Disclaimer: This story is the property of the author. Characters, plots, and everything else may not be borrowed or posted elsewhere without permission. Any similarities to names, places, real people, whatever are a coincidence and this work is strictly a result of my imagination. Now that that’s out of the way, if you are easily offended by relationships between two males you don’t want to read this, and if you are too young, or if it is illegal in your area to read sexual content between two consenting males then don’t read on.
Thanks to Jim for editing!
Honey, just have a glass of milk and try to go back to sleep. No more sugar before bedtime, m’kay?
That’s what Frank imagined he’d hear from his mom if he woke her up to tell her about the phone call he’d just gotten. That’s why he didn’t. Instead, he dressed, snuck into her purse for the car keys, and as quietly as possible, pulled the Subaru away from the house, hoping not to wake anyone.
It was still dark, his headlights casting deep cutting shadows as he took the dirt road slowly, unable see beyond what was in front of him. The windows were up, keeping out the cool air, which might have been comfortable any other time.
Frank felt like he couldn’t breathe, but he was wide awake, even while his mind was oddly numb of all the thoughts that should have been running through it. The truth was, Frank didn’t want to think. He didn’t want to think about the last moments of that phone call before the line went dead--the pleading in David’s voice, the suspicious sounds of a scuffle, and the rush to hang up on him. He didn’t want to think about what he was about to do because of that call, either, because Frank knew that as soon as he started thinking about it, he’d realize how incredibly foolish charging out in the early hours of morning to launch a rescue with no backup really was. He just needed to get there. Through every wrong turn before he reached the Martin house, Frank just wanted to get there, and when he did, he found himself somewhat grateful that he didn’t lose confidence at the door.
He’d left the Subaru headlights on, aimed at the house. It was too dark, otherwise, and he wasn’t interested in any more surprises. This time, Frank wanted to be the surprise, which is why he hardly hesitated before lifting his fist to relentlessly pound on the front door. No tapping this time. He wanted to be heard, and he wanted to be heard quickly. He wasn’t disappointed when he saw a light inside come on just before the door cracked open, and was further relieved when he found that it wasn’t Oliver’s dad he was facing. Mary Martin wasn’t as nearly as intimidating, especially in a fluffy purple nightgown. She looked more frightened than surprised when she saw Frank, which he immediately used to his advantage. He really wasn’t in the habit of intimidating women. His mother would have made a point to tear him a new asshole if he ever had, but this time, he was willing to make an exception. “Where are Oliver and David?” he demanded.
Mrs. Martin was quite the actress, Frank decided, when she appeared to be outraged through the thin crack in the door she was standing behind. “They’re sleeping, and you should be, too. Obviously your mother has no idea you’re out at all hours of the night or I’m sure...”
“I just got a phone call from David,” Frank cut her off. “He’s not sleeping. Get him.”
Mrs. Martin narrowed the one eye that Frank could see on him. “Go home, or I’ll call the police.” She started to slam the door, but this time Frank was quick to get a foot in.
“And I’m sure that’ll do you a whole lot of good,” he said sarcastically. “Where is David?”
When Mrs. Martin didn’t answer and attempted to shove her door closed on Frank’s foot instead, he’d finally had enough. With both hands on the door he pushed his way by it and Mary Martin, into the house.
“That’s it!” Mary huffed, stepping back. “I’m calling the police!”
“Go ahead,” Frank replied as he looked over the perfectly normal living room for anything not-so-normal. “I was gonna get to that, anyway.” He glanced challengingly towards Mrs. Martin, and as he’d suspected, she stopped short of picking up the phone. But what he hadn’t expected, was the swollen purple blemish marring her left eye. That definitely hadn’t happened from being clumsy, which is exactly the explanation Frank thought he’d get if he asked. “Where’s your husband?” he asked, finally recalling that forcing his way into someone else’s house wasn’t the safest scenario in the world. Mary must have seen that the idea of running into Mr. Martin made Frank nervous.
“He had to run out for a minute. You better not be here when he comes home. I’m warning you...”
“Ran out at three in the morning?” Frank mumbled skeptically under his breath before he decided to focus on the task at hand. If Brian Martin was gone for the time being, then he thought it was best to hurry. “David?” he called, moving further into the house, cautiously making sure that the door stayed wide open behind him. “David!” He raised his voice as he neared the hallway and Mary stepped into his path.
“I told you, he’s sleeping!”
Frank ignored her and brushed by, opening the doors of two rooms, an office and a master bedroom before he found the one he was looking for. He paused in the doorway for a long moment, taking in the simple space. Tidy, but cluttered. And, there might as well have been a taped line down the middle of it.
There were two twin beds, one on each side of the room. One was neatly made, looking like it hadn’t been slept in tonight. There was an old car magazine at the foot of it, right next to a red lighter. On that side of the room there were photos tacked over the walls, mostly of objects that most might find meaningless. A wilted leaf, a fish on the end of a fishing line looking rather unhappy to be there, the shadow of a tree and a bird guarding over its fallen nest. The effect seemed dark to Frank. Angry and sad all at the same time. And all of it, the pictures, the bed, the worn black sweater on the floor--it wasn’t Oliver’s. That was easy enough to see.
The other side of the room was much more chaotic. But it seemed comfortable. The bed was a pile of tangled sheets, clothes were folded on a chair, waiting to be hung. There were a few aquariums full of caught crickets and frogs, and a wedding photo of the elder Martins right next to a framed poster of a cartoon chicken that was smiling unnaturally. There were old action-figure toys arranged over a dresser and a World’s Greatest Son trophy, likely purchased in a dollar store. But none of that was what Frank focused on as he moved to the unmade bed and lifted up a familiar picture of himself on a bicycle that had been partially tucked beneath the pillow. He stared at it for a long moment before placing it back where it had been, and when he looked up to face Mrs. Martin, she looked like an animal who’d been suddenly caught in the sight of a predator.
Frank simply felt stunned. It occurred to him that before walking into this bedroom, he’d actually expected to find at least Oliver in it. At this hour, someone should have been sleeping in those beds. It was possible that since Mr. Martin wasn’t there, he could have taken them somewhere; but if he had, Frank doubted that it was your average father-son outing, otherwise, Mary would have simply told him. Instead, she’d chosen to lie, and every warning bell Frank had seemed to be going off in his ears.
“Where are they?” he asked again, but the question seemed rhetorical when he didn’t bother waiting for an answer. This time as he pushed past Mary to get out of the room, he was calling more than David’s name, his voice sounding slightly panicked in his own ears. “Oliver? Oliver? Oliver!”
“That’s enough!” Mary shouted as she followed after him, making a grab for Frank’s arm only to have him shake her off. “I want you out of my house! Now!”
Frank wasn’t listening. He was too busy moving through the Martin residence as if he owned the place, leaving no door unopened in his wake. Closets, bathrooms, even a three-foot-tall chest used to store blankets; he checked it all, calling for Oliver in the process, and occasionally shouting out David’s name. But nothing. Nothing. Surely, Frank thought, if they were there, someone would have called out. Someone would have responded. He would have gotten something. Frank rounded on Mary as he backtracked to the kitchen and she followed him in, flipping on a light that momentarily assaulted his eyes. “Where are they?”
She crossed her arms, pursed her lips. Nothing. Frank released an exasperated sigh and headed through the kitchen, towards the back door. He only had the garage left to check, or so he thought. He had his hand on the back door, knowing full well that Mary Martin planned to lock him out as soon as he went through it, when he spotted another door off to the side. It looked like another closet, but Frank still reached for it, knowing he’d found something important when Mary shouted out for him to stop, even as he yanked the door open and looked down a steep staircase in front of him that led down to a thick door. He was there in a moment, surprised by the bluntness of the surface as his fists began to meet it after he found it locked. “Oliver! Oliver? Answer me! David?”
No response. Frank spun around, jumping slightly when he found Mary Martin behind him once again, this time appearing more upset than angry. She almost looked like she was going to cry, but Frank found himself completely insensitive to it. “Unlock it!” he ordered, startling the woman with his tone. She shook her head at him, and in response he turned and aggressively began to move back up the stairs. He was surprised when two steps later, Mary changed her mind and rushed down them to do what he’d told her to do. Frank didn’t consider himself a very intimidating individual, especially one capable of intimidating adults, but when it worked this time, he wasn’t about to apologize for it and watched as Mary Martin removed a key hidden beneath a piece of worn carpet on the floor. With shaking hands she brought it to the lock, and when she appeared too upset to make it work on the first try, Frank snatched the key out of her hands and did it himself. He heard the lock click, paused momentarily, and shoved the door open.
And then he stared. There. In the strip of light provided from the open doorway a boy he knew lay seemingly unconscious, knees curled into his chest, on the cold cement floor of a windowless basement.
“Please,” Mary suddenly said. “You have to understand...”
Understand? Frank took the time to flash the woman a disgusted look before he was in the room, kneeling down to the form dressed in a t-shirt and loose jeans. Frank touched a cold arm, and then slid his hand around to the back until he was satisfied that the other boy was breathing. When he glared back at Mary Martin and saw that she was crying, he felt like doing a little crying himself. “How could you do this?” he demanded. “Why would you do this?”
Mary Martin choked back a sob. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
Frank was on his feet before she even started to close the door, but by the time he got there he was hearing the click of the lock, and suddenly David’s strange message made sense as the light went away.
Jenny Woodmoore was an early riser. She always had been, a habit she believed she’d inherited from her mother, who’d always said that the sky looked its best just before the sunrise. Jenny agreed. Most mornings she could be found out on the docks with her camera in the dark, waiting for those first few perfect moments of the sunrise.
This particular morning was a cool one, and as she sat on the edge of the docks it didn’t stop her from slipping her bare feet into the icy water until her toes nearly ached. Looking up at the sky, still cluttered with a few visible stars, she once again thought about how she wouldn’t mind spending the rest of her life right where she was. Their little town was a peaceful one, and she couldn’t think of any place better. I wish Jay could feel that way, she thought wistfully as she heard soft footsteps coming up behind her.
Jenny didn’t bother turning to see who else would be out that early on a Sunday morning. Instead she just waited as she felt a warm body kneel down behind her, and leaned back onto a comfortably firm chest as loose arms wrapped around her body from behind.
“You’re late,” she grumbled, leaning her head back on a shoulder to look at the pale face and chocolate eyes watching her.
Jay shook his long blond bangs out of his face and smiled. “Next week, you let me sleep in,” he informed her.
Jenny rolled her eyes. “Whatever. You know you don’t sleep in.”
Jay let out a breath and turned his attention the shining dark water while Jenny continued to watch him.
“What’re you thinking?” she finally asked.
It took a moment for him to respond. “He knows it was us.”
Jenny frowned. It felt like they’d been having this conversation repeatedly since the day before. “Don’t you think he would’ve said?”
Jay shook his head. “Yesterday wasn’t a coincidence. He wanted you to invite him into the group today. Bet the guy’s never taken a picture in his life.”
Jessica fell silent for a long moment. “Isn’t this what you wanted? If he shows today, you can ask him...”
“I can’t just ask,” Jay stated. “Don’t know if I can trust him.”
Jenny sighed and leaned closer to him, causing him to tighten his grip on her. “I wish you could let this whole thing go,” she whispered.
“Why not?” she asked, annoyed. “It’s getting to be too much for you, Jay. Let it go.”
He shook his head again, and then rested his chin on the top of her head. Jenny sighed. She wouldn’t get anywhere with him. He was too determined.
“He has to know something, Jenny,” Jay insisted. “He’s spending time with the Martins.”
“That doesn’t mean...”
“It has to.”
Frank rubbed at his eyes with his swollen fists, becoming frustrated as he began to realize that it didn’t matter how much time passed, his eyes would never adjust to the darkness. No light. It was suffocating. To make matters worse, he had no idea where the door was. He’d quickly realized that there was no handle on this side of the wall, and everything felt the same beneath his fingers. For all he knew, he’d been screaming at walls for at least a half hour.
Sliding down against the wall until he was seated on the cool floor, Frank tried to remain calm. He was most definitely in trouble, but he was confident that he could still get out of it. He guessed that Mrs. Martin was waiting for her husband to get home. Frank didn’t even want to think about what might happen then. He chose to think about his own mother, instead. She’d be waking up in a few hours, and as soon as she realized that both he and the car were gone, he had no doubt that she’d be sending up smoke signals. She’d find him. She had to.
A soft groan reaching his ears pulled Frank away from his own troubles as he remembered that he wasn’t alone; and feeling guilty and foolish, he felt his way across the floor on his hands and knees until he felt a sock-covered foot and inched his way closer to the body, realizing that he still didn’t know who his company was.
“Head hurts,” a voice mumbled, and Frank immediately felt his way to the boy’s hair, remembering that there was one simple way to figure out who the voice belonged to.
“Oliver,” he whispered as soon as he felt the familiar stretch of scar tissue. And with that out of the way, he quickly began to search for the cause of the pain Oliver was experiencing. Only, a lump on the head proved difficult to feel against the already uneven skin. “Don’t move,” Frank insisted when Oliver attempted to sit up. Gently, Frank shifted and lifted Oliver’s head onto his knee, hating that he couldn’t see him.
“Frank?” Oliver asked, sounding surprised. “Frank?”
“Shhh. Yeah. It’s me.”
Oliver was silent for a long moment, and Frank jumped a little when he felt the other boy’s finger’s touch his cheek. Frank took the hand and held it over Oliver’s chest, where he could feel the other boy’s steady heartbeat. “I don’t like it in here, Frank. It’s too dark.”
“Yeah,” Frank agreed. “Listen, Oliver. We’re in trouble, okay? I need you to tell me what happened. Please, it’s important.”
“What happened?” Oliver repeated, sounding dazed.
“How did you get down here?” Frank asked.
“I don’t know, Frank.”
“Oliver,” Frank started, quickly becoming frustrated. But, he managed to check himself when he felt Oliver become tense over his tone. “Oliver, do you know where your brother is?”
It seemed like an important question to Frank. He felt relieved that one brother was accounted for, especially since it was Oliver, but David was still missing, and despite the danger of his own situation, Frank couldn’t help being worried for the other twin.
“He was here,” Oliver said groggily. “I thought he was here with me... it was dark, but...I don’t know, Frank. I don’t remember.”
Frank paused for a moment, wondering if it was possible. “David?” he called out. When there was no response, he carefully eased Oliver into a sitting position. “Stay right where you are, okay?” he said, but as soon as Frank began to move away from Oliver, Oliver reached out and clutched his arm.
“Don’t go, Frank!”
“It’s okay,” Frank promised, reaching out to touch Oliver’s face for reassurance. “I’m not going anywhere. “I’ve just gotta find out if your brother’s here.”
Oliver released him then, and Frank slowly crawled away, allowing his hands to search the floor for him until he came to a wall. Back and forth he moved, feeling for any sign of David. As he searched, he listened to the sound of Oliver’s breathing. It became shorter and strained as Frank grew further away, and finally, Frank made a point to talk to him.
“We’ll get out of here, Oliver.”
Frank froze in one corner of the room as his fingers brushed against something other than the hard floor. A soft material, coarse in texture. He slid his hand up it. “Has this ever happened before, Oliver? Have you ever been stuck in here before?”
Oliver was silent for a moment, and Frank heard him release a frustrated sound before he answered. “It’s the blackouts, Frank,” he replied miserably. “I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember if you’ve been trapped in here before?” Frank asked as he lifted the object he was touching. It seemed to be just a blanket. He lifted it to his nose, deciding it was clean, if not a little dusty. David wasn’t there as far as he could tell.
“No,” Oliver groaned. “I... sometimes I come down here on my own, and the door accidentally locks. My mom has to let me out.”
Frank turned his head in the direction of Oliver’s voice and shut his eyes. The blackness of the room was beginning to get to him, causing his head to spin. “That’s not possible, Oliver. The door locks from the outside--with a key. It was never an accident. It sure as hell wasn’t an accident that I got locked in here.”
Frank heard Oliver sniffle and started to crawl back with the blanket. “I don’t know why I’m in here, Frank,” Oliver said as Frank found his knee in the dark.
Frank moved so that he was behind Oliver and pulled the other boy back to rest against on his chest as he draped the blanket over him. “Try to remember,” he insisted. “Look, your mom was hiding you when I got here. If I hadn’t seen the door... shit, Oliver. She locked us both in here, okay? I need to know why. When that door opens again, we’re both gonna have to fight, you got that? My mom’s gonna figure out that something’s wrong when she wakes up, but until then... shit.”
“My mom will let us out, Frank,” Oliver insisted, obviously not seeing the situation as dire as Frank did.
“No, Oliver... you don’t get it...” Frank paused to collect his thoughts, and found himself pulling Oliver closer against him, as if it would help him to convince his friend that they were in trouble. “Okay. How ‘bout this... do you know what time it is?”
“I don’t think so, Frank.”
“Early,” Frank informed him. “So early that it’s not even light out yet. Think, Oliver. You’re usually sleeping in your bed right about now, aren’t you? So how did you get here?”
“Are you usually sleeping in your bed right now, Frank?”
Frank released an exasperated sigh. “David called me. He wasn’t making any sense. I knew something was wrong, so I came over here. Your mom locked me in here with you, and I still don’t know where your brother is. Your dad was gone, too... do you think David’s with him, Oliver?”
Frank felt Oliver shake his head. “Dad says David’s bad,” Oliver said quietly. “I don’t want him to get in trouble anymore.”
“Neither do I, Oliver,” Frank said honestly. “They keep him down here when he’s in trouble, don’t they? They keep him in the dark.”
Oliver sniffled again, and Frank lifted his hand to Oliver’s cheek, dismayed to find it wet with tears. “No, don’t cry,” he insisted. “Not right now, Oliver...”
“He tries to be good, Frank!” Oliver suddenly said. “He tries. He tries. It doesn’t work, Frank. He gets angry. He doesn’t like the dark, Frank!”
As Oliver burst into tears, his body shaking, Frank was at a loss, unable to provide much more support than the way he hugged the other boy to his body, gently shushing him. He wanted to scream, wanted to get up and find the door. It was hopeless, but it didn’t stop him from shouting out once more to be let out. It only seemed to aggravate Oliver more. But suddenly, the sobs stopped and he became still in Frank’s arms.
“It’s too dark,” Oliver whispered. “I know, I know.”
“Oliver?” Frank asked hesitantly.
“I can’t. Can’t do it. We have to stop, okay? I don’t want to be in trouble.”
Frank frowned, hugging him tighter as he tried to understand what Oliver was talking about. But as he continued to listen, the only thing that became clear to Frank was that Oliver wasn’t speaking to him at all.
“No one is bad. We all have to be good. Be good. It’s too dark. He’s my friend. I don’t want to hurt Frank. Never, ever let anyone hurt Frank.”
Frank felt a chill creep up his spine with those last few words. He didn’t understand what Oliver meant, and he wasn’t even sure he wanted to. He was beginning to feel sick. Dizzy. Blind. Taking in a deep breath as if he suddenly couldn’t get enough air he moved his fingers to Oliver’s hair, tilted his head back and searched out Oliver’s mouth with his own. Frank’s lips were aggressive, insistent as he guided Oliver to turn towards him, and as their tongues met he pulled Oliver closer, wanting to be smothered with something other than the darkness.
Brian Martin stood frozen in his kitchen, staring out the small window behind the sink. Outside, the morning glowed orange with sunrise. But there was no beauty in it. Not in his house. Not this morning. This morning, everything was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong! And now they were in trouble, thanks to his wife. And he supposed that she expected him to fix everything. Idiot. The woman was a complete idiot. An idiot who happened to be sobbing at the kitchen table in the most obnoxious manner.
“Shut up!” Brian finally snapped, spinning around to glare at his wife as the veins in his forehead threatened to break his skin. “Just shut up!”
His harsh tone shocked Mary into silence. For about five seconds. When she started crying all over again, Brian dug his fingers into his hair and momentarily closed his eyes, willing himself to be patient. But, as he looked at his wife again, all he could do was growl.
“You locked him in?” he demanded. “What was he even doing in the house in the first place?”
“He forced his way in!” Mary said defensively. “I told you, I didn’t know what else to do! When he saw Oliver... I just know what he was thinking, Brian! And you weren’t here, damn you! You should have been here!”
Brian frowned. “I told you, I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t think I wouldn’t be able to go fishing for a few hours without everything falling apart!”`
Mary bit her tongue, refraining from pointing out that he hadn’t been fishing. She accepted that excuse every other time, and this time would be no different. Besides, they needed to focus on bigger things. Their lives weren’t just falling apart. They were going to hell.
“What are we going to do, Brian? We can’t just leave him there, and when we let him out you know he isn’t going to keep his mouth shut.”
“Yes he will,” Brian stated.
Mary swallowed nervously. “What’re you gonna do?”
“We have no choice. We have to make him understand why it’ll be a bad idea to cause trouble for us.”
Oliver’s breaths were slow and steady, his hands calm and warm on Frank’s shoulder, and he returned every peck of a kiss as gently as Frank gave them as he pressed his body softly against Oliver’s while they stood against the wall where Frank imagined the door was.
“Are you okay?” Frank whispered.
“I think so, Frank.”
“And are you sure you can do this?” Frank asked. “It’s important, Oliver.”
It had been a horribly slow process for Frank, trying to convince Oliver that something was very wrong with his parents. In fact, Frank hadn’t entirely succeeded. Oliver was convinced that his parents loved him. He was good. They wouldn’t hurt him. But, it seemed that Frank had managed to convince him that they were in a bad situation that they needed to get out of. Or, at least he’d convinced Oliver that everything would be okay once they got out of the basement. Frank wasn’t happy that it had required a little manipulation on his part, but he didn’t have a choice. He’d explained his plan to Oliver as if it were a game, but if there was a chance that they could get out, Frank planned to take it. It seemed like the hardest part would to be make sure that they both got out.
“I think so, Frank,” Oliver said again, but he didn’t sound nearly as certain as Frank would have liked him to.
“Oliver, please... I have to get out of here. Your brother could be in trouble. Do you understand that?”
“Because he was bad?”
“No,” Frank said quickly. “That’s just it, Oliver, I don’t think he is...please, help me get out of here, and I swear we’ll get this all sorted...”
Frank stopped as he heard something on the other side of the wall, and holding his breath, he listened carefully until it became clear that someone was coming down the stairs. More than just one person if the muffled voices were any indication.
“They’re coming to let us out,” Oliver said optimistically as he attempted to move past Frank, but Frank quickly pushed him back.
“Oliver, no! Remember what we talked about?”
“Oliver... help me,” Frank begged, feeling even more desperate than he had a few moments ago as he waited for a response, unable to read, or see for that matter, Oliver’s face.
“Okay, Frank,” Oliver finally said, and Frank allowed himself a small sigh of relief as he handed Oliver one end of the blanket he’d found in the room.
“Okay,” Frank said. “Just like we practiced, okay? But not until they open the door.”
Frank leaned over to press one last kiss onto Oliver’s cheek, and then moved away, into position. His plan was relatively simple. He was going to do the only thing he knew how to do in this situation. He was going to attack and run. He’d been smart enough to figure out that Mary Martin wasn’t going to come back alone. She’d have Oliver’s dad with her, and Frank knew that he couldn’t best Brian Martin with strength alone. All he had at his disposal was a blanket, so with Oliver’s help, he hoped to tangle the Martin parents in the blanket long enough for them to escape. It seemed like a good enough plan. They probably wouldn’t see it coming, and he only needed to slow them down enough to get away. He knew that there was still a possibility that Oliver wouldn’t be joining him, but that problem could be solved as soon as he got home and told his mother everything. As soon as she learned what was going on in the Martin house, she’d make sure that the Martins would never get near Oliver or David again. Frank was confident. There was just one thing he hadn’t counted on.
It had been hours since his eyes had been exposed to even the faintest amount of light. When that door opened, he could hardly make out the two shadows behind it as brightness flooded his senses and he was blinded with white, piercing light. Instinctively, he wanted to flee from it, but instead he tugged the blanket and charged forward. “Oliver, now!” Frank ordered, hoping that Oliver was willing to try, even if he was as handicapped as Frank was.
As it turned out, Oliver did try. The two of them moved towards the door quickly, holding onto the blanket, using it to prevent the Martins from grabbing them as they forced their way out the door. As Frank began to make things out he heard Brian Martin curse, and Mary Martin gasp as they became tangled in the blanket. Frank didn’t stop to see how tangled they’d become. He started up the staircase, half crawling to keep himself balanced and jumping when he felt a hand on his ankle. He nearly kicked whoever was behind him until he looked back to find Oliver there, squinting and looking terrified.
“Oliver! Stop!” Brian shouted.
“No, don’t!” Frank stated, reaching down to grab Oliver’s hand. He was too late. Mary Martin had managed to get out of the chaos long enough to grab hold of her son and pull him to his feet.
Oliver didn’t struggle as his mom’s arm went around him. Instead, he looked at her curiously as she smiled and touched his face, as if she weren’t guilty at all for mistreating him. Frank was disgusted, but decided his best chance was to deal with it later when he realized that Brian Martin was catching up to him, and catching up fast. “Wait! Wait a minute!” Brian shouted. Frank was fairly certain that Mr. Martin was speaking to him, but waiting for the man to catch him simply wasn’t on his list of priorities.
Frank reached the top of the stairs, and remembering that the back door was closer that front, he went for it. His hand slipped on the lock, once, twice, on the third try he was shoving the door open and taking in the fresh air without pausing to enjoy it. He felt disoriented as he made his way around the house, focusing on getting to his car. The sun was out now, but the musty scent in the air told him that it was still early morning. He supposed that it didn’t matter what time it was, so long as he made it home.
The Subaru was where he left it, but he stopped short of reaching it, his shoes skidding on the dirt as his heart leapt to his chest and he stared at his car keys, held firmly in Brian Martin’s grip as he blocked Frank’s path.
Frank immediately began to back up, ready to run into the woods if necessary, but this time paused when Brian Martin spoke. “Hold on, son. I’m gonna give you your keys, and you can go, alright?” he said gently, holding his hands up in a passive gesture. “I just wanna talk to you for a sec.”
Frank, out of breath, regarded the man skeptically.
“Okay,” Brian tried again when he realized he wasn’t reaching him, “here. Here.” He tossed the keys, and Frank caught them one-handedly, refusing to be distracted. He didn’t even bother to look at them as he glared at Mr. Martin.
“Get out of my way,” Frank ordered, but this time Brian shook his head.
“In a minute. Before you leave here, I need to make sure you and I reach an understanding.”
“Understanding?” Frank repeated, incredulous. “Your wife locked me in a basement!”
“Yes, she did,” Brian admitted. “That was a mistake, I’ll tell you right now. But she was scared. You gave her a real fright, and she didn’t know what else to do.”
“It’s true. I’m sorry,” Mary Martin’s voice said, and Frank forced himself to take his eyes off Brian long enough to see that Mrs. Martin was standing on the front porch.
“Where’s Oliver?” Frank demanded, concerned that he was back in that basement again.
“He’s in his room,” Mary insisted. “He’s fine, I promise you. Please, Frank, just listen to what we have to say to you.”
Frank swallowed down a knot of nervousness in his throat. “I’m listening,” he said carefully, not really sure he had any other choice.
“Frank,” Brian said as he took a step closer, “you’ve got us all wrong.”
“Stay back!” Frank snapped, and Brian complied. It took Frank another moment to determine that the man wasn’t going to come any closer. “I saw what you did to Oliver. You had him locked down there.”
“We had no choice. It was for his own safety,” Brian insisted.
“His own safety?”
“Yes,” Brian stated. “We’re not bad people, Frank... Oliver, he’s just... he’s not like other boys. We tried to warn you about it...”
“He’s different so you keep him locked in a basement?” Frank demanded. “You people are completely fucked! And what did you do with David, huh? I know you’ve kept him in there, too, and don’t think you can stop me from...”
“We’re not gonna try to stop you, Frank,” Brian interrupted. “But before you go tell everyone what you’ve seen here, I want you to think about something for a minute.”
“And what’s that?” Frank asked hotly.
“When was the last time you saw David and Oliver together?” Brian asked, watching closely for Frank’s reaction.
Frank frowned. “I don’t know, I guess...”
“Never,” Brian said. “You’ve never seen them together, have you?”
“So? What does that have to do with anything?”
“It has everything to do with what’s happening here, Frank,” Brian Martin insisted. “You see, we couldn’t have done anything with David--because David doesn’t really exist.”
“David and Oliver are the same person, Frank,” Brian explained, and he might as well have been speaking another language for the look Frank was giving him. “It’s true,” Brian said.
“It is,” Mary added. “There is no David, Frank.”
Frank shook his head. “No. No, you’re crazy. Both of you...”
“A long time ago,” Brian continued forcefully, as if he suspected Frank didn’t want to hear it, “our son--our only son, Oliver, had a bad accident. Mary and I thought we’d lost him... we did lose him. For a long time he wasn’t the Oliver we knew anymore. He couldn’t talk, he couldn’t eat... he couldn’t even smile, and then one day, we met a doctor who told us that he could give us our son back, and he did. But Oliver didn’t come back alone, Frank.”
“And you expect me to believe that David...”
“We thought it was just a phase at first,” Brian explained. “He started talking to himself. We thought he was just playing, but when he started talking about David, we realized that he had an imaginary friend. When he started school... well, we tried to discourage it. Other kids were laughing at him. But, David didn’t just go away. Instead, Oliver began to take on his persona, like he was two different people.”
“I saw their room,” Frank stated. “They are...”
“It seems that way. Mary and I accepted it a long time ago. We accepted David. I guess we thought it would be easier for Oliver if we let him believe he really had a brother... but as he got older, well, things changed. David... David’s persona, he started acting out, causing fights, arguing with us. He became violent, and no matter what we did... he just got worse. We finally figured out that the only way to deal with him was to tell him we didn’t want him. It worked some, too. Oliver has been more... Oliver, since then. But sometimes David... well, sometimes we can’t handle him when he turns up. We’ve found that a dark room...”
“Oh god,” Frank mumbled, suddenly feeling sick to the stomach as he took in exactly what he was being told and considered it.
“My wife didn’t lock Oliver in there last night, Frank. It was David,” Brian explained. He pointed towards the front porch. “Do you see what he did to her?” he asked, referring to her black eye. “It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last. She had to knock him in the head just to get him down there, he’s...”
Frank suddenly looked towards Mary Martin, her eye... the phone call from David. In the basement, Oliver had said his head hurt. And it was true, he’d never seen the two of them together before. Not once. He’d been all through the house, and not a single family portrait with all four of them flashed in his mind.
“Do you understand now, Frank?” Brian asked, and Frank looked at him. “ Do you understand why you can’t tell anyone about David? They’ll take him away. They’ll put him in a hospital somewhere.”
“Well maybe that’s where he needs to be!” Frank snapped, feeling overwhelmed.
“Is that where Oliver needs to be, too, Frank?” Brian demanded. “Because it wouldn’t just be David they’d be taking.”
Frank spun around at the sound of Oliver’s voice, and stared at the boy standing on the front porch with his mother.
“Frank,” Oliver repeated, starting to move forward, looking as if he expected Frank to go meet him.
But Frank couldn’t. Frank found that he couldn’t do much of anything at the moment as he realized that he didn’t know who was behind those hazel eyes at all. He was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to run as he stared at Oliver, shaking his head. “No. No,” he said.
Oliver stopped, frowning. “Frank...”
“I can’t do this,” Frank stated, looking between three family members when there should have been four. He moved towards his car, no longer cautious of Brian Martin, which was just as well since the man moved aside to give Frank room.
Oliver watched, confused as Frank moved into the Subaru and started the engine, refusing to look at him as he began to back down the driveway. “Frank!” Oliver called as he began to walk after the vehicle. “Frank! Why are you leaving, Frank? Are you gonna come back? Frank?”
Mary moved to join her husband, and the two of them exchanged glances as their son stopped ahead of them, looking dejectedly down the dirt road.
“So what do you think?” Mary asked. “Will he be trouble for us?”
Brian frowned. “He’d better hope not.”
Jessica rolled her eyes as she finished brushing her teeth. The phone had just started ringing, and already she heard Rudy’s rushed footsteps as her daughter ran to answer it. Jessica didn’t need to ask who it was, either. Sam had been calling a lot lately. Jessica still had quite a few issues with her ex-husband. He’d hurt her, and even worse, he’d hurt her kids. When Rudy had first wanted to call him, Jessica had made a point to call and warn him first... at which time she also threatened a good amount of bodily harm if he decided it was necessary to break either of her children’s hearts again. But, she’d been pleasantly surprised when she found that Sam was remorseful over his past behavior, and ready to make an effort towards his children. It might have come a little late, but Rudy seemed satisfied.
Jessica only wished that Frank would give his father another chance. She could understand why he wouldn’t want to. He’d probably been hurt the worst by Sam. But she hoped that for Frank’s sake, he’d eventually come around and at least talk to his father. They’d been close before the divorce, and she knew that her oldest hadn’t been particularly happy since.
Jessica combed her hair, listening to Rudy as she chatted happily away with her dad, and then decided to see if Frank was up yet. It wasn’t likely, but maybe if she caught him off guard she could talk him into getting on the phone for a few minutes. That wasn’t very likely, either, but worth a try, Jessica thought.
She was debating over whether or not she wanted to wake him gently when she opened his bedroom door, and frowned to find that he wasn’t in his room at all. It seemed that a cat had taken over his pillow, though. The very same cat she swore she’d asked him to put outside the night before.
Shaking her head, Jessica headed towards the kitchen, blowing a kiss at Rudy on the way. If Frank wasn’t sleeping at seven o’clock in the morning, he was definitely eating. But, when she reached the kitchen, there wasn’t even a dirty dish in the sink. She headed out the front door, standing on the porch for a few moments as she looked around, wondering where he’d gone off to. It was then that she realized that something was missing other than her son, and her mouth dropped open as she thought of all the ways to ground him for taking the car without asking first, or even leaving a note for that matter. Honestly, he knew better than that.
She was just about to go back inside when she heard an engine, and turned inside to see Frank parking her car around the side of the house. She crossed her arms, and as soon as the driver-side door was open and she was sure he could hear her, she was telling him exactly what she thought of this situation.
“Frank Seaberg, where have you been? So help me, if I find out you’ve been out all night with my car...” Jessica paused, frowning as her son moved closer. Something wasn’t right. His walk was sluggish, his face drawn. He looked pale, bringing out new circles under his eyes, which seemed pitifully red and swollen. She’d seen him after a night of hard partying before, and this wasn’t it. “Frank? Where have you been?” she asked as she moved to meet him. “What’s the matter?”
She was startled when he walked right to her and leaned down to rest his chin on her shoulder, but she did exactly what her instincts forced her to do and hugged him. “Hey,” she said, a new gentleness entering her voice. “What’s the matter? Are you alright?”
Frank straightened himself, and met his mom’s eyes, shaking his head. “No,” he said with a scratchy voice. “Not really.”
“Well Frank...” Jessica started, but was abruptly cut off when her daughter rushed out of the house screeching.
“Mom! Mom!” Rudy said, squeezing her way between Jessica and Frank to tug on the arm of her mother’s bathrobe. “You have to come inside!”
“Hold on,” Jessica insisted, still looking worriedly at Frank.
“No, it can’t wait!” Rudy insisted. “Mom!”
Jessica released an exasperated sigh and turned her attention to her daughter. “Okay. What?”
“You have to talk to Dad!” Rudy informed her.
“He’s coming!” Rudy exclaimed. “He’s coming to see us! He’s coming here!”
Jessica’s eyes widened, and she immediately turned to see Frank’s reaction, but he was no longer standing there, and she watched worriedly as her son moved through the front door, slamming it hard on his way.