The rising sun roused them from sleep. It was going to be another scorcher of a day. They decided to pack up and go home. They already had a touch of sunburn, and couldn't bear to endure another day of the heat.
"Should we go to the house, or go by the Yew?" Steve wondered aloud, as he drove down the highway.
"You kin let me off at home," Ghost replied. "You kin go see Kinsey if ya want; besides, he has our pay from the other night."
"Yeah, you're right. That's what I'll do then," Steve said, as he drove into their front yard. "Need anything from town?"
"Naw, I'm just gonna chill awhile," said Ghost.
"See ya later then," Steve said, as he drove off.
Ghost opened the old screen door, and stood still for a minute, feeling the house. He could usually sense if anything had been disturbed, or if anyone had been there while he and Steve were out. Things seemed ok, so he continued in. He flopped on the old couch and turned on the TV, but couldn't concentrate. Something was nagging at his brain...something he couldn't put words to yet. He tried to push his senses further, but all he got was an unsettled feeling. He wished Steve would come home now.
But, Steve was at the Yew, recounting the fishing trip to Kinsey and Terry, who'd come back by when he saw Steve pull up.
"Well, lookie who survived the camping trip," teased Terry. "How'd it go, man?"
Steve found he had a willing audience to tell his tale to, so began at the beginning and left nothing out...except the ending, of course. He had the two older men laughing at Ghost's antics at the lake, but they had no idea if it really happened that way. They'd have to wait to hear Ghost's version. They had no inkling that they'd never get to hear it.
Steve stayed at the bar, drinking beer after beer. The club opened, and customers were having fun. Some of Steve's old pals from high school (before he'd dropped out) came in and got to bragging about all the fun they could have over in Raleigh. They invited Steve along. Steve was in a partying mood, so he agreed to meet them in a while.
Kinsey was a little concerned, as Steve was certainly feeling the beer he'd drunk. He looked askance at Steve, who just blew him off with a slightly belligerent tone.
"I'm gonna have some fun tonight. Don't be bringing me down, Kinsey."
Kinsey backed off, but had a bad feeling about what Steve was about to do. "But, hey," he thought, "he's a grown assed man, he can do what he wants. I'm not his keeper, after all."
Steve left in a fume of alcohol, and squealing tires, out of the parking lot toward home. He would tell Ghost not to wait up for him. But, when he arrived, he found that Ghost was all clingy, and was begging him not to go...to stay there with him.
"Dammit, Ghost, I need a night off from you once in awhile."
Ghost looked hurt, and Steve knew he'd sounded mean, but the liquor went further than his mouth. It made his brain say things he normally would never say. Steve went to splash water on his face to try and sober up a bit. When he came out, Ghost wasn't in the house.
"Great, now the little son-of-a-bitch is mad again." He went out the front door to the T-bird. What he saw enraged him. Ghost was fiddling around under the hood of the car.
"What the hell, Ghost?" he yelled. "Get your ass away from there."
Ghost had been trying to disable the car, but didn't really know how, or what to do to make that happen, and didn't have time anyway. Steve rushed over, grabbed Ghost by the back of his shirt, and spun him forcefully around.
"Steve, wait," Ghost pleaded. "Don't go, please don't go!"
"Shut up!" Steve yelled, right up in Ghost's face. "Get outta my way, I'm going." He slammed shut the car's hood, barely missing Ghost's fingers on the edge of the car, then violently threw Ghost to the ground.
The blow had knocked the breath out of Ghost. He lay there stunned. Without another word, as he went for the car door, Steve tripped over Ghost as he lay there, kicking him in the ribs. He slammed the car door shut and threw gravel as he sped off, never knowing, or even caring, that he'd almost run over his best friend.
Ghost's breath returned slowly, as he gasped, still lying there on the ground. The sobbing he heard, as if from far away, didn't register at first as his own. His ears were pounding, as was his head, and gravel, hot from the day's heat, burned his back. He felt searing pain on his face and arms, where the gravel had hit him, as they had flown from under the car's tires. His side hurt him to move, but eventually he crawled up to the porch. His mind was reeling. What should he do, what could he do? He feared for when Steve returned. He'd never, ever been really afraid of Steve before. Steve swore he'd never hurt him, but he had, more than once, and Ghost knew it wasn't over. The bad feeling he'd sensed had only gotten stronger.
Ghost slowly made his way up the porch steps and into the house, where he eased himself onto the couch. He was hurting mentally and physically. Visions of him and Steve kept running through his mind...the good times, and the bad...and, there were bad times between them, but never as bad as this. Steve had hit him before, when under the influence of alcohol. He never remembered what he'd done the next day, though. Ghost never mentioned it either, and when Steve would ask about how he'd gotten a black eye or bruises on his body, Ghost would make up some excuse. He didn't know why he did that.
As he lay there enveloped in his visions of things gone by, he kept hearing a song...what was it? Little by little he started humming to himself, and the words came, causing him such anguish. It was *Phil Collins "In the Air Tonight". "Oh, God," he thought, "that could be written for me and Steve." He'd known, or sensed all his life that everything good that happened to him would be taken away...eventually. And now, the meaning of it all came down to this night. He sobbed into the old couch...the one that held all his tears since he was little.
Then, in the darkest part of the night, shortly before dawn, Steve came back. He was still reeling from his night out with the guys, feeling like he was not so much of an outsider with them now. He felt he'd needed some male bonding, and boy had they. Drinking, telling macho stories, dancing at a club with loose women...and that, as he now arrived home, made him feel just as guilty, as much as it had earlier made him feel accepted into this wild crowd. The woman he'd been with had made him feel amazing. It had been a long time since Ann. But, now he had to get back to reality. He had to deal with Ghost.
*"In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins, appears on the album "Face Value" - 1981
Next installment coming soon!
Peace, Love, & Writing