For Everything You Are

by Westcliff Writer

Chapter 18

Ethen

A wind was picking up and it was late morning in the small patch of desert where Jake, his family and friends lived.

Jake stared out of his window, motionless, watching as dust began to fill the air, almost as if it was a morbid substance, coming to hang over where they all resided.

Ethen was gone, it was real, no dream, no joke. Jake felt the silence, imagined the memories and smelt the air. The same air they had both smelled, laughing, joking together. It should have been forever, growing old, enjoying life, enjoying each other.

A knock at his door snapped Jake back from the recent past in his mind. "Yeah?"

"Only me, honey, Colin is downstairs, he wants to talk to you." Jenny said, softly. Jake turned back towards the window, and carried on looking out. "I'll be down in a minute," he replied, as if the answer took a great amount of energy.

Puffing air through his lips, he turned, and walked out of his room, hearing the faint sounds of Colin talking to Alan. Appearing in the doorway to the kitchen he acknowledged His lover's father with a nod of the head, one that was retuned by Colin.

"Jake, I, um… I really just wanted to come round and see you, to um, well, I don't know really. I guess as sad as it sounds, you were all he really had for a while.

"That's not true Colin, he loved you very much, he told me so, more than once."

"I hope so. Listen, I know you really don't want to hear this right now, but the doctors told me…." Colin took in a deep breath before continuing. "….They said that his neck was broken, and he would have felt no pain, died instantly they say. So….whatever you might be thinking….well, there was nothing you or anyone else could have done."

"Your right, I didn't want to hear that, but thank you for telling me. I wondered if he could hear me, you know, after he fell. I was screaming, and I wondered if he could hear me."

"Its unlikely Jake, like I say, he…."

"Yeah."

"Um, so I need to organise the funeral, I've decided on a closed casket, just because I think it would be better that way, him being so young and all."

"Where is he?" Jake asked.

"Now? At the local morgue, he'll stay there until I can make the arrangements with Deacon funeral home.

"Is there anything we can do Colin, anything at all?" asked Alan, putting a hand on his shoulder.

"No, no I got it all… doesn't seem that long ago I was burying his mother, but my son…" Colin let a tear drop from his eye. Jake was already in full flow as Colin spoke, remembering the times they had together again.

Cody appeared behind him and put his arms round his waist and gently kissed him on the back of the neck. It was a gesture that would have meant something completely different in any other circumstance, but Jake took it for what it was, deep comforting friendship.

"Come to my room, I want to talk to you," Cody softly demanded. They both left the room, watched by Alan and Jenny, with Colin not noticing, being lost in a thought somewhere. Cody pushed Jake through his door, and closed it.

"You will get through this you know," Said Cody standing up close to him.

"I don't see how."

"You will, cos I'm gonna be there with you, as your friend…or whatever you want me to be. We've been through it all Jake, you and me, and this is something else we'll get through… together."

"You're a good friend Cody, and more, but this is different, I mean it just feels like it's getting worse, I feel like I'm gonna freak out cos he aint here."

"I don't know how this is supposed to feel, I've never been here before, never had anyone die I was close to, but I think was your saying you feel, well… its natural at a time like this."

"Do you think he felt anything, when he hit the floor? That's what I can't get out of my head, knowing he might have been in pain."

"You gotta take what the doctors say as right, Jake.


In the Deacon funeral home two nights later, Colin sits in Ethen's resting room but keeps as far away from the coffin as he can, The casket is open at the moment but he doesn't want to see his son's face. It's warm, and there's a strange smell. He feels weak, alone and wonders if the smell is normal. Maybe it was affecting him, making him feel the way he did, or maybe it really was because his only son was lying dead just a few feet away.

Alan and Jenny arrived, slowly walking in and greeting Colin. The room is silent apart from their voices, as they quietly speak.

"Such a bright spark," remarked Jenny, looking over at Ethen's casket. Colin quickly got up and walked over to it before closing the lid.

"Thanks for coming," Colin said, his eyes suddenly like they were being soaked in bright light.

"Everything ok, Colin?" Jenny asked.

"He was, so much like his mother. I was so disappointed when I found out he was gay. I didn't show it, and never really told him, too scared of pushing him away. But for the most part, I have been so proud of him, and seeing him with Jake made me realise that love is universal, there is no rules. If I can take anything from this, it's that he was so happy, I could see it in his eyes."

"They were both very happy Colin, I can assure you of that." Alan added.

"How is your boy, guess he's taking it pretty hard?"

"As much as can be expected, he thought a lot of Ethen, they were getting very close as their relationship progressed."

"Yeah, I was pleased he met Jake, I told him so the other day. It must be hard to take when they're that age."

"Jake is very…. sensitive, I don't know how he'll deal with this in the long term."

"Jen, he's also resilient, I'm sure he'll be fine," Alan said rubbing her arm.

"Anyway, we're here for Ethen," Jenny added as she went back over to the casket and gently placed her hand on the wood.

"So Colin, we'll um…we'll leave alone to be with your son. Let's go Jen." They both left, leaving Colin to sit there. Colin followed them out with his eyes before getting up.


The morning of Ethen's funeral came round quicker than Jake expected. He stood at the front door of his house, watching as the hearse and a car pulled into his road. Seeing Ethen's casket in the back was too much for him to bear, and he went back inside, closing the door.

"He's here," said Jake, to Jenny as she came through from the lounge.

"Who, sweetheart?"

"Ethen,"

"Oh, honey, come here." Jenny pulled him into a hug and kissed him on the head. "It's nearly over, just this day to get through."

Everyone from the street gathered on the roadside, as the hearse pulled away slowly. A flurry of activity then proceeded, as everyone got into their cars and followed the hearse onto the main desert road. Jake's family were the last, as Jenny did not want Jake too near to Ethen's casket.

As the procession slowly made its way along the winding road a bright sunshine broke through the clouds. Jake suddenly felt like Ethen was OK, and in a good place.

"I feel like he's watching us," Jake remarked, looking at the sky.

"Maybe he is son, maybe he is."

Everyone from the street arrived at the small church and gathered at the doors, the priest welcoming each of them. Ethen was taken from the vehicle and placed on a stand inside the building.

Soon after, more people start arriving, family, friends, more smiles and more handshakes for Colin, his hand beginning to ache. Finally the lead undertaker tells them they should go inside and take their seats.

For Jake, people coming in and getting seated was taking forever, he just wanted this over with, somehow thinking he would feel better once it was. The room was getting stuffy, and he felt the need to undo his button, letting his neck and chest breath.

There are eulogies for a boy that Jake feels like he hardly knew. People saying different things about their memories with Ethen, it's almost like they are talking about another person. It occurs to Jake that there was so much of Ethen's life he didn't know about, a life that, had they been together for longer, he would have liked to have found out. But instead he was finding out from people he didn't know.

Colin got up to say a few words, a few points making people smile as they each remembered memories about their own times in Ethen's company. Jake had planned to get up too, but had changed his mind at the last minute feeling it inappropriate seeing as he was one of the last people to know Ethen.

The small service concluded with the casket being taken from the church to the grave where after a few more words from the priest it was slowly lowered into the ground. Jake took the opportunity to throw a rose on to the white coffin and walked away, having had enough for one day. Standing by a tree he was joined by Cody who once again comforted him as he gently sobbed.


Awaking early the morning after Jake went downstairs and looked out of the lounge window, noticing a stranger getting into Ethen's car. He didn't know why but the act made him angry. It was like the only part of Ethen really left in the world was being sold off as if it meant nothing.

Cody came through and stroked his hair. "What you looking at?" he asked.

"What… oh, nothing really."

"You want some breakfast?"

"I want my boyfriend back."

"I know."

"You know, life is so cruel sometimes,"

"Yeah tell me about it."

"How are Ed and Luke, I didn't really feel much like talking yesterday."

"They're holding up, Ed's taking it hard, but they were good friends."

"Yeah, I feel for him so much, it's like I keep thinking I'm the only one feeling shitty about this, but he must be beside himself knowing Ethen for so long, and Colin, god, poor guy, having to deal with all this."

"You deserve to be as upset as anyone else Jake, there is no right or wrong, more or less, as to how people should feel. Just promise me you won't do anything stupid."

"That was a one off Cody, despite feeling I have been dealt a fucking shit hand this last year or so, it don't mean I wanna kill myself again, in fact I don't even think I did last time, but I don't wanna talk about that." Jake let out a long sigh, and turned to face Cody. "It could have been so different you know, if we had been in England."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know, I just think about how life would be. Perhaps you and me would have got together. Ethen would still be alive doing his thing, living his life, yeah, without me, but we wouldn't have known each other so it…"

"You can't think of what ifs, I don't think it works like that."

"Yeah but If I weren't here, he would never have been at that stupid rock face, and still be alive."

"You don't know that, something else might have happened, maybe everything happens for a reason."

"Yeah maybe."

"Just remember this Jake, you have friends here, you're not alone."

But Jake did feel alone, and things would never be the same again, his life, for all its ups and downs was at rock bottom now. It didn't matter where he was, in America, back home, with or without Cody, it would never be the same.

For him, it was literally…. the end.


Epilogue

The days, weeks and months that passed seemed like one big uphill struggle for Jake. His mood had deteriorated to the point where Jenny and Alan had decided to pull out of Nevada and travel back to England, the importance of Jake's wellbeing, becoming huge concern for them.

Like their decision to come here had been with Jake in mind, so would their return. For Jake, the memories he and Ethen had together were inescapable in such a small place. At school his grades were suffering, he never smiled anymore and he was getting into petty fights, resulting in letters from the school.

Alan had given in his notice to the base sighting family difficulties. Fortunately a man with his skills and knowledge in his field, plus the fact he knew a few people in the right places, meant he was able to secure a job similar to the one he had back in England.

Cody was sad for other reasons, his relationship with Luke was going well and he dreaded the day he would have to leave. He even thought about staying, finding a job and looking after himself, but this was all fantasy talk, as Jenny had tried to make him realise.

Colin was moving away too, the memories of his Wife and Son too raw to be staying in his house. He had secured a new job in Arizona, a place where he worked quite a bit anyway. For the few people affected by the death of Ethen, he had lost the most.

A thick veil of sadness still hung over the small desert community where the all of them lived. A young man with such vibrancy, who had such life in him, had been extinguished. It felt like everything had changed, and for each person, it was a different feeling, but it was testament that Ethen had the power to affect everyone who lived in their small community.

"When do we go?" Jake asked standing in the kitchen as Jenny got off the phone to Alan.

"Two weeks honey,"

"I'm sorry, I know I have caused all this."

"Rubbish, we tried it, it was fun, and now we are going home." She said trying to convince him he was not to blame.

"Earlier than expected through, by a country mile."

"It's like I said to you Jake, sometimes life can take many different turns, and this turn is for the best. For you, and that's all that matters."

"Yeah, I guess."

"Are you getting anywhere with Cody?"

"Nope, he still hates me, says I am ruining his life, he's right though mum isn't he? I mean, if I wasn't here, you and dad would still be staying, and so would Cody."

Jenny sighed, and went over to hug Jake. "Sweetheart, remember when we first told you we were coming here and you went crazy about leaving Cody, because of your feelings for him?"

"Yeah."

"Well he is going through that exact feeling now. Don't blame yourself, but at the same time try and realise he is hurting because someone he cares deeply about is going to be separated from him."

"I know that mum, but it's how I fix it I'm struggling with, I can't make it all better for him because this is going to happen. Why don't you just stay, it would be easier for everyone."

"The easy route is not the best route Jake. Being here is not helping you and your health, and wellbeing is more important than Cody's love life. I'm sorry, I know that sounds harsh but that's the decision I have made with your father, and he agrees.

"So what happens to him, you know, when we get back?"

"That's up to him. We have talked to him and said if he wishes to make contact with his mother and father when we return, your father and I will stand by him."

"And if he doesn't?"

"Then he is welcome to continue living with us."

"We don't really have the room back home though do we?"

"Well, you will both have to share a room, but as for living space we'll cope. We can't abandon him now just because our circumstances have changed can we?"

"I'm gonna go see him, is he still in his room?"

"All day," Jenny said shrugging. Jake sighed.

Jake left the kitchen and wandered upstairs, knocking on Cody's door.

"If that's you Jake, I'm not interested," came an angry response.

"Can we talk?"

"Nope, go away."

"Fine, well I'm coming in anyway." Jake entered Cody's room and he went in, closing the door behind him.

"I said I don't want to talk to you, so why don't you just fuck off, life wrecker."

"Shut the fuck up you selfish wanker, and listen to what I got to say, then I'll go." Cody didn't say anything; he just folded his arms and begrudgingly gave Jake his attention.

"So talk, and then get the fuck out of my room."

"Well firstly, if it hadn't escaped your mind, two months ago my boyfriend fell from a rock, smashed his head open like and egg, and died, so I'm very sorry if I still feel a little upset about that. Just so you know, the decision to leave here was nothing to do with me, so if you have beef with it, talk to my mum and dad."

"You want this though," he retorted, "I don't see you putting up much of a fight to stay."

"Why would I want to Cody, can't you see what this place is doing to me, No, I don't wanna be here, but that don't mean I wanna go back to England, I just don't wanna be here, in this place."

"Yeah well, because of you, I'm never gonna see Luke again."

"Like I said, not my decision. You wanna shout at me for this fine, you wanna hate me for this, fine, but get it through your thick loved up head, I didn't decide this." Jake left the room slamming the door behind him and went to his room, slamming that too. Jenny came running up the stairs and called out to them both.

"Cody, Jake…downstairs, NOW!" She hollered, before going back downstairs, heading into the lounge. Jake and Cody appeared in the lounge, sheepish looks on their faces. "Sit, both of you."

"He's the one who came into my room and…"

"Quiet, I don't want any more of he did this, he did that, just listen and listen good." They both nodded and swallowed hard. "You both have different reasons for being pissed off right now, I get that, but you cannot tear each other apart like this, guys. You need to be taking care of each other, like brothers and friends. I don't want to keep hearing bellowing from both of you every time you happen to be in the same room, it's getting boring not to mention your father is getting stressed out as well, and he has to hold down a job to support this family. Yes Cody, this family, of which you are a part of."

"I'm sorry, Jenny, I'm just a bit upset right now, I don't want to leave Luke."

"I'm sorry too mum, I guess I have been a real ass to live with lately."

"Just sort it out between yourselves guys. I love you both and I don't want to have this conversation again. Now shake hands."

"But mum, I've already…."

"Jake, shut up, I said shake hands." They both got up and shook hands, before Jake left the room and went to his room.

"I'll say to you Cody as I said to Jake….You're hurting, he's hurting. Give him time and compassion, like I asked him to give you. Work together, not against each other ok?

"Yeah, sorry Jenny, can I go now?"

"Sure." She ruffled his hair and he went back upstairs. He was about to enter his own room, but bypassed it and went to the end of the hall, knocking on Jake's.

"Can I come in," he asked through the closed door. There was no response. Cody slowly opened the door and found Jake lying on his bed gently sobbing.

"Hey, I'm sorry ok, I've been a jerk, I'm always a jerk, you should be used to it by now," Cody said, trying to lighten the mood.

"I just want you to believe me when I say I'm not doing any of this to get at you."

"I know Jake, I'm sorry, I suppose I just needed someone to blame, and you were the easiest."

"Yeah well, we've both been Jerks, I don't even know if I have a school to go to for the next two weeks."

"Yeah what's happening about that?"

"Not sure, his mother says I broke his nose, but she's lying, I just made it bleed."

"I must admit, I never had you down as the violent type."

"I'm not, but he said something grotesque about Ethen dying and I just saw red."

"Understandable."

"What's your mum said to the school."

"Oh, she was great, she argued that I had been under a lot of stress since Ethen died and the school are looking at it, hopefully, they'll just see I'm crazy and let me back." Jake laughed, probably for the first time since the funeral. "I just really can't be here anymore Cody, I just can't, its making me ill. All I think about is him. Everywhere I go, I see memories of him and it's fucking me up."

"Yeah, I get it Jake, I just wish things were different, but they're not, and I'm the one who has to deal with that, not you. I'll leave you alone anyway, Knock if you need anything ok?"

"Yeah thanks."


Cody and Luke began their long goodbye as the days got closer to Cody having to leave. They spent as much time together as they could, hugging, making out and just being together. There were tears from both of them, but they both agreed that nothing was going to change so it was best if they spent the last days happy rather than sad.

Back at the Stevens' house Jenny had started to pack, putting her and Alan's personal possessions into boxes. Jake was doing the same in his room, carefully putting items that Ethen Brought him into a vacuum bag. He clutched at the chain round his neck drawing comfort from it, as the job of packing was becoming harder. For him, leaving the place where Ethen lived was almost as bad as staying.

"Need any help?" Jenny asked standing in the doorway.

"No I'll be fine, what time is dad home?"

"Should be here any minute, why is that?"

"Just need to ask him about Colin, I've been wondering how he is."

"Why don't you go round and see him?"

"No, as much as I want to, I can't go in that house."

"Hmm, never thought about that, I'm sorry love."

"Forget it, it's just… argh, everything at the moment, I just need to avoid as much of it as I can, we'll be gone soon, and I think, I hope, I'll feel better."

"I haven't asked this before because I didn't want you to feel like I was meddling in your grief process, but, would you like to talk to someone when we get back?"

"You mean like a shrink?"

"No, no, not at all….just someone to talk through your feelings with, someone who doesn't know you, someone neutral."

"Maybe, I'm not sure, can I think about it?"

"Take as long as you need, I just worry about you that's all."

"I know mum, and I'm sorry that I make you worry."

"I'm your mum; it's my job to worry, besides what else would I do?" She said smiling. Jake managed a smile back before returning to the task at hand.


The Steven's sat round their kitchen table and enjoyed a last supper, not so unlike the one they had before leaving to come here. They quietly chatted as the sun went down over the house, before disappearing completely.

"So how is everyone feeling tonight?" asked Alan, taking a sip of wine.

"Ok, I guess," Said Jake looking up from his meal.

"Shitty," said Cody, dejectedly.

"I have a feeling everything is gonna be ok you know." Added jenny, taking Jake and Cody's hand in hers.

"Well our flight is in a little under fourteen hours. Cody do you want to see Luke again before we leave?"

"No, we said our goodbye's, I have him on Facebook and his parents have said he might be able to visit one day."

"What about you and him, are you both still…." Jake started to say.

"Together? I don't think so, we never said we were breaking up, but I don't think our new arrangement can last as it is, it's too long distance, and I really don't know if I'll see him again, it sucks to be honest."

"I think you have both been very mature about the whole thing Cody." Jenny added, smiling at him.

"Yeah, it's really hard, but I don't want to leave him hanging on to something that might not work out."

"Does he know that," Asked Alan.

"I don't know, a lot of this I have only thought about since I came back from his."

"I don't know about anyone else but I think we can take some positives away from being here. You have all got to see another part of the world, and although we have been through a tragedy I hope that you will remember this place with some fond memories." Alan said, pushing his empty plate away.

"I don't think I ever will dad," said Jake.

"Yeah, I guess so son, but you'll always have the memories, and some of those must have been good?"

Jake sat and thought about some of those memories his dad spoke about, managing a grin as he remembered the way Ethen came up to him in the garden and made him melt about having the hots for him. "He made me like myself again," Jake spoke to no one in particular.

"He was a great guy, even if he did steal you from me." Cody remarked.

"Yeah, he was a great guy wasn't he?" Jake repeated, confirming his agreement.


The family finished dinner, cleaned and packed away the crockery before making one final sweep of the house. Alan arranged for the two vehicles they leased to be collected and two men arrived, requested the keys and left.

A taxi arrived shortly after and the family gathered at the front door, the house now empty and quiet. A man got out of the Cab and started to load their luggage in the car. Cody could see Luke standing in the driveway of his house watching, but decided against going to see him, feeling it better to leave things as they were.

Alan made one last phone call to the base to make sure their transport back to the airport at Reno was all ready. With that confirmed he put his cell away and asked his family to get into the car. Taking one last look at the house they had lived in for the last year, Alan asked the taxi driver to move off.

Jake looked back at Ethen's house, a tear rolling down his cheek. The adventure had been intense, real, and life changing, but it was over. It was now time to start the 'old life' again back in the UK.

Jake had Lost Ethen, and Cody had lost Luke. Before the move they were on the verge of being together themselves. The thought of that had no doubt crossed both their minds as the car travelled the bumpy dirt track. As if to confirm these thoughts, they both looked at each other and smiled.

Perhaps a new adventure was about to begin.

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