Rest Easy *Valentine's Day Entry*

*I'm submitting the first part of a novel, as it is still underway, but almost complete! I began it in January and the majority of it was written after the opening of the competition, but I had to re-upload because of the original upload date*

*Based on Prompts #1 and #2*

In Arizona, two teenagers spend a summer attempting to decrypt the life of an elderly woman with dementia, who had gone missing over forty years ago and cannot recall to anyone where and how she lived. This ongoing mission keeps the teenagers occupied all summer, bringing them closer and helping them to avoid the rough times they have been going enduring in their lives, and the pasts they just want to forget. As the pair grow a bond, it eventually appears that the world around them wishes against it. The price of overcoming the obstacles that stand ahead of them is hefty, but only they can determine whether it is worth the risk.

For those on desktop - I've added thematic songs to some of the chapters :)

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8. CHAPTER SIX | A MAN NAMED

 

“You wanna speak to Dad?” Dylan asked Dudley one evening. It was their father’s birthday. It was tradition to call him then, even if never any other time. His mother always did, and Dudley still remembered overhearing her speaking to his father over the phone on a regular basis. It was only in recent years that the phone calls became more few and far between, and his mother stopped offering him a chance to speak to him after she had said whatever it is she wanted to say, and listened to whatever it is he wished to speak. Eventually, Dudley would just refuse. There was no way in Hell he would want to speak to his father now, not after everything. He maybe would have listened to his mother, if she was still around. He wasn’t going to listen to his brother. He wanted absolutely nothing to do with Derrick Warrington.

 

Dylan was born to another woman, a lady called Jessica Ferguson, eight and a half years before a girl named Freya Stone birthed Dudley. Both women had once fallen in love with a man named Ricky. He was the man about town, the charmer, the gambler, the one with the tattoos and the cool truck and the cooler music and the coolest friends. He knocked up the cute, brunette Jessica, the one with the messy bangs and the cyan blue eyes, just after he turned eighteen. She was three years older, quitting drugs and parties and trying to scrape the man out of her lover, giving him a precious little boy that should have fixed his act. And his son did make him change his ways, at least for a while. But then something phenomenal happened - it was Jessica who became the deadbeat, the one leaving her child with his father and going on benders, turning up whenever she wanted, taking every drug in the universe a few years after she had been T-total. She left Derrick fighting for security for his son, teetering over the edge of alcoholism and trying hard to take care of Dylan as best as he could. He was in and out of jobs, moving across Arizona as the mother of his child did time for petty crimes or spent her days in other men’s beds. Derrick slowly got angrier and more impatient, whilst still trying to hold himself together, trying to keep his boy safe. He spent six years fighting with the woman he loved dearly; they would smash plates and pull each other’s hair, they’d cause a ruckus in whichever mobile home they were living in. Poor Dylan was privy to everything; the drugs, the violence, the instability. But his father treated him well at that point. He made sure he gave him everything he ever wanted or needed, he cherished him in love and kisses. He was his mini-me, his little blonde double who stole his mother’s eyes.

When Dylan was about to turn seven, his mother was sent to jail for a huge drugs bust. She had been part of a smuggling ring in Tennessee for a while, and their shenanigans were eventually discovered by the feds. She would be eligible for parole when Dylan was twenty-three. Derrick Warrington was a single father, working twenty-four seven to provide for his child. At that time, that was all that mattered.

Derrick still needed to let loose and have fun - he still needed to find someone new to warm his sheets and make him smile every night. He found that person eighteen months later - a pretty Navajo girl in Arizona, who dressed like Stevie Nicks, smoked a buck tonne of weed and spread the smell of sage everywhere she went. They met at a folk music festival, and within three months, she was pregnant. She was sixteen at the time, he was twenty-six. It was never supposed to be. But he loved Freya; he loved her warm soul and her caring capabilities. He loved how she had already grown so much in so little time, being the youngest of a large family but so mature in so many ways. Though he saw her as a lover, he also knew she was just a child, and knew that it was all wrong. But he would love her all the same, and he would love their boy.

Dudley Warrington was born a few weeks after his mother’s seventeenth birthday, in a hospital in Tucson. Soon, the couple moved to Harlow along with Dylan, and they were determined to start fresh as a functional family. Derrick would get a job and provide for his two sons, and Freya would finish high school and move on to College. She was amazing at chemistry; she could get into the fragrance industry one day, make it as the chairwoman of some big company or something like that. That was how it was supposed to end up - everything was supposed to be virtuous and happy in the end. But of course, that only happens in fairy tales. Dudley’s life  was anything but. It was a saga of tragedies.

 

“I’m not speaking to Derrick.” Dudley said.

“You should, you know.”

“Are you fucking imbecilic? He killed my mother. He may have not killed yours, but he killed mine.”

Dylan shook his head, gripping tightly to his beer as he came through from the kitchen. Dudley was sat on the living room couch, staring at his brother from across the room. “He’s still your father.”

“I don’t give a fuck.”

“He’s the reason you’re here.”

“Did I ask to be? I don’t wanna live like this. Nobody would. I’m not talking to him. Just so he can say sorry for fifteen minutes over the line and pretend he cares. No.” The way his father apologised still haunted Dudley: as a kid, he’d always  hear him say it to his mother after he hit her. She’d always be stifling a sob at the same time. They were sounds that made his skin tingle.

“People make mistakes, Dud. You need to learn to fuckin’ forgive!” Dylan had been getting more drunk, his voice reaching higher decibels, words rolling out of his tongue less articulately.

“You weren’t there that night when everything changed for the worst,” Dudley hissed. He didn’t want to cry. “You were fucking partying in Phoenix or whatever. You weren’t there. I was just a kid, and I had to witness that.”

“It was an accident. He obviously didn’t mean for things to go that far.”

“Oh, like the way that scar on your arm is an accident? Like the way those bruises you’d have all over your back were accidents?”

“You think because Dad never hit you you’re special, don’t you?” Dylan spat. “You’re not fucking special. You ain’t.”

Dudley was gobsmacked. After everything they had been through, Dylan still wanted to speak to their father. All Dudley had ever known was watching his mother or brother get beaten, whilst he would hide in wardrobes or under tables, and his father would get him an ice cream or candy afterwards as if they were somehow laced with some kind of amnesic drug. It was clear that things must have been a lot better for Dylan before Dudley was born. During those years, he grew attached to his father, a bond stronger than any industrial adhesive. So at this point, it didn’t matter what he did. Dylan would still love him.  Dudley’s father never touched him, but he shattered everything and everyone else around him. He tortured his immediate family, physically and psychologically. That had to be just as bad for him, right?

“I’m not gonna talk to him.”

“You’re not special, Dud. Just ‘cause you’re a Mama’s boy don’t make you special. Don’t think ‘cause you look different to me that means you are. You can run off into the desert, live with the coyotes and yell tribal chants to your ancestors or whatever, do a rain-dance, throw on some war paint. You’re still a Warrington.”

Dudley’s jaw was so tense, he was afraid he might crack his teeth. He held his breath, staring his brother dead in his eyes, and kept his tears to himself. He didn’t speak to his father that night.

Instead, he spoke to Naya.

 

 

The first day of the Summer Volunteer was upon Dudley as he woke up groggy, a few mornings after the argument with his brother. Their dispute went on for a bit longer until Dylan became too drunk to string a sentence together and gave up up on his toxic barrage of insults. Mia came around later that evening, and like most nights that she stayed over, Dudley would be kept awake by the sound of unnecessarily loud sex. Sometimes he’d put his earphones in and listen to music full-blast, sometimes he’d leave and make an impromptu visit to one of his friends places, and other times he’d masturbate to the reverberation of Mia’s moans bouncing off of the walls, and soon after, fall into a lonely slumber. The latter was the more chosen option since Vanessa left. Instead, this time, he snuck outside to his front porch and had a twenty-minute conversation with his volunteer partner over the phone. Her jokes and commentary kept his blood pressure low, since he was still seething from earlier on. He didn’t tell her about anything, though. He kept his brother and his mother and his father and his sadness to himself.

 

Dudley and Naya met Marie Von Delden in the common room, interrupting her from an apparent deep silent brooding. She looked up at them, stretching her lips into a broad, hospitable grin. She stood up and shook Dudley’s hand.

“Hello! You must be William.”

He paused. “No, haha. My name’s Dudley.”

“Oh, right. Sorry, I was told William this morning,” she huffed. He wasn’t sure whether to believe her, or to assume her memory wasn’t most trustworthy. He wondered where she would have gotten William from. “And you must be.... I’m sorry. You are?” She smiled at Naya, who introduced herself and went in for a hug. “I understand you’ve been hired to keep me company for a few hours.”

They both nodded. Naya added, “We’re doing it for free.”

Marie laughed. “I still remember years ago, when I’d do anything just to bide my time, just like you two. I was much less philanthropic in the process, though. Wish I could have been.”

They weren’t sure how to reply, and she could tell, so she led them to her room of residence.

“This is my humble abode. Do you like it?” She strolled over and stood by the window, which had a stunning view of the garden and the mountains outside. Dudley felt a slight pang of jealousy; though her thoughts wilted away and eroded, she would never lose sight of the landscape she had the blessing of waking up to every morning. And she probably woke up to the experience as if it were a new one, every time.

The room was simply decorated. It had framed photos that looked like they were probably always there even before her habitation, an ancient looking rug in the centre of the floor, a wooden desk with miscellaneous items strewn across it (a pen and sheets of paper, a necklace, a jewellery box from which the necklace must have escaped, an old magazine), a wardrobe and a small bookshelf which only held around seven hardbacks, all aged. Her bed was neatly made, the pair guessed by someone else who worked there full time. There was nothing in the room which suggested that Marie needed extra physical assistance, and her gait and posture seemed yet to be affected. Naya wondered how long it had been since she was diagnosed, because she really didn’t seem that out of it. Though, she had no firsthand experience with anyone who had been at their worst; her grandmother was still sharp and witty all the way until her unfortunate departure at age eighty-seven.

 

“Have you read any of those books?” Naya pointed out to the bookshelf. Marie looked over. “I’ve read them all, time and time again. They were my favourites back when I was younger. I lost them for such a long time; I’m glad they were returned back to me.”

“Where were you living before Harlow?” Dudley asked. Naya wanted to tell him, that’s a stupid question, you’re not going to get anything out of her, idiot.

Marie looked vacant for a few seconds before responding, “I simply can’t remember. My head is going, Dear. I don’t remember much.”

“Did you have a husband?”

She smiled sadly. “Yes. Charles. Married in 1966. I recently heard he passed. Isn’t that awful?”

“Uh. Yeah. Did you remarry? Why is your name different?” Naya felt awkward with Dudley’s blunt, straight-to-the-point questions.

“Different to what, Dear?” She went and sat at her desk.

“You were called Violet Winslow before.”

“Oh, right. I just felt the need to change it. That’s all. Woke up one morning and felt like a whole new person!”

“Why did you run away from your family?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I never ran away from anybody. These questions are nonsense.” She was seemingly getting irritated. Naya looked over at Dudley, hoping he’d get the message. There was nothing he could get out of Marie, just like nobody else could. “William, please get me a cup of tea from the kitchen. I only want one sugar, no cream.”

“Dudley.”

“Sorry?”

“My name’s not William, it’s-“

“Well, then why did they tell me William this morning?”

 

Naya came with Dudley to the mini cafe over at the other side of the care home. “You need to work on your communication skills, dude.”

“What do you mean?”

“This isn’t a police interview. Just ask nice, open questions. Let her ramble. Don’t ask stuff she obviously can’t answer.”

“Well I won’t know she can’t answer them until I ask.”

“You’re being an ass.”

“You’re the one that came up with the dumb guessing game idea. I need something to work with.”

“Let her speak. No more narrow questions.” They waited for the tea, sitting down on an empty table. There were two old men playing cards, and a lady sat singing to herself. Most people were outside. “She probably remembers the things that mean the most to her. Slowly but surely  she might reveal things.”

“What should we do when we get back?”

“... I think we should offer to read to her. That’d be nice.”

“We can’t both do that.”

“Said who? We can take turns. But honestly, I’d prefer if you did the reading. I don’t wear these glasses for fashion. Processing text is a chore for me.”

Dudley took the tea from the counter, making sure the lid was securely fitted to the cup after putting in the sugars. They walked back to Marie’s room to find her gone. “She’s probably outside. I’ll go and give this to her. Just stay and look for something to read, I don’t know.” He left the room.

Amongst the books in the bookshelf, Naya picked up the most tattered one. She saw the front cover: a hand holding three red roses. It was titled The Anatomy of A Worried Heart. The author was called V.M. Winslow. It was Marie’s own book, full of poetry. She sat on the chair and flicked through the pages, intrigued and fascinated. Dudley came back shortly after, still holding the tea. “She said she didn’t want anything to drink.”

“Oh, God.”

“And she called me William again.”

“I guess that’s your new name.” She laughed. Dudley shook his head, trying to hold in a creeping smile.

“What are you reading?”

“She wrote a poetry book, probably a super long time ago.”

“That’s cool.” He came over, peering at the pages over her shoulder. “To Drown A Fish. That’s an interesting name for a poem.”

“Yeah, I briefly skimmed through that one. The main theme behind these seem to be, like, trauma or heartbreak or something. Maybe she didn’t get along with her husband.”

“As in, he was a Grade-A asshole?”

“Maybe.”

Dudley huffed. How ever awful he may have been, he still would have had nothing on a Man Named Ricky.

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