Chapter: 22 of 43
Other Info: Sequel to Walls
Warnings: Drug-usage, cursing, violence etc
Excerpt: “You people are in crisis. You have a kid with a huge problem. A really, really huge, mind-boggling, life destroying problem. Yet you bury your heads in the sand and pretend that, because you pulled him home, and watched him finish withdrawal, because he’s not any longer in the situation, it’s all okay. You’re all sitting around wondering why, if it’s all over, is he still acting so damn strange? You’re all so angry at him, for not just jumping back into things as if nothing had ever happened. You’ve been told to let him alone, and things will all work out. I’m very sorry, but that’s like trying to say that two Aspirins for the aches, and a nice coat of makeup to improve your color, will cure the pneumonia that’s killing you! You’ve eradicated a symptom, that’s all you’ve done. Things look okay on the surface, but inside, everything’s coming apart. And it’s not just Taylor. You all are so blown away that you can’t even scrape up the motivation to call the cops, to get rid of the idiots standing around in your yard! You’re looking at every single obstacle in your path as something else to ignore, and hope it goes away. How far down that road do you think you can go?”
From his spot on the floor, Isaac watched his brother’s sleep. His mind whirling, knowing he wouldn’t be able to fall asleep, he’d curled up on a bean bag, and taken out his journal. Instead of writing in it, however, he’d fallen into staring at Taylor and Zac.
Long into the night, the man, who called himself CC, had talked to them. He’d told them so much, so much that finally made sense. A huge weight seemed to have been lifted from Isaac’s shoulders, and he found himself relieved of the terrible ambivalence that had hit him every time he looked at Taylor.
It had been awful, looking at someone he loved, and feeling so much hatred, so much resentment, mixed in with it. Looking at the people at the end of the drive, and feeling it was all Taylor’s fault. Looking at his shattered career and thinking it was all Taylor’s fault. Looking at Taylor and feeling so sorry for him, loving him so much, but at the same time hating him for what he was doing to the family.
CC’s words tonight rang in his mind.
“You have to stop seeing him a an object, a burden. He’s a human being, and we humans, we tend to react to things. He got himself into a nasty situation, but it wasn’t intentional. People, human beings, screw up. He’s just as entitled as any of us… He didn’t get himself that prescription for an addictive drug, people he loved and trusted got it for him. Think about the message. Here’s a pill to make everything alright. And it’s okay to take it. In fact, we want you to take it. Now here are his friends, offering him more pills. On an intellectual level, he knew he shouldn’t take them, but on an emotional level, it was easy to trick himself into justifying it. If these pills are okay, so are these. So it was stupid. Everyone does stupid things. Taylor, you don’t deny that it was absolutely moronic, do you?”
Taylor had laughed at that, amazingly. “No, no I don’t. Are you trying to make a point, CC?”
CC too, had laughed. “I think I am. I’m going to talk about you like you’re not here, so sorry.” He’d leaned forward then, his eyes boring into each of them in turn. “You people are in crisis. You have a kid with a huge problem. A really, really huge, mind-boggling, life destroying problem. Yet you bury your heads in the sand and pretend that, because you pulled him home, and watched him finish withdrawal, because he’s not any longer in the situation, it’s all okay. You’re all sitting around wondering why, if it’s all over, is he still acting so damn strange? You’re all so angry at him, for not just jumping back into things as if nothing had ever happened. You’ve been told to let him alone, and things will all work out. I’m very sorry, but that’s like trying to say that two Aspirins for the aches, and a nice coat of makeup to improve your color, will cure the pneumonia that’s killing you! You’ve eradicated a symptom, that’s all you’ve done. Things look okay on the surface, but inside, everything’s coming apart. And it’s not just Taylor. You all are so blown away that you can’t even scrape up the motivation to call the cops, to get rid of the idiots standing around in your yard! You’re looking at every single obstacle in your path as something else to ignore, and hope it goes away. How far down that road do you think you can go?”
Isaac thought about it, now. They’d all known all that, why had it taken a stranger to point it out, and make them look at it?
Gazing at Taylor, he tried to apply CC’s words to the situation.
“You’re going to have to help him, and help each other. You can’t just sit around and wait for it to fix itself. He’s trying to cope, and he’s in way over his head. He doesn’t have a chance in hell of making it on his own, yet you’re all sitting here watching him drown, and going down with him. Now take away all of the gloss, all of the veils you’ve all thrown over everything, and really look at your situation. Don’t shy away from it, it’s yours, and you all own it. Not just Taylor. Yes, he got himself into it, but he didn’t mean to. And he needs your help to get himself out of it. He’s not a bad kid, and he’s not hopeless. I’ve met one hell of a lot of kids that I knew I was wasting my time on. This kid, he is not one of them. But it’s too much for him to handle on his own… How much more effective, if you all pick up part of this load, rather than watch one kid fold up under it, while you all stand around feeling helpless?”
His words had stung, and stung badly, but he’d mediated them almost immediately. “You are very strong people. This boy, all by himself, is managing to survive, and that’s a testament to his strength. You’re all still together. Proof of yours. It would have been very easy to just send him somewhere, I’m assuming that option was presented to you? You chose to keep him with you. A lot of families wouldn’t have, not after the violence. I have to assume that you want him to get through this. So you’re going to have to help him. You’re going to have to make him do what needs to be done, whether he likes it or not. You’re going to have to stop worrying about upsetting him, and stop worrying about rocking his boat, and just do what you have to do. If he won’t get up, drag him out of bed. If he won’t eat, make him sit there until he does. If you know he’s not fine, and he says he is, ignore his words and go with what you know. Don’t let him tell you to leave him alone, don’t let him withdraw. And don’t let things escalate to the point where you’re beating the hell out of each other, in your frustration, again.”
Isaac had been annoyed, angered, that this man was yelling at them this way, but he’d held his tongue, and CC had gone on to offer advice, and solutions, and all kinds of strategies to get them through it. By the time he’d finally left, promising to come back the next day, Isaac had the absurd impression that they’d acquired a guardian angel. Now, watching his brother sleep, he felt, ironically, like thanking him, for finding these people to help them.
“Hey, get up. What’re you doing?” Taylor felt the kick on his foot, and rolled over, coming face to face with Daniel. “Huh? What’re you doing here?” He stretched, and dug his fingers into the carpet, still half asleep.
“Taylor! We told you we were picking you up at 1:00 PM. It’s now 1:15 PM. What’re you doing crashed on the floor? You don’t even have clean clothes on for God sake. Get up!”
Taylor scowled at him. “I don’t wanna go anywhere, Dan, and could you stop kicking me?!”
Dan stopped the light tapping on Taylor’s foot, and sighing in exasperation, turned and headed out the door.
Taylor’s eyes closed, and he’d started to drift off again, when another voice disturbed his slumber.
“NO WAY! Up you get, you said you were going, and going you are. Now get your butt into a shower, and into some clothes. I don’t have time to run around playing games, I came out here to get you, I took time away from people who probably needed it more than you do, so get moving.” Taylor had barely opened his eyes when a hand grabbed the front of his shirt, and literally hauled him to his feet. “On your way.”
“No… don’t even bother arguing. Get going.”
Taylor glanced at the doorway, where his mother was standing, and gestured at CC. “You hear him?” She nodded. “Yes I do, I told you an hour ago to go get dressed. Is it my fault you ignored me?”
He stared at her, amazed that she was taking someone else’s side, and she laughed a little. “Tay, you told him you’d go, and to come get you. He’s right. If you changed your mind, you should have called him. Now go get dressed.”
Feeling very picked on, and wanting very much to smack CC, Taylor stomped his way up the stairs. Moving to the end of the steps, CC called up. “Hey Tay?”
“Change those clothes too, they’re the same ones you had on two days ago. And don’t tell me your mom just washed them either, she’s standing right here!”
Diana bristled at the rudeness, but CC only chuckled. Shaking his head he turned to Diana. “Why’d you let him get away with that hanging around sleeping all day, not washing or changing stuff? You let him do that, you’re not helping him any.”
She looked away from his gaze, dropping her eyes, and he gently tipped her face up to his. “Diana, I know it’s hard. You don’t want to rile him because you want things as easy as possible for him. But it doesn’t work. It didn’t work once, and it won’t work again. Don’t be afraid of him. And don’t be afraid you’ll hurt him. He needs these limits. He needs these boundaries. And he wants them. He’s feeling he’s in free fall, he wants that security. No matter how much he may complain.” He let her go, then, turning to call up the stairs. “Hurry up! My time is not cheap!!!”
The muttered response was unintelligible, and Diana was glad. She had a feeling it was something that she’d have had to hit him for. She looked at CC.
“He’s fifteen, CC, I can’t very well pick him up and put him in the shower, if he doesn’t want to go.”
“Sure you can. And Diana, don’t be afraid that if you make him mad, he’ll run out and use. He won’t.”
“Not because you made him mad. Because he was scared. You keep him in line, he’ll feel better, and so will you. Trust me.” He broke off then, seeing Taylor stomping down the stairs. Taylor brushed past both of them, and, still stomping and muttering, headed out the door.
CC smiled and followed him out the door. “Tay, you know, if you lose the attitude, you may just like what you see.”
“Yeah, maybe. I’m just tired, CC, y’know?”
“Well…” CC’s imperturbable logic went into play. “If you’re tired, sleep at night. Now get in the van.”
“Well.” CC pulled the van into a huge drive, that rambled it’s way around a sprawling complex of buildings, snuggled up against heavy woods. A huge yard off to one side, sprinkled with enticing, large and mysterious objects dominated the view. “This is the place.”
“What place?” Taylor was less than enthused. They’d stuck him in the back of the van, and while gorgeously appointed with plush seats, thick carpeting, and real wood windowsills, a van was still a vehicle, and the back seat, however comfortable, was still the back seat, and his stomach was churning. He wanted out, and pretty damned soon.
CC noticed Taylor’s paler, and the breathy quality to his voice. He knew the long ride had gotten to him. Still, if Taylor wanted to switch places with Dan, and ride up front, he could simply say so. He hadn’t mentioned not feeling well. CC smiled to himself. The rules of Taylor’s game dictated that someone notice, ask, and make an offer. CC didn’t play that game. Taylor would learn. Manipulation got little result, around here.
“This, Taylor, is Livingston Center. This is where I work, and where Danny lives. We’d like to show you around.”
Taylor glanced at Dan, his interest picking up. “You live here? Is it a school?”
Danny nodded, “Among other things. It’s so many things all in one.” The excitement in his voice was evident. He turned sideways, to face Taylor. “This place is so awesome, you can’t even imagine. We wanted you to see it, so you’d know some of what’s possible. Mandy lived here for a while, too.” He grinned. “She didn’t want to leave, CC had to kick her out.”
Taylor’s smile was faint. He was afraid he knew where this was going.
CC pulled the van around the back of the building, parked, and sat for a moment, gazing out over the huge yard, with it’s complex constructions of iron, wood, and rope. Knots and groups of kids stood on, milled about, and climbed on various contraptions. For all their appearance of idleness, he knew those groups were actively engaged, and highly organized entities. He smiled approvingly, letting his eyes rove the property. Site of so many miracles. He always had a hard time looking away from it.
Sighing at his own sentimentality, he shut of the van and climbed out, gesturing the boys to follow him. They’d taken about six steps beyond the gate, when Taylor finally spoke up.
“Guys hang on, could I sit down someplace for a minute?”
Daniel glanced at him sharply, for the first time noticing how pale he was. “Yeah, sure, what’s wrong?”
Taylor pointed to the van. “Riding. Just a couple minutes?”
Danny nodded, and led him over to a sunny spot along side the fence, plopping down onto the grass, and stretching out in the warmth of the sun.
“Fine with me, Taylor, I’ll take any excuse.” CC snorted. “Taylor, if the ride was making you sick, you should have said something.”
Tay nodded, not really feeling as if talking were a good idea, and put his head down on his arms, waiting for the nausea to pass. The sun was warm on his back, offsetting the colder wind that had sprung up days ago. It was pleasant, and as he started to feel better, a peaceful, dozy state crept up on him.
“What a study in contrasts,” CC thought, watching the two boys. Of an age, it was their only similarity, Danny as dark as Taylor was fair, Taylor gangly and thin, tall, all sharp points and angles, Danny slight, deceptively soft, seemingly with no edges to him at all. The sunlight vanished into Dan, making little headway against blue black hair and permanently sun darkened skin. That same sunlight illuminated Taylor, glinting off blond hair and fair skin, a splash of bright next to Danny’s shadow.
“Their personalities,” he thought “are as diverse as their looks.” Taylor mobile and volatile, apt to detonate on a moments notice, shifting moods with the blink of an eye, Danny, relentlessly calm, solidly reliable, his mood changes fleeting and with reason. “If these two become friends, what incredible things we’ll have happening. Not to mention the fireworks.”
Grinning at the thought, he reached out and shook Danny, who appeared to be dozing.
“Come on, lizard boy, lets get moving.”
Cracking an eye, “Lizard boy?”, Danny climbed to his feet, and reached a hand down to Taylor, who still looked a bit like something the cat dragged in.
“Come on, take a look around, you’ll feel better in a few minutes.”
They’d begun to walk out into the yard when a shadow detached itself from the edge of the woods, and ran toward them. The shadow, as it got nearer, resolved itself into the shape of a young girl.
“Danny!” Her voice carried across the lawn, faintly frantic, and Taylor saw CC roll his eyes.
“What now? Dan, you can’t leave for five minutes.”
Dan’s eyes, also heavenward, matched CC’s.
“Yeah, stop shouting, I’m right here.”
He made a face at Taylor, who knew enough to stifle his grin, as the girl pounded up to them, out of breath.
“Danny, hurry up, Jose’s up the tree, he says he won’t come down until you’re there. He’s been up there all morning.”
CC laughed. “What if he hadn’t come back until nightfall? Would Jose still be up there?”
She nodded. “I seriously think so.” Noticing Taylor, she stuck her hand out. “I’m Robin.”
Face wary, he shook her hand. “Taylor.”
“You joining us?” Her expression was so open, her voice so welcoming, that for a moment he wished he could have answered yes.
Sighing, he shook his head. “No, I don’t even know why I’m here, so I don’t think so.”
Laughing, she nodded understanding. “Been there. Done that. Now, if you’ll excuse me, we have a kid stuck up a tree. Danny, come on, can you get him to come down, please?”
Dan glanced at CC, who nodded. Shrugging apologetically at Taylor, “What can I say? Duty calls…” Dan ran off into the woods with Robin, leaving Taylor thoroughly confused, and powerfully interested.
He turned to CC, eyebrows somewhere up above his head, “Up a tree?”
CC nodded. “It happens. They want to try out the course, get up there, discover that they aren’t ready, and panic.”
“Aren’t ready for what?”
“Oh, to jump.”
Taylor’s eyes were huge. “Jump?”
“Out of a tree?”
“Yes, out of a tree.”
“Oh.” He thought about it for a minute. “Is it very high up?”
CC shook his head, “Nah, only about 60 feet.”
Looking baffled, Taylor shook his head. “There’s a reason you want this person to jump, from 60 feet up, out of a tree?”
CC nodded, eyes sparkling. “There’s a reason for everything we do here.”
Taylor appeared to chew on that for a moment, before grinning, “Okay! You win! You got me! I want to see this place!”
Smiling at the enthusiasm in his voice, CC pointed toward the woods. “Well, we might as well start with getting Jose, out of the tree.”
Taylor shook his head. “Out of the tree. Of course. Get the kid out of the tree.”