Updated: Nov 9
Suicide attempt in this chapter!
Scott lay in bed with the blinds open on the skylight. The moon shone down on him, highlighting all the creases in his duvet. His very own moon landscape covered his body, full of craters and ridges, and his phone resting on his chest was the lunar explorer.
He’d long since replied to the group chat, but it kept pinging. They were discussing the news, more specifically, the football headlines.
Keane was leaving Chelsea.
He’d been offered more money at an overseas club, and despite Chelsea upping his pay packet to an eyewatering amount, he’d rejected the offer. Darren changed his profile picture of him and Keane back to the Chelsea logo.
Scott didn’t blame him; he felt a sense of betrayal too.
His phone buzzed, and he checked the message, not wanting to click into the App.
If he did that, Janice would expect a reply.
Too tired to engage in conversation, and too awake to sleep. Scott sighed, unlocked his passcode and brought up his messages.
The unanswered ones he’d been sending for months.
Keane’s leaving Chelsea.
One tick appeared, claiming the message had been sent, but Scott knew from experience the second tick never followed. He scrolled through the messages he’d sent and found the last one from John.
The first few days Scott had bombarded John’s number. He’d started off worried but soon became angry John was ignoring him. He’d only been thirty minutes late to the front of the school. It was the first time Scott had ever been late and he hadn’t expected John to cut their friendship short.
When concern, nor anger got him any results, he went to his mum.
“Not all friendships last.”
Scott scrunched his face up at his mums words. He knew that. Some of his best friends in primary school had faded away from his friendship group in secondary. It happened. Scott wasn’t an idiot, but there had been no gradual phasing out of them being friends.
John had vanished.
Scott exhaled as he brushed his thumb over the stream of messages. He found the point where he stopped demanding a response but instead told John what was going on in his life.
I got a B in Maths.
It was only thanks to John. All of his grades were B’s and C’s, and rather than a pat on the back from his dad, his test results had got him a long sigh, and a muttered, “At least they’re not D’s.”
It's my birthday tomorrow.
Seventeen. John didn’t wish him a happy birthday, but by that point, he’d not been expecting a reply.
Janice and I are dating.
Scott screwed his face up at that. There was very little dating, more meeting up after school and loitering on the field. She got annoyed if he read her messages and didn’t immediately answer, and if another girl spoke to him, Janice would stomp away and accuse him of flirting. There were good things to being in a relationship though. Hugging, kissing, touching. He loved it when Janice sat on his lap at the park and played with his hair. Sometimes he loved it too much and it resulted in some embarrassing situations.
I started sixth form. Business. English. History. Maths.
He’d only been there six months, and Maths had become his downfall again.
He hated it.
The position of the maths classroom made it worse. On the first floor, it overlooked the sports field. More than once, he’d swallowed the lump in his throat while he watched other students playing on the field. It wasn’t always football. They played hockey, rugby, and even frisbee. Scott’s leg would bounce on the floor as he watched.
For Halloween, I dressed up as Dracula.
He wondered what John would’ve dressed up as, and wondered whether John would’ve taken Alex around the neighbourhood like Scott had with Flick and Albie.
Flick had hated the chaperone until a werewolf chased her down the street, only stopping when it received a firm shove from Scott and a hissed out, “Back off.”
Dads an MP
The PR campaign had paid off. The devoted father who’d worked his way up from nothing had convinced the locals to vote for him. He appealed to the uptight businessmen while maintaining the working class vote with his family antics, love of football, and support for struggling families.
Scott wondered whether John had seen the awful Christmas card he’d been made to pose in with Flick and Albie. His father wore a Christmas hat, but the second the shoot was done, he tore it from his head, and it found its way into the nearest bin.
Merry Christmas, John.
That had been the last message Scott had sent.
He’d sent it in the morning and predictably received no reply.
Only five minutes of Christmas remained, and Scott, plagued by insomnia and an ache in his chest, sent another.
I hope you and Alex are okay.
One tick appeared. Scott knew John had blocked his number. He and Janice had tried it out on their phones to see what it would look like for the sender. The messages made it look like there were getting through, just never read. Scott knew none of the messages had made it to John but he refused to delete him from his contacts.
He sighed, dropped his phone to his chest, and stared at the moon. Cold, and distant, but there was something beautiful about it. The longer he looked at it, the more craters he saw. His eyes distinguished between the shadows and the glowing white and the contrast lured him to sleep.
Scott startled awake at the vibrating on his chest.
Not a ping, or a singular vibrate, but repetitive. Janice somehow knew he’d seen her message and not replied, and fifteen minutes deserved an ear-lashing.
Scott sat bolt upright at John’s name flashing on the screen. Four letters injected adrenaline into his heart, and he stabbed his thumb down, hand trembling as he held the phone to his ear.
“Alex needs you.”
Scott crushed the phone against his ear. “I can barely hear you. What did you say?”
“Alex needs you. Please, Scott.”
“Okay,” He said, flinging his duvet off, and stumbling from the bed.
“Get your mum, Scott. He needs her too.”
Scott flung his door open, thundered down the stairs and skidded to a stop in front of his parent's bedroom door.
John’s voice was quiet and distracted, and it set alarm bells off in Scott’s head. He pushed the door, spearing light from the hallway on the bed. His dad cursed, but Scott ignored him and fixed his panicked gaze on his mum.
“Somethings wrong with John.”
The jitteriness in Scott’s limbs intensified when she yawned and shuffled upright against the headrest.
“He needs us, now mum. We’ve got to go.”
She shook her head. “Where are we going?”
John whispered an address into Scott’s ear, and he relayed it to his mum. “Number Four, Maple Street, Coton. He said to hurry.”
The line went dead. Scott’s heart skipped a beat. He rushed into the room, knocking his knees on the bedframe. “Please, mum.”
“Okay.” She said, swinging her legs off the mattress.
“Are you serious?” Scott’s dad scowled at her as she left the room. “It’s the middle of the night.”
“And he’s in trouble!”
Scott flinched as his dad shot out of bed. He towered over Scott. “Don’t raise your voice at me.”
“Come on, Scott.” His mum pushed his chest, removing him from his dad’s shadow, but he felt the glare, long after he’d turned his back.
Neither he nor his mum changed out of their Pyjamas. They threw on their winter coats, slipped on their shoes, and headed for the door.
Flick appeared at the top of the stairs. “Where are you going?”
“To find John and Alex.”
Flick gave him a tired smile. “About time.”
“How did he sound on the phone?” His mum asked, keying in the code for the gate alarm.
Scott thought about it before deciding on a word that expressed it best, “Faint.”
His mum's gaze met his, and there was a grimness to her expression.
“Go back to bed, Felicity.” She called, unlocking the front door.
Scott hurried after his mum, and they jumped in the car. She drove out the gate and stepped on the gas. It should’ve been comforting, his mum rushing to get to John, but if she was worried, Scott was right to panic. Both his legs bounced against the floor on their own accord. He drummed his fingers against his knees, willing the car to go faster.
“When was the last time you spoke to him?”
“Seven months ago. We were supposed to meet after school but I…. I was late. I got distracted, and I left him waiting, and he wasn’t there. He hung up on me, blocked my number.”
“I suspect his mum blocked mine as well.” She flexed her fingers around the wheel. “I’ve been worrying about them too. What exactly did he say on the phone?”
Scott shut his eyes. It was easier to remember when he scrunched them shut. “He said Alex needed me, and he needed you too.” He swallowed. “He said to hurry, but mum, it wasn’t what he said, it was how he said it.”
“Faint, you said—”
“The line wasn’t faint. He was. It was like,” Scott shook his head. “Wisps of his voice. Somethings wrong.”
“Shush,” she said gently, capturing one of Scott's hands. “I know where Maple Street is.”
Scott had never been to the east of the town. It had a rough reputation. The boarded-up windows, swirls of graffiti and the shoes hanging from the phone line didn’t help with Scott’s panic.
“Did you know he lived around here?"
Scott shook his head. “I didn’t even know he lived on Maple Street.”
“You know what John’s like, if he doesn’t want to answer a question, he just won’t answer it. He never told me where he lived.”
“Number four, right?”
Scott nodded before being flung into his seatbelt. The wheels squealed in protest at the sharp breaking. He followed his mum’s finger, pointing at the house they’d parked outside.
All the windows were intact, and the door looked solid.
No one had broken in.
Scott allowed himself a full breath, his first full once since John had called. He jumped out of the car, bounded up the steps, and shoulder-barged the front door. It swung open, battering the wall, but it clunked and rattled too. Scott frowned, and ran his hand along the edge, catching his fingers on all the deadlocks, and bolts.
“John!” He headed to the only room with the light on and froze in the doorway. His vision narrowed, closing in on the figure sprawled across the sofa. It took a shove from his mum to get him moving again, tripping his way closer until he dropped down on his knees in front of John.
“Hey,” He whispered. “Are you…are you awake?”
He looked dead.
His skin had a deathly glow and the dark purple beneath his eyes seemed to deepen in front of Scott’s eyes. Even John’s lips had lost their colour to the chalky hue.
John’s lashes fluttered, and he managed to open his eyes, but they didn’t look like the eyes of the living. They were dull and struggled to focus on Scott.
“Alex is asleep upstairs.” John murmured.
“I’m calling an ambulance.”
Scott glanced back at his mum, phone to her ear. She didn’t look at John, but the coffee table Scott had been avoiding.
So many open blister packets.
Silver foil sparkled amongst them. Scott saw shreds of wrapping paper. There were presents beneath an artificial tree, all for Alex.
“John, sweetheart,” His mum crouched next to Scott, and he shifted along to give her room. There were tears in her eyes, but she kept the upset from her voice. “They need to know what you took, and how much.”
John’s gaze found her. “I need…I need you to be a mum to Alex.”
“Listen to me,” She touched his hand, but he pulled it away. “What did you—
“Please,” John whispered. “Be a mum to him.”
“Alex has a mum.”
John shook his head. “He doesn’t." He closed his eyes, but it didn’t stop a tear creeping through his lashes. “He only has me, he’s only ever had me, but I can’t do it anymore. I can’t feel this unhappy….”
Scott shared a glance with his mum. She shuffled back, talking to the emergency operator while Scott took her place.
He reached for John’s hand and he didn’t pull it away, but the victory was hollow. His skin was cold to the touch, and Scott doubted John had the strength to move it if he wanted.
“I missed your smile,” John murmured.
Scott forced himself to look at John’s face but could only stomach a glance. He deteriorated in front of them, lips bluing, and skin turning that awful hue. Scott stroked his thumb over the back of John’s hand, catching on the defined bones. His knuckles were sharp against his skin and the dip in his wrist choked a noise from Scott’s throat.
“I missed yours too.”
His taunt face and his skinny hand were too hard to look at, so Scott opted to speak to John’s chest. A fresh ache in his heart assaulted him when he realised John wore his hoodie. The grey one that brought out the colour of his eyes.
“You get lots of smiles,” John said.
“But yours are special.”
“They’re rare and hard fought for and I like the way they look, and I like the way they feel.”
“The way they feel?”
“Your smiles make me feel good.”
“I get that.” John exhaled a slow breath. “I’d love to see your smile Scott, one last time.”
“How can I possibly smile right now?”
Scott braced himself and glanced at John’s face. Tears shone on his cheeks. His eyes were hollow, distant. Flick had been right all along. They were more silver than grey. Scott only noticed now the shine had gone. Now they were the cold grey of concrete.
The grey of gravestones and dreary skies.
Scott’s breath snagged. His voice broke. “I can’t even fake a smile.”
John closed his eyes. “You’ll be a brother to Alex.”
“You’ll look after him, protect him, talk to him and make him laugh. You’ll do all the things I couldn’t, promise me, Scott.”
“Promise me. Promise you’ll be his big brother.”
A hand closed on Scott's shoulder, easing him back. He hadn’t even noticed there were paramedics in the room until they were separating him from John.
John’s eyes tried to follow Scott and grew wider when they couldn’t. He could no longer focus on Scott despite him only standing a meter away and he gave up searching.
John’s eyes closed, and a slow breath hissed past his lips.
“I promise,” Scott said, above all the questions, and the setting up of equipment. “I promise I’ll be a big brother to both of you. Give me the chance, John, please.”
The early hours passed in a blur.
Scott’s mum gathered a few of Alex’s belongings and collected him from the bedroom. John was rushed to the hospital, and Scott rode in the ambulance with him while the paramedics worked. John didn’t open his eyes. His heart rate was low, and his breathing became shallow until a machine took over.
Once they arrived, they wheeled John where Scott couldn’t follow, and he found himself guided into a chair in a waiting room.
Hours of waiting dragged by.
The chair beside Scott squealed in protest of the man baring his weight against it. Scott didn’t look up, but he recognised the polished oxford shoes.
“Mum’s taken Alex back to ours for the night.” He snorted, “What’s left of the night that is.”
Scott lifted his head and glared at his dad. “John is through those doors, fighting for his life and you’re complaining about broken sleep.”
“It’s the nurses and doctors that are fighting for his life. Not John.”
“He called me for Alex, not for himself. He didn't want to be saved."
"John's always been...odd."
Scott narrowed his eyes. Anger filled his heart at his dad’s flippant comment. “His mum…Jane Klune?”
His father averted his gaze. “Mum has been calling her, but she never gets through.”
“Maybe you’d have more luck.”
“Except, you don’t know her as Jane Klune, but Bianca Green.” Scott curled his hands into fists as he stared at his dad. He readied himself for the returning glare, the head-to-head battle, but instead, his dad smirked and stood up.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he looked up and down the corridor. “There must be a coffee machine about.”
Scott jumped to his feet and blocked his dad’s path. “Who is Bethany Green?”
“Don’t get in my face like that, Scott.”
“She’s a prostitute. John’s mum is a prostitute and you’ve been sleeping with her.”
He didn’t have time to step back from the hand rushing toward him.
It met Scott’s cheek with an audible slap.
He staggered back and ran his fingers over the raw skin. His dad rechecked the corridor, checking no one had seen.
“You’re upset about your friend, but I won’t have you speaking to me like that or making up lies.”
Tears of anger and shock blurred Scott’s sight. “I saw you, remember? Trying to drag her out of the house, and I saw her profile on your laptop.”
“You went inside my office?”
“Tell me who she is, or I’ll tell mum what I saw.”
“You saw nothing.”
“I saw enough that your sweating! I saw enough that you won’t look at me.”
Instead of striking Scott again, he retreated with a huff. “Bethany Green and Jane Klune are fake names. That woman is not John’s mother. I recognised her; knew she was being paid to pretend. John lied to our family.”
“You knew because you’d been fucking her.”
Scott scuttled back before the next slap, but his dad’s nails still caught the tip of his nose.
“Now you listen to me—"
“No.” Scott snapped. “You listen to me. I’ll keep your dirty secret, but there are two conditions. You don’t cheat on mum again, and you offer to foster John and Alex.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I’m being fucking serious right now. Foster them, or I’ll out you to mum, and not only that, but I’ll also go to the papers. They love to gossip about the MPs. They never can keep it in their trousers, but one so newly appointed, with a whole town behind them. That's front-page news.”
"You'd sabotage your own family like that?"
"Yes," Scott said through his teeth. "I will if you don’t make John and Alex part of it."