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|7th May 2008, 12:34 AM||If Belief Were Enough- Chapter Two #1|
I've wanted to write a story about belief for awhile now- not necessarily belief in a higher power or something religious, but belief and faith in another person. Although this is something of an odd scenario, I think it fits the concept and it has also been fun to try out a more casual tone than my usual emotional imagery. This isn't a short story but it's not quite a novella- somewhere in between. I'll post it in chapters just because it's easier that way. Not many peolpe will probably read it, but all I can hope is that whoever's reading this enjoys it .
WARNING: Moderate language. Probably nothing you haven't heard if you attended high school, but just thought I'd warn you.
If Belief Were Enough
Things started small when he found his partner conversing with the departed in a dilapidated gas station bathroom in the middle of nowhere. He knew that becoming involved in the special investigation unit had taken its toll on Liam, but it had never so much as crossed his mind that the city-slicked, crimson crime noire that was their life would have such an adverse influence on his partner. Not just his partner- his brother.
He had sent Liam into the ramshackle and definitely unhygienic building with strict instructions to take a piss and buy them both a cup of the caffeinated addiction that was like sweet ambrosia in their line of work, nothing more. He had thought it was a simple task, had noticed that Liam seemed a little pensive but chalked it up to the moody little-brother lifecycle of conflicting emotions that he would never understand and sent him on his way.
In retrospect, he shouldn’t have done that. He should have been sensitive and perceptive to his brother’s feelings just like his mother had always encouraged; he should have grabbed Liam by the shoulder and told him to fess up before he put the job and their lives in danger. He should have, but he didn’t. Since when had it been included in big-brother protocol to care about anything other than prank wars and the life-and-death, touchy-feely stuff that he avoided like the bubonic plague?
Touchy and insightful was Liam’s territory, not his. Too touchy. Too insightful. Too precious and too damned sensitive for this job.
He supposed he should have thought about that. Then again, he was never one to think about consequences and repercussions and the future and all of that other bullshit associated with planning ahead.
There was here, there was now, and that was all that mattered.
He pulled the gas nozzle from the lustrous black coupe’s tank (being in special investigation sure had its benefits) and glanced at the crumbling building. The place was essentially abandoned, save for an uninterested teenage cashier. How could it possibly take his brother so long to relieve himself and push a wad of crumpled bills at the clerk?
Jamming the nozzle back into its protective holster and straightening his tie to maintain the pompous appearance of James Bond-esque professionalism that they were instructed to radiate, he muttered to himself as he shoved open the dirty glass door. “You better have fallen in and drowned to make me wait this long,” he warned lethally as he entered the bathroom, disgusted by the molded walls and rusted conveniences.
“Dude, she was a ten!” he heard his brother’s highly enthusiastic voice resonate from the farthest of the three stalls. “The good ones are always taken, though.”
…What the hell?
He raised his knuckles to rap on the stall door before it surprisingly swung open to reveal his younger brother. Black tie loosened, the handsomely childish features he seemed never to have grown out of were twisted into an amused smile, deep laughter echoing from his throat. He leaned against the putrid tile wall with the casual ease of someone in familiar surroundings, hazel eyes fixated on dead space.
“… Liam?” he questioned warily, hand straying to the .45 in its protective holster. “Who the fuck are you talking to?”
Liam looked up and his face burst into a virtuous grin. “Oh, hey Rob,” he greeted cheerfully. “Just catching up with Andy.”
“Andy? Andy Carlisle?” he repeated dumbly like a fish out of water. Andy the chain-smoking head case that killed his son? Andy the whack job who had more smarts than they’d previously thought and found a way to hang himself while incarcerated? “Liam, Andy’s dead,” he insisted.
Liam looked at him, perfectly affronted and patronizing as though he were speaking to a preschooler. “Dude, he’s right here,” he claimed. “Said he had a lead.”
“Dead people don’t have leads because dead people don’t talk,” he growled, pushing the door back further and entering the stall with a superstitious notion of Andy’s translucent apparition materializing and screaming boo. The cramped space was so narrow that his back was pressed against his brother’s well-built chest, reminding him of the sultry summer nights when the skinny five-year-old runt used to crawl beneath the sheets and curl up against his back whispering about the monsters under his bed.
“Well, he said that we’d find Aidan out west,” Liam reasoned, long fingers splayed across his back to shove away the close personal contact that they both avoided like the West Nile virus. “Get off me!”
“Don’t be such a douche,” he muttered, twisting his shoulder blades to free himself. “And who the hell is Aidan?”
Liam nailed him with that damned condescending expression that made him feel like a third grader who couldn’t memorize his multiplication tables all over again. “Andy’s son, duh… missing person case… have you been drinking?”
Aidan? Aidan the charming little boy that they had found face in a bathtub of his own scarlet blood because they had arrived a split second too late? Aidan the child that they had both felt guilty over for weeks but never fessed up about?
“…April Fool’s?” he tried, grinning wickedly but unknowingly letting the smile falter at his brother’s expression of puzzlement. “… Happy Halloween? Dude, if you’re kidding, it sure ain’t funny. You know we’re not even working a missing persons case right now.”
“I’m not kidding!” Liam insisted, folding his arms across his chest as though outraged at the idea that his brother would have the slightest measure of doubt in his capabilities. “Seriously, I think we can still save this one.”
Save him. There were times when wondered if saving people was even possible. Their job was so undercover and complicated that the success rate was shockingly low, and the finality of the mounting number of manila case files stamped with a crimson ‘unsolved’ scared him, sometimes. They couldn’t stop Andy, they couldn’t save Aidan… there were so many things they couldn’t do. So many times that they were just too late. So many people they couldn’t save.
If belief were enough, they would never fail. They would never be too late. No one would ever die. Everyone could be saved. But all of his cynical conviction, all of Liam’s belief in the heavens above and a higher power and the good in all of us could never be enough. He was one man in a filthy gas station bathroom trying desperately to convince himself that his brother wasn’t crazy, and one man couldn’t be enough to move mountains and change the world. Save lives, maybe, but it seemed that he was incapable of doing even that.
Four minutes into this twisted conversation with his brother and freaking Casper himself and he couldn't take it anymore. Four minutes and he was tired of this perverse charade, this make-believe, this sham, this travesty in which his brother was fucking crazy. He wanted to believe that Liam was sane, wanted to believe it more than anything he’s ever tried to have faith in, but reminded himself of their case load and their failures and Liam’s fiancée’s murder and just didn't know if he could.
“Look, Liam,” he growled, tangling a fist in an expensive black lapel and using sheer force to push his kid brother against the contaminated gas station wall. “Andy’s dead. Aidan’s dead. We can’t save them. Get yourself together and you can be crazy as hell when we finish this case.”
“Rob,” Liam whispered, a desperation in his hazel eyes so genuine that he hadn't seen since Halle died. “This is important. You have to believe me.”
And he wanted to believe Liam, he really, truly did. He wanted to believe that Andy was standing behind them with an impish grin and that Aidan was out there somewhere hoping for a miracle. And even if he can’t, he figured that he can humor his little brother for a few days before he started thinking about whether they need to consider an asylum or not. “Alright,” he responded, loosening his grasp before smoothing the posh black fabric of Liam’s suit in an effort to make amends. “We’ll go west.”
|27th May 2008, 01:14 AM||#2|
This is more of a background chapter, but it does delve into a little of the sixth-sense stuff. The entire story has been difficult for me to write because it's so conversational. I don't usually use so much dialogue and it's a different tone than I'm accustomed to. However, experimentation is always good. Hope you enjoy; would love to hear any opinions.
If Belief Were Enough
They rode in uncomfortable silence, the stylish coupe eating up the asphalt as it sped westward like a bat out of hell. He found himself looking Liam’s direction time and time again though he constantly tried not to and discovered a burning desire to talk. Such a thing was out of the ordinary- he never wanted to talk. Releasing emotions and expressing feelings and sharing thoughts was for girls. Liam was the one who wanted to talk. Liam was the one who was always so damned sensitive, and now he found himself wanting to wear his heart on his fucking sleeve.
A few more seconds slipping through the hourglass, one more awkward clear of Liam’s throat and he just couldn’t help but spare a second (or third… or fourth… who was counting, anyway?) glance at his brother. He was met with resolute but conflicted hazel eyes and a scowl, the intention of which was to say that he should back the hell off. But then again, since when did he take orders from his kid brother?
“What’s wrong with you?” he questioned and cursed himself again for letting his big mouth get away from him and not being more attentive to his brother’s foul mood. “You’re worse than a girl with PMS.”
Much to his surprise, Liam let that one slide. “You think I’m crazy, don’t you?”
He laughed nervously. “Of course not.”
In truth, he didn’t know how to answer the question. Did he think that his brother was fucking out of his mind, bat shit, straitjacket crazy? No. He wasn’t going to jump to such a devastating conclusion just yet. Maybe had a bit too much to drink the night before and temporarily off his rocker crazy? He could live with that assumption, for now.
Liam settled back into the suede seat like a pouting child. “You think I’m crazy. You don’t believe me.”
He couldn’t take this pessimism, this lack of faith in his abilities as an older sibling when he essentially lived and died to keep his brother happy, this insecurity, this childish behavior. He wanted nothing more than to grab Liam by the shoulders and shake him silly until he was so out of his mind that he was almost sane and keep shaking him until the world was right again. But most of all, he didn’t want to talk about this. He couldn’t bring himself to feel these potent emotions that his brother was experiencing, couldn’t even begin to comprehend what Liam was going through.
And the worst part was, he had no idea what to say.
“You’re right, I don’t believe you,” he confessed as a tapped a staccato rhythm on the steering wheel. “I don’t believe that you were talking to Andy and I don’t believe that Aidan is still alive.”
Even if he didn’t believe Liam, he believed in Liam, and somehow because of that, he could sleep at night. Somehow, having blind faith in his brother like he was so sure that the kid had always placed in him made getting through the day a little easier. Somehow, believing that Liam was still Liam even if he was fucking crazy was enough.
“I don’t know…” Liam trailed off uncertainly, grasping his temples between his thumb and forefinger to exert pressure on what was undoubtedly about to become a stress-induced migraine. “I guess I just think that this is what we’re supposed to be doing, you know? Maybe this is what’s supposed to happen.”
He glared at his brother and gripped the steering wheel a little tighter. “You know how I feel about that stuff, dude.”
Faith, devotion, religion, conviction, principle… all of it made him scornful and a little bit sick to his stomach. All of that ritualistic ceremony, all of those questions that could only be answered with incomplete evidence and insubstantial falsehoods, all of the logic that had flown out the window. He couldn’t believe that things happened for any other reason than chance, couldn’t believe that anything was watching over them when people were killed every day and he saw what he saw in his job, couldn’t believe that any deity could be so fucking negligent and heartless. He couldn’t understand his brother’s blind faith when the world was the way it was, couldn’t understand how something so modest, so simple as belief was enough.
“Right,” Liam responded skeptically, and he wanted to smack the smartass right out of his brother’s mouth for that damned impudent tone. “Sorry I even asked.”
They stopped at a hotel somewhere along the highway and Liam couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief when his brother disappeared into the bathroom without a word before steam seeped out from beneath the door. He had been pulled taut with tension the entire time that Andy sat behind him in the coupe jabbering about finding Aidan, wound tighter than a bedspring with the monumental effort not to whirl around, hush his cohort, and therefore cement his brother’s opinion that he was crazy.
He shed his suit like an uncomfortable second skin and collapsed facedown on the lumpy mattress in nothing but his boxers. The caffeine buzz that he lived on lessened to a dull roar, Andy momentarily faded away, and he was almost able to surrender himself to sleep when a soft, delicate hand began to trail along the hard plane of his back.
Every fiber of his being tensed with denial and restrained pleasure at that long forbidden but not forgotten touch. “You’re not real,” he ground out from between clenched teeth.
“I’m as real as you want me to be, baby,” she purred smoothly, turning his head with one tender hand and forcing him to look at her. The same refined features, the same clear blue eyes, the same lush golden curls, the same dimpled smile that she had possessed in life and possessed every night that she came back to torture him with longing and grief.
She had been turning up off and on since her death two years before, and even though he had no way in hell of knowing why or how, he sure didn’t want to find out. If he told someone, they would pin him in a straitjacket and she would go away forever. He lived to see her, wanted to die to be with her. His love drummed with every beat of his heart, his guilt and grief with every second of every moment of every day, and maybe these late-night conversations with the dead weren’t too far-fetched, after all. Maybe he could make her understand that he was sorry. That he fucked up. Maybe he could apologize. Maybe he could atone.
Maybe. So much of life was about maybe.
He allowed her fingers, gentle but firm, to knead the rigid muscles of his back and slowly relaxed. Her soothing touch was heavenly, her long missed warmth was intoxicating, and life slowed to a reasonable rhythm beneath her hands. If he concentrated hard enough on forgetting, he could almost imagine that the previous year had never come to be and she was simply rubbing the kinks out of his back from a long day’s work. Maybe he wasn’t crossing the country with his brother trying to do something, anything to convince himself that talking with the deceased love of his life in the dead of night wasn’t the craziest thing he’d ever heard of. Maybe he wasn’t such a Class A screw-up, after all.
And he wanted her to say something, anything. He wanted her to scream and beat him within an inch of his life, he wanted her to say “I love you” one last time, he wanted her to make small talk until he begged her to shut the hell up, he wanted her to tell him about the afterlife and why she wasn’t there. Anything but “It wasn’t your fault,” because they both knew better.
“Why are you here, Halle?” he asked on the verge of sleep. And, God, how he wanted to stay awake, how he wanted to be fucking bat shit crazy if it meant that she would never leave him, how he wanted to go back in time and save her. How he wanted to stay eternally locked in this moment so that she would be forever as perfect as she was now. He didn’t care if she was real or not so long as she was here.
“I miss you,” she simpered, beautiful face breaking into a cherubic smile that made him want to weep in the glory of her presence.
Still, he pressed on. All of his belief in the unexplainable couldn’t quell his curiosity. “Don’t have you other stuff to do in heaven?” he questioned. He couldn’t understand why an angel would descend from her divine throne to sit with a lowly mortal who was progressively losing his mind.
The exquisite smile dimmed ever so slightly, her face still a mask of timeless, everlasting perfection. “How do you know that I went to heaven?”
The blood froze cold in his veins.
He stepped out of the shower and toweled himself off, wrapping the towel around his trim waist while he shuffled around the bathroom in of his boxers. Coming up shorthanded, he was momentarily dumbfounded until realization dawned. “Dude, if you hung my shorts from the flagpole again, I’ll fucking kill you!” he shouted, shoving open the bathroom door in of his troublesome brother.
He found Liam facedown on the bed, not quite asleep but certainly not awake. “Why are you here, Halle?” he mumbled, one hand tightening in the pillow as a pleasured smile crossed his face.
The breath caught in his throat at the name that had become a forbidden topic. After her death, it had seemed an insult to her memory to just pick up and move on, but he hadn’t known what to do. He still didn’t know what to do. He had dealt with his brother’s scraped knees, given him a nudge toward his first crush, helped him by hiding the first and last failing report card between the refrigerator and the wall so their parents wouldn’t find out, kept him entertained during illness, consoled him through the heartbreak and grief of his fiancée’s murder, even dragged his skinny, bleeding ass out of a shoot-up.
But talking to dead people?
He hadn’t done that.