Whisper

//He had a smile on his face like the climax of a novel, and his kisses were the chorus to a treasured favourite song.\\

Benedict has lived six months in a ragged half existence, torn apart after his twin brother's accident. Still, when he meets Whisper, the happy-go-lucky boy in the wheelchair who volunteers at his support group, Benedict starts to realise that maybe it isn't totally impossible for him to begin enjoying life again. It's only after the two uncover some incriminating evidence that Ben understands that his brother's car crash wasn't quite so accidental as he originally thought.

\\The amazing, beautiful, wonderful cover is by @violets//

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7. CHAPTER FIVE| Legs

 

There’s this thing about Saturdays. People either try and cram everything they possibly can into the 24 hours like an unwanted suitcase they’re intentionally trying to burst or they let the day pass by as if they’re trying their hardest to ignore it.

 Ben was one of those people who tried to ignore their Saturdays.

He’d maybe, you know, open a book and read a couple of pages if he hadn’t accidentally opened it upside down, or sometimes he’d marathon whatever TV show was popular on Netflix. But he wouldn’t actually do anything. He’d go to support group and he’d complete his homework, and maybe at one time he’d have gone to the ice cream parlour with Seb and Leanne. That was it. Nothing terribly exciting or profound or much of anything, really.

Saturdays ran like clockwork. A very boring, monotone, simplistic kind of clockwork, that even Ben got bored of after a while.

When Whisper called half an hour before support group and asked if he wanted to skip with him, Ben’s answer had been a very enthusiastic, out of character ‘hell yes’ – the kind that made Whisper laugh for minutes on end.

That had been good, too, because it meant Ben got to bask in the sound of Whisper’s voice. It was vaguely accented, but rather than being a particular dialect it seemed to be a mixture of several. A kind of dialect hybrid. Ben thought that it was glorious, and he loved it.

Even when it turned out that Whisper’s Saturdays were the lazy kind as well, Ben didn’t mind particularly much. Just because it meant he wouldn’t get to see Whisper in a tight synthetic jumpsuit completing an aerial assault course, it didn’t mean a Saturday spent together was going to be wasted.

Though, Ben had to admit, Whisper in a tight synthetic would have been nice.

They sat on a nondescript square of grass under a nondescript sort of tree within a general kind of forest, shaded from the not-quite-visible-but-maybe-slightly-hinted-at English sun. Whisper’s wheelchair was behind them; Whisper himself was lying on his back. He moved his hands like folded birds through the air, back and forth until Ben had to stop staring like an idiot and ask him what he was doing.

“Painting,” answered Whisper. “I’m…” He trailed off, like his was struggling to find a word he didn’t really want to say anyway.

“What?”

“Painting a picture. In the air.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I’ve got legs. In the picture, I mean.”

“You have legs anyway.”

Whisper shrugged again. “Yeah. You know what I mean.”

Ben knew what he meant. He stretched his arms out in front of him, sighing slightly. “I shouldn’t have asked.”

“It doesn’t matter. Really.” He shook his head, letting the wind ruffle his hair.  “I’ve been in this chair long enough that I should have got used to it by now.”

Tilting his head, Ben looked away. His gaze wasn’t really fixed on anything in particular – his head teacher passing by wearing a black and green polka dot dress would barely have scraped his attention. Letting his eyes drift in the same aimless way he liked his Saturdays to go by, he shouldn’t have noticed it.

Shouldn’t have. Wouldn’t have, were it not for her hair. About fifty metres away from them, a girl with long blonde hair stood slouched, leaning against a tree. Anyone she was with would have been obscured - but her, there was no mistaking her.

It was the girl who’d bumped into him on the way to the hospital. The girl that Ben was at least 80.5% had stolen Seb’s driving licence from his blazer pocket.

Ben started upwards, getting to his feet abruptly.

“Ben.”

Ben looked around for the speaker, then realised it was Whisper, still lying on the floor. “Oh!”

“Were you even listening to me?”

“Hmmm?”

“Just now. Were you listening?”

“Hmmm?”

“Ben!”

“Huh? Uh, yes,” he answered, trying to disguise the fact that he’d not been listening to a word Whisper was saying. I’m rubbish at trying to disguise the face I’ve not been listening, Ben thought even as his thoughts wandered to the girl by the tree.

If she moved just slightly to the right, Ben would be able to see if there was anyone else with her.

“You’re rubbish at trying to disguise the fact that you’ve not been listening, you know,” said Whisper. Since he’d pretty much just repeated the exact words running through Ben’s head, Ben felt it safe to jump to the conclusion that Whisper was actually a mind reader escaped from the circus or somewhere. Or something.

“Hah… Yeah,” muttered Ben, grinning sheepishly.

“You’re literally the worst master of disguise I’ve ever met, you realise,” drawled Whisper raising an eyebrow as he propped himself up on his forearms.  “And you don’t even seem to care.”

“Hmmm?”

The girl moved. There was no one with her – at least, no one that Ben could see. Unless she had a couple of invisible friends to keep her company, there was no way anyone could deny it. This girl was completely alone in the forest.

She looked up, Ben’s eyes matching her gaze. She watched him with the air of someone practiced in watching, waiting – the kind of unbroken, relentless stare that wrapped tendrils of ice round Ben’s ribcage and frosted up the glass case of his heart.

How long had she been watching them before Ben noticed?

He shuddered, looking away from the arresting blue of her eyes. Almost trance-like, he began to pick his way across the forest towards her, wincing at the sound of every crunchy leaf.

“Ben!” came a shout from behind him, and Ben found him rolling his eyes as he twisted around to see Whisper, still lying on the floor. Well, of course, you idiot, he thought. Obviously. It’s not like he can just get back up on his feet and follow you. He wasn’t quite sure if he most resented himself or Whisper, in that moment.

 “Ben!” said Whisper again, his voice quiet against the still of the forest, “what are you doing?”

“I-“ Ben glanced over his shoulder at where the girl was standing- had been standing. Now, as he looked around frantically, there was no one there. Well, thought Ben, she pissed off quickly. Not that that’s hard in this forest. He shook his head. Whatever. It didn’t matter. She was gone now, anyway.

Whisper didn’t need to know.

“Sorry,” he said slowly, sitting down again. “I just needed to stretch my legs for a second. You know?”

“Not really, no,” answered Whisper bitingly. He ran his fingers through his hair, sighing. “Sorry.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“I know.”

“Yeah.”

Whisper pulled a face. “’Yeah’ is so absolutely not an acceptable answer. In no way whatsoever does it carry the conversation forward.”

“Yeah…” said Ben. “Well. It is a good answer for some things.”

“Like… Whisper is awesome?”

“Yeah.”

“Like… The Hungry Caterpillar is seriously a literary work of art?”

“Never read it, but probably yeah.”

Whisper slapped his hands over his cheeks in a disbelief that Ben couldn’t quite be sure was fake. “You’ve never read it? Wow, okay. We’re seriously going to have to remedy that sometime.”

Ben pulled a face. “Unnhhh. ‘Remedy’ sounds like you’re a doctor. I hate hospitals.”

“Doesn’t everyone?”

“Probably not doctors, I suppose.”

“Nah, even they’ll hate hospitals. They’ll just be doing it for the money.”

“You’re a goddamn pessimist, Ben. Ben whatever-your-surname-is.” Whisper frowned, the space between his nose and his forehead wrinkling up. “What’s your surname, again?”

“Don’t have one.”

“What, seriously?”

Yeah,” said Ben, smirking as he emphasised the sarcasm. “I don’t have a surname.”

Whisper blushed. “Yeah, okay then, so, what is it?”

“Akamatsu.”

“Akamatsu,” repeated Whisper with such absolute revere you could imagine him making the name into a neon sign and praising it every morning before breakfast. “Benedict Akamatsu.”

“It sounds weird when you say it like that. Like, you know, sounding out the syllables like you actually care what my surname is.”

Whisper shrugged. “So what if it sounds weird? You’re weird.”

“Could be worse. You could be sitting here in the forest with a raging psychopath.”

“Sounds like my ex.”

A pause, where they both laughed.

“By the way,” said Whisper, after he’d managed to talk without sounding like a rare breed of cackling snake, “are you free tomorrow?”

“Probably. Why?”

Whisper shrugged, picking a blade of grass and fiddling with it. “I’m doing some volunteering at this local food bank tomorrow.” He rolled his eyes expressively. “Okay, that sounds seriously crap, but it’ll be good - I promise.”

“What you meant was, you’re doing some super awesome volunteering at this, like, fantastically unbelievably great food bank tomorrow.”

Whisper snorted. “That, yeah. You want to come?”

Ben smiled. “Yeah. Okay. I’d like that.”

“I’d like that too.”

Whisper smiled, looking at him out of the corners of his eyes. “I like you, you know, Ben.”

“Uh… yeah, Whisper. I like you too.” Ben blushed. “In a friends way. Obviously. I like you as a friend. A good friend.”

Whisper smiled, a little sadly. “Yeah. In a friends way. But, uh, do you know what ‘yeah’ would be another good answer to?”

“What?”

“If I asked you if you wanted me to kiss you, and you-“

Ben stood up abruptly, the tips of his ears glowing beet. “Sorry, what was that, Whisper?” He stretched, pretending he hadn’t heard. “I’ve, uh, I’ve kind of got a lot of homework to do, so we should probably be heading back soon. Now, really. Yeah. Let’s head back now. Unless it was, um, something important you wanted to say?”

Whisper shook his head. “No, I didn’t say anything. Nothing. Nothing at all.”

“No,” agreed Ben. “I must have been hearing things.”

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Yeah."

-

WHISPER

A ROMANCE BY MIRLOTTA


//cover by @violets\\

-

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