Tom slowly blinked his eyes open, alarm blaring noisily and insisting he get moving. He eyed the offending device for a minute before lazily shutting it up. He felt no such insistence to move today, no joy in what would prove to be a momentous occasion. After all, you didn’t turn twenty-five every day. Or inherit a house from your last living relative. Or realize that there would be no more cheerful ‘good morning, brat’ coming from the kitchen when he finally did make it down the stairs.
No, he decided, today would not be a very good birthday at all.
At some point while he lay in bed (trying his hardest NOT to think) the phone rang…and rang. With a groan he rolled to feet, shuffling out into the hallway and picked up the receiver.
“Yes?” He bit out. “Good morning birthday boy!” the all too cheery sing-song voice from the other end replied. Ricky. Tom outright growled into the phone. “What’s so good about it, Ricky?”
“Man, how many times do I have to say not to call me that?” the other man whined causing Tom to let out a harsh chuckle. “No amount of asking will spare you Mon Ami,” he could practically hear the pout on the other man’s face. “Now what did you want?” A sigh reached back through causing some static that made Tom wince and pull the receiver away from his ear a little.
“I just,” there was a pause; “I just wanted to see if maybe you needed some help today.” Tom’s spine stiffened and he unconsciously ground his teeth together. He knew Ricky meant well but it didn’t stop his heart from contracting tightly in pain. He squeezed his eyes shut and leant his forehead against the hallway wall.
“Tom?” Ricky tentatively called, “look I’m sorry, man. I-“
“No. It’s fine.” He cut him off, “But this is something I have to do myself. My way of,” he hesitated and then let out the breath he had been holding, “my way of saying goodbye.” His voice dwindled at the end, swallowing down the bitter lump in his throat. Silence reigned on the other end of the phone.
“I understand,” no he really didn’t, “but I’ll be here, if you need me, yeah?”
“Yeah, thanks Ricky. I’ll talk to you when I get back alright?”
“Right. Later Tom.”
He watched the phone for a minute in its cradle. He probably shouldn’t have just hung up without returning the farewell but he just didn’t have it in him. He slumped slightly against the wall, dread slowly seeping into his bones. He didn’t want to do this and he could hear the childish petulance in the voice in his head that was denying that this was even real. Then an older, wiser voice spoke over it.
“You’re not one to hide, Brat. I’ll not let you start now.”
A tear slid out from the corner of his eye and was briskly wiped it away as he stood straight. “Right, let’s do this.” He muttered. A quick shower had him feeling a bit more human and grabbing his ratty backpack and a bagel, he was headed out the door. It was time to see just what his Grandfather’s house had in store for him.