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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2. SIX MONTHS PREVIOUSLY

 

When Benedict Akamatsu first got the call informing him that his twin brother had been in an accident, the initial thought that passed through his mind was ‘Oh crap, he better not have ruined my car again.’ That quickly gave way to ‘Bloody hell, I hope he’s alright’, and after that he didn’t think anything much but ‘OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYAAAAAARHGHHHHHHHHH’. That was when he half-fell to the floor, sitting at the bottom of the staircase in a curious sort of mix of panic and horror. Sitting down and freaking out internally was all he could do, really – if he’d had a car he would have driven it to the hospital in a furious kind of hysteria, but unfortunately his brother had just gone out and crashed it. On the other hand, it was probably just as well.

The state Ben was in, he’d probably only have gone and got himself in an accident too.

The last time he’d spoken to his brother, they’d rowed. That’s the thing about arguments– people go for weeks without having one, and then suddenly an argument surprise-tackles you to the floor just as tragedy starts preparing to grab you in a headlock. At the time, Benedict had been certain that he was completely in the right, but now he wasn’t quite so sure.

Negative turns of events always have to go and drop a hundred-ton suitcase of doubt on top of everything. It was especially frustrating that this had been the kind of fall-out that steadfastly refuses to blow away in the wind. (Even a really strong wind, like a gale. Or a particularly gusty blizzard.)

Sebastian had waltzed into the house at ten this morning, his choppy, dark hair hanging loose around his shoulders. He’d stayed the night at a friend’s house. Where they’d most likely have got so drunk they thought the High School Musical soundtrack counted as proper music. Ben hadn’t been invited. He’d pretended to Seb that he didn’t mind.

It had been like that for a few months now. Seb would make plans to hang out with Ben, just like they used to- but then some doofus new friend of his would swoop in and invite him round for afternoon tea or something, and of course Seb ‘just couldn’t possibly say no’.

It made Ben feel sick.

The first time Seb had been asked somewhere – just Seb, without Ben – it had been this constantly smirking boy called Darren from the year above. And Sebastian knew that Ben had always hated Darren- but before Ben could even think of something clever to say, like ‘Don’t people who smirk too much make you suspicious?’, his twin had already agreed.

After that happened, Seb had been making more and more excuses to drop out of things he’d planned with Ben.

Ben didn’t mean to sound whiny, every time he asked Sebastian if maybe he could come along too. (The answer was always a way-too-fierce no.) But to see the twin that he’d spent seventeen years of his life with leave him for new friends… He wasn’t the type of guy to constantly discuss his feelings, but Ben had to admit that it kind of (really, really, really) hurt.

Not to mention the fact that the day of the car crash, Ben had had next to no sleep the last night. And they’d run out of coffee, so it wasn’t like he could just take a sip of his favourite miracle drink and suddenly feel all bright and sparkly eyed.

 No one could blame him if he got a little angry at his brother once in a while. It didn’t seem fair that Seb could smile as he walked through the front door as if everything was as it used to be, because it wasn’t. The twins were no longer the centre of each other’s worlds, and the roses and daises that had been growing in Ben’s heart had morphed into weeds that seemed more intent on giving him cardiac arrest than anything else.

“Hey, Ben,” Seb had said to him as he sat watching sullenly through the open study door. “Are Mum and Dad up yet?”

Ben shrugged and swivelled around on the comfy black chair he was sitting on. Staring straight in front of him, he read and re-read the text on the computer screen and waited for his brother to come and apologise for leaving him out.

Seb didn’t disappoint. “You okay?” he asked, making his way into the study. He leaned on Ben’s chair, letting it swing left and right as he shifted his body weight. Ben turned around and pushed him off, frustrated. His brother laughed, the sound slightly slurred by however much alcohol he’d had to drink last night. From the sounds of it, it was probably a lot. Five pints. Maybe more.

“Yeah,” said Ben, trying to focus on what he was reading. Something science-y, by the looks of it – but whatever it wanted him to learn, the information just wasn’t going in. “Yeah, I’m fine, Seb. I’m brilliant and wonderful and spiffing and wonderful and great. Absolutely great.” Oops. The sarcasm had been building up inside him ever since Seb walked through the door, and Ben couldn't seem to stop it from exploding outwards.

“Okay, calm down,” Seb said lazily, raising his arms in surrender. “You don’t have to be like that about it. I was just asking.” Suddenly, his eyes narrowed. Pulling Ben’s chair round so that they had to look at each other, Seb squinted at his brother skeptically. “Wait, this isn’t about me actually having friends, is it? You’re not pissed again just because I’m hanging out with Darren and July and-” When Ben refused to answer, Seb threw his hands up to his face, pulling the skin of his cheeks down dramatically. “Oh my God, it is.”

Ben swallowed. “So what? I’m annoyed at you for a reason. You can’t just… freaking abandon me to hang out with people who I barely even know.”

Sighing, Seb rolled his eyes. “Exactly! You’ve hit the jackpot, Ben – you don’t know them! So why the heck do you want to hang out with them? You don’t have to trail along behind me everywhere I go.”

Ben gritted his teeth in frustration– why did everything always have to be a joke with Seb? “I don’t want to… trail along behind you, or whatever you want to call it. Just give me a chance to make friends with them– come on.” He didn’t understand: in the past, all Seb’s friends had automatically been his friends too. That was just the way it was.

“You’ve already got friends,” said Seb, a little more gently. “Why don’t you call Leanne or someone? You can rant to her about what a rubbish twin I’m turning into.”

“Yeah, but Leanne’s…” Ben didn’t know what to say. Leanne was fine – she was perfectly nice and pleasant and was the sort of girl who always handed her homework in on time – but… she just wasn’t Seb. Seb was the person Ben liked to rant to, Seb was the person Ben was closest in the world to- and currently, Seb was beginning to piss Ben off.

Just as Seb was about to say something that would probably make Ben consider throwing himself off a cliff in frustration, Justin Bieber’s latest hit single blared from the phone in Seb’s back pocket.

Ben looked at his brother in disbelief. “Justin Bieber? Are you kidding me, Seb? You hate Justin Bieber!”

“It was a dare, okay?” Seb shrugged sheepishly, before glancing at the caller ID. Let me guess, thought Ben, it’s Darren, it’s urgent, and Seb’s 'really, really sorry' but he has to go now.

“It’s Darren,” said Sebastian. “Do you mind if I answer? It might be important.”

Bingo.

Ben waved his hands dismissively. “Sure. Go ahead,” he replied, his tone practically dripping with pure vitriol. “It’s completely fine with me.”

Seb rolled his eyes and answered the call. “Hey, Darren. What’s up?” He waited a while before speaking again, his expression visibly darkening. “Yeah. Yeah, I completely understand, man.” He stopped short, all of a sudden, biting his lip. “Wait… huh?”

Seb paused, obviously confused about something. Meanwhile, Ben reverted back to being ten years old and made rude hand gestures at the phone.

“Oh, right,” said Seb, ignoring his twin silently mimicking every word that he said. “Yep, alright. I’ll be there soon. As soon as I can.” He rang off and turned to his brother. “Can you grow up for at least five minutes? I was trying to have a conversation, Ben!”

“But you keep –“

“I keep having conversations without you, is that it?” Seb flung his arms out, furious. “Stop being so immature! Get over yourself! I’m allowed to have friends other than you!”

“Of course you are – of course you can have friends other than me - but I never see you anymore, Seb! This is literally the fourth time this week you’ve had to go and meet Darren ‘urgently’! It’s just another excuse to go and have a drink with him and his stupid friends! You don’t care about anything anymore!”

“So, what,” asked Seb sarcastically, “are you breaking up with me? Huh? Because the way you’re acting, it’s like we’re a goddamn married couple!”

Ben rolled his eyes, fuming. “Grow up!”

“Speak for yourself!” Seb snatched up Ben’s keys from the study desk, moving so quickly that Ben didn’t have a chance to stop him.

“Use your own car, you idiot! Those are my keys!”

“I lost my keys!”

“That’s not an excuse to take mine! What if you lose them as well?”

Seb paused, as if he was trying to think up some clever retort. That idea was quickly abandoned as he pocketed Ben’s keys and stalked towards the front door. “I guess you better hope that I don’t lose them, then!” He stormed outside, slamming the door on his way out.

Looking out of the window, Ben watched his brother get into his car and pull away off the drive - heading for God knows where to meet Darren and July and God knows who.

“Ben?” called a voice from upstairs. His mum. “Was that Sebastian back? What was all the noise– were you fighting?” She appeared at the top of the landing stairs; Ben could just about see her if he craned his head around the study door. It was an uncomfortable position that Ben was actually kind of surprised he managed to manoeuvre himself into in the first place. Maybe, he thought, I could look into contortionism as a viable career option.

“It was nothing, Mum. Seb came back, but he’s just gone out again. To meet some friends. It doesn’t matter, anyway.”

Ben’s mum – a pretty, sandy haired woman in her late thirties – tilted her head to one side as if considering. After a while she seemed to come to the conclusion that whatever she might have asked Ben about wasn’t worth pursuing. She was very busy as it was, with her husband being so perpetually convinced that he was ill and thus doing next to nothing to help run the household.

“Okay,” she said, a slight strain showing in her voice. “Well, try to be quieter. Your dad’s asleep.” She ran her hands through her hair distractedly. It was messy and dishevelled already, and ruffling it up only made it more so. She looked like she hadn’t slept at all last night.

“Yes, Mum,” said Ben. “Hey – is there anything I can do to help? With Dad, I mean?”

His mum shook her head. “No. No, darling. It’s fine. I’m fine.” She raised an eyebrow, her face showcasing the flimsiest shadow of a smile. “You could get me a cup of tea, though.”

“Sure,” Ben answered, and headed for the kitchen.

Twenty-four minutes later, the Akamatsu family phone rang – Benedict picked it up, because there was no one else to do it. It was the hospital calling. Seb had been in an accident, they said. Tell your parents immediately, they said. Come to A&E as soon as you can, they said.

The fact was, Seb was in a coma and the hospital weren't sure if he was going to wake up.

-

WHISPER

A ROMANCE BY MIRLOTTA


//cover by @mirlotta\\

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