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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4. CHAPTER TWO| Boyfriend

 

Ben was in the middle of trying to decide what colour Whisper’s eyes were when a complicated looking maths textbook flew out of nowhere and hit him on the head. The book was flimsy enough not to particularly hurt, but that didn’t stop it from being annoying. The fact was, it was the beginning of the school day and this early in the morning Ben really wasn’t ready for any kind of unexpected assault.

“Oh my God, Ben! You can’t just stop walking in the middle of the corridor like that!” moaned Leanne. It didn’t take much deductive skill for Ben to figure out that she was the one who had thrown the textbook,

a) because she was in the area and looked pissed about something

b) because she was close enough friends with Ben that she could do something like throw a textbook at his head and not end up being punched in the face

and lastly

c) because on closer inspection, the textbook said ‘Leanne Stacey’ on the cover.

Ben gritted his teeth and decided to educate Leanne on social convention. “Seriously, you can’t just throw books at people’s heads.”

 “Uh, seriously, you stopped right in front of me. What was I supposed to do?

“Ask me to move, maybe?” He shook his head, bending down to pick up her book.  He hadn’t even noticed he’d stopped walking. “Whatever. Here.”

“Thanks,” said Leanne, taking the book from him and rolling her eyes. They started moving again, following the ever flowing stream of school kids heading to form room. “You know,” she continued, “there’s supposed to be a new English teacher.”

“Great,” said Ben, not sure what he was supposed to say. Something like ‘oh wow, really?’ would be pointless because he was sure that Leanne was telling the truth. She was the sort of person who never lied, but always exaggerated.

“Yeah. Apparently he’s really weird looking.” She wrinkled her nose.

“Like… What do you mean?”

“Really long hair–“

“Hmmm?” Ben fingered his sleek black ponytail sarcastically.

“No, no, nothing like yours! Your hair’s really nice! I… I love your hair!” Leanne blushed, her eyebrows knitting together. “I meant dreadlocks or something. You know? Not the sort of thing a… a normal teacher would have.”

“If you say so,” said Ben, raising an eyebrow at her.

“I… Oh… Never mind. Forget I ever said anything.”

“Said what?”

“Said– oh. Thanks.” They reached Ben’s form, but instead of walking onwards, Leanne stopped to continue talking to him. “Oh, before I forget, do you know July Solomon?”

 “Actress? Singer? Fictional character? Scary sociopathic vampire hunter?” Ben nodded, ignoring Leanne folding her arms in irritation. He was not in the mood for school, and he was taking it out on her. “You know, I think July Solomon sounds like a really good name for a vampire hunter. If I were a novel writer-”

Leanne pulled a face. “She’s in our year, you idiot. I take French with her. Anyway, she’s invited me to a party – I can’t remember what she’s celebrating – and I wondered if you want to go with me?”

“Are you allowed to invite me to other people’s parties?” Ben shook his head. “I don’t want to go.”

Staring intently at the floor, Leanne shrugged. “It’s just, um… You know. You’ve kind of been ignoring me lately, and I’m only trying to be a good friend. Do you really not want to go to the party, or, like, is it just because you don’t want to go there with me?”

“No, Leanne, it’s nothing like that- It’s just-” Ben cut off. Actually, he had been avoiding Leanne, but only because she’d become so clingy after the accident that Ben could have replaced her with a sticky-jack and found it hard to tell the difference.

“You’re embarrassed by me, is that it?” asked Leanne, her hands on her hips. She paused, not speaking for a while- just carried on staring at the floor like she’d discovered that if you stare at a speck of dust for long enough it sprouts wings and starts doing a tap dance. Eventually she looked up, her voice as subdued as Ben had ever heard it. “Ben… Is it because I’m… fat?”

“What? No! No, of course not! It’s just…” Whisper’s face floated towards the front of Ben’s mind. Ben shoved it down in annoyance. “You know, I just think we need to spend more time with other people for a change.” Damn it, he was starting to sound just like Seb had.

“You’re speaking like we were in a relationship,” said Leanne, tossing her hair and still looking at the floor. “But you wouldn’t, would you? You’d never go out with me.”

Eyes widening, Ben stepped back and crashed into the group of people standing behind him. He mumbled his apologies, and stepped forwards again. “Um… Sorry, what?”

Leanne was getting increasingly hard to hear. She muttered something about ‘boyfriend’.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.  Internally, Ben was stomping about and fainting against all the walls of his brain, but on the outside he remained calm, cool, collected. “I’m sorry, Leanne,” said Ben, only slightly robotically. (And given the unexpectedness of it all and the earliness of the morning, he really couldn’t be blamed for that.) “But I think we’re better off as friends.”

He managed an awkward looking smile.

Friends. They’d been friends for years, him and Leanne, and Ben didn’t understand why she’d want to change that status now. It just wouldn’t work, thought Ben. They’d known each other too long. It would be weird. And... Ben thought of Whisper, with his easy smile and his tousled dark hair, and... No. No. He was talking to Leanne right now, not Whisper, and there was no reason to think of him.

When Leanne didn’t smile back, Ben attempted to save the situation. “And… Um, you know that I don’t really like parties anyway.”

Leanne curled her lip. “I wasn’t asking you out, you idiot. I was just saying. You wouldn’t go out with me. I don’t think you’d go out with anyone, actually- and you know why?” She didn’t wait for Ben to reply. “I think that ever since Seb’s accident, all you’ve been doing is pushing people out. You’re punishing yourself, because you fucking blame yourself for something that wasn’t even your own fault! And-”

If Ben hadn’t been at school, he’d probably have stuck his fingers in his ears until Leanne stopped talking. He was certainly childish enough. “I could have a girlfriend, if I wanted one. I’m just not in the mood for a romantic relationship right now.”

Eyes sparking, Leanne tilted her chin up provocatively, her face twisting. “Ben, you’ve never had a girlfriend. You’re not just ‘not in the mood’. Don’t give me that crap. You couldn’t handle a relationship if you tried.”

“There was… What’sherface? – Megan! – in year eight!”

“Year eight doesn’t count,” said Leanne flatly. She raised an eyebrow, her mouth firmly downturned. “You won’t consider a romantic relationship, you’re pushing me out as pretty much the only one of your friends who can still stand to put up with your moody ass- you won’t let yourself have fun or laugh or have a good time- and seriously, Ben, it’s not healthy!”

Ben looked at her, his eyes blazing with a silent, all-consuming rage. “You sound like Judy. She’s the leader at my support group, and you know what? I fucking hate her.”

Leanne let out her breath in a swooping rush, taking a step closer to Ben. “Seb wouldn’t be like this if it was the other way round. He’d know that you’d want him to enjoy himself, and-”

Actually, thought Ben, I’m so goddamn selfish that I’d probably expect Seb to cry every damn day for the rest of his life. His jaw tightened. “Yeah, maybe Seb would be having the time of his life, if he were me. But the thing is, Leanne, I’m not Seb and I never will be.”

“I don’t-”

“We’re different people! We’re different people, and… And you shouldn’t have a goddamn problem with that!” Ben scowled, because this was so not the way he planned to start the morning, and stalked off in the opposite direction.

His thoughts were of a scarlet-patterned rage that seemed close to literally exploding out of him. Ben had been compared to Sebastian since forever, but he knew that he’d never get used to it. Just because they looked alike didn’t mean that they were the same person.

The thing was, deep down, Benedict knew that what Leanne was saying was sensible. Good advice, really, especially coming from a seventeen-year old girl with slightly over-violent tendencies.

Ben huffed, the same way the Big Bad Wolf did when he was sick and tired of other people giving him shit for blowing the little pigs’ houses down.

Somehow, instead of heading to his form room, he’d been so annoyed that he’d blindly stormed to the opposite end of the school. He peeked back over his shoulder. Great. Leanne’s form hadn’t gone in yet, so it wasn’t like he could just turn around and stride past her.

She’d be bound to see him, and that would be awkward. Especially as she’d totally been right in everything that she’d been saying, and Ben just couldn’t face up to the facts.

Ben looked around anxiously for another route to get to his form, like a meerkat with long dark hair and a giraffe’s neck. His gaze fell dubiously on the automatic doors leading outside. If he ran, he could still probably get to form on time.

Ben didn’t feel like running.

In fact, the uncomfortable looking red benches scattered across the school grounds suddenly looked really, really inviting. He flopped onto one, and rested his head in his hands. He hated arguments, and he especially hated arguing with people he was close to. Seb’s accident had taught him that.

Ben pulled out his phone and flicked through his contacts. He needed to talk to someone – not about Leanne, but just to take his mind off things. Instinctively he started typing in Seb’s number– then stopped, as reality kicked in.

The rest of his contacts, he barely knew anymore– fake friends that he’d barely spoken to once since Seb went into the coma. And that only left…

Without pausing to worry about how this would look or what kind of impression he was giving, Ben keyed in the number Whisper had left him with yesterday.

 “This is Whisper Anderson speaking.” He picked up after the second ring, and Ben smiled at how formal he sounded. It was strange, he thought, how someone with such a unique name as 'Whisper' could have a perfectly normal surname like 'Anderson'.

“Erm… Hi, this is Ben?” He said it like a question, and hated himself for it. “You, um- you gave me your number at Support Group… At the weekend?” said Ben, becoming increasingly worried about this call. Stop pausing like that. You sound like you can’t speak English.

“Oh, hey, Ben!” Whisper sounded utterly nonplussed by the random phone call. “Long-time no speak, huh?”

“It’s… It’s been two days.” Nooo, now you sound like you think he’s an idiot! Laugh or something. Make it look like you’re joking. Ben tried to laugh, but ended up making a noise more similar to a strangled cat attempting opera singing.

“Wow, really? Guess it just seems like a long time.”

“Hah… Yeah.” Say something! Say something interesting or he’ll think that you’re weird, because only weirdos call people they've only spoken to once without a reason!

“Hey, um..." Ben cleared his throat awkwardly. "Did you know that Arthur Conan Doyle theorised that Jack the Ripper was actually female?” No, not something interesting like thatBen started to do an internal face palm, but then decided to go one further and face palmed for real. 

 Still, by some holy miracle, Whisper actually seemed intrigued. “What, like… Jaqueline the Ripper or something?”

“Jill the Ripper, but yeah. He thought that she was an insane midwife.”

“You seem to know a lot about it.”

“Yeah, I guess.” He paused. Though pauses in conversation are perfectly natural and can actually be very comfortable when speaking to someone in real life, over the phone, the silence seemed lumpy and ungainly.

It also made it very easy for Ben to hear a distinct fwoosh sound from Whisper’s end of the line.

“What was that?”

“What do you mean?”

“That sound.” The fwoosh came again, louder this time. Like it had died, but then regenerated with double the power. “There it was again.”

“Oh!” Whisper laughed. “No, that was just my hair swishing through the wind.”

Ben pictured Whisper in his head. Although his hair was brown and curly and bounced when he shook it in a very adorable way, there was no way it was long enough to swish in the wind. “Your hair’s what?”

Whisper’s grin was almost audible. “I’m joking, I’m joking! Don’t sound so surprised. No, my mum’s just throwing knives at the wall.”

What?”

“She’s into self-defence,” said Whisper, as if that made everything okay.

But the funny thing was, talking to Whisper did exactly that.

“Listen,” said Whisper, “this might sound totally creepy and stalker-y, but do you want to come over to my place? It’s easier to talk in person.”

“Wait, you mean… Now? But what about school?”

“My mum home-schools me,” said Whisper. “And I meant after school, anyway. Don’t worry. I’m not the kind of negative influence that’s going to try and cheat you out of your education.”

Ben was too polite to ask whether Whisper’s ‘home-schooling’ involved his mum teaching him to throw cutlery across the room.

“Oh… Okay, then, definitely!” Ben said, and then grinned. “If you’re sure you’re not a negative influence, that is. My mum always told me to be wary of strangers- and, let’s be honest, despite how I might wish otherwise, you are definitely a stranger.”

“Well, does the whole stranger-danger thing mean you’re not going to accept sweets from me? Because my dad just brought, like, literal crates of American candy back from New York with him, and I was planning on forcing some on you. I’m addicted to these things called red vines and, I swear, they are so good.”

“I mean,” drawled Ben, “I think there’s like a statistical 70% chance that you’ll have poisoned them, but I think I’ll risk it.”

“Cool,” said Whisper. “I’ll text you my address, and then you can come over after school.”

“Sure.” Ben’s parents probably wouldn’t even notice he was out, and if they did they’d just assume he was at the hospital with Seb. The school bell rang for everyone to go into their form rooms, bringing Ben back to the here and now. “Listen, I have to go now, but I’ll see you after school.”

“See you!” sang Whisper, and rang off.

Ben figured he didn’t have to go round the long way to get to form anymore, now that Leanne had to have gone into her form room. If he sprinted, he might just make it before registration– and while he didn’t feel like running just a few minutes before, now it was more important than ever.

If he was late to form that could mean a detention, and a detention would mean that he’d be late going to Whisper’s house after school.

Ben shifted slightly, tangled up in his strings of thought.

“Ouch!”

Jumping forwards, Ben stood up. He’d sat on something painful. On closer inspection, it was the corner of a laminated piece of card, sticking up through the slats in the metal bench. Using his thumb and first finger, he gingerly lifted it out so that he could read it.

The piece of paper was a driving licence, and not just any driving licence.

It belonged to Ben’s brother, someone who hadn't been attending school for six months. Someone who it was impossible to imagine had dropped anything here - let alone a licence - because he was currently in a coma.

Still, what Ben saw was undeniable. The license belonged to Sebastian Akamatsu and from the looks of it, it hadn't been here long.

 

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WHISPER

A ROMANCE BY MIRLOTTA


//cover by @mirlotta\\

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