I wanted to call Aiden, but Mom said that I should wait a few days before doing so. I understood: He was going through a lot of things, and I’m sure his mother would not appreciate company. Instead I called Ian. He had, of course, heard the outcome. He came over to the house and we just sat around talking about Richie. Nobody had called Ian that night, and he was a bit upset at that, but I told him they had probably only called me because I had spent the night there beforehand and was one of the last few people to see Richie. This calmed him a bit. I turned the TV on but quickly turned it off, because all they were talking about was the tragedy. Ian decided we should go outside for air. I agreed: I needed to be outside. I also really, REALLY needed a cigarette and didn’t dare smoke one at home now because everyone in my family kept poking their heads into my room to see if I was OK or to ask if I’d heard from Aiden. We started walking, and out of habit we were headed in the direction of the beach. Once we got there we could see the police tape over across the water, on the trees in Aiden’s back yard. We walked up onto the road from the beach and started walking toward Aiden’s house. I don’t know why we did – we didn’t have any plans to, nor did we make a conscious decision. We just went that way.
As we rounded a turn and
Aiden’s place came into view we could see a moving van in the
driveway. We quickened our pace and got to the driveway. The van was
being loaded by two men, one of whom I had recognized as Bryon,
Aiden’s mother’s boyfriend. The other I had never met, but he was
clearly Bryon’s brother. He had the same red hair and freckles, but
he wore glasses and was a bit younger. We walked up, and I asked
“What’s happening? Where’s Aiden? Where’s his mom?”
A flash of anger crossed Bryon’s face and he turned away and went into the back of the van.
His brother answered: “They’re coming to stay with us. They’re leaving because they’re being kicked out. Their landlord did not like having all the police and reporters around here last night, so he told Aiden’s mom they had to move out. He gave them until the end of the month, but she wanted to leave today.”
He looked across the yard at the lake, and added “I can’t say as I blame her, really. I couldn’t imagine having to look at that lake ever again after what happened”
Ian looked scandalized. “But it’s New Year’s Day! Her kid just died! Who could kick somebody out after something like that happened!”
Bryon was still in the back of the van and shouted “That’s what I said! That piece of shit landlord of hers is lucky he’s not here!”
I looked around and said “What, he’s not even here? Where is he?”
We heard a sound from inside that sounded suspiciously like somebody punching a van.
Bryon’s brother said “He left as soon as he saw us get out of the van. We went down into the apartment, and when we came back up his car was gone. He’s likely afraid of being torn apart.”
“And well he should be!” was heard coming from the van.
Ian answered “Ian”.
I said “Carmen”.
When I did, he gave me a knowing look and said “Ok, Carmen and Ian. I’ll tell him. I’m Carman, too, by the way. I’m sure you already know Bryon.”
I said “Yeah, we’ve met. Tell Aiden to call me as soon as he can...”
We said our goodbyes and headed home. I understood, of course, but I also longed to talk to Aiden. He was in a bad place, and I wanted to help. I honestly did not even think of the things we did the night before the tragedy – I was genuinely worried for Aiden and wanted to talk to him. I could wait a while, though.
A while, it turned out, was
over a month. School started back up after the Christmas break, and
of course the two kids drowning in the lake was all anybody talked
about at first. The stories they told! You’d almost think any of
them had been there and known what happened! One rumour was that the
young girl had been on the lake and went through, and Richie had run
out to save her but also went through. A noble thought, Richie dying
in an act of heroism, but all I could think of was “If this is
really what happened somebody would have had to have seen it, and if
they had seen this happen, why didn’t they help those kids?”
Another rumour was much darker, started by a stuck-up rich kid whose father was a politician. I won’t get into the details of it, but it had to do with the condition of the bodies as they were retrieved from the lake. Ian made certain that rumour was squelched, and saw to it that the politician’s kid wouldn’t be starting any more rumours.
Kids don’t have much of
an attention span when it comes to news, though, so soon minds and
conversations turned to other things. Not for me, of course – I had
seen Richie the morning before he died, helped look for him, and
almost felt like I was a part of the story. I would never forget that
day. I also missed Aiden terribly. All through the month of January I
would come home from school hoping there was a phone call from Aiden,
and every day I would be disappointed. Then one Friday in early
February I got home from school and the phone rang.
Waverly is a small suburb north of Dartmouth, about 15 kilometers from Sackville.
“Ok. How’s your mother? I’ve been worried sick about you guys. Everyone has been.”
“She’s OK. Well, she isn’t, really. Neither of us are. But we’re coping. Look, I’m calling because I wanted to ask if you wanted to come over to our place for the weekend.”
“Ok, I’ll ask my mom if it’s OK”.
Of course Mom said it was OK, so I rushed back to the phone, made arrangements with Aiden to be picked up the following morning, and went to pack some clothes & stuff for the weekend. First thing Saturday I was waiting outside on the doorstep when Bryon’s car pulled up. As he had promised, Aiden wasn’t there. Neither was Bryon. It was Carman.
He got out and opened the trunk, and I plopped my stuff into it. He got into the driver’s seat, I into the passenger’s seat, and we drove away. We didn’t really say anything for a bit, mainly because I did not know him. Then he started the conversation:
“Good. You probably don’t know it, but he also told me about what happened between the two of you the night before...”
I remained silent. I didn’t know what to say.
“I want you to know that the feelings Aiden expressed for you that night are real. When he first told me about you, I wish you could have seen the happiness in his face. Every time we talked, the subject always switched to you. He really cares about you. He wanted to tell you that for a long time but couldn’t bring himself to. It was me who suggested that he sneak a couple of beers to loosen himself up. ‘Imagination lubricant’, I called it”.
“Yeah, he told me that. And thank you. That was the best night of my life. I finally felt like my life was going to be OK. And then...”
“Yeah, ‘and then’... It was a horrible tragedy. Probably the worst thing that can happen to anyone. I couldn’t imagine losing Bryon. But listen. The reason that I’m the one picking you up, and the reason that I’m talking to you right now, is that Aiden has changed. He is not dealing with Richie’s death well. He won’t even come out of his room. He didn’t even want to contact you, but I made him.”
I stared out the window a little longer.
“Look, you don’t have to do this. It’s hard, I know. I can turn the car around and tell Aiden that something came up and you couldn’t make it”.
“No, I want to do this. I really like Aiden. Even before what happened between us, Aiden is my best friend. If I can help him I want to try”.
Carman looked at me, a hint of a tear in the corner of his eye. “Good.”
He drove on in silence, glancing at me every once in a while. I just stared out the passenger side window, not really taking things in. I was worried. What would I say to Aiden? What COULD I say to Aiden? I had absolutely no experience with this sort of thing, I was just a dumb 13 year old kid. But still, I was his best friend, and I needed to try. Suddenly the car started to slow, and we turned off the main road into a subdivision. A very upscale subdivision. As soon as we turned, Carman pulled over and stopped the car. I was kind of surprised we had stopped here, because while there were houses on both sides we weren’t really in front of any of them.
I don’t know what an aneurysm feels like, but I’m pretty sure I had one then and there. “What? She KNOWS?!?” Suddenly the thought of seeing her terrified me and I had the sudden urge to jump out of the car and run away.
“Yes, but listen! I had to tell her. I didn’t give her any details – hell, I don’t know any details myself and I don’t want to – but she was so worried about Aiden and didn’t know what to do. When I suggested bringing you here to talk to him she was skeptical, so I had to tell her how special you guys are to each other. Don’t worry! I knew she’d not think less of you, because she accepts me. I wasn’t sure how she’d react about Aiden, but having known her for years I had a feeling. And she is so upset about Richie and worried about Aiden that I thought she should know of something, someone, that might make Aiden feel better. She agreed, so here you are. But there’s one other thing. Aiden doesn’t know that she knows. And I don’t think you should tell him. He is already angry and ashamed. Not at what you guys did, but at how he treated his brother. He’s hardly talking to his mother now, I don’t want to give him another thing to think he should be embarrassed about. Obviously I don’t think he has anything to be ashamed of, but his mind is in such a dark place. He’s not thinking right. I’m giving you one more chance to back out.”
I continued staring out the side window, more scared than ever, but determined to help if I could. “Let’s go”, I said, pointing forward through the windshield.
Carman reached over and ruffled my hair. “I thought you’d say that. Just remember, we’re all there if you need anything”. He started the car and drove on for about a kilometer, then turned onto another side street. A half kilometer down this street he turned into a driveway, and at the top of this driveway was one of the coolest houses I had ever seen. It was HUGE! It wasn’t new, like the rest of the houses in the neighbourhood – it must have been the original farm house, the family selling off the land for the subdivision. It was very old, but had been thoroughly renovated and was also very modern. You could see what was once the main house, with several additions built onto it. Along one side was a three car garage, and on the other side one of the additions was built off the ground and a carport was under it. Carman pulled the car into this carport and shut the engine off. As we were getting out of the car Aiden’s mom and Bryon came out of the main entrance and walked around to greet us, along with a much older lady whose hair was snow white but whose kind face was covered in freckles. She could only be Bryon and Carman’s mother. Aiden was nowhere to be seen.