Truck Stop

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Chapter XVI.

Jupiter was freaking out.

They had been just down the street from Lincoln’s uncle’s house for about ten minutes, and Jupiter was on the verge of tears while Lincoln tried his best to reassure him that yes, his mom would like him and no, Lincoln would not stop being friends with Jupiter even if she didn’t.

Lincoln Hartridge guys Jupiter is freaking out what do I do

Oliver Brooks aw look at juno taking care of jupiter

Jackson Liang bro that’s a terrible analogy, jupiter had tons of love affairs

Adalric Becker It’s true, Jupiter’s moons are named after his affairs

Lincoln Hartridge you guys are NOT helping

Jackson Liang just tell him to think of Namjin

Jupiter, who was turning pale and muttering something in Korean under his breath, didn’t really look like thinking of “Namjin” (whatever that was) would work. Lincoln unbuckled his seatbelt, reached over the console and took Jupiter’s hands in his.

“Hey, hey, breathe.” Lincoln tried in a soothing voice. Jupiter looked at him with wide, doe eyes. His chest was heaving, he had worked himself up to hyperventilation. “It’s going to be just fine. You don’t have anything to worry about.”

“I feel like I’m going to mess up,” Jupiter gasped. “I feel like she’s gonna hate my guts and I won’t be able to be friends with you anymore.”

“But you’re my Zelda,” Lincoln said. “So you’re gonna have to be my friend whether she likes it or not.” As the words sunk in, the tension drained out of Jupiter visibly, but only barely. He lost the manic look in his eyes and started looking more like himself again. He fumbled for his phone to quickly glance at the chat again. “Think of Namjin.” He probably butchered the pronunciation, but it got a laugh out of Jupiter anyway.

“Jackson told you to say that,” Jupiter said accusingly.

“Guilty as charged,” Lincoln said. The younger had finally regained control of his breathing and loosened the grip he had on Lincoln’s hands. “Are you still mad at him?”

“No,” Jupiter replied immediately, ducking his head in embarrassment. “I was being stupid. I’m okay now, we can go.”

“Are you sure?” Lincoln asked worriedly. Jupiter only nodded though, so Lincoln pulled away from the side of the road and continued down the street, stopping at the last house and shutting off the car. “About my mom,” He started hesitantly. “She’s kind of... unwell. So she’ll be bed-ridden.”

A look of understanding passed over Jupiter’s face. “Oh, okay.”

They both got out of the car, Lincoln rounding the vehicle to stand next to Jupiter, who instantly took his hand. Lincoln didn’t comment on it, instead letting Jupiter intertwine their fingers as he lead them up the porch steps. He unlocked the door with his left hand and let himself in.

“Mom, I’m here!” He called, taking off his shoes. Jupiter kicked off his own, letting go of Lincoln’s hand to line them up neatly along the wall before holding on again. “I brought a friend!”

“Pardon me for the intrusion!” Jupiter said, bowing even though no one was in sight. “Will she be okay with me being here?” He added with a whisper.

“It’ll be fine,” Lincoln said for the thousandth time. He took Jupiter through the house and was surprised to find his mother sitting upright on the couch, the TV on and everything. She looked frail, her blonde hair tangled and stringy and her skin unnaturally pale, but she looked healthier than the last time he visited. “Mom, you look well.”

“I’ve been feeling stronger in the last couple days,” She told him. Her expression went soft when she caught sight of Jupiter hiding behind Lincoln’s broader frame. “And who’s this little one?”

Lincoln nudged Jupiter in front of him, whispering a gentle “go on”. He watched as Jupiter bowed hastily, so shy and unlike the boy he had spent the whole day with. “Hello, I’m Kim– Jupiter Kim. It’s nice to meet you.”

“You’re the boy I’ve heard so much about!” Lincoln’s mother exclaimed. Lincoln turned red, but neither her nor Jupiter noticed as she struggled to remove her arms from the mound of blankets covering her, reaching for the younger male. “Come give me a hug, I feel like I’ve known you for as long as my son has.”

Jupiter squeaked and ducked in shyly to embrace Lincoln’s mom, turning as red as a tomato. Lincoln just laughed and went to hug his mother too. It was one of her good days, where she was having no mood swings and no memory loss. They were lucky to have caught her on one of her better days, when the meds were actually working.

Lincoln felt something warm spread in his chest when he looked at Jupiter interacting with his mom. He was careful and a little shy, but he was smiling brighter than ever and for some reason it made Lincoln inexplicably happy. His mother looked happy too, and she was asking Jupiter questions about his art, his dancing and his family. It made Lincoln think of the showcase, Jupiter with artfully messy hair, eyeliner, and ripped skinny jeans, rolling his hips to the rhythm of the song.

Oli Oli oxen free now

Hey Juno, you in love yet?

Lincoln took another look at Jupiter laughing with his mom while he told her the story of what happened in the cafe. He thought about how Jupiter reminded him of summertime, indie rock music and every goddamn cliche in the book.

He looked at Jupiter and thought yeah, I might be.

Lincoln was washing up after dinner and eavesdropping on Jupiter’s and his mom’s conversation. She sounded so happy, and Jupiter seemed more than delighted to talk about himself. Lincoln was just happy he could clean up without any interruptions.

“So what are your hobbies?” He heard his mother ask.

“I’ve got a lot of them,” Jupiter began. “Are you ready?”

“I think so,” His mom replied, and Lincoln could hear the smile in her voice.

“Okay, well, my favourite thing to do is art, which you already know. I do all kinds of art, sketching, painting, pastels, sculpting. I can use pretty much any medium. I also like acting, I love doing Shakespeare plays. Trying new foods, playing with dogs, juggling, learning magic tricks and dancing,” Jupiter listed. Lincoln shut off the tap and dried his hands, walking back into the living room and sitting next to him on the other couch.

“You torturing my mom?” Lincoln teased with a grin. Jupiter pouted and shoved at him as hard as he could. “Okay, okay chill.”

“You’re mean,” Jupiter whined. “Your mom loves me.” He jumped to his feet and bounded off into the kitchen, shutting the door behind him.

“Can I keep him?” Lincoln’s mom whispered.

“Sorry,” Lincoln whispered back, unable to keep the smile from spreading across his face. “He’s all mine.” Jupiter walked back in, so he shut up, choosing to read through the group chat while Jupiter acted out a scene from Hamlet. He ended up posting a ton of pictures and clips onto his Snapchat story because it was too funny not to.

So have I heard and do in part believe it.

But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,

Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastward hill:

Break we our watch up; and by my advice,

Let us impart what we have seen to-night

Unto young Hamlet; for, upon my life,

This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.

Do you consent we shall acquaint him with it,

As needful in our loves, fitting our duty?”

“You guys should get to bed,” His mother said after they applauded Jupiter’s impromptu performance. “It’s getting late.”

Lincoln glanced at the clock; it was barely nine. Still, he helped his mother walk to her bedroom since she refused to let him carry her, then grabbed Jupiter by the wrist and led him upstairs to his old room. It was pretty much exactly as he left it, minus a few things he took with him. Danielle, his uncle’s second wife, must have cleaned up a few times as there wasn’t any dust.

“So this was your room?” Jupiter asked, standing in the middle and looking around.

“For about a year,” Lincoln replied, sitting on the bed as Jupiter poked around. He looked up as Jupiter gasped, the Korean male standing in front of the shelves on the far wall.

“Are these all your trophies?” Jupiter asked, pointing at the ones lined up on the wood.

“Yeah,” Lincoln responded, feeling somewhat embarrassed. “My mom put them up as soon as we came here. It’s a little embarrassing.”

“You’ve got so many,” Jupiter said. “Soccer, basketball, volleyball, football. Honors in all subjects, valedictorian, Artist of the Year. Are these from middle school and high school?”

“I was valedictorian both in middle school and high school,” Lincoln said, walking up to the shelves to point at the different plaques. “I don’t know how I was chosen for high school, I was only there for a year.”

“You made a lot of friends though,” Jupiter pointed out. Lincoln only hummed in reply. A lot of people talked to him, he supposed, but he never hung out with them outside of classes. High school was kind of lonely. “I was just salutatorian.”

“That’s really good, considering English is your second language,” Lincoln argued. “Who was valedictorian?”

“Jackson,” Jupiter sighed. Lincoln thought for a moment that Jupiter was upset at being second to his best friend until he continued. “God, I miss him. It was such a stupid fight, but it’s the longest we’ve gone without talking to each other.”

“So call him,” Lincoln said, pulling out his phone and handing it over. Jupiter accepted it after a minute of consideration, sitting down next to Lincoln on the bed. He opened Lincoln’s contacts and scrolled down until he found Jackson’s.

“What if he doesn’t answer?”

“Then I’ll be really offended because he doesn’t know it’s you,” Lincoln replied, nudging Jupiter’s shoulder. “Now hurry up and call him.”

“He’s probably studying,” Jupiter sighed, but pressed ‘Call’ anyway. The phone rang for literally three seconds before Jackson picked up.

“Lincoln?” He sounded tired and a little irritated, so he probably was studying.

“Hi Jackson,” Jupiter said very, very quietly. The line on the other end went silent short for the sound of Jackson’s breathing and papers rustling.

“Jupiter,” Jackson breathed out. “Hey, I–”

“I’m sorry,” Jupiter blurted out. “I’m sorry, don’t hate me, please. I love you, don’t hate me. I was being stupid and irrational. I’m so sorry.” He started crying into his hands, the phone slipping from his fingers. Lincoln quickly reached over to hit ‘Speaker’ before rubbing Jupiter’s back as he cried.

“Jupiter, don’t cry,” Jackson said quickly, no longer sounding tired. “Please don’t cry. I’d never hate you, it’s okay. I should have been more understanding.”

“No, you’re perfect,” Jupiter reassured him through his tears. He sniffled loudly and picked the phone up. “Can you forgive me?”

“Only if you’ll forgive me,” Jackson said immediately. Lincoln “aww”ed silently as he continued patting Jupiter’s back.

They talked for a few minutes before hanging up. Jupiter sniffled and rubbed at his nose with his shirt sleeve. “Thanks for letting me use your phone.”

“Of course,” Lincoln said gently, taking his phone and rolling over to plug it in the charger. “You guys okay now?”

“Yeah,” Jupiter said, nodding and smiling his huge, rectangular grin that made Lincoln feel warm all over. “Am I supposed to sleep on the floor?”

“You can if you want, or you can share the bed. Yong-sun’s always crawling into mine so I’m used to it,” Lincoln said casually.

“Okay,” Jupiter said. His face was devoid of emotion, so Lincoln couldn’t tell what he was thinking. He showed Jupiter the bathroom and where the spare toothbrushes were. While Jupiter got ready for bed, Lincoln used the bathroom downstairs and quickly checked on his mother, who was already asleep. He quickly said goodnight to Danielle, who had just come home, before running up the stairs two at a time.

Jupiter was already lying under the covers, hugging a large pillow to his chest. Lincoln reached for the light switch before a voice stopped him.

“Wait,” Jupiter said. “I-I don’t like sleeping in the dark.” He hid his face into the pillow, clearly embarrassed. Lincoln felt his heart go out to the smaller boy, who was barely even and had people thinking he was weird, feeling like he couldn’t be himself.

He left the light on and dug through his closet for his old desk lamp, setting it on the bedside table and plugging it in. He turned it on before dashing back over to the light switch to turn off the overhead light. In the warm glow of the desk lamp, he can see Jupiter’s smile shining brighter than the sun. Lincoln walked over the bed and crawled under the covers, careful not to jostle any of Jupiter’s limbs. It was a good thing his bed was so huge, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to both fit.

“You have a scar on your cheekbone,” Jupiter remarked, reaching up to skim his fingers along the left side of Lincoln’s face.

“Yeah, I broke a mirror and cut my face,” Lincoln said. Actually, what had happened was that Lincoln had a mental breakdown, smashed the bathroom mirror and tried to drown himself in the bathtub. Small details; he wasn’t really ready for that heart-to-heart. “You have a mole on your nose.”

“I do,” Jupiter nodded, going cross-eyed as if he was trying to see the tip of his nose. He stretched out on his back, smacking his lips. “I’m thinking of getting ear piercings.”

“How many?” Lincoln asked, rolling onto his side to face the other boy.

“Three in my left, two in my right,” Jupiter replied happily.

“So like me,” Lincoln said, raising his eyebrows and pointing at his own pierced ears. He rarely wore earrings, maybe once every week or so.

“Yes, exactly like yours,” Jupiter said. “And then I’m dying my hair orange.”

“Why orange?” Lincoln questioned, unable to contain his curiosity.

“Why not?” Jupiter shrugged. “Sometimes you just gotta do what you feel like.”

They laid in silence for a moment, nothing but the sound of their breathing in the quiet of the room. Downstairs, Lincoln could hear the muffled sound of his uncle returning home.

“Why does your mom live with your uncle?” Jupiter asked, sounding like he was afraid to say it. Lincoln patted his arm reassuringly to let him know that he was okay with the question.

“My dad left when I was eight,” Lincoln explained. “But we were still doing alright, until my mom got really sick. My uncle was the only living relative she had, so when I was around seventeen, we packed up and moved here.”

“Danielle takes care of her, and my uncle agreed not to charge rent on account of me paying for her medical bills. That’s why I work two jobs, so I can pay my own bills as well as hers.”

“Oh,” Jupiter said quietly. It wasn’t a disinterested “oh”, like he didn’t care. It was an “I’m not really sure what to say” kind of “oh.”

“Yeah,” Lincoln said, rolling over onto his stomach and resting his head on his folded arms. He felt strangely vulnerable, but also like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

“Do you pay your own tuition, too?”

“Nah,” Lincoln said, shaking his head. “Luckily, I got a scholarship that covers it. I have to pay for textbooks and supplies on my own, though.”

“I don’t think luck had anything to do with it,” Jupiter said, shrugging when Lincoln looked at him in surprise. “You were the top student in the one class we shared, I could never beat you.”

Lincoln thought back and remembered that under his name on the list of scores, there was always the exact same name beneath his own, always one point or a half point below him. He just never realized it was Jupiter.

“About high school,” Lincoln began. “I feel really shitty for not remembering you, or speaking to you much back then.”

“It’s okay, you don’t need to,” Jupiter responded immediately. “We were in different grades, we shared one class and that was three years ago.”

“I remember hearing a lot about you though,” Lincoln said. “Because you were a sophomore taking classes with seniors.”

“Everyone thought I was a freak,” Jupiter said, looking away. “In my grade, I mean. I only had three friends, and one moved away.”

“I would have been your friend,” Lincoln said softly. Jupiter turned to him with unshed tears glistening in his eyes.

“I don’t doubt it,” Jupiter said. “I remember you were friends with everyone.”

Lincoln shrugged; he talked to a lot of people, but in truth they were all barely acquaintances. None of them were close to him at all. He was always surrounded by people but surreptitiously felt alone. He felt fragile, like an expensive vase balanced on the edge of a table, waiting to be knocked over.

It was quiet once more, both of them getting closer to falling asleep. Lincoln was drained from keeping up with Jupiter all day. He snuggled in deeper under the covers and shut his eyes. Lincoln was almost asleep when Jupiter spoke again, voice thick and raspy, sending shivers down his spine.

“I remember,” Jupiter said very, very softly. “That even with a smile on your face, you always looked so, so sad.”

Lincoln tipped over the edge, and shattered.

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