15 And Life To Go - Chapter 11

By: Brian Barnes



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Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction involving teenagers in adult situations. If this offends you, please do not continue.

I knew it was going to be a long night by the fourth time Jeff woke up breathing his frustration into my ears ensuring that I couldn’t get a wink of sleep myself. He was worse than a child waiting for Christmas. I can understand where he is coming from. He hasn’t seen his brother since, well whenever he got locked up, and now he gets to see him in just a few short hours. I’d be a mess too if I was put in the same situation. The thing is, I’m not. And I’m tired. I’m trying to be understanding but my patience is wearing dangerously thin. Sitting back and remembering all the reasons I love Jeff helps, but it’s surely not a cure all.

At some point during the night Teddy hopped up at the foot of our bed. It didn’t take him long to assimilate himself into our little community. I know Mark wants us to build a cage for him, but I personally don’t think it’s necessary. He doesn’t bother us at all in here, and so far I haven’t heard him bark except for when Jack came out of his cabin, but who could blame him? The change Teddy made in Tony was instant. It seemed like overnight he became way more confident and sure of himself. I can’t be sure some of that was coming from us all talking the night before, but I’d bet most of it was him coming out of his shell with his new pal. It was amazing how fast that dog latched to his side, too.

At another point in the middle of the night after I finally had fallen asleep I was once again woke up. This time, however, Jeff was in tears. I could tell he wasn’t awake but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. I really had to shake him to wake him up and when he finally came to he clung to me for dear life. Just seeing that made all my anger melt away realizing a little lost sleep for the man I love isn’t really a big deal. It took about another half hour of me running my hands through his hair and whispering sweet nothings in his ear for him to fall back asleep with me quick to follow.

Lucky for us, today is Saturday. Normally we are to have school today, but since we now take classes at the church, and they only have classes Monday through Friday, we have an off day. Of course we will still drive to the church in the afternoon for our band practice. After last night I was happy to get to sleep in for a change. When Mark finally came into our cabin to wake us up I was fully rested. Jeff didn’t wake up at first, and as much as I wanted to let him sleep I knew that I couldn’t. I glanced over towards Ricky and could see malice in his eyes and I knew that if I let Jeff sleep even for a minute longer that Ricky and the rest would be playing a practical joke on my babe. With a kiss and a gentle shake I was able to get Jeff aware without any jokes being pulled.

It didn’t take long to notice that Jeff was in an odd mood. His head seemed like it was miles away and anytime anyone spoke to him all you could get out of him was “huh?” I wonder if it is only about his brother or if having some bad dreams last night is making him weirded out like this. He never really talks about what happened that day with his father and his brother showing back up in the picture very well could have made the latent feelings resurface. Jeff has a lot of scars that you can see but I’m sure that the scars I can’t see are far worse. I doubt I have the nerve to be able to kill anyone, especially my own father. On first glance you would think the same about Jeff, but once you know him you can tell he’s a survivor. Strong and hard-willed. I always thought I was tough but I’ve got nothing on him. Knowing that today is just going to be torture for him unless he talks about it, I finally dragged him down the path so he can get things off his chest.

“You gotta talk to me babe. You seem so distant today, and you need to let off some steam or something. Share a little bit of that pain with me, Jeff. I love you and I hate seeing you like this!” I told him.

“I’m scared, Nate! I haven’t seen my bro in months. What if he’s different? I never talked to him dafter I shot Pops. I very well could have screwed up his head for life. Bras was locked in his room so he didn’t see anything, but he knows what I did. After I did what I did I made him close his eyes as I took him from the house. I got into Pop’s truck and started driving north. I didn’t get a chance to explain things to him before the cops stopped me and arrested me. I mean, he’s eleven years old, and he’s not stupid. He knows what that man was doing to us was wrong, but will he forgive me for taking his only parent away from him?” Out of breath, Jeff fell to the ground in tears.

I have no idea how to handle this situation. I hope simply holding him is enough. I can’t really answer any of his questions or reassure him that his brother won’t hate him because I just don’t know. His brother really might hate him. If I was in Brad’s shoes there is a good possibility I’d resent Jeff for murdering my father, especially if my mother had passed away as well. So hold him is what I did. Rocking him slightly I started to cry right along with him. I couldn’t help it. Jeff was hurting and that made me hurt too.

After our little bit of drama we headed back for breakfast. Jeff seemed to have come back down to Earth, at least for now that is. Across the fire pit sat Tony, who every ten seconds almost broke his neck looking at cabin one. Henry still hasn’t made his way out to the camp fire and every minute that passes causes Tony to fret just a little bit more and more.

“Tony, mate! Your making all of us nervous, bro! He’ll be out here in a minute’s time. No need to freak out on us!” Ricky exclaimed. I guess the rest of camp figured out what was going on between the newest happy couple.

“I can’t help it!” Tony replied. “Yesterday we talked and it was awesome. I told him I wanted to take things slow but now I’m not sure if I’m gonna be able to stick to that. What if he decided that it was the wrong decision to go out with me? The suspense of seeing him is killing me!”

Geez, two people in one day with the same exact problem. What are the odds? At least with Tony I don’t have to drag his ass out in the woods and comfort him. He’s finally got his own man to take care of that. I’m sure Henry is probably just as excited about the relationship as Tony is. Hell, Henry’s kinda shy which probably explains why he still hasn’t come out of his cabin yet. Either that or he’s stuck in the mirror trying to look his best for his partner.

After five more minutes of watching Tony fidget and twitch Ricky had enough. Cursing under his breath he jumped up and walked right into cabin one to tell Henry to get his “yellow-bellied” ass out there. When the door opened and Henry appeared, he was fully flushed and embarrassed. You could tell that he was hiding ‘cause he’s so shy. I bet he’d want to hide if Tony ever tried to kiss him in public. As soon as Tony spotted Henry he jumped up and took the smaller boy into a hug while exchanging greetings. After a little talk Tony embraced him once again this time pulling him into a kiss. The look on Henry’s face was priceless. Immediately he went red and you could tell he wanted to disappear. The kiss itself seemed to have an effect on him as well. His legs looked like they went weak and a certain other appendage sprang to life. As soon as the kiss was finished Henry noticed his predicament. He quickly grabbed a plate of food and dashed to the first open seat he could find with his plate covering his lap. The whole ordeal was priceless.

After a while I noticed that Jack still hasn’t showed up for breakfast yet. I asked Ricky if he was still sleeping when he went to retrieve Henry. Ricky replied that Jack wasn’t even in the cabin. Knowing that immediately made my heckles go up. That is twice that he just disappeared without anyone knowing where he’s at. Sure, I’ve done the same thing myself, but we’re talking about Jack now. Who knows what he could be plotting out there in the woods by himself. Maybe he did us all a favor and escaped or better yet drowned in the lake. Okay, fine. I don’t want him dead, but the thought did cross my mind.

Once we all had our fill we started to mill around the camp. We’re not used to having all this free time and we didn’t know what to do with it. We’ve gotten so used to the chores that by the time Saturday rolls around they are all complete already so no dice there. No one seemed to be in the mood for a swim either. Even tossing around the football piqued no interest whatsoever. Instead we all just lazed around doing absolutely nothing at all.

Before too long, Jack finally strolled back into camp. His eyes looked much crazier than normal and if I didn’t know any better he looked like he was foaming at the mouth. I could definitely see Jack as a rabid animal. Something was definitely wrong with him, though. His hair was a mess and he looked like he hasn’t slept in days. I think he finally flew off the deep end into crazy town. Our reason to worry just multiplied tenfold. When he seen us all stare at him he shouted “What the fuck are you faggots lookin’ at?” and stormed off to his cabin. We were all shocked and didn’t know what to do. He’d be better off in a mental ward than this program here. Jack looks like he’s close to talking to himself and attempting to bite off his own ear.

With the day ending up weirder and weirder no one knew quite what to expect. Ricky was disappointed that he wouldn’t get a chance to see Allison today, and I felt for the poor guy. Making matters worse, you could tell he was all beat up about it so Brandon and Casey used it to their advantage. They filled in their free time with giving Ricky hell. I know Ricky has a lot of payback coming from all his little jokes but I thought that this was cruel. Funny... but cruel.

I asked the brothers Eric and Blake if any of the girls caught their eye, and got an unexpected result. Apparently they both had a thing for this girl Bethany and they were both adamant that they saw her first. This could only end up bad. Just asking the simple question caused an argument that is quickly turning into World War III. Before they came to blows Ricky and I broke them up. Brothers always fight, I suppose. It is rather funny when you think about it. They are both fighting over a girl that so far hasn’t really shown any interest in either of them. They are both too shy to go up and talk to her.

The only two people in camp that weren’t having an interestingly odd day were Brandon and Casey. They were both together in a clearing laying out in the sun soaking up the rays. You could tell that they were going to last as a couple. They didn’t even need conversation in order to keep each other company. I wasn’t the only one that noticed the two boys minding their own business. Ricky recruited Tony, and the pair of them brought buckets of water from the cold lake. As soon as the water begin falling on their sun burnt skin, Casey let out a high pitched scream that nearly burst everyone’s eardrum within earshot. Tony and Ricky immediately took flight but not before Casey vowed to take revenge. I’m just glad it was him and not me.

Just before we all went out of our minds with boredom, Mark came out of his cabin to round us up for band practice. He informed us that we had to be on our best behavior because we were going to have a meeting with Hank Williams Jr.’s managers and he didn’t want us to make fools out of ourselves. We all hopped into the truck, Jack included, which made everyone very uncomfortable. In just a matter of days Jack transformed from a seemingly normal teenage kid to a psychotic looking lunatic. Right now he is sitting on the wheel well just staring everyone down with his blood-shot eyes like the paranoid freak he is. The must be a way that we can get this guy outta here. I have a feeling he’s gonna ruin everything for us. Maybe one hard push once we get on the highway.... Hey, one can dream, right?

When we arrived at the school it was completely empty which felt extremely odd to us. Usually it was bustling with activities, but today Father Tim had to let us in instead. He seemed rather enthused about seeing us preform today. I have to admit, some of the songs we are playing, I’d never imagine playing in a church or in front of a priest for that matter. At least Father Tim attempts to be ‘hip’ and I doubt he’ll give us any trouble with the selection we picked out.

It didn’t take long for us to get set up in the music room. It’s only been a few days but our routine is down pat. From the time we walk in and take our stations to the time it takes to jam to our first song is only about two or three minutes. Coincidently that’s the same amount of time it takes Jack to disappear yet again. I really think I need to talk to Mark about that. Something is horribly wrong with this situation. If it goes any further, someone could get hurt or worse.

Immediately we started to attempt to learn some of the songs that we didn’t quite know yet. The first couple times through we sounded dreadful. The look on Father Tim’s face was priceless and you could tell he was looking for the band that was hear just a week ago. To show him that we didn’t lose our talent we jammed to a couple of the songs we are all familiar with to set his mind at ease.

Before too long Ziggy J. came strolling in with a man in an expensive suit. His facial hair was trimmed just perfect and the man reeked of money. I could only imagine what kind of car he rolled up in. He introduced himself as Mr. Oswald and told us that he wanted to go through a few rules and procedures with us when we open for Hank. He started off by showing us a list of the songs we couldn’t sing, which wasn’t a problem because we weren’t preforming any of them. Next he told us that we had a photo shoot with the superstar before and after the concert, which was absolutely awesome. That wasn’t all, though. We were asked to learn the song “All My Rowdy Friend” so that we could perform it with Hank Jr. as a segway into his set. Needless to say, we were all ecstatic and yet again impossible to calm down. Bidding us a farewell, Mr. Oswald left us with a million dollar smile.

The rest of practice went without a hitch. Jeff did sound a little different today than the other times we’ve practiced, but we can’t blame him. Today is an incredibly stressful day for my boyfriend, and we all knew it so we didn’t give him any trouble when he sang off key. After our last song of the day we were all pretty worn out from a long week and ready for a day off tomorrow. Slowly making our way out to the truck we were all surprised yet again when Jack was sitting in the passenger seat waiting for us with Mark. It wouldn’t bug me so bad if I knew that when he disappeared he came out here with Mark, but I’m pretty sure Mark leaves and comes back right before practice lets out. For some reason I’m taking it upon myself to find out where the hell he’s going.

We made it back to camp in record time compared to normal. I guess with it being Saturday there is hardly anyone on the roads. That didn’t bother me any, but the closer we came to our temporary home, the more nervous Jeff got. I thought he was going to bounce right out of the truck when we started up the driveway. He did seem a little let down when he noticed that his grandfather’s car was nowhere to be seen. I’m sure I’d be acting the same if, say for instance, Karl was slated to show up out of nowhere. To be honest, I’d probably be a lot worse. At least Jeff has a little bit of control over his emotions, while here lately mine have been all over the map.

While we waited for Jeff’s brother Brad to show up, I convinced Jeff to help me prepare for the evening’s barbecue. I still have to do the majority of the work because Jeff’s head is high in the clouds, but at least he doesn’t seem nearly as worried as before. I did calm him down almost completely when I told him that I doubted his grandfather would be bringing Brad against his will. To Jeff that made perfect sense, and caused him to become excited beyond containment. I’m happy for him, seriously, I am but all this energy is wearing me out fast.

Eventually we finally seen headlights coming up the driveway. Instantly Jeff clammed up again and Brandon came over and took over the cooking so we could go greet our visitors. When Jeff’s grandfather’s car parked we all noticed that his brother wasn’t in the passenger seat. Instantly Jeff’s tears came out of nowhere and he fled into our cabin. I decided to wait until the sheriff explained the situation before going and calming Jeff down.

Getting out of his car, Sheriff Whitmore was confused with Jeff’s reaction. Apparently he made arrangements with Mandy to bring Brad and meet him here because of all the errands that the both of them had to run today. With this information I was able to approach Jeff. At first he didn’t believe me but slowly I convinced him that the worst situation was the one in his mind, and that it probably wouldn’t happen. When we reemerged from our cabin, Jeff’s Grandpa apologized for scaring him, but reassured him that Brad couldn’t wait to see his big brother. That alone got the waterworks flowing on Jeff again. The waves of emotions are crashing all over in my poor babe, and there really isn’t anything I can do except just be here for him.

Finally, after what felt like hours, another pair of headlights lit up our campsite. This time you could see two figures in the front seats of the vehicle. By this time Jeff went completely silent and the hand I was holding got all sweaty and clammy. I seriously thought he was going to pass out right in front of me. Somehow he was able to remain upright when the passenger door flew open and a younger version of Jeff leaped out and bear-hugged his older brother. Boy, was I happy to see that all Jeff’s worries were for nothing. Tears were shed and I thought the hug was never going to end. To be honest, I had tears in my eyes watching the entire scene play out.

Once the boys finally broke their embrace, Jeff introduced me to Brad, and Brad’s response was priceless. “This is that guy you seen working on that car, isn’t it? Oh my God, Are you guys...? This is so cool, I think... Jeff, help me out!” Brad was stuttering while he tried to get an answer for his question without telling on Jeff just in case Jeff was still hiding his homosexuality.

“Calm down Brad!” Jeff said with a laugh. “Yes, this is the hot guy that was working on the car, and yes, he is my boyfriend. His name is Nate, and we’ve been together since I’ve been here.” Brad looked happy with that response and immediately gave me a hug too, almost like he was welcoming me to the family or something. I guess he will be my brother if Jeff and I ever get hitched.

“Nate, did you know that you are all Jeff used to talk about? He used to make me listen for hours about how cool you are and...umpf...” Brad was unable to continue his onslaught as Jeff had his hand over his mouth. I couldn’t help but crack up. Jeff was ten shades of red with embarrassment. I was of course flattered, but I couldn’t help but commit this moment to memory. Jeff loved me before I even knew he existed.

After Jeff had been fully humiliated, Casey announced that the barbecue was ready for everyone to dig in. Brad seemed to have an appetite twice as big as Jeff. He had his plate piled high and as he ate he was already asking for more. All the other campers seemed to take to him like he was one of us. Of course Jack ignored him, but I’ll count that as a good thing. Brad doesn’t need to be around that loser.

Just with Brads presence around the camp brought the energy level back up to normal and where we were bored earlier we are rearing and ready to go now. It was decided that now that we have even teams with someone to take Jack’s place that we should play football in the dark. I thought that Brad would want to be on Jeff’s team, but I was wrong. Instead the boys suddenly got super competitive. I had never seen Jeff this way. He had determination in his eyes, and his demeanor was beginning to scare me a little. As it turned out, Jeff and Brad were so wrapped up in topping the other that they didn’t participate in the actual football game much. Most of the time they spent just tackling each other. When the game was over, Brad and Jeff were both laying on their backs laughing their asses off. It was awesome to watch. Jeff seemed complete now that his brother is back and all of Jeff’s reserves disappeared in an instant.

Before long Sheriff Whitmore and Mandy announced that it was time to leave, and promised to come back Monday or Tuesday. Watching Jeff tell his brother goodbye was a tear jerker. You would think that they would never see each other again the way that they were acting. I can understand it, though. They both have lost so much over the past couple of years and each other is all that they have left. Once Jeff released his death grip on Brad, the young boy ran over to me, said his goodbyes and whispered to me. “Take care of him. He loves you, ya know? I guess you’re my brother now too!” With another hug, he hopped into Mandy’s car and all of us as a group watched the short caravan depart down the hills into town.

While everyone still had their attention on Jeff and the excitement surrounding Brad I pulled Mark off to the side. I didn’t really know how to tell him about Brad without sounding like I hated him and had a bone to pick with him, so I just blurted it all out. How Brad keeps leaving at the practices, and how he came back from the woods today looking freaking crazy. Mark seemed to be listening intently, and told me he would keep an eye on him. Hoping that it would be enough, I thanked him and rejoined my friends.

On our way back to the cabin, Jeff seemed to be floating on clouds. The smile on his face didn’t break a single time as he retold the entire visit his brother gave us. He didn’t care that we were all there to witness it as it happened. He wanted to retell it anyway. I wasn’t about to stop him. Brad made Jeff happier than I can remember seeing him. Even his eyes seemed to sparkle as he talked...and talked. He was still talking once the lantern was extinguished. The only thing that got him to quiet down and try to sleep was Teddy jumping up on our bunk and licking him directly on the lips. With a giggle he gave me a goodnight kiss, thanked me for being there for him today, and turned over and went straight to sleep. The stress must have made him exhausted.

I, on the other hand, had trouble sleeping. I kept tossing and turning all night. It definitely didn’t help when I heard Teddy start yelping at something outside our window. I got him to settle down, and I took a peek at what he was barking at. What I saw unnerved me to no end. In the shadows of the night I could see Jack sneaking out of his cabin and heading off down the trail. What was he up to?

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