The Writers Voice
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An Interesting Idea - Chapter 9


Kimberly Canyon

“You okay kid?” Jim asked. He actually seemed concerned, which surprised Justin.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Justin replied quickly, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Okay, can’t have a person who’s a cry baby staying in any type of jail; they’ll get you for sure,” Jim replied with a laugh.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Justin said hesitantly, trying to laugh.

“Well, guess I'll see you around,” Jim said, nodding towards the cell door.

“What are you talking about?” Justin asked, puzzled.

“You’re leaving kid,” Jim said, nodding toward the door.

“Oh, right,” Justin said with a weak laugh seeing the guard coming towards him. “See you around.” The guard opened the door and Justin walked out of the cell.
For a moment Justin stood still and breathed deeply. He knew this was one of the last times he wouldn’t be stuck in a jail cell, or be watched by some hawk-like
eyes; he knew this was his last taste of freedom.

* * *

Jenna tried hard not to cry as she drove to the barn. Derek sat next to her, slightly nervous. He was secretly praying Jenna wouldn’t run them off the road and into a ditch. For the last twenty minutes or so she had been going above the speed limit and he could she wasn’t really paying attention to the road.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to drive?” Derek asked cautiously.

“Yes, stop distracting me Derek!” Jenna snapped angrily.

“Sorry, I just thought...” Derek’s voice trailed off; he didn’t want to go down that road.

“What, Derek?!” Jenna asked angrily. “It had better be important.”

“I just thought you might want some time to think, that’s all,” Derek replied nervously.

“Oh, I see,” Jenna said frowning. “How is that important?”

“I don’t know,” Derek said slowly. “I can see you have other things on your mind.”

“Well, you’re right about that,” Jenna said with a laugh. She glanced at Derek; he was petrified.

“What?” Derek asked when he noticed she was looking at him.

“Derek, Im sorry for being such a jerk lately,” Jenna said slowly. “I know you’re thinking I’m going to run us off the road or something.”

“No, of course not,” Derek said, laughing nervously. “What makes you say that?”

“Derek, it’s written all over your face,” Jenna said somewhat irritably. “It’s okay to be afraid of me; I’ve been pretty mean to you lately.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Derek replied slowly. “You’re not trying to trick me are you?”

“No!” Jenna exclaimed with a laugh. “Derek, you can be so weird sometimes.”

“I know, it’s just that you’ve been so upset lately...” Derek said, trying to find the right words to say so he wouldn’t offend Jenna.

“I didn’t consider your feelings,” Jenna said gently.

“Im sorry.”

“Don’t worry; I forgive you,” Derek said with a slight smile.

“I knew you would,” Jenna said, finally feeling herself starting to relax, she took a deep breath and slowed down the car. Derek also breathed a sigh of relief, he knew that Jenna would be a safe driver now, not a maniac, at least for a little while.

* * *

Will heard Jake’s car drive up around four-thirty in the afternoon. He sighed and looked at what he had written. The once blank yellow notepad was now filled with all his thoughts, worries, and fears. ‘I wonder how Jake is doing,’ Will thought, frowning. But he already knew the answer. Jake would be doing bad.  Will knew his dad would be furious, and at the same time he would feel incredibly guilty for wanting to put Will’s best friend in jail. Will sighed again and  put the notepad in his room. Then he unlocked the front door. As he turned the lock Will could hear his
dad talking to himself. When he opened the door Jake walked in like he owned the house. Will knew his dad was trying to be strong.

“Hey, how are you doing?” Jake asked, forcing a smile.

“Dad, don’t,” Will replied coldly.

“What? I’m just trying to ask you a question,” Jake said with a weak laugh. “What’s so bad about that?”

“Dad, I can tell you’re faking it,” Will said, glaring at him.

“Oh... I guess I can’t fool my own kid, can I?”

“No,” Will said sullenly.

“Hey, what’s up with you?” Jake asked somewhat irritably. “I know it’s been a rough day but...”

“But what?!” Will cried. “You want me to go around celebrating because we managed to lock up my best friend?!”

“Will, don’t do this,” Jake pleaded. “You know how I sorry I am.”

“No, I don’t,” Will retorted icily. “You’re just glad you got your stupid revenge!”

“Will, stop it,” Jake said trying to calm him down. “This isn’t helping.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot - you don’t even care, do you?!” Will cried angrily. “You just care about yourself, that’s how selfish you are!”

“Will please -” Jake said, but Will cut him off.

“Just shut up, Dad!” Will cried, angrily trying to fight off tears. “You don’t care if Justin ever gets out of jail and you know it, you don’t care about my feelings so stop pretending to be so damn perfect!”

“Will-” Jake began but it was too late, Will was already headed out the door. Jake knew he would try to drive off to get away from him. “Will, please don’t do this, you could get hurt,” Jake pleaded.

“Not anymore than you’ve already hurt me,” Will replied coldly, then he walked out, slamming the door behind him. Jake stood there trying not to cry. “I’m such an idiot,” he said fiercely to himself. “I just drove him away.”

* * *

Justin tried not to be scared as the policeman pulled up to the juvenile detention center where he would be staying. The building itself looked menacing, gray, and cold. Justin shivered at the thought of having to spend a year in that place.

“Here we are,” the policeman said almost cheerfully. He unlocked the trunk so Justin could grab the few things he had been allowed to take. Then he watched the car drive off in a cloud of dust. He took a deep breath and walked up the entrance, then raised his hand to knock on the front door. But before he could even open it, an older woman opened the door.

“Hello young man!” she exclaimed cheerfully. “You must be Justin!”

“Yeah, that’s me,” Justin replied, trying not to scream; he hated people who acted like this.

“Well, let me show you where you’ll be staying,” the woman said quickly. “Please, come in.”

“Um, I hate to be rude,” Justin said hesitantly. “But what’s your name?”

“Oh, silly me; there I go, forgetting my manners again!” the woman exclaimed with a laugh. “I’m Priscilla Andrews.”

“Nice to meet you,” Justin replied quietly, extending his hand reluctantly, knowing that he didn’t want to have anything to do with this woman.

“It’s nice to meet you too, Justin!” Priscilla replied cheerily. “Now come on, I can’t wait for you to meet the other boys.”

“Uh yeah, sure,” Justin said with a weak laugh. “The boys.”

“Oh don’t worry,” Priscilla said with a quick smile. “They aren’t that bad once you get to know them.”

“I’m sure they are,” Justin replied distractedly. He had just noticed how warm and inviting the place looked. ‘Funny I always thought these places were cold and damp no matter what part of it you were in.’ He followed Priscilla down the hall which was an off-white color and had oak doors along each side with numbers on them. It reminded him of hotel he’d stayed at once when he was little.

“Priscilla, I know this may seem odd, but why is this place so... comfortable looking?” Justin asked hesitantly. “I mean it’s a detention center, shouldn’t it be cold, dark, and damp?”

“Oh, didn’t they tell you?!” Priscilla exclaimed excitedly. “This isn’t a detention center!”

“It’s not?” Justin asked, suddenly confused. “Then what is it exactly?”

“This,” Priscilla said as she opened one of the heavy doors. “Is the Maple Tree Group Home!”

“Oh,” Justin replied. Now he was just plain confused; why would the judge send him to a group home?

“Boys, come meet our newest tenant!” Priscilla called eagerly. “His name is Justin!”

‘Oh no,’ Justin thought wearily. ‘I don’t want to have to deal with this, not now, not today.’ He began to wonder if it was too late to go back to the jail. But it was too late, he could already see a whole group of loud obnoxious boys running towards him. Then they all abruptly stopped when they saw Justin. He knew they would do this.  All of the boys stood there and stared; some looked younger than Justin but others looked like they had passed themselves as a twenty-two year old. But all of them were sizing Justin up. Justin could tell they wanted to know everything about him before he even opened his mouth. One boy glared at him angrily from beneath a baseball cap, while another looked Justin up and down, guessing how strong he really was. Another boy, one could’ve passed for a twenty-two year old, eyed Justin suspiciously, not sure of whether he could trust him or not.

Finally Priscilla said briskly, “Come now, don’t be shy boys, speak up!”

“Hi,” one of the boys said gruffly. “I”m Jeff.”

“Hi, Im Justin,” Justin replied, trying to smile as he extended his hand nervously.

“I don’t shake hands, too many germs,” Jeff replied coldly. “Ms. Andrews, why do we have to add another one?” he whined suddenly.

“Jeff!” Priscilla scolded. “He’s not a creature he’s a human being, you should treat with the same respect you do the other boys!”

“Sorry,” Jeff mumbled.

“Well, now that you’ve been introduced Ill let you get settled in!” Priscilla said with a sigh, and then she left, closing the door behind her. Justin swallowed nervously, trying to keep his cool. But it was hard, he was alone with all these ‘boys’ as Ms.
Andrews had called them. Justin saw them for what they really were, or at least what they had been; street kids, all of them. ‘Or at least products of bad family situations,’ Justin thought grimly.

“Okay, so, where do I sleep?” Justin asked somewhat nervously.

“Over there,” Jeff replied jerking his thumb towards a bed at the very end of the room against the wall.

“Thanks,” Justin said gratefully.

“No problem,” Jeff replied, glaring at Justin, his eyes unblinking. “Just don’t expect any favors from me, or anybody else.”

“Sure, no problem,” Justin said quickly. “No favors, got it.”

“By the way,” one of the other boys said. “Please tell me you don’t like Ms. Andrews.”

“Trust me, I hated her the minute she opened the door,” Justin said with relief. “I hate people who are that happy all the time.”

“Good,” the boy replied, nodding his approval. “We don’t like her either.”

“I figured that out,” Justin said, nervously eyeing all of the boys. He walked slowly over to the bed. He knew it was some kind of test. He made sure the bed was truly okay, then sat down on it and began to unpack his stuff. He noticed that all the boys had crowded around him to see what he had in his suitcase. He slowly took out his clothes, ordinary and plain. Then the two pictures he had allowed himself to take
from his room. One was of his parents, the other was of Will. The boys watched his every move carefully.

“These your parents?” Jeff asked, picking up the first picture.

“Yeah, why?” Justin asked suspiciously.

“No reason,” Jeff said casually. “Just curious.”

“Hey who’s this?!” the boy in the baseball cap asked excitedly. “He looks different!”

“Hey!” Justin yelled. “Give that back!”

“What’s the matter, you afraid I’ll break it?” the boy taunted, holding it high above his head.

“I said, give it back,” Justin said, his voice rising. Despite the fact he wanted to punch the kid, he resisted.

“Oooh, I’m so scared!” the boy taunted. “What are you going to do about it?!”

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Justin growled menacingly as the kid swung the picture around.

“What, you gonna to do something about it?” the boy said with smirk.

“Stop it!” Justin cried angrily. “Give it back!”

“No,” the boy said gleefully. “You can’t make me!”

“I warned you,” Justin said, his eyes narrowing and his voice like gravel. “Now give me the picture before I have to hurt you.”

“Hah, did you hear that, Jeff?!” the boy exclaimed with a laugh. “He said he was going to hurt me!”

“Joey, stop it,” Jeff said quietly. “He’s serious.”

“No, he’s just making idle threats Jeff; he’s all bark and no bite!” Joey said with a gleam in his eye as he dangled the picture in front of Justin’s face.

“That’s it!” Justin cried angrily. “I’ve had it with you, I told you to give me back to picture!”

“No, I won’t do- Joey stopped the instant Justin stood up. Joey didn’t seem so tough anymore. He glanced over at Jeff for help but Jeff just said, “Sorry kid, you’re on your own with this one.”

“But- Joey protested.

“You have to learn this lesson sometime,” Jeff said casually as if it were nothing. Joey gulped fearfully as he backed away from Justin. He could see Justin was breathing heavily and wanted so badly to kill him.

“Please don’t, I swear I won’t do anything to you ever again!” Joey cried in a last ditch attempt to get Justin to go away.

“Too late for that now,” Justin said with an almost evil grin. He walked slowly towards Joey until he had him backed up against the wall. “I gave you plenty of chances to do that, but you just wouldn’t listen.”

“Please don’t hurt me,” Joey pleaded.

“Sorry, but you have to pay the price,” Justin said calmly. Then he pulled his arm back and got ready to punch Joey in the face, but something inside Justin made him want to stop. He ignored it and punched Joey anyway. Joey screamed the minute Justin’s fist slammed into his face. Then he became a puddle of tears and curled up on the floor.

Justin stopped for a moment, ‘What am I doing?’ he thought to himself, ‘I just punched a little kid for practically no reason.’

As he backed away from Joey, he noticed the other boys were nodding, almost as if they respected him. “I  can’t believe I just did that,” Justin said quietly.

“Hey, don’t worry about it,” Jeff said quickly. “Joey deserved to be punched, he’s always talking stuff about people and nobody has ever done anything about it, until now that is.”

“Well yeah, but that still doesn’t mean I should’ve punched him,” Justin replied slowly.

“Sure it does,” Jeff replied uneasily. “He deserved it, what more is there to it?”

“Don’t you guys ever think about someone other than yourselves?” Justin asked worriedly.

“No, we only look out for ourselves,” one boy bragged. “We don’t need anybody else.”

“Well that might be good enough for you,” Justin said quietly. “But I don’t like to hurt people.”

“You’ll get over it soon enough,” Jeff said reassuringly.

“No,” Justin said firmly. “I won’t.”

“Okay, if you insist,” Jeff replied wearily. All of the boys watched as Justin cautiously approached Joey.

“Hey Joey, I’m sorry I punched you,” Justin said softly. “I was just mad, I didn’t mean to do that.”

“I know,” Joey replied, trying to hold back his tears. “That’s okay, it doesn’t hurt that bad.”

“That’s good,” Justin said with a smile. “Now, do you think I could have my picture back?”

“Sure,” Joey said as he slowly handed the picture back to Justin. “Im sorry I made fun of you, I’ve always done that to the new kids and no one’s ever done anything about it before.”

“I see,” Justin replied with a nervous laugh. “Why is that?”

“What do you mean?” Joey asked, slightly confused.

“I mean why didn’t anybody stand up to you before?” Justin asked, suddenly curious.

“I guess they thought I would really hurt them,” Joey replied quietly. “To tell you the truth Jeff was right, I needed that, if you hadn’t stood up to me I’d still be taunting you.”

“That’s true,” Justin replied thoughtfully. “But somehow I think you can’t really beat up somebody, can you?”

“No,” Joey replied eyeing the other boys. “But don’t tell them, okay?”

“Don’t worry,” Justin said with a smile. “Your secret’s safe with me.”

“That was amazing!” Jeff exclaimed in amazement. “No one’s ever been able to get through to Joey like that before!”

“Oh, I hope that’s a good thing,” Justin replied nervously.

“Sure, you’re not such a bad guy after all Justin,” Jeff replied with a light-hearted smile.

“Thanks,” Justin replied with a slight smile. “Well, that’s only two of you, who are the rest of these people?”

“Oh, sorry,” Jeff replied sheepishly. “I’m forgetting what little manners I have.”

“That’s okay.” Jeff pointed out the different boys, and who they were to Justin. One boy with magenta-colored hair and a black t-shirt was named Mark. Some of the younger boys had only been there a few years, like Junior, a short kid with shockingly blonde hair and wire-framed glasses. Most of the older kids, like Jeff and Justin, were there because their crimes were more serious and had more of street demeanor.

One boy in particular actually scared Justin. Jeff introduced him as the ‘small rock’ because the Rock was his favorite wrestler. Justin could tell life and experience had hardened this kid to the core. He didn’t say anything when Justin tried to say hi, which he expected. But his whole attitude and posture made Justin worry that this guy would physically hurt him at any moment. He stood up straight, unlike most of the other boys who slouched or sat on one of various beds. Not only that, but he looked straight at Justin, and didn’t have any reflexes that resembled blinking. His eyes were black, but not beady. No, they were more like two hard cold stones watching Justin’s every move.  His whole face was turned downward in a frown and he seemed rather oblivious to the fact he was even here at all.

“What’s his real name?” Justin whispered to Jeff.

“That’s the thing, no one knows,” Jeff replied with a shrug. “That’s why we call him the rock because he's so hard to crack.”

“It’s not because of the wrestler guy?” Justin asked, somewhat confused.

“Well, yes, but mostly because nobody can talk to him,” Jeff replied casually.

“You guys think I can crack this guy?” Justin asked in amazement. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Well, not right away,” Jeff said hurriedly. “But maybe in time.”

“Well, he is intriguing,” Justin said with a sigh. “I’ll give him that much.”

* * *

Will sped along the highway. ‘How could he say that about Justin?!’ Will wondered with anger. Despite the fact that he knew Jake really hadn’t said anything that bad, he was still angry. No, not angry, furious.

‘How can I make you understand this Dad?’ Will thought worriedly. ‘He’s not just a dangerous criminal, he’s my best friend.’ At least he had been. Will could hardly blame his dad for feeling the way he did. ‘I’d be mad too if someone tried to hurt my son, and then tried to kill me too,’ he thought wearily, ‘It’s not fair, why couldn’t it have been a stranger?’ He knew that wouldn’t have made it any easier, he would’ve been wishing it had been someone he knew. ‘If it had been a stranger, I’d be having very different problems right now,’ Will thought grimly. He sighed heavily. He wasn’t even sure where he was going. Oddly enough, this route seemed familiar. As he rounded the corner at breakneck speed, it hit him - he was heading towards the barn.

‘Strange, I didn’t think of going there,’ Will thought, slightly puzzled, ‘Let alone plan on going down there by myself.’ But here he was speeding down the gravel road. He slowed the car down, knowing that speeding in general was dangerous around here. When he pulled into the so called parking lot Will noticed there weren’t many cars there; which meant less people.  ‘Good, I don’t really feel like talking to anybody right now anyway,’ Will thought with relief as he climbed out of the car. He walked slowly towards the barn hoping no one would stop him and ask, “Hey, what are you doing here?” Fortunately, no one did. Will breathed a sigh of relief as he walked into the old barn. Just being here made him feel better.

Suddenly what Jake had said didn’t seem so important. The fact his best friend was in jail for a terrible crime, and any worries he had before, were slowly melting away.

Will walked slowly down the aisle. ‘I wonder who needs attention today,’ Will thought as he looked at all the horses. He finally spied good old Max. Max was a huge warm-blooded horse, with a dusty brown coat.

“Hey Max, anybody ridden you yet today?” Will asked the horse with a smile. Max neighed softly in response. “Guess not,” Will said with a laugh. He grabbed Max’s halter and led him out of his stall.  “I”ll be back in a minute,” he told the horse as he clipped him to cross-tie. Will quietly opened the tack room door. He tried to get Max’s tack box without talking to Mark. But it didn’t work.

“Hey Will, what are you doing here?” Mark asked in surprise.

“Uh, just felt like coming down to the barn,” Will replied nervously.

“Oh, have fun then,” Mark replied frowning slightly.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Will asked, glaring.

“Sorry, it’s just, I know you and Jake are having some problems,” Mark said. “I just wondered if that was why you were down here.”

“Oh,” Will said wearily. “Well you caught me Mark, that’s why I’m here.”

“I figured,” Mark replied casually. “Don’t worry, I won’t bug you.”

“Thanks Mark,” Will replied gratefully.

“No problem,” Mark said, already absorbed in his paperwork again.

‘That was close,’ Will thought as he closed the tack room door. Then he picked up a round black curry comb and started to brush off the dirt that Max appeared to have been building up for what seemed like years. After Max’s coat was shining like a new penny, Will picked up the saddle pad and put it on Max’s back. ‘I can’t believe I actually hate my own dad,’ Will shook his head in disbelief. But he knew this wasn’t the first time he’d hated his dad, especially since Jake wasn’t his real dad. His real dad had been anything but a model citizen. ‘If I had to live with him...’ Will thought, shivering. He didn’t want to think about what could’ve happened. ‘But that’s over now, it was the past, I shouldn’t be thinking about that now,’ Will thought fiercely. He picked up the saddle and hefted it onto Max’s broad back.

“Well boy, sorry if I seem to somewhere else today,” Will said to Max with a smile. “I can’t help it if life gets me down sometimes.”

* * *

Justin sat on the edge of his bed, thinking. Jeff and Joey were talking quietly with each other. Justin was staring at Will’s picture. It was of the few things
he had been able to take, and keep. How could someone who had once been his best friend seem so far away?

As he looked around the small room Justin wondered how many of these kids had a best friend. His eyes seemed to  be drawn to Jeff and Joey. They seemed like they were best friends. But why? Was it because they had been thrown together because of the group home? ‘It’s possible,’ Justin thought. ‘Something tells me they
knew each other before they got here though.’ For a moment Justin frowned, trying to figure out what it was that told him this. There seemed to be a certain
chemistry between the two boys. Despite their obvious age difference, Justin could tell they seemed to know each other so well that their ages didn’t matter.
That was something best friends didn’t care about.

But that wasn’t it, no, it was something else. Then it hit him. Joey’s face, the look he had given Jeff right before Justin had punched Joey in face. People who had known each other a long time, people who were best friends, looked to each other for help.  Especially when they thought their life was in danger.

Suddenly Justin’s mind flashed back to the night he had almost died. The look on his best friend’s face still haunted him. ‘He was scared,’ Justin thought grimly, ‘He didn’t want anything bad to happen to me, he didn’t care if anything happened to him.’ He wasn’t quite sure what it was, but Justin could sense that Joey and Jeff cared about one another that much. ‘I’m sorry Will,’ Justin thought sadly. ‘I didn’t mean to wreck your life, or mine.’ But it didn’t matter now. 

Justin knew that he had to let go of that and move on. He had to piece his life back together, no matter how long it took. He had to earn his best friend’s trust back, or at least his dad’s. There was still one question lingering in his mind. How was he supposed to do that?

* * *

Will slowed Max down from a fast canter to a trot, then to a walk. “Good boy Max,” Will said, breathing hard. “You seem to be in better shape than I am.” He began to wonder just how long it had been since he’d ridden a horse. ‘Must’ve been a long time,’ Will thought wearily. ‘I’m usually not this tired when I ride.’

Suddenly he found himself starting to cry. “What's wrong with me?” Will said softly. “I’m a guy, guys don’t cry.” Maybe he had been too stressed out lately or maybe he felt pressured. But why? It was Justin, that much he knew. But what about his best friend made him so damn sad? Then it hit him. “My dad’s against him,” Will said in wonderment, as if he were seeing that for the first time. “That’s why I’m mad, I don’t want my dad to hate my best friend.” Why had it taken him so long to see that? He had been in denial, that’s why. “I don’t want to hate my dad,” Will said quietly to himself. “But I didn’t want to accept the fact that I have a reason to,” he stopped Max for a moment.

From his position in his office, Mark noticed Will wasn’t doing anything. He had opened the door, because he was sick of not being able to see anybody. ‘I wonder what he’s thinking about,’ Mark thought to himself. ‘He doesn’t look so good right now.’ Mark got up and walked slowly towards the arena.

“Hey Will, why are you just sitting there?” Mark demanded.

“Sorry, I didn’t know you were watching me,” Will replied in surprise. “I’ll get back to work.” He started to nudge Max with his heels.

“That’s okay,” Mark replied, waving his hand at Will. “I just wondered if you were okay, you didn’t look so good.”

“I’m fine,” Will replied hurriedly. “You don’t have to worry about me.”

“No, I guess not,” Mark said hesitantly. “But I am.”

“Why?” Will asked fearfully.

“Because, I can tell something’s been bothering you.” Mark replied, his dark brown eyes concerned.

“Yeah, and what does that have to do anything?” Will asked defensively.

“Nothing,” Mark replied quickly. “It’s just, I don’t want you to hate your dad forever.”

“How do you know that’s what it is?” Will asked suspiciously, his eyes darkening.

“I just get the feeling that’s what it is,” Mark stated.

“Oh,” Will replied in shock. “Is it that obvious?”

“Well, yes,” Mark said slowly. “I don’t want you to bottle everything up, Will.”

“Why does everyone keep telling me that?!” Will cried angrily. He nudged Max and started trotting fast around the small dirt arena.

“Will, don’t do this,” Mark pleaded.

“Don’t talk to me anymore,” Will replied coldly. “I don’t need your advice.”

“Fine,” Mark said wearily. “I’ll leave you alone, if that’s what you want.”

“Thanks,” Will replied, already absorbed in riding; he wasn’t paying attention to Mark anymore.

“If you want to talk, just ask,” Mark said as he walked away from the arena. “I promise I’ll stop giving out advice,” he said quietly to himself.

* * *

“Hey Justin,” Jeff said quietly. “It’s time for dinner, are you coming?”

“Yeah, in a minute,” Justin replied absent-mindedly.

“Are you okay?” Jeff asked hesitantly.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Justin replied, looking up at Jeff. He could tell Jeff was actually worried about him. It felt strange to have someone looking at him with such
concern. He had only known Jeff for a few hours, but Justin could tell he was like him. Jeff was actually a normal person. “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” Justin said, pausing. “You can go to dinner, I’ll catch up with you.”

“Uh, sure,” Jeff replied slowly. “I don’t believe you though.”

“What are you talking about?” Justin asked in surprise.

“You aren’t fine, and you know it,” Jeff replied coldly.

“Your point would be?” Will asked half-jokingly, forcing himself to smile.

“My point is, you shouldn’t be so secretive,” Jeff replied quietly, glaring at Justin with his dark brown eyes.

“What difference would that make to you?!” Justin exclaimed suddenly. “You don’t care about me, nobody does!”

“Yes I do,” Jeff replied calmly. “Not as much you might think, but I do care.”

“Why the hell would you care about me?” Justin asked in a monotone voice.

“I don’t want to you to end up like the Rock,” Jeff replied firmly.

“What makes you think I would?” Justin asked suspiciously.

“You hold your emotions in check too much,” Jeff said seriously. “If youre not careful you could end up holding in all of your emotions.”

“Is that what the ‘Rock’ does?” Justin asked with a slight laugh.

“Yes,” Jeff replied icily. “I don’t think it’s funny though.”

“Why not?” Justin asked curiously.

“Because I used to be like you,” Jeff whispered. “I went through a lot of crap before I came here.”

“And you think I haven’t?” Justin asked, glaring at Jeff; he was ready to stop talking already.

“Sorry, did you want to talk about it?” Jeff replied sympathetically.

“No,” Will said quickly, then he paused and again he looked at Jeff’s face. There was something in his face he hadn’t seen before. Suddenly Justin saw that Jeff wasn’t just worried, he truly wanted to help him.

“Well actually, I do,” Will said slowly, “But only if-

If I promise not tell anyone, right?” Jeff finished with a smile.

“Yeah, how did you know that was what I wanted?” Justin asked, somewhat stunned.

“Trust me,” Jeff replied, suddenly serious again. “That’s all people ever want when they want to share what’s bothering them.”

“Oh, I guess,” Justin said, somewhat puzzled by Jeff’s answer. “Do you promise you won’t tell anyone?”

“I swear I won’t tell another living soul,” Jeff said, holding his hand across his heart. “You can trust me Justin, honest.”

“Okay, well, it all started when my best friend died,” Justin began.

“I thought Will was your best friend?” Jeff asked, frowning.

“Well, he is, but I had another best friend,” Justin said slowly, trying not to cry. “But he died.”

“I’m sorry, Jeff replied sympathetically. “That always sucks.”

“Yeah,” Justin replied, slowly lifting his eyes up to Jeff’s face trying desperately to hide his pain. “Especially when they commit suicide.”

* * *

“Hey Mark, can we talk?” Will asked quietly.

“Sure,” Mark replied brightly. “What do you want to talk about?”

“I just wanted to say that I’m sorry,” Will replied slowly. “And to say that you were right.”

“Right about what?” Mark asked somewhat confused.

“About my dad, I don’t want to hate him,” Will said softly. “But it's really hard not to.”

“I can understand that,” Mark replied with a knowing expression; his face suddenly seemed dark, his thoughts were troubled.

“What’s wrong?” Will asked, picking up on Mark’s sudden anxiety.

“You don’t hold a grudge against your dad, do you?” Mark asked quietly.

“No, not that I know of,” Will replied hesitantly.


“No reason,” Mark replied hurriedly. “I had that problem with my dad.”

“I didn’t know that,” Will said in surprise.

“No one did,” Mark replied gruffly. “I’d kind of like to keep that way.”

“Maybe it would help if you talked about it,” Will said softly.

“No, it wouldn’t,” Mark replied haltingly. “Don’t push me on this one Will, it won’t do you any good.”

“Are you sure?” Will asked worriedly, Mark could tell he wanted him to talk, but he didn’t want to, and if he could help it, he wouldn’t.

“Will, please just drop it, okay?” Mark pleaded fearfully.

“Why?” Will asked suddenly suspicious. “What are you afraid of?”

“Nothing, I just don’t want to talk about it,” Mark replied hurriedly.

“That trick doesn’t work with me Mark,” Will said, his voice like ice. “What are you trying to hide?”

“I’m not trying to hide anything,” Mark replied quickly. “Will, please - just drop it, okay?”

“No,” Will replied firmly. “I can tell by your expression, it has to do with me, doesn’t it?”

“No, well okay, maybe it does,” Mark replied with a sigh. “But Jake made me promise not to tell you.”

“I want to know what it is,” Will said deliberately, his eyes becoming cold. “Why won’t you tell me, Mark?”

“Will, it’s not something you want to hear,” Mark replied exasperatedly.

“What is it?” Will asked, his voice rising. “Tell me now; I don’t want to get violent.”

“Don’t you dare threaten me, Will,” Mark replied coldly. “That won’t get you anywhere.”

“Damn it Mark, tell me!” Will cried angrily, “Why is so important to keep this a secret?!”

“Please Will, don’t do this,” Mark pleaded, his eyes full of fear. “If I tell you you’ll want to kill me.”

* * *

“That’s bad,” Jeff said slowly, trying to comprehend what Justin had just told him. “He tried to commit suicide?”

“You didn’t hear me right,” Justin replied coldly. “He committed suicide.”

“Wait a minute,” Jeff said, his eyes suddenly fearful. “He actually... he died that way?”

“Yes,” Justin said seriously. “That’s how he died.”

“You heard about this from his family, or his other friends, I assume,” Jeff said nervously.

“No,” Justin replied with a heavy sigh. “I only wish I had.”

“Are you implying that you were actually there?” Jeff asked incredulously.

“I’m not just implying, that’s what happened,” Justin replied tersely. “Not only did Joey die because he committed suicide, I was there Jeff, I tried to stop him.”

“But you said your friend, Joey, he committed suicide,” Jeff said shakily.

“Yes, I think we’ve established that fact now,” Justin replied, glaring.

“Sorry, it’s just hard to swallow that,” Jeff said apologetically.

“That’s okay, it’s certainly not something you hear every day,” Justin said quietly.

“Yeah, no wonder you don’t want to talk,” Jeff replied in quiet awe.

“Well, that’s only part of it,” Justin said hurriedly. “Not only could I not stop Joey, he killed himself anyway.”

“What do you mean anyway?” Jeff asked suspiciously.

“He killed himself despite the fact that I didn’t want him to die,” Justin replied, his voice breaking. “I tried everything, I even called my parents but...”

“You called your parents?!” Jeff asked in surprise.

“Yeah, what would you do?” Justin asked looking at Jeff.

Jeff could see Justin was trying to fight back tears. ‘This can’t be easy for him,’ Jeff thought quietly. ‘But he’s brave enough to risk that.’

“I don’t know what I would do,” Jeff replied softly. “I probably wouldn’t know what to do.”

“Yeah, well I sure as hell didn’t know,” Justin said with a weak laugh. “That’s why I called my parents.”

“Im still confused,” Jeff said frowning. “Wouldn’t you not want your parents to know?”

“Yes, but I didn’t have any choice,” Justin replied distantly. “I tried everything I could think of, I was desperate.”

“Oh, well that I can see,” Jeff replied matter-of-factly.

“You can?” Justin asked in surprise.

“Yeah, I’ve been desperate before,” Jeff replied casually, as if it was nothing.

“Oh, well anyway, I called my parents and told them what was going on,” Justin said, regaining his composure. “They were just as shocked as I was.”

“Then what happened?” Jeff asked quietly.

“I asked them what I should do,” Justin replied shaking his head. “At first, they had no idea what to do either.”

“What good did that do you?” Jeff asked with a slight laugh.

“I’m getting to that,” Justin replied irritably.

“Sorry,” Jeff replied hurriedly.

“That’s okay,” Justin replied with a slight smile. “My parents finally told me to ask Joey why he was doing this.”

“What did you say?” Jeff asked curiously.

“I told them I knew why already,” Justin said with a heavy sigh. “I told them pretty much everything.”

“What happened after that?”

“They asked if they could talk to Joey,” Justin said slowly. “It was easier since I was on my cell phone, but...” Justin’s voice trailed off for a moment. Why was he doing this to himself again? Then he realized, it was because he trusted Jeff. “But even that didn’t change Joey’s mind.”

“Gee, that must have been really rough on them,” Jeff remarked.

“Yeah, but it was worse for me,” Justin replied darkly. “I knew if even my parents couldn’t help him, then what chance did I stand?”

“Not much of one I’d say,” Jeff said sadly.

“Exactly,” Justin said grimly. “I still tried to convince him his life was worth living.”

“I take it that didn’t work either,” Jeff said quietly.

“No, no matter what I said, Joey wouldn’t listen,” Justin said sadly. “He was thoroughly convinced that no one cared about him.”

“Not even you?” Jeff asked, somewhat surprised.

“Well, not exactly,” Justin replied hesitantly. “He said I didn’t understand, and I couldn’t help him.”

“I take it he was thoroughly convinced of this too.”

“Yeah, too convinced,” Justin said softly. “He had a gun too.”

“He shot himself?” Jeff asked, even though he already knew the answer.

“Yes,” Justin said, looking somewhat fearfully at Jeff. “He did, and I couldn’t do anything to stop him.”

* * *

“What makes you so certain I’d kill you?” Will asked suspiciously.

“Because your dad confided in me, Will,” Mark replied wearily. “What he told me is definitely something you wouldn’t want to hear.”

“How do you know?” Will asked, glaring at Mark.

“Know what?” Mark asked trying to wave off Will’s sudden bombardment of questions.

“Don’t play dumb with me, Mark,” Will replied, his voice like ice. He cast an angry glare in Mark’s direction. “It won’t work and you know it.”

“I know,” Mark replied slowly. “But if I tell you...”

“How bad could it be, Mark?” Will asked, his eyes trying to read Mark’s face.

“Bad. Trust me, you don’t want to hear what your dad told me,” Mark replied coolly. “You’ll leave here more angry then when you came in.”

“That’s not possible,” Will replied calmly. “I was furious when I came to the barn.”

“Well, then you would be seething with rage,” Mark replied somewhat fearfully. “Will, why do want to know about this so badly?”

“Because Jake is my dad,” Will said pausing, trying to find the right words. “We promised we would be honest with each other, no matter what it was.”

“Oh, well Jake told me you were still under the impression that Justin was your best friend,” Mark replied slowly.

“The impression?” Will asked, his voice rising. “Im not under any impressions Mark; Justin is my best friend.”

“But he tried to kill you, Will!” Mark said incredulously. “More than once, I might add.”

“I know that,” Will replied coldly. “But you don’t know Justin like I do.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mark asked suspiciously, his eyes narrowing.

“It means that I know why Justin did all that stuff,” Will replied calmly. “Don’t you get it, Mark?  Justin was blinded by his anger.”

“Will,” Mark replied hesitantly. “Are you sure you’re not just in denial?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Will replied, glaring angrily at Mark; his eyes were like daggers. Mark could tell Will would’ve stabbed Mark if he had the chance. “I’m his best friend, Mark, and I know Justin better than anyone.”

“I know that, Will,” Mark replied carefully. “But you should consider the fact that you are in denial.”

“No I’m not!” Will exclaimed angrily. “You just don’t want to accept the fact that my dad is wrong!”

“Will, that’s not why I think you’re in denial,” Mark replied hurriedly. “Please don’t be mad.”

“Don’t be mad?” Will asked, trying to stop himself from grabbing Mark and strangling him. “Don’t worry Mark, Im not mad.”

“You’re not?” Mark asked in surprise, laughing nervously; he was beginning to wonder what kind of trap Will was trying to set for him.

“No, Im way too good for that,” Will said, suddenly calm. “I just don’t see why you’re siding with my dad.”

“Will, I didn’t say I was,” Mark replied warily. “What are you trying to pull?”

“I’m not trying to trick you, Mark,” Will replied smoothly. “Why would I do that?”

“I don’t know,” Mark replied thoughtfully. “I just thought...”

“You thought I would fly off the handle, right?” Will asked with a slight smile, his eyes suddenly gleaming.

“Yes... why are you looking at me like that?” Mark asked, suddenly suspicious; he could tell Will was up to something.

“No reason,” Will replied with a shrug. “I just have my own way of dealing with things.”

“What the heck is that supposed to mean?!” Mark cried exasperatedly.

“Calm down Mark,” Will replied quietly. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry; I just have to talk to my dad.”

“What did you say?” Mark asked in disbelief.

“I said, I just have to talk to my dad,” Will replied with an almost evil grin, then walked out of the tack room, closing the door softly behind him.

* * *

“Justin, what’s wrong?” Jeff asked worriedly. “Did I hit a nerve or something?”

“No,” Justin replied tearfully, “It’s just...” his voice trailed off, he had known that this would happen. He knew he would start crying when he got to this part. He always did.

“Justin, please don’t cry,” Jeff pleaded. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s not you,” Justin replied, slowly regaining his composure. “It’s what happened.”

“Oh,” Jeff replied slowly. “You mean what happened with Joey?”

“Yes, I always cry when I get to this part,” Justin said quietly. “I wanted so badly to stop him.”

“You did everything you could,” Jeff replied softly.

“I know, everyone’s told me that,” Justin said somewhat irritably. “But it still doesn’t seem like enough.”

“I know it doesn’t,” Jeff said, shaking his head in disbelief. “But don’t worry about that, tell me the rest of the story.”

“Okay,” Justin replied in a small voice. “I’ll try.”

“I won’t tell anybody about this, I swear,” Jeff said quietly.

“I know, if you did I’d have to kill you,” Justin said with a weak laugh. “Where was I?”

“The part about your friend having a gun,” Jeff said gently.

“Oh yeah,” Justin replied knowingly. “Joey had a gun and he was pointing at his head. I begged him not to pull the trigger.”

“But he ignored you?” Jeff asked.

“Yes, and well, he said I wouldn’t understand what he was going through,” Justin said slowly. “I said, I might not know what you’re going through, but I can still help you.”

“What did Joey say?” Jeff asked, suddenly curious.

“He said that I couldn’t possibly help him,” Justin replied sadly. “I would never be able to help him, at least that’s what Joey thought.”

“But you were his best friend,” Jeff said in shock. “How could he say that to you?”

“He was desperate, Jeff,” Justin replied quietly. “When people get desperate they do stupid things.”

“I guess,” Jeff said, shaking his head in disbelief.

“When Joey became desperate,” Justin said, trying not to cry. “I became desperate too.”

“What do you mean?” Jeff asked, suddenly concerned again.

“I threatened Joey,” Justin replied slowly. “I told him if he killed himself, I would kill myself too.”

“Wow,” Jeff said whistling softly. “You must have been pretty desperate.”

“Yeah,” Justin replied, shaking his head and laughing. “It’s funny, the things you do when youre desperate.”

“No it’s not,” Jeff replied quickly.

“Well, no, but it’s so ironic,” Justin replied with a sad smile. “I tried everything, I threatened to tell Joey’s parents, or mine.”

“I take it that didn’t help,” Jeff said with a knowledgeable glance.

“No, but I didn’t know what else to do,” Justin replied with a heavy sigh. “I even threatened to call the police.”

“What good would that do?” Jeff asked in surprise.

“I don’t know,” Justin replied his voice breaking; the look he gave Jeff was a painful one. “I was going to figure that out when I got to it.”

“Oh, I see,” Jeff replied quietly.

“No, you don’t see,” Justin replied somewhat angrily.

“That’s just it, nobody understands why this happened.”

“Not even you?” Jeff asked in wonderment.

“No, sadly, not even me,” Justin replied wearily. “I knew Joey was troubled and that he had thought of committing suicide, but I never thought he would actually do it.”

“I can see that,’ Jeff replied thoughtfully.

“But even the threat of the cops finding out didn’t scare Joey,” Justin replied quietly. “He started shouting at me.”

“What did he say?”

“He kept saying I wouldn’t understand, that no one could possibly understand him,” Justin replied slowly. “That I would never be able to help.”

“Sounds like something he would do in that situation,” Jeff remarked.

“Yes, and he said no one cared about him, not even me,” Justin said sadly.

“Why did he say that?” Jeff asked incredulously. “How could he say that?” he said more to himself than to Justin.

“I’m still not sure,” Justin replied thoughtfully. “I think it was because I hadn’t been calling him lately.”

“What does that to have with anything?” Jeff asked suspiciously.

“I thought that was why he said I couldn’t help him,” Justin replied matter-of-factly. “But then he said no, it wasn’t because of that.”

“What was his reason for saying that then?”

“He said I couldn’t help him because I didn’t understand what he was going through,” Justin replied distantly.

“Did you tell him that didn’t matter?” Jeff asked quietly.

“Yeah, but it didn’t help, in fact, that made it worse,” Justin replied nervously. “I think that’s what really pushed Joey over the edge.”

“What did you do then?”

“I begged him not to pull the trigger, but he wouldn’t listen,” Justin said, his voice fierce. “Finally I just gave up.”

“Why?” Jeff asked, trying not sound too surprised.

“I figured if I just let Joey rant and rave,” Justin said, pausing, “That maybe, he would calm down, or see what I was trying to say, and he did but...”

“But what?” Jeff asked softly.

“He calmed down,” Justin replied slowly. “But it didn’t help.”

“You’re saying Joey really meant to say those things?” Jeff asked in amazement.

“Well, some of them,” Justin replied hesitantly. “But not all of them.”

“I’m confused,” Jeff said frowning.

“Hang on, Im getting to that,” Justin replied irritably.

“Sorry,” Jeff replied apologetically.

“That’s okay,” Justin replied quickly. “Joey told me he was sorry for what he said about me, he said that I might understand.”

“What did you say?” Jeff asked curiously.

“I asked him what I would understand,” Justin replied. “He said I would probably understand how he was feeling, but not why he wanted to die.”

“How does that work?” Jeff asked with a weak laugh.

“I don’t know, but apparently Joey thought there was a difference, Justin replied seriously. “I guess there was, but I couldn’t see it.”

“That’s too bad,” Jeff replied sympathetically.

“Yeah, especially since he almost had me convinced he wasn’t going to kill himself,” Justin replied, lowering his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Jeff said gently.

“I know, that’s what everyone says,” Justin replied, glaring at Jeff. “Don’t be like other people Jeff, okay?”

“Don’t worry, Jeff replied with a small smile. “I won’t be.”

“Good,” Justin replied with a slight laugh, “Anyway, just when I thought Joey was finally convinced his life was worth living, he, he killed himself.”

“That must’ve sucked,” Jeff said matter-of-factly.

“Yes, it did,” Justin said quietly. “I was so convinced that I had been able to stop him, but no, I was sadly mistaken.”

“You really watched him die?” Jeff asked quietly.

“You think I wanted to?!” Justin exclaimed angrily. “I wanted to run away, or yank the gun away from him.”

“Why didn’t you?” Jeff asked suspiciously.

“I tried, believe me,” Justin replied wearily. “But it didn’t work. He ended up trying to shoot me, accidentally of course.”

“Gee, that had to be pretty scary.” Jeff said quietly.

“Yeah, it was scary as hell,” Justin replied with a knowing smile. “But what was even scarier was what happened next.”

“Oh?” Jeff asked in surprise.

“I managed to get the gun away from him,” Justin replied quietly. “I cocked the gun, and put it to my own head.”

“You did what?!” Jeff exclaimed incredulously.

“I said- Justin began.

“I heard you, but, you actually did that?” Jeff asked in shock, trying desperately to comprehend what Justin had just said.

“Yes,” Justin said calmly. “I told you I was desperate.”

“I guess,” Jeff replied with a slight laugh.

“I wanted to show Joey I was serious,” Justin replied glaring at Jeff. “But even that didn’t stop him.”

“Would anything have stopped him?’ Jeff asked quietly.

“No, I don’t think so,” Justin replied sadly. “Joey managed to wrestle the gun away from me, and then I barely had time to scream at him before...” Justin stopped trying hard not to cry; why did this have to happen every time he told this story?

“Before what?” Jeff asked gently.

“Before he pulled the trigger,” Justin replied softly.

“Oh,” Jeff said quietly.

“I screamed no, Joey please don’t do this!” Justin said, his voice somewhat louder. “You know you’ll regret this, and for a minute he stopped, and for just a second I had hope that he wouldn’t do it.”

“Then what?”

“Then, he started to pull the trigger,” Justin replied grimly. I screamed at him not to do it that, he would regret it, I tried to grab the gun but he pulled  it away.”

“I still can’t believe this happened to you,” Jeff said in quiet disbelief.

“Yeah, sometimes even I can’t believe it,Justin said with a weak laugh. “I watched in horror as Joey pulled the trigger. All he said was, sorry Justin I wish I didn’t have to do this, I love you.”

“Then he died?” Jeff asked, even though he knew Justin would say yes, but he was curious to see his friend’s reaction.

“Yes, I watched as the blood spurted from his head,” Justin replied, his voice breaking slightly. “And then he fell onto the ground and crumpled into a lifeless lump.”

“Well, I just have to remember that I asked,” Jeff replied slowly, shaking his head. “I almost wished I hadn’t.”

“No, that’s okay, Justin replied quickly, his eyes watering. “I’m glad I told you, it’s just...”

“What?” Jeff asked softly.

“I, I didn’t want to start, I didn’t think I would...” Justin mumbled.

Jeff noticed he wasn’t making much sense, and that he was starting to cry.

“What is it?” Jeff asked quietly. “What’s wrong?”

“I wish I could tell you,” Justin replied tearfully, looking at Jeff with a mixture of fear and pain in his eyes. “But I can’t, you wouldn’t understand.”

“Why not?” Jeff asked somewhat irritably.

“You just wouldn’t,” Justin replied coldly, then he starting sobbing.

* * *

“Will, wait!” Mark called out quickly, but it was too late. ‘Oh no,’ Mark thought worriedly. ‘Why didn’t I just tell him?’ Now he knew that Will would want to get whatever information he hadn’t been able to get out of Mark, he would get out of Jake. ‘I shouldn’t have been so stubborn,’ Mark thought with a weary sigh, “Maybe I can call Will when he gets home,” Mark said, suddenly struck with an idea, “If I can reach Will before he talks to Jake, then maybe I can stop him from making a big mistake.” He picked up the phone and dialed Will’s number.

Meanwhile, Will had just pulled into his dad’s driveway. Even though he felt like he had always lived here, Will knew that right now, he felt like an outcast. ‘Maybe I should’ve talked to Mark,’ Will thought, somewhat worriedly. If he had actually tried
to listen to what he had to say... but no, it was too late for that. “I just have to be calm, not angry,” Will told himself as put his key into the lock. When he opened the door Will was surprised to find that no one was home. ‘Strange,’ he thought, ‘Normally Jake is home by now.’ He glanced at his watch, well, it was only about four-thirty, maybe his dad was working late.

Suddenly the phone rang. “Hello?” Will said as he picked up the phone.

“Hi Will,” Mark replied haltingly. “This is Mark.”

“What do you want?” Will asked suspiciously. “I thought I said I didn’t want to talk to you!”

“You did,” Mark replied slowly. “Can we talk?”

“What do you want to talk about?” Will asked irritably.

“I want to apologize,” Mark replied hurriedly. “For not telling you what Jake said.”

“Oh,” Will replied, somewhat taken aback by Mark’s sudden apology. “I thought you didn’t want me to know-

”I know that,” Mark replied irritably. “I mean, I know I said I didn’t want you to hear what your dad told me.”

“Mark, I know Jake doesn’t like Justin,” Will replied matter-of-factly.

“Well, there’s more to it than that,” Mark replied wearily. “Jake hates Justin.”

“I know that,” Will replied calmly. “I know that Jake would probably kill Justin if he could.”

“You do?” Mark asked in surprise.

“Yes, he told me some of what he thought during the trial,” Will replied quietly. “Did my dad say something else, something I don’t already know?”

“Um, well no, not exactly,” Mark replied hesitantly. “I, uh, I’m not sure you want to hear this,” Mark stammered nervously.

“Hear what?” Will asked with a slight laugh. “It can’t be that bad.”

“For the millionth time, Will - yes it can!” Mark replied in exasperation.

“Sorry,” Will replied quietly. “I guess I just didn’t want to believe you.”

“That’s okay,” Mark replied apologetically. “I was just being stubborn, I didn’t want to break my promise to Jake, and-

And you ended up saying something stupid?” Will suggested nervously.

“Yes, I suppose you could say that,” Mark replied thoughtfully. “I just don’t want you to get hurt, that’s all.”

“I see,” Will replied slowly. “What makes you think I would get hurt?”

“I don’t really know,” Mark replied with a slight sigh. “What Jake said, it was something you didn’t already know.”

“Oh?” Will asked curiously.

“In fact, it wasn’t something anyone would want to hear,” Mark replied sadly.

“What do you mean?” Will asked, trying not to sound worried.

“I still think I shouldn’t tell you this,” Mark replied slowly. “Because you’ll probably regret the fact that you asked me about it in the first place.”

“It’s that bad?” Will asked fearfully. “What could possibly be that horrible?”

“How about a plan?” Mark replied quietly. “An evil plan.”

“What do you mean, evil?” Will asked, trying not to sound scared.

“Exactly what I said,” Mark replied somewhat irritably. “Evil, at least in my mind.”

“Does this have anything to do with Justin?” Will asked quietly.

“Yes,” Mark replied calmly. “It does.”

“Oh, wait a minute,” Will said shakily. “My dad does hate Justin, and he did say he didn’t understand why I still liked him.”

“Will, it’s not as bad as you think,” Mark replied gently.

“Oh really?!” Will exclaimed angrily. “How can your dad forming a plan to kill your best friend not be bad?!”

“I’m not saying it’s not bad,” Mark replied slowly. “Just give your dad a chance to explain.”

“No,” Will replied flatly. “And I won’t let you explain it to me either!”

“Will, please wait,” Mark pleaded as he heard the phone click. But again, it was too late, and now Mark knew there was no reaching Will. ‘I guess I can say I tried,’ Mark thought wearily.

“Hello, anybody home?” Jake called as opened the front door.

“Yeah,” Will replied, his expression clouded with anger. “I want to talk you about something, Dad.”

“What?” Jake asked quickly, not having any idea of what had just occurred.

“What Mark just told me,” Will said slowly, almost as if he was weighing each word. “Is it true?”

“What are you talking about, Will?” Jake asked, his smile fading away quickly.

“Your plan,” Will said coldly. The one you told Mark about. Is it true?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jake replied nervously.

“Yes you do,” Will said quietly, his expression dark, his eyes like icy blue daggers.

“Oh,” Jake replied fearfully. “That plan.”

“You know what I’m talking about then?” Will asked, somewhat relieved.

“Yes,” Jake replied pausing. “I’m afraid I do.” Jake looked at Will. ‘He has no idea,’ Jake thought grimly. His gaze was focused on his son.

The look on his dad’s face told Will that this plan was not a good one. His face wore a sad expression, almost as if someone had died, or was going to.

* * *

“Justin, what’s wrong?” Jeff asked worriedly. “I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

“I know,” Justin replied tearfully. “It wasn’t you.”

“Then what was it?” Jeff asked quietly.

“It was the story,” Justin replied, slowly regaining his composure. “Every time I tell that story I start crying.”

“Oh, because your best friend died?” Jeff asked, somewhat confused.

“Yes,” Justin replied irritably. “What did you think it was?”

“I don’t know,” Jeff replied with a shrug. “I figured it was because Joey died, but I wasn’t sure.”

“What do you mean?” Justin asked in surprise.

“Sometimes, it’s something else that makes a person cry,” Jeff replied distantly.

“What the heck is that supposed to mean?” Justin asked, confused by the mysteriousness of his friend’s reply.

“In your case it was because your best friend died,” Jeff replied hurriedly. “That’s what I meant, it wasn’t something else that made you cry.”

“Oh, yeah, that was it,” Justin said hesitantly. He had noticed that Jeff was suddenly very nervous. He wasn’t looking at Justin at all, and when he talked to Justin he had spoken in a rush of words. Now he was fidgeting. “Jeff, are you okay?” Justin asked worriedly.

“Yes, Im fine,” Jeff replied irritably. “Why?”

“You just seem nervous all of sudden,” Justin replied casually. “Like you had been through something like this before.”

“No, not me,” Jeff said with a nervous laugh. “I’ve never had that happen to me.”

“That’s good,” Justin replied with relief. “I’d hate for anybody else to have to go through what I had to.”

“Yeah, that sounded pretty awful,” Jeff replied quietly, frowning. “Is that why you were looking at Will’s picture?”

“No,” Justin replied quietly. “I told Will what happened.”

“Oh, how did he take it?” Jeff asked, as if the whole story had meant nothing to him.

“He took it kind of like you did at first,” Justin replied thoughtfully. “He was pretty shocked, but then he got worried.”

“Worried about what?” Jeff asked curiously.

“About me,” Justin replied, blinking back tears. “I told him what happened after I had been depressed for awhile.”

“What difference did that make?” Jeff asked, confused.

“It didn’t, well, it did,” Justin replied haltingly. “See, I used to cut myself.”

“What do you mean?” Jeff asked, furrowing his brow.

“I mean, I used to cut my wrists, to get rid of my pain,” Justin replied, his voice breaking. “Now, do you know what I’m talking about?”

“Yeah, Jeff said quietly. “Why would you want to do that?”

“Because I wanted to get rid of my pain,” Justin replied calmly. “Will knew me pretty good, and I told him everything that had happened, everything I had been doing since Joey died.”

“Like what?” Jeff asked eagerly.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” Justin said darkly. “Besides, how did this conversation get turned around so fast?”

“Oh I don’t know,” Jeff replied sheepishly. “I just don’t want to talk about what I went through.”

“Why not?” Justin asked curiously. “I told you part of my story, shouldn’t you tell me part of yours?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Jeff replied hesitantly. “But it’s not easy to talk about.”

“Oh,” Justin replied, looking at his watch. “Well it’s getting way past dinnertime, do you want to go eat now?”

“Sure,” Jeff replied, getting up. “I’m starved.”

“Yeah, me too,” Justin replied with a laugh.

“Besides, you’re such a popular guy, the others are probably wondering where you are.”

“Yeah I’m sure they are,” Jeff replied with a smile.

“Come on, let’s go.”

“Okay, be there in a minute,” Justin replied as he tucked the picture of Will away in his suitcase.

* * *

“Will, what did Mark tell you?” Jake asked quietly.

“He said you confided in him,” Will replied irritably. “Let me guess; you don’t want me to know about this either.”

“No, I don’t,” Jake said wearily. “Did Mark tell you about the plan?”

“No, he said I wouldn’t want to hear about it,” Will replied slowly. “He also said that it was evil.”

“Oh, well I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinion,” Jake mused. “Will, are you sure you want to hear this?”

“Yes,” Will replied seriously. “I want to hear what this ‘plan’ is.”

“Okay,” Jake said with a heavy sigh. “But I’m warning you, you might regret ever asking me.”

“I know,” Will replied softly. “But if I do, I know it’s my fault.”

“Well, then here goes,” Jake said quickly. “My plan that Mark was referring to, it did have to do with Justin.”

“I know that,” Will replied irritably. “What about Justin?”

“Okay, so Mark told you that too,” Jake said in surprise, then he sighed. “Then I guess I’m stuck with the hard part.”

“Dad, just stop beating around the bush and tell me already,” Will replied with an exasperated sigh.

“Well, I want to kill Justin,” Jake said calmly. “To put it simply.”

“I know that dad,” Will replied glaring. “What’s your point?”

“No, you didn’t hear me,” Jake said seriously, looking Will straight in eye. “I said I want to kill Justin.”

“I know that,” Will said in frustration. “But- suddenly he stopped; the look on his dad’s face caught him by surprise. Will hadn’t seen Jake look at him like that except when he was really angry, or mad at Will for doing something stupid. There also had been one other time that Jake had looked at Will like that. When he had wanted revenge, or justice. But mostly revenge. Will studied Jake’s face carefully. ‘If this has to do with Justin, and he said he wants to kill him,’ Will thought, pausing, ‘What the heck does this have to with me?’

He got up for a minute, his brow furrowed in thought. What was the connection
here? ‘Wait a minute, could Jake really want to do that?’ Will thought anxiously, glancing at his dad. The look on Jake’s face told Will that yes, his dad really did want that. “Dad, are you saying you really want to kill Justin?” Will asked fearfully.

“Yes, that’s what I said,” Jake replied with an almost evil smile.

“Oh my God,” Will whispered. “You really want him dead, don’t do?”

“Yes, sadly, I do,” Jake replied calmly. “I’m sorry, Will.”

“Dad, how could say that?!” Will exclaimed angrily. “He’s my best friend!”

“No, he was your best friend!” Jake screamed. “Will, you’re in denial, he wasn’t thinking, he tried to kill you!”

“I know that already,” Will replied coldly. “Have you ever stopped to consider the fact that it might have been a mistake?”

“Will, no one makes a mistake like that,” Jake replied, his dark brown eyes piercing Will’s heart. “And you know it.”

“What if I do?” Will retorted. “But I don’t care?”

“Will, Im sorry, but that’s just the way I feel,” Jake replied, trying to sound apologetic.

“That’s just the way you feel?!” Will repeated his voice rising. “I don’t care how you feel!”

“Oh, so I don’t matter anymore, only you and Justin do?!” Jake cried. “Is that what you think?”

“No, I didn’t say that,” Will replied, trying to stay calm. “You twisted my words, Dad.”

“No I didn’t, that’s what you said!” Jake cried angrily. “I heard it with my own ears!”

“That’s not what you heard,” Will replied calmly.  “It’s what you thought you heard.”

“I don’t care, Jake replied, lowering his voice slightly. “You still don’t agree with me.”

“Is that it?” Will asked irritably. “I don’t agree with you, so that makes me the enemy?”

“I don’t know,” Jake replied quietly. “Maybe.”

“Maybe?” Will replied suspiciously. “No, I know you too well Jake; maybe means yes.”

“That’s not what I said, Will,” Jake said quickly. “Don’t put words in my mouth.”

“Now you know how I feel,” Will replied coldly. “How does it feel to have your words twisted?”

“Oh, not too good,” Jake replied with a laugh.  “You’re too smart for your own good.”

“No I’m not,” Will replied with a slight smile. “Besides you raised me, what does that say about you?”

“Is that supposed to be a threat?” Jake asked with a laugh.

“Yes,” Will replied quietly, glaring at Jake. “I don’t find it funny either.”

“Will, I’m sorry,” Jake said apologetically. “I know you’re mad at me for wanting Justin to die.”

“Then why don’t you take it back?” Will asked irritably.

“Because I can’t,” Jake replied grimly. “It’s how I feel Will, I can’t change that.”

“Why not?” Will asked, his expression changing slightly. “Am I  really the enemy, Jake?”

“No, of course not,” Jake replied hurriedly. “Will, you know I don’t hate you, right?”

“I know, but, you hate my best friend,” Will replied slowly. “You want him to die; what does that say about me?”

“Nothing, I guess,” Jake said thoughtfully. “Will, I know your opinion is different than mine.”

“Jake, I don’t want to kill my best friend,” Will replied quietly. “But if you do, then Justin might think I want him dead too.”

“Im sure he doesn’t think that,” Jake said quickly.

“But what if he does?” Will asked worriedly.

“Will, if you just told him, then- Jake began, but got cut off.

“It doesn’t matter, you still hate him,” Will replied coldly.

“I know,” Jake replied quietly. “I’m sorry, okay?”

“No, it’s not okay, “Will replied darkly. “Sorry’s not good enough.”

“Then what is?” Jake asked anxiously.

“Nothing,” Will replied quietly. “Not you, or your stupid excuses, or what you think, or what you say, nothing is good enough.”

“Will, what are you talking about?” Jake asked suspiciously.

“Nothing you say anymore is good enough,” Will replied calmly.

“Will, please tell me what’s- Jake began in exasperation.

“No, I don’t want to talk to you ever again,” Will replied coldly, his blue eyes blinking back angry tears. He walked slowly towards the stairs. “I hate you Jake,” he said slowly, his voice rising into an angry yell. “I never want to talk to you again!”

“Will, please wait!” Jake called anxiously, but it was too late; Will was gone. Now Jake wasn’t sure if he could ever get him back, let alone reach his son.  ‘Why did I ever say that to him?’ Jake thought bitterly, ‘If only I was a good person, but I guess, according to Will, I’m not.’

Will stood quietly at the top of the stairs. For a minute he was almost sorry that he had said what he did. ‘I don’t care,’ Will thought angrily, ‘He shouldn’t have said that about Justin,’ he glared at his dad. “If he wants to talk to me, he’ll have to do it himself,” Will said bitterly. Then he walked to his room and slammed the door.

Jake looked up suddenly. ‘Great, now he’s mad at me,’ he thought, silently cursing himself. If he had just kept his mouth shut. “Why did I let Will bully me into telling him?” Jake said to himself in wonderment. “If only I had just told him first, instead of confiding in Mark,” he said quietly, “Then maybe I wouldn’t be in this mess.” But he was. ‘Now what I’m going to do?’ Jake thought worriedly, ‘I guess I should apologize.’ But something told him he had no reason to apologize. ‘If I feel this way, it won’t change,’ he thought quietly, ‘What good would apologizing do?’ so much for that plan. It was funny how all of this had started because of a so called plan Jake had. Well, actually it was more ironic than funny. Mark had thought Jake’s plan was evil.

Wanting to kill someone else wasn’t evil, was it?

“Yes it is,” Jake said clenching his hands into fists, “What the heck makes me think I can kill Justin anyway?” Why did he want to kill Justin in the first place? ‘He was my friend once, why do I want to kill him now?’ Jake thought worriedly. But he knew why.

It was because Justin had tried to kill him. It was because he had tried to kill Will, and tried to wreck their lives. It hadn’t worked, and his strange plan had failed. What made him think his plan would be successful? ‘Maybe I should try to see Will’s point of view,’ Jake mused, ‘If I do that, maybe I won’t be so bent on getting revenge.’ It was worth a shot.

Besides, if Will saw what Justin did as one big mistake, then he maybe could tell Jake what he thought had happened. Jake began to realize that he had never actually let Will tell him what had happened on that fateful night. Not in great in detail anyway. Or had he? ‘Maybe I just didn’t want to believe him,’ Jake thought wearily, ‘I was so convinced that I was right, that I didn’t want to listen to what my own son had to say.’ Now he knew what he had to do. ‘If only I can find the courage to do it,’ Jake thought worriedly, glancing upstairs at Will’s closed door.

* * *

“Hey Jeff, what took you so long?” Joey asked as Justin and Jeff walked into the dining room.

“Justin and I were just talking,” Jeff replied casually.

“Couldn’t you guys do that as you walked towards the dining room?” Joey asked frowning.

“Yeah, but it was personal,” Jeff replied, glaring at Joey.

“Oh,” Joey said quietly. “Well, I’m glad you decided to show up.”

“Yeah, what’s for dinner?” Jeff asked with a laugh.

“Meatloaf,” Joey said, making a face. “I hate meatloaf.”

“Who doesn’t?” Justin asked with a laugh.

“Come on, we might as well go see what’s left,” Jeff said with a shrug.

“Uh, yeah, sure, Justin replied hesitantly, as he followed Justin towards the counter. As he looked around Justin could see this place had been here a long time. It kind of reminded him of his elementary school cafeteria. There was a set of metal bars attached to the wall where the food was served.  Fortunately, there was still some food left. ‘Or maybe unfortunately,’ Justin thought with a smile. He could tell the wall was brick here. The paint was peeling badly, where it met with the brick.

‘Strange,’ Justin thought frowning, ‘Why is the wall only half brick and the rest is white paint?’ He shrugged; it wasn’t that important. Justin glanced around at the long white tables and benches that filled the dining room. Most of the boys were talking to each other. One of them noticed Justin looking at him. He glared angrily at Justin, making Justin remember that he was new. ‘Great, not only am I in a group home, but I get stuck with all these boys.’ It wasn’t that he minded being stuck with all these boys, but the fact that he was still new. “I always hated being new,” Justin said bitterly, “Everyone stares at you as if you’ve stepped off an alien planet.”

“Hey, where do you want to sit?” Jeff asked, noticing Justin’s dark expression.

“I don’t know,” Justin replied with a shrug. “Where do you usually sit?”

“Over there,” Jeff said, pointing to where Joey and the other boys from their room were sitting.

“Oh, okay,” Justin said hesitantly. “That sounds good.”

“Okay, come on,” Jeff said, walking towards the table.

“I’m coming,” Justin replied quickly, as he followed Jeff towards the table. He glanced around warily. ‘I hope I don’t get beat up,’ Justin thought worriedly.
‘Most of these guys look pretty tough.’ He kept walking. Justin watched as heads turned when he walked past people. Then came the whispering. He knew what they were saying. “What’s wrong with him?” someone was probably saying, or “Hey look, it’s the new kid.” Justin stopped looking at all the faces for a moment. He sensed something was wrong.

Suddenly Justin glanced at the floor. He knew someone would try to trip him sooner or later. Sure enough when he was only a few feet away from the table, someone stuck out their foot. But Justin stopped just in time. A big kid with brown hair was snickering at him. “Hey, what’s the matter?” he jeered. “You scared or somethin’?”

“No,” Justin replied calmly. “But I’d appreciate it if you moved your foot out of my way.”

“Ooh, I’m so scared!” the kid exclaimed with a laugh. “Why don’t you make me?”

“Leave him alone,” Jeff growled. “He didn’t do anything to you.”

“Why should I?” the kid asked with a sneer. “Just because he’s one of your friends, doesn’t mean I should let him go.”

“Jeff, don’t worry,” Justin replied quietly. “I can handle this.”

“If you say so,” Jeff said with a shrug as he sat down at the table.

“I guess I can’t make you move,” Justin said calmly. “But I can go around you.” Then he walked around the big kid’s foot and sat down at the table near Jeff.

“Well, you got lucky that time,” the kid muttered grumpily.

“Yeah, that’s what they all say,” Justin replied quietly to himself. Now there was tension. Justin could feel it. ‘Great, I haven’t even been here one day and I get a new enemy,’ he thought grimly. He didn’t dare look at the kid again. Instead Justin
glanced at Jeff. His new friend was staring at him with a quizzical look. “What?” Justin asked irritably.

“Nothing,” Jeff said quietly. “It’s just, nobody has ever stood up to that kid either.”

“Why does everything I do have to end up being so heroic?” Justin asked coldly. “All I did was step around the guy’s foot.”

“Sorry,” Jeff mumbled apologetically. “It’s just been a day of firsts for you hasn’t it?”

“What do you mean?” Justin asked puzzled.

“Well, first you taught Joey a lesson,” Jeff replied matter-of-factly. “Then you stood up to a bully who’s terrified everybody for years.”

“Years?” Justin asked, glaring at Jeff.

“Okay, maybe not years,” Jeff replied with a laugh.

“But ever since I can remember, John’s beat up anyone he can get his hands on.”

“Oh,” Justin said in surprise. “I see. You don’t think he’ll come after me, do you?”

“No, you didn’t make him mad or anything,” Jeff replied quickly.

“I didn’t?” Justin asked, confused. “He seemed mad.”

“Yeah, but that wouldn’t make him mad,” Jeff replied calmly. “He’s just irritated because you didn’t fall for his trick.”

“Oh, tripping someone is a trick?” Justin asked, looking at Jeff in amazement.

“Well no,” Jeff said, scratching his head. “But it would’ve been funny.”

“Hey, who’s side are you on anyway?!” Justin exclaimed somewhat angrily.

“Sorry,” Jeff replied calmly. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“That’s okay,” Justin said hurriedly. “I’m just a little sensitive sometimes, that’s all.”

“Oh, are you feeling better now?’ Jeff asked worriedly.

“Yes, what does that have to do with anything?” Justin asked with a slight laugh.

“When you were telling me that story, you got really upset,” Jeff said quietly.

“Oh, yeah I’m okay,” Justin replied glancing at Jeff. “Are you?”

“Yes, why do you ask?” Jeff asked suspiciously.

“You seemed kind of nervous after I told you what happened,” Justin replied casually. “I was just wondering if-

If I was okay?” Jeff asked quizzically. “I’m fine.”

“That’s good,” Justin said quickly. “I didn’t want to hear that you had some big secret or something.”

“What are you talking about?” Jeff asked suspiciously. “I’ve got nothing to hide.”

“I know,” Justin replied calmly. “But everyone is here for a reason.”

“What do you mean?” Jeff asked, puzzled.

“I mean, if you end up in a group home,” Justin replied, pausing. “You have to have some reason to be here, right?”

“Oh, yeah, I guess,” Jeff replied hesitantly. “Are you saying that I have a reason to be here?”

“Well yeah,” Justin replied with a laugh. “Why wouldn’t you?”

“I don’t know, I mean I do, but it’s not a good reason,” Jeff replied quietly.

“I know that,” Justin replied with a mysterious smile. “I don’t think anybody is here for a good reason.”

“That’s true,” Jeff said thoughtfully. “But I still don’t want to talk about it.”

“Oh, well I didn’t say you did,” Justin replied irritably. “I don’t care if you do or not.”

“That’s good,” Jeff said with relief. “Because I’ll probably never tell you.”

“Why not?” Justin asked in surprise.

“Because I just met you,” Jeff replied irritably.

“I see. Well, that’s your choice.”

“Yes, it is,” Jeff replied, glaring at Justin. “Now quit bugging me.”

“Sorry,” Justin replied sullenly. “I didn’t know I was being such a pest.”

* * *

“Will, can we talk?” Jake asked worriedly, as he knocked on Will’s door.

“Why?” Will replied coldly. “You just want to apologize, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Jake replied stiffly. “I do. Is that such a bad thing?”

“No,” Will said hesitantly. “But I won’t accept your apology.”

“Why not?” Jake asked, suddenly suspicious.

“Because you want to kill my best friend. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“Well, yes,” Jake replied thoughtfully. “But it probably doesn’t mean the same thing to you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Will asked irritably.

“I’m not sure I want to apologize anymore,” Jake replied slowly. “Actually, I just want to hear your opinion.”

“My opinion on what?” Will asked cautiously. “Why Justin tried to kill us?”

“Yes,” Jake replied with a sigh. “I want to hear your side of the story.”

“Are you sure?” Will said in shock. “You’ve never shown that much interest in what I thought before.”

“I have too!” Jake replied indignantly, “What makes you think I haven’t?”

“I didn’t mean you haven’t ever shown interest in me,” Will replied in exasperation. “But in this subject you seemed to be pretty set in your ways.”

“Oh,” Jake said, slightly taken aback. “I guess you’re right.”

“I know I am,” Will said quietly. “Do you still want to talk?”

“Yes, I do,” Jake replied slowly, “If you’ll let me.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Will replied casually. “If you promise me one thing.”

“What’s that?” Jake asked eagerly.

“You have to actually listen to me,” Will replied quietly.

“Oh, sure,” Jake said slightly confused. “I’ll listen.”

“Okay,” Will replied, slowly opening his door. “Then I’m ready to talk.”

“Good,” Jake said with a smile. “Come on, let’s go downstairs.”

Jake rushed down the stairs, while Will walked slowly behind him. ‘I sure hope I’m not making a mistake by doing this,’ he thought as he made his way down the stairs. Will knew if he told his dad everything, in detail, this story could become very long, and very emotional. Jake sat down on a chair in the living room. Will sat across from his dad, eyeing him suspiciously.

“Well, I guess I should let you talk huh?” Jake said with a laugh.

“Yes,” Will replied absent-mindedly.

“What, what’s wrong?” Jake asked puzzled, noticing Will’s vacant expression.

“Nothing,” Will replied hurriedly.

“Oh, well tell me what happened,” Jake said quietly.

“You know what happened,” Will replied irritably. “Justin tried to kill himself, that’s what.”

“I know that part of story,” Jake said quietly. “I know all of it, but I don’t know how you really felt.”

“Well, I felt mad at first,” Will replied slowly. “Like you did.”

“Did you want revenge?” Jake asked curiously.

“No, but you didn’t either,” Will replied defensively. “You actually wanted to help Justin.”

“I know,” Jake said wearily. “But I changed my mind.”

“I don’t understand,” Will replied quietly. “Why do you want to get revenge on Justin?”

“I don’t know,” Jake said softly. “It’s hard to explain.”

“Oh, well I felt mad, but then I realized what Justin was saying.”

“What do you mean, what he was saying?” Jake asked suspiciously.

“I mean, after all that happened, he apologized,” Will replied with a sigh.

“I didn’t know that,” Jake said in surprise.

“No kidding, Dad,” Will replied with a slight smile. “But that’s what made me change my mind.”

“Just because Justin apologized?” Jake asked in surprise.

“Yes, that and the fact Justin realized he made a big mistake,” Will replied slowly. “You obviously don’t see it that way.”

“No, not really,” Jake said thoughtfully. “Why do you see it that way?”

“I don’t know,” Will replied with a shrug. “I just do.”

“Hmm, well, why do you think I’m so terrible then?” Jake asked, puzzled.

“What are you talking about?” Will asked in confusion.

“My plan,” Jake said in frustration. “The one you didn’t want to hear about?”

“Oh, because you want to kill him Jake,” Will replied quietly, his face suddenly dark.

“Why do you keep doing that?” Jake asked irritably.

“What?” Will asked in surprise.

“You keep calling me Jake, instead of dad,” Jake said in frustration.

“Oh, sorry,” Will replied sheepishly. “It’s just my way of detaching or disassociation.”

“What do you mean?” Jake asked. Now he was confused.

“You just don’t get it, do you?” Will said, his voice beginning to rise.

“No, what are you talking Will?” Jake asked suspiciously.

“You want to kill my best friend, Dad,” Will replied coldly. “Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“Yes,” Jake said irritably. “But what does it mean to you?”

“You shouldn’t have asked that,” Will replied darkly.

“Why?” Jake asked with a slight laugh.

“Because, that means you’re not thinking straight, you don’t know what you’re saying,” Will said, his eyes flashing in anger. “You won’t admit you’re wrong!”

“Oh, is that it?!” Jake exclaimed in anger, his eyes suddenly becoming angry, like he wanted to kill Will. “Well, I don’t care!”

“Don’t care about what?” Will asked quietly.

“I don’t care about what you think anymore!” Jake cried. “I don’t care what anyone thinks. I don’t need your help either!”

“I didn’t offer it,” Will replied calmly. “You don’t have to get so worked up, you know.”

“I don’t care if I am worked up!” Jake yelled angrily. “You won’t listen to me, will you?!”

“What do you mean?” Will asked, almost smugly.

“I mean, you are so stubborn that you won’t even try to see my side of the story!” Jake cried in rage.

“Oh, is that it?” Will replied somewhat sarcastically. “Well I tried Dad; I don’t like your side of the story.”

“Why?” Jake replied, trying to stay calm.

“Because it involves killing my best friend!” Will exclaimed suddenly.

“Well that’s too bad,” Jake growled. “You’re just lucky I didn’t say I wanted to kill you.”

“What?” Will asked, suddenly fearful.

“I said-Jake began.

“No, I heard what you said,” Will replied, his voice breaking. “You said I was lucky you didn’t want to kill me.”

“Will, no,” Jake replied quickly, his expression changing from anger to concern. “I didn’t mean it.”

“Yes you did!” Will cried angrily “I don’t care if you say you didn’t, I know you did!”

“Will, please, just let me explain,” Jake pleaded.

“No!” Will cried, fighting back angry tears. “Just stay away from me! I hate you, and I never want to see you again!”

“Will, wait!” Jake called worriedly as Will opened the front door.

“No, you had your chance,” Will replied calmly, his eyes full of hatred. “Now it’s gone.” Then Will rushed out the door, slamming it behind him.

‘Oh my God,’ Jake thought in horror. ‘What have I done?’

* * *

Justin and Jeff were back in their room now. “I’m sorry I snapped at you during dinner,” Jeff said quietly.

“That’s okay,” Justin replied with a shrug. “I was being a pest.”

“I didn’t mean what I said you know,” Jeff said hurriedly.

“I know, but that time, it was true,” Justin replied slowly.

“Oh, yeah, I guess,” Jeff said, slightly puzzled.

“But I’m still curious,” Justin said thoughtfully. “Why won’t you tell me why you’re here?”

“I don’t know,” Jeff said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. “I haven’t known you that long.”

“That’s true,” Justin said quietly. “I guess some people are more willing to share things then others.”

“Yeah,” Jeff replied casually. “I’m not one to spill my guts to someone I barely know.”

“And I am?” Justin asked suspiciously.

“Well yeah,” Jeff replied calmly. “I mean I asked you what was wrong and you just figured you could tell me everything.”

“Is that a bad thing?” Justin asked worriedly.

“No, but- Jeff stopped suddenly. He eyed Justin suspiciously, as if he was trying to assess his worthiness. “I wouldn’t trust someone I’d just met with something like that.”

“Oh,” Justin replied slowly. “I see.”

“Not that you’re a bad person or anything,” Jeff said hurriedly. “It’s just...”

“I know,” Justin replied frowning. “I guess I’m kind of surprised too.”

“Why?” Jeff asked curiously.

“Because I don’t normally do that,” Justin replied quietly.

“Do what?” Jeff asked, confused.

“I don’t usually open up to people that quickly,” Justin said hesitantly.

“Oh, you don’t?” Jeff asked, still confused.

“No,” Justin replied quietly. “When I told Will, it took me forever just to tell him what happened.”

“I didn’t know that,” Jeff said in surprise.

“Well, now you do,” Justin said hesitantly. “It took me even longer to tell my parents what happened or how I felt.”

“I see,” Jeff replied thoughtfully. “That sounds more like me.”

“Oh,” Justin said with a slight sigh. “Do you know what could happen if you don’t tell people how you feel?”

“What do you mean?” Jeff asked suspiciously.

“I mean, if you don’t tell people how you feel,” Justin said pausing. “You end up holding your feelings inside.”

“Is that a bad thing?” Jeff asked, slightly worried.

“No, not exactly,” Justin replied hesitantly. “But that’s what I used to do too.”

“Used to?” Jeff asked curiously.

“Yes, and it cost me my freedom,” Justin replied darkly.

“How can something like holding in your feelings cost you your freedom?” Jeff asked curiously, raising his eyebrows at Justin.

“I’d rather not talk about that,” Justin replied quietly.

“Oh, okay,” Jeff said softly.

“Speaking of not talking,” Justin said, pausing, “I know you don’t want to talk about what happened to you, but is it because you’re afraid you’ll get too emotional?”

“No,” Jeff replied flatly. “Why?”

“I was just wondering,” Justin said nonchalantly.

“Well, that’s not why I don’t want to talk about it,” Jeff replied irritably.

“Then what is the reason?” Justin asked suspiciously.

“I don’t want to talk about it because I just don’t,” Jeff replied, his voice like gravel. He glared at Justin.

“Okay, I won’t push you,” Justin replied somewhat hurriedly.

“Good,” Jeff replied calmly, then added more to himself than to Justin, “And you’ll never find out why I’m here either.”

* * *

“How could he say that?” Will asked himself somewhat worriedly. His dad wasn’t usually so stubborn. ‘Why do I even care?’ Will thought to himself bitterly, ‘Besides, my dad still wants to kill my best friend.’  He was so confused. Yet, he was also slightly worried. What had made his dad turn on him like that? ‘How can my own dad want my best friend dead?’ Will wondered, shaking his head in disbelief. “I don’t want Justin dead,” Will whispered to himself, “Why does Jake?” Since when did he refer to his dad as Jake? ‘I guess I just have a hard time believing my dad wants to do something like this,’ Will thought quietly.

He was walking around the backyard of the house. It was quite dark, so he could hardly see anything. ‘My dad’s probably worried about me by now,’ Will thought frowning. He didn’t care. ‘Let him worry,’ Will thought angrily. ‘He deserves it.’  That was something his dad didn’t really understand, worrying. Not that Jake didn’t love him or didn’t care about him. ‘But he doesn’t know what it’s like to worry about a friend,’ Will thought bitterly. His dad had no idea how many nights Will had stayed up wondering what Justin was doing. If he was okay, if his friend was depressed. ‘Not only that,’ Will thought quietly. ‘But whether Justin wanted to die or not, I had to think about that too.’ Well, that part didn’t come in until Justin had revealed himself.

“Why did he have to do this?” Will said softly, “Why couldn’t Justin have acted like a normal person?” But he hadn’t. Instead Justin had been blinded by his anger, no, his pain. ‘That’s why he wanted to die so badly,’ Will thought wearily. ‘He was in so much pain, he didn’t care, he just wanted it to end.’ But Will still regretted what had happened after that fateful night. After Justin had done that Will found he couldn’t sleep. He was too busy worrying about Justin.

‘I was so mad at him at first,’ Will thought with a smile, ‘But then I got so worried.’ If only Justin hadn’t ended up in jail. It wasn’t fair. How many times had he said that phrase anyway? It wasn’t fair that his best friend was in jail. It wasn’t fair that his dad wanted to kill Justin. It wasn’t fair that he had to deal with all of this. It wasn’t fair that Joey, Justin’s dead friend, was gone, and Justin hadn’t even been able to stop him. But none of that seemed to matter. ‘Except the fact my dad wants Justin dead,’ Will thought sadly.

He glanced towards the windows of the house. All of the lights were still on, and he could see Jake pacing worriedly inside. ‘Maybe I should go back inside,’ Will thought wearily. What good would it do to be mad at him anyway? Will trudged back to the front door. He walked up the steps slowly. Will reached for the door handle, but then he stopped. ‘What if Jake’s not worried?’ he thought quietly, catching his breath.  ‘What if Jake is mad at me?’ Will thought worriedly.

He knew what that could lead to, a fight. ‘Maybe it won’t get physical,’ Will thought, trying to reassure himself. But something told him that he was wrong.  He stood quietly on the steps for a moment, pondering whether he should go inside or not. Suddenly the door opened and Jake saw Will standing on the steps.

“Hi,” Will said nervously.

“Hi,” Jake said quietly. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Will replied hurriedly.

“You’re sure?” Jake asked hesitantly.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Will replied irritably.

“Okay, why don’t you come back inside?” Jake asked Will, but Jake’s expression told Will he had better do what his dad asked.

“Okay,” Will said quietly. Jake opened the door a little wider and Will stepped inside the house. He glanced quickly around the room. Nothing was broken or damaged. Will looked at his dad’s face. He certainly didn’t look mad. ‘He probably just wants to
apologize,’ Will thought with relief. But he also knew that the fact that nothing was broken, and his dad’s calm demeanor, could mean trouble.

“I want to talk to you,” Jake said quietly, startling Will out of his thoughts.

“Oh, okay,” Will replied calmly. “What do you want to talk about?”

“I think you know,” Jake said seriously.

“Yeah, I guess I do,” Will replied uneasily. “I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

“That’s okay,” Jake said quietly. “I’m sorry too.”

“That’s good,” Will said nervously. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“What are you talking about?” Jake asked in surprise.

“You know what I’m talking about,” Will replied irritably, eyeing his dad suspiciously. Jake was looking at Will like he wanted to kill him. Will could see him clenching and unclenching his fists too.

“Oh,” Jake said noticing his hands. “Yeah, that.”

“You aren’t going to hurt me, are you?” Will asked worriedly.

“No,” Jake replied with a weak laugh. “Why would I do that?”

“Because you have before,” Will said quietly.

“Yeah, but I’m not going to hurt you this time,” Jake replied solemnly. “Trust me.”

“I’m not so sure I can,” Will replied hesitantly.

“Why not?” Jake asked suspiciously.

“I know you, Dad,” Will said calmly. “When you get mad, you get violent.”

“Will, look around you,” Jake said pausing. “Does it look like I’m mad now?”

“No,” Will replied as he studied the room carefully. “But that might mean you could take your anger out on me.”

“Will, I’ve learned my lesson,” Jake said quietly. “I know that’s not a good idea.”

“Okay,” Will said distantly. “But that’s what you said last time.”

“No it wasn’t,” Jake replied, glaring at Will.

“Okay, maybe not,” Will replied hurriedly. “I just don’t want you to hurt me.”

“Will, I told you, I’m not going to do that,” Jake said reassuringly.

“Okay, if you’re sure,” Will replied nervously.

“You just don’t get it do you?” Jake asked his voice rising slightly. “I learned my lesson, and that I made a mistake when I beat you up that one time.”

“Oh, that’s good,” Will replied slowly, he looked at his dad again. He did seem sincere. His expression certainly wasn’t mad. But something kept telling Will
that he couldn’t trust his dad.

“What?” Jake asked his eyes narrowing. “You don’t think you can trust me or something?”

“Yes,” Will replied quietly. “I don’t think I can I trust you,  Dad.”

“Why not?” Jake asked, raising his eyebrows.

“I just can’t,” Will replied nervously.

“Do you want to get beat up?” Jake asked half-jokingly.

“No,” Will replied nervously, suddenly fearful.

“I meant that as a joke, Will,” Jake replied hesitantly. “I’m serious when I say I’m not going to hurt you.”

“I know that,” Will replied quickly.

“Do you?” Jake asked suspiciously.

“No, I guess so,” Will replied hurriedly, frowning. “I don’t know.”

“Well, which is it?” Jake asked, becoming slightly impatient. “Why can’t you trust me, Will?”

“Because, you want to kill my best friend,” Will said calmly. “That’s why.”

“Oh,” Jake said in shock. “I see.”

“No you don’t,  Dad,” Will replied coldly. “That’s just it, you don’t get it.”

“What don’t I get, Will?!” Jake cried suddenly. “What do you want me to do?!”

“I want you to promise you won’t kill Justin!” Will cried worriedly.

“You know I can’t do that,” Jake replied quickly.

“Why not?” Will pleaded.

“Because I can’t change the way I feel,” Jake said sadly, then he walked away from Will. He slowly climbed the stairs, then walked into his room and closed the door, leaving Will standing there dumbfounded.

‘Well, I didn’t get into a fight,’ Will thought quietly. ‘But I sure got hurt.’

* * *

“Hey Jeff, do you want to play with us?” Joey asked eagerly, breaking into Jeff’s thoughts.

“Huh? Oh, no thanks Joey,” Jeff replied.

“Okay; what about you Justin?” Joey asked, looking somewhat pleadingly at Justin.

“Uh, depends on what it is,” Justin said slowly, eyeing Joey with suspicion.

“Oh, just dodge ball,” Joey replied casually.

“Hmm,” Justin said frowning. “Well sure, why not?”

“All right!” Joey exclaimed excitedly. He turned to the rest of the group. “He’s going to play with us!”

“Okay, come on,” Mark, the guy Justin had met earlier said quietly, looking at Justin. “Let’s go.”

“I’m coming,” Justin replied with a nervous laugh.

“This is going to be so much fun!” Joey exclaimed happily. Justin watched as everyone ran outside into the yard behind the home.

‘What have I gotten myself into?’ Justin thought wearily as he trudged slowly after them.

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