As soon as the door closed behind him the tears started. I don’t know how long I cried, but it was a good, long time. It was well after dark and was getting quite cold inside the carriage house when the door opened. I looked up, half hoping to see Aiden but still not feeling any disappointment when I saw Carman and Bryon standing there.
“You OK?” Bryon asked.
I wiped my tears away and said “Uh huh”.
Carman looked carefully at me. “No, you’re not. Come into the house, it’s getting cold out here.”
I followed them into the
house. Betty was in the living room reading. Aiden and his mother
were nowhere to be seen. They led me down into the rec-room and sat
down. This time I didn’t look around at anything. Nothing
interested me anymore. Bryon gestured for me to sit down across from
them, so I did.
“So”, Bryon said. “How are you doing?”
“Fine”, I lied.
Once again, Carman was looking at me. “No, you’re not. You’re obviously hurt. What did you guys talk about out there, if you don’t mind me asking?”
I looked back and forth between them, considering what I should tell them. Then it all came out. I told them everything Aiden had said. At some point in the story I started crying. I’m not sure when, but I was certainly crying when I finished telling it. I stared off at the stereo system we had listened to earlier. God, that felt like ages ago. Could it really have been just this morning? Bryon and Carman remained silent while I gathered myself up. Finally I had the crying under control, so I turned and looked at them again.
“Wow”, said Carman.
“Yeah”, said Bryon. “I can’t believe he did that. He really cared about you.”
Alarmed, I looked at Carman. He gave a weak smile and said “Relax, he knows all about you. He was there when I told Aiden’s mother about you, and even if he hadn’t been, I’m sure she would have told him. They are engaged, after all.”
“Oh”, I said, still looking at Bryon with suspicion. Then it clicked. “Wait, engaged?”
Bryon beamed. “Yep. Asked her a week ago. We don’t have any plans set yet, but we’re getting married! Probably next spring. Not the one that’s coming, the one after that.”
“That’s excellent! Congratulations!” I said.
“Yes, yes, thanks. That’s all good. But this isn’t about that. We need to talk about you and Aiden.”
Suddenly I was whipped back to reality. “There is no 'Me and Aiden', at least not anymore. I don’t know what to say.”
“Well”, Carman said. “How do you feel about what happened?”
A surge of anger flashed into my mind. I wanted to shout “HOW DO YOU THINK I FEEL?!?!?”
Instead, I stayed silent and considered. As I considered I calmed down and started thinking reasonably.
“I... I think I understand. I’m sad, but I think I know why he’s doing this.”
“Explain”, Carman said.
I thought about it. “Well, at first I was angry, then I was really sad. I thought he was being stupid and selfish, that he just didn’t give a damn about how I felt. But the more I thought about it the more I thought that maybe this is what he really needs, you know?”
“No, we don’t know. Tell us”, Bryon said.
“Well, it’s hard to say why. I just think that maybe he needs to put everything else aside and be there for his mother, and that maybe he doesn’t need anything or anyone hanging around making it harder for him to do.”
“Good, good”, Carman said. “So you understand why he thinks that seeing you will be bad for him?”
“Not really. I’m trying to understand, really, but I don’t. Well, I do a little. I felt a bit of that myself earlier. I remembered earlier today, when you played that Axel F song. We had watched that movie the night before Richie died, and as soon as I heard that song it brought me right back to that night. It didn’t make me think of Richie dying though, it made me think of me and Aiden together.”
I stopped abruptly and looked at Bryon. His expression did not change.
“Go on”, Carman said.
“Well like I said, I thought back to that night because that song played that night. So I sort of understand how Aiden would think about what happened the next day when he saw me, because he saw a lot of me that day. Me, Ian, and Danny, as we all helped search for Richie.”
Carman said “Yes, the three of you helped, but I think you would be the biggest memory for Aiden. You guys did spend the previous night together, you were there for the big fight, but most importantly, he has a strong attachment to you.”
“Had”, I corrected him.
“No, ‘has’. He still thinks the world of you. Do you think it was easy for him to say what he did?”
“I don’t know. He wouldn’t even look at me.”
“Of course he wouldn’t look at you. He couldn’t. What he did was probably the most miserable (in his mind), difficult thing he has ever had to do. It took every bit of courage he had. Do you think he’d have been able to follow through with it if he had looked you in the eye? Could you have done that?”
“No, I suppose not.”
Bryon spoke now.
“Carmen, I know this is really hard for you, but I can assure you this was a million times harder for him. He did this because he thinks it’s the only way he can go on, and going on is the only way he can help his mother. And maybe it is, I don’t know. But I do know that since you came here he has improved 1000% because you made him realize that he must go on. He... All of us will always be thankful to you for that. He is making a huge sacrifice to try to save himself and his mother. You started him on the road to healing, but now you’ve got to help him stay on that road, even if it means losing him. Do you understand now?”
“I... I think so. It just sucks. He was my best friend. I think I was even starting to lo...”
I broke off. I couldn’t finish the sentence.
Carman looked at Bryon, then looked at me. “You love him. There is no doubt about that. You loved him before that night you guys had together, and you still love him now. Not as a lover or as a boyfriend, not even puppy love like we talked about earlier, but as a friend. You’re only thirteen years old, far too young to be talking about romantic love. You may have ended up eventually loving him in that way as well, but then again you may not have. First and foremost, though, you were and are friends. That is the strongest kind of love. Now you need to look deep into your heart and forgive him. He loves you too, but his mother needs him.”
“I know you will. It won’t be easy, but you will.”
Bryon stood up. “Well, it’s
getting late. I think it’s about time you were in bed.”
I didn’t protest, so Carman got up too. “You can sleep in my old bedroom.”
They led me up the stairs and showed me to Carman’s old room. Aiden and his mother were nowhere to be found. It was a big room, with a nice big bed, and nice furnishings. Just like his apartment, the walls were covered with pictures of fancy buildings. Bryon went over to Aiden’s room to fetch my things. He came back with them, they said goodnight, and closed the door. I got undressed and crawled into bed. I had a lot to think about. I laid awake for a long time considering everything that went on that day, especially the talk with Carman and Bryon. While lying there I heard a car pull into the drive, so I got up and looked out the window. Aiden and his mother got out of the car and were carrying a bunch of bags – they had gone shopping, probably for some new clothes for Aiden. I watched them down there and thought about how normal they seemed to be acting. This was the old Aiden and the old Aiden’s Mom. I smiled, turned away from the window, and got back into bed. I thought to myself “They’re going to be OK”, and went to sleep.
The next morning I woke up, got dressed, packed my things up, and went downstairs. I was ready to go home. Aiden and his mother were again nowhere to be found, but I did not mind. They were spending time together, that’s what mattered. Carman and Betty were in the kitchen.
“Oh, look who’s awake. I’ll get you breakfast”, she said.
I started to say that I didn’t really need anything, but she cut me off. “Nonsense. You’re not leaving this house hungry, so sit down.”
I did. She cooked up a nice breakfast of eggs and pancakes, and I ate every bit. Carman was silent throughout the meal, but he looked at me several times to see how I was doing. I was trying to tell him without saying anything that I was OK. Betty gathered up the dirty dishes and Carman stood up. “I’ll drive you home”, he said.
We went to the front entrance and were putting our coats on. A thought occurred to me, so I said “I think I forgot my toothbrush in your old room”. Before giving him a chance to react I ran off. I didn’t run to his room though. I first ran into the study and grabbed a piece of paper off the desk. I found a pen and wrote on this paper “I understand.” I wanted to put “Love, Carmen” on it but remembered that I had promised to not make this any harder on him. I then ran to Aiden’s room. The door was closed. I thought about opening it but reconsidered. Instead I slid the note under the door and then ran back to the front entrance, where Carman was waiting. I finished putting my winter clothes on, we went out the door, got into his car, and we started the drive to Sackville. Carman didn’t say anything, so I just looked out of the window, still thinking about the previous day’s events. As we got into Sackville and headed toward my neighbourhood I finally spoke.
“Thank you”, I said.
“Don’t mention it”.
“No, I mean for more than just the drive. Thank you for your advice. Thank you for your talks. And thank you for listening.”
He pulled up in front of my house. “Are you going to be all right?”
I looked back at him and gave him a wide smile. “I think so. It’ll be hard sometimes but I’ll get through it.” And I meant it.
We got out of the car and he went to the trunk to get my things. When he came back around he said “Well, I guess this is it. Until we meet again.”
He held out his hand for a handshake, but I was having none of it. I walked past his outstretched hand and wrapped my arms around him. “Thank you”, I repeated.
He put his arms around me and squeezed tight. We then broke off the embrace and faced each other. He had a tear in the corner of his eye.
“You take care of yourself”.
“You too”, I said. I smiled at him again and said “Goodbye”. Then I picked up my luggage and went into the house. He stayed in his car for a few minutes after I went inside, then drove away.
That was the last that I had ever seen or heard from Aiden, Carman, or the rest of them.