For Everything You Were
Not Letting Go
Dad pulled the car into the driveway and switched off the engine as we all sat in silence. The silence that had been present pretty much all the way home since convincing Ethen to get into the car after flagging him down.
I was just about to speak when I saw the front door fling open and a horrified Mum and Cody appeared in the doorway. I saw Cody's eyes lock on to Ethen and a stance of utter deflation melted his physical self.
Mum came running over to the car and pulled open the front passenger door. Ignoring Dad and Ethen she pulled me into a hug and burst into tears.
"Jake! What on earth were you thinking?" she blubbered through her tears. Cody remained fixed at the doorway not knowing what to do I imagined as I thought about the impending conversation I would have to have with him.
"I think we all need to go inside," dad quietly said which triggered mum to pull away allowing me to undo my seatbelt.
As I got out of the car I looked at Cody again who just shook his head and went back inside, heading upstairs. But that wasn't the most shocking thing in those few seconds. No, that was seeing mum pull Ethen into a tight hug immediately after he alighted from the car. A shock that surprised him as well as me.
"I'm so angry with you right now Ethen," she squealed, kissing him all over. It was a bizarre action to go with the comment but at least it gave me a clue that she was not going to be as much hard work as Cody was going to be.
In the Kitchen we all stood taking things in, apart from Cody who was nowhere to be seen, his absence not lost on me at least. We were all just looking at each other no particular one of us knowing whether, or if we should say something.
My Dad uttered the first words.
"Does someone wanna go and find Cody, I imagine he's all over the place at the moment?"
"I'll go," I said, getting a nod from mum who seemed to have an inkling that I might not be down for a little while.
I plodded upstairs and came to our bedroom door which was, as I expected, closed. Normally I would just go in, but biting my bottom lip I gently knocked.
"Can I come in?" I softly requested, as if to the wood panels.
There was no response.
Briefly closing my eyes and taking a deep breath I turned the handle and peered into our room. Cody had his back to me standing at the foot of our bed. To my horror he was methodically loading clothes into a large grey travel bag.
I rolled my eyes and tried to shake off the dramatic scene. "You think this is the answer?"
Cody turned round to face me, his eyes wet with recent tears. "I'm sorry, this is too much, I can't be here."
"And just where are you going to go?"
"Dunno, somewhere… anywhere, but I can't be in this house with him here."
"Cody, just stop will you." I commanded, walking over and wrestling a t-shirt from his hand. He didn't put up much of a fight, instead wiping his eyes.
"We're finished aren't we? I can't compete with him, can I!"
For a moment I didn't know what to say due to the fact it was a question I had asked myself several times today. I sat on the end of the bed and sighed.
"Try and put yourself in my shoes since this all happened Cody, what would you have-"
"Oh wow, you are really something Jake! So this head-fuck I'm experiencing is something I need to take responsibility for and try and see it from your point of view?"
"I'm just trying to explain"
"What, that you have opened a can of worms that has consequences for everyone… me, mum, dad-"
"So answer my question… tell me you would have done this differently had it been Luke"
"That's not fair."
"Maybe not, but nonetheless I happen to believe you would have done the same as me. You seem to think I have not thought about you in all this, I have. I have tried to look ahead and see how this would affect you while knowing if I didn't do this I would regret it for the rest of my life."
"Oh don't play the 'I was torn' violin Jake, you knew damn well what you were doing and there was no way you were going to leave this alone no matter who got in your way."
"Now you are just getting hostile."
"Well tell me how to feel then Jake? You want me to go down there and shake the guy's hand, say, oh welcome back from the dead, I guess you'll be taking my boyfriend now?"
"I'm sure we can work something out."
"We all know how this is going to go Jake, there is no point prolonging the agony."
"Can you just stop thinking how you have this all worked out… about what or how I feel. I don't have a clue Cody, nor does Ethen and nor do mum and dad."
I fell back into a laying position and ran my hands down my face.
"You must be hungry Ethen," mum remarked as we all, minus Cody, sat around the kitchen table.
"I am Jenny, but really, I don't want to impose. I shouldn't even be here."
"In every sense of the word, Cody," my dad chimed in.
"Nonsense, whatever has happened you were a big part of our lives and I will not see you go hungry."
It became apparent that while I was upstairs trying to get through to Cody that my dad and Ethen had covered a lot of ground in terms of what went on and how we all seemed to be staring at a dead person.
What had not become clear was how things were going to move forward from here. I was at a real loss as to how to deal with this monumental head fuck. No one seemed to have any answers.
I knew what I wanted deep down but out of guilt for Cody I kept trying to supress those feelings as hard as I could. While mum and dad did most of the talking every so often Ethen kept catching my gaze making my heart flutter, melting me like a snowman in the Sahara.
I was brought back to the present when my dad took a deep breath and sighed. "Ethen, I'm just going to put this out there but what do you intend to do now you are here. I really don't think it's a good idea that you stay here for obvious reasons."
"You mean Cody Dad?"
"Jake, not being harsh but your developing problems with Cody are the least of my worries, I am more concerned about people finding out Ethen is here."
"Alan, that's a bit shallow, I know you are worried about your job but Cody is part of this family and is just as important, I don't want him hurt in all this." Mum added, causing me to nod.
"Guys, look," Ethen started, getting up. "I don't think it's a good idea me being here either. I never wanted to cause any trouble. If you all know me as well as I hope you do, you'll know that's true. I just had to let Jake know I was alive, I owed him that and I'm sorry if that has caused friction between Jenny and Jake and yourself, Alan." Ethen finished turning to face dad.
"Ethen, what's done is done, and I give you my word, had there been another way I would have jumped at it, but…"
"I know, you've explained. In fact you have explained more than you had to and I thank you for that."
"What will you do honey?" Mum asked, stroking Ethen's wrist.
"Lay low, until my visa runs out, then I guess it's back to America to do the same over there. My main objection is keeping one step ahead of my dad."
"Ethen, you can't go back, what about settling here, he can do that right dad?" I asked.
Dad scratched his head. "It's possible, but by the time he comes to reapply for a new visa it's very likely he'll be on some kind of blacklist. Ethen, it's really about how far your father is willing to go to get you back."
I was about to speak again when the door opened and Cody walked in to the kitchen. He kept his distance choosing to stand and lean against the work surface. He just looked at Ethen and shook his head, remaining silent.
"Cody, please don't hate me, I'm not here to break you and Jake up." Ethen said with a pleading face.
"Then why are you here?" came the response.
"To put right an injustice… and before you berate me for that and ask me why I put so much effort in, it was because I loved this guy more than life itself." Ethen pointed at me. "Whatever happens going forward I can't change the past, and it's that past that has made me do this. But again I need you to know, I am not here to wreck anything."
I watched the interaction between Cody and Ethen play out. Many times I wanted to interrupt, but a look mum had given me as soon as they'd started conversing told me to stay quiet and hopefully by them talking the knots may become a little less tangled.
"Don't you think you have put Jake through more grief by staging this resurrection that you would have of done by staying away? Not to mention the trouble you may have got Alan into." Dad stayed quiet as well.
"I thought about a lot of things Cody, and I didn't stage anything, I was forced into the situation and had to play along with it."
"So what now?" Cody asked, his demeanour softening somewhat.
"It's better that I go… go find somewhere to stay."
Cody just nodded and for some reason I wanted to scream at him for his heartlessness, until I started to think about how he must have been feeling.
"Alan, Jenny, thanks you for being so understanding. Alan I know now why you did what you did, and Jake, go easy on your dad ok?"
"So that's it, you're just gonna go?" I asked, a sulky tone unavoidable.
"Yes Jake, I'm going to go. I don't know how I am leaving you feeling right now but I hope in some way knowing that I'm alive is better than thinking I am dead."
Ethen walked into the hall way and picked up his large duffle bag, slinging the strap over his shoulder. I just sat there amazed that he was about to walk out, no one stopping him. I just could not get my head around the fact he was here and soon to be gone again.
"Ethen, wait!" I called diving up from my chair. My action caused Cody to walk out of the kitchen and storm past us, upstairs. This time though I didn't care, I would deal with that later. Right now I wanted to be with Ethen for just a little longer. "Can I walk with you?"
"Jake, I don't even know where I'm going yet," he replied, cupping my head in his hand.
"Jake honey, maybe you shouldn't-"
"No mum, I may live under this roof but I can make my own decisions, I'm not just gonna let him walk out of here into thin air."
Ethen said goodbye to mum and dad again before heading outside.
"You live in a nice town," Ethen said as I walked silently beside him, my mind ready to explode.
"Is that all you can say, I live in a nice town… Ethen, what the fuck!"
"Jake, what do you want me to say, your parents made it clear I should not stay with you and I happen to think that's the right choice. I've already caused enough trouble without putting your dad at risk and sending Cody into meltdown."
"Lets go back to America!" I blurted out, probably sounding mad. Ethen stopped and looked at me as if I was.
"Jake, your family are here, your boyfriend is here and… and no, no way you need to be realistic."
"Sorry Ethen but the lines of what is real and not have long since become blurred ever since you contacted me."
"I understand but you can't throw away your whole life for me."
"I wouldn't be throwing it away Ethen, I would be building one."
"And Cody? Your parents? Don't they have a say, or more to the fact do you even care?"
"Of course I care, but for fuck sake Ethen I can't lose you again, I just cant. I thought I was going to be with you for the rest of my life and now I have that chance again, can't you see?"
"Yeah I can, but there are other people to think about here Jake, can you at least see that?"
"God I wish I was dead!"
"Jake, babe, don't say things like that!"
"Well its true, everything is so fucked up as usual. Why is everything always so fucking complicated in my life. Why can't Cody just be the friend I went to school with so I wouldn't feel bad telling him I wanted to be with you. Why did my dad have to take a job where there are so many fucking secrets and why does my mum watch me constantly like a hawk. Fuck I feel suffocated. All I wanna do is make my own choices and for everyone else to leave me alone!"
"Those people you reel off care about you and love you. Where would you be without them before you verbally cast them aside?"
"With you perhaps?" I replied quickly, a tinge of sarcasm in my voice. Ethen didn't seem to be impressed with my behaviour and I guess I could see why. I knew I had gone into spoilt brat mode and I'm sure it was not a good look on me. "I'm sorry, I know what you say is right. I'm not thinking straight am I."
Ethen sighed. "Jake look. I will be in the UK for three months and then I am going back to America. That is not going to change. More than anything in the world I want you to be happy and for us to be back where we were a year ago but I can't have it on my conscience that I tore a relationship AND a family apart, that's not who I am. As much as I want to be with you I would rather sacrifice my happiness knowing that I didn't hurt anyone else. Now if that sounds harsh then so be it. I love you Jake with all my heart, ok, but don't make me the proxy that causes grief."
"You said you had to see me, you begged me down the phone not to hang up, you got a flight over here to SEE ME Ethen, and now you are going cold on me."
"I'm not going cold on you Jake. Firstly I didn't realise your dad was going to turn up at the hotel we met in. I didn't know Cody was going to find out I was here, nor your mother. It was never meant to get this complicated is all."
"So answer me this. Had everything gone the way you hoped what was going to happen. Was you just going to be my dirty little secret for 3 months until your visa ran out? Was you going to have some wild affair with me, reminisce about the old times and then just leave me three months later knowing I couldn't come with you because no one fucking knew you were here, OR ALIVE?"
"Jake will you keep your voice down, people are looking at us… and ok you got me, I didn't know what I was going to do. Perhaps you could say I was feeling like you are now, irrational… like pushing everything out of the way just to be with you. Yes, I did that, much like you have in your head to dump your boyfriend and family for me. Well that's how I felt when I first contacted you. And why? Because I fucking love you and I always have." Ethen spat, choking back the beginnings of raw emotion.
"And now?" I asked, barely whispering.
"Now Jake… now the euphoria has been replaced by the cold reality of the situation and it's a whole different picture. People's lives could be really affected here," came a calmer response.
Ethen eventually found a cheap hostel to stay in with me never leaving his side. I didn't really know how long we had been walking but we were about four miles from home, something that told me it had been a while.
After getting signed up and a room key issued I followed him to the door. Inside was a plain room which contained an old fashioned tube TV, a small side board complete with a two ring cooker and a rather shabby looking bed. The walls were coated in magnolia paint and looked like they were due for a new splash. Thin blue curtains hung from a drafty window, and one solitary bulb hung from the ceiling minus the shade.
"A little old fashioned, but looks clean," I remarked, running my finger along the top of a wall rail."
"What would you say? Not quite the Ritz?"
I laughed for the first time today. "Yeah, you got it."
"I can't see a bathroom in here, must be shared, no?"
I shrugged. "I'm guessing if you don't have one in here it must be. Ethen, don't you think you could afford a little bit better than this?"
"I need to go as easy as I can with money Jake, I don't know how long I will not be earning any. I know for sure it will be at least 3 months as I can't work here."
"I guess you're right, I just don't like to think of you in… well, somewhere like this."
"Hey, you said yourself its clean, right?"
I pulled my lips down. "Hmm, yeah I suppose that's one box it ticks… maybe the only one."
Ethen giggled. "Hey, back in Beale, I slept in a shed for a week up at the base because the dorms were full, so I kinda know what basic is."
"Really? Why didn't you just drive home?"
"I wasn't driving then and my dad was away off site."
I went and sat down on the bed to test its bounce and just as I suspected there was very little give in it. I suddenly felt sorry for Ethen again, maybe wondering if he was asking himself what the hell he had done. His deep cut sad looking eyes told me he might well have been.
"Do you think you should call your parents, let them know you're ok?" he asked as I sat staring at him.
"Ethen, as mad as a day it has been right now all I can think about is how much I want to make love with you again."
All I heard was his bag drop to the floor before he dived onto me burying his warm sweet tongue into my mouth.
I didn't resist!
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