The Best Man

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
I knew my husband and John were close. Even closer than brothers. But I could not help myself from having a jolt of jealousy when my husband took John’s hand and rub its back gently with his thumb. How could I not feel jealous? I never remembered when he had ever done that to me.

Submitted: July 18, 2016

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Submitted: July 18, 2016

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I was looking at myself in the mirror. It was me. It was really me, wearing my reception wedding dress and smiling. The wedding ceremony had just finished. My sister was now helping me prepare myself in my wedding room for the incoming reception. She put a silver hair pin on my blonde hair.

The next moment the door got opened, followed by my husband bursting into the room. He had his left hand on John’s waist. John’s right hand is over my husband’s shoulder, gripped tightly by the palm of my husband’s hand. John was wearing a silver grey tuxedo, exactly the same as what my husband was wearing now.

“What happened?” I asked them, as my husband carefully placed John on the bed.

“John got tired.” My husband said.

I watched my husband kneel in front of John, throwing a worried look at his best man and his only best friend.

“You don’t have to join the reception. You have to rest.” My husband said.

John scoffed. “And let the chance to humiliate you on your wedding day slips away? No chance!” John said stubbornly.

My husband smiled but his face still looked worried.

“I think I’m just laying here for a while.” John said as he lied his back on the bed.

“I’m staying with you.” My husband said.

“Don’t be stupid. I’m fine here. Besides, my parents will be here in a minute.” John said.

I knew my husband and John were close. Closer than brothers. I also knew John had been ill for a long time. Nonetheless I could not help myself from having a jolt of jealousy when my husband took John’s hand and rub its back gently with his thumb. How could I not feel jealous? I never remembered when he had ever done that to me.

“Can I have a minute with Carla, alone?” said John when his parents joined them in the room.

I looked at my husband and he nodded. John turned to me right after my husband left and closed the door.

“Carla,” said John. “I’m going to take a nap. I need you to promise me that you will do these two things today in case I… in case I’m not waking up.”

I gasped in shock. I felt a wave of sadness on me right there at this very moment.

“First, you will not ruin that mascara today, especially when it turns out that my father is giving the speech, instead of me. Your husband can only know after the reception is over.”

“John, no…” I said.

“Please, listen to me, Carla. You have to promise me,” said John. “Second, when he finally finds me, hold his hand. Don’t let it go.”

 

===

 

Three months earlier…

“We’re not having this conversation, John, and we will never have. Now get back to your room. You need to start your procedures.”

John stiffly nodded at his father. No matter how prepared he was to hear her father say it, it still hurt too much. He tried as best as he could to not throw an angry look at his father standing in front of him. He had done being angry. He only had several weeks left to live and, for God’s sake, he would be living it the way he had always wanted.

This was it then. Tonight was the night.

John let out a sigh. “Okay, Dad,” said John.

John had been planning this for months, after seeing a newbie male nurse that had similar physical appearance like him. It was not easy to bribe the newbie who just worked for a week in a hospital his parents owned and which practically had been John’s home since the day he was born, but it was easier to threaten him the moment John found out about the diploma manipulation the male nurse submitted to get his way in to being what he was now.

John had suffered from a rare illness. By time, the ability to move his muscles would fade away followed by the increasing pain generated from the muscles themselves, causing him to need to inject adrenaline and pain reliever from time to time. He also had suffered from severe diabetic, causing him to need to inject insulin regularly. Any hour late and his body would go into stupor state. His body temperature was also too sensitive of his surrounding that he also needed to take paracetamol injection in case the temperature started to increase rapidly. Overall, he needed four injections at a time from time to time.

For his entire life, John had been home-schooled. Hospital schooled to be exact. He had been captivated in the hospital and the farthest place he could reach was only the cafeteria. Nevertheless, his parents had fairly cared about his education although John had always required medical assistance at all times. They set up a class room for John to finish his education up to college. With all those never-lasting medical procedures John had to go through, he had been grateful to have graduated and become a bachelor degree in Business Economy in eight years.

John handed a pile of his own clothes to the newbie.

“Remember, you must always have your back facing the CCTV when walking out from the hospital. They’ll certainly know you are not me when they searched through the footage later on,” said John.

The male nurse nodded nervously.

John followed him out of his room and watched him walked towards the security guard. John let out a relief sighed as the male nurse, who already dressed in John’s mostly known outfit which were blue jeans, sneakers, and a red shirt under a jumper, walked past the entrance hall almost without trouble. He then went to the medical supplies cupboard on the third floor, one floor above his room which also happened to be under the male nurse’s responsibility, after carefully avoiding any angle of CCTV to capture his sight. He already prepared food, drink, and medical syringe supplies for a couple of days. In a few hours, a nurse would come to his room to make regular check-ups and found the brown map he had left on the hospital bed.

John apparently got dozed off when he heard stepping sound outside the cupboard, where he was currently hiding. As expected, his parents already found out about the brown map. John grinned as he was recalling what he wrote on a piece of paper which then he carefully placed inside the brown map.

 

Dear Mum and Dad,

I’m sorry to have caused you trouble. I’m very sorry. But I have no other option. This is my life and this is how I’ve always wanted to spend it (please find enclosed the lists of my request). I want Mr. Mellark to officially be intermediary of these requests and issue an official contract for both of us to sign. I’ll know with my own way and be back to the hospital shall you ever agree to these terms and conditions of mine.

 

Sincerely,

 

Your son, John.

 

As expected, they got nailed as they learnt from the CCTV footage that fake John were seen to have left the hospital earlier that afternoon. The security guard on charge that day were fired at that very moment to have let the fake John walked away freely from the hospital, of whom he had failed to remember since it was actually the male nurse dressing in John’s most known outfit. John felt sorry for the guy, but he had no choice. John also knew it was a waste of time for their parents to go looking for him outside the hospital for two days or force Mr. Mellark to tell them where John whereabouts.

A rhythmical knock over the cupboard on the third day of his hiding gave a jolt of happiness to John. As he stepped out of the cabinet, he found the male nurse, nodding conformingly at him whilst handing a pile of outfit which he had carefully hid under his uniform.

“They’re are already in your room,” said the male nurse, as John vigorously put on his trousers.

Again, after avoiding any angle of CCTV to capture his sight, he slid into his room, where Mellark and both his parents had been waiting for him.

“John!” Mum happily ran towards John and threw her arm on his neck.

“I’m okay, Mum,” said John.

“You look pale,” said Mum.

John forced a smile before turning to his father, which had been eyeing him with anger and disappointment.

“I’m sorry, Dad, but this is my life…” said John.

For a split seconds, Dad only glared at him. Finally he let out a heavy sigh and pulled John into his tight bear hug.

“Fine then. It’s your life. Let’s proceed with the negotiation and make the contract,” said Dad.

John smiled happily and got relieved.

 

===

 

Monday morning. 7.30 AM. John inhaled deeply the fresh air in front of a tall building. He was ready. Oh yes, so ready, for his first day of work as an accountant in a well-known magazine company, named Carlisle Fanning, Inc. It had been a month after he and Dad signed the contract and one week since he received a call for a job interview. He held a coffee cup, which was actually water since he was not allowed to drink any caffeine beverages considering his state of health, and a sling bag which a pack of syringes had been carefully prepared by his parents whenever he was to inject them as scheduled during his working hour. For the rest, John was obliged to follow any medical procedures scheduled outside his working hours strictly stated in his contract.

At 8.30 PM he reported himself to Human Resource Department before later on was brought to Mya Shepherd, his supervisor.

Mya Shepherd is a friendly woman with a friendly smile. She took John around for small tour before finally taking him to a small cubicle where he would be working as an accountant for as long as he wanted to pursue his carrier as an accountant there.

“Hi there,” said John happily, smiling at man sitting next to his cubicle. “I’m John, the accountant. Nice to meet you.”

“Hi there, John. I’m Ronnie. A writer,” said the man, throwing a smiling face.

They chatted for a while before Mya came to John’s cubicle and placed a file on John’s desk.

“I’m sure you’re familiar with basic financial report?” said Mya.

John nodded vigorously.

“Can you finish this report in two hours?” asked Mya.

“Alright,” said John eagerly.

John examined the data eagerly. First job on his first day. He felt excited. At 9.30 AM he brought the report to Mya who seemed overwhelmed by John’s spirit at work. John was about to go to a toilet to perform his scheduled injections when his desk telephone rang.

He took the phone.

“John, this is Carlisle. Come to my office,” said a low deep voice from over the phone.

“Yes, Sir,” said John nervously.

John decided to go to the toilet in the restroom to perform his injections first then had a pee before heading towards Carlisle’s office. He knocked on the office door three times and opened it when he heard a deep voice telling him to come in.

“Did you crawl from your cubicle to my office, John?” asked Carlisle, standing in front of his desk with both hands on his chest.

John looked a bit taken aback by the abrupt strange question he just heard.

“Or did you walk here using your hands instead of your foot?” asked Carlisle again.

“I’m sorry it took me long, Mr. Carlisle,” said John immediately, realizing his mistake. “I had to go to the toilet earlier.”

Carlisle looked at his watch.

“Really?” said Carlisle, throwing a sharp look at John.

John was about to open his mouth when Carlisle suddenly grabbed him on the arm.

“Let’s see how long it really takes,” said Carlisle, as he dragged John out of his office. Carlisle looked at his watch when they arrived at John’s cubicle and threw a sharp look at John. “Twenty seconds.” He then dragged John again towards the restroom, only stopped when they arrived in front of a water closet.

John’s jaw dropped when Carlisle unzipped his trousers and had a pee as if John was not there, which made John immediately turned his face away. After a while he zipped back his trousers, wash his hands, took some toilet paper and turned back at John.

“Two minutes forty seconds,” said Mr. Carlisle, as he looked at his watch.

John gulped when Carlisle stared at him with both hands on his chest.

“I wonder why it took you more than eight minutes to perform all that,” said Carlisle.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Carlisle. This won’t happen again,” said John.

“Did I just see you smirk at me?” snapped Carlisle, after a pause.

John immediately and nervously made a straight face. Carlisle stared him down, making John to stare at Carlisle’s well-polished shoes whilst keeping a straight face.

The next moment Carlisle’s phone rang. He glanced at John before taking out his phone and walked out of the restroom.

Indeed, John had smirked at Carlisle earlier. He could not help it. In his entire miserable captivated life in the hospital, he had never been scolded for being late due to his health condition. The teachers and the professors would assume he was taking his medicine or perform some injections as the reasons of his lateness. To be honest, he felt happy to be scolded earlier.

John looked at himself through the mirror. The man looking back at him, smiled widely. He felt so alive.

“You’re not the first one,” said Ronnie, when John got back to his cubicle. “Carlisle did that to me at my first day of work. My zipper got stuck at that time. What’s your excuse?”

“Me too,” lied John immediately. He then quickly added, eager to terminate the subject of the inconvenience conversation leading to his secret health condition. “Hey, are you free this Friday?”

Ronnie turned to look at John, bemused.

“Did you just ask me out?” asked Ronnie.

John nodded cheerfully. Ronnie looked at John from head to toe. John’s green shirt was stuffed neatly inside his dark brown trousers. He was also covered with a jumper which looked like it once belonged to a grandfather.

“Did I say something wrong?” asked John worried when Ronnie giggled.

“Sorry, John,” said Ronnie, patting John on his shoulder. “Though I personally flattered by your affection towards me, I am indeed a straight guy.”

John chuckled.

“That really was not what I was implying,” said John.

“Yeah, right,” said Ronnie, smiling.

John was relieved him and Ronnie had settled the misunderstanding.

“Too bad Carlisle already got a boyfriend,” said Ronnie afterwards. “Or at least I thought so since not only me who saw him spend some time with a young man in a bar from time to time.”

John got a bit taken aback by this piece of information.

“Carlisle is a gay?” said John in amazement.

Apparently Ronnie had taken John’s amazement in a wrong way. He winked at John, and the way he did it made John realized that the misunderstanding happened between them earlier had not been settled down properly.

John shrugged, deciding he would just ignore it. It was not like he would be having any relationship with any woman either, considering how many weeks he had left to live.

 

===

 

“So, John, how was your first day of work?”

Mum cheerfully placed a salad in front of John as they were all seated on a table for dinner.

“I got scolded by my boss for taking a pee longer than expected,” said John, almost with a proud tone in his voice.

Mum threw a compassionate look at John whilst Dad cleared his throat.

“Don’t forget you will start your new procedures tonight,” said Dad.

“Yes, Sir,” said John vigorously.

John finished his dinner in half an hour and got changed into his hospital robe without complaint, something he had never done before in his entire miserable life of being captivated in the hospital and subjected to any never-lasting medical procedures that might have a chance to prolong his life.

The procedure room was on the fourth floor. He was humming happily as he walked through the hospital corridor…

The next moment John stopped abruptly. Carlisle was several feet in front of him, giving an intense look through a small square glass window of a room John knew well as an operating room. John glanced at the sign ‘Operation in Progress’ and saw the light was on. For split seconds he wondered who would be now lying on the operation bed that made Carlisle’s face worried sick.

But it did not matter the most. What actually mattered the most was how John would walk past through the corridor without Carlisle knowing. Why would he not want Carlisle knowing? It was because he was wearing a hospital robe and holding an IV stroller with its wire attached to his upper arm.

John turned back and gulped as he noticed Byron, a male nurse who would be and had been assisting him through his procedures walking towards him. He had less than five seconds before Byron himself took him on the arm and dragged him towards his procedure room.

John held his breath as he started walking, lifting the IV stroller so that its wheel would not make any sound. It would have been a great success if only Dr. Cranston, a brain surgeon, had not just popped out of the operating room, called John to his surprise, and waved a fatherly hand gesture to kindly ask John to come to him.

John felt warmth on his face as Carlisle turned to see whom the doctor just called. He knew what ran inside Carlisle’s mind as Carlisle scanned him from head to toe with a surprise look.

Dr. Cranston pointed a finger, gesturing Byron who just joined in to wait for a while, before turning to Carlisle.

“Your mother needs further surgery, Mr. Fanning,” said Dr. Cranston. “Unfortunately we can’t perform it unless her vitals gets stable. We’re closely monitoring her now.”

John looked up at Carlisle, who happened to be taller than him, and quickly turned away when realizing Carlisle looked back at him from the corner of his eyes.

“All right then,” said Carlisle.

“You should probably go home and get some rest, Mr. Fanning,” suggested Dr. Cranston.

“I think I’ll just wait here,” said Carlisle.

Dr. Cranston nodded approvingly at Carlisle, who then took a seat on one of the chairs nearby, before turning to John.

“I’m surprised you’re taking night schedules for your procedures now, John,” said Dr. Cranston.

John glanced nervously at Carlisle, who seemed busy with his smartphone.

“I have to get to work tomorrow,” said John.

“Why? They’re not letting you have any days off for your procedures?” asked Dr. Cranston.

John glanced again at Carlisle. Judging on how he had stopped tapping on his smartphone, he knew Carlisle was listening. Without having her boss eavesdropping their conversation right now, John would be more than happy to talk about his new job to anyone in the hospital.

“I’m newbie, so I have a lot to catch up,” said John.

“Should I let your father know about this?” asked Dr. Cranston.

“He already knew. He’s already aware of this. We’re settled,” said John quickly. Trying to terminate the subject, he turned to Byron and added. “I think we need to start the…”But as John was doing so, he caught a glance of Carlisle who apparently had been looking at him for a while.

“Off you go, then,” said Dr. Cranston, stroking John’s hair.

John would feel comfortable if Dr. Cranston, whom he had considered as his second father, had done it without the presence of Carlisle. Byron smiled and nodded as he took John on the arm.

“John,” called Dr. Cranston, when John turned around and was about to leave. “I know you hate the procedures, but letting your robe untied so that every staff of this hospital can visibly see your bare ass is not wise. You’re no longer a ten year old and you could use a decent pants.”

John felt as if a bucket of cold water was poured onto his head. As if nothing could go any more humiliating than this, Byron added up.

“Don't mind it, Dr. Cranston,” said Byron with a mocking voice. “We already got used to John’s ass. Besides, i get the honor to insert a capsule into John's asshole.”

Byron giggled whilst Dr. Cranston let out a snort. Somehow, John was convinced that it was not only Dr. Cranston that let out the snort.

===

 

Ronnie was already deep in his desktop when John put his sling bag on his cubicle desk the following day.

“Brace yourself, John,” said Ronnie, looking up and throwing a pity look at John. “That phone of yours has been ringing three times before Carlisle himself came to check on you just a minute ago.”

John groaned. He would not have been late, had Byron not dozed him with sleeping pills and took away his clock alarm after the procedure, which he confronted John as him just being obedient to Dad’s orders.

“I once got late for thirty minutes and he made me clean the toilet. I mean, what are we to him? Elementary student?” said Ronnie with a mock face.

John glanced at the clock on the wall. He sighed in relief when realizing he had only been ten minutes late. Surely, the punishment would be less severe than cleaning a toilet.

Nonetheless, Ronnie threw a pity look when John’s phone rang again. John picked it up.

“John, come to my office,” said a deep voice over the phone.

“Brace yourself, John,” said Ronnie.

John squared his shoulder before walking towards Carlisle’s office. He knocked three times on the door and opened it when he heard a voice telling him to come in.

“Sit down,” said Carlisle.

John sat himself on a chair in front of Carlisle. There was a long pause before Carlisle handed a piece of paper.

“Here is your resignation letter. I’m firing you,” said Carlisle.

It took a while before John finally could penetrate this piece of shocking information.

“And why am I fired, Mr. Carlisle?” John eventually dared to ask.

“Well, it’s fairly obvious that you’re late,” said Mr. Carlisle.

“You’re firing people because they’re ten minutes late?” said John, scoffing.

“Why? Is there a problem? I own this company. I can do whatever the fuck I want,” said Mr. Carlisle.

“Ronnie was once thirty minutes late. You didn’t fire him back then,” said John, feeling his voice raising in anger.

“He was fucking lying,” said Carlisle.

“And why would he lie to me?” replied John.

“Why the fuck would he tell you the truth?” replied Carlisle.

John realized the conversation had gotten more and more absurd as they spoke, even without Carlisle saying the F word in each of his replies.

“I got late because I had reasons. Last night reasons. You’re firing me because of those reasons,” argued John.

“Yeah, actually I’m firing you because you’re medically unfit,” said Carlisle

“In which part?" asked John.

"In which part what?" snapped Carlisle.

"I mean, just because you saw me wearing hospital robe with IV tube stuck into my upper arm and heard me talking with Dr. Cranston about following some medical procedures you’re assuming and accusing me to be medically unfit?” said John.

John realized now he was the one dragging the conversation absurd. Nonetheless, he scoffed when Carlisle seemed to have lost his words.

Carlisle groaned.

“You have five minutes to pack your stuff and leave this building. Or else, I’ll have the security guard escort you,” said Carlisle, mercilessly.

This was not fair. Totally not fair. The procedure and its implication had not negatively affected his ability to work. At least, not yet.

“I’m not leaving,” said John with greeted teeth.

“Fine. You asked for it,” Carlisle snarled.

Just when Carlisle picked up a phone to call for a security, his cellphone rang. The next moment, Carlisle’s annoyed face abruptly changed to worriedness. He then rushed out of his office room and it was not a big leapt for John to conclude from whom the call had been.

“Any good?” said Ronnie, the moment John returned back to his cubicle. “I saw Carlisle rushing out. His face was tense and... hey, where are you going?”

“To where Carlisle is going, the hospital,” said John, taking his sling bag.

“Had someone just got an accident?” asked Ronnie.

“His mother,” said John.

Ronnie scoffed. “Whose mother? Carlisle has been an orphan since he was little.”

But John already rushed out of the office.

 

===

 

John took two steps forward then stopped. He turned around and stayed where he was for a while. As he was about to walk away, he took a deep breath, squared his shoulder, turned around, and walked towards Carlisle who was sitting on a couch at the hospital lobby with face buried in both hands.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” said John, taking a seat next to Carlisle. “I hope there’s something I could do to… you know, comfort you?”

Honestly, John had no idea why his hand suddenly lifted to give a gentle pat on Carlisle’s back. Realizing his awkward action, he quickly pulled his hand away. For a split second, John just sat there and pretended to get interested at some health magazines on the table in front of him. John only turned when a young man kneeled in front of Carlisle.

“I came as soon as I got your message,” said the young man, throwing a compassionate look at Carlisle.

John raised his eyebrows when noticing the young man placed his hand on Carlisle’s thigh.

“Come on. I’ll take you home and comfort you.” The young man took Carlisle on his arm, gently pulled him up from the couch, put a small back on his back, and walked him out of the hospital lobby.

John cringed when realizing what he had said to Carlisle earlier. Turned out that what Ronnie said was true, that Carlisle was a homosexual and had a boyfriend.

John shrugged and got up from his seat when he noticed a brown map. A name was written on the right corner of the map, next to his Dad’s hospital logo. Sarah Fanning/Mrs. It did not take long for John to conclude whom the map once belonged and got what he requested from one of a hospital staff : Carlisle’s address.

Carlisle apparently resided in a luxurious house on the suburb. It was half past ten in the evening when John slid inside the front gate and noticed two cars on the front yard.

Shit! How could he be so stupid? Clearly, Carlisle and his boyfriend was now in the middle of an activity that John himself cringed visualizing it. Stupid John. He should have decided to return back the map tomorrow.

Or, he could just slid the map through the gap below the front door. Yeah, that would be the best.

John took out the map and kneeled in front of the front door, just before the door itself sprang opened and a pair of shoes showed up. John gasped when looking up and found the young man standing in front of him.

“He left his map at the hospital. I’m just returning it back,” said John, standing up awkwardly.

There was something weird now that John had a clear look at the stain on the young man’s shirt standing in front of him. Having lived his entire life at the hospital he knew how blood smelled like right after he sniffed it and felt like right after he touched it.

“Is this blood?” said John, more like an accusation than just a casual question.

“I’ll make sure he gets the map,” said the man nervously, snapping the map from John’s hand and quickly went back to the house.

John was fast enough to put his foot on the door step, preventing the door to shut down, right before he heard a moan in pain.

John’s heart was pounding. He was aware with this type of sexual deviance. Mom had a lot of books about this lined up neatly in his parents’ private library. He would not have wanted to interfere with the fact that Carlisle had been actually a masochist but, imagining his friend doing such an activity that had involved bloodshed was just far too much.

Wait. Had he just presumed Carlisle his friend?

John rushed into the house and within seconds burst into Carlisle’s bedroom, where he found Carlisle panting in his blood-stained undershirt and boxer right beside the bed.

“Wait, I can explain…” said the young man, who apparently had followed John towards Carlisle’s bedroom.

“Stay back!” said John, snapping a vase nearby and threatening the young man that he would not hesitate to crash his head with the vase on his grip shall he made any step closer.

“Trevor, just go,” said Carlisle, panting. “It’s all fine. I’ll handle this.”

“Hey, where are you going? This isn’t finished. I’m calling the police!” cried John, when the young man turned around and left.

“Don’t,” said Carlisle, quickly grabbing John on his sleeve.

“Uhm… okay,” said John, understanding. “You probably don’t want the public to know that you are…”

John did not finish his sentence. Instead, he nervously watched Carlisle stood up and made his way to lay on the bed before reaching out for first aid on a lamp table nearby.

“We should go to the hospital…” said John.

“No. This is just fine," said Carlisle.

“Alright, then…” said John, again understanding. “The hospital would probably ask you questions and call for the police if they feel the need to…” There was a pause before John took the bandage and the alcohol from Carlisle's hand. "Here, let me do it." John spoke again when Carlisle seemed reluctant.  “I’ve lived in a hospital in my whole life. I know the drill. Besides, you were doing it wrong.”

John took a seat on the bed next to Carlisle and started cleaning the blood emerging from a cut throughout Carlisle’s slender bare back. After applying some ointment, Carlisle thanked John, stood up, and limped towards his wardrobe to get a clean shirt and pajama bottoms.

“Well,” said John, clearing his throat after Carlisle got dressed. “I better dash then.”

John’s alarm suddenly made a sound. John sighed.

“After performing my injections, of course," continued John.

“You’re a junkie,” said Carlisle, accusingly. “You’re on a rehab in that hospital.”

“A junkie doesn’t need an alarm to do injections,” said John, rolling his eyes. “Besides, if I were in a rehab, they wouldn’t let me work like normal people do. Let alone, let me wondering around at this hour with some syringes in my bag.”

There was a pause when John took out a his injection belt and wrapped it around his upper arm, ignoring the surprise look on Carlisle's face.

“I know it’s none of my business,” said John. At first he seemed reluctant but decided to continue anyway. “But you and him, it’s really not a healthy relationship. Perhaps you would want to look for a more decent one?”

Carlisle turned to look at John. John felt mortified.

“Look, I’m not implying that you shall engage any relationship with… with me,” said John. “I’m a straight guy. Straight as hell.”

John threw a challenging look at Carlisle.

“How do you know it?” asked Carlisle suddenly.

“How do I know what?” asked John, puzzled.

“That you’re a straight guy,” said Carlisle. “You just said that you’d been practically living in the hospital since the day you were born. And judging by the way those hospital staffs were treating you, you were still considered a kid.”

“How do you know it?” snarled John.

“I was there when that male nurse told Dr. Cranston that he was more than happy to stick something into your asshole,” said Carlisle.

John was about to reply when Carlisle suddenly giggled.

“I bet that was funny,” said John, in a mocked face.

“It was. It truly was. For a second I kind of forgot that my mother had just…”

John threw an understanding look when Carlisle stopped abruptly. Speaking about her recently died mother surely was too much to bear right now.

“You’re right. I am medically unfit,” said John, clearing his throat as to break the awkward silence. “In fact, I’ve only had two months left to live. My parents practically have been spending my entire life developing new medical experiment procedures and forced me to follow them for the sake of prolonging my life until I made them sign the contract.”

“Sign the contract to stop prolonging your life?” said Carlisle, sounded surprised.

“Of course not,” said John. “It’s a contract to let me have the freedom to spend my life the way I’d always wanted. In return, I would have to follow any medical experiment procedures and obey all negotiated boundaries. This electronic tagging device…” John pulled on of his trousers, showing an electronic tagging device on his right ankle, which its lamp was now blinking yellow. “…is one of them. It transmits the data of my heartbeat, pulse, and blood pressure. When this goes red, I’ll be dragged back to the hospital in ten minutes regardless where I am now and captivated for how long I have left to live.”

Carlisle threw a surprise look whilst John took out no less than five bottles of medicine from his sling bag.

“Where’s the kitchen? I need a glass of water to swallow all these,” said John.

Carlisle pointed out to his left.

John stood up, right before a wave of dizziness attacked him. A big thud made him realize that his forehead just hit the floor. The next moment, he felt a hand on his arm lifting him up to sit on the bed.

“You fell,” said Carlisle.

“I did,” said John, hoarsely.

Carlisle left the bed and came back with a glass of water.

“Thanks,” said John, when Carlisle helped him drank the pills one by one.

Realizing he was sitting on Carlisle’s bed, John spoke.

“I think I’ll just lay back on that couch for a while, if you don’t mind.” He quickly added when Carlisle took his arm. “No, I’m fine by myself.”

John stood up and a wave of dizziness attacked his head again.

 “You’re not fine by yourself,” said Carlisle, lifting John up again to sit on the couch.

John’s cellphone rang. It was from Mum.

“I’m fine, Mom,” said John, answering over his phone. “I’m just a bit tired… I’m… in a colleague’s house… “ John nervously glanced at Carlisle. “… I know, Mum but you and Dad promised. You can call me whenever it’s yellow but I'm not letting you bring me to the hospital now. I can handle this…. Okay… I love you, Mum.”

John put off the phone and turned to Carlisle.

“I’m trying to be fine,” said John, pulling one of his trousers to check on an electronic tagging device on his left ankle. “It’s still yellow. Good. Anyway you left something of yours at the hospital.”

John looked away when seeing a compassionate look on Carlisle’s eyes. He then lied his back on the couch, turned away, and closed his eyes, determining not to engage any further conversation with Carlisle. In the end, there was no one who would consider him as someone who was not suffering from terminally severe illness and health condition, something he resented since the day he learnt how to make friends.

Wait, there was still Ronnie, though.

Yeah, but considering Carlisle fired him just this morning, he doubted he would still be able to keep in touch with Ronnie. Besides, it was only a matter of time until his parents found out that he had been kicked out from the company and him himself be back in the hospital again, waiting until another company called him for an interview.

John opened his eyes when he heard a sob several minutes later. He carefully turned around and saw Carlisle was already on his knee, holding a piece of paper on his chest as if it was something he longed to hold dear.

The next moment her alarm rang and John saw Carlisle quickly wiped his tears and turned away so that John would not be able to see his face.

John cleared his throat.

“I just need to take another injection,” said John awkwardly.

Carlisle nodded.

Realizing that his sling bag was on Carlisle's bed and that he would be falling again if trying to stand up, John decided to crawl towards the bed.

“John,” said Carlisle awkwardly, who apparently had been watching John crawl. “I’m sorry that I fired you this morning. The reason I did it was not because you were late or your medically unfit condition. It’s because you somehow found out about my mother.”

“Ronnie said you’ve been an orphan since you were a kid. At least, now I know he wasn’t fucking lying,” said John in a sarcasm tone of voice.

“And I’m sorry for my indecent choice of words,” said Carlisle. He continued when John did not respond. “So, John, I was wondering if you would want to go back working with me.”

“You mean working for you?” corrected John. “Last time I checked you were my boss.”

“Yeah, working for me, with me, whatever,” said Carlisle.

“I thought I made it clear this morning,” said John. He turned to Carlisle as he saw the look on his face. “I told you I wasn’t leaving. It was unfair. Even after you telling me the real reason why you had fired me, it still is unfair."

"I know," said Carlisle. He added when John did not respond. "So to speak, you decided to go back working for me?”

“I haven’t decided anything,” said John, grinning at Carlisle. “I never left.”

 

===

 

John woke up by the sound his alarm and found himself lying next to Carlisle. Apparently he had fallen asleep that night after swallong all those pills which one of them was actually a sedative. He creeped out of the bedroom and made his way out of the house in five minutes. Realizing he only had time to drop by the hospital to grab some syringes he had ran out, he decided to go straight to the office whilst hoping that Ronnie would not notice that he had still worn the same shirt he wore yesterday. He had more than enough time to brush his teeth using a toothbrush and toothpaste he managed to have nicked from the hospital and washed his face in the office restroom before greeting Ronnie at his cubicle.

Ronnie looked up at John and snorted.

“What?” said John alerted.

“Don’t tell me where you were last night,” said Ronnie.

“I won’t,” said John sincerely though he sounded wary.

“Because I know exactly well where you’ve been last night,” continued Ronnie.

“No, you don’t,” said John, though he could feel his face tensed.

“Wasted with your friends apparently,” said Ronnie. “I bet you woke up in one of your wasted friend’s apartment and went straight here without bothering to get change so that you wouldn’t be late.”

John grinned in relief, letting Ronnie went with the assumption since he felt alive feeling presumed like that.

“You said yesterday that Carlisle’s mother was hospitalized?” said Ronnie, sounded unsure.

“No, I didn’t,” said John quickly. “It was his… “ John cleared his throat. “…his boyfriend. I was in his office when the hospital called him. I felt sympathy for him then followed him…”

A lie was usually followed by another lie.

“Oh,” said Ronnie. “How is he now?”

“Carlisle? He’s fine,” said John.

“I mean, his boyfriend,” said Ronnie.

“Oh, he’s fine. Good. All is settled,” said John, recalling the moment when he was about to throw a vase onto Trevor’s head and almost called the police.

The next moment, Carlisle walked past by their cubicle.

“Did I just see Carlisle smiled at you?” asked Ronnie in amazement.

“What’s wrong with Carlisle smiled at one of his employee?” argued John.

“Carlisle never smiled to any of his employee,” said Ronnie, emphasizing the word.

John did not respond. He could not and would not elaborate to Ronnie about how things had apparently changed between him and Carlisle.

“And Carlisle had never been late,” said Ronnie. “That’s how he got to know if there was any of his employee coming late to work…”

Ronnie stopped abruptly when Mya came to his cubicle, asking the progress of his article that was due tomorrow. Ronnie replied that he still needed some final touch up.

“Shit!” said Ronnie, right after Mya had gone out of sight. “I haven’t even started the article.”

The next minute, Ronnie started to get busy working on his article.

John looked up when someone cleared his throat. Carlisle was leaning on his cubicle with both hands on his chest. He glanced at Ronnie’s cubicle which apparently had been empty for a while.

“I found this on my bed when I woke up,” said Carlisle, placing John’s wallet on his desk. “It must have slid out when you were asleep.”

“Thanks,” said John awkwardly, just before Ronnie got seated at his cubicle.

John glanced nervously at Ronnie, who seemed casual. It was a good sign of Ronnie having not heard the raised-eyebrows-sort-of conversation between him and Carlisle earlier.

Carlisle glanced nervously at Ronnie before turning around and left.

“You left your wallet on Carlisle’s bed?” said Ronnie in disbelief, poking out of his cubicle the moment Carlisle had gone out of sight.

Turned out that John was totally wrong about the good sign.

“I can’t believe what you’ve just terribly done, John,” said Ronnie.

“What have I terribly done?” asked John, puzzled.

“Tell me, John, what were you doing last night?” asked Ronnie, throwing an accusing look at John.

“Sleeping?” suggested John.

“After giving Carlisle comfort for his boyfriend just got hospitalized,” said Ronnie. John did not need to be explained what comfort Ronnie had implied. However, Ronnie seemed to have not had enough and continued. “You gave him the pleasure of sex. That’s why you’re wearing the same shirt you wore yesterday and accidentally left your wallet on his bed. Turns out you’re more than just a guy that meets the eye.”

John burst in laughter. He had never been wrongfully accused with something as ridiculous as this.

“Oh, dear God,” said John, breathlessly.

John spent the next hour snorting, every time he recalled the accusation.

“You better stop it, John,” said Ronnie. “Mya started to get suspicious.”

John stopped giggling, not because of what Ronnie had said, but because he suddenly felt uneasy. He looked at the watch and got panicked when realizing that he had missed his scheduled injection half an hour ago. Apparently, he had not heard the alarm for he had been carried away snorting around.

John got to his feet and took his sling bag, trying not to get any attention from Ronnie or anyone as he made his way to the restroom. When he opened the door, Carlisle was washing his hand on the wash bin.

“John,” said Carlisle, startled.

“Injections,” said John panting, before walking past him and got into one of the toilet cubicle, not bothering to lock the door. He kneeled down, took out four syringes from his sling bag, and lined them up on the toilet seat. The tag on his ankle started blinking yellow.

John’s hands trembled as he was trying to put on the belt on his upper arm.

Shit! Any minute late and the lamp tag on his ankle would go red, and when it did, his parents would come pick him up in ten minutes and the farthest place he could reach would be a toilet in his closely guarded hospital room.

John’s cellphone rang. He ignored it.

Fine, ass it would be. It’s faster that trying to find a vein on the upper arm.

John unbuttoned and unzipped his trousers before pulling it down. But right after he pulled down his pants, he started to not be able to feel his fingers.

Oh dear! He was numbing. The ability to move his muscles started to fade away, followed by the increasing pain from each of them.

The cubicle door got opened and John heard Carlisle calling out his name.

“All of them. At once. Now…” said John, panting.

The next second John felt a stinging pain on his ass. He moaned four times, each time after Carlisle stabbed a syringe.

Carlisle put back the syringes into John’s sling bag, right before they heard someone gasped.

“I’m sorry, I thought I heard someone in pain….”

John managed to see Ronnie’s shocked face over his shoulder before Ronnie vanished out of sight.

John sighed as he pulled up his pants. After buttoning and zipping his trousers, he got seated on the toilet cubicle floor, closed his eyes, and tried to breathe normally.

"Will you be alright?” asked Carlisle, who took a seat next to John with his back facing the other side of the cubicle.

“Don’t,” said John, still with eyes closed.

“Don’t what?” asked Carlisle, puzzled.

“Don’t pity me,” said John, now looking at Carlisle.

“When you applied the ointment for the bruises and cuts on my back, was it not pity?” asked Carlisle.

John did not respond. He hated to admit that it was indeed pity.

“I’m sorry and I thank you,” said John.

“Feeling better?” said Carlisle.

“So much better,” replied John, sighing in relief.

There was a long pause before Carlisle starting speaking.

“My mother was about to take me to school when she realized the car was out of gasoline,” said Carlisle. “She went to buy a couple of gallons in a gas station nearby. My father was in bed, still sleeping. I waited for her, cursing myself for not having the courage to stand up for her when she was severely abused by my drunk father in the kitchen last night. When my mother got back, my father was already awakened from his hangover and started complaining about the breakfast not being ready. Then my father pulled out his belt and came towards my mother. I could still remember the shocking look on my parent’s face as I poured the gasoline onto my father and set the fire…”

There was a long pause before Carlisle continued.

“Then I ran to school, leaving my mother who was as shocked as me. Two hours later, the police picked me up from school, telling me they had arrested my mother. She served twenty years in jail. I felt so guilty that I never had the courage to reply her letters, which she persistently sent me each month after being arrested. I didn’t even have the courage to pick her up upon her release from the penitentiary two days ago, which I then regretted because just an hour after that she got hit by a bus.”

Carlisle sighed heavily then continued.

“Upon her release a year ago, I started hiring Trevor to beat me up each month after I received my mother’s letter. I felt guilty. I had always felt guilty. I had always thought that the pain of getting beaten would ease the guilt of not being able to stand up for my mother during those miserable years we had together. Then the guilt eventually vanished after I found her letter in slipped inside a brown map you managed to bring back to me last night.”

Carlisle took out an envelope from his pocket trousers and handed it to John.

John took the letter and read it :

 

It never was your fault and it had never been. I had always loved you and it had not changed a bit. Please, be happy.

 

Your dearest mother,

 

Sarah Fanning

 

Carlisle was looking at John when John looked up at him.

“Feeling better?” asked John, after a pause.

“Never better,” replied Carlisle.

Carlisle smiled before standing up. He then reached out his hand towards John to help him stand up. John smiled as he took it.

 

===

 

“Be in two places at once? Riding a unicorn?” Carlisle looked at John and scoffed.

It had been a week since Ronnie caught him and Carlisle at toilet cubicle and the rumor about them spread. Although John already got used to people getting interested in seeing him and Carlisle chatting animatedly at the cafeteria, Carlisle seemed to think that spending some time after lunch in a more private space such as a book store nearby would give a bit of fresh air for them. Besides, Carlisle had longed to discuss about John wish lists written on a piece of paper stuffed in his sling bag which Carlisle had accidentally found two days ago.

“Hey, I was only ten when I started making the wish list,” argued John, as he put back a book back on the shelf. “At that time I was…”

John kept on talking, only stopped when he realized that Carlisle had been staring at a blonde woman wearing a blue sky baby doll dress who seemed busy with some books on her hands.

“On a second thought,” said John. “I think there’s one more thing I’d like to do before I die.”

“Really?” said Carlisle, with eyes still fixed on the blonde woman.

“I want to be your best-man,” said John.

Carlisle turned to look at John, bewildered.

“I don’t even have a girlfriend, let alone a fiancée to marry,” said Carlisle.

“You better start to find one,” said John, tilting his head towards the blonde woman.

Carlisle scoffed. “It’s not that simple,” said Carlisle.

“Fine. I’ll make it simple,” said John.

“What are you doing?” asked Carlisle, grabbing John on the arm when John was about to head towards the blond woman.

“Introduce you to her,” said John. “Since you’re now acting like a pussy.”

Carlisle threw a mocking face at John before speaking, “Fine. I’ll do it.”

Carlisle squared his shoulder and cleared his throat, before walking towards the blond woman. In less than a month, Carlisle already had taken the blond woman, whom he introduced to John as Carla Ostrich soon after he said hello to her at the book store, on a candle light date three times and John already got five procedures in the hospital.

“She’s jealous,” said John, at a night were he was lying weakly on a hospital bed and Carlisle was sitting close to him.

Carlisle turned to look at Carla, who seemed busy with her smartphone before he turned back to John.

“Of you?” said Carlisle, scoffed. “She knows you’re my best friend. You’re like my brother.”

“She’s not jealous of me being your best friend or your brother,” said John. “She’s jealous of you holding my hand like this.”

Carlisle looked at his hand, which its thumb was rubbing gently on John’s back hand. He shrugged but did not let go of his hand.

“So,” said Carlisle, after a pause. “Somehow you’d stopped telling me you’re having procedures again. I could imagine how puzzled your parents were when I called them about you.”

“I just didn’t want to spoil the fun,” said John.

“Of me and Carla having our third date this evening?” said Carlisle.

“Of you watching Byron stuck something into my ass,” said John.

Carlisle giggled.

"Are they working, the procedures?" asked Carlisle.

"I hope so," said John, sighing. He then quickly added. "So, when do I get to be your best man?”

Carlisle sighed. “It’s too soon. We’ve just only got out three times…” Carlisle stopped abruptly when John took out a small marron box from under his blanket. The horror look on Carlisle’s face was far beyond imagination when John took out a dark blue diamond ring out of the box.

“I was planning to give this to you tomorrow, after my procedure,” said John. “But since you’re here and she’s here, I think it’s time, don’t you think?”

“Wh-what are you talking about?” asked Carlisle, stuttering.

“You’ll propose her right now, right there,” said John.

“It’s not that simple, John,” said Carlisle.

“It is actually,” said John. “All you have to do is just kneel in front of her and say, ‘Will you marry me?’”

Carlisle scoffed.

“Fine, I’ll propose her to you,” said John, pulling off his blanket. “Since you’re now acting like a pussy.”

“Fine, I’ll do it,” said Carlisle, seemed to be overwhelmed by John’s stubbornness.

John smiled when he later on watched Carlisle kneeled in front of Carla.

 

===

 

My heart was pounding. I sat next to my agitated husband facing the guests in our small wedding hall along with my parents and John’s parents-which were there presenting as my husband’s parents. In less than five minutes John would have to give his best-man’s speech, yet there was still no sign of him showing up from behind that door.

“I think I’ll just check on him. Make sure he’s alright,” said my husband.

I quickly grabbed my husband on his arm and shook my head. At this point, I really did not want to do it but I had to because I had promised John.

“He will come,” I assured him, realizing that it might be the first lie I ever told my husband after marrying him.

“There he is,” said my husband, when John finally showed up from behind the door.

“Sorry, I’m late,” said John, taking a seat next to my husband. “My zipper got stuck when I was taking a pee.”

Carlisle giggled. It was a code that John had just taking his scheduled injection.

“It’s your turn now, the speech,” said my husband, after all the dishes plates had been cleared and the guests sat in silence waiting for John to give his speech.

John looked nervous, before standing up from his seat and cleared his throat.

“Carlisle Fanning,” said John. “I’d like to admit that it has been great knowing such a friend, whom I also consider as a brother. In this precious time let me summarize some of our interesting encounters that I’ve had the fortune to experience with him.”

John cleared his throat whilst my husband made a face-palm.

 “Our first encounter was in the restroom. He let me watch him taking a pee,” said John.

The guess laughed, apparently unsure whether it was true or not.

“Our second, he was staring at my bare ass.”

One of the guest, a man, burst into laughter.

“Our third, he was throwing the F words at me in his office room, telling me to leave. I told him, I wasn’t leaving. Our fourth, I found myself the following morning on his bed next to him. Our fifth, I moaned in pain when he stabbed something on my ass in a toilet cubicle. After that he opened himself to me."

Some of the guest murmured. Some raised their eyebrows.

“We truly enjoy people glancing and looking at us like we were a couple back then,” continued John. “But nothing more joyful when I found him staring at a blonde woman in a book store whom today he’s made his wife.”

My husband got up to his seat then hugged John for what felt like forever. When they finally took their seats, John gave a bit of a squeeze on my husband’s knee. I felt a jolt of jealousy until I took a clear look on John’s finger nails. They had started to turn into dark blue. I looked up at John’s face. He looked pale as ghost but he managed to smile at me, at my husband, and at the guests.

When the reception was finally over, my husband took John on his arm and helped him stand up from his seat.

“Can I have a walk with your husband at the park?” John asked me.

I smiled and nodded, before they walked together to the park and seated on a bench. They sat side by side, with backs facing the hall where I stood watching them.

“Anytime now,” said John’s father, standing next to me.

“He’s probably saying goodbye to Carlisle,” added John’s mother, who was holding a tablet on his hand monitoring John’s heartbeat, pulse, and blood pressure.

There was a silence as the three of us watching John leaned his head on my husband’s shoulder, before my husband put his arm around John’s. The next moment, the line appearing on the tablet went flat and buzzed a silence of grieve and loss.

“He’s gone,” said John’s mother, sobbing.

“I think you should tell Carlisle now,” said John’s father.

But I have walked towards the bench, recalling the second promise I would do for John. I took a seat next to my husband and hold his hand.

“John’s asleep,” said my husband. “Let’s not wake him up.”

I turned away as I felt a tear running down my face, regretting how I just broke my first promise to John.

My husband rubbed the back of my hand with his thumb. Now I know how peaceful it felt like, and John must have used to feel like, to be comforted like this.

“You promised John you wouldn’t ruin your mascara, Carla,” said my husband, in a reprimanding tone of voice.

I wiped the tear on my face and looked at my husband.

“I’m sorry, Carlisle.” I said, suddenly felt hard to swallow.

My husband gave a soft kiss on my forehead, just before I felt a warm teardrops falling from the corner of his eyes.

 

===

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

 


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