W.A.R. Part Six - Commencement
Chapter Twelve - Liars' Club
by Jeff Wilson
It was about noon when Brett opened his eyes again.
"Billy?" he called.
"Yeah, I'm here," I said. I cast aside the newspaper I'd bought at the gift shop while Brett was asleep and knelt at his side.
"Billy, I think something's wrong..."
"Are you sick or something? Do you feel okay?" I asked urgently.
"No... I... I think I broke my leg..." Brett said with a sly smile.
"Smart ass," I laughed.
"Yeah. I actually feel better now, not so woozy."
"Do you need more pain medication?"
"No. No, that's okay. The less of that stuff I take the better." Brett asked me to give him the newspaper I'd been reading. "This is going to be torture. Who knows what I'm going to do for the next month while I'm stuck in bed."
"There's plenty of video games, television. I'm sure you'll have a bunch of school work you'll have to do."
"That just sounds terrific," Brett yawned. "Say, has my mom even been here today?"
"I haven't seen her. I know she was here with you all night. She probably needed to get some sleep."
"Sure. You were here all night and you came back this morning," Brett said.
Just as I was preparing to tell Brett his mom had sent me home, a nurse came into the room.
"How are you feeling, Anthony?" she asked.
"Who in the world is Anthony?" Brett replied. "Nobody calls me that."
"Do you go by Tony or?"
"He goes by his middle name, Brett," I informed her.
"Oh! Well, we'll make a note of that right away. Are you his brother?" she asked.
"No, he's my boyfriend," Brett replied.
"Oh!" the nurse said. "Well it's nice to meet you. Well, Mr. Reilly, how would you describe your pain right now?"
"How would I describe my pain? He's about six feet tall, blond with green eyes..."
"Oh shut up," I laughed.
"I feel good," Brett said more seriously. "I'd describe my pain as dull and thumping. I feel it, but everything's still numb."
"That's completely normal. We'll keep monitoring. Let us know if it goes from dull and thumping to sharp and stabbing, okay?"
She turned to me. "It was nice to meet you..."
"Billy," I replied.
"Billy..." she said. "Weren't you a patient here a few years ago? Broken wrist?"
"I punched the mirror downstairs," I said, connecting the dots for her.
"Oh yes! Well, it's good to see you again. I'm sure you'll take good care of Brett."
After the nurse left, Brett and I just sat and talked for a while. Brett was impressed that he could just lay in bed and pee right in front of me because of the catheter they'd given him.
"I could be peeing right now and you wouldn't even know it."
"I don't know. I can't feel anything below my waist right now."
"So you could be peeing right now and you wouldn't know it either."
"Whoa!" Brett replied, his mind obviously blown.
"So, am I naked under this gown?" he asked.
"Yeah," I replied. "But I'm naked under these clothes too."
"I guess that's true. How many of these nurses do you think have seen my junk?"
"All of them probably. I heard them talking earlier at the nurses' station about how impressed they were. That's why they had to throw a blanket over you, they couldn't work properly with your thing exposed like that."
"Dude, how am I even going to put on boxers with my leg like this?"
"Remember how you said you don't care if your mom sees you naked? Well..."
"Ugh," Brett groaned.
A little while later, Dr. Reilly appeared in the doorway.
"How's my little peanut?" she asked.
"How do you think I am?" Brett replied, his tone of voice completely shifting to one filled with contempt.
"Billy, I'm kind of surprised to see you here. I thought I'd been clear when I told you to go home yesterday."
"I..." I started, but then Brett jumped in.
"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked.
"Brett, I don't expect you to understand. Billy and I..."
"No. Isn't it bad enough that you make me miserable? Now you have to make other people's kids miserable."
"If he hadn't been so irresponsible as to let you get on that death trap..."
"Oh please! Do you really think that Billy could have made me do anything if I really didn't want to do it? No offense, Billy."
"He should have been stopping you, not encouraging you."
"Oh, fuck off!" Brett snapped. "It's not like you care about my safety any other time. I've practically been on my own since I was eight-years-old. I'll be eighteen in three weeks. If I had put together a dirt bike in our backyard you wouldn't have even noticed. It's not like you're such an awesome mother that you would have prevented this from happening."
"If I had known that you were going to be riding dirt bikes up in the woods I would have stopped you."
"You might have tried," Brett said. "But the simple fact is, you weren't there. You're never there and you feel guilty about it and so you're taking it out on Billy." The monitor that was measuring Brett's heart rate was beeping much more rapidly as Brett argued with his mother.
"Guys, if I need to go I will," I suggested.
"Don't even think about leaving," Brett insisted. "If you go, I go."
"I don't think that's possible at the moment," I said.
"Brett, you need to calm down for just a moment and let me explain. I don't blame Billy for what happened. But I am disappointed that he didn't stop you before you got on that thing. He should have known that you..."
"How can someone who is supposed to be so smart be so stupid? I am responsible for my own actions, mother," Brett said firmly. "And so are you. Billy's got nothing to do with it. I got on the bike. I went too fast. And I'll pay the consequences for what I did. It's my responsibility, not Billy's. And frankly, not yours either. So quit trying to lay the guilt trip on anybody else and shut up!"
Dr. Reilly stood there for quite a while. "I just..."
"Mom, I really don't want to hear it." He reached over to the call button and paged the nurse. Within a few moments, she arrived. "My pain is sharp and stabby now," he said.
"You poor thing! We'll take care of that right away for you," the nurse replied. "May I ask the two of you to step out of the room for a moment? There's a small waiting room at the end of the hall."
"Billy can stay," Brett insisted.
"No, it's okay, let them do what they need to do," I replied. I went with Dr. Reilly to the waiting room.
"I'm sorry he yelled at you," I said.
"Oh, you think that was yelling? That's just an ordinary conversation nowadays. I've totally lost him. He hates me so much. I don't know how we can ever put things back together."
"I have an idea," I said.
"I know your idea. Destroy my best friend's marriage and my whole life's work."
"It's going to come out anyway, Jen. Better that he hears it from you. Jack came to the emergency room last night. He was out of his mind. Anyone could see that he was reacting as a father, not like an ambulance chasing lawyer. Have you seen Brett and Joey side-by-side lately? They look more alike now than they did before. You can't keep this charade up for much longer. If you just tell him..."
"Billy, what do you expect to happen? Do you expect him to suddenly forgive me? Do you expect him to understand that his father has been living down the road this whole time and I never told him? It's not just about him. Heather would be destroyed by what happened. I've worked years to build my credibility. Jack's reputation as a leader of the community would be shattered. If it were as simple as just telling him and there were no consequences for others except for me, I would have told him by now. But it's not about me. But the truth would destroy a lot of people."
"No. The truth would destroy a lot of horrible liars. It would destroy the lie that Jack cares one bit about his family, since he was willing to throw it all away to sleep with his wife's best friend. He doesn't deserve the reputation he has. It should be destroyed. It would destroy the lie that you give a shit about anybody but yourself. This whole situation started because you were too selfish to realize that sleeping with your best friend's husband would hurt a lot of people. You were afraid that the truth would hurt your precious career. You deserve to have people know what you did."
"Does Heather deserve to have her marriage ruined? She didn't do anything to deserve that. Does Joey deserve to have his parents get divorced? Does Brett deserve to know that he was the result of the worst mistake his mother ever made?"
"Yes. And all of those people deserve to know that it was you and Jack and your selfishness that made all of that possible."
Just as I finished saying that, the door to the room opened. I was expecting the nurse to tell us that Brett was ready for visitors again, but instead Jack McKenzie entered the room. He looked much more calm than he had been the last time I'd seen him.
"The nurse told me this is where I'd find you. Joey is with Brett. Can't say I'm surprised to see you here, Billy."
"Where else would I be?"
"We were just having a little discussion about Billy's continued cooperation," Dr. Reilly said.
Jack closed the door and sat down. "I see. Well, Billy, I can understand your frustration. I'm sure from your perspective not much of what Jen and I have done has made a lot of sense. I'm sure you think Brett would be better off if he knew certain things. To be honest, sometimes I wonder if it's worth keeping up the charade. It's been eighteen years since everything happened. Sometimes it feels like the lying has become too comfortable."
"Well there's an easy solution. Quit lying," I said. "Tell Brett the truth today. He deserves to know you're his father. He's been lied to enough."
"Have you truly considered all the consequences, Billy?" Jack asked. "Are you prepared for Brett to hate you? Whether you like it or not, our lies have become your lies too. It was never our intention that you find out. But you did, and now you're just as involved with this as we are."
"Bullshit," I said. "You have nothing to threaten me with, Jack. I fell for your lies before because I was afraid of your power. But I'm not afraid of you anymore. Your power is a joke. You're just a smalltime lawyer in a smalltime little town. If you guys don't tell him the truth, I will. This has gone on long enough."
"No one is trying to threaten you, Billy," Dr. Reilly said. "We're trying to help you. You don't know what it's like to have Brett look at you the way he looks at me. Are you prepared for him to speak to you with the same contempt that he speaks to me? You could tell him, that's true. But in Brett's mind it will mean that you were the one responsible for breaking up Joey's parents. It will mean that you were the one who lied to him for a year. Your relationship with him is built just as much on my so-called lies and selfishness as you claim my relationship with him is."
"This is so stupid! I knew I should have never listened to you and just told him. I've been so blind! I thought I could trust you, Jen. You were never going to tell him. You don't care about Brett at all!"
"You want to talk about trust?" Dr. Reilly said. "Let's talk about a woman who claims that she loves my son, but then rejects him and tosses him aside like garbage when she finds out that he's gay! I've never rejected you, Billy. I've been your biggest supporter! Your mother broke my son's heart and treated him like garbage."
"If you expect me to defend my mother's actions, you're sadly mistaken," I replied. "You're still trying to shift the responsibility for your actions to anyone but yourself."
"No! I'm trying to keep you from making a mistake that would destroy your relationship with Brett. He needs you, Billy, especially now!"
"No, you know what? You're right, Billy," Jack said. "You're right. There's no need to threaten you. You're too smart for that. You know what? We're going to go right now. We're going to march right into that room and you're going to tell Brett that you have hidden the truth from him for a year and that I am his father. Let's go right now."
Jack got up and opened the door. Jen and Jack exchanged a look, but she got up and stood by the door with him.
"Come on. You're going to tell him right now," Jack insisted.
Slowly, I rose from the chair I was in and walked to the door. Jack insisted that I lead the way. We walked back to the room to find Brett and Joey chatting and laughing together. When they saw us come in they stopped talking. Brett looked so happy and I was about to destroy him. I walked into the room and then Jen and Jack stood behind me. Brett looked at me with a hopeful expression.
"What's up guys?" he asked.
"Brett, Billy has something he wants to tell you," Jack insisted. "Go on, Billy. Tell him."
I looked at Brett and Joey, then I glanced back at Jen. "I..." I stuttered.
"Come on. Tell him the news," Jack insisted.
"What is it?" Brett asked.
"I..." I stammered. Now that it had come to it, I couldn't do it.
"Aw don't be so shy," Jack said. "He wanted to tell you that I've offered him an internship at my law firm over the summer. And that your mom and I are going to pay for his college, anything that he has to pay for that his grants and scholarships won't cover. Isn't that right Billy?"
"Aw, don't be so shy, boy! I know talent when I see it. You've got what it takes to make it big. Anything I can do to help a bright young man like you along the way."
"Uh... Yeah..." I said.
"Wow, that's... That's something," Brett said. "I guess now you won't have to worry about how you're going to pay for school, Billy."
"Yeah..." I said. Great, I'd just been bribed. That Jack really was smooth.
"Yeah, good for you," Joey said, looking suspiciously at his dad and then at Dr. Reilly. I'd seen the glare he gave me before. It was the same look of contempt Brett had given his mom when she walked in the room earlier.
I felt sick. Jack didn't even have to tell me the conditions of the deal, I knew exactly what he wanted from me. That he was willing to pay me to keep me quiet revealed his desperation. I told everyone that I needed to eat, but I really just wanted to get away for a while and process what had just happened. I walked to the elevator and pressed the button to go to the cafeteria floor. Just before the doors closed, Joey slipped into the elevator with me.
"I'm coming with you," he insisted.
"Joey, I don't have time to..."
"What's your game Roberts?" he interrupted.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh cut the crap. My dad isn't paying shit for my college. If I didn't get a scholarship, I wouldn't have even been able to go. I was begging him for that fucking internship and he just fucking gave it to you! So what's your fucking deal? What makes you so fucking special?"
"Why don't you ask your dad?" I replied. The elevator stopped and we got out. I walked toward the cafeteria and Joey kept walking beside me.
"I just don't get it. I work twice as hard as you. You barely study and yet you get all the breaks. Sarah has her dad change her grades if she doesn't like them, gets a teacher to quit, fucks everybody... I don't get it! Why am I always the one getting screwed?"
"Joey, I don't give a shit about your problems. I really don't."
"That's hardly surprising. You don't care about anyone but yourself! You made that obvious today."
"Are we going to go through this shit again, McKenzie? Look, I might give a shit about you if you hadn't tried to shove your dick into my mouth and made my life miserable for years now."
"Jesus, it's back to that again! Look, Roberts, I'm sorry I did what I did. I was so fucking high that day, I barely remember it. I know that's not an excuse, and I'm not trying to say it is. But it is what happened. I apologize."
I stopped walking and faced him. "You apologize? Are you serious?"
"Yeah. And I'm not making one of those stupid `I'm sorry you thought I hurt you' apologies either. I shouldn't have done what I did. It was stupid and I'm sorry," Joey said.
I looked at him for a long time. God, except for his dark brown eyes he looked so much like his brother. The dark brown hair and handsome face... It was almost like looking at Brett. Almost... "You don't actually expect me to forgive you, do you? That was way too far. You should be in jail, not worrying about getting some stupid internship."
"Whatever. I don't really need your forgiveness. I'd just like you to know that I'm sorry. What you do with that is your business. You want to rat me out to my dad? Go ahead. He already thinks I'm worthless anyway. Hell, if it were me in the hospital instead of Brett I don't think he'd even give a shit. He'd just complain about how much I was costing him in medical bills." Joey turned and started to walk away.
"Where do you think you're going?" I asked.
"I'm going back upstairs. Why?"
"Well, don't you at least want to get something to eat? You did walk all this way. We're almost there."
"Why would you want to eat with me?" Joey asked.
"Because I don't know anybody else here," I replied. "Come on. We won't be long."
Joey and I grabbed a couple of sandwiches and diet sodas and then to my surprise he offered to pay for me. We sat at a small table and ate quietly. I pulled out Navi to check my sugar.
"How's that working for you?" he asked.
"My meter?" I asked.
"It does pretty good. I haven't had any issues."
"Too bad they didn't have that kind of thing when your dad was around. He might still be around. Hey, I'm sorry about what happened to him. That must have been hard."
"Yeah it was."
"I'll bet. Is that why you grew your hair out?"
"I don't know. I was growing it out before he died. I just never felt like cutting it until my birthday."
"I could never have grown my hair long like you did. My dad would have killed me."
"Yeah. Sounds like your dad's kind of a dick to you."
"Yeah he is. It's like he expects me to be perfect all the time. I mess up one little thing and he's all over me. All he does is yell at me. Nothing I ever do is good enough for him. Everything I do is wrong in his eyes. I hate him. I don't even know why he had me. But nothing was worse than the day you told him about the abortion."
"Why? Did he hit you or something?"
"I wish he would've hit me. He said I was the biggest disappointment in his entire life. I tried to say you were lying but he can always tell when someone is lying to him. He said he'd rather that you were his son than me."
"Ouch," I said. "Sorry about that."
"Don't worry about it. I didn't give you much of a choice. I was high on speed or something that day. Andy would hook me up and I'd shoot up in that bathroom at the church. You almost caught me snorting coke in there the one day."
"Is that what you were doing? Wow, I thought you were crying."
"I probably was. That shit fucks up your sinuses pretty good."
"So... You've done cocaine, then?"
"I've tried a little of everything; heroin, meth, speed, you knew about the pot, ecstasy, coke, LSD, everything but crack probably."
"Holy shit! Does your dad know about all that?"
"I wouldn't be alive right now if he knew. He's sent me to rehab once. That was pointless."
"Does Brett know what you're into?"
"All Brett ever wanted to do was pot. Pot, pot, pot. Dude was such a stoner. I guess you must be important to him because when you told him to quit he did. Cold turkey. Not even a hit in years. I wish I could find someone who was important enough to give up everything for."
"Why do you do all that shit? You're going to mess around and kill yourself someday if you're not careful."
"What do you care?"
"Well, if you died from an overdose or something, Brett would be really sad. He likes you for some reason."
Joey just smirked. "Some reason, huh? Okay. Whatever. Anyway, we should get back up there."
We finished up our lunch and made our way back to Brett's room. Joey had just enough time to tell Brett goodbye and then his dad insisted on leaving. Once again it was down to me, Brett, and his mom. But this time the conversation was much more pleasant.
"What are you going to do with me when we get home? I can't go up the stairs to my room."
"We'll put you in the living room," Dr. Reilly said. "We'll have Billy bring your computer downstairs. You're willing to bring his homework to him, aren't you Billy? You can borrow Brett's car to get to school and back."
"Sure," I said. If she was going to be paying for my college bills and lending me a free car, I guess I had to do whatever she wanted. Funny how we never had to have a conversation about it.
"What about Sneaker?" Brett asked.
"We're not bringing him downstairs. Billy can feed him."
"Sounds delightful," I said.
"Guess I'm going to have a lot of time on my hands," Brett said. "Better buy a box of tissues next time you're out."
Thus ends Brett's hospital adventure. Got thoughts on this chapter? Let me know!
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next time: Liar's Club