Eddie sat yawning in the uncomfortable chair he had thrown himself into as soon as he arrived at the airport the night before. He had told Graham he was taking the red eye home but that had only been an excuse to get out of that house. It hurt too much knowing he could have had Graham Hollis, his long time teen crush. He had thrown his chance away just like everything else that was good in his life. Leaning forward he tried to blank his mind to keep from remembering the hurt in Graham’s eyes and knew he was the one who put it there.
Standing he stretched glancing at the time, five more hours before his flight left. He picked up his duffle bag deciding to walk around the airport for the hundredth time since he got there. The events of the past few days ran through his mind on an endless loop. The feel of Graham’s soft lips on his as they kissed. The way his heart beat faster when Graham put his arms around him. Then it all came to an end. He ruined it all with his incessant need to push him away. The method he chose…flirting. He flirted with every guy in the house, even the ones he didn’t even like. Why he asked himself for the millionth time? Shaking his head he simply didn’t know.
If he knew the answer to that question he’d have a chance of starting over, finding true love. Every relationship he’s had sense…sense…flashes of memory bombarded his mind taking his breath away. He shoved the half remembered memories away, it was too painful. He stopped in front of a bar. Maybe one drink would settle his nerves, quiet his mind. He took a step forward, hesitated as his pulse raced and his breathing became labored. He was suffocating….he could feel people staring at him as they passed. He could feel his muscles trembling as he leaned against the wall unable to go forward. What was happening to him? He’d had anxiety attacks before but none so severe. They just kept getting worse since the phone call.
By the time he was able to board the plane he was wound up tight. He felt at any moment he would either implode or explode. He was thankful that his dad had sent him a first class ticket. He wouldn’t need to worry about disturbing his neighbor with his uncontrollable jerky arm movements or the way his legs kept bouncing in place no matter how hard he tried to sit still. He was positive the stewardess was giving him the stink eye. She either thought he was high on drugs or afraid to fly and would be passed out drunk halfway through the flight.
He looked out the window at the passing clouds. His stomach tightened as he realized he’d be home in less than twenty-four hours. His dad foreseeing he might delay in coming to Barnacle Bay had not only sent a first class ticket but also a nonstop ticket from France to Barnacle Bay. Now he had the added concern of figuring out how to get his car from the mechanic where he had left it. That was another thing he didn’t want to think about. That was the same town where Graham lived. He’d have to move, he couldn’t live there where he might run into Graham on the streets. He had just started feeling comfortable, making friends and it was just one more thing he could add to the list of things he ruined.
The phone call from his dad a couple days into the trip to France was the turning point. The point where he turned into a flirting bag of hormones. He couldn’t stop himself no matter how hard he tried. It was like he was seeking validation for his existence. No matter who complimented him or what they said it all felt hollow, empty. The one person that mattered to him. Then one who said he was their light and he went out of his way to alienate him.
He squirmed in his seat unable to find a comfortable spot to relax in. He closed his eyes trying to sleep to blot out the memories that persisted to haunt him. His dad’s voice sounded so angry and laced with disapproval. He had been so disappointed in him. Then his dad said the one name that sent terror through his entire being….Amber. Dread instantly stabbed at his heart. He couldn’t breathe, gulping for air he had stuck his head out the window of his room. That was when he saw Graham and one of the other guys that had come to France walking hand in hand. Eddie knew then that he wasn’t Graham’s light that other guy was and what hurt was that Eddie wasn’t upset but relieved.
At some point during the flight his mind switched off and he fell into a troubled sleep. He moaned and whimpered like a scared child who has had everything he ever loved taken away from him. The stewardess took a blanket and covered him with it. Smiling down at him with motherly affection and understanding.
As he trudged towards baggage claims where his dad said he’d be waiting Eddie found himself wanting to run as far away as he could to avoid seeing his dad again. He slowed his pace upon seeing his dad standing beside the exit doors. He looked the same despite the years they’ve been apart. His dad looked up recognizing him as he glared in disapproval at him. Sighing Eddie walked up to him feeling like a naughty child knowing he was in trouble. “Dad I….”
“Not here,” he snapped turning his back on him expecting his son to follow him.
Sighing Eddie never felt more rejected then he did at that moment. He hated knowing he had disappointed his father to the point he couldn’t even look at him. Getting into the car Eddie murmured “I’m sorry…”
Casey stared straight ahead as he drove out of the parking lot “do you even know what your sorry for? Or is that just a general apology for your entire sorry life?”
His words stung like a whip across his back. What had Amber said to turn his father against him? “Dad please let me explain?”
“Explain?” Casey shouted “how can you explain abandoning your pregnant girlfriend to gallivant all over the country? The very least you could have done was send her child support.”
Confusion washed over him like a tidal wave. Girlfriend? Pregnant? Children? “W what are you talking about?”
“They’re your responsibility. Your mother and I won’t bail you out of this. Amber had her lawyer find us….”
Eddie felt flushed as the car closed in around him. He tried to focus on what his father was saying but the buzzing in his ears was making it impossible. “Pull over,” he demanded “I’m going to be sick.” He stumbled from the car heaving as images of Amber bombarded him. His voice asking “did you put something in my drink?” Her innocent blue eyes looking up at him “would I do something like that?” “No” he said with a smile drinking his coke accepting her word. He should have been able to trust her, she was his friend or so he thought.
“How much have you had to drink?” his dad’s angry voice interrupted his thoughts keeping the unpleasant memories from emerging.
“Nothing,” he grumbled wiping his mouth on the back of his hand “I haven’t drank or eaten anything for the past couple of days.”
Casey took a deep breath. He had to admit he couldn’t smell any alcohol and judging by the bile Eddie had thrown up he wasn’t lying about not having eaten. Some of his anger drained away as he reached down to help his son up. “Are you sick or something?”
The concern in his father’s voice was almost worse then the scorn. Eddie shook his head as the dam broke behind his eyes and he began to sob. He felt his father pull him close murmuring “why won’t you talk to me?”
The ride home was made in silence. Each locked in their own individual thoughts. Each wanting to talk but neither knowing how to start. Parking the car Casey sighed “why didn’t you tell us your girlfriend was pregnant?”
“What girlfriend?” Eddie shouted unable to restrain himself any longer “I’m gay. I’ve never had nor ever will have a girlfriend.”
Casey blinked taking in the new information “but…but what about Amber?” He stuttered trying to overcome his shock.
“What about her?” Eddie asked “we were friends in college…” his voice faded as a hazy image of Amber came to mind of her taking his clothes off…her hands guiding his. He started to gag as the memories became jumbled in his head. He opened the door hanging his head out enough to throw up. Casey hurried to his side patting his back “she’s not my girlfriend” Eddie managed to choke out.
“Alright son suppose I believe you,” Casey said gently rubbing his son’s back “did you at any time sleep with her while you were at school together?”
“No” Eddie denied even as his mind conjured up images of a party Amber had thrown at her dorm. Waking up alone on the floor…naked. No memory of what had happened. “Why do you keep asking me that?”
Sighing Casey looked away before responding “she’s here Eddie,” he felt his son’s shoulders tense under his hand “she arrived with two three year olds claiming they were yours.”
“They…they can’t be…”
“They are,” Casey told him firmly “I had their DNA tested against mine. I’m their grandfather so that makes them yours too. Was there any time at all when you may have drank too much?”
“I told you I don’t drink,” Eddie put his hands over his ears rocking back and forth as memories of that last party he attended of Amber’s flitted through his mind. His voice asking if she had put something in his drink. Feeling light headed…then nothing. The rest of that night was blank, a dark void filed with nightmarish images of things he hoped didn’t happen.
Before Casey could respond a female voice called from the house “oh good you’re home.” The stiffening of his son’s back. The look of terror in his son’s eyes didn’t go unnoticed by Casey. His brows furrowed in concern as he watched the young woman wrap her arms around his son. The grimace of distaste that flitted across Eddie’s face as she drew him close. Then as if a switch had been pulled Eddie pushed her away screaming “don’t touch me.”
Picking herself off the ground she smiled like nothing had happened “is that anyway to greet your girlfriend? The mother of your children?”
Shaking his head backing away from her like a trapped animal “no you’re not my girlfriend. We’re not even friends.”
“If I didn’t know better I’d think you forgot our first night together. It was magical.” She took several steps forward it was obvious she enjoyed the power she had over him and the fear she could inflict in him. “You have the cutest little birthmark on your left butt cheek.” She reached out trying to grab him.
He yelped in surprise and a wave of vertigo swept through him. The sound of a stiff breeze filled his ears as his eyes rolled up inside his head. As he fell to the ground he heard his dad yelling at Amber to get away from him.
Casey entered the hospital room where his son was lying with his eyes closed. Clearing his throat he watched him open his eyes and stare up at him blankly. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled taking a step forward.
“For what?” he asked emotionless “for having a son who was dumb enough to let himself get drugged and … and…” his throat closed cutting of his words. He closed his eyes as tears trickled down his cheeks.
Casey leaned over him wiping the tears away “what happened wasn’t your fault. You trusted her. You had no reason to suspect she’d drug you and take advantage of you.”
“I should have known…” he sobbed “I asked her if she had put something in my drink. I believed her…if I hadn’t maybe…”
“Son it wasn’t your fault. You were in no condition to consent….hell you were lucky to wake up at all.” Casey’s voice became harsh remembering the information he had received once his son’s medical records were released. His buddy from college had found him naked on the dorm floor barely breathing. He had dressed him and brought him into the ER where it had been confirmed someone had given him a large dose of rohypnol. Casey didn’t know which was worse that his son hadn’t told him or that he had been dealing with this alone all these years.
“Daddy,” Eddie’s voice interrupted his thoughts “will I ever feel normal and not so broken and shattered inside?
“I hope so baby. I hope so,” Casey murmured “your mother and I are here to help you.”
Nodding Eddie closed his eyes as a feeling of safety and well being washed over him. It felt good to know he wasn’t alone anymore.