Several hours later, after George had gone home Brad and Kevin pulled up alongside Storm’s car. Brad gets out and helps Kevin get out with his crutches and then grabs a pizza box from the back seat. Storm greets them at the door and gives them each a hug.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Kevin asked, surprised by the hug.
“Yeah, what’s with the mushy shit?” Brad chimed in. Storm punched Brad’s shoulder and went to the counter and explained everything that happened with Mike that morning and his concerns about his dad while they ate the pizza that Brad brought.
“Damn man. I should have brought some liquor or something.” Brad said. Storm and Kevin both shook their heads. Brad looked at them and raised his hands in a shrug, a slice of pizza threatening to spill its toppings in one hand.
“I’m sorry, man. I’m sure your dad’s gonna be ok. As for Mike, you did what you could, I mean you have tried to help him for the last three and a half years.” Kevin said as he picked up another slice of pizza and began to eat it.
“But it just feels like I could’ve done more.” Storm said with a sigh and tossed the crust he was eating into the trash can. Storm began to pace back and forth behind the counter while his friends sat watching him.
“What else do you think you could have done?” Kevin asked as he sat the piece he was eating back in the box and wiped his hands on a napkin.
“Yeah, you saved the kid from committing suicide or shooting up the school. I mean Patrick McGill and his little cronies treated him like total shit. If you hadn’t stopped them, who knows what would’ve happened.” Brad added around a mouthful of half chewed pizza. Kevin looked at him in disgust and smacked his shoulder. Storm stopped pacing and looked at them.
“You’re right. But he wanted to be like me so much that he wouldn’t take his medicine.” Storm said with a sigh. Kevin opened his mouth to say something else, but Storm’s phone started to ring. Storm picked the phone up from the counter and looked at it.
“Hello?” Storm answered.
“Is this Storm McPherson?” The caller asked.
“Yes, speaking.” Storm said and looked at his friends with a scared expression. Brad set the crust of his slice of pizza down and swallowed hard, picking up a bottle of soda and took a drink before watching Storm.
“Good afternoon, sir. I’m Jenny Mullins with OSF. Do you know Mike Jackson?” She asked with a pleasant voice.
“Yes, I’m the one that was with him when the paramedics arrived.” Storm replied as trepidation began to creep up his spine.
“Well, I regret to be the one to tell you, but he passed away about an hour ago.” Jenny informed him. Storm asked a few questions and spent a few minutes on the phone with her. When he hung up the phone, he slumped onto a stool behind the counter and dropped the phone to the floor.
“What’s up?” Kevin asked. Storm just stared blankly at the countertop and didn’t seem to hear his friend.
“Hey Storm.” Brad said loudly and waved his hand in front of Storm’s face. Storm shook his head and looked up at his friends.
“He died. They said that he was completely unresponsive when he arrived at the hospital. His blood sugar was over seven hundred and that his kidneys were completely shot. The reason his head didn’t bleed that much when he fell was that he was basically dead before he hit the ground.” Storm explained what had been told to him. Kevin and Brad slowly hung their heads and remained silent for a while. Storm took a deep breath and let it out slowly. The three of them sat silently for a while after that.
“So, what happened to you?” Storm asked Kevin. Kevin looked up and smirked at Storm.
“Well, after you said you found the bra and apparently got knocked out. This dickbag here.” Kevin started pointing his thumb at a grinning Brad.
“He takes off running like he’s some knight in shining armor to save the helpless princess in the tower. I started running after him and tripped on the broken walkway and busted my ankle. And then…” Kevin continued but was cut off as Brad belched in Kevin’s ear.
“We went to the hospital and kept trying to contact you.” Brad said quickly and gave Kevin a quick look and stuck his tongue out. Storm watched the two of them.
“What aren’t you two telling me?” Storm asked and crossed his arms over his chest and looked between the two of them. Kevin looked pointedly at Brad and motioned for him to speak up.
“Alright, alright. I slammed the car door on his foot when he was getting into the car. It was an accident. I was freaking out. I’m sorry.” Brad confessed. Storm looked surprised and Kevin smiled. Storm and Kevin looked at each other for a minute before they both started laughing. Brad hunched his shoulders and looked down in embarrassment, flipping them both off.
“Wow, I’m sorry you two were freaking out so much. I’m sorry you got hurt Kev.” Storm told them after the laughing stopped. Just then the chime above the door went off and they saw a short squat woman walk in with jerky movements. She was about five feet tall and almost that around. She wore a white and black striped parka jacket that was zipped up to her throat. She also had a large brimmed hat on and a scarf that was wrapped over half of her face. She looked up at the trio and stopped.
“What the fuck you queer boys looking at? Ain’t you ever seen a woman before?” She shouted at them and ran her hands over her body. She began to mumble to herself and moved around the front of the shop.
“Yeah we’ve all seen a woman before, but we’ve never seen a real-life troll before.” Brad said with a laugh. The woman growled and then lunged at Brad stopping inches from him. Brad brought a hand up in defense and Kevin gripped a crutch to use as a bat.
“You think you’re so funny and cute don’t ya?” She asked while in Brad’s face gnashing her teeth as if trying to bite him. Her teeth were brown and crooked, several looked as if they had broken.
“Sweetheart, I know I’m funny and absolutely adorable.” Brad told her and made a kissy face at her. She gasped and turned her hand around and flipped him off. She then spun around and started to leave. She stopped and lifted her leg and let out a loud and wet sounding fart before pushing her way out of the door, knocking a book self over on her way out.
“Oh my God!” Kevin shouted and waved a hand in front of his face. Kevin began to gag and doubled over looking like he was going to vomit. Storm handed him a garbage can with a nod.
“Good lord!” Brad shouted with a laugh and fanned the air towards Kevin.
“Wow.” Storm said and pulled the collar of his shirt over his nose. The three of them burst out in laughter that had Brad doubled over and holding his ribs. Kevin made a few more gagging noises and finally got himself under control. Storm calmed down enough to walk over, lifting the bookshelf to begin putting the books back where they belonged.
“You don’t know when to shut your mouth do you, Brad?” Kevin asked and hit Brad on the hip with his crutch. Brad got up and started to help Storm.
“Hey, which of you asshats decided to prank call me today?” Storm asked as he finished getting the books onto the counter to put them back in order. He looked at his friends who just raised their hands and shrugged.
“What kind of prank call?” Brad asked and picked up another piece of pizza.
“Calling and all I can hear is background static and breathing.” Storm explained. Brad shook his head and looked at Kevin.
“How could I have done that? I was in the hospital all morning. And Brad had my phone.” Kevin said defensively. Brad shook his head as he took a bite and immediately spit it out into his hand.
“Oh god, it tastes like that thing’s ass.” Brad yelled and took a napkin to scrape the taste off his tongue. Storm and Kevin started laughing again, Kevin laughed so hard that tears began to form in his eyes.
“That’s just it. A number came up on the caller ID, but it wasn’t one I know.” Storm said once they had all calmed down again. Both Kevin and Brad shook their heads again. Brad went over and helped Storm put the books back on the shelf. Storm’s phone rang again when they were half way done putting the books up so Kevin took over and handed the books to Brad while Storm answered the phone, seeing the mystery number again.
“Hello?” He answered. There was even more background noise. Storm could hear cars driving by and a few horns honking. But above all he heard the slowly and steady breathing. Storm turned his back to his friends and lowered his voice.
“Phoenix?” He asked and was rewarded with a shocked gasp and then the call ended. Storm turned back around with a slight smirk.
“Who was that?” Kevin asked and watched Storm. Storm looked up at him and shook his head.
“It was a wrong number.” Storm lied but the look on his face told a very different story.
“Bullshit. You don’t get a cat that ate the canary look on your face for a wrong number.” Brad said and took a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and flipped it around between his hands.
With a deep breath Storm told them the whole truth of what happened, including meeting Phoenix and giving her his number. He gave them both a brief description of what she looked like. Brad seemed far more interested in her than Kevin did. Kevin just sat there nodding while Brad seemed to almost drool over the fact that Storm was talking about a female.
“So, what are you gonna do if she calls again?” Kevin inquired. Kevin squirmed on the stool as his ankle began to throb. Brad slapped him on the shoulder like he had just asked the best question ever thought of. Kevin flinched at the hit on his shoulder as it jarred his foot on the stool it was resting on.
“Exactly what I said I’d do, help her.” Storm told them. Brad laughed and slapped Storm’s shoulder. Storm looked at Brad with suspicion.
“Yeah, help her right into your bed.” Brad said between bouts of laughter. Storm elbowed Brad in the side and shook his head. Brad held his side while still laughing. Kevin shook his head in embarrassment before looking at Storm like he was getting ready to speak but stopped when Storm cut him off.
“You know, you talk and joke around about sex a little too much, as though you are trying to convince everyone that you’re this badass chick magnet. So, either you’re a virgin or you’re gay.” Storm said as he stood there leaning on the counter looking Brad right in the face. Kevin sat there too shocked to move as he watched Brad and Storm. Brad in turn quit laughing and puffed his chest out and glared at Storm.
“You can ask him, but I’m no virgin.” Brad said pointing at Kevin, who shrugged and nodded. Storm looked from Kevin to Brad and started laughing.
“Is this you coming out of the closet?” Storm asked after laughing for a few seconds. Brad growled and balled his fists up. Storm looked at the fist and shook his head. They have done this before when they first met. Brad thought he had to beat everyone up in sixth grade until Storm stopped him.
“You calling me a fag?” Brad said in a deep threatening voice. Storm stood straighter and relaxed his limbs as he watched Brad. Kevin cringed and tried to scoot his seat away in case a fight did break out.
“No, I simply said that your behavior was that of a closet virgin or homosexual. You stated that you were not a virgin so that implies that you are indeed a homosexual.” Storm explained a gleam in his eye told Kevin that he still thought this was funny but would change every quickly and violently if needed.
“Yeah whatever. I gotta take him home and get ready for work.” Brad said and left the store in anger fueled movements. Kevin got to his feet with the crutches supporting most of his weight. Storm moved the stool out of the way of his friend.
“Sorry.” Kevin said and waited for Storm to open the door.
“Does he know that you’re gay?” Storm asked quietly, before opening the door. Kevin’s eyes snapped to Storm’s face and locked onto his eyes. Storm saw a mixture of fear, disbelief and shock in Kevin’s eyes.
“No, and I don’t remember telling you that I was either.” Kevin said, too stunned to deny it.
“You did just now. It’s not that hard to figure out. You’ve had girlfriends in the past that never last long and yet you always remain good friends with them. I’ve never seen you do more than hold hands, hug and kiss them on the cheeks. Your ‘girlfriends’ would always go out with other people and I’ve overheard a few of them talking about how you wouldn’t touch them.” Storm explained to Kevin. Kevin looked to the ground as Storm patted his shoulder. Storm cringed slightly when he felt the muscles in his friend’s shoulder tense up. Storm was half expecting to be hit with a crutch or scolded.
“Please don’t tell Brad.” Kevin begged as he went past Storm and got into the backseat of his Focus. Storm gave Kevin a brief nod and noticed that Brad was not even looking at them. Storm waved as his friends left the store, Kevin tried to wave back but Brad just flipped him off and backed out of the parking space quickly.
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