Sunday, 11 January 2015

Silent Scream: Part Eight

[My heart can't cope with the amount of love and support you guys have been sending me. You're causing meltdowns. So many meltdowns. Stop it.

Except don't :p I am so grateful for each and every one of you. Thank you so much for your faith, support, and encouragement. It means everything to me.

If you need to catch up, parts 1 - 7 can be found here. Happy reading. Xo]


On the way to the airport, James’ phone buzzes. He smiles, expecting a message from Alexander and Jenna. His smile falters as he sees that it’s a text from an unknown number.

We gave you so many chances to make the right decision. You didn’t.

There will be consequences.


He reads the message four times, trying to figure out the context. The right decision? he thinks. The right decision about what?

He texts back, who is this?
There’s no response.

By the time he lands in Louisiana three and a half hours later, he has forgotten about the text. As soon as his feet touch the ground, he throws himself into filming, wanting it to be over with as soon as possible so he can get back. Jenna sends him texts and video messages from her and Alexander, but it hurts him too much to try to reply. Instead he has Kira do it, giving them brief updates about how he’s going and when they can expect him back in LA. After a few days the texts and messages become further and further apart, which hurts him more than he can say. One night he can’t bear it anymore, so after shooting wraps up, he sneaks away and calls Jenna.

“Hey.” He searches for the right words. “I’m sorry I haven’t been in contact…It’s just been difficult, you know?”

“I know,” Jenna says in a low voice. “I understand…But Alexander doesn’t. He’s been missing you more than I even thought possible. He asks me when you’re coming back at least once every hour.”

James’ heart breaks.

“Oh.”

Jenna sighs. “Yeah.”

James looks around the empty lot. He knows people will come looking for him soon. Ever since they found him passed out in his trailer a few days ago, they’ve been refusing to let him out of their sight. The anxiety of being away from Alexander, the concern over Michael and the stress of getting the film done sooner rather than later was making it close to impossible to eat.

“Is he awake?” he asks. “Can I say a quick hello?”

“No he’s not,” Jenna says. “But…I’ll wake him. He wouldn’t forgive me if he found out you called and I didn’t let him speak to you.”

“Thank you,” James says gratefully. He hears the muffled sounds of her walking down the hall and opening a door.

“Alexander?” Her voice is muffled, too. “Alexander? Wake up, sweetheart. James wants to say hello.”

“James?” He sounds sleepy and confused. “Is James here?”

“No, honey. He’s on the phone. Do you want to speak to him?”

The phone changes hands. Alexander’s sleepy voice filters through.

“James?”

“Hey, buddy. Sorry to wake you.”

Alexander yawns loudly into the receiver. “Are you coming home?”

James spots two grips heading towards the lot, probably looking for him. He shrinks into the shadows.

“Soon, buddy. Soon. Have you been taking good care of Astro Boy for me?”

Alexander yawns again. “Yes.”

The grips spot him and start to walk over. He sighs internally.

“Okay, buddy. You’d better get back to sleep now. I just wanted to say hi. I miss you. I’ll see you soon, okay?”

“A James soon?”

“No. Not a James soon.”

Alexander yawns for a third time. “Okay. I love you, James.”

His heart skips a beat. One of the grips calls over to him.

“Mr Axton? Sir? Are you okay?”

James turns away from him, pressing the phone against his ear so hard that it hurts.

“I love you too, buddy. I love you too.”

He hangs up.

“I’m fine,” he says, turning towards the grips. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to concern you. I just needed a little fresh air.”

He smiles at them and walks away, barely containing his joy.

***

The last day of shooting finally arrives.

Although it is the last thing in the world that he wants to do, James attends the wrap party. But by ten pm, he is ready to curl up in a dark room somewhere. He feels on edge. Cagey. He wants to go home.

He wants to see Alexander.

While everyone is distracted by the cake, he sneaks into an empty room and pulls out his phone to call Jenna. He stops. There’s a text from an unknown number.

It begins.

He stares at the message, frowning.

What begins?

A memory floats to the surface of his mind. A text from an unknown number.

A threat.

There will be consequences.


He decides to leave Louisiana that night, rather than waiting until the morning as planned. Kira had left a few days earlier for a family function, and being alone was driving him insane. He catches the redeye flight back to LAX, and exercises all of his self-control not to go straight to Jenna’s house. He catches a cab home instead. As they approach his house, he sees a dark figure lying across his porch. His heart rate quickens as he thanks the cab driver and hands him a fist full of notes. He gets out of the car and approaches the figure slowly, holding his breath. Once he is nearly there, the motion sensor lights flick on, illuminating the porch.

“Michael?”

Michael jerks awake and sits up. He rubs the sleep out of his eyes.

“Hey, brother.”

James releases the breath he’d been holding. “What are you doing here? Are you okay?”

Michael stands up and dusts himself off.

“I had to see you,” he says. James stares at him. Something about him is different. The way he is standing, the way he is holding himself, the way he is looking at him…

The realization hits him.

He is sober.

“I had to see you,” Michael repeats. “I called Mom to find out when you’d be back, and she told me you were catching the redeye tonight. I know you’re probably exhausted and I know I’m probably the last person you want to see, but…” He takes a deep breath in. “…I’m sorry, brother. I am so, so sorry. For everything. For the way I’ve been acting, for missing meetings, for lashing out at you, and most of all…” He shakes his head and drops his gaze. “Most of all, I am so sorry for that night with Alexander. I can’t…I can’t even begin to tell you how much I wish I could take that back. How much I wish I could make it up to you. To Alexander.”

James continues to stare at him. Michael looks up. He looks close to tears.

“I’m sorry, James. I could spend my life apologizing, and it would never be enough. I’m so sorry.”

Silence hangs in the air. Michael takes a shaky breath in and wipes his eyes.

“I’ll let you go get unpacked,” he says, turning to leave. “I just…I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry.” He starts to walk away. That’s enough to kick James’ brain into gear. He lets go of the handle of his suitcase and strides over to Michael and wraps his arms around him. Michael is taken aback, having expected a punch in the face, but after an awkward moment, he hugs him back.

“Thank God,” James says, squeezing him. “Thank God.”

James lets him go and takes a step back, really looking at him for the first time. He’s had a haircut, his clothes are clean and pressed, and for the first time in months, he is standing steadily. No swaying.

“Where have you been?” James asks. “Mom and I have been trying to contact you for weeks! We were so worried.”

Michael clears his throat and shifts uncomfortably on his feet. “Rehab.”

James’ eyes widen in surprise.

“After that night with Alexander…Asking him to…To come for a drive with me while I was in that state…Accusing you of replacing me…” He shakes his head. “That was the worst thing I’ve ever done, brother. The very worst. I knew I had to turn my life around, or I wouldn’t have a life left to come back to. I checked myself into rehab the next morning.”

James blinks rapidly, trying to process what he was hearing.

“So that’s where you’ve been all this time? Why didn’t you tell me? Tell Mom? Tell anyone? No one knew where you were. After I came by your place a few times and found it empty, I thought you’d skipped town.”

Michael rubs his neck. “Honestly, I couldn’t face you. After what I’d done…I was ashamed. I didn’t want to see you until I was better.”

James wants to hug him again.

“So…Are you better? Are you okay?”

Michael nods. “Yeah. I am. I mean…I still have a lot of shit to work through. But I have my sponsor and I have my weekly AA meetings. And…” He hesitates, but he meets James’ questioning gaze. “…And I was hoping that maybe…Maybe I still had you.”

James opens and closes his mouth soundlessly, trying to find the right words. Finally he just hugs him. And that hug says more than words could ever say.


***