Friday, April 15, 2016

The Whole Truth

The Whole Truth
The phone rang a little before midnight. Dad and Mason were both asleep, so I went to answer it. I stumbled around in the dark until I eventually found it on the kitchen countertops. I pulled it from the charger and hit the green “talk” button. I pulled the phone up to my ear and said, “Hello?”
“Who is this?” a woman on the other end asked.
“Marcus Chambers. Who is this?” I asked in return.
“Is your father home?” the woman asked without answering my question.
“He’s asleep,” I replied. “What’s going on?”
There was long drawn out pause before the woman said, “There’s been an accident.”
* * * * * * * *
I didn’t cry at Mom’s funeral, but Mason did. He sat next to me with his head on my shoulder the whole time, crying. He wasn’t loud, and he didn’t make a scene. I sat there with my arm around him the whole time, and he put his tiny left hand onto my stomach and kept it there. Occasionally he would use it to push himself up to rub his eyes, but then he would lean back against me again.
Dad didn’t go to Mom’s funeral. He had only said a few words to me since the accident, and he had been going to work everyday since then. I never stopped to ask him why he didn’t ever stay home, and I never asked him why he wasn’t dressed for the funeral. Everything had happened so fast that I didn’t have time to ask him anything. As soon as Uncle Logan showed up, I was too busy helping him set up the arrangements for the funeral. He told me that I didn’t have to do anything, but I insisted that I helped.
Several people came up and talked about Mom. I knew a few of them, but there were some people who I’d never seen before. As they returned to their seats after speaking, each and every one of them came over and hugged Mason and me. I hugged them back, of course, but I didn’t put much into it. I had hugged so many people in the past week that I was tired of it. I didn’t even know that many hugs could be given.
After the funeral everyone walked to the cemetery. It was only a few hundred feet away from the church, so it was a quick walk. Many people would would say it was a quick and an easy walk, but it wasn’t. We were walking to the cemetery to bury my mother. It was the farthest thing from easy.
Mason sat on my lap as Mom’s casket was lowered into the ground. Several men stood nearby, waiting to fill the hole with pounds and pounds of dirt. I watched them out of the corner of my eye, praying that they would leave. They were the men that would seal my mother away from me forever. They were the men that would truly confirm that Mom was dead. I hated those men because of that.
After the priest read a few things aloud from a book with a cross on it, everyone turned around and went back into the church. I watched as many of them stepped around each other to get to the food in the basement. I scowled at them all, but I didn’t move with them. I waited with Mason and Grandma until everyone else was inside, and then we went in. I let Grandma take the lead so that I could stay with Mason. He was only seven, so he wasn’t quick enough to be in front of anyone who was faster than him.
Mason made sure to plant both feet on each step firmly before he moved down to the next one. I slowly moved behind, careful not to accidentally hit him as I came down behind him. Eventually we reached the basement, and Mason walked off to find Grandma. I watched him go, and then I made my way to the men’s bathroom. Inside, I pulled off my suit jacket and hung it on the side of a stall. I leaned against the same side, and I lowered myself to the floor. I hit it with a quiet thud.
The tears came quickly, pouring down my face at a rapid speed. They were hot and thick. Most of them reached my chin, and then they slipped off. I felt each one hit my lap, but I never moved to stop them from hitting my nice pants. I let each drop of despair bleed out of my eyes until they were sore and red.
“I’m sorry. Do you need anything?” a boy asked.
I looked up and saw a boy about the same age as me, sixteen, looking down at me. He was wearing a suit that was similar to mine. His skin was light like mine, but his hair was brown and smoothed down while mine was thrown everywhere and much darker. My hair could never stay down, but his almost looked natural like that. His eyes were a very bright blue. They would stand out in every situation. Mine were a dark shade of green that would be practically invisible in dim lighting.
“Do you need anything?” the boy repeated.
“Who are you?” I asked, ignoring his question.
“My name’s Noel,” he replied.
“I’m Marcus,” I said in return.
“So, do you need anything?” Noel asked once again.
I still didn’t answer. I was so distracted by Noel. He was very attractive, and I had
become infatuated with him all of a sudden. He was well built, and his face reminded me of summer, somehow. It was almost like it warmed me when he smiled. I hardly noticed that he was still talking.
“Hello?” he said while waving a hand in front of my face. “Earth to Marcus?”
Suddenly, I snapped out of my daze. Noel was looking at me with a weird look on his
face. It was almost as if he was inspecting some new test subject. I gave him the same look, and a smile broke out across his face. He started to laugh a little, too.
“What?” I asked Noel.
“Nothing,” he said. “I was just thinking.”
“About what?”
“Nothing,” Noel answered.
“Did you forget how to think?”
“I think so,” Noel said.
I scrunched up my nose at Noel. I didn’t know how I felt about him. He seemed to be
nice, and he was definitely good looking, but was he smart? Was he a good influence? Where was he from? How did he know Mom?
“How did you know my Mom?” I asked Noel.
“What do you mean?” Noel replied.
“Well, you’re at her funeral, so you must have known her,” I pointed out.
“I didn’t know her personally,” Noel said. “My mom worked with her, I think.”
“So you can think,” I said with a grin.
“Yeah, I guess I can,” Noel said as he started to laugh again. “I must have remembered.”
I pulled myself to my feet and stood up straight. I walked over to Noel and stuck out my
hand. He took it and gave it a firm shake. I did the same. We both pulled away, and then he nodded at me.
“Thanks for coming,” I said. “It means a lot, even if you didn’t know her very well.”
“You’re welcome,” Noel responded. He stepped around me, and then he made his way to
a stall. He opened the door to it, but he stopped and looked back at me. “Do you go to school in town?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied.
Noel smiled, and then he said, “See you there.”
He shut the stall door behind himself, and I snatched up my jacket before I hurried to the
exit. I stepped out into the hallway, and I closed the door behind me. I put my jacket back on, and then I hurried back to the dining area. I found Mason, and I quickly sat down beside him. He hugged me a little, and then he returned to his food. I waited with him until he was finished, and then I took him to the front door so that we could thank people for coming as they left. Noel never came through.
* * * * * * * *
School started a month later. I took Mason to his classroom in the elementary school. I helped him find his desk, and then I left him to go to the high school building a few blocks away. Earlier that morning he had asked me a question. I wasn’t really prepared for it, but I answered it the best that I could.
“What do I tell people if they ask about Mommy?” Mason had asked me.
“What?” I gasped.
“What do I say if someone asks me about Mommy?” Mason repeated.
“Well,” I began, “just tell them the truth.”
“The whole truth?”
“The whole truth.”
Mason gave me a half smile, and then we carried on with our day. It continued without
any more awkward questions. I got to school safely, and then I pulled out my schedule. I read through it, and then I worked my through the building until I reached my homeroom. Along the way I received dozens of different looks from people. I saw pity, fake friendliness, even anger for some reason.
I reached my homeroom before the first bell rang. I found a seat on the far left side of the room and sat in it. I let my bag collapse on the ground next to me, and then I waited for the teacher to show up. A few seconds after the first bell rang, she did. I didn’t recognise her, so I assumed that she was new.
“Good morning,” she said with a smile.
“Morning,” a few people replied.
The new teacher took roll, and then everyone waited around for the bell to ring so that we could go to our first period of the day. When it did ring, I grabbed my bag and headed off to my first class. I made my way through the halls until I reached the math classroom. I stepped into the room, and I shut the door behind me. I picked out a seat near the whiteboard, and once again I waited for the teacher.
“Hi,” someone said from behind me.
I turned around, and my eyes met Noel’s. He was grinning from ear to ear, and he was staring at me intently. His hair wasn’t as calm as when I first met him. It was thrown everywhere, even worse than mine ever was. It was longer too. Some of it was hanging down in front of his eyes, and even more of it was covering a lot of his ears.
“Hey,” I said as casually as possible.
Noel laughed a little, and then he said, “How have you been?”
“Fine,” I replied. “Things got better after the funeral. How about you?”
“I’ve been okay. Mostly unpacking and stuff like that from the move,” Noel said.
“Where did you come from?” I asked.
“Seattle. I loved it there. There were hundreds of places to hike and explore, and everyone was usually pretty friendly,” Noel said gleefully.
“Seattle sounds cool,” I said as my mouth formed a smile.
“It is.”
Eventually class started, so Noel and I had to cut off our conversation. We glanced at each other occasionally, but we never talked. At the end of class we both packed up our things and then headed out into the hall together. We stopped outside the classroom, and we were about to resume our conversation when someone came up to Noel. It was Kelly Darlene, the junior class president.
“Hey, you’re Noel right?” Kelly asked. “Anyways, this Friday I’m having a party. You can come if you want.”
“Um, yeah,” Noel said. “Marcus and I will be there.”
Kelly wrinkled her nose when she heard my name. She took a step back, and then she looked me up and down. She narrowed her eyes, and then she looked back at Noel. She started to smirk and said, “Yeah, we’d love to have Marcus too.” She giggled a little and then ran off.
“There’s no way I’m going to that party,” I said when she was finally gone.
“What? Why not?” Noel asked me as we started to walk again.
“Did you see the way that she looked at me? These people don’t like me.”
“Whatever!” Noel exclaimed. “I saw a ton of people smiling at you.”
“Those people feel bad for me,” I explained. “If my mom was still alive, I guarantee they wouldn’t treat me any different. In a few days they’ll be back to normal.”
“Fine, don’t go, but I will,” Noel said.
“Alright,” I said.
Noel rolled his eyes, and then he stalked off to his next class without saying goodbye. I watched him go, and then I turned to go to my next class. I crossed the entire building to reach English, and once again I got there on time. I hadn’t seen anyone who had ever been nice to me in the class, so I sat as close to the front where the teacher would be as I could. Fortunately, I got a front row seat.
* * * * * * * *
Halloween arrived before I had expected it to. Dad still worked absurd hours, so I was in charge of getting Mason ready and then taking him trick-or-treating. Noel said that he would come with us instead of going to a party that he had been invited to. Not that Mason wasn’t fun, but I wasn’t looking forward to spending the whole night with my little brother. Especially a little brother who was several years younger than me.
“Are you ready?” I asked Mason when he came into the kitchen in his Superman costume.
“Yeah!” Mason cried out as he imitated Superman.
“Then let’s go,” I said happily.
Mason took the lead, and I followed him to the front door. He pulled it open and stepped into the cold autumn air. Noel was waiting at the end of the driveway by himself. Mason ran up to him while I jogged a little ways behind. When I reached Noel, Mason started to walk a little ways ahead of us.
“You’re brother’s awesome,” Noel told me.
“Yeah, he’s not so bad,” I agreed.
Noel laughed, and soon I joined in too. We made our way around the block with Mason in front. After he had collected candy from all of the neighbors, he took us up to the country club where everyone apparently gave out the big candy bars. He happily collected from them too, and then he was leading us off to even more places. After a half hour he was asking me to carry his bag for him. I reluctantly obliged.
“Macy told me there was a party at her step brother’s house,” Noel said. “Do you wanna go?”
“The first few days of school are over,” I said. “No one remembers what happened anymore. I’m sure if I go it’ll end with me bruised and covered in mud.”
“So that’s a yes?” Noel asked.
I glared at him, but finally I caved and just said, “Sure, I guess.”
“Finally!” Noel exclaimed. “After months I’m finally getting you to do something!”
“Yeah, yeah. You’re so cool. You got me to do things,” I said. “I’ve gotta get Mason home first and call my dad.”
Mason walked around for a little longer before he came to me, rubbing his eyes. He just looked at me, and I knew what he wanted. I pointed towards home, and he nodded quickly. I took his left hand, and we started to head back home. It wasn’t a very long walk, so we were home Mason got too tired to even walk.
Inside, Mason changed into his pajamas and crawled into his bed. I told him where I was going, and I wrote my cell phone number on a piece of paper in case he needed me. I called Dad, but he didn’t answer. I said goodbye to Mason, and then I finally left the house again. I locked the front and back doors, and then Noel and I started to walk to Macy’s step brother’s house. I didn’t know who he was, but I knew that he went to our school.
When Noel and I reached the house, we were surprised to discover that it was quiet. All of the lights were off, and there were no signs of life. We cracked open the front door, and Noel stepped inside. I followed him in, and then we stumbled around to look for a light switch. It took us a long time to find one.
“We should’ve knocked first,” I said when we found the light.
Noel mumbled something as he flicked on the light. I shielded my eyes from the sudden barrage of light. Suddenly, there were loud shouts and something wet was dumped on me. I stumbled around until my foot connected with something made of glass, and then I fell back onto my butt. I tried to get up, but someone was pushing me back down with their hands.
“Let me up!” I yelled.
I opened my eyes, and I saw dozens of people standing in an arch around me. They were all laughing and throwing handfuls of food and other things at me. I pushed the guy holding me down away, and I pulled myself onto my feet. Something hard hit me in the face, and it broke into several different pieces. I backed up, and something started to jab me in the back.
When the amount of things being thrown at me lessened, I opened my eyes and looked around the room. Most of the people from my class were laughing and holding pictures of me with a rainbow behind me. I knew immediately what they meant by that. For the third consecutive year in a row, the rumor continued on that I was gay. Of course, I was, but they didn’t need to know the truth.
I fought to hold back tears as their laughter grew louder and louder. My gaze fell on Noel, and I almost cried out. He had a look on his face. It was the look that everyone gave me after Mom died. It was the look that said, “I’m so sorry, but there’s nothing I can do.” I hated that look with everything that I had in me.
I started to breathe heavily, and then I made a move for the door. Someone grabbed me by my arm, but I threw a fist behind me. I hit something, and the impact was followed by a sickening crunch and a groan. I yanked the door open and stormed out into the night. My pace quickened, and soon I was sprinting away from the house. I had no idea where I was going, but I didn’t stop running until I couldn’t see any lights.
Tears started to stream down my face, and I threw another punch. This time, I hit a tree next to me. I screamed at the top of my lungs, and I threw myself at the ground. I rolled onto my back and looked up. All around me were trees and bushes. It took me a minutes to realize that I was in the forest.
I looked over to the right. Noel was standing a few yards away. Most of his face was blocked by a low-hanging tree branch. He still had the same look on his face from before, and he still didn’t look like he was going to do anything. Why wasn’t he doing anything?
“Leave me alone,” I said.
“No,” he said bluntly.
I cursed at Noel, and he flinched. I was never hostile toward him, or anyone for that matter. I was generally a nice person, but I was so angry with him and everyone else that I forgot how to be nice. I contemplated swearing some more, but I chose not to. It’s not like it would do me any good.
“I’m so sorry about what happened,” Noel said as he stepped into the light.
“No you’re not,” I replied. “You’re not sorry.”
“How would you know?” Noel asked, his face twisting with agitation.
“If you were sorry, you wouldn’t have let it go on for so long.”
Noel was silent. He stepped back a bit, and he lowered his head. He shuffled his feet a little, and eventually he sat down. He still kept his head down, and he started to bite his bottom lip. It was then that I noticed the blood on his face. Noel was who I had punched. I turned my head back to the sky, and I continued talking.
“You know what the worst part is?” I asked. I didn’t wait for an answer before I continued. “You knew how I felt about them. You knew that what they were doing was wrong, yet you did nothing. That’s the worst part of it.”
I stood up and started to walk in the direction that I had come from. When I passed Noel, his hand shot up and grabbed my wrist. I looked down at him. I glared at him, but he didn’t pull away. He looked directly into my eyes and said, “I didn’t know that you were-”
“Gay?” I interrupted. “Noel, don’t be an idiot. That has nothing to do with this.” I yanked my hand away and said, “Stay away from me.”
“You don’t mean that,” Noel said as I started to walk away. “You don’t want that. That’s not the truth.”
“Yes it is,” I whispered to myself. “That’s the whole truth.”
* * * * * * * *
I never spoke to Noel again before winter break. I caught him staring at me in the hallways at school, but he never came up to talk to me. I always looked away first. I had the feeling that he was going to come to me, so I was always walked away at my first chance. I didn’t want to be near him ever again after Halloween night.
I welcomed Christmas with open arms. It would finally be a chance for Mason and I to spend time with Dad, and I would get two whole weeks away from the doorknobs at school. I bought a few gifts for Mason and Dad, and Mason told me where Dad had hidden our stuff. He begged me to come look at them with him, but I never went. I told him that it would ruin the surprise.
On Christmas Eve, Mason and I waited in front of the television for Dad to get home. Sometime around nine-thirty, he finally did come through the front door. Mason leaped onto his feet, and he ran to the door to greet Dad. I pulled myself onto my feet, and I walked over there too. By the time I reached the two, Mason was pulling away from a hug with Dad.
“Hi,” Dad said.
“Hi,” I answered.
Dad smiled and nodded his head, and then he scooped up Mason. He swung him around and made airplane noises, and then he set him down again on the couch. Mason clapped and cheered, and then Dad turned to me. He pointed at his room, and he started to walk toward it. I followed him into it, and I shut the door behind us. Dad turned to me and started to talk immediately.
“I need to explain everything that’s been going on,” he said.
“You don’t need to,” I said. “I get why you’ve been gone. You’re still upset. We all are, and you’re working it out. Literally.”
“That’s not all,” Dad said softly. He ran his hands through his graying hair, and then he started to explain. “There’s a woman I’ve met.”
“Don’t,” I said. “I don’t need to know. Just don’t tell Mason. Unless it’s actually serious, like ‘you’ve been dating for several months’ serious, don’t tell him. He doesn’t need that on his plate.”
“Okay, I just thought you’d want to know.”
“Well, thank you for telling me.”
With that, I left the bedroom and returned to the living room. I sat down next to Mason again, and we waited for Dad to change into some casual clothing. He came in wearing jeans and a red button down shirt. His hair hung in a curtain over his eyes, and he kept trying to brush it away. Much to his dismay, it never stayed put.
“Um, so, uh, I don’t really have anything planned for dinner,” Dad spluttered.
Mason rocked his head back and forth as if he was thinking, and then he said, “Can we get Chinese? A boy in my class said that his family eats Chinese on Christmas every year.”
Dad looked at me and raised his eyebrows.
“Sure,” I replied.
Mason cheered and ran off to get his coat. I stood up and followed after him. He grabbed his from the closet by the stairs, and then he pulled mine off its hanger. He handed it to me, and then he pulled his on. He ran back to Dad, and I jogged to keep up with him. When I reached him, he grabbed my arm and started to pull me toward the car. Dad followed us.
Mason forced me to sit in the back seat with him while Dad drove us downtown. We drove around pointing out different Chinese restaurants until we chose one that we all liked. Dad dropped us off at the front door while he parked the car. He met us inside the building where he asked the hostess to seat us. She obliged and sat us near the front window so that Mason could look out at the snow.
We ate in silence through most of the meal, but Mason did talk occasionally about something that happened at school or about his friends. By the time Dad was paying for the meal, Mason had explained to us how his friend Alex had splattered paint on the teacher. It was a pretty lengthy story, but I found some amusement in it. After Dad had payed for dinner, he went to go get the car while I waited inside with Mason. He was giggling and jumping all around while we waited.
When Dad finally pulled up to the curb, Mason took off at a dead sprint for the car. I was about to follow him when something caught my eye. I turned to my left and saw Noel standing a few feet away. He was staring right at me, and his hands were playing with a folded sheet of paper. He stepped toward me and held out the piece of paper.
“It’s an apology,” he said before turning to leave.
I didn’t say anything to him, nor did I open the paper right away. I waited for him to disappear, and then I started to walk to the car. Once again I sat with Mason in the back seat. He started to drone on and on about more people from school, but I didn’t really listen to him. I sat there staring at the folded piece of paper, debating whether I should open it or just throw it away. Finally, I opened it up. The paper only said three words.
I am too.
* * * * * * *
Even after I received the paper from him, I didn’t talk to Noel once school had started. He still watched me whenever I was around him, but he never came to talk to me. That was fine with me because I wasn’t too inclined to talk to him either. I glanced over at him every once in awhile, but I never looked at him for too long. Something about him was starting to make me mad.
School progressed as usual. The classes were the same, but the rumors seemed to grow worse. The teachers were oblivious to it all. No matter how many times I mentioned it to the principal, she never took action. I had no clue what to do, so I just kept dragging myself to school and then dragging myself back home.
A few weeks before Easter the rumors miraculously stopped. No one followed me around school just to call me names, and no one bluntly pointed out that everyone thought I was gay. It just stopped, and I had no clue why. For a few days I tiptoed around school, just in case it was all a prank that would be revealed if I hung around anyone for too long. By the end of the first week, I realized that it wasn’t a prank. Something had changed, and I wanted to figure out why it had.
My first stop was the principal’s office. I interrogated the principal for several minutes, but she claimed that she had no idea that there ever was a problem. I almost flipped her desk when she said that. I had been into her office several times in the past year, and she apparently had no idea that there was a problem. When she said that, I stormed out of her office faster than a cheetah could run.
Next I asked a few people who didn’t completely hate me. After a few shrugs and mumbles I determined that they had no clue. I moved on and asked a few teachers, but once again I received disappointing results. I traveled around the school for a little longer, but I never found an answer. Finally, I turned to the last person that I thought would have done something for me.
“Noel,” I said when I finally found him.
Noel stopped and turned to face me. His hair was disheveled as usual, and I was still quite a bit shorter than him. His face lit up a little when he saw me, but he didn’t say anything. He just stared at me and waited for me to say something. Finally I did.
“You stopped them, didn’t you?” I asked.
“How did you know?” Noel asked in return.
“No one in this school cares enough to say anything except for you,” I said. “I also asked everyone who could have potentially done it.”
Noel nodded his head, and then he said, “You’re welcome.”
“I didn’t thank you.”
“You’ll never have to.”
I remained silent. Noel shuffled his feet a little, but he didn’t come to me. I knew that neither of us were going anywhere, but we weren’t ready to start a long conversation either. Eventually I opened my mouth to speak. Right as the first words started to form, Noel started to talk.
“Did you read the note?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied.
“Did you understand it?”
“Of course I did,” I said while I struggled to not roll my eyes.
Once again we fell into a deep silence. I pushed my tongue into my cheek, and Noel rocked back and forth on his heels. I was almost ready to turn and leave, but Noel started to walk toward me suddenly. I stopped myself from turning, and he came up to meet me. He looked directly at me and said, “We need to talk about what happened.”
“No, we don’t,” I said.
“Yes, we do!” Noel exclaimed. “You can’t ignore this! I know that I screwed up, but you’re screwing up too! You’re throwing away the only friend that you have!”
I knew that Noel didn’t mean that by the look on his face. He clapped his hand over his mouth, and his eyes went wide. I heard him suck in a deep breath, and his face went as red as humanly possible. He pulled his hand away so that he could talk, but no words came out. He just stared at me, open-mouthed.
“You’re right,” I said. “I don’t have any other friends, but that makes me want to know, why did you want to be my friend?”
Noel swallowed deeply, but he finally said, “You’re the only real person here.”
I looked down at the ground and fought back a smile. I heard Noel stifle a laugh, and then he took a few steps away from me. I finally looked up and saw him smiling at me. He laughed a little, and then I joined in. It took several minutes for us to calm down, but eventually we did.
“Are we okay?” Noel asked.
“Yeah,” I said through a smile. “We’re fine.”
* * * * * * * *
The end of the year came faster than I had expected. I spent every day with Noel, hanging out after school, doing homework together, talking at lunch. Dad had been home more often, so I didn’t have to be with Mason every second of every day. Everyone had finally been able to move on from Mom’s death, and Dad had improved the most out of us all. He told me that he had been thinking about telling Mason about the new woman.
After school had ended on the last day, I went straight to Noel’s house. He was waiting for me on his front porch. I noticed several boxes lying around, but I didn’t ask Noel about them. He started leading me away from the house as soon as I reached him. He was moving at a quick speed, so I had to jog to keep up with him.
Noel started to slow down when we approached the forest. It was the same group of trees that we had been in on Halloween night. I shuddered a little when I thought of what went on that night. Noel kept walking until he reached the clearing in the trees that we had been in. I desperately wanted to leave, but I just stayed by Noel’s side.
“Marcus,” Noel said quietly.
“What?” I asked as delicately as I could.
Noel looked at me, and I could see a glistening in his eyes. “We’re moving this weekend,” he said.
“Where?” I asked, praying that it was in town.
“London,” he said, his voice cracking on the last word.
“No!” I cried out. “You can’t! It’s too far! Why would you guys even go there?”
“My dad’s work,” Noel said.
“I don’t believe this,” I said, running my hands through my hair like Dad did.
“You need to,” Noel said. “It’s Friday, Marcus. We leave tomorrow.”
I dropped to the ground without making a noise. I held my head back and stared up at the sky, hoping that I would find solace in it. Unfortunately, there was nothing. All I saw were a few clouds in front of a canvas of blue. Then there was Noel. He popped his face in my line of eyesight, and he stared at me intently.
“There’s not much time,” he said. “I still have to finish packing, and we have to see Dad off at the airport tonight. He’s leaving early to see the house.”
“Well then help me up,” I sighed.
Noel reached down and dragged me onto my feet. He dusted off my back, and then he grabbed me by my shoulders. “I need to be heading back,” he said. “You can come with and wait around for a bit.”
“No,” I replied. “I’ll just head home.”
Noel stared at me, and I could see tears on the very edge of his eyes. My vision started to blur, and then I felt wet drops streaming down my face. I was about to turn away when Noel grabbed me and pulled me to him. I let my eyes flutter shut right before he kissed. He pulled me even closer to him, and I tried to pull him to me as well. I ran out of air long before Noel stopped kissing me, but when he did stop, I wished that it wasn’t over.
Noel stared down at me. The sunlight bathed his face, lighting up each and every part of it. He let go of me and stepped away. I could still feel him on me. I prayed that he would come back, but he never did.
Noel smiled at me. I smiled back, and then he turned to leave. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know what to say. I don’t think that he knew either. He slowly walked into the trees, and I watched him go. Just as he started to disappear, he turned back to face me. Tears stained his face, but he kept smiling.
Noel lifted up his right hand, and he closed it into a loose fist, one finger at a time, starting with the pinkie. I lifted up my right hand, and I did the same. Noel laughed, and then he turned around for the final time. He stepped into the trees and disappeared from my sight. I wanted to scream at him to come back, but my mouth just couldn’t seem to work.
In the following years I spent a lot of time thinking about Noel, about what he did for me and to me. He saved me from my tormentors, and he saved me from my grief. He taught me that I had a voice that worked, and I didn’t have to sit and be silent while everyone around me said what they wanted to and got away with it. Noel influenced how I helped Dad raise Mason. He showed me that there were other paths to choose besides the beaten ones.
Sometime during my years at college I looked Noel up online. I never found anything, and for the longest time I was discouraged by that. After many weeks, I realized that I was happy that I hadn’t found him. Noel was an angel to me, and that’s why he left. He had come and saved me, and then he moved on to help someone else, someone new.
I never spoke of Noel to anyone after he left. He always stayed in my heart and memory as someone who carried me in my darkest time. Occasionally I told people stories of how someone came to me when I needed him most, but they always saw it as a fictional tale. I laughed and nodded my head, but I didn’t tell them the whole truth. I didn’t tell them about how Noel was a real person. They didn’t need to know. I had my savior come to me, and if they ever needed one, someone would come to save them.

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