Chapter 10


Secrets. They're the parts of ourselves we keep hidden from the world, the pieces we bury in the depths of our mind. They differ from person to person, varying in size and strength, but they all share a common trait: hunger.

They eat away at you, consuming every ounce of rational thought and leaving behind only a mush of neurons.

Acceptance is the only defence. To understand and respect the secret is to tame it. It can be done, though it only serves as a temporary relief.

The only escape is the truth.

I'm bisexual, have feelings towards another boy, and kissed someone of the same-sex.

The truth.

But sometimes even that isn't enough.


From the instant Dad called me downstairs that morning, I knew it was bad news. Entering the living room, a jolt of panic shot down my spine when I saw Mum perched on the edge of the sofa, a tissue clutched tightly in her hand as she dabbed at her red, moist eyes. Glancing at Dad, I watched as he continued to pace before the mantlepiece, his jaw taut and eyebrows creased.

"What is it?" I asked, unable to stop alarm from entering my voice.

Raising his right hand, he pointed towards the sofa. "Sit down."

Feeling a rush of nerves flood my stomach, I walked over towards Mum. Taking a seat next to her, I suddenly realised that Georgina was notably absent, presumably still asleep in her room. Evidently it wasn't something they wanted her to hear.

After what felt like several minutes of silence, my heart and sweat glands running on overdrive the entire time, Dad finally took a seat in his chair. Fixing his eyes on mine, he slowly began to speak.

I sat there in a daze once he'd finished talking, my mind unable to link any two thoughts together as I replayed his words over and over inside my head.

"What are you going to do?" Mum's anxious voice cut through the tension of the room as she looked over at Dad.

"It can't go on." He levelled a stare with me, the lines of worry on his face adding years to his appearance. "It has to stop."

Somehow I was able to nod my head and drop my eyes to the floor. My phone chose that moment to vibrate silently in my hand again. Harry. It was the second time he'd called me that morning. Placing it face down on my lap, I let it ring off.

He knew. He had to know.

To my surprise, I didn't feel angry or even betrayed. Actually I felt very little of anything emotionally. Maybe a little bit sick physically, with the onset of a headache forming behind my eyes, but otherwise I felt ok.

"How are we going to tell Georgina?" Mum gave Dad a panicked look.

"I don't know. But she has to be told." Dad sighed heavily and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Three years. He's been stealing from the business, our business for three years."

Disappointment. That's what I felt.

I instantly thought back several years ago, to when I was around ten years old. My family and I were visiting with my aunt and uncle for a few days. My older cousin, a boy who I'd long looked up to, was fifteen at the time. While Georgina was happy to stay at his house, the two of us would often go to the local park. When I was alone with him one time during our adventures, he pulled a cigarette out of his pocket and lit it up. I remember watching in amazement as he took a drag on the thin, white tube before exhaling a cloud of grey, toxic smoke.

Once I'd gotten over the initial shock, my feelings quickly turned to disgust and disappointment. In less than thirty-seconds, my image of him had shattered. It felt as though the person I'd admired and idolised had vanished; replaced by a cheap knockoff.

Sitting on the sofa, listening to Dad share everything that he'd learned, the very same thing happened to my image of Keith Webb, a man who I'd always seen as family to me.

"I need to make some calls." Dad stood up from his seat and began to head out of the room. Reaching the doorway, he froze and spun around to face me. His steely eyes remained firm, yet his voice was filled with sadness. "I'm sorry, West."

A lump grew in my throat as I watched him leave the room. It killed me to see him like that. He was completely devastated.

Raising a hand up to my face, I swiped at the corner of my eyes as I felt Mum wrap an arm around me. "It's ok."

No, it's not. I remained still a few seconds and then slowly stood up from the sofa. "I'm gonna head out for a while."

She watched me closely and then attempted a smile. "Ok, hon."

Turning away from her, I reluctantly continued out of the room. I didn't want to leave her alone, but after everything I'd heard, I couldn't think straight. I had to get out of the house. I needed to be alone.


Our town didn't really have much in the way of a park. While we did have fields of grass that you could play football on, they were all located in the town centre, surrounded by buildings. Although they were quite large, they weren't the best places to visit if you wanted to be alone. Instead, I found myself walking alongside the canal that passed by our town. Aside from a few anglers here and there, and a couple of people walking their dogs, the result was a much quieter and secluded area.

The added privacy also meant I was able to return Harry's call. Though I wasn't in the mood to talk, his three missed calls clearly indicated that he wanted to contact me. He was probably taking things as badly as I was, more so with him being away from home.

"Twenty-thousand." Harry sighed into the phone. "Why'd he do it?"

I was silent for a moment. "I don't know."

"It's so messed up."


"How's your dad?"

The image of Dad's distraught expression surfaced in my mind. "Not good."

"Yeah. Mum's the same." He sighed again. "What a mess."

As I'd suspected, Harry shared the same feelings as me about the whole thing. Like my family, his was also very close to Keith. His embezzlement of the bakeries was as much of a shock to them as it was to us.

Aside from rehashing our disbelief over what had happened, we didn't have a lot more to say to each other. He did express his annoyance at being away from home, but reminded me that he'd be heading back the following day. Barely three-minutes later, we ended the call.

Coming to a stop beside a bench, I walked over and sat down on its damp, wooden slats. Resting back against the seat, I buried my hands inside the pockets of my jacket and closed my eyes.

I thought back two days earlier, to when I was in Sean's house. The day had gone surprisingly well given how disastrous things could've been had I slipped up. Sean really was something special, a hidden gem that had somehow gone unnoticed by everyone at school. On the surface he was a confident and outgoing boy, but beneath the outer shell he held an even more enticing quality: sensitivity. Combine all three together and you had someone who was very much perfect.

An icy gust blew across my face, bringing home the bleak reality of the moment. Opening my eyes, I stared into the cold, dark water of the canal. Between the whole Sean, Ryan and West triangle, I really didn't need to have the extra stress of Keith to worry about.

A frown instantly appeared on my face from the tactless thought. While it was difficult for me to deal with, I wasn't the only one going through it. Keith had been a part of many people's lives, and each of them were going to be feeling the same as me. As for the situation with Sean and Ryan, only one person was responsible for that. Me.

The sound of my ringtone suddenly began to play within my pocket. Clasping my phone, I pulled it out and stared at the screen. Tess's name and picture flashed on the display. Raising it to my ear, I answered the call. "Hello?"

"Hey, West."

"Hey, Tess. You alright?"

"Yeah. Um, I was wondering if you're free this afternoon?"

"I should be, why?"

"Do you mind if I stop by yours 'round two?" she asked. "I won't be there for long."

"Uh, ok." I frowned. "Something wrong?"

"No, no, everything's fine," she replied quickly. "I just wanna talk about the English project."

"Oh? Is Sean coming too?"

"No, uh..." She paused briefly on the other end. "I'll talk to him about it later."

While I was initially unsure about her reason to come over, I surmised that it must have something to do with Harry. She knew he was away for a few days, so perhaps she wanted to talk to me about him, with the assurance that he wasn't going to show up uninvited. She'd certainly piqued my curiosity.

"Okay, I'll be home at two."

"Great. I'll see you then."

"Sure. Later."


Ending the call, I slipped the phone back into my pocket as I began to replay our conversation in my mind. Sean had hinted that Tess was interested in Harry. I'd assumed that he was just picking up on how she was behaving, but perhaps she'd said something to him.

I'd often wondered if Sean and Tess were closer than I'd realised. While I'd thought that the three of us were on equal footing within the English project, it seemed more and more likely that they were friends before we came together to work on the presentation. It did elicit a few suspicions in my mind, notably how much Tess knew about Sean.

I already knew that he was out to his parents and sisters, at least if I were to believe what he told Ryan, so it wasn't unreasonable of me to presume that he'd shared it with someone else. I just didn't know whether Tess was included or not.


Walking home, I decided to take a quick detour through town to get something to eat. I'd usually stop off in one of the bakeries to grab a sandwich or pasty, but I really didn't want to meet up with anyone from there, so instead I settled on some McDonalds.

Returning home, I stuck my lunch into the microwave and began to heat it though. Although I could've just eaten it back at the store, I really wanted to get back to the house. Unfortunately, the twenty-minute walk back had all but frozen the food.

Leaving the microwave to do its thing, I stepped out of the kitchen and peered into the lounge. Mum and Georgina were both sitting there idly watching the TV. Given the pained expression on Georgina's face, it was clear she'd been told about what happened.

"Hey, West."

I looked up at Dad as he came down the stairs. Not much had changed about his appearance since I'd left, though he was fully dressed in his work clothes, indicating that he was planning to head out.

"Hey." I attempted a smile. "Have you heard anything else?"

Arriving at the bottom of the stairs, he slowly shook his head. "Not at the moment. There's a lot of stuff to go through."

"Yeah." I sighed, knowing all too well how there wasn't going to be a quick and easy outcome.

"Try not to worry about it," he said, reaching out and squeezing my shoulder. "I'll sort it out."

I nodded my head, appreciating his attempt to reassure me. "Ok."

"Good." Walking over to the door, he stepped into his shoes and then glanced back at me. "I'm heading off now. I'll see you later."

"See you," I replied.

After popping his head into the lounge to say goodbye to Mum and Georgina, he opened the door and stepped out of the house. An uneasy wave of tension settled in my stomach as I watched him go, wondering what hidden secrets he'd uncover about his close friend over the next couple of hours.

The microwave pinged from the kitchen, cutting through the silence in the hall. Taking one last look at the closed front door, I returned to the kitchen, collected my food and then went up to my room.

Sitting back into my desk chair, I popped a few fries into my mouth as I grabbed the TV remote and flicked through the channels. Despite having every channel available to choose from, I ended up finishing my lunch long before I found something worth watching. In the end I shut off the TV and turned to my computer instead.

Opening up my messages, I checked to see if Sean had replied to his latest conversation with Ryan. Finding nothing new, I scrolled up and read through the last messages we'd sent.

Sean: Can I ask you something? :)

Ryan: Yeah.

I wasn't quite sure what Sean was planning on asking Ryan, though given the smiley at the end of his question, I wasn't expecting it to be anything too serious. In fact, most of the time he asked me, well, Ryan that question, it was about a new video that he'd posted online, wanting to know what I thought of it.

Opening up the browser, I flicked through my bookmarks and then visited Sean's online profile. Checking through his latest activity, I found that I was right, there was a new video that he'd posted. Clicking on the video, I turned up the volume on my speakers and sat back in my chair. Closing my eyes, I surrendered myself to the tranquil sound as it filled the room.

Unlike some of his other videos, it wasn't a song that I recognised, nor was it a cover of a song from the charts. Instead it seemed to be based on a classical piece. Although I wasn't familiar with it, I couldn't help but smile at his endless talent and confidence with the instrument.

A subtle chime sounded through my speakers. At first I thought it was part of his track, but after inching open my eyes, I saw a notification pop up on the screen. Minimising the video to the background, I continued to let it play while I checked my latest messages.

Sean: Do you want to talk for real? Voice to voice? :)

I instantly read the message again, my heart rate beginning to quicken. Shutting off the speakers, my room was plunged into silence as I read it over and over.

I stood up out of the chair and paced to the end of my room. What the hell was I going to do? Worse yet, how did I not see that one coming? I continued to run the thought through my mind, trying to think of something, anything that'd let me escape from my current predicament.

The easiest thing would be to simply delete Ryan's email address, to cease all communication from him. However, it was clear that Sean had vested a lot into the virtual boy, I had no idea how he'd react if I deleted him from existence. Worse yet, what if Sean began to blame himself for his departure, thinking that it was something that he did?

Try as I might to come up with a solution, from where I was standing I just couldn't see how I could get out of it.

Pacing back and forth across my laminate floor, I froze and shook my head. It was no use. There wasn't going to be a simple solution. Spinning around, I headed straight for the door and wandered out of the room.


Showers. I'd always found something naturally calming about the flow of running water, the way the steaming stream would cascade down my back, bringing a new sense of focus to my mind. It was always the best place for me to go when I needed to think. Unfortunately, it didn't offer any answers.

One thought I did have, an eccentric one at that, was the idea to come clean with Sean. Rather than delete Ryan from the internet, I could've approached Sean and explained what I did, that I was behind it. However, no matter how I tried to spin it, telling Sean the truth about Ryan would only burn me, not to mention how it'd completely jeopardise any chance of us getting closer. If he's even interested at all.

Shutting off the water, I got out of the shower and began to dry myself off. Regardless of what I decided to do, I didn't have long to do it. Sean was going to be expecting a reply before the end of the day.

Stepping into my boxers, I pulled them up my legs and straightened up, staring at the reflection of myself in the mirror. I gazed at the grey-eyed boy for about a minute, before slowly shaking my head. What are you going to do?

Pulling on the rest of my clothes, I bunched my towel up under one arm and exited the bathroom.

"West?" called Mum from downstairs.

Walking across the landing to the top of the stairs, I glanced down at Mum as she stood at the bottom. "Yeah?"

"Tess is waiting in your room."

"Oh?" I glanced over at my bedroom door down the hall, noting that it was partially open. It definitely wasn't two o'clock so she must've arrived early. Either way, having her there would let me take my mind off things. "Ok, thanks."

Reaching up to my hair with the towel, I dried it off a little more as I headed to my room. My mind briefly flicked back to Sean and Ryan. What if I just said no to his question? While it could raise a few doubts on Sean's end, it would give me more time to work things out, not to mention it'd save me from having to conjure up a complex excuse.

Mulling this over in my head, I entered into my room to see Tess sitting at my desk. Closing the door behind me, I hung up my towel on the hook. "Sorry, I was just in the shower. I didn't know..."

Turning to look at her, my heart skipped a beat from the grief-stricken expression on her face as she stared at me wide-eyed.

I stepped closer. "What is it Tess?"

She glanced towards my computer. Following her gaze, I focused on my computer's screen. The blood instantly began to drain from my face once my eyes registered what she was looking at. Displayed as clear as day for all to see was Ryan's email account.

She slowly shook her head. "West?"

I remained frozen on the spot, my body tense and rigid.


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Written by Kai Taylor
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Copyright © 2013-2014 Kai Taylor