Chapter 28: In Only Seven Days
Cyrus had no idea where Friday went, but it must have gone somewhere, for it was already time to leave Greensboro. He surveyed his hotel room, checked all the drawers and closets, and finally decided that he was ready to go. Well, ready in the sense that he was packed. With a sigh, he headed for the door.
Cyrus wasn’t exactly looking forward to going back for a whole host of reasons. Aside from the fact that he was quite enjoying himself in North Carolina and wanted to stay, there was also the whole relationship aspect. He and Hayden would be fine with each other, of course, but how would they tell everyone else? Would they tell everyone else? Cyrus was hesitant to make Hayden’s life any harder by ostracizing him even more, but he also wasn’t too keen on the idea of having to hide his newfound source of happiness.
And then there was college. Cyrus knew that the moment he returned, he would be swamped with emails and phone calls from his mother about this scholarship or that award, and whether or not he had heard from Princeton, and God knows what else. He wasn’t looking forward to any of it.
Spring break had been wonderful, but it was just that - a break. Now, as Cyrus lugged his suitcase into the elevator, he felt crushed under the weight of worry and responsibility ahead of him. At least he had a few hours to spend on a plane with Hayden before he had to come face to face with the rest of reality. The private plane on which Cyrus had ridden down had already been called back to Canada, so he was flying with Hayden. Luckily, it was an off time for travel in the area, and he was able to easily score a ticket on the same flight.
When Mr. Hill’s sleek black car pulled up in front of Cyrus’s house, he temporarily forgot his own dread in favor of having his heart wrenched by Hayden’s goodbye. The whole family had congregated on the front steps, but Hayden’s farewell to Will’s parents consisted of only a few words of thanks and a hug. They waved at Cyrus as he approached, then turned to go back inside and give them some privacy.
“Well, I guess this is goodbye for a bit, little bro,” Hayden said, his soft voice not quite managing to match the casualness of his words. His eyes were a little glossy, but Cyrus pretended not to notice.
Will wasn’t even trying to hide his tears as he wrapped his thin arms around his older brother. “You’ll Skype, right?” he mumbled into Hayden’s shirt.
“Every night, if you want me to,” Hayden replied, his voice quiet. He ruffled Will’s hair affectionately. “Graduation’s May twenty third. I’ll be back here by June first, okay? That’s not so long.” He looked down at his brother tenderly.
“Okay,” Will said eventually, pulling away with a sniffle.
Cyrus shifted awkwardly, wondering if he should go wait in the car. He felt like he was intruding upon something intensely private. As if Will could read Cyrus’s thoughts, he took that moment to notice him standing there.
“It’s stupid, I know,” Will said, wiping at his eyes. “I mean, this happens every time he visits, right?”
“It’s not stupid,” Cyrus said immediately. “I understand completely. I’m getting teary eyed just watching you.”
Will managed a weak smile. He stepped over and hugged Cyrus quickly. “I’ve only known you for a few days,” he said as he stepped back, “but I’m kinda gonna miss you too.”
As if Cyrus’s heart hadn't already turned to mush. He swallowed past the lump in his throat and promised, “Maybe I’ll pop in on a Skype call now and then, okay?”
“Okay,” Will said.
Hayden was watching this whole exchange with a faint smile on his face. After a moment of silence, he said, “I guess… I guess we should go. We don’t want to be late.”
Will nodded in understanding. Hayden hugged him one final time, then clapped him on the back. “You be good, okay?” Hayden told him. “I love you.”
“Love you, too,” Will said in reply. His straight brown hair fell into his eyes, and he didn’t even make an attempt to brush it out. “Bye.”
“Bye,” Hayden replied.
“Goodbye, Will,” Cyrus added. “I hope to see you again.”
Will nodded. “Bye,” he said again.
Cyrus helped Hayden to the car with his bags. Hayden followed, making sure to wave before he got in himself. The drive to the airport was quiet, and Cyrus thought that maybe he should say something, but what? Unable to decide on a comment that wouldn’t sound forced or fake, Cyrus let the silence ride.
Upon arriving at the airport, Mr. Hill helped them empty out the trunk, and then it was time for another goodbye. “Thanks for everything, Mr. Hill,” Cyrus said. “You’ve been really patient with us.”
“It wasn’t a problem at all,” he said dismissively. “I enjoyed working with you.”
“Same,” Cyrus said, handing him a generous tip. “If I ever need a driver in the area again, you’re the first person I’ll call.”
Mr. Hill’s age-lined face lit up in a smile. Cyrus’s mother must be paying him quite a bit, or maybe he had just taken a liking to Cyrus and Hayden. “Thank you, sir. I appreciate it, and I’m glad all worked out for you. Have a safe flight.”
“Thanks,” Cyrus said. He glanced over at Hayden who was silent and gazing sullenly at the people passing every which way in front of them. Cyrus picked up his bag. “You okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” Hayden replied, taking the handle of his own suitcase. “Let’s go.”
Cyrus watched him worriedly as he wove his way through the airport lobby and into line behind a whole host of people. He didn’t stop studying Hayden’s face all the way through security, or even until they got on the plane and settled in their seats. It was bordering on creepy, but Cyrus was most concerned that Hayden hadn’t yet noticed or called him out on it. He was withdrawn so deeply within himself that he was only going through the motions.
“Hayden, there’s no way you’re okay,” Cyrus said eventually as they waited for the plane to take off.
“I’ve done this dozens of times, Cy,” Hayden said tiredly. “I’m used to it. I’m fine.”
“Maybe leaving your brother behind isn’t something you’ll ever get used to.” Hayden’s eyes snapped to Cyrus’s, but he didn’t regret using such blunt words. At least it got a reaction. “All I’m saying is that it’s okay for you to be upset. It’s normal.”
“I’m fine,” Hayden kept insisting.
Cyrus shook his head and looked down at where he’d joined their hands. “No, you’re not. You’re not, but this time I’m here with you, for you, if you need it.”
Hayden looked at him, and he thought he saw his friend’s eyes become moist. Obviously Hayden felt it too, for he looked away and mumbled, “My tear ducts are malfunctioning today; ignore me.”
Cyrus laughed. “Sorry, no can do.”
Rolling his eyes, Hayden laid his head on Cyrus’s shoulder. Cyrus didn’t move. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever be used to the fact that these little gestures and positions were okay now. It was amazing to think about what had changed all in the span of a week. So amazing, in fact, that Cyrus felt the need to share it as the plane took off.
“Do you realize,” he began, “that a week ago at this time, we were just normal roommates?” There was no response as Cyrus added, “I’m looking forward to the day when I don’t even remember what that’s like.”
There was a brief contented hum from Hayden and then silence. Cyrus looked down, but it seemed like he had fallen asleep despite the turbulence of the plane taking off. Smiling, Cyrus brushed the hair out of Hayden’s eyes, then settled himself against the window. The moment the plane smoothed out, Cyrus rested his head against the window and was asleep in seconds.
Cyrus collapsed on his bed and, by the sound of springs bouncing, Hayden did the same. “Uhhhh,” Hayden groaned. “Why am I so tired? I slept the whole time.”
“I know, you drooled on my shoulder.”
“I did not,” Hayden replied indignantly.
Cyrus cracked a grin, but didn’t open his eyes.
“Hey, guys! Welcome back,” a bright voice said from the doorway. “And here I thought we’d gotten rid of that one for good.”
With great effort, Cyrus managed to get his arms under him and lift himself up. Lee stood in the doorway, grinning. “It’s like eleven o’clock at night,” Cyrus complained.
“And the night is still young,” Lee said. “Alright, fine. I’ll come back in the morning; I just wanted to say hi. Oh, and to say that it’d probably be a good idea not to leave your door wide open.”
“It was his fault,” Hayden said, words muffled by the fact that his face was still buried in the pillow. He raised a limp arm to point at Cyrus, but didn’t hold it for long. Didn’t or couldn’t, Cyrus wasn’t sure.
Too tired to even protest, Cyrus just sank back onto the bed and closed his eyes. “See you in the mornin’,” he mumbled.
Lee laughed, and then the door clicked closed. Whatever he had to say could surely wait until morning.
When morning did come, it was incessantly bright. Cyrus blinked his eyes open and glanced at the time. It was nearing nine thirty, and he was starving. Breakfast ended at ten on Saturdays, so if they didn’t get moving soon, they’d miss it. Glancing over at Hayden, Cyrus found that he was still sleeping. He contemplated letting him sleep, but figured food outweighed rest.
“Hayden,” Cyrus said loudly. “Hayden.” He picked up a throw pillow and lobbed it at his roommate’s head. “Get up.”
Hayden groaned, “Why?”
“Breakfast,” Cyrus reasoned. “We only have a half hour or we’ll have to wait ’til lunch.”
“I know. You coming?”
“Yeah,” Hayden replied unenthusiastically. It took them a good ten minutes to get moving, and they ended up cutting it rather close when they rushed into the dining hall at ten ’til ten. Plates loaded with food, they went to sit down, for the dining hall stayed open even after food stopped being served. Sharpe’s knew that its students needed coffee at all hours of the day.
Just as they were going to sit down, Parker, Lee, and Tim were getting up to leave. Tim and Parker gave them a curt nod, but kept going. Lee hung back, letting them leave before coming to sit down with Cyrus and Hayden. “Hey, guys. You were pretty out of it yesterday.”
“Sorry,” Cyrus said. “It had been a long day.”
“So, what happened?” Lee asked Hayden. “You cleared out. I thought you were gone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to see you back, but…”
“Cyrus changed my mind,” Hayden replied, taking a huge bite of food.
“Yeah, you left in quite a bit of a hurry too,” he said to Cyrus. “Damn near frantic.”
Cyrus shrugged. “It all worked out, didn’t it?”
“Yep,” Hayden said. “Worked out really well,” he said, glancing at Cyrus. Cyrus realized then that they hadn’t yet talked about what they were going to tell everyone. It was a subject that they had so far been avoiding, but now that they were back it would have to be addressed. Should they tell Lee? He was their only true remaining friend, and Cyrus was almost certain he wouldn’t judge. Still, it made him nervous. He had never been in this situation before.
Lee stood then. “I have to get back to the dorm; my mom’s supposed to call soon, and she freaks when I’m not there. Thinks I’ve been kidnapped or something stupid,” he said with a shrug. “See you guys later.”
“Bye,” Hayden said.
Lee turned to walk away, then tossed over his shoulder. “Oh, and you guys make a really cute couple, you know.”
Cyrus simply stared after him, stunned. Well, that was apparently one problem down.