Ryan doesn't know whether he's coming or going right now, a feeling which is only intensified when he revisits an old fear. Can Ben calm him down? See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!
In Pieces #8 (3.3)
The feel of Ben’s lips on his triggered so many memories, memories he’d held onto, wrapped around himself as comfort in the wake of Ben’s unexplained disappearance. Remembering him was all he had left. He’d missed Ben terribly, and he hadn’t even had the consolation of knowing where’d he gone or why. If he was all right or if he was happy…
Every time he asked his father for information, his dad would tell him he didn’t know where they were, or if they’d ever be back. At eighteen, Ryan was hardly a child. He saw something in his father’s eyes, something that told Ryan he knew more than he was letting on. After a while he gave up asking for answers as being an exercise in futility. Ryan tried calling and texting Ben, but soon discovered that number was no longer in service, and his emails remained equally unanswered. All he could do was be patient and hope that Ben would get in contact with him.
But he never did.
Despite their rocky beginning, as time passed, Ryan began to resent Ben less and less as they were thrown into each other’s company more and more. When Liza—he never thought of her as Mother, and she never encouraged him to call her that—bought a model airplane kit for Ben, it was Ryan who helped him put it together. It was a Spitfire, he remembered, complete with a canopy that opened and closed and authentic looking decals. When they were finished with it, they showed it to their parents. Dad praised both boys for a job well done. Liza hugged Ben and told him how proud of him she was. She never acknowledged that Ryan had even had a hand in it. Looking back, he realized that was indicative of their entire relationship, although he was too young to understand it at the time.
Ryan opened his eyes and focused on Ben, ignoring the wide blue expanse around them. Safer to concentrate on Ben.
“I tried to call you,” Ryan said softly.
Ben flushed, but he never released Ryan’s hands, gripping them as if he’d never let go. “She took my phone,” he said, his tone miserable, his cocky façade momentarily deserting him. He cast his eyes down to their joined hands. “She said I couldn’t keep it, it was part of the life we were leaving behind. She said Dad didn’t want us, and that if he found us, he’d hurt us.”
Ryan couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “That’s crazy. Dad’s not like that. He would never hurt anyone. He loved you. He was very upset when you left. And so was I…” Ryan’s mind was spinning. He had to remind himself to take a breath.
“I missed you too,” Ben said, looking up at last. Ryan caught his breath at the sight. Tears glistened on Ben’s long lashes, casting an additional luminescence to his eyes. “I wanted to email you, but she said we couldn’t bring my laptop either, it wouldn’t be safe. I didn’t have a choice, Ryan, what could I do?”
They had stolen away, like thieves in the night. Ryan still remembered what would end up being their last night together. Ben and he stayed up late, playing World of Warcraft together, then fell asleep in Ryan’s bed, which they often did when Ben was too tired or too lazy to go back to his own room.
“We’re gonna kick that guy’s ass next time,” Ben had said, referring to the game boss they’d been unable to defeat, but not for lack of trying.
“Next time,” Ryan said with a yawn. “But we might need some help. He’s strong.”
“Nah, we can do it,” Ben said with the all the assurance of youth. Ryan couldn’t help but love his confidence, one of the many things he loved about Ben.
Conversation quickly petered out. Finally, they kissed good night and fell asleep, Ben’s head nestled on Ryan’s chest. He never felt him move, slept through his leaving. In the morning, Ryan discovered both Ben and Liza were gone, and Ryan’s world fell apart as it never had before. He’d been too young when his mother died, he had no memories of her. But Ben’s loss was beyond painful.
“Why didn’t you come to Dad’s funeral?” I needed you.
“I couldn’t.” Ben released Ryan’s hands abruptly, clenching his own into fists.
“Couldn’t?” Ryan echoed. “What do you mean—?”
For one brief moment, Ryan saw something in Ben’s eyes, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Anger? Guilt? No, something else. More like a cry for help. Or was he imagining that? The next moment, Ben was laughing, his expression unreadable.
“I knew you would come to me, all I had to do was wait. And now we’re together again.” He threw his arms around Ryan, nestling his head against Ryan’s chest. His next words were so faint, Ryan wasn’t sure he really heard them.
“Please don’t ever leave me.”
to be continued
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