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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22. CHAPTER TWENTY| Too Late

 

Ben blinked.

His knees shook just a little- just enough to threaten that they could so, so easily give way any second now. Around him, the world seemed to throb and glow- constellations of consternation that burnt and ebbed and burnt and ebbed at the corners of his vision. His skin had chilled in what seemed like seconds, and now his blood curdled into a sluggish sort of ice that crept through his body and called itself confusion.

Ben didn’t understand. He didn’t understand.

“Is that Seb?” asked Leanne incredulously. She tapped her painted nail against the pile of pictures and tossed her hair impatiently, waiting for answers to rain down from the sky as if she could somehow hope to catch them. “I didn’t know that he knew Whisper.”

Ben bit his lip, shaking his head. “Neither… Neither did I.”

It wasn’t like anyone could blame Ben, either. Every time Seb had been brought up – which was a lot, really – Whisper had always acted as if he’d never met the guy in person. As if he’d only ever come into contact with Seb at all through Ben’s memories of him.

The camera never lies, but apparently Whisper had.

It was difficult to argue with photographic evidence of the two of them in the same room. Not just Seb and Whisper, either. Julian and July and Darren- the latter two, people that Whisper had also never mentioned making the acquaintance of.

Ben turned to Leanne, his hand shaking. He could barely even feel the pile of photographs he gripped anymore- the line between paper and skin seemed to blur and shift, as if it had never existed in the first place. Maybe that was all Ben was.

A fragile, paper boy.

It made sense, to be honest. He felt as if the next gust of wind would rip open his insides, tear him apart and carry him off in the wind. Perhaps that would be all for the best, decided Ben, and closed his eyes. If the wind turned him into little shreds of paper, no one could blame him for never managing to save Seb.

 Leanne poked him in the ribs. Hard.

“Ow- God,” complained Ben, his eyes snapping open. “What was that for?”

“You look like you’re going to faint. I was just checking to see that you hadn’t spontaneously died whilst standing up or something.”

Ben rolled his eyes, rubbing at his side. “Can you even die while standing up? I don’t think that’s actually possible.”

“’Course it is. Rigor mortis.” Leanne put her hands on her hips so that she looked like the CEO of some world-dominating corporation or another. Ben thought it was meant to be an understanding sort of gesture, but actually it just made her look plain terrifying. “So. Whisper knows Seb, huh?”

“Clearly,” muttered Ben. Except, it was anything but clear to him, right now. “It’s just… Wouldn’t he have said something, you know? Whisper wouldn’t just… He wouldn’t just… He’d have told me if he knew Seb, or anything about- you know, all the stuff about people trying to kill him. He’d have told me if he knew Darren and July… I mean, I swear to God, I told Whisper that I knew this was something to do with them, and- you know- Whisper would have said something  to help, if he knew them.”

“But he didn’t,” said Leanne, and suddenly her voice seemed threaded across with ice, as if someone had accidentally stitched her words with liquid nitrogen rather than ordinary thread.

“No,” Ben agreed, slowly. “He didn’t.”

Whisper had known Seb, and July, and Darren. And yet even when it would have helped, he hadn’t said anything about it.

It made Ben wonder whether everything else Whisper had said was a lie.

Probably.

Ben felt kind of sick. He wished he could run back home and crawl into his bed and under his duvet, and stay curled up that way for a long, long time. Until even the oceans withered away to dust and sand. Ben also knew that this was definitely not an option for his foreseeable future, because hiding under your duvet never solves anything.

And Ben had had enough. He’d had enough- he’d already had too much shit to bother with hiding now.

Hiding, after all, never tends to solve anything.

“We should…” Ben searched for the words, willing them towards him. “We should find out why they’re all in a picture together. Seb and Darren and July and Julian and Whisper and… Seb.”  He listed off the names robotically, but it was the only way Ben could speak without breaking down into bewilderment.

Leanne nodded her head, fiddling with the skin on her neck. This was something that she only ever did when she was nervous or troubled, and these were two emotions that didn’t tend to grace Leanne often. Ben was already too worried to bother taking this as a bad sign- in fact, he hardly even noticed.

They scrutinized the top photo together, ignoring the rest of the pile. “Ben?” said Leanne, after a moment, her voice lost somewhere under thought like file paper. “Will… Will Whisper have gone back to his house? We could drive back and meet him there, or-”

“I don’t know, though. I don’t know whether Whisper will have gone back home or not.” Ben shrugged weakly, blowing air upwards onto his face. “God, Leanne, I don’t know anything.”

Silence.

“That’s not true,” protested Leanne, more out of convention than actual belief in her words. “You’re… Whisper really likes you. Whatever he’s lied about, Ben, I know for certain that he likes you.”

“You can’t even be sure of that, though-”

“I can,” said Leanne, and suddenly her words were pumped through with the kind of ferocity that she could call upon like second nature. “Ben, listen. That kind of- you know- that kind of way that Whisper looks at you isn’t made up. It can’t be made up. That sort of thing is too genuine, too-”

“Leanne,” said Ben, cutting her off. “Thanks, but shut up. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just-”

“Okay,” said Leanne. “Okay, I get it. You don’t want to have to hear about Whisper right now.”

“No.”

“Okay then.”

“Thanks.”

“No problem.” Leanne sighed, running her hands through her hair. Part of her carefully coiled bun fell apart between her fingers, but she didn’t seem to care like she usually might have. “So. If, um, talking to Whisper about the picture is out of the question…”

“Yeah.”

“Then how about July?” Leanne suggested. “She’s in my French class.”

“Not…” Ben shook his head. The last time he’d talked to July had been at her party, where she’d warned him against an attempt on Seb’s life. ‘I’m not the only one on your side’, July had said, as if this was the traditional sort of war where death didn’t lurk behind shadows, and you knew exactly which skin your enemies wore, and people had sides.

Ben didn’t even think he trusted Whisper, anymore.

Why trust July, based on a couple of words she’d said once, at a party? People said anything at parties, after all. She might even have been drunk. And words were just words. They still floated away and dissolved if the wind blew too hard on them.

“Not July,” finished Ben, although he didn’t really have any reason not to trust her except why hadn’t Whisper told him that he knew her why why whY WHY WHY

“Okay then,” agreed Leanne. “Not July. I don’t think I even have her number, anyway.” She shrugged. “So… You don’t like Darren, right?” She paused as Ben contorted his face into a distorted mockery of Darren’s general gormless expression. Leanne laughed. “Right, all right, that’s an understatement. You hate Darren, so talking to him is out of the question, and… Do you know any of the others in the photo?”

Apart from Seb, the only other person Ben knew was Julian.

He rolled his eyes and swallowed his intense dislike for the other boy. At least he wasn’t a total meat-head, like Darren was.

Ben swallowed.

Or a liar, like Whisper.

“What the hell,” Ben told Leanne, thinking back to what Julian had told him in the park. Whisper, huh? You sure that’s sensible? “We’ll have to talk to Julian- Whisper’s ex-boyfriend. He lives over on the rich estate behind the park.”

“Fancy,” murmured Leanne, and Ben pulled a face.

“I’m warning you now, though, seriously. You’re never going to get along with Julian. He’s a complete prat.”

Leanne smirked. “Sounds kind of like you on a bad day.”

Ben only had to fake about 40% of his subsequent expression of horror. “That’s harsh, even by your standards.”

“At least I have standards,” said Leanne, and laughed.

“Good point,” said Ben, and then he tried absolutely everything in his admittedly monotone repertoire not to think about Whisper.

It almost worked. Almost.

Somehow, though, Ben’s thoughts just kept looping back to the boy in the wheelchair.

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