The Bartender

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Chapter Twenty-Three

Aiden’s P.O.V

Pristine white walls stared back at me with the same intense glare at I did them. The lavender scented air freshener from two years ago entered my nostrils just as they had done before. It actually made me nauseous. I glanced at the farmed cat pictures that hung on the wall. I’d heard often that cats were fascinating. I’d never been drawn to them though, neither had I encountered one. From what I could see in the pictures, this particular white and black fury creature was quite lazy. All the five pictures were of him, or her, paying in a couch like they owned the place.

Not knowing where else to look at, I spared a glance at the woman who sat in front of me. She was a gorgeous African American woman with a beautiful, glowing skin tone. Her braids had been styled into a bun that rested atop her head. From what I could see, she wore a simple lavender blouse. Maybe it was a dress. I glanced back at her face and her beautiful big brown eyes stared at me patiently. They made me nervous, as though they were looking right into my soul.

She was just as I remembered. Cool, calm, collected and everything that I was not. I hated her. She was the one that had diagnosed me as depressed, which I wasn’t, in any way. I don’t know where she got her degree from but that word had nothing to do with my life. I couldn’t help but glare at her.

“Are you just going to stare at me?” I asked, finally bored of the silence.

“What would you have me do, Aiden?” she asked.

I shrugged. I’d rather she asked me to leave but we still had 45 minutes to go. Just my luck.

“How are you?” she asked, again. This was the first question she had asked me since I got here and I refused to answer. It wasn’t as if telling her how I was doing could change anything.

Ms. Imane Mills sighed. I was probably making her job difficult.

“Aiden, whatever you say here will not leave this room. Think of these four walls as the walls of trust. Everything we discuss will remain between us and when we leave this room, we will simply forget about it until we’re back” she explained.

I didn’t care about all that confidentiality bullshit. I just didn’t want to be here. I was angry and frustrated because my parents brought me here, against my will. All I wanted to do was go to sleep or something, but mostly, hang out with Brian.

I was missing him deeply, if I was being honest. I’d have gone straight to him had my father not picked me from school. I didn’t even get a chance to send a message to him through Kyle and it was eating me up.

I didn’t think I’d feel this way about him, honestly. Then again, I’d spent the most part of my life hating gays so I guess I had nothing to complain about.

I guess I just liked him, more than I should. Maybe even more than that. If I could spend the whole day cuddling and kissing him, I would. But alas, I had to deal with my mental health.

“Where are you right now?” she asked me.

I rolled my eyes. “Your office?” I answered.

She chuckled. “No, I mean, what are you thinking about? Where’s your head right now?”

“Brian. I’m thinking about Brian” I answered.

“Is that a friend of yours?”

“Maybe”, I shrugged.

“What do you mean?”

“Just maybe” I stated, not wanting to explain to her how I saw Brian asked more than a friend. Besides, it was none of her business.

“Would you like to talk about him?”

“No” I deadpanned. I saw no reason to.

“What would you like to talk about then?” she asked. I searched her face for any sign of frustration but I saw none. Were I in her shoes, I’d probably have told my client to leave and never come back. I knew I was being difficult but she couldn’t really blame me, could she?

However, I soon realized that sitting here, just staring at each other was far more awkward than any conversation we’ll ever have, and maybe I shouldn’t let my parents hard earned money to go waste, no matter how much I wanted to.

I thought of things to talk about, things that were bothering me. Of course, there was the self-harm, and the drugs but I felt it was too soon to talk about those. Even I didn’t like thinking about that. I couldn’t necessarily talk about it with someone who didn’t understand. I talked to Niall about it, but that was a necessary evil.

Speaking of him, I wondered how he was doing. Who was taking care of him now that Dad and Chance were at our house? Was he living alone?

Maybe I should talk to Ms. Imane Mills about him. I still wasn’t comfortable, for lack of a better word, with the fact that he was my brother. It was strange. Why didn’t my parents tell me for all these years? What was so bad about it that they had to keep it a secret? They had apologized but that didn’t mean I wasn’t hurt.

I couldn’t though. She wouldn’t understand.

No one did. Except Brian. He listened when I talked and he always seemed to know what to say. Maybe I should talk about him. Thinking about him rose my spirits, for some reason. To think that I had hated him when he first met, anyone would have. He was always naked and trying to pick a fight with me. I chuckled at the thought.

I heard a throat being cleared making me glance up to see Ms. Imane Mills looking at me expectantly.

“The weather is kind of cool?” I asked instead and she smiled.

Yeah, we could talk about the weather.

***

Turns out, you couldn’t talk about the weather for two days straight. As soon as I mentioned it, Ms. Imane Mills looked at me pointedly as if to say that wasn’t the reason why I was seated on her red leather couch in the four walls of trust.

“Oh come on, the weather has been interesting lately” I answered.

“Oh do tell, in what way?”

I gasped. “You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed the variations in temperatures. One day it’s so hot you can’t step outside without sunscreen, and the next, it’s raining so bad that a mudslide occurs” I argued.

“I have noticed. But go on? Has the weather somehow affected your everyday life?”

“But of course. These days, I’m even scared to make coffee because it could cause a fire which can then turn out to be a forest fire” I stated seriously.

“I thought you didn’t know how to make coffee” she said.

Oops. I didn’t think about that one. “But still. You can’t really think that climate change has got nothing to do with our everyday lives. I haven’t experienced its extremities first hand, but in places like Kiribati, the government has had to migrate its citizens because sea levels are rising and it’s causing damage to people’s houses. Climate change is more serious than we all thought it would be and as a good citizen of the United States of America, I think that something needs to be done about it, and fast!” I finished, eyes wide and breathing heavily, quite shocked at my outburst.

She only nodded, looking calm as ever and not even surprised at my outburst. “You really care about these things, don’t you?”

“Of course. I care about everything that has to do with the environment” I answered. I did. I hadn’t noticed but anytime I was on YouTube, or twitter, I mainly checked issues about the environment. I love a good landscape but I once saw a video about how we had destroyed so much of it and I guess I wanted to know more.

“It’s something you want to pursue then?” she asked.

I shrugged, again. Where was she going with this?

“I’m only asking because you haven’t been so passionate about something before given that we have only had two meetings”.

“Maybe, I don’t really care” I answered.

She looked like she wanted to say something else but the alarm on her desk chimed and it was time for me to leave. Finally!

“I hope we get to speak more like we did today Aiden” she said to me before I left. I rolled my eyes and shook my head. Maybe.

So that was how my therapy session went for the rest of the week up for two weeks, only on working days. I’d go to Ms. Imane Mills’ office every day after school. I didn’t like it but according to her, we were making progress so my parents found it necessary to send me there every day. Apparently, if I made more progress, they’d decide on a somewhat regular schedule so I wouldn’t have to go every day.

Of course, they didn’t care to ask me what I thought. After all, it wasn’t my mind that was being examined.

That wasn’t what even made me annoyed. Admittedly, talking to Ms. Imane Mills was far more relaxing than I’d assumed it would be. We mostly just talked about the weather and sometimes, my studies. I’d told her about how I was failing in maths and chemistry, and physics, and she had advised that I should get a tutor.

I told her I had one but we hadn’t gone further than that because talking about Kyle would eventually make her ask about Brian. I didn’t know why I didn’t want to talk about Brian. For some reason, I was always on guard when she asked about him. Maybe I was just worried she’d judge because he was older than me. I didn’t even know how old he was. Hell, I didn’t really know much about him.

Speaking of him, I still hadn’t got a hold of him in a while. I did text him on Kyle’s phone asking how he was doing and apologizing for not having called him. I couldn’t wait for a try since Dad decided to honk at me at that very moment. He was really keeping me on a tight leash, much to my displeasure.

According to Kyle though, Brian seemed a bit busy and he hadn’t seen him much. Maybe there was more work at the bar.

It was finally Sunday and I was bored out of my mind. My parents weren’t at home; they hadn’t been since last night. I think they went to Chance’s place but I didn’t really care. They had asked if I wanted to tag along, to see my brother but I wasn’t sure if Niall wanted to see me. Sure, we had a moment but even I knew that it would take a while before he came to terms with me being his brother. I wasn’t going to rush him into it though. I’d hurt him, and he needed time.

I sighed, running my hand through my hair. I was sitting on my bed looking at my TV. I’d turned it off after a while. There was nothing good on TV anyway. I just wished my dad would give me back my phone. Didn’t Ms. Imane Mills talk to him? I remember her saying, “and I’ll make sure to speak with your dad on giving you your phone back. It’ll do you some good to talk to this Brian person” after one of our sessions.

I guess she realized just how much I missed him.

I got up from my bed and not knowing what do, decided to just walk around for a bit. I walked upstairs to my parents’ floor and passed by dad’s study.

A thought then occurred to me.

He wasn’t home, no one was. And if I did, the maids wouldn’t care. After all, they lived with me and not my parents. So I did what I had to do.

I opened the door to his study and began searching for my long lost love. It didn’t take long because there he sat, my beloved phone, on dad’s desk.

Hallelujah!

I might have jumped up a bit before taking it and rushed to my room, quickly turning it on.

A lot of messages popped up, most of them were from my classmates, about this party or that party. About four were from Andrew, a few from Kyle and even some from Gabrielle, all asking how I was doing. They knew I had been grounded but I guess they just wanted to check if I had gotten it back.

I opened my messages to see if Brian had left any but there was none. The smile on my face vanished instantly. Had he not tried to contact me at all? Maybe he just didn’t text me, I told myself.

I opened my call log and as expected, I had 30 missed calls from Brian. This was from last week. The number reduced drastically each day though until last Monday where he had only called three times. That was the last. He hadn’t left any voice messages though.

But still, I was ecstatic. He had tried to contact me. Finally, it made me happy to know he missed me just as much as I missed him.

I quickly called him, hoping to tease him a bit about it, and of course, gear his deep and soothing voice. He didn’t answer. I called again, each time with less enthusiasm than before.

After a total of five calls, I had had enough. Was he so busy that he couldn’t even answer my calls? What was he up to? It wasn’t night yet and as far as I knew, the bar didn’t even open on a Sunday, so what at all could be so important.

I probably shouldn’t have been angry but I couldn’t help it. I wanted his attention, I craved it. After two whole weeks of not being near him, I was starved and I needed to be satisfied.

Without much thought, I went downstairs, only dressed in sweatpants, a T-shirt and slides, I took my mom’s car keys and drove over to Kyle’s house. He had some explaining to do.

I tossed my phone aside after calling Kyle who assured me that Brian was at home. That angered me even further. If he was at home, why was he ignoring me?

I knocked frantically on the door, not caring about how stupid I was being at that moment. The door opened to reveal Niall, who stood there in nothing but his boxers. He looked well and suddenly, I wasn’t angry anymore.

“Hey” I greeted, forcing a smile.

“Hi” he smiled back. I couldn’t tell if it was forced or not, honestly, I had never seen him smile before. “What are you doing here?”

“Had a sleepover with Kyle” he said and a blush coated his cheeks. A mental image of them kissing all night long flooded my mind. Okay, I didn’t need to know that.

I nodded and he let me in, closing the door behind him after I’d left. I heard some noise coming from the living room so I walked towards there. Niall said something about finishing but I wasn’t bothered in the least. I had only one agenda in mind. I would speak to them later, I told myself.

However, I knew later wouldn’t come because the moment I got to the living room, I found myself wanting to rip out my hair, my eyes, my heart itself, if anything, to stop the pain that I felt within me.

It seemed that time had stopped at I stood there looking at what was happening. There was a boy on the couch with Brian. He had dyed blonde hair from what I saw, and he wore a tank top and jeans. They were speaking quietly, the boy’s head on Brian’s shoulder. Brian was just sitting there though, as if they boy wasn’t even there, his eyes were glued to the TV. He was bare chested though, and my eyes immediately went to his waist, hoping he wasn’t naked and much to my relief, he wore sweat pants.

Who was this boy and why was Brian cuddling with him instead of me? Was he the reason why he hasn’t answered any of my calls? What had they been doing before I got there? And just like that, a whole lot of scenarios popped up in my mind as I wondered if Brian actually liked me at all.

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