The Lost Boy

The Lost Boy, 17.

The quarantine was over, but they still wouldn’t let him leave the hospital. They told him he fell through the ice but he didn’t remember. The last memory he had was of his confrontation with O’dell in his living room.

Doctors were sent to talk to him about the cutting but they found him unresponsive. The loss of his freedom didn’t move Jamie to speech. His removal from the team didn’t faze him either. His mother worried ridiculously about catatonia despite assurance from from the medical team treating her son. He had retreated into himself, but he was aware.

He needed this time. To process, to begin healing. He knew he couldn’t keep on this way. There were people wanting to help bring him back and he wanted to let them. To be in control, to be Jamie Daniels again.

His father kept coming to see him. Jamie hadn’t acknowledged him, staring at the ceiling or sometimes out the window. Alan talked to him anyway. About his life in England and his years playing hockey, his son. My brother, thought Jamie. His yearly box of pictures and news clippings his grandmother sent. All intriguing pieces of information that Jamie filed away to ponder when he was alone.

Samantha and John came, bringing the kids once or twice, but usually they were alone. His mother fussed over sheet thread counts and whether his pillows had feathers or were foam. His stepdad looked at her as though she’d lost her mind. “I have to do something,” she explained. She filled the room with flowers and then it was Jamie’s turn to look at her like she’d lost her mind.

The hospital became a revolving door of former teammates.

Goldstein came, bringing with him a meatball hero from his parent’s deli. “Ya gotta eat something other than jello.”

Dennis spent an afternoon with him, telling him ranching stories, all the while trying not to sneeze at the flowers.

Coach O’dell came while Jamie was asleep. He stared at the boy from the doorway for a long time, trying to figure out how things had gone so wrong. His number two for years had bloody limbs from his fall. Danny, of course, had filled him in on his other dramas and O’dell shook his head. “You’re gonna be okay, Jamie. You’ll make it.”

The days continued to pass in a blur of rotating nurses and friends and family visitations. He was still silent, but began letting on that he was paying attention. His nurses felt his gaze as they changed his dressings and smiled encouragingly. The doctors grew hopeful.

His cuts healed leaving angry scars in their wake. Jamie stared at them, remembering each slice. He wanted to cut. Needed to. Even though his head said no. He touched them gingerly, feeling his body practically scream for the blade, anything to feel the cold metal against his skin instead of dealing with his father’s sudden interest in his life, his mother’s sad eyes, Coach O’dell, Danny Jesse Adam Kayleigh.

Kayleigh.

Kayleigh had come to see him.

“What are you doing to yourself?” she whispered. She didn’t look sad, just disappointed.

Which was worse, in Jamie’s opinion. He spent so many years trying to be perfect; the perfect boyfriend, the perfect son, the perfect teammate. Maybe not the most perfect student but he tried. “Don’t you know how worried I’ve been? Danny said they almost didn’t pull you out in time. Do you remember? The ice was thin. You weren’t breathing.”

Kayleigh’s eyes strayed from his and looked down his body, stopping at his left arm, above the wrist. There was now bruising mixed with the scars.

“Why?” She moved closer, tears beginning to sting her eyes. Burying her face in his chest, she started to cry. Jamie shifted and breathed deeply. “I’m gonna be alright, Kales.”

 

The end.

The Lost Boy

The Lost Boy, 16.

When Jamie woke up, he was cold, thirsty, and alone. He felt the unseen walls surrounding him, and heard the beeping of the heart monitor in the corner of the room. What he didn’t know was how he got to the hospital. Pressing the call button above his right shoulder, he tried to shift himself into a more comfortable position, but found movement to be difficult. His arms felt numb, but his lower half was sore.

He winced as the nurse bustled in, turning the overhead light on and blinding him temporarily. She checked his vitals as he tried to blink away the tiny circles that blocked correct vision.

“Glad to see you’re up. How’re you feeling?” she asked. Jamie paused a moment, debating whether to bombard the poor woman with questions, or just answer her question.

“Tired.”

“That’d be the medications you’re on. They’ll make you feel sluggish for awhile.”

“But why am I on anything? How did I get here?”

“Your doctor will be in later to discuss your situation. Right now, I suggest resting until he gets here.”

“But – ”

“Just rest.” she said quietly, smoothing down his blanket.

xxx

“He needs to know. He wants to know.”

“And I will tell him when it’s time. Until then, you will not say anything to him. Do you understand?”

“I’m his father.”

“It only says that on paper.”

Jamie woke later in the night to the sound of voices talking outside his room. He recognized the woman’s voice, it was his mother’s, but the man’s voice was alien to him.

Groggily, he raised his head off the pillow, trying to catch more of their conversation, but they seemed to be moving away from the door. All he was able to hear was the padding of footsteps as they echoed away from his room.

What was that about? he thought to himself. He was positive they were talking about him, but he didn’t know why. Nothing made sense. Where was he, again? He just couldn’t remember.

Jamie turned his face towards the window, a sliver of light shining in. It shone and reflected off something white on his arm. Bandages. White in color, wrapped around his arm tightly, causing the feeling in it to fade to pins and needles. Underneath, the skin was itchy. Why?

Feeling another wave of tiredness fall over him, Jamie rested his head back on his pillows and closed his eyes. He was asleep within minutes, and never noticed the man with the green eyes that slipped into the room. He didn’t stir either, when he pulled a chair close to the bed, and took his hand.

The Lost Boy

The Lost Boy, 15.

Jamie sat in the overstuffed armchair in the living room, absentmindedly picking the stuffing out of one of the holes. Coach O’dell sat on the couch across from him, staring him right in the face. It was O’dell who had called last night, informing his parents that he had walked out of practice. Jamie was still fuming from the confusion he had caused.

“In the kitchen, now.”

Jamie cringed at the tone his step father used, knowing he was in deep. He didn’t have to question what was wrong, he already knew. He slipped quietly into a chair, his eyes never looking up from the floor. Trying to keep his temper in check, he squeeze his eyes shut, and took a deep breath.

“I want to know what’s going on. Why did Coach O’dell call this house tonight?”

“If he called, then I bet you already know why.”

John stepped around the table, and sat down next to the boy. “I want to hear it from you.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say that will be any different than what O’dell said. I left practice before it was over. That’s it.”

“He said you weren’t focused. You were spastic. He said you seemed like you were on something.”

“I wasn’t.”

“Then why would he think that?”

“I don’t know.”

John knew in his heart that Jamie hadn’t been on anything, but curiosity was getting the better of him. “There had to be a reason for O’dell to think that. ‘I don’t know’ doesn’t answer my question.”

Jamie felt defeated. He didn’t know what else to say. “I took something in the morning. For my leg, it was bothering me. But I wasn’t high.”

John remained silent.

“You know, if nobody’s going to believe me then I’m not going to waste my time trying to change their mind.” He got up, and walked up the stairs to his room, intent on sleeping away this mess he was in.

xxx

“Danny called me last night.”

Jamie looked up, looking directly into O’dell’s eyes. “So?”

“He told me about the conversation the two of you had last night.”

“And?”

“Come on, Jamie. I’m trying to apologize here.”

“Why should I not be difficult? You certainly had no problem being so at practice yesterday.” Jamie shot back.

“I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions. I want to make this work. We need you on the team, but things can’t keep on the way they are. We need to work through this. Please.”

“I need you to trust me. I wouldn’t mess with myself that way. You know that.”

“Does that mean I’m forgiven?”

“I guess.” Jamie responded quietly.

“Can I ask you one more thing?”

He looked up, wondering what O’dell wanted now. He nodded, indicating his response. O’dell reached over, gripped Jamie’s arm in his hand, and pushed the sleeve up.

“How long have you been cutting?”

Jamie stared down at the scars, some of them newer than he’d like them to be.

The Lost Boy

The Lost Boy, 14.

Jamie continued to look up at his old friend, a sad smile on his face. “You found me.” He whispered.

“I’ll always find you.”

The two men sat in the sand, the wind ruffling their hair.

“Put it out.” Danny said, gesturing towards Jamie’s cigarette. “My mom’ll throw a fit if I come home smelling like that.”

Jamie took another quick pull and then obliged, putting his cigarette out in the sand.

“How did you know I’d be here?”

“You always come here when you’re upset.”

“How’d you know I was upset?”

Danny bit his lip, hesitant about his answer. “O’dell told me.”

Jamie breathed deeply, but didn’t say anything.

“He’s worried about you. We all are.”

“There’s nothing to worry about.”

“Really?” Danny asked in surprise. “Last time I checked there was plenty to worry about.”

“Danny..”

“No, please, listen to me.” He stopped, checking to see if his friend would interrupt. When he didn’t, Danny continued.

“I’ve known you since the sandbox Jamie, you can’t hide from me the way you do others.” He paused again, waiting, but Jamie continued to stare straight ahead.

“What happened that night? With Kayleigh? What was so bad?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“I bet you haven’t talked about it with anyone. Come on, help me understand.”

Jamie leaned all the way back so that he was lying on his back in the sand. He stared straight up, his eyes reflecting the stars in the night sky.

“We had sex.”

“I know.”

“You know?”

“Well, yeah. We kind of all do. The whole parents yelling thing tipped us off.”

“She told me she needed a break right after.”

Danny lay down next to him, not saying a word. He didn’t want to interrupt now that his friend was finally talking.

“She called me a few weeks later. She was four weeks late.”

Danny sucked in his breath, and held it. Questions exploded inside his head, but he stayed quiet. He hadn’t known this.

“She was pregnant. John was right. I would – I did get her pregnant. He was right.”

“Kayleigh.. she doesn’t look pregnant. She.. would have had the baby by now though. Right?” Danny questioned softly.

“She isn’t anymore.” Jamie rolled onto his side, facing the swing set he had played on as child. He could almost hear the spirit of his unborn child laughing on it.

“I told my mom about it. She cried a lot, and told my stepdad. They weren’t happy.”

“I wouldn’t think so.” Danny whispered.

“You know, that night John told me that I’d wind up like my mom; too young, uneducated, and alone. He was right, wasn’t he? I am alone. The only difference between me and her is that Kayleigh killed our baby.”

“Don’t say that, Jamie.”

“She did, Danny. She didn’t want a child. She wanted a career in hockey, and she’s going to get one. She’s damn good.”

“So are you.”

Jamie smirked, but didn’t answer; his thoughts still lingering on the baby. “Were you really high at practice?” Danny asked tentatively.

“No.”

“But O’dell said-

“I wasn’t.”

“You trusted me up until this point Jamie, why are you lying to me now?”

Jamie was on his feet, feeling his temper rise.

Danny was on his heels. “Talk to me.”

He turned around, eyes flashing. “Listen to me. I wasn’t on anything. I took some painkillers earlier in the day because I couldn’t walk. My brother was jumping on my bed while I was in it and landed on my knee. I wouldn’t have been able to practice if I didn’t take anything. But I wasn’t high.” He turned back around, and started to make his way home.

Danny blinked into the night. He hadn’t been expecting that. “I’m going to have a lot of apologizing to do,” he said to no one in particular.

The Lost Boy

The Lost Boy, 13.

The loud screech of the telephone rang throughout the house. As usual, it was set to HIGH. With so many people living under one roof, it needed to be. Screams and shouts came from children and adults alike as they all scrambled for it at once.

Like animals, Jamie thought to himself, as he slipped quietly out the door. Pulling his coat tightly around him, he ducked into the darkness and followed a path up the street. He did not need the light of the moon to know where he was going; his feet took him there automatically. Shivering slightly, he quickened his pace.

All of the beaches that surrounded the lake were public. This one was no exception; all of St. Paul had access to it. But it was only visited sporadically. Some people did not like to venture through the thick brush that hid its entrance, some didn’t know that it existed at all.

The Devils knew of its existence. They were, in fact, Crystal Beach’s only visitors for as long as they could remember. Coach O’dell had brought them there as children, when they were still learning the basics of hockey, to practice. It was quiet, secluded, and the water frozen enough to support their weight as they flew across the ice.

After their win against the Falcons, their peewee nemesis, they moved onto real skating rinks, and California, to play in the Junior Divisional Championships. After that, it was St. Dominic’s stadium rink. Gone were the days where Crystal Beach was a playing ground, a teaching ground. Jamie missed those days.

Sitting on one of the rusted swings that scattered the beach, Jamie took in his surroundings. The beach hadn’t changed much since his last visit. The water was frozen, the sand was white, and the abandoned swing set that he had played on with the Devils was still rusty. The garbage cans they used as goal posts were still standing underneath the willow tree – exactly where they were left after their final practice.

Scattered trash had blown from the outside street. He got up from the swing, the chains complaining loudly as he removed his weight from the pad. Reaching down to pick up the litter, Jamie could almost hear the ghostly whispers from his past.

“Hey, that almost hit me!”

“It’s supposed to hit you – you’re the goalie!”

“I don’t want to be goalie anymore!”

Jamie chuckled to himself, recalling how ridiculous he and his friends used to be.

“It’s amazing how time had changed us all,” He said quietly, still hunched over the debris.

“It’s amazing how time has changed you.”

Jamie jerked his head up, surprised at the intrusion. He looked up to see his former teammate, Danny Masters, staring down at him.

The Lost Boy

The Lost Boy, 12.

Jamie woke up to someone pouncing on top of his sleeping form. He rolled over, and pulled his legs up to his chest. He heard someone jump again, and opened one eye in time to see his little brother come down on his left side.

“Stop it.”

He jumped again, landing on his left leg.

“You little – !”

The sounds of running feet echoed the scream, and the seven year old tore down the stairs, screeching to a halt in front of his mother.

“What’s the matter, baby?”

“I didn’t do nothing, he just yelled, and..”

“I did not!” Came Jamie’s cry from upstairs. “Tell the truth, you little brat.”

He slammed his bedroom door shut, and limped over to his bed. Wincing, he reached down, and pulled up a box that was hidden beneath the box spring. His nimble fingers worked quickly, untying the string that held the lid to the base.

“Jamie!”

His head jerked up quickly at the sound of his name being called, and he moved swiftly towards the door. Reaching out, he twisted the lock until it caught, ensuring him privacy until he was ready to face his mother.

Sitting down again, the pain in his leg pulsating even more from his sudden movement, he picked the box up again. Lifting its lid off, he shuffled through the randomness that had accumulated inside until he found what he was looking for.

His fingertips grazed something smooth, hard, and plastic. He picked up the bottle, and stared at it. He unscrewed the cap, and shook two tablets into the palm of his hand. He hadn’t taken these pills in a long time.

Absentmindedly rubbing his knee, he brought his hand to his mouth and swallowed. Ignoring the pounding on his door, he lay down, allowing himself to fall asleep again.

xxx

“Daniels!”

“I’m talking to you!”

Jamie continued walking, banging his way out of the locker room. He made a beeline for the parking lot, and almost made it to the other side of the street when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m talking to you. Where the hell do you get off walking away from me like that? I’m your coach, damn it.”

Shrugging him off, “Leave me alone!”

“You show at practice completely out of it, how else am I supposed to talk to you?”

Jamie turned to face Coach O’dell, his eyes flashing.

“I’m not!”

“You’re certainly were acting like it.”

“I don’t care if don’t you believe me.”

“You haven’t given me a reason to believe otherwise.”

Jamie shook his head, turned to face the street, and continued his way home.

The Lost Boy

The Lost Boy, 11.

It was cold outside. Strong winds blew through St. Paul. It was January now. The crisp, clean air held the tang of a freshly lit cigarette, and he was enjoying it. His left knee ached a bit, but he knew it was just sore from the weather. The cold air made the muscles tighten; more so now since the accident.

Once again sitting in his beloved spot on the dock, Jamie took a moment to reflect. His life had been turned inside out and upside down in recent months, and he still was not sure how to take it in. He leaned back, out of the wind, and remembered.

Waking up in St. Mary’s Hospital had been scary. What was more terrifying was the fact that he had woken up alone. His parents were not there. They weren’t there, technically. Samantha was with her husband, down the hall in his room, gathered with the children they had produced together. John had a concussion; his skull bruised from making contact with the windshield. Jamie had been knocked unconscious and was thought to be asleep. All he could think about was that his mother was not there.

He barely remembered being thrown from the car. He didn’t remember the cracking of his left leg, just below his knee, as he hit the ground.  He didn’t remember the cold; how very cold it had been. Or the unseen ice. The only memory from that night that he held in his heart was the conversation that had proceeded the crash.

“I thought you loved my mother.”

“I do, but I wish she hadn’t been put into the situation she was in.”

“Meaning?”

“I wish she hadn’t gotten pregnant by that jackass. He screwed her, then screwed her over. And she got landed with a baby and no one to help care for it.

“You wish she’d never had me.” Jamie said quietly.

It had been uncomfortable using crutches. It was, however, easier, and much more freeing, than the wheelchair. The weeks of physical rehab were paying off; his leg becoming stronger with each session. Samantha had come to pick him up, and she was obviously in a hurry. Tapping her foot, and shooting him furtive glances, he made his way over to her, as quickly as his crutches would allow. Figures, he thought, she wants to get home to him and the rugrats.

“Mom?” he asked.

“Just let’s go.”

The wailing of the wind brought Jamie back to the present. Glancing at his watch, he wondered how long he had been sitting there, lost in thought. He shook his head, and flicked the burned down stub of his cigarette onto the ice. Shivering slightly, he made his way up the stairs and into the house, heading towards the bathroom. He hadn’t brought anything sharp to his skin intentionally for two weeks, but that was washed away as he turned the overhead light in the bathroom on.

The Lost Boy

The Lost Boy, 10.

Jamie pulled his jersey over his head and hung it up in his locker. Young men were all around, being loud in the way teenage boys are. Laughter echoed off the walls, yet he remained silent. Jamie was never one to willingly make conversation with anyone, and he wasn’t about to start now. These were his teammates, and nothing else.

Farther down the row of lockers was number twenty three, Jamie realized. He hadn’t forgotten that Dan made it through; he just hadn’t resigned himself to the fact yet. He had seen his brother two other times, and both had been on the ice. He played well, Jamie had to admit that, but he still wished he wasn’t there. It was going to take a lot of effort to accept his position on the team.

“Want a ride?”

Jamie looked up from the book he was looking at, finding himself face to face with the Jeep he almost walked into. His stepdad’s face peered from the drivers’ side window.

“I’m on my way home from work; I thought we’d ride together.”

Jamie sighed, and gripped the door handle. He sat down, and pulled the seat belt tightly around him. He wore it religiously ever since the accident. “Thank you,” he said quietly.

John looked at the boy, now a young man, and then turned to face the front window. He pulled cautiously into traffic.

xxx

“Why did you come for me?”

John looked up, surprised; he hadn’t heard anyone come down the stone steps. “What?”

“After practice, why did you come for me?”

“Why do you ask?”

Jamie shrugged.

“Honestly?”

“Yeah.”

“I was curious. I wanted to know how it went. I didn’t think you had an interest in hockey anymore.”

Jamie continued to look at him in silence.

“When O’dell called asking for permission, and later telling me that you were actually playing, I almost fell over. I wasn’t expecting you to play again.”

“Did you not think I’d be any good?”

“You know that’s not what I thought.”

“Then why else would you be surprised?”

“You stopped playing. I really didn’t think you’d play again after…”
Jamie waited a couple of beats. He’d known this was coming. They’d avoided it for too long.

“You didn’t think I’d play again after my surgery. You thought I’d be too messed up for that.”

“I did.”

Jamie sighed, and sat down next to John. “I didn’t think I would, either.”

“Jay, I never really apologized for that night- ”

“Don’t. I don’t want to get into it.”

“We should, though. A lot happened that night that I’m not proud of; a lot has happened since then that I’m not proud of. Everything’s changed. I want to make things better.”

Jamie thought about that. “Why did Stanley move in with us? And his kids?”

“He’s my brother. He was having trouble, and I wanted to help him out. I didn’t think they would be here this long.”

“He doesn’t like me much.”

John chose not to answer, continuing to stare out at the frozen water.

“It went well.”

John looked up, then. “What?”

“Practice. It went well.”

He smiled. “Tell me more.”

The Lost Boy

The Lost Boy, 9.

Two weeks later. North London, England.

Alan Davidson stepped into his office and immediately paged his secretary telling her to hold all his calls for the rest of the afternoon. He had just been informed that a second round of tryouts for the Metropolitan League had been held that afternoon, and his son, Daniel, had made it through. He would be playing hockey in the United States, in a state called Minnesota. He felt flush at the thought. Minnesota. There were so many memories there.

His first time in another country; alone.

His first time experiencing another culture.

His first big break-working for the Daniels Group, a prestigious law firm.

His first love.

His first born.

He was undeniably stuck on the last two. Samantha Daniels had been beautiful. She was also his former partners’ only daughter. His teenage daughter. It wasn’t a good mix. He had been immediately drawn to her; her long blonde hair almost an aphrodisiac in itself. He had loved her tenderly, if not illicitly, but loved her nonetheless. He still missed her, after all these years.

His thoughts drifted to the aftermath of his rash actions, and their repercussions. Samantha had bore him a son; a little boy that had her golden hair, but his greenish gold eyes. It couldn’t be denied that the boy was his son, the paternity test had yielded the truth. The result was Alan returning to England in shame, hoping to keep the boy a secret.

What am I going to do? He thought.

He knew all about Jamie; knew because Samantha’s mother never let a year go by without shipping a box full of pictures and letters explaining all about the boy. Spiteful woman, he often thought. Alan’s mind often wandered to the deepest part of his brain, where he kept the secret of his son tucked away. He looks like me. He has my smile. He plays hockey.

Hockey. That was going to be a problem one day, Alan was sure of it. He knew his son had talent, he watched from afar as Jamie went through the motions of peewee games, the Junior Divisional Championships, and playing for St. Dominic’s. Jamie’s grandmother had sent him his yearly box a few months in advance this year; he had received it yesterday and it contained documentation that the boy had been placed on the Metropolitan team.

With Daniel.

This was going to be interesting.

and so

and so, 0.5.

Scarecrows lined the pathway of the Beckett house and glowing pumpkins were in the windows. Orange garbage bags with painted on faces sat at the curb, filled with fallen leaves. They had put a plastic punch bowl outside, filled it with candy, and left a note that said Take One.

It was Halloween night. Kelly sat on her dresser with Christopher pressed against her. Black streamers and dark lighting, they were behind a locked door while the party went on below them. They had been alone together for awhile, ignoring their friends; kissing, cupping faces and exploring hands.

And talking. Kelly was surprised how much Chris spoke when they were intimate. How much he opened up when he was at his most vulnerable. She loved this side of him.

Christopher tensed, hard, breathing deeply. He tasted her and wanted her and he couldn’t catch his breath.

“Are you sure?,” he breathed.

Kelly pushed against his chest, her lips brushing his, “Shhh. Yes.” She reached down to undo his jeans, sighing against his mouth. “Let me show you what I want.” Then, searching out his eyes, “You’re trembling.”

Chris looked up, lips quirking into a ghost of a smile. “I’m okay.” He bent closer to her and lifted her off the hard wood and onto the bed. Rolling the condom up his length, he then steadied himself on top of her. “I want this. With you. I’m glad it’s you,” he said nervously, leaning down.

xxx

Christopher walked slowly over the crunching leaves that littered the grass he had raked earlier that day. He would have to do it again tomorrow. Checking his phone and seeing he had ten minutes until curfew, he felt around in his jacket for a cigarette. It was surprising to have that ten minutes, since he had stayed to help Kelly clean up after their friends had left.

“Hey.”

He looked up and saw the oldest Reagan son on the front steps of the house. Sighing inwardly at the loss of a hit of nicotine as well as having to endure Davy, he stepped around him and nodded in his direction as he made to go inside. “Hi,” he said softly.

“Now I know there’s no Reagan alive who wants to head inside before curfew.”

Faltering at the door, Chris turned around. “I’m not a Reagan.”

“You’re as good as. Come sit with me. You’ve got a few.”

Sitting down, Chris looked up expectantly. “Yeah?”

“You gonna tell me about what you got up to tonight? Ma and dad might already be in bed, but ol’ Davy remembers the ways of teenage boys well.”

“What?”

Nodding to the Beckett house, “No cops had to show up, that’s good.”

“Why would the cops come? The music wasn’t that loud. Nothing was out of control.” ‘Party’ was only used in the loosest of terms.

“No nonsense I gotta tell the parents about?” He sniffed obviously, “You did a good job of cleaning any scents off you.”

“Do you want to breathalyze me?” Chris snapped. He reddened, realizing he had maybe gone too far. Breathing deeply, he looked up again. “What do you really want? Don’t you have kids of your own to harass?”

“In bed already. Sugar comas. Lindsay and I took them around for candy earlier.”

“Tell me about the blonde,” Davy smirked. “You did have that well satisfied look on your face walking over here.”

“I don’t – ”

“It’s good, you know. Spend time with a girl, especially one like the Beckett girl. Her head’s on straight, which is far from what I can say about you most of the time – ”

“Are you congratulating me or talking shit?”

Davy stopped, staring at the kid. “She’s good for you. I know you. Don’t screw it up.”

“Davy. You don’t know anything about me.” Christopher deadpanned. He stood up, brushed off his jeans, and went inside.

Shutting the front door, he leaned his head back against it. The hallway clock chimed midnight. Time to turn back into a pumpkin.

xxx

Christopher was pulling on a clean pair of pajama bottoms to sleep in when his bedroom door slammed open.

“You know, Chris – ”

He couldn’t help flinching as his brother bulldozed his way into the room. Startled, his vision started tunneling before he remembered to breathe. “Don’t you knock?!”

“You’re going to wake up ma and dad, quit yelling.”

Blinking hard, “I’m not?”

“Christopher. You’re shaking. And white like paper. What’s going on?”

“Nothing, you just scared me, barreling in here like that. What’s wrong with you?”

Davy turned and walked out without answering. Chris sank onto the bed, his heart still pounding. He listened to the sound of his own breathing for a few minutes. “Get a grip,” he said to himself. “It’s just Davy being an asshole.”

“I am frequently an asshole but in this moment, I’d like you to reserve judgement. Here.” Davy shoved a cup of hot chocolate in his hands. “Drink it.”

Breathing in the scent, Chris wrapped his hands around the mug, savoring its warmth. He stared down at it, trying to figure out why it smelled vaguely like cinnamon. “You didn’t spike this, did you?”

Lips in a thin line, Davy rolled his eyes hard at his brother. “No. Drink.”

“Why am I drinking hot chocolate?” He took a small sip.

“You don’t like tea and you don’t need caffeine this late. And chocolate’s good for shock. Your color’s better already.”

“I.. ”

“I know. Stop. Keep breathing and drink.” He placed a hand on Chris’ back. “It’s okay. I wasn’t thinking.”

“About what?”

“That barging into your room like that would do this to you. You don’t have to say anything. I know it put you back there. I am an asshole, I’m sorry.”

Christopher slowly looked back at his mug, and drank some more so he wouldn’t have to say anything. He kept it up until the chocolate was finished. “I don’t mean to be such a mess,” he whispered.

“There are things in your past that most of us don’t have. I didn’t realize how easily you could get sent back there.” Davy looked at the teenager.

“How’d you know?”

“Believe it or not I am an adult and a father. And a big brother. And I didn’t need the physical reactions, I could see it in your eyes.”

Chris cleared his throat. Placing the mug on the nightstand, he stared out the window. “What were you coming in here to say? Before, uh, this.”

“I was going to say things that were out of line and unnecessary. Don’t worry about it.”

Christopher turned to look at him. “I like her. She doesn’t deserve to be talked about the way you started to. And I haven’t touched a drink in four months.” He could see Davy doing the math, calculating how long he had been here as Drunk Chris versus Sober Chris.

Davy looked at him. “Good. Try to sleep, kid.”