With every exit the bus passed, Cyrus's head got one step closer to exploding. The trip seemed to stretch on for an eternity, and Cyrus couldn’t sit still. It was well after ten o’clock, and Cyrus knew that Hayden’s flight was scheduled for nine; it was only supposed to be about an hour long. There was a chance that he could call and catch him before he went to sleep and not have to wait until morning.
When the bus finally pulled into the parking lot of the school, Cyrus was already on the edge of his seat. He had been avoiding Clay since their encounter. The other boy was currently sulking in the back, but that didn’t matter now. They could deal with that later. Together, if Cyrus's plan worked.
Even though he was sitting in the middle, Cyrus was the first person off the bus. He was cast a few disgruntled looks as he pushed past those in front of him, but he didn’t care. Cyrus headed straight for the dorms, taking the steps in pairs. He was out of breath and just about to round the corner towards the hallway containing his dorm when Lee stepped out in front of him. He put a hand to Cyrus’s chest, forcing him to stop. “Hey, Cyrus.”
“Hi, Lee,” Cyrus muttered, trying to brush past him. “Sorry, I have to go-“
“Hang on a second,” Lee said. In his excitement, Cyrus didn’t notice the grim look on his face. “Hayden’s gone.”
Cyrus gave a distracted nod, finally managing to get around his shorter friend. “I know that.” He shoved his key in his door and turned it. “I just have to-“ Cyrus pushed open the door and stepped inside, immediately sensing the difference. He rushed into the bedroom and was hit by an icy wave of shock.
Half of it was completely empty.
All of Hayden’s things were gone.
The shelves were bare, the bed down to a mere mattress. The closet was a mess of empty hangers, and the walls were blank. “What…”
Cyrus heard Lee come to stand in the doorway. “I’m sorry, Cyrus. I tried to tell you…”
Cyrus whirled around. “What happened? Why…?”
Lee shook his head. “He just said he had to leave. He stuffed as much as he could in his bags, and gave the rest away. Then he got on the shuttle to the airport- said he was withdrawing from Sharpe’s.” Lee’s eyes were heavy with sadness. “He also said to tell you that he was sorry for everything.”
Cyrus was speechless. Everything had been looking so good a minute ago… Now, he didn’t have Will’s address, phone number, or even his last name. How was he supposed to find Hayden now? It wasn’t even a question that he was still planning to try.
“I know the past few weeks have been hard on him, but… I don’t understand. I thought he was getting over it,” Lee said, sounding almost as miserable as Cyrus felt. “I thought maybe you’d know more.”
Cyrus did know more. He remembered that look of horror on Hayden’s face just after Clay told him that he was going to tell Cyrus his secret. Hayden must have panicked. He must have assumed that Cyrus would be disgusted by him, or would hate him. That must have been the final straw.
With sudden clarity, Cyrus knew what he had to do. He hurried to the phone and punched in the number for his mother’s cell. Though he had it memorized, he had hardly ever put it to use. Unable to stand still, Cyrus wondered if she would pick up.
“Hello?” the voice came from the line after the third ring.
“Mother,” Cyrus breathed in relief.
“Oh, hello, Cyrus. Listen, this is not really the best time-“
“Mother, please. I need your help.”
His mother seemed concerned for once. “What? Did something go wrong at Princeton?”
“No,” Cyrus said, urgency clear in his voice. “I… I need to go to North Carolina.”
“North Carolina? When?”
“Now,” Cyrus replied. “Like right now. Immediately.”
His mother’s tone turned hard. “Cyrus, we’ve talked about this. You are coming up to Canada to discuss college-“
“Mother, please!” Cyrus interrupted, his tone taking on a pleading edge. “There has never been anything as important to me in my entire life as getting to North Carolina this very second. Please, Mother. I’ve never asked you for anything. Just give me this.”
There was a long silence on the other end. Cyrus felt a bead of sweat trickle down his forehead. “What do you need from me?”
In an hour, Cyrus was on a plane. Finally, he was beginning to see how having an influential mother paid off. A taxi had picked him up not fifteen minutes after he had gotten off the phone with her and taken him to a private airstrip. The small company jet was readied in a hurry, for it wasn’t set to leave for Canada until the next day. Cyrus wondered if the pilot even questioned the change of plans.
By this point it was late, yet Cyrus refused to let the cushy leather seats lull him into sleep. There was too much to think about, too much to plan. How was he going to find Hayden? Cyrus knew from a cursory google search just before leaving that Will’s last name wasn’t “Brenton” like Hayden’s. He must have taken the name of his adoptive family, which only made sense. Still, there were three hundred and thirty nine “Will”s in the Greensboro area, and all minors were hidden in the public records.
Besides, even if Cyrus managed to find Hayden, what exactly was he going to say? Hey, how are you? Oh, by the way, I chased you all the way to North Carolina and stalked you at your brother’s house because I found out you were gay and I was kind of really hoping you just so happened to have a crush on me. That plan was flawless.
Cyrus’s stomach felt sick with worry, and the turbulence from the plane didn’t help at all. He wondered if he had ever been this nervous in his entire life. What if Hayden rejected him? After all, just because Hayden liked guys didn't mean he liked Cyrus. Would Cyrus return to Sharpe’s and live alone in a dorm that would forever remind him of Hayden? Or worse, what if Hayden rejected him, but decided to come back? The awkwardness would be unbearable.
Taking a sip of a barely touched can of ginger ale, Cyrus closed his eyes. He pushed his drink away and opened up his backpack. Pulling out his sketchbook, Cyrus began to idly thumb through the pages. The first few were of Marissa, then they slowly turned into other things. The first sketch for his drawing class. Hayden’s eyes. Some trees. The cover of Crystal Ball by Styx - the first LP Hayden had ever given him. The Goblin King from The Labyrinth.
When Cyrus reached the next one, he paused. It was a sketch of Hayden’s face - rough since it had been created from memory - laughing at something or other. The brightness in his eyes was unmistakeable, and the crinkle of the skin by his eyes showed how genuine his happiness was. Cyrus stared at the drawing for a little while until he lost the battle against sleep and his eyes drifted closed. As he nodded off, the image of Hayden’s laugh was the last thing in his mind.
When Cyrus’s plane landed, there was a car waiting for him in front of the airport. The driver met him outside the car, saying, “Mr. Angeles?”
“That’s me,” Cyrus yawned.
“Here, let me help you with your bags.” The driver took Cyrus’s suitcase and loaded it into the trunk. “Mrs. Angeles has paid me through the week, so anytime you need to go anywhere, at any hour, call this number, and I will drive you. She has arranged for you to stay in the Hilton in town until Friday, with a flight home that night. Would you like me to take you there now, or did you have somewhere else in mind?” he inquired, offering a business card for Cyrus to take.
Cyrus shoved the card in his pocket, answering, “Just take me to the hotel, please.”
Climbing in the backseat, Cyrus settled up against the window of the low, black car, wishing he had somehow found the time to take driving lessons. At least then he could have rented a car rather than gotten a chauffeur. As the driver pulled away, Cyrus watched the city go by outside his window. Greensboro was larger than he had expected. His heart sank. How on earth was he supposed to find Hayden in this place? He could be anywhere. Did Will live in the city, or in the suburbs? Did they have a house or an apartment? Cyrus wished he had taken more of an interest in Will’s living arrangements during their few short conversations.
Cyrus frowned. Maybe inspiration would strike overnight and things would look better in the morning. All he could do was hope.
“And you’re sure there aren’t any more record stores or music stores in town?” Cyrus asked. The sun was already sinking below the horizon, and Cyrus wondered how it had gotten so late. He felt like the entire day had been wasted; he was no closer to finding Hayden than before.
“That was the last one, sir,” Cyrus’s driver, whom he had recently learned was named Mr. Hill, replied. “Is there anywhere else he might have gone?”
Cyrus had felt it necessary to fill Mr. Hill in on at least the basics of his search. He felt bad enough that he was making him run around to all different parts of the city, but at least he was getting paid. “I don’t know…”
It was painful but true. For as well as Cyrus knew Hayden, he didn’t have any idea where he might be able to catch him. Music stores were the only ones Hayden was known to frequent, but they were Cyrus’s only hope. If Hayden just stayed at his brother’s house, there would be no way Cyrus would ever find him.
Frowning, Cyrus wondered if Hayden had replied to any of his emails. He sent the first the moment he got internet in the hotel room, but, as of that morning, there had been no reply. Maybe throughout the day something had changed. Maybe there was an email waiting on his computer directing Cyrus to Hayden’s doorstep, if only he would check.
“It’s been a long day. Why don’t you just drop me off at the hotel and take a while off?” Cyrus asked.
“You don’t need to call me ‘sir,’” Cyrus told him.
A wry grin lifted the corners of Mr. Hill’s mouth. The older man had a spark of humor in his eyes as he replied, “With the amount of money your mother is paying me, I should be calling you ‘Your Highness.’”
Cyrus groaned, but cracked a smile. “Please don’t.”
“As you wish.”
Though he was feeling discouraged at getting nowhere in his search, Cyrus had to admit that the place had some pretty cool record stores. If only he could find Hayden, they could go. If only he could find Hayden, they could do a lot of things. It was a big “if” at the moment.
Back in the hotel room, Cyrus held his breath as he opened his laptop. He skimmed through his email conversation, past all of the ones he sent the night before and that morning.
March 1, 2015 at 1:29 AM
“Cyrus Angeles” <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
Hayden, I really need to talk to you. Where are you? Call me. 336-292-8961
March 1, 2015 at 7:42 AM
“Cyrus Angeles” <email@example.com>:
Hayden, if you think I’m mad at you, I’m not. Please just tell me where you are. I’m in Greensboro. We can meet up. Or call me: 336-292-8961.
March 1, 2015 at 8:56 AM
“Cyrus Angeles” <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
Hayden, I’m getting worried. You just disappeared, and I really need to talk to you. Please at least reply and tell me you’re okay? I’m going out now, but you can reach me at this number: 336-877-1129.
Your (worried) friend,
Cyrus sighed. There were still no new replies. He had forwarded the calls from the hotel room’s number down to the front desk, but they reported no activity either. The final number was Mr. Hill’s, and it had been silent as well.
Knowing that he should get something to eat, but not really hungry, Cyrus headed for the shower. Hoping that the hot water would wake him up, Cyrus was dismayed to find that it only had the opposite effect. Within a few minutes of lounging on the hotel’s fluffy comforter, Cyrus was already dozing off, the glow of his computer screen illuminating his face.
Cyrus had no idea how long he was out, but when he woke, he thought it was because of a soft ping. He sat up in bed and blinked, listening hard. There was nothing. Great, now he was hallucinating. Rolling off of the bed, Cyrus touched his laptop’s touch pad to wake it up from its screensaver. It took a minute before his eyes adjusted to the bright screen in the darkness, but when they did, he nearly stopped breathing.
He had one new email.
Fingers flying across the pad, Cyrus opened it up.
March 1, 2015 at 10:23 PM
“Hayden Brenton” <email@example.com>:
Hi, Cyrus, this is Will. I don’t want to bother you, but I was wondering if I could give you a call? It’s about Hayden.
Almost before he was finished reading, Cyrus was typing a response.
March 1, 2015 at 10:25 PM
“Cyrus Angeles”< firstname.lastname@example.org>:
Yes, of course! Here’s the number, if you didn’t get it: 336-292-8961
He didn’t bother to sign his name, but just pressed “Send.” Cyrus held his breath, watching the phone and waiting for it to ring. Almost a minute later, it did. Cyrus picked it up halfway through. “Hello?”
“Hi, it’s Will.”
“Will,” Cyrus breathed, not believing his luck. “Is everything okay? Is Hayden okay?”
“I… I don’t know.”