Friday, 9 January 2015

Silent Scream: Part Six

[I love you guys for harassing me so much. I want you to know that I literally just opened my eyes 10 minutes ago and I am posting this for you. You're welcome! (Actually *I'm* welcome for having such awesome readers who demand more) If you need to get caught up, parts 1 - 5 can be found here. 

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The weekend passes much too quickly. Even though he knows he’ll get to see him again sooner than soon, James still feels a heaviness in his heart when Jenna comes to pick Alexander up.

“Well I see your house is still standing,” she says, laughing as he opens the door. “Was he okay?”

James smiles. “He was perfect. Come on in. He’s just in the kitchen finishing breakfast.”

She follows him down the hall and into the kitchen. As they enter, she eyes the awards on the kitchen counter.

“Guess the rumours are true,” she says, raising her eyebrow. James follows her line of sight.

“How’d you even know about the rumours?” he asks, laughing sheepishly.

She smiles. “You aren’t the only one who can check up on a person.”

They stare at each other for a minute.

This is how I know he’s safe with you, James thinks. Because you care enough to check.

“Yeah,” he says out loud, still chuckling. “Next to the vegan butter and the popcorn. I should really get a trophy case or something, right? But then isn’t that kind of a dick move?”

“James said a bad word!” Alexander calls in a sing-song voice. He grins as maple syrup dribbles down his chin.

“Dick is actually short for Richard,” James says, getting a wet face cloth from beside the sink and wiping Alexander’s face. “Now eat your pancakes and stop listening to conversations that don’t concern you.” He smiles and bops him on the nose.

“Vegan pancakes are the BEST!” Alexander proclaims, holding his fork in the air. “Hey Aunt Jenna, can you make me these tomorrow?”

Jenna walks over and kisses the top of his head. “Sure, I can make you pancakes tomorrow.”

Alexander shakes his head. “No, not pancakes. Vegan pancakes like James.”

Jenna laughs. “Oh, sweetheart. I wouldn’t know how.”

“James will teach you. Won’t you, James?”

James smiles. “I don’t know, buddy. It is my secret recipe, after all…”

Alexander looks at him seriously. “You can trust Jenna. She won’t tell anyone. She’s good at keeping secrets.”

Both Jenna and James chuckle. “Okay, kid,” James says, sitting down next time him. If you trust Jenna, I trust Jenna.”

“Good,” Alexander says, returning to his pancakes. “Because I want these every day!”

Jenna rolls her eyes and mouths sorry. James smiles and shakes his head, mouthing back, it’s fine. He wonders when he last smiled this much.

Or if he ever has.

“So everything was okay?” Jenna asks, watching Alexander make a mess of James’ table. “What did you boys do?”

“We went hiking!” Alexander says through a particularly large mouthful.

“How about we swallow first, buddy,” James says, wiping a drop off maple syrup off Alexander’s chin. Alexander grins and swallows with some difficulty. “We went hiking,” he says again. “And we watched cartoons and I had a nightmare so James let me sleep in his bed and he is teaching me how to play the guitar and can I have a guitar for Christmas? And Uncle Michael came over but he didn’t stay very long, and we had pizza with no cheese and burgers with no meat and James read me a story he wrote just for me…” He pauses to stuff another forkful into his mouth, “And can you go to New York again next week? Can I stay here?”

“Well,” Jenna says. “Sounds like you had a great time!”

Alexander nods enthusiastically. “So can I come back?” he repeats, pushing his plate away. “Can I come back next week?”

Yes, James thinks. You can stay forever.

Jenna laughs uncomfortably. “Well, Alexander, we’ll just have to see, okay? Now, we’d better get going. Have you got your rocket back pack? Your toy?”

“Astro Boy” Alexander says, hopping off the chair. “His name is Astro Boy.”

James stifles a grin. That’s my boy, he thinks. The thought takes him by surprise.

My.

Mine.


The thought that he had been suppressing for the last few months finally forces its way to the surface.

I want him with me.

Always.


“Has Alexander left?” Bradley asks.

James nods, feeling hollow. “Yeah. Jenna picked him yesterday.”

Bradley looks at him sympathetically, but doesn’t say anything more on the topic. They sit by James’ pool, running over the things they need to have finished before leaving to start filming Silent Scream.

“Shouldn’t Michael be here for this?” Bradley asks mildly.

James’ hands still over his iPad. Just for a moment.

He resumes typing.

“Yeah,” he says, in an equally mild tone. “He should be.”

Bradley stares at the iPad and doesn’t say anything more. Truth be told, James has no interest in seeing Michael right now. He’d received a text from him this morning saying I can’t come to Louisiana. Sorry. No explanation. Nothing. James had considered arguing, insisting that he be there, but he’d realized there was no point. James had practically written this script on his own. Michael hadn’t been to a production meeting in months. Chances were he didn’t even know how the story ended. James stares blankly at his iPad. The memory of Michael’s last visit plays in his mind.

Someone is banging on his front door. He glances at Alexander, who is fast asleep on his lap. He slides out from underneath him and tip-toes over to open the door. Michael stands there, soaking wet. A flash of lightning illuminates the sky.

“So,” Michael slurs. “Are you going to invite me in?”

James’ blood pressure seems to rise exponentially. How could he come over in this state, knowing full well that Alexander was here??

He steps outside and quietly closes the door.

“Are you drunk?” The question is out before he can stop himself. Michael’s eyes widen in surprise, then his face settles into a sneer.

“Oh. So we’ve stopped pretending, have we? Good, because it was getting exhausting.” He puts his hand on the wall beside him, steadying himself. His eyes can’t seem to focus on anything.

“I’ll have someone drive you home,” James says, turning to go back inside. He can’t deal with this. Not now. Not like this.

Michael slams his hand against the door, stopping him from opening it.

“Oh?” he says, leaning in too close. “Will you do that, huh? What, you’re too busy for me now?”

“Move your hand, Michael.”

“I asked you a question. Are you too busy for me now? You went and got yourself a replacement brother, is that it? One who’s not broken?”

James spins around to face him. “Leave Alexander out of this,” he warns.

“How could you, brother?” Michael says bitterly. “How could you?”

The front door opens. Alexander stands there in cowboy pyjamas, rubbing his eye with his fist. Astro hangs limply from his other hand.

“James?” He looks at Michael. “Uncle Michael?”

“Go back inside, Alexander,” James says, keeping his eyes trained on Michael. Michael crouches down to Alexander’s level.

“Do you want to go for a ride with Uncle Michael?” he asks, swaying unsteadily.

James grips the door frame so hard that his knuckles turn white.

“Alexander,” he says, stepping between the two of them. “Go inside, okay buddy? I’ll be there in a minute.”

“But I had a nightmare,” Alexander says, sniffing. “Can you sing me a song?”

“Sure, buddy,” he says as Michael stands up. “I will as soon I get inside, okay?”

Alexander yawns. “Okay,” he says, padding back inside.

James waits until he is gone to speak again. “Michael,” he says, trying his best to keep the anger out of his voice. “I love you. I would do anything for you. I would. But I swear to you…If you come near Alexander again while you are in this state, I will call the cops myself.” He nods towards Michael’s car parked crookedly in the driveway. “I’m not sure how many more DUIs Bradley can make go away.”

The smirk on Michael’s face falters.

“Give me your keys,” James says, holding out his hand. Michael stares at him for a few moments before pulling them out of his pocket. He drops them into James’ hand.

“You can sleep on the couch,” James says, going back inside. “I’ll have Carl drive you home in the morning.” He pauses in the hallway and looks back over his shoulder. “Seriously, Michael…Pull it together. Get some help. Let me help you. Let Mom help you. Check into rehab, join a twelve-step program, throw yourself into writing…Just do something before you do something you can’t undo.”

He goes inside. Alexander is sitting on the couch, watching Astro Boy.

“Hey, kid. You had a nightmare? Do you want sleep in my bed tonight?”

Alexander hesitates, then nods. James scoops him up in his arms.

“Alright. Let’s go to bed.”

“Will you read me a story? And sing me a song?”

“Of course,” James says, watching Michael come inside and lock the front the door. “I’ll even let you pick the story and the song.”



In the morning, Michael is gone before James wakes up. There’s a note on the kitchen counter.



I’m sorry.

-M


“James? James?”

He blinks, bringing himself back into the present. Bradley is staring at him. He looks a little concerned.

“You okay?” he asks, narrowing his eyes.

James nods. “Yeah. Sorry. I’m just tired. Didn’t sleep much, you know.”

Bradley doesn’t look convinced, but he nods. “Yeah. I know how it is.”



Something tells James that he really means it.





******