Every trade has a tool. When the tool is removed the worker cannot pursue their trade. The same concept can be employed for talent. A surgeon cannot operate with broken hands. A singer cannot sing with damaged vocal cords. And a runner can’t run with a broken leg. Artists exist on a different plane. They use tools that become their heart and their soul. A painter is nothing without the paint and the brushes. A sculptor needs clay and a writer…a writer needs paper and a pen. A writer’s pen is its heart and soul. If it’s taken away something inside dies. That isn’t to say a person can’t live, but they’ll never be the same.
Jeff decided it was best to wait a few days before giving Bryan his gift. He wanted to wait until Bryan was feeling up to it. He also decided it was best if he didn’t leave Bryan alone at the house with Jenni or Thomas. That decision came the day after Bryan’s dam broke. Jeff had simply gone to run an errand for Jenni while Bryan was sleeping. Bryan awakened before Jeff’s return, and when he made it through the door, his friend clung to him and begged him not to scare him like that again. Jeff spent the next couple of days assuring him that he wasn’t going anywhere. Jeff knew there were going to be good days and bad days, and he was more determined than ever to help Bryan through them. He was hoping that his gift would be a start…some way to help. He needed to give Bryan something he could control…that would be the key.
“Good morning,” Jeff greeted as Bryan came out of the shower.
“Hi,” Bryan said as he walked over to the dresser he was wearing a pair of sweatpants that hung low on his hips, and Jeff found himself staring at his back, frowning at the scars he saw there. Bryan was toweling off his hair, seemingly unaware that he had an audience. Jeff sighed and turned away, knowing it was wrong to look at Bryan. He knew how self-conscious his friend could be.
Bryan put down the towel and looked through the clothes in the drawer. He pulled out two t-shirts and turned to face Jeff. “Blue or white?” he asked holding them up for Jeff to see.
“Go with the blue one,” Jeff smiled. “You know you don’t have to ask me about your clothes, Bryan. You match pretty well.”
“I like asking,” Bryan shrugged and turned around to put on his shirt. Jeff stood and came to stand behind him, placing the gift down in front of him.
“What’s this?” Bryan asked picking up the package.
“Just a little something special I picked up for you. Open it and find out,” Jeff said.
He watched Bryan pull the tape off the package and unfold the paper with such precision, Jeff wondered if Bryan planned on saving it. The Journal and a brand new pen were sitting in the center of the package and Bryan looked at it longingly before turning those green flecked brown eyes on Jeff.
“You bought me a book?”
“It’s a journal,” Jeff explained. “And a pen, that won’t be taken away from you. I want you t be able to write down your thoughts.”
“But I don’t know if I can anymore, Jeff,” Bryan said sighing. He picked up the pen and rolled it in his fingers. Jeff could tell that he liked holding it. He took such care, making sure he held it properly between his fingers. Like any true artist, he studied it, weighed it and tested out the tip. He placed the pen to the side and opened up the notebook, feeling the pages, smelling the newness of it, and Jeff was sure he saw a glimpse of a smile, but it was just that, a glimpse. Bryan frowned just seconds later and put the book to the side. He looked up at Jeff sadly.
“You don’t like it?” Jeff asked tentatively.
“It’s not that,” Bryan said sadly. “I am just sorry you wasted your money on me. I’m not going to be able to use it.”
“Why is that?”
“Because I don’t know how anymore,” Bryan explained, his frown set in place. He was certain he had just said that. “I used to love to write…but now when I think about it, it makes me sad. I don’t have any more ideas and I wouldn’t even know how to start.”
“Well,” Jeff said picking up the journal, “Start by putting the date, and just writing what you are thinking right now. It doesn’t have to be perfect or anything…but I bet you can do it. I have faith in you, Bryan. You can do anything you put your mind to.”
“Do I have to do it now?” Bryan asked taking the journal and the pen from Jeff. “I will if you want me to do it.”
“No, Bryan,” Jeff said shaking his head. “I don’t want you to do this for me. This isn’t about me, it’s about you. I want you to do what you feel you can do, okay? And who knows maybe one day, you and I can work on a joint project or something.”
“Yeah?” Bryan asked intrigued by the prospect of working with Jeff on anything.
“Maybe,” Jeff nodded. “Did I tell you I want to be a director one day?”
“You want to make movies?”
“Yep, just like the old movies I used to watch as a kid. One day you can write the screenplay, and I’ll direct it.”
“You really think I can?” Bryan asked skeptically. “I mean you have never seen me write…I loved to do it but that doesn’t mean it was good. And I can’t do it anymore so I don’t know why you think that.”
“Because I believe in you, Bryan, and I know you can do it. I bet your writing was excellent, and you said yourself that you have a lot of thoughts you weren’t able to write down. Now you have the tools, you just have to remember how to use them. And like I said, no one’s going to take it away from you.”
“I’ll try. Thank you Jeff.” He put his arms around Jeff and hugged him. “Thank you.”
Jenni sighed as she paced around her living room. She was trying to figure out how to approach this. Ever since her talk with Jeff, she had been trying to figure out how best to approach her brother. She needed to talk to him, but she needed to make sure that no one back home was aware of the real reasons behind her request. She certainly didn’t want to get her dad into any trouble, and if the best place for Bryan was here then she didn’t want to jeopardize that either. Bryan was starting to feel comfortable. At least he was more apt to speak to her then he had been when they first arrived. That was a major plus.
She was still contemplating what to say when the phone rang. She answered it quickly and was surprised by the voice she heard on the other end. “Alden,” she said laughing, “What a nice surprise. I was just thinking about you.”
“Hey there, sis,” Alden said as he relaxed in a chair. “I hope it was all good thoughts. I just figured I would call since I haven’t heard from you in a while. How are you doing?”
“I’m okay,” Jenni said running a hand through her hair. She glanced around, and breathed a sigh of relief that Bryan was most likely sleeping. “I have had a lot going on here lately. Things I wasn’t really expecting. Not bad things, mind you, but definitely unexpected.”
Alden frowned. “Are you sure you’re okay? What kind of things have been going on? And why were you thinking about me? Do you miss me or something?”
“Of course I miss you, Alden. I miss everyone in Washington, and I guess I just feel disconnected sometimes, being so far away from the family.”
“I can understand that,” Alden agreed. “I only came home this year after being gone for so long.”
“I feel like I am missing important things that are going on,” Jenni continued, “and that I should be there. The little ones are growing up so fast, and you and Bryan…I just miss you that’s all.”
“Yeah,” Alden said sadly. “I miss you too, Jenni. Maybe I need to come for a visit or something. I’m afraid I have some bad news though. We can’t find Bryan. Or Dad for that matter, they’ve just vanished.”
“Vanished?” Jenni frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Well, Bryan appeared out of nowhere in July, and just a month later he had an episode and ended up in the hospital. He was in a coma for almost two weeks before he woke up again. They kept running all these tests on him, the poor kid; I don’t think he liked that very much. Anyway, according to Marianne, she and Bryan’s father were going to give the doctor permission to perform surgery on him, but before they could, Dad must have signed his release papers. Bryan’s just gone, and Dad too. No one knows where they are. Dad’s SUV is still here and they didn’t leave any traces. Honestly, I’m glad they aren’t here. I didn’t want my little brother to have surgery, but I wish I knew where he was.”
“Wait, they wanted to allow the doctors to perform surgery?” Jenni asked trying to keep her voice down. She was appalled by what she was hearing. Even though her dad had clued her in on some of this, it still managed to shock her. “What kind of surgery are we talking about here, Alden?”
“Some kind of brain surgery,” Alden said running his fingers through his short hair. “I asked Ali about it and all she could tell me is that it was a risky surgery and there was no guarantee that it would help. When Bryan woke up from his coma, he couldn’t remember anything that happened right before he entered the hospital. I don’t know the whole story…I don’t think anyone does, except the guy who was living with Marianne and Dad. But no one can find him either. He just vanished into thin air. That’s Marshall’s fault I’m sure. I really don’t like that guy. But anyway Bryan hasn’t been himself since he came home from rehab and I hate that he’s just gone now you know?”
“Wow,” Jenni sighed, taking a seat as if the wind had just been knocked out of her. “There’s so much going on...and our poor brother is out there somewhere dealing with it all. I just wish there was something I could do?”
“Jenni? Are you sure you’re okay?” Alden asked, his voice full of concern. “I wish there was something you could do about Bryan, but I don’t know what that could be. As it is I am not sure if Dad really took him at all. I mean, I don’t know how much Dad and Marianne knew about the guy they took into their home. But what if he took Bryan?”
“I’m fine, Alden,” Jenni sighed. “There’s just a lot going on right now, plus I’m worried about Dad and our brother.”
“Do I need to come see you?” Alden asked his concern clear in his voice.
“No, that’s not necessary,” Jenni replied quickly. “I mean, of course I’d love to see you, but you don’t have to go out of your way. I’ll handle everything here, and I promise I’ll explain it all to you as soon as I can.”
She hung up the phone quickly and sighed. “Dad,” she called, “I think we have a problem.”
“What’s wrong?” Thomas asked coming out of the kitchen.
“Well, I just got off the phone with Alden, and I’m afraid I may have been too evasive and pushed his “need to save” button.”
“Uh oh,” Thomas frowned. “Do you think he’s going to come out this way?”
“I don’t know, Dad, but it wouldn’t surprise me,” she frowned. “Though with him here we have a way to get Bryan’s prescriptions refilled without raising any red flags.”
Thomas nodded, his daughter had a point. “Did he say anything about what’s going on back home?” He asked curiously. “Have Marianne and Marshall stopped looking?”
“I don’t know. He said they were worried that Bryan might have been kidnapped because Jeff disappeared at the same time.”
“Was that Alden’s theory?” Thomas asked, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand.
“He didn’t really say much other than that he’s really worried about Bryan and you,” Jenni related, “since no one has heard from you. I think we should clue Jeff in on what’s going on, so we can figure out a game plan if Alden does show up.”
“That’s a good idea,” Thomas frowned. “We should talk to Jeff.”
“Talk to Jeff about what?” Jeff asked as he passed through the living room. “Is something wrong?”
“Well,” Jenni said turning to face him, “I’m afraid we might have a problem. My brother just called, and I’m afraid I couldn’t talk him out of coming to see me.”
Jeff sighed. “How bad do you think that will be?”
“It could have its advantages,” Jenni explained. “Alden would be able to talk to Ali about Bryan’s meds, and we could have them filled anywhere, and he could go and get them without it being traced back to us. He’s really worried about Dad, and Bryan, so I don’t think it will be a big problem. I just want us to be prepared.”
“Okay, that shouldn’t be too bad. I don’t know how Bryan feels about his brother, do you think I should let him know.” He frowned and ran a hand through his hair. “Actually, maybe not, I don’t want to excite him, but I don’t want him to think that someone found him and is going to take him back there either. I like Alden though; I know he cares about Bryan, that was pretty evident when Bryan was in the hospital. What do you think we should do sir?”
Thomas’s expression was thoughtful as he looked at his daughter and Jeff. “Maybe you should tell him that Jenni talked to Alden, and that he was very concerned about him. See how he takes that. Then we’ll go from there. I don’t want him upset, but blindsiding him if Alden does show up would be worse.”
“Exactly,” Jeff agreed. “I’ll talk to him about it. I’m glad we’ll be able to get his medicine though, so that’s at least a plus. We need to be very careful about Alden knowing though. Only he and Ali can be aware of things. Otherwise we risk Bryan getting hurt, and I know you guys won’t let that happen. Neither will I. If worse comes to worse I’ll take him where no one can find him, and I don’t want to do that, unless it becomes necessary.”
“We don’t want it to come to that either,” Thomas admitted. “I fully believe that we can trust Alden and Ali. If I didn’t, I would call Alden myself and let him know that I’m okay, just to throw everyone off.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Jeff said with a sigh. “I just hope this doesn’t backfire on us.”
Bryan stared blankly at the page for a long moment before putting the pen to paper. He wrote for a few minutes and stopped. He frowned, and thought about scribbling it out, but decided against it. He didn’t want to ruin Jeff’s gift in any way. He thought for a moment and started to write again, trying to concentrate on what he wanted to say. The pen scratched the paper as he wrote, pausing every few minutes to rest his hand. He looked at all he had written and his face grew sadder. He tried again and a smile replaced the frown as he went on a tangent he liked. But just when he thought he was going somewhere, it just stopped.
He closed the book angrily and shoved it aside, his head falling to the desk as Jeff entered the room.
“Bryan are you okay?” Jeff asked coming to stand beside him. He placed a hand on Bryan’s shoulder, trying to soothe him, though he wasn’t sure if it was working this time.
“I just don’t want to write anymore,” Bryan announced, his words sounding muffled.
“Can you sit up and look at me?”
Bryan complied and turned to face Jeff. He was surprised to see that Jeff wasn’t angry at him. “Thank you very much for the gift, Jeff, but I don’t think it will work out.”
“Don’t give up, Bryan. If you’re having a bad day that’s fine, but don’t give up over one bad day okay? “
“Will you look at it-when I finish?”
“If you want me to. I don’t want to invade your privacy.”
“But I trust you,” Bryan said matter-of-factly. “Thank you for thinking about my privacy though, I appreciate that. I’m not used to having that anymore so it’s okay.”
‘No it’s not okay,” Jeff insisted. “Everyone deserves privacy and I will make sure you get it. I would love to read your writing if you want to share it with me, but right now I need to talk to you about something.”
“Okay,” Bryan said, his elbow on the table, his head resting against his hand. “I’m listening.”
Jeff sighed. “Your sister had an interesting phone call today, and I need to tell you about it.”
“My brother?” Bryan asked, and shook his head as if he knew it was a dumb question. “Alden called? He doesn’t know I’m here does he?”
Jeff took a moment to gauge Bryan’s reaction. Those green flecked eyes were wide, and he was frowning. His shoulders were tense but Jeff was sure that wasn’t about Alden per se. He wasn’t getting the sense that Bryan was afraid of him, just the possibility of being betrayed.
“He doesn’t know where you are, Bryan, but it’s possible he might soon.”
“Why?” Bryan frowned.
“I don’t want you to panic about this okay? I just wanted you to be aware of it. We’re going to get his help, and swear him to secrecy too.”
“Jeff, I don’t want to have surgery.”
“You aren’t going anywhere unless I take you. Understand?”
“But if he’s coming, then he’s going to want to take me. You won’t be able to stop him.”
“Bryan, trust me.”
Jeff cupped his face with his hands and pressed their foreheads together. “Trust me,” he said pressing his lips softly against Bryan’s, just enough to apply pressure. “Trust that I am not going to let anything happen to you. Okay? No one is going to take you away. That’s a promise, Bryan. One I intend to keep.”
Bryan tried again with the writing that afternoon. He took his journal into the kitchen, since Jeff insisted that he should get out of the bedroom some, and he sat at the table writing down his thoughts. It was a painstaking task, since his thoughts seemed to trickle like water from a leaky faucet.
He was still writing when Thomas came and sat down across from him. He acknowledged his dad’s presence and tried to finish his thought before putting the pen down and closing the book.
“Hi, Dad,” he said folding his hands in front of him.
“Hi, Son,” Thomas said taking a sip from his glass. “What are you working on there?”
“Jeff bought me this notebook,” Bryan said with a shrug. “I was just seeing-if I could write but it’s not really working well.”
“I’m sorry,” Thomas frowned, “I know how important writing was to you.”
“They took my writing away from me” Bryan explained frowning. “I just couldn’t do it anymore. It was just gone.”
“How?” Thomas asked curiously. “Was it gradual, or something more extreme?”
Bryan tilted his head as if he were trying to think about the question. He didn’t really know the answer to that. He just knew that one day he tried to write and the words wouldn’t come. He couldn’t even formulate a single sentence.
“I-don’t-know…what you’re asking, Dad. It-just wasn’t there. They said that I couldn’t have my journal anymore but I could keep writing letters. Then even that stopped. It just stopped.”
“You know, I can't remember a time when you didn't have a journal beside your bed,” Thomas smiled fondly. “I wish I could fix this for you and make it all better like I fixed things when you were a kid, but I can't do that. Instead I will tell you time and again that I am here if you want or need to talk.”
“I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, Dad,” Bryan insisted. “I just-I...” He bit his lip and tried to articulate what he wanted to say. It used to be easy to talk to his dad. He used to be able to tell him anything. Now though there was a struggle. He felt like he was trying to climb a wall that didn’t want to be climbed. Just when he got his grip the edges would become smooth again and he slid back down to the ground.
“I just feel like…like I’m empty,” he admitted. “Talking to you like this is even hard because…because I don’t know what to say anymore. I’m sorry I’m making this so hard.”
“It's not your fault Bryan. None of this is your fault,” Thomas reiterated. He drained his glass and set it on the table before continuing with his explanation. “It's not that I feel sorry for you, I just wish I could take all the pain away and give you back what you have lost and I know I can't do that.”
Silence fell for a moment as he let all his dad was saying sink in. He wanted to believe all of that, and he did for the most part. It sounded like what Jeff told him, and it did seem like his dad was actually hearing him this time. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard.
“Do you trust Jeff, Dad?” he asked as something new occurred to him.
“I do,” Thomas replied without hesitation. “He’s been a big help, especially in the last few months. I’m glad he’s here with us.”
Bryan smiled, a genuine smile, and that fact didn’t go unnoticed by his dad. “I trust him too,” he admitted. “I mean he’s been good to me, and I don’t know why he does that. I hope-I hope…well I just want everyone else to like him too. I don’t know what it means, and…” He trailed off and frowned, his hand going up to his temple rubbing at it lightly.
“Bryan are you okay?” Thomas reached out to touch him and Bryan moved back quickly, placing his hand on the table to keep from pushing the chair over.
“I’m-ow...okay-just I don’t know what we were talking about.” He squinted a bit, trying to stay the pain. He waited for the pain to ebb before focusing on his dad again. “I probably shouldn’t enjoy having Jeff around so much should I?”
Thomas frowned, not certain how to address his son’s question. “Bryan,” he started after a moment’s pause, “there’s nothing wrong with enjoying Jeff’s company. Our whole reason for being here is so you can heal, and Jeff is a big part of that. I would be worried if you didn’t like having him around.”
Bryan resisted the urge to rub at his head again. “Did he decide to come here?” he asked curiously. “I don’t remember how we got here, but Jeff was telling me that it was decided after the doctor wanted to operate. And I don’t…” He closed his eyes and concentrated for a moment, he wanted to finish this conversation with his dad. “Dad, why did you do it?” he asked changing the subject yet again.
“If I can assure you of anything, it’s that Jeff is here because he wants to be. He cares about you, and he saw how terrified you were of hospitals. Neither of us thought putting you through surgery was right thing, but I gotta be honest with you, Kiddo, we’re taking a lot of chances here. In the end I did this because I love you, and I believed wholeheartedly that the last thing you needed was to go under the knife. You just needed someone to listen, and that’s why we’re here.”
Bryan took his father’s words into consideration, weighing them carefully before accepting the explanation. He had another question for his dad, and something he needed to say. Encouraged by his father’s willingness to listen he broached a new topic.
“It’s just not fair, Dad. Jeff makes me smile, but I’m not supposed to be happy and smiling makes my head hurt. It’s like, it’s like,” Bryan closed his eyes as a sharp pain shot through his head. He bowed his head to the table and tried to breathe in to make it go away. “Don’t touch me,” he said when he felt Thomas’ hand on his arm. “Just-just don’t touch me.”
“Okay,” Thomas said pulling his hands back even as he watched his son in pain. “I would like to help if you’ll let me, Son.”
Bryan lifted his head a little to look at his dad skeptically. His head was throbbing now and he wished it would just stop. “Help how?” he asked, wincing.
“Would you like me to show you?” Thomas asked, waiting for Bryan’s assertive nod before pressing his fingers against his temples. He continued to speak as he rubbed Bryan’s head, hoping his words would go a long way in relaxing him.
Bryan closed his eyes and tried to relax. His father’s fingers did seem to be helping a little. The pain turned into a dull ache, but it didn’t seem to want to disappear completely. “Thanks, Dad,” he said his voice soft as his father’s fingers continued massaging.
“Is everything okay?” He heard Jeff ask. He opened one eye to sneak a peek at his best friend who was now standing close by.
“”Hey, Jeff,” Thomas greeted as his fingers continued to ease the pressure against Bryan’s skull. Bryan was hit with a headache suddenly,” he explained. “I’m using an old technique to help ease him."
Jeff frowned. “Bryan is it helping?” he asked, placing a hand on Bryan’s shoulder.
“Yes,” Bryan said contentedly.
“What caused the headache?” Jeff asked, directing the question at Thomas.
“I'm not entirely sure.” Thomas admitted. He brushed the hair out of his son’s face before removing his hand completely. “We were talking, about you actually. One minute Bryan was explaining that you make him smile, and the next he was wincing with pain."
“Dad said he trusts you, Jeff,” Bryan said proudly. “I was just glad that he really likes my best friend, and then the headache came from there.”
“Well, I guess we’ll have to counter the fact that you have headaches when you’re happy,” Jeff reflected. “Were you writing again?”
“A little,” Bryan admitted. “I think I’ll go try to write some more.”
“Are you sure?” Jeff asked as Bryan got up and grabbed his journal and his pen.
“Yes. Thanks for talking to me, Dad,” he said giving his father a small smile before he left the room.
“I’d say that is a step in the right direction,” Jeff commented with a smile. “You guys were able to talk. Though I don’t know why you wanted to talk about me. I would think that would be a rather boring topic, Sir.”
“I beg to differ,” Thomas smiled as he placed a hand on Jeff’s shoulder. He gave it a gentle squeeze before heading over to the refrigerator to grab the juice. He pulled down a glass for Jeff, refilling his own as well before returning to the table. “You don’t give yourself enough credit, Jeff,” he commented handing over a glass of juice as the two men took their seats. “To be honest, I’m willing to talk about whatever gets my son talking. He’s very...taken with you.”
“I don’t know,” Jeff said sipping his drink. “I don’t think I’m that fascinating, but if Bryan likes to talk about me I will take it as a good sign. I’m glad you were able to get him to talk too, even if just a little. I definitely want him to have his relationship with you, I mean you’re an awesome dad. Mine,” Jeff frowned and took another sip of juice before setting the glass down. “I’m glad that you think I am a good help to Bryan, Sir, but the truth is, if I can be honest…he’s a big help to me. Both of you are. I’ve never really had anyone counting on me before so, it’s nice to feel wanted for a change.”
“I hope you realize you’re always wanted here, Jeff,” Thomas smiled and placed a hand on Jeff’s shoulder. “I care about you, as if you were my own son, and I’m very glad you’re here.”
Jeff opened his mouth to respond but he truly didn’t know what to say. He was shocked, and in awe. It was nice to know that Bryan’s dad cared so much about him, after such a short amount of time.
“Jeff! Dad?” Bryan called from the living room. The two men exchanged looks before rushing to see what had Bryan so panicked.
They stopped dead in their tracks when they saw that Bryan was standing in front of the open door. Bryan turned to face them, before his eyes darted back to his big brother.
And so it continues. Now that Alden has arrived it's anyone's guess what will happen next. Thanks for reading guys. can't wait to share the rest of the story with you. big shout outs to my writing team too.