ALPHA

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Chapter 21: Show & Tell


1:02 AM MST

I watch my brother get wheeled out of the room and my parents follow after him.

Even though Dax woke up, the nurses make it very clear to me that – in his condition – it is hard to hold a lucid conversation, and I certainly shouldn’t be jumping all over him. Upon seeing me, a rush of adrenalin gave him temporary strength, but they explain that he needs professional medical attention, and our reunion will have to wait.

As soon as they’re all out of sight, my thoughts turn back to Wyatt.

An odd sort of feeling fills me when his bearded face comes in to focus; it’s not quite lonely, not quite guilty. They’re in there for sure but... it’s altogether unbearable. I desperately want him beside me – I know first hand how comforting and safe his body is when it’s simply next to mine, and I want that secure feeling more than ever.

1:06 AM MST

I’m glowing with the memory of my very first night with Wyatt and how I was forced atop his chest due to fever. He didn’t care about the dirt, blood and sweat sticking to my body – or the strange intimacy of sudden skinship – he just wanted to take care of me from the moment we met.

1:07 AM MST

Though I remember what a gigantic asshole he was; hovering over me, seething mad, as I laid against the forest floor. He looked completely unhinged… so angry at me…

1:08 AM MST

Then, I recall the unforgettable look in his eyes when we parted, like he was going to cry, and it’s the last straw.

1:09 AM MST

I take this chance – a rare opportunity by myself – to impulsively pick up the phone beside my hospital bed. Instructions are taped on to the receiver about dialling 9 for out-going calls, and then I type the digits of my cell phone number with a strange sort of apprehension.

Thoughts go speeding by. What if he picks up? What do I say to him? I love you? I’m sorry? Nothing seems quite right. My heart hammers with indecision and recklessness.

Though I don’t have time to worry about it much anyway.

The automated, robotic voice on the line tells me they are unable to complete my call, and I come to the conclusion that my cell is still dead. I don’t want to ponder the idea that he won’t ever answer but like a virus, it takes over and soon I’m wondering if all those things he said before – about keeping me – was just to get in my pants…

As I hang up the phone, it hits me like a ton of bricks to the face.

I had sex with him.

I knew all along that I did – my ass is still sore – but looking back I realize I actually - legitimately - had gay sex with a man I’ve known for a week.

Like it was no big deal, either – and, even crazier – I enjoyed it.

The unanswered call is a let-down but also a bit of a relief. I can’t just go calling Wyatt up the moment I’m alone – all desperate and pitiful. Especially not before I understand exactly just what it is I feel for him.

But thinking about all of that is too heavy.

So I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and force myself to sleep.

8:04 AM MST

Mom pushes me around in a wheelchair outside.

She’s convinced that fresh air will set me right and I don’t have the heart to remind her I had more than enough of it up on that mountain. She rolls me along in silence and then, to her fury, we’re ambushed by reporters and journalists that swarm us out of nowhere.

“Calix – Cindy from Global News Calgary. Is it true that for six gruelling days and nights you made your way to a radio tower in the wilds of East Kootenay as a last ditch effort to get rescued? Tell us, exactly what was going through your mind?”

“No questions,” Mom snaps at the reporter. “He’s been through enough already.”

But just as we make our escape, we get caught in the crosshairs of another journalist.

“Calix Dawson – his survival story is one for the ages. Heroic bravery; persistence... this young man’s harrowing encounter with a black bear landed him with a critical injury. But Calix, did that stop you?” I’m not sure who he is, or what news station he’s from, but I turn away from the microphone he’s holding out to me regardless. He continues, his monologue fading in the background as I am pushed away. “No, it didn’t folks. Incredibly, this teenager managed to stitch together his wound – and make the journey back to civilization...”

I want to die of shame as I’m wheeled back inside, meeting my Dad who has two coffees in his hand. Mom explains to him that the media is in a frenzy over my story and she just doesn’t want to deal with them. Yeah - I don’t want all these questions either – but everyone is pressing me for details of my unbelievable story on a frequent basis, and they don’t forget to emphasize that if I hadn’t stitched myself up, I wouldn’t be here today.

8:11 AM MST

“The interest will die off,” Mom assures me with a loving tone after complaining about it for five minutes. I don’t really believe her. “Now, you have your appointment with Dr. Fredericks in a half hour.”

“Mo—om,” I whine, breaking my silence. “I don’t want to go.”

“Do you want to get discharged?” she asks in a crisp voice. I don’t answer but she guesses anyway. “Then you need to complete the assessment, Calix. Now, promise me you’ll listen to what she says, and answer her questions?”

Dad nods his head. “Don’t beat around any bushes, either. Not all of this is covered you know. Health care system… our faultsomehow...”

“Daniel!”

“What? I’m just saying…”

8:38 AM MST

I’m wheeled into Dr. Fredericks’ office located in a secluded wing of the Hospital. At first impression, it’s offensively colourful. The walls are painted a vibrant purple, and the clashing blue and green toned accessories remind me of a peacock. I notice how there are no clocks in sight and frown disapprovingly as Dad helps me from the wheelchair and onto the couch.

Just as I’m stretching out my leg, a sharply dressed woman in a business suit enters the office through a side-door and slides on a pair of glasses while she consults a very professional looking notebook. Then clever brown eyes shoot up to meet my parents and she breaks into a wide, toothy smile.

“Ah, Mr. and Mrs. Dawson,” she greets in a surprisingly low-pitched voice. “Pleasure to meet you both,” the woman continues, shaking their hands with soft, sympathetic pats to the backs of each of them. “I am Dr. Anna Fredericks, and I’ve been put in charge of Calix’s mental health. But first let me say, I understand that this is a difficult time for you… I’m terribly sorry about the events and circumstances around your sons.”

Mom looks affected by these words but Dad remains admirably strong.

“Look – what can we expect to happen as a result of this assessment?”

“That’s a good question,” Dr. Fredericks says, gesturing them to sit beside me on the lime green couch. She takes a seat opposite of us in a comfy, bright blue armchair and crosses her legs, spinning a pen as she talks. “Mr. Dawson, as I understand, Calix has been through a traumatic episode of his life. I believe these…” she looks down to consult the notebook, “these bouts of irritability – inexplicable rage – are happening as a result of a coping mechanism – escaping the—”

“I’m right here,” I remind everyone in the room. “And I’m eighteen,” I continue. “Do they need to be in here?” After I reference my parents, the psychiatrist nods agreeably.

“Calix – you’re right. It’s just going to be the two of us soon, how about that?”

I shut my mouth because I don’t really want to be here. I want to be with Dax; he’s supposed to be back from his round of infection treatment – and on top of this I keep forgetting I have to stay quiet.

They talk for a bit more in voices that remind me of the teacher in Charlie Brown, and then finally my parents get up to leave me with her.

I sneer, taking in the very stern way Dr. Fredericks is sitting and thinking that she isn’t that bad – Wyatt is much more intimidating at a glance.

“So, Calix, tell me about time.”

I blink at her, trying to hold in my surprise but probably doing an awful job of it. Her eyes snap down to read something from her book – I can only guess it’s a statement from my attending physicians in Cranbrook. “It says here that when you were found you were violent, incomprehensible, and desperate to know the time.”

“So what?”

She scribbles something. The sound of her pen scratching at the paper is extremely irritating for some reason. “Well, I find it more than a little odd that instead of asking about your parents, or your brother, you were more concerned about the time of day.”

When she puts it that way, it sounds a little weird.

“It’s just that I lost track of it…”

“Mmhmm,” she hums, writing more things down. “Losing track of time is a bad thing because it makes you feel…” she prompts and I find myself responding automatically.

“I just hate it,” I offer lamely.

“I see. And when would you say this all started, Calix? This anxiety over time?”

I frown at the word anxiety but I can’t really argue that. “A few years ago. They told me to be aware of the time so I can keep myself focused.”

“Who’s ‘they’?” Dr. Fredericks asks with another scribble.

“My doctors… for the ADD. It helped me not get distracted for too long so… I don’t know… it became a habit to check it and make sure I wasn’t getting off track.” How is she getting me to talk so easily? Rogue words are just flying out of me… not only that but all this talk of the time really has me itching to check it. How long have I been here? Ten minutes? Twenty…? The beeper weighs heavily in my pocket, but I don’t dare check it now.

She nods and hmm’s again, before crossing her legs the opposite way and leaning forward a little. “How often would you say that you check the time, Calix?”

It’s a loaded question and I have no idea where to begin. “I don’t know,” I answer honestly. “It’s impossible to count. There are some times where I’m just watching it constantly…”

“And you said you hate it when you don’t know the time?” My stomach starts to knot tightly and my stubborn silence proves whatever point Dr. Fredericks is trying to make. She smiles warmly at me. “It makes you feel distressed?” she offers. “Maybe a little bit, out of control?”

“I don’t know what you want from me, it’s a fucking clock,” I dismiss, changing the topic entirely. “Am I good or not? I don’t want to be in this Hospital anymore. I spent a week on a mountain and I just really want to go home.”

For some reason, I feel like I’m lying. It’s not necessarily my house lining a quiet street in suburban Calgary that I want to get back to. More like my home… with Wyatt… wherever he is… and it’s kind of an unexpected realization.

“About that mountain – Calix I understand you’re not speaking to any details of what happened out there. Normally? Not such a big deal. But according to these reports, there are some bewildering statements from your attending physicians your condition at the time of rescue.”

I hold my breath and keep quiet, glancing away to the purple wall on my left. Dr. Fredericks doesn’t care if I’m making eye contact though; she continues in her low-pitched voice, knowing everything.

“Statements such as you were in nearly perfect health with no symptoms of vitamin deficiency, dehydration… infection… or, incredibly, even exhaustion…”

I’m so close to snapping I can feel it behind the enamel of my teeth digging in to my bottom lip.

“Nearly a week exposed to the elements, especially in a condition such as yours—” she gestures to my leg, “—would have killed anyone else. Excuse me for being so bold, Calix, but I feel that, maybe, a vital piece of the story is missing…?”

The silence is getting harder to keep up…

“Maybe, a vital piece that you’re suppressing…?”

“Maybe…” I allow – though I’m not sure why I gave in with this wishy-washy affirmation.

“Calix,” she says gently, getting me to focus. “You can tell me. This is just between us. You’re eighteen years old, and I won’t be passing along any information to your parents that you don’t want me to.”

“What about police?” I ask, and I regret it because she scribbles something down in her book without breaking eye contact with me.

“Police?” she repeats. “What’s the need for authorities, Calix?”

Ugh. Keep my mouth shut. If I can’t lie, I just need to stay quiet and do exactly what Wyatt said!

Then, Dr. Fredericks sighs and puts her notebook down. She leans forward on the armchair and places her hands together in a ball, looking at me seriously over the brim of her glasses.

“Calix, I don’t think you did anything wrong. And I don’t think anything illegal happened out there – certainly nothing you would be held accountable for. But I think you’re dealing with a boatload of shock, and stress, and the pain you’re feeling might not ever go away unless you address it full on.”

I feel torn but I test the waters anyway.

“What if… what if there was… someone who helped me out there?” I venture quietly. “Someone who – who doesn’t want to get credit and... didn’t want to be involved…”

Those manicured eyebrows raise up and she digests this information like a pro with a steady breath.

“I’d say that would make your situation pretty complicated.”

“Right? And then… what if… I fell in love with that someone…” I continue hesitantly. I don’t know where the words are coming from. I bite my lip again in an attempt to keep the rest back and give Dr. Fredericks a moment to respond to this information… but next thing I know it’s all spilling out. “And that someone – that someone took me in… took care of me… let me in his pack…”

Oh no – that tight-chested feeling is back – the stinging behind my eyes…

“Calix…?”

I know it’s all getting out of control but there’s a desperate need to say everything all at once. “Then… he lied to me and I – and I – hurt him. Actually, I ruined his life… I – I—”

Dr. Fredericks stands up and takes a seat on the space next to me, rubbing my back like she’s been doing this her whole life. “There – it’s okay… let it out Calix. You’re not sure how you feel about this someone anymore, are you?”

No. I don’t.

Every time I think of Wyatt, there’s a hot lick of anger followed by insatiable desire. I’m torn between those dual feelings I had on the mountain; what I felt when having sex with him, versus what I felt when he was yelling down at me.

Wyatt knew exactly what he was doing when he called me useless and stupid, and that takes a real asshole.

But oh God, my heart squeezes at the thought of him. As I try bringing up his cute, bearded face in my mind’s eye, I’m thankful that it’s not blurry and unrecognizable. It’s like I managed to hold on to this image despite everything.

The only catch is that those blue eyes are a perfect snapshot of the last, sad look he gave me before we parted. That face, apologizing for everything because he hated hurting me… it’s tough enduring the reminder.

“I—I never said goodbye,” I confess with a weak voice. “Instead… I said all this mean stuff… I got so angry at him for lying to me… for—for saying those things… and I never got to say sorry for Canuck – for scratching him – for getting in the way of everything!”

Dr. Fredericks nods understandably through my hysterical outburst, although I’m sure she has no fucking clue what I’m saying.

“I want to see him… I really –” I pause, trying to find the right words, but then finish lamely, “—miss him. Even after everything… all the ups and downs…”

Reaching across to the abandoned armchair opposite of us, Dr. Fredericks grabs her notebook and places it on her lap at an angle that even if I didn’t have dyslexia I wouldn’t be able to read it.

“So this person rescued you,” she begins and I nod to her statement of facts she’s collecting, “stitched you up, and took care of you during this time?”

“Yeah – he even took me to the tower… it’s all because of him that I’m even alive.”

Somehow admitting it like that feels really good. My hammering heart is slowing already…

Dr. Fredericks’ pen bounces against her lips as she momentarily pauses to think about her next words. “And Calix… how would you say this person treated you during your time together?”

I’m silent again but that’s because her question has surprised me and I don’t know where to start.

“You refer to ups and downs…?” she prompts like a real expert, using my poorly chosen words – full of truth – against me.

“He treated me like a dog,” I seethe immediately. “Like I was just a – a sick puppy or something…” Dr. Fredericks looks like she doesn’t really know if I’m joking, so I continue. “He told me to my face that’s what he thought of me and where I belong,” I clarify. “He’s super strict with his dogs.”

“Super strict with you?”

“Yeah,” I fume, suddenly heated as a hundred reminders flash before my eyes. All the times I cried… all the times he made it feel like I had no choice! Then… as always… that feeling that he treated me unfairly isn’t exactly so simple. “But he took care of me…” Which he didn’t have to do. Which cost him everything. I invaded his home… his space… his pack…

“Would you say he was abusive?” Dr. Fredericks asks with an impossibly low voice.

“No,” I deny, though once again I encounter the feeling that what I’ve said isn’t entirely true. There were moments Wyatt snapped… but tensions were high… and still, “he never meant it when he got angry. And if he got mad, it didn’t last long.”

There is an irritating silence as Dr. Fredericks closes her notebook, takes off her glasses, and looks me straight in the eye.

“Calix, are you familiar with the term, Stockholm Syndrome?”

“Vaguely…” I admit, but even though I’ve heard the word before – on TV or in movies – I don’t have any idea what it means.

“It’s a phenomenon in which victims have positive feelings towards their captors, or abusers,” she explains with a very professional, educated kind of tone. “There are different ways it manifests itself, but your particular case may be something more like traumatic bonding.”

I feel the way my face re-arranges itself. My brows sink, pulling together in a hard frown, and the bite behind my next words doesn’t go unnoticed by this psychiatrist.

“Screw off. It’s not like that at all. He didn’t kidnap me— he—found me… and rescued me!”

She nods sympathetically, but continues in that annoyingly calm, low tone.

“Traumatic bonding doesn’t necessarily require a hostage scenario, Calix. It’s an individual’s subconscious response to defend their ego. When a victim identifies with an aggressor… they cease to become a threat. ”

“Look, you’re just spouting a bunch of garbage I don’t understand,” I say bluntly – although she’s making it pretty clear what she’s getting at. “I know what I felt for Wy—uh—him… so don’t try to tell me I’m crazy.”

“No one is saying you’re crazy, Calix – in fact this is a perfectly normal response that’s been well documented and researched—”

"He said I was crazy… and just shrugged off all of my feelings. When I told him I loved him he insisted I didn’t and told me it’s impossible… that I don’t know what I’m saying… but why?” I ask, feeling my face heating. “Why is it so impossible to believe that I love him because it’s him?”

“I’m not denying that what you feel for him is strong, Calix,” she starts. “Complicated doesn’t even begin to describe the situation you’re in. This is why it is affecting your mood… your health… Calix, what I want you to understand, and take away from today, is that avoiding your feelings… escaping with time is counterproductive.”

Deep down I know she’s right, but she’s pissed me off and I don’t want to admit that to her in any way. Instead, I stubbornly cross my arms with a huff.

“That should be enough for now,” Dr. Fredericks says finally with a heavy sigh. “Calix, I want to see you again tomorrow and then I’ll complete my assessment. Take some time today to reflect.”

10:40 AM MST

When I’m wheeled out of Dr. Fredericks’ office by my parents, I’m bombarded with questions.

“What did she say?”

“Are you okay?”

“Is the assessment complete?”

10:45 AM MST

“Calix, talk to us, honey. We’re worried about you…”

“Really worried.”

“It’s not like you, sweetie. Tell us what’s going on…”

10:48 AM MST

“There must be something we can do, Calix…”

“Anything, son, just say the words and—”

10:49 AM MST

I finally lose all control in the corridor leading back to the hospital room.

“Just shut up!” I shout, letting out a rush of anger I’ve been trying to hold back and channeling my inner Wyatt. “If you want to help just stop talking and give me five fucking minutes alone!”

As soon as I’ve said it, I don’t feel any better. I don’t really want to be alone, necessarily, I just want peace and quiet and some time with my own thoughts. And, more than anything, I want the questions to stop.

But the hurt looks on my parent’s faces makes me feel even worse than before I snapped at them.

“O-of course, Calix… of course… we’re sorry…”

“Let’s get something to eat… let the boys be…”

Dad wraps an arm around Mom and then he begins to steer her back down the opposite way. As I watch their retreating backs, I let out a breath I’ve been holding in my lungs since the outburst.

It’s a slow exhale.

Then I take a steady inhale and I wheel myself away.

10:51 AM MST

Daxton is back in the room but he’s disoriented on drugs; staring blankly at the ceiling above him. The nurses have wrapped fresh gauze around his body and there is a distinct, harsh smell emanating from him as I roll up to his bed to rest my head on the arm rest.

“Hey Dax,” I greet with a sigh – hoping he’s not too out of it.

My brother turns his head slowly. His dark brown eyes struggle to find me but once they do, he manages a half smile. His mouth opens but nothing really comes out and I know he’s in no state to hold a conversation but…

“I’m sorry,” I tell him, reaching for his limp – kind of cold – hand resting on the bed. I give it a tight squeeze to mimic my heart and continue. “I’m so useless… it’s all my fault that this happened...”

A grunt like noise escapes him but I don’t bother with it. I focus on his fingers and the way they’re slightly yellow at the tips and then I feel the weight of guilt collapse on top of me. His hand gives mine the lightest response and I feel just a tiny bit stronger. After all – Dax is here.

He’s alive.

10:55 AM MST

I stand, kiss him on the forehead and tell him that I love him.

11:16 AM MST

I’m treated with another round of painkillers and I debate napping.

Instead, I focus on the beeper in my hands and push all thoughts of Dr. Fredericks, Wyatt, Dax and everyone else, out of my mind.

11:34 AM MST

My parents return – noticeably quieter.

1:05 PM MST

Dax is no longer in such a heavily medicated state. But he’s still pretty out of it.

He turns to me and mumbles incoherently about bears.

4:13 PM MST

My brother startles us with an unexpected, panicked gasp. He sits up fully in the bed and shouts, “Calix!”

I almost jump a foot in the air.

“Cale–!”

Mom interrupts. She bustles over to Dax’s form and runs a soothing palm over his forehead. “It’s okay honey,” she babies. “Calix is just fine. Remember? See, he’s okay.” She turns his head to my direction and I offer a small wave.

“But–”

“Ssh – Daxton… don’t worry sweetie. Everything is going to be fine.”

He stares at me, completely bewildered, and my brother and I are close enough that even though strong drugs are still in his system, I know what he’s getting at.

How?

It’s the question of the century. Dax knows I can’t even hold a compass correctly let alone stitch myself up and employ the wilderness know-how to find my own way back to civilization.

But I can’t tell him about the first aid, hot spring, boiling rags, or gentle – by Wyatt’s standards – care I received in my short time on the mountain.

I keep my mouth shut.

5:18 PM MST

Daxton is still eyeing me from the hospital bed.

6:03 PM MST

I haven’t read The Tell-Tale Heart, but there’s that parody episode from The Simpsons I watched when I was younger; subjected to Dax’s suspicious stares in the hospital, I feel like Lisa.

In my head, instead of the beating of a heart under a floorboard, there’s just the echoing sound of wolves howling as I struggle to come to terms with the unarguable fact that I’m to blame for every bit of this whole mess.

An awful replay of Wyatt leaning in to kiss me one last time takes over – and brings with it the devastating reminder that I rejected him so hard. It’s weird how my lips are throbbing with the need to be kissed now...

Truth is, I feel that I’d give anything to have Wyatt love me again; pet me and reassure me … I curse myself up and down and try to suppress the image of those hurt blue eyes that continue to stab at my conscience. I shake my head back and forth hoping that it will just somehow fly out of my brain by itself.

But that doesn’t really work. Instead it just makes my chest tighten up and I’m subjected to complete and utter anguish.

6:16 PM MST

Dr. Fredericks said to reflect… that avoiding wouldn’t make it better…

6:17 PM MST

So I reflect on the fact that I didn’t want things to end that way between Wyatt and I.

I had so many things to say to him – so many things I still want to say. I want to tell him I miss him—I need him—then I want to thank him for taking such good care of me; in his own way. Sure, Wyatt lost his temper a few times. Yes… he lied to me about Dax. But… therapy or not, I’m coming to understand it all. I know he kept it secret from me because he couldn’t bring himself to hurt me even more.

Getting upset? Saying things he didn’t mean? I understand that, too, because I said plenty of regrettable stuff to him as well…

At the end of the day he sacrificed everything just to help me when he could’ve just made good on his cannibal nature and eaten me.

6:19 PM MST

I’m not aware that a hysterical laugh has escaped me until Daxton looks over from the next bed.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing…” I mutter, staring down at my leg.

Because Wyatt apologized, it makes it hard to stay mad at him. In fact, as I continue to think about, I lose track of time and wonder just how stupid I’ve been these past few days being mad at him in the first place. And I’ve been even stupider questioning his intentions.

Wyatt keeps his promises, and, I love him.

7:26 PM MST

As my parents leave to get supper, Daxton takes the opportunity to question me.

“Cale, honestly… how did you get back?” he asks. “You – there’s no way – Mom said you… you stitched yourself up?”

Those eyes are round, wide, and desperate for information.

But instead of answering him, I reach over to the phone beside my bed and dial 9. Then my phone number. As the line rings, I hold my brother’s eyes and mouth a silent apology.

Finally, on the last ring, Wyatt answers.

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