This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
They must have talked all night, simply lying there in the car listening to the sound of the wind blowing the snow outside their makeshift shelter. They had just talked about anything and everything that came to their minds. They just opened up, why hold back? It was as if they needed to learn about the person lying beside them. As if by their physical contact they also had to form a mental and emotional one to survive.
Will had talked about his home in England, of his family and eventual dreams to go home. Hopes and dreams were something he seldom confessed, but he found he could just say them; Andrew wasn't going to judge him for them, or hold them against him. In fact Andrew followed by sharing his own dreams.
"I want a nice town house," he confessed as he brushed away a piece of lint that had fallen onto Will's cheek, "I don't want to live out in the country anymore, I want to be downtown, where the life is." He sighed, "I know it's not as exotic as living in another country..."
"England isn't exactly exotic," Will said a little flushed, "it's dirty and grimy in places...and there are so many people. But when you are up on the downs early in the morning... its beautiful."
Andrew nodded as he rolled over to look at the dashboard clock, "Hey its six am..."
Will sat upright, adjusting the blanket so he wouldn't be cold, "What do we do now?"
Andrew reluctantly sat up beside Will, claiming back half the covers and pressing up against his companion for warmth, "I guess we should see if it's still snowing outside. If it isn't we should try to get help."
Will reached into the front of the car and picked up his clothes, still damp, but nothing that wouldn't dry with a little body heat. He sat back down with them in his lap. "I didn't say thank you for last night."
Andrew looked at him for a moment, just watching him, and then he spoke, "Its no problem... thanks for waking up." He threw an arm up and around Will one last time and drew him close.
Will relaxed in the embrace, after a night of being intimate by circumstance he too was reluctant to let go. It had been an emotional night, and there was something about sharing a struggle for survival with another human being that made you close to them. He just sat there, breathing in that now all too familiar scent of cologne and skin.
"Alright then," he said as he gave Will a friendly pat on the shoulder and released the hug, "time to get dressed." He reached into the front for his own clothes and began to pull them on. "If we're lucky we should be able to reach one of those farm houses we passed earlier last night."
Will nodded as he did up his shirt, "Going to be a bit of a hike."
Andrew smiled as he tossed Will his jacket, "Here wear that again, I'm going to..." he produced a small pocket-knife and began to cut a hole in the blanket...moments later he donned it like a poncho. "Not exactly Don Quixote but it should keep me warm."
Will couldn't help but smile; Clint Eastwood had rescued him...
Andrew stared down at himself and grinned lopsidedly, "Well that's it, its official... I look stupid..."
Will tugged on his shoes and tried his hardest not to laugh. "How do we get out if the car is snowed under?" he asked.
Andrew slipped into the front seat and tried the passenger side door. After putting his full weight into it he managed to get it to open, a few more tries and he was able to step out into the cold November morning.
Will slipped out behind him and stared around at the white landscape. Snow clung to everything, smothering the world beneath it and it took Will a moment to figure out exactly what had happened the night before.
The car had somehow managed to leap an embankment and leave the road only to end up in a field. As Andrew struggled down the embankment he pointed to the snowdrift they had hit.
"We must have hit that like a ski-jump." He struggled down onto the road, and examined the freshly ploughed and salted road.
Will struggled down behind, jumping over a snow bank and sliding to a halt beside Andrew. "How come we didn't hear the plow go by?" he asked looking about him, pulling Andrews jacket closer about his lean frame.
Andrew narrowed his eyes as he stared up the road, "The snow must have muffled it, or we were too far away from the road." He glanced behind him at the trail of devastation that led to a mound of snow with an all too familiar Mustang logo sticking out of it on a battered fender.
Will swallowed, how had they survived? From where he stood it looked hopeless. He felt himself begin to shiver again.
"We can't stay here." Andrew said as he turned and placed a hand on Will's shoulder, "there has to be a house or something close by."
They trudged along the road for a good half hour before they were spotted. A passing elderly couple in a station wagon stopped as Andrew flagged them down. A quick explanation saw the pair loaded into the back and driven to the nearest R.C.M.P. station. And while the police officer on duty phoned their parents, the assistant fed them cup after cup of warm coffee as she checked them both over for injuries.
Andrew's mother Micheline arrived first, the short spitfire of a woman burst through the doors of the station-firing question after question at the Policeman in rapid succession. It was hard to tell if she was speaking French or English, but only after she caught sight of Andrew and had a hold of him was she capable of holding a conversation.
Andrew explained to her about the accident, and Will noticed he chose not to mention the details of their night huddled in the car. Something's didn't need to be said, and Will was in total agreement about that. He watched her tearful examination of her son for any injuries, and of her obvious relief at finding none.
Will's Father's arrival was a lot more sedate. He marched through the doors with a bearing that only his years in the army had bred in him. A cold assessment told him everything he needed to know about the situation, and he addressed the Officer on duty as if he were addressing a man under his command. Every question was precise, clipped. The Major asking his troops for a report. When he had concluded his debriefing he finally moved across to look down at his son.
"Are you alright?" he asked, studying his son's dishevelled appearance and borrowed jacket. Even at that moment there was no familiarity permitted... there was no warmth.
Will nodded silently. You simply didn't admit weakness to the major. To do so would garner a look of disappointment that Will had grown up to fear. He simply stood up and set his mug of coffee aside. "I'm fine sir."
The Major only nodded, considering him a moment before he looked over at Andrew and his mother, he didn't say a word as he turned and marched back to the Police officer to find out if Will was permitted to leave. Micheline followed him with her eyes, before she looked at Will again. She patted Andrew on the cheek and then joined Will's Father at the counter.
Will began to take off Andrew's coat to hand it back to him, but Andrew shook his head, "Give it back to me at school." He reached out one final time to touch Will's shoulder, "I'm glad you're okay."
Will nodded, "Thank you..."
Andrew just smiled, "Tomorrow Carter."
Will half smiled.
The drive home passed in near silence, the Bronco bouncing along the freshly ploughed roads as his Father drove confidently towards the farmhouse. Will sat still huddled in Andrew's jacket still aware of the smell of cologne and sweat that hung to it. Memories of his experience still fresh in his mind s he struggled to find a meaning to it.
When the Bronco turned into the drive his father pulled to a stop and looked at his son, "Why were you in a car last night, and where is your jacket?"
Will glanced up at his father and shrugged, "I missed my bus, Andrew offered to give me a lift home, we hit a snowdrift and lost control. The reason I was late was because someone stole my jacket."
"You were being picked on." The Major rolled the words out with a vehemence that spoke of his disgust.
Will shook his head, "They had no way of knowing whose locker they broke into, I tried to report it but everyone had already left. So I decided to walk to Aunt Majella's."
The Major considered this for a moment, "You were walking in a storm without a coat on?"
Will shrugged, "I figured it was only a short walk to Majella's and from there I would be fine."
His father flipped open the door and got out of the truck, slamming it closed as Will got out the other side. He studied his son again, "You're lucky that other boy came along when he did." Will nodded as his father continued, "Its probably a good thing you have a friend like him, you could learn something about responsibility." He stepped into the kitchen and pulled off his boots, already crossing to the coffee pot.
Will followed him inside, shrugging off the jacket, "Your right, I probably could, he's the Captain of the Hockey team..."
The Major snorted as he poured himself a cup of the strong coffee he always seemed to have on hand, "Hockey..." he returned to the kitchen table and sat down, "I suppose its better than nothing, go get showered and changed and report back here, your mother will make breakfast soon."
Will inclined his head and slipped away. He was thankful to be away for a short period of time his Father was in a strange mood, and Will was glad to finally have a chance to get cleaned up.
Refreshed and changed he returned to the kitchen and the chaos that reigned there. Jackie was already rattling pots, smoking heavily as she angrily slammed a heavy pot onto the range. He could sense her hostility as he sat down at the table. She was obviously angered at being awoken so early in the day. He decided it best to simply stay out of her way that morning.
Lucy burbled at him, happily looking up from her high chair as she played with her spoon. He smiled down at her and, when no one was looking gave her a wink. She burbled again and beamed at him, reaching out to take his finger.
"Willy..." she burbled again.
"Leave her alone." Jackie commented as she threw some oats into the pot of boiling water. It was oatmeal again, the true breakfast of champions. He felt his stomach constrict inside, but he said nothing and returned to looking at Lucy.
She was beautiful to him, the only thing about that house that had any life left. She was only his half sister, and the reason he felt as though he didn't belong there. But that wasn't her fault, she was completely innocent and totally deserving of his attention. In fact he felt closer to her than with his father or his wife Jackie. And in a way she was closer to him than she was to either of them.
Willy had been her first word. Much to Jackie's annoyance, something he hadn't deliberately taught her either, it had just happened. And when it had come time for her to take her first hesitant steps. They had been towards him, away from her mother. It only seemed to reinforce the resentment Jackie felt towards him, she did her best to limit their time together, but there was always Sunday nights, when she went with the Major to the legion. On those nights Will was left to care for Lucy, and he craved those nights, when he would simply sit on the edge of her bed reading her story after story. In a way he was able to give her some of the attention he had never had.
"I said leave her alone." Jackie stated forcefully as she set the steaming bowl of porridge oats down in front of him.
He hid his shallow smile as he set into the vile concoction, stirring it about as he stared out of the window at the cold day beyond.
Will felt a new trepidation as he walked through the front doors of the High School and into the lobby. He was early that morning, his bus usually dropped him off at the school a half hour before it was due to begin, a great chance to socialize with his friends before the rush of the day swept them off. And it was a great chance for him to get his hands on a cup of coffee.
Lisa always brought a thermos and a couple of her mother's muffins with her each morning which she was always ready to share with Will, knowing all to well what break fast was usually served to Major Carter's troops. He grinned at her as he sat down dropping his backpack alongside the table and accepting the mug she handed him with a sigh of relief.
"Anyone ever tell you your beautiful first thing in the morning?" He said as he took a pull on the cup, feeling the rush of the warm liquid down his throat.
"Your such a flirt Carter!" she accused as she began to unwrap the muffins. "My mom wants your opinion on this batch of muffins," she said matter of factly, "she was experimenting and since you eat just about anything..."
He picked up the muffin and sniffed it carefully, "Banana?" he asked.
She nodded watching him break into it, she didn't mind brining him an extra muffin each morning, her mother had practically insisted after she had heard the oatmeal story. Her mother was fond of Will in that maternal way with good reason; he needed someone to shower him with affection. Lisa's Mom, June Highbury, was just one of those phenomenal women that seemed to care for just about every one without a second thought. He had, on several occasions, been subjected to her temper after one of their pranks had backfired, and he loved her in return. She was just a cool mother.
"Isn't that a Condor's jacket?" she asked as she picked at her own muffin lazily.
Will stopped and glanced down at the jacket he had slung over the back of the chair and he looked up at her, "Yeah Andrew leant it to me..."
"Andrew Highmore?" she asked incredulously, her muffin forgotten for the moment.
He winced as he nodded, "Yes."
She gave him one of her looks that demanded he tell her everything, but before he could Jared had joined their table.
"Hey guys," he said as he flopped into his chair pushing his raiders cap out of his eyes and staring at them with a look that said mornings were not his favourite time of the day. "Will, biology lab did you..."
Will rooted in his backpack and produced the notes cleanly prepared; he separated Jared's copy and handed it over to him. "All done. I was out of it yesterday but it's all done."
Jared smiled, "Cool, thanks eh?" he turned to Lisa, "Did you hear they're canceling the Dance? There's supposed to be a heavy storm that night and they don't want to risk it."
She pushed her muffin away from her in disgust, "Well there go my plans."
Jared grinned, "No, cause my parents are out of town this weekend," he held up a set of house keys.
Lisa's eyes lit up, "I could kiss you..."
"Umm..." Will held up his hand, "you have a boyfriend remember?"
She scowled, "Yeah if he ever shows up. She sat back into her chair and looked over at Jared, "What times the party?"
"I have a couple of the boy's driving over to Hull to buy some Liquor so any time after eight people should be showing up. BYOB..." He rested a foot on the edge of the table and gave her a grin; "You can bring Brody if you want."
Will sat quietly watching the exchange, he was an afterthought. What did it matter though; it wasn't as if he would actually be able to go to it. He downed his coffee and fished in his bag for his math textbook, he might as well get started on those quadratic problems he had procrastinated over.
"Party Jared?" Andrew's voice caused Will's head to shoot up. Highmore was standing leaning with both hands on the Jared's shoulders looking down at his teammate.
"Yeah Dude," Jared replied arcing his head back to look up, "My place on Friday night."
"Cool." Andrew said motioning to the empty chair at the table, "That taken?" he asked looking at Will.
Will shook his head, "Nope."
"Good." Andrew said as he sat down and smiled over at Will, "You get home okay yesterday?"
Will nodded, "My Dad was mad at first...about the coat thing, but he got over it."
"That's good." Andrew said nonchalantly as he leaned his chair back on two legs and looked around the cafeteria, "Do you still need my jacket?"
Will took it off the back of his chair and handed it back across the table. Andrew accepted it and shrugged it on.
Lisa and Jared exchanged a look that said they were confused, but Will didn't feel like elaborating. He smiled at Andrew again, "thank you again."
"All part of the service," Andrew said extending his hands as he grinned, "Your coming to Jared's party Friday right?"
Will balked, he hadn't thought about it, "I...er...well..."
Andrew glanced at Jared, "It's okay if Carter here comes to the festivities right? My guest?"
Jared nodded emphatically, "Sure, he's always invited he's the reason I am passing biology."
"Actually," Will said with a smile, "You do all the work I just write it up, so technically you're the reason I'm passing..."
Andrew gave a satisfied nod as he stood up, "Cool, now I have to go find out what's going on at the gym. Catch you all later." He stood up and smiled, "Take care Carter." He said hesitating a moment and smiling again before he left.
Jared excused himself and left with Andrew leaving Will in the clutches of one very confused, but very determined Lisa.
"What was that?" she asked her voice raised an octave.
"What was what?" Will replied as he looked at her.
She pointed the back of the Captain of the school team, "What was that?"
"Andrew Highmore I think." Will said with a grin as he poured himself another cup of coffee from the thermos.
"Don't get cute with me Carter." Her voice took on an edge of warning, "first you turn up with his jacket, then he joins us at our table and then he invites you to a party..." she looked at her friend, "And what was that whole `take care Carter,' thing about?"
Will shrugged, "He gave me a ride home on Monday night after some jerk stole my jacket. We got stranded in a snow bank and spent the night trapped in the car. Its no big deal..."
"Oh my god." She said her eyes wide in shock, "That's like a movie...did you eat each other?"
He turned his head and stared at her, "What?"
"Like that movie alive where the plane crashes and they eat each other to stay alive..." She smiled.
Will shook his head, "No, it was just a cold night, we just talked."
She nodded, "Well that explains that, Cool so you're friends with the Captain of the team, that's like circle jumping and since I'm your best friend I get to jump with you. Hello popularity... I need a new wardrobe..."
Her thoughts were interrupted by a loud shrill otherwise known as the morning bell. And they both stood to head for class.
Lunch came entirely too quickly for Will, it seemed as though he had blinked and he was heading down towards his locker. It had been a surreal day for him, Andrew always seemed to be about, either passing him in the halls and nodding, or already in the places he was heading. Purely coincidence. It wasn't as if he was following Will, just that Will hadn't really paid attention to how small the school really was.
It only had 400 students spread out across five years, and everyone knew everyone else. There were still the usual social divisions that existed in schools everywhere, but here they weren't as important, and often the social lines were blurred. But each time Andrew nodded and said hi to him people noticed. There were even a couple of cheerleaders that stared at him in a whole new light. If he was worthy of Andrew Highmore's notice then they had to notice as well.
He was glad just to be away from the attention as he slipped into the basement heading for his locker. He drew up short when he saw the door had been hammered back into shape and reinforced with new brackets. He stared at it dumbfounded for a moment; the maintenance staff were never that quick...
"It's just a locker Dude." Brody said leaning on the row of lockers beside Will, "Lisa told me what happened so I borrowed some tools from shop."
Will grinned at Lisa's boyfriend; Brody was the schools living legend that never seemed to break his stride. The teachers hated him, other students were jealous of him, but he never let that get him down, he was just one of those people that did what made him happy. A free spirit.
Will smiled at him, "You didn't have to do that..."
"Yeah I did." Brody said with a nod, "I also found something of yours..." he held up Will's jacket, "Donny Morgan had it and was bragging to his stoner buddies. I convinced him it didn't look good on him," he shrugged, "He was very sorry."
Will accepted his coat gratefully, one less worry he had to think about. He put the ski jacket away in his locker and turned back to Brody. "Thanks... I owe you."
Brody nodded, "Yeah you do, now I'm going out for a smoke before you get all sappy an' shit."
Will laughed watching Brody retreat to the emergency exit, another man that watched out for him. He suddenly felt very lucky, not a bad week so far. He turned to head back upstairs and nearly walked right into Jennifer.
"Will." She said in surprise, "I've been looking all over for you."
He allowed himself a smile at her, she was only four months pregnant but she was beginning to have difficulty hiding it. But no matter how hard he tried, he just wasn't attracted to her.
"I've been around," he said quietly, "I just had to get my coat back..."
"I heard your going to Jared's party," She set herself to rest on the stair rail, "I'm going as well... if you want we could head over there together. It would save some time and I would have someone to talk to..."
He winced inwardly at the thought, he liked her, and he really did. She was a wonderful person, they had such a good connection, but tying himself to her at the party? It was his first chance to do something social, and Lisa was going to be there.
Typically he caved, "Sure thing, I'll swing by yours Friday night and we'll walk over."
She gave him a warm hug, "Thank you."
He tried to appear enthusiastic, "Sure, no problem..."