The two men sat there by the river with their fishing gear, drinking their beers quietly waiting for a bite. The air was beginning to cool down. You could hear subtle sounds of animals running through the woods. Drake had become one with nature these past couple of years. George was still curious what it was his brother wanted to tell him. It had been two hours and they hadn’t a single bite.
Up till now they had hardly spoken, which was really getting on his nerves. Drake picked up a beer, took a very tiny sip and then set it back down. He looked so strange to George he couldn’t hardly believe that was his brother sitting there.
A fly landed on Drake’s nose. He didn’t even acknowledge it he just went about his business. How on Earth could he sit there with a fly on his face? He acted like it didn’t even bother him. It was just kind of walking in circles.
George had never seen anything like it a fly on his face and he didn’t even budge. Drake picked up the last of his joint he had been smoking and took a long drag. The fly was still sitting on his nose. This was really going to drive George crazy. He wanted to say something, do something but what? How would his brother react if he smacked a fly on his face?
Drake kept going on about how much he was in tune to nature, how was he going to react if George disrupted a harmless, albeit annoying, fly?
“Do you remember when we were kids, you and Brandon used to play down by the creek past the old baseball diamond?” Drake said.
George was stunned, for the past two hours neither had said a word and to lead off with a story about his long dead childhood friend was kind of out of the blue.
He answered reluctantly,
“Uh sure, yeah we used to go down there with Ashley and skip rocks in the water. Brandon used to catch frogs and then show them to Ashley, she would get so grossed out.”
“Oh year, I remember the frogs, Brandon was kind of obsessed with those suckers wasn’t he?”
He let out a mild chuckle. George did not like where this was going. The one thing he didn’t handle very well was death, and here they were talking about his friend that had died so casually. He really hadn’t even thought of Brandon in several years, decades even. He never dealt with death, just kind of buried it underneath.
“Well there is something you don’t know about the day Brandon died.” George suddenly was listening very intently.
“I never told you this, but I was there that day he had his accident.”
He didn’t turn his head he just kept starring at the water.
“Now wait a minute, what are telling me?”
George had a feeling in his stomach like he never felt before. His entire world changed the day Brandon died; it was when he learned that you can’t count on others you have to take care of yourself. Looking back on his life George realized he was wrong all along, he never learned that lesson, if he had then why had he spent his entire life letting others make all the decisions for him?
“I was there with Jennifer; we were all playing out by the tire swing in his back yard. He had a secret crush on Jennifer and well earlier that day she had made out with the two of us, tongue and all. She made a comment about how she was into dangerous boys.
He took that as a challenge to do something dangerous. He told us he knew where his dad was storing up the fireworks, and asked if we wanted to sneak a peek. He wasn’t just trying to impress the girl you see, he was always trying to look cool for the older kids. Since I was two whole grades above him he felt like if he impressed me I would tell the other kids he was cool. Being the son of fire chief and best friends with, well the biggest nerd of them all didn’t really help his reputation much.”
George wanted to be offended by that last statement; he was still enthralled by what he was learning about his old friend.
“He took us out back to where they were storing up everything for the big display. His plan was to set off just one of the bottle rockets.” Drake said.
“He was going to prove how dangerous he was by holding it up and shooting it from his hands instead of putting it on the ground. He lit the fuse and just as it was about to take off he was stung by a bee and he dropped the rocket, it well shot into the wall of the barn and that was when the beam fall and started that fire.”
“Jenny and I panicked and we ran as fast as we could. She wanted to go back to make sure he was okay, I told her no we needed to get out of there and let the authorities take care of it, I had said his dad was the fire chief and he would know what to do.”
“We both ran back to her house and up to her bedroom. When we saw the fire truck fly by a couple minutes later we lost it. She was so scared for Brandon and I was just worried about her safety. If anyone knew we were there then they would question us, I was an honor student and her mom was a Sunday school teacher.”
George sat there listening intently to the story his brother was telling him. Befuddle at the details that were emerging.
“I told her we couldn’t let there be any trail leading us to the incident. So we went out her back yard and took a long walk into the woods. We stayed out all night, I kept telling her how everything was going to be okay and she had nothing to worry about.”
George was in total shock, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Surely his brother must be making this up, it was that stuff he was smoking it was making him hallucinate.
Drake sat there for a few moments, letting everything he had said sink in before he continued.
“We were so scared, we didn’t know what to expect. We decided to stay the night in the woods and just not tell anyone where we had been. We ended up sleeping together that night George. It was my first time, hers too.”
“There is no way any of this is true.” George said. “Why are you making this stuff up?”
Drake continued his story ignoring his brothers interruption.
“The next morning we heard about Brandon and it was like life just stopped. We thought for sure we was okay, we had no idea that the beam had blocked his path and that he was trapped in the barn. We just panicked and ran as fast as we could. Jenny didn’t even go to the funeral she was so devastated, in a way she felt responsible. The guilt was too much for her.
Drake leaned forward.
“A few weeks went by and she came over to see me. She said they were moving, her parents discovered that she had gotten pregnant and at such a young age they didn’t want that news to get out. I kept in touch with her after she moved away.”
George spoke up softly, “So that is why she moved away suddenly. I always thought it was because she couldn’t stand losing the boy she had a crush on. I guess it must have been hard on her. I never did hear much about her after she left.
“Wait a second if she was pregnant did that mean you were…the father!?”
Drake finally looked at George out of the corner of his eye.
“George, please listen to me, this story is not going to be easy for you to hear. I couldn’t have that in my life. Jenny was too young, hell she was barely 12 George, it was too much for her. Her parents were religious so abortion was not an option. I did what had to be done. I told Jennifer that Brandon’s death was her fault and that he was in hell because of her. I said that if she didn’t atone for her sins, she was going to hell to be with him. I told her she had to sacrifice her child in order to save both of their souls. I meant it for her to get an abortion, she took it another way. That was when she broke into her mother’s medicine cabinet and swallowed every pill she could get her hands on.”
George sat there completely cold. He couldn’t believe what his brother was telling him. Not only was he responsible for the death of his best friend, he had also gotten a young girl pregnant, and then talked her into killing herself. Who was this man? He thought he had known his brother, the caring, and compassionate one who grew up to be a doctor for crying out loud. Drake just kept starring at the water, still wouldn’t turn to face his brother.
“I am at loss for words. I thought I knew you?” Drake narrowed his eyes into tiny slits, turned his head slowly, lowered his voice, and said
“You know nothing about me.” Drake said.