W.A.R. Part Two - The Cold Winter
Chapter Five - Life Is Unfair
by Jeff Wilson
Brett fell asleep on the way home. I don't think it was because of the late hour but because he was exhausted. He had poured his heart out in that back seat. I'd never seen him so emotionally drained. It was like every ounce of his considerable energy had been spent. When we arrived at the house, dad had to shake him to wake him up. Brett was completely out of it and could hardly walk.
The light rain had now turned into a gentle snow. It wasn't enough to stick to anything yet. I found it quite pretty. The cold air felt good after being in the confines of the car. It had gotten pretty intense in there. I'd had no idea that Brett's life had gotten so messed up. I knew he wasn't himself lately, but that wasn't even the start of it. Still though, it seemed to me that there was more that he hadn't said. I couldn't put my finger on it yet. But I seemed to instinctively know that there was still more to the story than Brett had told dad. Maybe I would find out what it was, or maybe not.
When we walked into the house, mom was waiting anxiously. "Let me see it," she ordered. She led me to the nearest lamp and looked inside my mouth. She gave my father quite the look, as if he'd been the one who had socked me.
"You'll be okay. It's not too bad," she told me. "Honestly George, this is getting a bit ridiculous!"
Dad didn't reply. He just stood there sheepishly beside Brett, who seemed to be shrinking with shame by the second.
"Carol Smith told me everything. Where have you been? You dropped Dustin off over an hour ago!"
"We had things to discuss," dad said.
"And you couldn't do that here? It's getting bad out there and my little boy was hurt!"
"He'll be alright," dad replied. "It was important that I talk to Brett without you over-reacting to what happened."
"I hardly think I'm over-reacting to that boy punching my son in the mouth!"
"They're boys, Paula!" dad explained, as if for the millionth time. "They're going to do bad things! It's perfectly natural for them to get into fights."
"That's your excuse for everything they do!" mom snapped back. "Punching a boy with braces in the mouth isn't being perfectly natural. It's a terrible thing to do!" She turned to Brett, who looked ready to burst into tears all over again. "And you, young man," she said menacingly. "I don't know what your problem is, but I've about had enough of your behavior these last few months. We've welcomed you into our home like family. Tonight, you betrayed our trust. Billy has never been anything but your friend. The way you've treated him lately has been terrible. You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
"Mom, stop it!" I cried. Brett had stood there looking at his feet with his hat covering his face, but I could tell that he was getting upset by mom's words. "Brett's not terrible! He only hit me because of what I said to him."
"That's not an excuse. I don't care what you said. He had no right to hit you."
"I called him a bastard," I admitted.
Mom looked at me oddly, not sure what to make of what I'd said. But dad, knowing what he knew about Brett now, flipped out.
"You said what? What the hell were you thinking?" he asked angrily.
"We were arguing. I'm really sorry I said it! I know it was wrong. I wasn't thinking!" I whined.
"You're damn right, you weren't thinking!" dad scolded. "Are you that stupid?"
"I guess I am." I sulked.
Mom regained her voice from the initial shock of finding out that her precious son had just been a rotten dirty jerk. "William Aaron Roberts! That was a terrible thing to say! You ought to be ashamed of yourself!"
"I am ashamed!" I defended myself. "I didn't mean it! Jeez! You guys don't have to bite my head off! I didn't think he was going to hit me!"
"You're lucky I don't hit you!" dad warned. "We didn't raise you to act like a jackass. Go to your room!"
"Why? He hit me! How am I the one in trouble?!? How is that even fair?"
"Don't talk to me about what's fair!" dad replied. "Get your ass to your room, before I really get mad!"
I scowled viciously at my parents. "I said I was sorry! What I said was wrong, and I'm sorry! But in case you haven't noticed he punched me in the mouth! I could have bled to death and you don't even care! You guys are so stupid! I hate you! I hate this stupid house!" I stormed down the hallway to my room and slammed the door. Then I kicked it as hard as I could. I stood there for a minute, staring a hole through the door. Angry tears streaked my face. I wiped them away, even more angry at myself because I'd allowed them to make me so upset that I was crying. I pulled my bloody shirt off and threw it at the door. Then I kicked it across the floor. I threw myself on my bed and punched my pillow as hard as I could a couple times as I bawled.
It wasn't fair! I hadn't had to admit what I'd done. I freely admitted it and I knew it was wrong. I'd apologized hadn't I? I wasn't the one who did the punching. I was the victim and I still got in trouble! My eyes stung from my tears. My lip hurt from being punched. My foot hurt from kicking the door. Everything that had started out so fun that evening had all blown up because of Brett being a stupid jerk and now I was being punished for something that was so unfair!
It was then that I decided that I was going to run away. That would show them! In my mind it all made sense. I would run away. I didn't know where I would go or what I would do. I'd probably end up blowing guys on some street corner for crack money and end up dead in a back alley somewhere. That would show them! Then they would be sorry! They'd be so sorry they yelled at me! Them and Brett! He hadn't said one word to defend me! He just let me get in more and more trouble! I hated him and I hated my parents. It was his fault! Everything that had happened that night was because of him. Boy he'd be sorry when I ran away and ended up doing lines of coke off of some guy's dick and winding up dead and naked in some ditch! They all would be sorry!
There was a soft knock at my door.
"Go away! I hate you!" I shouted at whoever was behind the door. It didn't matter really. I hated everybody in that house.
There was a second knock.
"I said, GO AWAY!!!!" I roared.
The door opened anyway.
"Are you deaf?" I snapped. "Get out!"
"It's me," Brett said softly, barely above a whisper.
I sat up on my bed and faced him. I hadn't bothered to put a shirt back on and now I was sorry I hadn't. I felt exposed and vulnerable and I didn't like it. I wiped my eyes so he wouldn't know I'd been crying. "What do you want? You want to hit me again? You want to get me in trouble again?"
"I want to apologize," Brett replied. He was talking so quietly I could barely hear him. His ball cap was obscuring most of his face and he hadn't lifted his eyes off my feet. His shoe laces were still untied. "I'm really really really sorry I hit you."
I thought about it for a second, but I was still mad. "Screw you! I don't accept your stupid apology!"
"You don't?" Brett asked. He managed to at least look at my face. "You can't do that!"
"Sure I can. I've been thinking about it. I said what I said and it was wrong. But I didn't deserve to get punched in the mouth for it. You had no right to hit me. Nobody has the right to hit me! You really hurt me."
"I didn't punch you that hard," Brett protested.
"Before you punched me, you hurt me," I replied, trying to hold back from crying in front of him. "You said a lot of mean shit to me before I said what I said." My voice cracked even though I didn't want it to. "You said I'm what's wrong with you. I didn't have anything to do with what happened to your mom! All I've ever been is your friend. Why did you say that?"
"I don't know!" Brett replied.
"Don't start that shit again. Tell me how I'm the problem so I can stop doing whatever it is I'm doing!"
"It's not you, it's me. I shouldn't have blamed you for anything. I'm such a fucking mess right now. I don't even know who I am anymore. Ever since I heard that fucking phone call my life's been fucked up!"
"And that's another thing! How long have you been hiding this stuff about your mom and dad?"
"I found out right before we went to New York during the summer. I guess I have been acting like a jerk ever since. I didn't even realize what a douche bag I'd turned into." He had managed to at least glance at my face a few times, but he was still hiding behind the bill of his cap.
"You could have told me," I said. "I would have helped you."
"No one can help me!" Brett whined. "It's hopeless! You don't know what it's like to have to live my suck-ass life."
"Then tell me!" I insisted.
"I don't even know the whole story to be honest. It's not just the whole thing with my father. I could deal if it was just that. But it feels like my whole life is falling apart. I literally can't sit through a whole class anymore. I can't sit for more than a few minutes without going nuts. I can't even think anymore! I can barely read! I can't sleep at night! I'm tired all the time! I hate it! I don't want to be me anymore. I try to be good! But I can't do it. You just don't know what I'm going through!"
"Of course I don't! You never talk to me about it! How am I supposed to know what's in your head if you never say anything?"
"Billy, even I don't know what's going on in my head anymore! Everything's fucked up! I don't know whether I'm coming or going anymore. I feel lost. You were about the only thing in my life I could still count on to not screw up. And now I've gone and ruined that too! I'm such an idiot!"
I got up off the bed and put my hand on his shoulder. He pulled away, but I held on to him. I pulled his hat off and tossed it on my bed so I could look him in the eyes. "Look at me, Brett," I insisted. "You haven't ruined everything. I'm still here aren't I? I'm not going to leave you even though you did hit me. I forgive you as long as it never happens again. Now, I want to help you."
Brett smiled in spite of himself. New tears were forming in his eyes. He shook his head, "No... I don't deserve it. Not after what I did to you." He pulled away and sat down on my bed. He grabbed his hat and jammed it back on his head. "I shouldn't have hit you."
I sat next to him. "No, you shouldn't have. But we can't change that now. I forgive you. Now, I'm helping you whether you want it or not," I insisted. "We're in this thing together. I'll never leave you. You'd have to kill me to stop me from helping you."
"Okay..." Brett replied. "But I don't know what you can do really. I don't even know what I'm going to do. I don't really think things out too far ahead. I never have. You're always the one who figures that stuff out."
"All the more reason why you should let me help you! But let's worry about that tomorrow. How about right now we get some sleep?"
"Okay. I'll just grab my stuff and go," Brett said.
"Go where?" I asked.
"I'm supposed to sleep on the couch," Brett explained.
"Why would you do that? You're sleeping in here with me," I insisted. "What's the point of sleeping over if you don't sleep in my room?"
"But your mom said..."
"Screw what my mom said!" I snapped. "After what my parents did to me tonight? Punishing me for no reason? Screw them! My bed's still big enough for both of us. You're staying with me."
Brett smiled, this time he fully meant it. "Okay," he said. "If you want me to."
"Of course!" I replied.
After our talk, we got ready for bed. I used the bathroom and showered, and then Brett followed. My parents hadn't bothered us for the rest of the night. I wondered if they were just so mad at both of us that they didn't want anything more to do with us, or if they just knew if they threw us in a room together that somehow we'd work things out. After all, if anybody could get themselves into and out of a mess, it was us.
When we'd settled under the blankets and it was quiet, Brett whispered softly, "Hey Billy?"
"Yeah?" I replied.
"I really am sorry I hit you," he said. "It'll never happen again, I swear."
"I know," I replied. "I'm sorry about what I did too."
In the quiet darkness, he put his arm over my chest and pulled me close to him and rested his head against my back. All through the night I felt him there. I could feel his gentle breathing as his chest rested softly against me. It felt good to feel his warmth next to me, as if he was hugging me all night in his sleep. For a moment, there were no problems. It was just me and Brett again. We would worry about tomorrow in the morning.
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