W.A.R. Part Five - Retaliation
Chapter Fourteen - Fallout
by Jeff Wilson
For some reason, my mom didn't want me to go to church with her on Sunday. It couldn't be because I'd humiliated Joey the last time I'd gone, was it? Anyway, the simple fact that she didn't want me to go encouraged me all the more to go, of course. I even went to Sunday school for once and had a good time. Hell, I was even respectful and asked thoughtful questions of the teacher. It was kind of nice.
I felt invincible. I was on top of the world. I had a smirk on my face that I just couldn't get to go away. I held all the cards. All of them! I knew something was up with Dr. Reilly's story. The more I thought about her version of events the less it all made sense. But when I thought about her and Jack the more that made sense. Why else would he be so interested in Brett's accident? He wasn't a personal injury lawyer, he did corporate law. No, it was because he knew that Brett was his son. He had to know. He fucked Brett's mom, which was, of course, like, gross. He cheated on his wife and fucked her best friend. What a slime ball! Then nine months later along comes little baby Brett and not only do they not tell the truth, they hide their nasty little secret from the world for years. They thought no one would ever discover the truth, but I had figured it out. Once I got over the shock of the whole thing, I about dislocated my shoulder patting myself on the back. I'd figured out a sixteen years-long mystery and I did it all by myself!
The only problem was, I couldn't figure out what to do with my newfound knowledge. I mean, Dr. Reilly had practically begged me not to tell. I was still pissed off at her for the way she'd manipulated me to get the truth out of me about my relationship with Brett, but I didn't want to hurt her. I didn't know what to do. She was right, Brett seemed at peace over the situation lately. He hadn't mentioned his father in months. No one picked on him for being a bastard anymore. No one cared who his dad was. It seemed like he had moved on along with everyone else. Exposing the truth at that point would bring it all up again. It would become a public scandal all over again. Even though he acted like people's opinions didn't bother him I knew there was one issue that did. Exposing the truth would open an old wound that had pretty much healed.
Why did I do this shit to myself? Why did I have to overthink everything all the time?
"I should just tell him," I said to myself as I walked through the halls of the church toward the sanctuary after class ended. "I should just get it over with and fuck the consequences."
I sat down at the end of row of seats where mom always sat and thought about what to do. I decided. I was just going to tell Brett and let him deal with it. He could handle it. He was mature enough to handle it like an adult. What was the worst that could happen?
Mom arrived in the sanctuary and made small talk with various members of the congregation. The praise band was warmed up and prepared to begin leading songs as people began to file in. Mom told me to scoot over, and when I did she told me to scoot over again. Then I discovered why she wanted a second seat.
"What's he doing here?" I asked, as that vanilla douche, David, sat in the seat I'd just been warming up beside my mom. If I'd have known she wanted me to move so that she could sit next to him, I wouldn't have bothered.
Mom scolded me for my rudeness. "William Aaron, behave yourself," she said.
"It's okay, Paula," David said. Good god, I almost fell asleep just hearing his annoying voice for a few seconds. God, I hated that guy! He was so... He was like a room painted the color of an eggshell. You know what I mean? He had, like, no personality. I sat there next to mom feeling annoyed by the simple presence of David. Suddenly, there was a firm tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find that the source of the tap was none other than Pastor Carl himself.
"Hi Billy," Pastor Carl said with that weird charming voice. "Could you come to my office for a minute, there's something I'd like to speak with you about before service begins."
My annoyance turned into trepidation. It was like being called into the principal's office. I reluctantly got up and followed him through the sanctuary to a side door which opened into a hallway which led to his office. I'd never been to his office before. It was like walking into a library. There were books everywhere, on shelves, on his desk, on the table next to a couple of chairs. And seated in one of those chairs was none other than...
"Billy, you know Jack McKenzie, right?"
"Yeah..." I replied. Uh oh! This wasn't good.
"Hi Billy," Jack said, welcoming me as if he were Santa Claus and I was a small child. Jesus, he was so fucking charming. I just wanted to climb on his lap and tell him how sorry I was about what I'd done to Joey. And I wasn't even sorry! He just had something about him.
"Billy, you don't have to be nervous," Pastor Carl said. Jack and I have been in conversation all week about the events that took place before last week's service."
"That's right," Jack added. "Billy, I want to thank you for what you did last week."
"Really?" I asked.
"Certainly. Billy, I don't know if you know this, but the life of a lawyer can be very demanding. I don't get to spend a lot of time with my family, especially with my son. This last week gave me the opportunity to spend time in serious conversation with him for the first time in ages. That wouldn't have happened without you telling us what you did last week. Pastor Carl has helped us to really open up to each other. Joey has told me some very disturbing things about the way that he has been behaving these last few months. It simply hasn't been acceptable, and he was headed toward disaster until you told us about the abortion."
"He also told us of the way he's been bullying you, Billy," Pastor Carl chimed in. "He confessed that he has been harassing you at school and here at church. He told me some very disturbing things. But Jack and I are in agreement. We're going to make sure that Joey gets the counseling he needs from the church. We believe that change is possible through prayer, reconciliation, and restoration."
"Oh, wow... I thought you guys were going to be pissed off at me," I said, relieved at the way things were turning out.
"Well, you could have come to us privately instead of doing things the way you did," Jack replied. "But understanding the circumstances, it's clear that you were reaching out for help. I can assure you that Joey will not be harassing you in the future."
"Wow, that's awesome!"
Pastor Carl stood up from behind his desk. "Well, I'm glad that everything worked out for the best! Of course, when God's at work, all things work together for good." He shook Jack's hand, then mine, and excused himself to get ready for worship, leaving me with Jack.
"Mr. McKenzie, I've just got to say, I'm sorry for the way I acted last week. I know good things came out of it, but it was still wrong of me to say what I did in public like that. You've been real nice about everything and I just want to say thank you."
"Mr. Roberts," Jack said.
"I'm not a guy you ever want to fuck with," he said coldly. It felt like the temperature in the room dropped twenty degrees.
"Wha... What?" I stammered.
"I think I've made myself clear. Let's cut the crap. I don't know who you think you are, but you've got a lot to learn about the way things work in the world. There are some people you just don't want to fuck around with. I'm one of them. You want to embarrass me and my family in front of my friends? I don't think you know who you're dealing with. You better watch yourself, son, because if you ever cross me and embarrass me like that again, and I'll make sure you pay the price. If you thought my son was bad, you haven't seen what I could do to you."
"Are you threatening me?" I asked, stunned at the way the conversation had turned.
"Yes I am," Jack replied. "You may think there are things that you know about me and my family. You might think about trying to use that information to try to damage my family. But let me assure you that if you think about trying to embarrass me or trying to use any information about events that took place years ago to try to blackmail me I will sue you for everything your family has. It would destroy your family. Do I make myself clear?"
"I... I don't know what you're talking about. I don't... I don't know anything!"
"That's good! If you know what's good for you and your family you'll keep it that way. Lucky for you, I'm a generous man. You keep your mouth shut, your nose out of my business, and stay away from my son, and you won't have anything to worry about. But if you decide to fuck with me, you'll wish you'd never been born. You understand me Mr. Roberts?"
I shook my head. I was too scared to even say anything. This whole situation had gotten very real, very fast. I was trying very hard not to start crying, but I was really scared.
"Good boy. You see Mr. Roberts, this doesn't have to get difficult. I would hate for your dad to have to lose everything; his house, his career, his ability to pay his medical bills, all because his son decided to make a very foolish and selfish decision and dig up something that was buried a long time ago. You don't want to hurt your father, do you?"
"Very good. I knew you were a smart boy. After all, isn't your father already being humiliated enough by your mother?"
"What do you mean?"
"Oh come now, don't disappoint me, Billy. You must see it. The way she clings to another man, while your father sits at home. You think your parents don't have secrets of their own, things they'd rather not have the whole town talk about? Doesn't it make you sick to see the way your mother has abandoned your father in his hour of need? The way she goes out night after night while you and your poor father are left at home? It could easily be your mother's scandalous behavior that gets spread all over town. But it doesn't have to be that way. I think by now you know. You hold your parents' reputations, their very lives in your hands Billy. I know you don't want to hurt them. Gossip in a small town can be so cruel. But I think you know that. After all, you have a little secret of your own, don't you Billy?"
Oh no... He couldn't know!
"Oh, now don't worry. I can see by the look on your face that you and I are on the same page now. I see the fear in your eyes, just thinking about what would happen if someone were to reveal what it is you do with your best friend when you're all alone. You think I'm not sympathetic, but I understand your pain more deeply than you could possibly imagine. You see, I've seen what your particular kind of secret can do to a young mind. I've seen the shame, the fear, the desperation that leads to destruction. I watched it eat my brother alive, until he took his own life. I don't wish that kind of pain on anyone. Billy, I'm not your enemy. I just want you to do the right thing. Not for me, but for your family, and for my son. Are we on the same page?"
"Yeah," I whispered. It was as much of my voice as I could produce.
"Very good. I'm glad we had this little talk, Billy. I wasn't lying when I told you that you could have a bright future if you're willing to listen. I'll be keeping my eye on you. I'm sure you are destined to do great things. Just be smart."
I didn't go back to my seat in the sanctuary right away after Jack left me in Pastor Carl's office. First, I went to the restroom and threw up. I'd never been so scared in my life! I'd just been threatened by one of the most powerful people in my town. Jack hadn't laid a hand on me. He'd even been nice to me, but I felt like I'd been beaten up. He knew everything. How stupid had I been to think that I had any sort of advantage over him? He'd been keeping his affair with Jen a secret longer than I'd been alive. He chewed me up and spit me out and he wasn't even trying all that hard. He'd made one thing abundantly clear: I had to keep quiet. I couldn't even tell Brett what I knew. If Jack found out, he'd destroy my family.
After I'd finished puking, I cleaned myself up and splashed water on my face at the sink. I returned to my seat next to mom just in time for the sermon to start. She asked me where I'd been and I told her I had to use the bathroom. Pastor Carl was much better prepared that week. He told some corny jokes which got a lot of laughs from the congregation. I tried to ignore the awkward closeness of my mother and David as they sat next to each other. After one of Carl's jokes, they gave each other a knowing look, and then mom patted David on the knee. I felt like puking again. It just confirmed everything Jack had said.
"Church," Pastor Carl preached. "There is nothing God hates more than a lying tongue. Especially when that lying tongue is used to attack the saints of the church. But we know where those lies come from, don't we? They come from the father of lies himself, Satan! It's been a hard week, and Satan has attacked this church and its ministry. But we know that this church is built upon the rock of Jesus Christ and all the lies of Satan cannot prevail against it! Give God the glory today!"
"So now I'm Satan..." I sighed. "Fuck this place," I mumbled.
Mom shushed me quietly and went back to listening in rapt attention as Pastor Carl ripped me a new one from the pulpit without ever actually using my name and being just vague enough to keep the congregation from picking up stones to slay me with. Who the fuck had I been kidding? How could I even think that I could have an advantage over these guys? I knew what I had to do. I could never tell Brett what I knew. Never. Someday he'd find out I knew, and he'd hate me. He just couldn't understand. These people were too powerful.
I sat quietly in the passenger seat as mom drove us home. I just looked out the window, wishing that I could be anybody else in the world. I wanted to run away, to run from this vicious, evil little town and never look back. Mom sat there humming softly, oblivious to my anguish. We stopped at a stoplight and she just kept quietly humming to herself.
"God, could you just stop that?" I snapped.
"Stop what?" mom asked.
"The humming! Jesus, just quit the goddamned humming!"
"William Aaron, what is your problem?"
"I just want to go home in peace! Is a little peace and quiet too much to ask?"
"I suppose not," mom replied. The light turned green and we moved on.
"I'm never going back to that church. Never! I've never been so humiliated in my life."
"What on earth are you talking about?"
"You don't think that stupid asshole was talking about me during that whole sermon?"
"After what you did last week, maybe you needed a bit of embarrassment."
"Oh, how shocking that you would take his side! I mean if you're willing to dump your husband for some douchebag from that place, I guess it shouldn't be surprising that you'd dump me too!"
"Billy what in the world are you talking about?"
"Are you that stupid? You don't think people can figure out what you're doing with that asshole who sat with you in church today? It's disgusting! Dad deserves better!"
"You think I'm cheating on your father?"
"I'm not the only one. All of your so-called friends in that church are thinking it too!"
"Billy, I am not cheating on your father. Especially with David! David is one of the nicest people..."
"Oh bullshit! I saw the way you were acting with him! It was pathetic! `Oh David! Isn't Pastor Carl just the best ever?' If you were that grabby in public I can only imagine where your hands have been in private!"
Mom slapped me so hard the sound could probably be heard outside the car.
"Stop the fucking car!" I shouted. "I've had enough of this fucking bullshit!" I unbuckled my seat belt.
"I love your father, Billy! You have no idea what I have been through these last few years! I will not sit here and be judged by my own son for the way I live my life and love my husband."
"And I won't be judged by some asshole who thinks God talks to him and kicked his own son out of his house because of who he loves! Nor will I be judged by someone who agrees with him!"
"Is that what this is about? Billy, you have no idea the kind of person Nate Stevens is. His father caught him having sex in the church office! With another boy! He was deliberately flaunting his sin in front of his father. Carl had no choice but to do what he did! It almost killed him to kick Nate out, but Nate was out of control!"
"So is that what you're going to do to me when I don't live up to your standards? Just throw me out on the street because you don't agree with me?"
"I haven't thrown you out yet, have I? Don't you think I would have by now? Nate's situation is not the same as yours. You don't go flaunting what you do with Brett to the whole town."
"So you know, huh?"
"Oh please! I'm your mother. I'm not stupid. I think Brett's adorable, you know that. He's as much my son as you are. But I respect your private business, as long as it remains private."
"So if I were out you would kick me out?"
"Is it so hard to keep things a secret until you graduate?"
"Jesus! It's all about you and your fucking reputation, isn't it?"
"Don't try to make this about me. I think I've been more than fair with you."
"Yeah, as long as I don't embarrass you by being myself, I guess I'll be okay! Fuck! I hope you and dad do get a divorce, then I won't have to live with a hypocritical lying bitch anymore!"
Mom slammed on the brakes and swerved off the road. Because I'd taken off my seat belt I went flying, cracking my head off the windshield. It almost knocked me out! Now I was pissed.
"You did that on purpose!" I shouted.
"No I didn't! You were the idiot who took off your seat belt!"
"Fuck this! I'm done with your shit!" I opened my door and stormed out of the car, leaving the door hanging open. Mom jumped out of the car and chased after me. She caught up to me quickly, grabbed me and spun me around.
"Get your ass back in that car!" she insisted.
"No! I don't want to be around someone who doesn't respect me! Just stay the fuck away from me!"
"William Aaron, I am warning you. Get in the car, now."
"Or what? Are you going to throw me out because I embarrass you? I'll make it easy for you and just go now!"
"I'm not getting in your goddamned car, mother! I'd rather walk!"
"Billy please, just get in the car and we'll go home and handle this privately."
"Make me," I said.
"Fine then. You what to make this difficult? Okay. When you're ready to come home the door will be open. Whether you like it or not you are still my son. Nothing will ever change that. You want to walk home, go ahead. Maybe it'll give you time to clear your head. I swear, you are the most stubborn, bull-headed man I've ever met, and I'm married to your father. Happily married. Now I'm leaving, you can either get in the car or you can walk. The choice is yours."
Mom walked back to the car. She didn't drive away immediately. She sat there with the engine running for a while. Finally, she reached over and closed my door and pulled forward. I think she kept hoping that I'd change my mind and come crawling back, but I stood my ground. I turned around and walked the opposite direction. Finally, slowly, mom pulled back onto the highway and drove away.
Only after she had driven off did I allow the tears to begin to escape my eyes. I was so frustrated and angry. It didn't take long for Bobby Rush to pull up beside me in his mom's car and ask if I needed a ride. I accepted. I asked him to drop me off at the end of my street rather than drop me off at my house. I walked past my neighbors' houses and saw that mom's car was parked in our driveway and she was sitting on the front porch. I slipped through our neighbor's backyard so that mom wouldn't see me and slipped into the woods behind the house. At the top of the hill I found Brett walking from the opposite direction toward me. He looked as pissed as I'd ever seen him.
"Did my mom force you to tell her that we're fucking each other?" he asked.
"Well, not exactly..." I replied.
"That fucking bitch! I'm so sorry she did that to you, dude. She had no right! I hate her so fucking much! I'm moving in with you guys. I'm done with her bullshit."
"Well, if you move to my house you're going to be kinda lonely. Mom knows about us."
"Oh fuck! Fuck!" Brett shouted. "So she kicked you out?"
"No, I guess I kind of ran away. She told me I could come home, but that I had to pretend to be straight so her church friends wouldn't kick her out of the church. So I said fuck that."
"And where are you planning to go?"
"I guess I thought I could live with you guys." I said.
"Well that's nice and all, but I don't think that's the best thing to do right now. After the things I said to my mother I'm going to be lucky if I'll be able to live there. I think we're all a little stressed out at the moment and we should cool down before we make any life-altering decisions."
"Wow, I never thought the kid who threw a shoe at a teacher would be the voice of reason."
"Shut up!" Brett laughed.
"So what are we going to do to cool down?" I asked.
"Mike has video games," Brett replied. "Let's chill out with him tonight and then deal with everything tomorrow. We can call home later so they don't send out a search party for us, and then we'll figure out what to do later. Hell, maybe Mike can order me "Teen Twinks Take Three" while we're there."
"Dude, you need help," I laughed.
"I also need a new cell phone because I broke my old one when I through it at the cunt."
"And people say I have anger issues."
"At least I've never punched a defenseless mirror. Chex mix."
"I think you mean, checkmate," I laughed.
"Whatever," Brett replied, turning a little bit red.
So that's what we did. We spent the night at Mike's place, played video games until two in the morning and had a great time. I called Brett's mom and Brett called my house to let everyone know that we were okay and that we'd be back after school the next day. Mike agreed to drive us to pick up our school books and then to school the next morning after our parents had gone to work. I think we were all glad to have a little bit of peace after the way Sunday had gone. I wasn't looking forward to going home after school, but I knew that I had to. I couldn't run and hide forever. Mom hadn't slammed the door shut, she'd left it open. I had to at least be man enough to talk to her face-to-face and work out what the future would look like. I probably wasn't going to be rewarded with a cellphone for the way I'd behaved like Brett was, but at least I could still go home.
Thanks for reading! Thanks even more for sending an email to let me know what you thought of this chapter, or the story in general! I really appreciate it!
Only one chapter left in Part Five!
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next time: The Cabin