The car sped along the road, darkness enshrouding us. The buildings around us had eventually dwindled until there were none left. Trees had replaced them, leaves silently brushing together. From where I was crushed in the back, I could see how every few miles, Tom’s face got damper. It made my heart pang. He’d been my friend since we were kids and he was undoubtedly the nicest person I’d ever met. He hardly deserved this. Well, no one did but y'know what I mean.
Chris was trying to keep the mood light, bless him. I could tell Tom appreciated it, though; he hated to have the spotlight on him.
About half an hour to our destination, I said, “Can we put the radio on or something? I’m falling asleep back here.”
Chris reached over, his arm barely visible in the complete darkness, to flick the radio on. Noise burst through the silence. Grateful for the singing separating the three of us, I vaguely noted that Chris was wearing one of Tom’s jumpers. Normally I wouldn’t have noticed but the way the sleeves practically rode up to his elbows sort of gave it away. I smiled—how cute.
The radio was finally drowned out when Tom croaked, “Stop the car.”
“What?” Chris said. “We’re like twenty minutes away—“
“Now, Chris,” Tom snapped, arm already reaching for the door handle. Sighing, Chris swerved into a lay-by just in time for Tom to shove open the door, toss himself out and throw up on the ground. I leaned in between the seats and pressed a kiss to Chris’ stubbly chin. His brown eyes rolled and he grumbled, “Just as well he told me. I don’t want a dude’s hurl in my car.”
I tapped his veined hand. “Hey, c’mon. He’s terrified,” I whispered. Chris’ eyes softened and he squeezed my hand. For being such a big, hulking brute, he was seriously sweet most of the time. That’s what I loved most about him.
Tucking my long, silvery blonde hair behind my ears, I whispered, “I’ll go see if he’s okay.”
“From the sound of it, I don’t think so,” he chuckled, kissing my temple when I winced at the retching sounds from outside. Great.
Getting out, I shivered as an icy breeze washed over me. We’d stopped at the side of a quiet road, sheltered by miles of forest on both sides. Tom was bent in the middle, one hand on a trunk, shaking as he emptied his stomach. I walked over—having grown up with four younger siblings, I’d had my fair share of vomit episodes—and gently started rubbing his back. He whimpered at the soothing motions but I didn’t stop.
When he finally stopped retching, he coughed, “S-sorry about t-this.”
The way he said it made my heart throb. It sounded as though he was terrified of getting scolded. I softly stroked the nape of his neck, my fingers catching on the blonde curls.
“Tom, its okay,” I whispered, kneeling down. His eyes were closed in shame and he wiped his mouth, sitting down on the ground. His fingers shook as he pulled a packet from his pocket and shoved something white in his mouth—chewing gum. Skin pale white and covered in a sheen of sweat, his bottom lip quivered as tears started sliding down his cheeks.
My heart broke in two this time. “Oh, love,” I whispered, leaning forward and enveloping him in my arms. Thankfully, he stank so highly of mint that you couldn’t even tell he’d been sick. Burying his nose in my neck, he sobbed hard into my hair.
“I don’t know what to do,” He choked, hands fisting on my back. “I don’t want to be a freak, Bella. I just want my mum home.”
I closed my eyes, refusing to stop rubbing his back. It was obvious he'd been feeling like this ever since they'd left his house. He needed to have someone to comfort him—God knows Chris wouldn’t. I knew he had no family to speak of. He was completely alone in this.
Waiting until he’d quietened to some sniffles, I pulled away a little and wiped at his cheeks. His green eyes fell to his lap.
“I’m sorry,” he finally said. “I don’t mean to lumber you with all this crap. And sorry for spoiling your top.”
I glanced down to see my t-shirt shoulder soaked through with tears. Rolling my eyes, I tugged him to his feet and said, “No worries, kiddo. About anything. I know you’re scared and that’s okay, I promise. I know I would be.” I glanced back at the car and added, “And Chris would’ve probably curled up in a ball by now.”
Tom finally cracked a smile, even if it was one that barely tilted his lips. Wiping his nose with his sleeve, his eyes flickered with something that disappeared too quickly for me to identify. “I...I don’t know what I’ll do. What happens when I go to this place? Will I find out how god damn messed up I am? Will I never see either of you guys again?” Tears filmed over his eyes again.
I took his chin in my hand—and God, I had to stretch a long way up, he was a giant—and said, “You will, trust me. You think you can get rid of us that easily?” It was a feeble attempt at a joke but he laughed, a weak sound. Patting his cheek, I whispered, “C’mon. Standing here won’t do us any favours.”
We walked back to the car together. Chris was sleeping in the front seat and I kicked him awake. He woke with a snort, banging his head off the top of the car.
“We were gone five minutes!” I giggled, climbing in the back. Grunting, the American rubbed at his skull and grumbled something about god damn manners. Tom didn’t comment but pulled his door shut and told Chris to step on it.