side; she licked me again in return. Aubrey sat in the middle of Josh and me, which was fine by me; I could tell that our conversation was over anyway.
We watched the waves in a content silence, thinking about how we had gotten there and what we had been through to get there. Violet laid her chest on my lap, and I rubbed her pointy ears. She was adorable, in an ‘I’m-really-big-and-dangerous-but-I-don’t-care-so-love-me’ type of way, but I didn’t care. She still was cute and I loved her.
“What do you guys think you’ll be in twenty years?” I asked them.
“I will be hanging with my kids and husband, trying to be the best woman I can be.” Aubrey answered first.
“I’ll be with the man of my dreams.” Josh answered secondly.
They turned to me, waiting to see what my answer was. I shrugged.
“I dunno where I’ll be in twenty years,” I answered there gazes. “I just hope I’ll be a better person than I am now. Maybe I’ll eventually get my act together, and have a family, but yeah, I dunno.” Aubrey smiled at my answer, and we looked out over the water once again, waiting for something extraordinary to happen to us.