The next day Braylin woke earlier than usual. Maybe it was the rumble from the nearby train or the unfamiliar bed. It didn’t matter. The bed he was in was empty. Tossing back the blankets he shuffled into the living room rubbing sleep from his eyes. It too was empty. The dishes from the night before were put away from where he had stacked them on the counter.
Knocking on the bathroom door. Waiting for a response before opening it and sticking his head inside. Empty. Had Trebor received an emergency call from the hospital? Surely he would have left him a note or a text. Frowning he went back into the bedroom pulling on his boxers. There was one other place he hadn’t checked yet. The roof. Trebor had mentioned it was his favorite place to think.
Climbing the stairs he found Trebor starting across the river. Silently he approached him wrapping his arms around him pressing his front into his back. Lifting his face he kissed his shoulders where it sloped up to his neck. “Morning he whispered.”
“I used to think we’d be close forever” Trebor said reaching for Braylin’s hand. “My sister and I. The older we got the further apart we became.”
“You can’t blame yourself for that” he said quietly.
“I keep thinking if I hadn’t been so busy. If I wasn’t so focused on getting good grades. Becoming a doctor. Maybe I would have seen when she started going down the wrong path.” Turning into Braylin’s arms “I’m a terrible brother.”
Kissing the top of his messy head he ran his fingers through Trebor’s hair. “That’s not true. I’m the terrible brother not you. She’s responsible for her own decisions.”
“I could have done more. You heard me yesterday. I sounded more like our mom than her brother.” Pulling away from Braylin’s embrace he took several steps away hugging himself. “I could have tried to be a little more understanding.”
“Why don’t you give her another call” he suggested “tell her what you just told me.”
Holding his phone up he said “I already did. At least I tried. I’m not sure if it came out the way I wanted it too.”
Taking slow careful steps forward he suggested “why don’t we go out for breakfast?”
“The diner isn’t busy this time of day. Their breakfast isn’t as good as their supper menu. It’s still good” he added hastily his eyes focused on his phone.
“It’s better than sitting around waiting for a response” he said taking the phone from Trebor’s hand. “We’ll leave this here.”
“What if I get a call from the hospital” he protested reaching for the phone.
“Another thirty minutes won’t matter” he said holding the phone just out of reach from Trebor’s hands.
Giving his phone one last longing look Trebor glared at the pink haired male. “You can’t just take my phone” he made an expected lounge for it. His fingers sliding across its surface.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get it back” he chuckled “I promise. It’s just for breakfast.”
“Fine have it your way” he mumbled.
“Goodie” he clapped his hands. “Now let’s get dressed and go eat.”
When they were both dressed and sitting outside the diner Braylin asked “tell me about when you were a kid. You hardly talk about your family.”
A smile tugged at his lips. “I don’t like to talk about them. I’m homesick all the time and talking about home just makes it worse. But….”
“But? What” he prompted taking a swallow of his coffee.
“Before I was alone with no one to talk to” he sighed “it’s awful to be alone and so far away from home. That type of loneliness eats at you.”
“I can understand that” he set his coffee cup down. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
“I want to I think” a smile spread across his face as his eyes took on a far away look. “There was this one time my parents took me and my sister to the beach. It was a family picnic. Dad made all the fixings and Mom got all our stuff together. I was about ten and Ava was six. She liked to follow me around everywhere. I found it both annoying and flattering.”
Braylin smiled listening to him. He remembered feeling the same about his little brother. Hearing his brother tell everyone he wanted to be just like him. Then it all changed. Became dangerous to be like him… shaking his head he tried to rid his mind of the troubling thoughts.
“Somehow we forgot our beach ball in the car. Ava volunteered to go back to get it. She was taking forever. I was busy making sandcastles and forgot all about it.”
“Trebor where’s your sister” Garrett asked a worried frown upon his face.
“I don’t know” he mumbled digging a mote in the sand.
“Did she go swimming” he asked panic making his voice higher than usual.
“Honey what’s wrong” Verity asked coming alongside them.
“Are you sure you don’t know where she went” Garrett asked again.
“How should I know” Trebor demanded looking up at them “I haven’t seen her in awhile.”
Clutching Garrett’s arm Verity cried “what if she went swimming alone. What if she got caught in a rip tide?”
“Do you remember what direction she went” Garrett asked his son.
“I don’t know” he pointed “I think she went that way.”
Garrett tore off across the beach towards the ocean in the direction Trebor had pointed in. Verity ran behind him searching the water for any sign of her little girl.
A few minutes later “what’s daddy and mommy doing” Ava asked stopping beside her brother carrying a large beach ball.
“Looking for you I think” Trebor said “where were you?”
“I went to get our ball” she tossed it into the air “it took forever to blow up.”
“Mom” he called getting her attention “I found her.”
“Did not” she protested “I wasn’t lost. I knew exactly where I was at all times.”
“OMG Ava” Verity cried running up and hugging her little girl “don’t ever run off like that again.”
“I didn’t I told Trebor” she protested.
“Did not” he said.
“You need to tell me or your dad” Verity said “never run off by yourself again.”
“Dad wasn’t very happy that he’d been diving in and out of the ocean for no reason.” He laughed at the memory of his dad soaking wet in his clothes. “I really did forget about her telling me where she was going. She had been gone so long it completely slipped my mind.” Taking a bite of his omelet he asked “what about you? Any embarrassing stories you want to tell?”
“Well there was this one time. We were visiting our grandma and we wanted to go fishing.” He smiled at the memory. He loved his grandma and still missed her. “Grandma said we could but we had to find our own bait.”
“Bait? Did you use lures or anything” Trebor asked.
“Nope. Grandma taught us how to fish the old fashioned way.” He grinned enjoying the disbelieving look that crossed Trebor’s face. “I’m not making it up. She had us find the straightest sticks we could find and tied a fishing line and hook at one end of it. It took some practice to get used to but it was fun. Kind of like being Huckleberry Finn or something.”
“So you went hunting for bait” Trebor prompted.
“Yeah” he thought for moment “we decided we needed bugs and night-crawlers.”
“Night-crawlers” Trebor asked “what’s that?”
“Worms” he chuckled remembering. “We spent most of the day searching under rocks and logs to get the best works we could find. We found out later that the best time to go night crawler hunting is at night when tons of worms come up from the ground.”
Trebor shivered “sounds gross.”
“Worms don’t hurt you and makes the soil good to grow things. Grandma’s garden had lots of worms in it.” Taking sip of his coffee he continued “Bodhi kept pulling up weeds and throwing them at me. It wasn’t until the next day we realized what those weeds were.”
“Oh no” Trebor laughed “don’t tell me…poison ivy.”
“Yep” he shook his head “Bodhi was pulling it up by the handfuls and he didn’t get anything. Me on the other hand. I was was covered from head to foot in the stuff. I itched so bad.”
“Did your grandma use calamine lotion to keep you from itching” he asked.
“Yeah I was pink from head to foot then too” he scowled at Trebor “yeah go ahead and laugh. Wait until you get poison ivy and see how funny you think it is then.”
“I’m sorry but I can’t help it.” he grabbed his orange juice to keep from bursting into another round of laughter.
“So glad you decided to grace us with your presence McGavin” the coach yelled as he came onto the ice from the locker room.
“Sorry coach” he mumbled feeling everyone’s eyes upon him. “Won’t happen again.”
“See that it don’t otherwise you’ll find yourself on the bench” the man thundered.
“A general grumble rose amongst the team. “Yes sir” he said knowing that was the general accepted response.
“As I was saying before we were interrupted we have three new team members. Joseph Bennett from Starlight Shores. Rory Braxton from Bridgeport. Matt Ryan from right here in good old Boroughsburg.” There was a heavy pause that followed his announcement. “The are subs in case anyone can’t play.” He stared at Braylin a moment before continuing. “I’ll let you guys introduce yourselves later. Let’s practice.”
As they were leaving the ice Matt skated up behind Braylin forcing him into the boards. “Better watch your back” he whispered harshly in his ear before John pulled him off.
“What’s his problem” he asked glaring after the new guy.
Rubbing his neck Braylin shrugged “I think he wants my position.”
“Fat chance of that happening” John slapped him on the back “you’re the best center we have.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence but I don’t think Coach feels the same way.” His day had started off great. Breakfast. Talking about their respective families. The feeling that maybe he wasn’t the worst brother in the world. Things were going good until now.
“Just be on time next time” John advised him “Coach isn’t going to let Matt take your spot unless you don’t give him any choice.”
Nodding he followed John into the locker room. The old feeling of things slowly unraveling around him was making him feel jumpy. Slumping onto the bench in front of his locker he peeled off his sweat soaked jersey. He had a sense of being out of place. A square peg in a round hole.
“Hey did you hear” John asked smiling down at him. “The new kid Joseph is throwing a party at his place over the weekend.”
“Count me out” he said with a shake of his head. “I don’t party like I used to. I think I’ll pass.”
“Don’t be like that. It’s not going to be that kind of party. It’s more of a get to know you party. We’re all going and bringing our significant others with us.” Jabbing him playfully in the side “maybe we’ll finally meet that handsome doctor of yours.”
“There’s a reason why I keep him away from the likes of you.”
“Hey I can’t help it if I’m irresistible” John held his hands up “but if it makes you feel better I promise not to try anything. I just want to meet him.”
“I’ll think about it” he said “if he wants to come and if he doesn’t have to work we might come.”
“Awesome” he jumped up unable to contain his excitement any longer. He somehow always reminded Braylin of a puppy who knew he was about to get a treat. “I’ll see you there.”
Tossing his uniform into the locker he wrapped a towel around his waist. H walked over to the showers stopping when he came face to face with Matt. The cocky sneer he was wearing sent shivers down his spine. H didn’t know what it was about this guy but he had the uncomfortable feeling that he was up to no good.
“Are you sure you want to do this” he asked as they walked up the sidewalk towards the house.
“I want to meet the guys on the team” Trebor insisted.
“Are you sure that’s it” he asked “you’re not concerned I’ll have a relapse or anything?”
“I trust you” he looked into Braylin’s troubled eyes. “You can do this alone if you wanted to. We don’t have stay long either if it makes you uncomfortable. We can leave anytime you want.”
Stopping to tuck a strand of hair behind Trebor’s ear he said “I never want to lose the faith you have in me. That means more to me than you’ll ever know.”
“Are you sure you want to do this” Trebor asked his apprehension rising. “You don’t have to do this if you’re not ready.”
“I want to show off my drop dead sexy doctor” he grinned forcing the uneasiness he was feeling to the back of his mind. “I’m proud of my handsome doctor.”
“As I am of my hockey player” he grinned allowing Braylin to pull him close and kiss him in front of the house.
Neither of them noticed the curtains move as their arrival didn’t go unnoticed. “Let the games begin” the observer muttered turning from the window. “Hey everybody they’re here” he announced picking up the two drinks he’d prepared special for their arrival.
“Those are nonalcoholic right” John asked his words slightly slurred.
“Of course” Matt nodded “taste it if you don’t believe me.” Carefully he handed the cup intended for Trebor to him.
“Eew” he made a disgusted face “that’s really bad.”
“Anything nonalcoholic is bad” Joseph said slapping John on the back “but we make allowances for people with different tastes. Don’t we buddy?”
“Sure do” John agreed letting himself be steered into another room away from the door.
“Welcome to the party” Matt greeted them handing Trebor the cup John had sampled and the other cup he gave to Braylin. “I wanted to apologize for the way I acted at practice the other day.”
Taking a sip of the contents Braylin nodded “that’s okay. We all want a chance to play. You’ll get yours.”
Turning away muttering under his breath “sooner than you think.”