If surfing weren’t a challenge, it wouldn’t be fun, but damn could it be a challenge. I saw the wave looming above me and knew that I was about to wipe out, and when I wiped out, it was like the ocean was explaining it to me. It was like the ocean was trying to tell me that it wasn’t one to be taunted, that I shouldn’t be fucking around with it. I knew that the Pacific and I were about to have a talk. The wave crashed on top of me, pushing me under the water and crushing me, as if trying to squeeze every bit of oxygen out of my body. It held me there, like a possessed thing, sucking me under even as my lungs all but screamed out in pain. Then it miraculously let me up. My head broke the surface and I gasped for air, only the seas weren’t through with me yet. I’d gotten the surfing jackpot from hell, two waves in close succession, so as soon as the first one let me up, the second one was there to make me its bitch. I held my breath as the second wave hit, knocking me down again, and repeating the performance that I’d just run with the first wave. The second wave wasn’t as strong, but then again, neither was I. I finally staggered ashore, dragging my rented board with me, and just collapsed on the beach.
Davey came up and sat next to me. “Bra, you OK?” I’d met him when I hit the beach yesterday. He was an old guy, probably about fifty now, who’d probably spent most of his time either on the beach, on drugs, or both. He was really strange, but a really nice guy. He’d taken me under his wing when I’d gotten here, and looked out for me.
“I’ll be fine,” I said, embarrassed. That wave had chewed me up because I’d read it wrong, and that pissed me off. “Just didn’t see that direction.”
“Dude, no one gets it all the time.” He sat there for a minute, watching the waves with me, and then got up. “You going back out?”
“I think I’ll take a break,” I said. It was already late afternoon, and I was kind of hungry.
“Maybe I’ll see you up there later,” he offered as he paddled away. ‘Up there’ meant the local surf bar, and while I was too young to drink there, I wasn’t too young to eat there. I filed that away as an alternative for tonight. I returned my rented board and went back to my room. I’d gotten just a little paranoid over the past few days, so I looked around, trying to figure out if anyone else besides the maid had been there. Everything looked pretty normal.
My daily regimen was probably going to remain just as it had the last few days. I’d gotten up in the morning and gotten breakfast at a local restaurant, surfed all day long, until my limbs were sore, picked up dinner at a different restaurant, and then gone to bed. If I wore myself out during the day, I could actually get to sleep at night, and that was vital. I didn’t think about things when I was surfing, and I didn’t think about things when I was asleep. When I was eating, I was able to distract myself with food. And that meant that I could compartmentalize my problems and not think about all the shit I’d left behind. If I thought about that, I ended up subjecting myself to a predictable surge of emotions. I’d feel guilty about my friends and family members that I’d left behind, knowing that they were worried about me. I’d feel dirty and unclean when I thought about Martin’s hands on my body, which was weird since all he did was hit me. And most of all, I’d feel anger and rage at Dad and Robbie over how they’d set me up. That latter emotion really dominated me more than any other, but I noticed that even as the anger surged, it wasn’t as bad as it had been the day before. It seemed like every time I thought about them, I was slightly less pissed off. I decided that if I continued on at this rate, I might actually be able to enjoy hanging out with them again by the time I was as old as Davey.
I’d never been this unconnected, at least not recently. I hadn’t turned on my phone since I left LAX, and I hadn’t fired up my laptop either. There were some computers in the hotel for hotel guests, so I went up to the business center and did a little research. I took my laptop up there and checked the privacy settings. We had this weird encryption software on our computers so we couldn’t be monitored. That was part of the changes in security that had happened after the Paris incident. I worked my way into the system and changed the settings, and according to the website I was reading, and to the program itself, I should now be able to log on in stealth mode. No one would know where I was, provided I didn’t respond to any e-mails or send anything out. That was kind of a disappointment, but at least I could log on and see if anyone sent me anything.
I actually hurried back to my room and plugged in my laptop, anxious to see who’d launched missiles at me from afar. I logged on to my e-mail account, looked at all the messages, and just about shit a brick. There were a ton of them. I’d gotten messages from most of my family members, and from many of them, I got more than one. There were messages from Ryan, Raine, and all of my friends at school. I sorted them by sender, and slowly and methodically started to go through them. I skipped my dad; I wasn’t in the mood to read what he had to say.
I started by reading the message from JJ. I figured that he’d tell me what was going on, and I was right.
October 15: Will, dude, oh my God! Dad and Pop didn’t spend more than ten minutes on the ground in St. Bart’s before they had to turn back. Pop drank the coffee you put the roofies in and he was so fucking sick, Dad couldn’t get him off the plane and through customs. They got back here, and he was pretty much fine, until he found out you totally trashed his car and his room. They were so pissed off! That was awesome! Things are so tense around here it’s super uncomfortable. Stef is way pissed off at Dad and Pop, and he doesn’t miss a chance to let them know how bad they fucked up. He talks to them like you did before you left. They just look guilty. Wade’s been here. Stef said he’s the one who figured out what you were doing, and why. He found the picture you left about Mr. Martin, and they turned that over to the cops. Dude, they had to rescue him from the kinky sex room! That was fucking hilarious. And he was covered in puke, which he claims was yours. I hope you’re not gone too long. Be safe. Love, JJ.
I was laughing my ass off at that one. I wondered who busted Martin out of the kinky sex room. Man, he must be some kind of pissed off at being outmaneuvered by a punk like me. JJ’s e-mail conjured up the vision of Dad and Robbie as they found the damage I’d caused, and I delighted in my idea of their outraged reactions.
I nervously clicked on Ryan’s e-mails. Would he tell me good riddance and be glad I had bailed? I almost read the first one with one eye closed, as if that would lessen the pain and the shock if he did.
October 15: Dude, I keep trying to call you. What the fuck? Can’t you at least give me a chance to explain? Come on! Ryan.
October 16: Holy shit! I talked to JJ today and he told me what you did, and that you bailed. I can’t say that I blame you, but it really sucks without you here. I’ve been hanging out with Felicity, and she let me fuck her again, but she’s driving me fucking crazy. Dude, tapping that is so not worth listening to her mindless bullshit. Are you laughing at that? You should be. I don’t know where the fuck you are, but if you need a place to crash, come here. It sucks, but I can hide you. Ryan.
I smiled, a huge smile, knowing that whenever I got back to LA, Ryan and I would be cool again. I’m not sure if he just freaked out and he was over it, or he’d freaked out and he still was, but at least he still wanted to be my friend. I wanted so badly to respond to him and ask him about that, and just talk to him, but that would give my position away, and I couldn’t do that.
Stef’s e-mails were all similar. He was an emotional basket case, all over the place, and the guilt just oozed through my pores at what I was doing to him. His e-mails, more than any of them, convinced me that I had to go back soon. I couldn’t put him through this. He loved me enough to take everyone on for me, and I loved him too much to make him suffer any more. He pleaded with me to return, and promised me that I could move up to Palo Alto and live at Escorial. He said that he’d get me into Menlo School even if he had to write a check for $100,000,000 to get me in, which made me smile. They’d take less than that.
Grand’s e-mails were different, but I could read between the lines, and see that he was reacting the same way as Stef, only you had to look harder to see the emotions beneath his calm surface. His was the most recent of the bunch.
October 17: Dear Will, you have evidently decided to remain in hiding, as I have had no communiqué to the contrary. All the parties questing for you know how imperative it is to me that you return safe and sound, so I am quite sure I will be among the first to know when you do make it back. I would also like to take this opportunity to note how proud I am of the way you took care of your academic responsibilities before you opted to flee. Your planning, and the execution of that plan, while particularly irksome to those of us who love you, have really demonstrated the depths of your intellect. Grand.
That was some high praise, coming from Grand. I chuckled at the way he sort of slid the ‘I love you’ part of his e-mail into a sentence in a backhanded kind of way. How like him.
Wade’s e-mails were so thorough they cracked me up all over again. I felt like I was reading a news report from a war zone.
October 15: Little brother, I hope you’re reading this, and I hope that means you’re safe and sound. You certainly stirred things up around here. Brad and Robbie are both reeling from the impact of your attack, and from trying to find something to wear tomorrow. I like the way you didn’t trash the entire house, but only focused on them and their things. That sent a strong message, and they got it. I found your picture, and the part about what Mr. Martin did to you. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. The cops hauled him out of here tonight. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, because it may drive you away, but they’re going to want to talk to you about him as soon as they can. I think that if you can stand to do that, you may end up saving some other kids from his clutches. For you, making that kind of sacrifice is a no-brainer. But what you really want to know is what impact this had on the people around here, and more specifically on your father. I think he’s getting there, and we had a significant meeting with him tonight. Hot Jeff, Stef’s assistant, was absolutely incredible. You would have so wanted him if you’d have seen him. Like you didn’t already. He really pinned your dad down, demanding concessions from him, conditions before you’d be willing to come back. I don’t know if you’re talking to him, but he did a damn good job. I told him to send you an e-mail and tell you about them. If he doesn’t, I will. Of course I took very organized notes. I’d be cool with you taking a few days away from here if I knew you were safe. Not knowing that is going to drive me fucking crazy, so keep that in mind as you go do whatever the fuck it is you’re doing. Love, Wade.
I laughed at Wade’s nickname for Jeff: Hot Jeff. It was so perfect. I thought about what a cool guy Wade was, and how awesome it was to have him in my corner. Not only did I rely on him for stuff, because he was so fucking smart, but when he was on my side, I knew I was right. Wade has that sense of honor, that quality that helps him do the right thing.
So Hot Jeff had jumped in and negotiated with my dad on my behalf? That was so bizarre, and a real surprise, but pretty fucking cool. I read his e-mail next.
October 15: Will, I hope you don’t mind, but everyone was busting my balls to go down to the Mission to find out who sold you the roofies and a fake ID, and I knew that I’d have to end up doing it, so in exchange I tried to get your dad to agree to a few things for when you come back. So here goes:
1. Your dad has to see a shrink, and so do you, but you can get a new one if you want to.
2. There’s probably going to be some consequences for what you did, but there have to be consequences for your dad and Robbie too. And get this: the judge, the guy who decides what’s fair or not, is JP. You really deserve to take a hit for this, after messing up those two beautiful vehicles. Dude, the cars are really fucked up. I gotta say I’m still laughing my ass off at all the shoes you cut in half.
3. You get to decide if you want to move back here or live in Palo Alto.
4. Your dad owes you an apology, and he promised to do it right, not do that rationalization bullshit that he’s been doing. Even Robbie called him on that one.
5. Your dad and Robbie promised that if something comes up that involves you; they’ll talk to you about it before they make a decision. You gotta know that they didn’t bat an eye before agreeing to that one.
6. Pat gets to come back to work as your guard. I think they were so embarrassed and upset about what a disaster Martin was, they agreed to that almost with relief. Pat’s bored, so there’s a good incentive for you to get your ass back here. He says if you hurry back, he’ll introduce you to his new boyfriend.
I hope that’s what you wanted, and that I covered it all. Wade helped out, so I’m feeling confident. Now get your ass back here. Jeff.
I stared at the screen, stunned off my ass. They wanted me to come back, and they weren’t going to bust my balls too bad for destroying all that shit? I knew there would have to be some consequences, but I figured that Dad and Robbie would toss all the blame on me and just pretend they were above all that, and totally unaccountable. Now they would have to answer to Grand. I thought about his battles with my dad and laughed. Payback may be a bitch. They’d basically agreed to everything I wanted. Why the fuck couldn’t they just listen to me in the first place? Why did we have to get to this point? I had this vision of my dad sitting at the kitchen table, while they all pelted him with these demands and conditions. He’d be all embattled, and if he wavered, Stef would be there to jump in and shred him. I wondered if he’d just agreed to this shit under duress. Would he really follow through like he promised? One thing was sure; he’d have to let me choose to live where I wanted. No way could he dodge that one.
I finally braced myself and opened up my e-mail from my father.
October 15: Will, I’m not so good at writing about how I feel, especially when I’m feeling so much right now. I’ve got all these emotions coursing through me, and I’m trying to peel them off and deal with them one by one. The first emotion that I had to deal with was the anger. I’m mad at you, really mad at you, for what you did to our cars, and our clothes, and our rooms, but I’m even more pissed off about what you did to Robbie. I was scared shitless when he was on those damned roofies, and I can’t help but think that there could have been some nasty side effects. I’m really upset that you blame us for Mr. Martin, when we were just trying to help you through a tough time. I figured that someone organized like you would appreciate someone like him, and I thought that someone with that much discipline would be good for you after Pat, who tends to let you have your way. And I’m even more irritated by the way you’ve treated us lately. I know that I work long hours, and Pop does too. I know that we’re not always there for you like we’d like to be. But I don’t think that warrants the kind of abuse you’ve heaped on me for it. I don’t think your expectations of me are reasonable, especially when you make every minute I spend with you painfully unpleasant. Things have to change around here, you have to change the way you behave around here, or things aren’t going to get better.
On the other side of the coin, I feel very upset about what you endured at the hands of Mr. Martin, and I know that must be tough for you after what you went through in Paris. I am truly sorry about the way we handled the thing with Pat, and especially that we didn’t talk to you and the way we ignored your questions and blew you off. I can see how you would have felt bad about that, and felt the need to lash out at us, even though I think you took it way too far.
But all of those emotions and feelings dissolve when I think about the most important one. I love you Will. I have since the day you were born, and I always will. It’s agonizing to me that you’re out there, alone, and I worry about you almost every minute of the day. None of us will have any peace until you come home. Please come back. I know that we can work things out. I know that we can talk about things and figure this out. Love, Dad.
I’d been reading these e-mails and thinking that maybe I’d been hasty about leaving, but after reading his, I was even more convinced that I’d done the right thing. I knew him so well, and despite what he was telling everyone else, he was too angry at me to work through this. In a moment of clarity, I realized that I was too angry at him to deal with it too, and that the thought of seeing him didn’t bring me pleasure or pain, it merely caused me anxiety.
He wasn’t taking me seriously, and he wasn’t taking my needs seriously. He didn’t make any references to the e-mail Hot Jeff sent me, even though he had to know that stuff had been presented to me. He simply said ‘we’d figure this out’, which meant that once I was in front of him, he’d merely lay things out and that was that. I’d have no hope of input at that point. He’d taken a step, but it was a small step, and I wasn’t going back there if that’s as far as he was going to walk.
I powered down my laptop and just looked at it, as if to blame it for not having the answers that I wanted. Then again, some of the news was really good. I mean, Ryan didn’t hate me. That was awesome. At least I’d have one friend if I went back to LA. Then again, I’d all but decided that I wanted to make the move to Paly, and that I was better off away from my parents, and now, with Ryan back in the picture, that move didn’t seem as obvious. My stomach growled, so I walked down the road to the place all the surfers hung out. They were a pretty rowdy bunch, but I snagged a place next to Davey and hung with them.
“Dude, you smoke?” one of the guys asked me.
“What?” I asked, smiling at him.
“Come on,” he said. I followed him out of the restaurant and out to his car, a beat up old VW. He popped open the glove box and pulled out a one-hitter and packed me a hit. I took it, luxuriating in the taste of this awesome Hawaiian bud.
“Damn, that’s dank weed,” I said, smiling. Then I giggled.
“No shit. Wanna buy some?”
“Fuck yeah,” I said. I gave him $50 and he sold me a pretty small bag, but it would work.
“So what are you doing here? You’re all by yourself.”
I was almost completely sober in an instant. “I’m meeting my dad here. He said I could come out a couple of days early.”
“What’s he do?” he pried.
“He’s some big investment banker,” I said, which was pretty much true, but not how people would normally describe him. “I gotta run.” I opened up the door and got out, while he did the same.
“You can hang out with us whenever,” he said. He was being friendly, but he made me nervous.
“Cool,” I said. I went back in and ate a huge dinner, and bought Davey’s dinner too, my way of thanking him for checking on me in the water.
“Dude, you did not have to do that,” he said, even though he’d been hinting at it all night.
“No big,” I said. “I gotta go.” I stopped in the bathroom on my way out and went into a stall; I found that it was a way for me to hide and remain inconspicuous, and right now, I liked that.
“Dude, what’s with the kid?” one of the surfers asked as he came into the bathroom. He could only be talking about me. The stall I was in was toward the back. I lifted my legs up so they wouldn’t know I was there.
“Dunno,” the guy who’d sold me the weed said. “He had a shitload of money on him.”
“You gonna roll him?”
“Nah. Not yet anyway. I think it would be easier to get closer to him than to rob him.” He paused for a second. “I think he’s a runaway.”
“No parents and he has that look about him. You know, that ‘I’m desperate for someone to love me’ look. He just needs a good friend to guide him, and to guide his wallet.” They laughed and left the room. I left the restaurant, went back to the hotel, and in two hours I was in a cab to another part of the island, and to a different hotel.
October 19, 2000
“Dude, you carved that bitch up!” Corey said to me. “Fucking awesome!”
“It was radical,” I agreed, and shot him a slight grin.
“You wanna go party with us?” he asked, tilting his head slightly. He was trying to be attractive, but it wasn’t working. He had brown hair and green eyes, coloring that was almost like mine, and almost like my father’s. That alone was a strike, but the fact that he was in his early 30’s was the other blow against him. No way did I need a middle-aged washed out surfer latching on to me.
“Thanks, bra,” I said, “but I got shit to do. I’ll catch you tomorrow,” I said.
“You got it. Tomorrow night, big party. You’re there!”
“Plan,” I said simply, accepting his invitation, even though I knew I wouldn’t be going. He paddled off toward the waves, while I headed into shore, letting the waves push me gently to my destination. I got to the beach and took my rented board back to the surf shop, then headed back to my hotel room.
It wasn’t as nice as the first one, but it had a safe, and that was the most compelling factor. I took a shower, packed up my things, and then flopped down on the bed. The maid had been here and changed the sheets, and that should have made me happy, but instead it just made me nervous, having someone in my space. The longer this went on, the more paranoid I was getting; even I noticed that. I didn’t trust anyone, and largely avoided contact with anyone.
At my first hotel, the big exception to that had been the other surfers. They were like me; we shared a common love. At first they’d viewed me skeptically, just like they’d done last summer when I’d been in Italy, but I was used to that. I’d act the same way to a new guy surfing on my beach. It was a challenge, and a major achievement, to show them I had the skill to be one of them, to demand acceptance into their ranks based on my abilities. But then they’d wanted to know more about me, and they’d started to dig. And at least one of them had figured out that I was a runway. I’d packed up that night and taken a cab a good distance away and picked up this room. This time, at this hotel, I’d put up barriers to everyone, even my fellow surfers. I’d been polite, but no more. This guy, Corey, looked at me like a tiger hunting its prey. He was bad news, the kind of guy who would try to get his hooks in me, one way or the other. He was just like the guy I’d encountered at the other beach. If he couldn’t con me out of my money, he’d steal it, and if he knew I was a runaway, he’d turn me in so fast my head would spin. I didn’t know if they’d posted an APB on me, or if they’d offered a reward. Dad and Robbie probably wouldn’t part with a dime for me, but Stef would. Corey’s looks had made me nervous enough to leave again. Like a good guy on the run, I’d already had my next move planned out, so all I really had to do was put that in motion. There was a knock at my door, and I looked through the peep hole and saw Corey standing there, smiling at the eyehole. I crept back to my bed and stayed quiet. He knocked again, and then I heard nothing. He’d wait, and watch for me for a while. I could outlast him.
Only now I was bored, and that meant that my mind wandered to other things. Things that I didn’t want to think about. I tried to stop it, but I didn’t have that much mental discipline. I wondered if anyone had bothered to try to contact me again. The curiosity was almost enough to overwhelm my logic, and that made me nervous. This is when people made stupid decisions. I was wanted, a hunted man, and I had to act like everything I did could reveal my true identity, or worse, leave me vulnerable to an attacker. Trust no one, talk to no one, and don’t, under any circumstances, let anyone get close.
I thought that the isolation would be no worse than what I was used to, and to be honest, it really wasn’t, except for the threat that someone could find me and drag me back to Malibu. God only knows what they’d do to me if they got me back in their clutches. I physically shivered at the thought of it. But always looking over my shoulder, that was putting a strain on me. I knew this couldn’t go on forever. Plus, I’d gotten my work done through Friday, and that meant that if I wasn’t back in school, or on my way to one, by next week, I’d start to lose ground. I sighed, and then I stared at my laptop, booted it up and plugged it into the Ethernet port.
I started with JJ’s e-mail, just like last time, only the tone was significantly different.
October 18: Dude, things are fucked up around here. It’s like I live in a whole different place. Dad and Pop are like zombies. Aunt Claire came down yesterday and went shopping for them, but she was so pissed off at them that I think it would have been easier for them to have just done it themselves. Dad came to see me a few minutes ago and he’s fucking hollow. Their room is still trashed. He’s spending most of his time getting things fixed, while Pop is back at work. They took over one of the guest rooms, but he spends a lot of his time in your room. Finding you is all he talks about. He started seeing a shrink on Tuesday. About fucking time. Everyone thinks so. He went back today, and he’s going again tomorrow. I guess it’s like intensive treatment or something. Oh, and guess who wants your e-mail address? Shane Jackson. Dude, I think he wants you. LOL. Should I give it to him? Seriously, I hope you come back soon. It’s even worse around here now that you’re gone. Love, JJ.
I swallowed hard as I digested all that he’d said in there. I felt so conflicted. Part of me was still really angry at Dad and Robbie, but now that I’d succeeded, and inflicted as much pain on them as they’d inflicted on me, I felt bad for them. Maybe he really did love me? Maybe he wasn’t just saying that? But if he did, why did he totally blow me off? Why did he shut me out, and treat me like shit? And why did Robbie let him get away with it? Wouldn’t he be able to convince Dad to handle things differently? And he was seeing a shrink? Shit, not even Robbie had been able to convince him to do that. I felt conflicted, and really confused.
I decided to check out what John had to say. He and I hadn’t done much together since the summer, but we talked online all the time. I knew he was enjoying lacrosse, and that he was totally into Menlo School, which sounded a lot like H-W.
October 17: My mom just got back from Malibu and is she mad. Damn! You know, with our fucked up family, these people get all upset about just about anything. I think we’ve seen everyone all bent at one point in time, and some of them are pretty scary. Your dad is probably one of the scariest. That is, until my mom gets mad. Wow. I heard her ranting to my dad about how totally fucked up your dad is, and how he and Robbie screwed this up worse than the biggest moron could. She asked Dad if it would be alright if you moved in with us, if you wanted to. He said it was just fine, and she said that was a good thing, since she’d already told your dad and Stef that you could. Dude that would be the bomb. I’d only molest you every other night, I promise. Get your ass home. Love, John.
Wow. Aunt Claire had gone postal on my dad? No wonder he was a zombie. Our family was so patriarchal, that we always seemed to look to men for leadership, but Aunt Claire was in the background, making the tough decisions and the big calls. She’d done that with Ella, and she was doing that for me. Living with them, and fucking around with John, actually aroused my dormant libido. I looked down at my tenting shorts and realized I hadn’t had an erotic thought since I’d gotten here. That was so unusual for me, and pretty disturbing.
But thinking about erotic thoughts inevitably brought my mind back to Ryan. I checked his e-mails next.
October 18: Alright, this is bullshit. You’re supposed to be back tomorrow, and JJ says that’s probably not happening, since you’re not home yet. WTF am I supposed to do? You know how good I am at making friends. First I have to get someone to hate me, and I’m so hot, that’s hard to do. I hope I made you smile.
October 18: I’ve been dodging the issue, and I know this whole departure isn’t about me, but I know that you need to know what happened. What we did freaked me out. It was like I was suddenly actively doing shit, and not just letting you do shit, and that changed things. I freaked out, and that was an asshole thing to do, considering that you saved my sorry ass by taking the heat for the whiskey. Dude, I am so into women it’s scary, but I like you, and I liked what we did. What the fuck does that mean? What does that make me? Am I a fag? Am I bi? I know one thing, I’m fucked up. So if I grovel in this e-mail, and tell you how sorry I am, how incredibly, totally, and completely fucking sorry I am for treating you like a total dick, would that make a difference? Hell, I’ll make you a deal. You show up in school on Monday, and I’ll try and blow that monster cock of yours. Don’t think, though, that I’m ever gonna let you fuck me with that thing. If that’s the price, dude, you’re staying gone. Love, Ryan.
I smiled, laughed, and cried reading his e-mails. I guess in the depths of my mind, I knew how he was, and I kind of figured he’d come around. He had. He’d signed the last e-mail ‘love Ryan’. Did he love me? I thought about that, and decided that he did, but not in a romantic kind of way. I think he loved me as a friend. I was cool with that, but it sure was fun messing around with him. He was going to try to suck my dick? I laughed some more. I didn’t even want him to do that. I’d be happy if we just made out and I got to blow him. Hell, I’d be happy if he was my friend.
Wade’s e-mail was next, because he was my conscience, my reminder of how I was supposed to conduct myself. I needed his support and validation more than I’d probably be willing to admit.
October 19: Will, look, I know that you have a point to make, and that you’re hurt and feeling unloved. To be honest, for those of us who do love you, and that’s all of us, this is really painful, and really hard to deal with. The person I am most worried about, with the possible exception of your father, is Stef. He is really not dealing with this well. I know you love him, and I know that you don’t want him to worry, so I have a proposition for you. Just respond to this e-mail and tell me that you’re fine, so we know that you’re alive and healthy. You have my word that I won’t use your response to tell anyone where you are. I won’t let anyone have it, not even if they serve me with a subpoena. Dude, you can trust me, you know that. Give me a sign to help us get through this. Love, Wade.
PS. Everyone said they sent you e-mails. If you want to respond to anyone, just forward me their e-mail with what you want to say. I’ll cut and paste it for you and send it off, so they won’t know where you are.
I was overwhelmed with guilt, and I felt so bad tears started flowing from my eyes. I looked at the clock, and made a decision, based on trust alone. I sent Wade a simple response that said “I’m fine”. He’d promised that he wouldn’t use it to track me down, but I wasn’t sure if simply transmitting something from here had given me away or not. It didn’t really matter at this point. I knew I had to go home soon. Time was ticking now, though, so I put off reading the latest e-mail from my dad.
I thought about all the other people involved in this, and was overwhelmed. I’d put them through enough; this had gone on long enough. I grabbed the phone and called for a cab, then packed up my laptop, grabbed my cash, and went to check out. The cab pulled up and I jumped in, and told the driver to take me to the airport. I turned to look back and saw Corey staring after me, frustrated. He’d marked me as a meal ticket, and I’d slipped out of his grip. No wonder they were worried about me. The world could be a scary place.
“Did you enjoy Oahu?” the driver asked, trying to start up a conversation.
“Yes,” I lied, and pulled out my cell phone. I thought about powering it on, but changed my mind. I’d wait until later to do that.
“Which airline?” he asked as we got to the terminal.
“United,” I said, even though I didn’t have a ticket. I paid the fare and walked up to the various displays until I found a flight going to San Jose. Conveniently enough, it was on United. I went up to the ticket counter to buy a ticket.
“I need a first class ticket on the next flight to San Jose.”
“Your name?” the lady asked.
“Will Schluter,” I said. I was going home, so there was no need to lie anymore. I gave her my identification.
“You’re a minor,” she said, with a condescending air.
I gave her my look, the one that said I knew how things worked, and handed her a signed travel authorization. It didn’t matter that I’d forged my father’s signature, she’d have no clue. “I’m going to visit my grandfather in Palo Alto.”
“Yet you live in Malibu.”
“I was here for a surfing competition,” I said firmly. “My family owns a villa on Maui. I’m over here all the time.”
She punched some keys. “You don’t have a United frequent flier number. You fly another airline?”
“I usually fly on my father’s Gulfstream V,” I said rudely. “Is there a problem? Should I go try Aloha Airlines?”
She gave me a foul look. “There’s no problem.” She issued the ticket and I paid her in cash. She thought about bitching about that, but then thought better of it. “Here you go.”
“Thanks,” I said, then felt bad. There was no reason to leave a trail of negative karma in my wake. “Look, I’m sorry if I’m bitchy. The last wave I caught didn’t work, and I’m just pissed about that.”
She smiled. “We all have bad days. Now we both had a better one. The gate is that way,” she said, pointing. I remembered that candidly apologizing for being obnoxious could be a good thing. They were boarding my flight, so I filed on and grabbed my seat. This was pretty cool, but nothing near as nice as flying in a private jet. Maybe I was a spoiled rotten little brat. Maybe I was a totally self-absorbed teenager. I’d powered up my cell phone and looked at all the messages, and they mirrored the people who had sent me e-mails. There was one thing that bothered me. There were two people who were notably missing, who hadn’t reached out to me at all: Robbie and Darius. That bothered me, and it bothered me a lot. Robbie bothered me, because it made me wonder if he and Dad were really sincere. If they weren’t making these decisions together, and if he didn’t want me back there, then I didn’t want to be there. He’d been an emotional iceberg to me lately, and I wasn’t up for that, if that was his mode of operation. That would make my decision on where to live a whole lot easier. With Darius, it was less worrisome than annoying. He was still on my shit list for the way he’d blasted me out of the water after my birthday. I’d always had his back, and treated him with respect. I could just see him using this whole experience to try and make me look bad, pulling out some code of honor or tradition and using that to slice me down to make himself look better. He could be that petty sometimes. It may be that he was so involved with school and Ella, that he couldn’t be bothered to give a shit about me. He tended to be pretty self-absorbed. Still, it would have been nice if he’d have said something, anything.
We landed in San Jose and I pondered my next move. It was late now, almost midnight. I could call Escorial and they’d come get me in a heartbeat, but that would be a huge ordeal, and I’d have to handle everyone, all at once. That would be overwhelming. I wanted to take things a little slower than that. I wandered out to the taxi stand and found a bunch of cab drivers there, waiting for a fare.
“Where you going?” one guy said. He was young and handsome, and looked like he might be decent company.
“You up for a long ride?” I asked.
“You got the dough, I’m good to go,” he said.
“Santa Cruz,” I told him.
“Gonna cost you a ‘C’ Note,” he said.
“I’ll make it two if you’ll take me by the store on the way,” I said cheerfully. He opened the door for me and I hopped in, then gave him the address and settled in for the long drive.