I didn’t sleep at all the night before.
How could I? I wanted to call Kevin, needed to call him really. I’d thought of every possibility when it came to why Brian had vanished. Or so I thought. I never thought Brian would be here with no idea who he was. What the hell? That shit was supposed to only happen in movies. For a moment… I almost thought he knew me. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him. There he was, having fun, on a date when everyone who cared about him was worried sick. It hadn’t even been that long since his wife had died! On a date when he had a son waiting for him, confused about why his father left.
It was Brian; I had no damn question about that. Too bad that can’t be said for him.
Part of me was furious and part of me was just incredibly confused.
None of it made sense!
I sighed as I paced around my hotel room. I couldn’t even get a cell signal here. Maybe that was why we only got a voicemail anytime we tried to call Brian. I wondered if there was even on a cell tower on this godforsaken island. This place was pretty sure, but it also took my best friend. I was ready to leave and bring him with me. I picked up the phone by my bed. The charges were bound to be insane, calling the states, but what else could I do?
Kevin was going to kill me for reversing the charges.
“Who is it?” I could hear Kristen ask in the background. Kevin’s always had an incredibly hot wife. She was always my fave out of any of the women the fellas dated. And not just because I always wanted to…
“It’s Nick. Nick do you know what time it is?”
No, but I knew I was about to find out.
“It’s two…” I could hear the springs in his bed creak, guess he was getting out of bed so Kristen could keep sleeping. “…in the morning Nick. This better be good little man.”
I always wondered if there would ever be a point where I would stop being “Little man” to him. Don’t ever tell him, but I hope not. But if I ever admit that, he’d never let me hear the end of it. I loved having Kevin in times like this. He was the first person I looked to when I didn’t know the answer. What was I supposed to do now? He was the father my own never could be. And despite the hell I was gonna get for waking him up, I knew he was glad to hear from me. He hated that I was running off to find Brian, but someone had to and he knew it. Now that it was confirmed I’m safe, he was free to lecture.
“Are you even listening to me?”
He practically growled into the phone. I could virtually see the dirty brow in my head. He had to have it right now. He always did when I ignored him or tuned him out like that. I couldn’t help but smile at the thought. I really missed being in the group. Everything had fallen apart when the accident happened. I thought we could help Brian put the pieces back into some sort of order, and then he’d vanished. Now I was still struggling to get the pieces back in one place.
“I found him.”
“I found Brian.”
I could literally hear something crash in the background as Kevin rushed up. Now I knew he was wide awake and I had his attention. “Is he alright? Wait are you alright? What happened? Is-“
“Calm down. Yes, I’m fine.” I found myself pulling out the old photo I’d shown that girl Carlie earlier. I forgot who’d taken it. We were in New York playing basketball. It was around the time Millennium came out. Brian was hanging from the hoop and I was staring up at him laughing my ass off. It was a goofy photo, my hair up in these crazy braids.
It was us being us – Frick and Frack.
“It’s Brian. Kev, he…he had no idea who I was.”
“What do you mean he had no idea who you were?”
“I mean he stared at me like I was psycho when I ran to him. He’s living here like nothing happened. He thinks he’s someone else. I don’t know what to do. I tried to tell him and he got upset and-“
“Okay, okay.” I could hear the typical deep sigh on his end of the line. “You’re sure it was him.”
“Unless it happened to be his secret long-lost twin who lives on the same god-fucking-forsaken island he had info about at his house, yes I’m sure.”
“Then, don’t push. Try to talk to him. Maybe…apologize about what happened when you first found him.”
“There’s a reason why he doesn’t know. I don’t know why. I’m going to see if I can’t find out. Looking through the box we took, that sort of thing. But the best you can do is talk to him. Maybe that will help jog his memory. Act normal. Describe Brian to himself as if he’s another person. See about who he thinks he is…”
“I talked to this…I think it’s his girlfriend…”
“She said he’s been living here for five months, since his parents died only two months before he moved here.”
“Right.” I ran my hand through my hair as my stomach rumbled aggressively. I needed food.
“For right now, do what I suggested. Maybe it’ll help you figure something out.”
“I’m going to call Howie and AJ. Keep me updated.”
“Yes dad.” I would’ve saluted if I knew he could see me.
“I mean it Nick.”
“I know you do. I’m alright, really.”
“Just…be safe okay? We don’t know why Brian’s like this. Something may have made him. I don’t want to…”
I smiled to myself. “Nothing will happen. I swear. My goal in life is to drive you insane till Mason gets to put you into one of those old man homes.”
Kevin laughed. “Bye little man.”
I hung up before he could get on me about calling him that. I’ve grown a lot since he left the group but c’mon, I was made to bug the guy. The smile stayed on my face even as I started pacing around my hotel room again. I didn’t know how I was going to approach Brian. I knew how much I upset him yesterday. How would I be able to get him to chat with me like nothing happened? I sighed.
Kevin had faith in me.
Somehow, that had to be enough.
I had to give it to this little island of hell. It was pretty here. I could even see why Brian would like it, after awhile anyway. I mean it was like I was thrown back in time. Everyone seemed to be living pretty well for this small little fishing island totally cut off from everything I needed to survive in the real world. But, it was nice to look at. Brian had always been simple, so this would fit him. I just wish he could come home. Baylee needed his dad more than ever. We needed our brother. Blood in my eyes never made family. Bonds made family. I only have one brother, but in a lot of ways, Brian was more my brother than Aaron ever was. That’s why I was so desperate to find him again. I knew he needed me and I wasn’t about to give up.
As I walked along and watched the simple towns people go about around me as I moseyed (I love that word) around, I started doing some thinking. I had no idea where Brian or Brendan was living. I was just hoping to spot the man. I finally understood why Howie and AJ hadn’t believed something happened to Brian. He wasn’t taken. I knew that now. I was the one seeing shit that wasn’t actually there. While something was wrong, it wasn’t how I thought. He did leave. I don’t know why. Something was off, but in a way, they had been right. In another way, so was I.
I was going to have to apologize to them at some point. Damn it.
It wasn’t that they hadn’t cared. It was that they did. Not just about Brian but about me too. They were afraid I’d end up obsessing on something that wasn’t there. They didn’t know why Brian had gone; only that he had. I refused to let go. They forced themselves too. Both end up killing you. See, when I got thoughtful like this, a lot of things started making sense.
Now if only Brian could I’d be set.
“Nick…” I blinked and turned at the incredibly familiar voice. “…Right?”
It hurt to hear him asking like he didn’t know. That’s what killed me.
Right then, he really didn’t know.
I smiled, like it was nothing. “Right. What was your name again…”
“Brendan.” He replied, swallowing hard. Like it was hard for him to say that. None of this made any sense.
“Thanks. I’m sorry about yesterday. You just…looked incredibly familiar to my lost friend.”
Brian nodded as he walked with me. We started heading over towards the direction of the beach I’d found them on yesterday. It was a bit of a walk from Edinburgh, I learned that yesterday. But hell, I knew it would give us a chance to try and talk. I felt like I was getting to know him for the first time. I guess in a sense, I was. This new Brian, or Brendan. I felt so confused and kept my gaze up towards the sky. I didn’t want to be reminded that this was Bri; I wanted it to be someone else. I wanted to pretend. I thought maybe it would make everything easier.
“You sound like you care about him a lot.”
I nodded. “He’s like a brother to me. So I decided I had to find him. And when I saw you…”
“You imposed your dreams on to reality.”
I stared at him. Those words never would have come out of the mouth of the man I knew. It was like there were two different people in there. The person possessing his body, and the Brian I knew buried deep within. I knew I caught a glimpse of him yesterday with Carlie. He was acting like Brian as I remembered him when we were younger.
“Sorry. I’ve been seeing a therapist. I think she’s rubbed off on me.”
“Yeah, there’s a lot I can’t remember. So she’s been helping me figure out why.” Brian smiled. “I don’t know why it’s so easy to talk to you, but I feel like I should. Does that make sense? Maybe I’m related to your friend and that’s why I look like him or something. Maybe we did know each other, if only distantly and that’s why I want to help you.”
It was so crazy. Even now, with all those justifications Brian was pulling to hide from the truth, he was doing the one thing he’d been doing for me for about eighteen years now. He was trying to take care of me. I didn’t know why he was acting this way. I had no damn clue why he was so determined to convince himself he was someone else. But he was still Brian. I was wrong again; he wasn’t two people in there. All of this was the same guy I’d known for over half my life.
I just had to help him remember.
“I’m glad you do. I don’t know anyone here. I could use a friend.”
“Well now you have one.”
If only I knew how.
“Do you mind me telling you about him? I think it might help.”
“Well, when I first met him, he looked like he came straight off the farm…”
Somehow, I thought to myself, I’m going to find a way to bring you back.