There was no easy answer to this.
All I could do was be there for him.
I know it’s hard to believe, but he really did wake up realizing he was Brian. He still to this day can’t remember ever being “Brendan”. It’s crazy, but that whole time period was a blank. Brian wouldn’t talk about it much. He refused to as soon as we packed up some things and left the place that had been his home for the past five or six months. He couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I kind of felt bad for Carlie. She’d been dating the man he’d been there and suddenly, that man didn’t exist anymore.
“I know you’re not the person I knew Brian. But I wanted to say before you go…that I love you. I won’t forget you.”
He hadn’t been able to say anything to her. Not even a goodbye.
I was the one who got her number for him; maybe someday he’d heal enough to forgive her for loving the man he was there. It wasn’t her fault. She was a victim just like everyone else. I think I got why Brian wanted to shove her out of his life though. Giving her a chance meant recognizing what he did. See, all those therapy sessions I did after filming House of Carters stuck with me. I hope Carlie was able to forgive him. It wasn’t his fault either.
We’d been back in the states a month before he finally decided it was time to go back home. Kevin arranged for a therapist to see him once we reach Georgia. Brian’s been staying with me in Nashville, avoiding going home. I knew that was killing him every time he’d been talking to Baylee on the phone. But avoiding home, meant avoiding the fact Leighanne was gone. I couldn’t blame him. But he needed his son, and his son needed him. I promised him I’d go back with him. Even go to his first session for support.
He wasn’t fixed. Not even close.
“You ready?” I asked as our plane started landing in Atlanta. I could see him starting to breathe rapidly. I looked a few things up and learned it’s a sign of a possible panic attack. I grabbed one of those air sick bags and handed it to him. “Easy. Remember, Bay’s going to be waiting at home for you, remember?”
When I told Kevin what had happened, I guess he decided to become a new amateur psychologist. I don’t know what he found; he said he’d tell me when he met us in Atlanta. He’d been there for a week already, helping Brian’s parents make sure the place is livable. AJ and Howie were supposed to come up in two weeks. They wanted to come sooner, but it might be a bit much. Like I said, Brian wasn’t close to being fixed. I felt like too much could break him into pieces.
That next time, we may not be lucky enough to find him again.
I grabbed our carry-ons and led him off the plane. Most of the stuff I had shipped ahead so we wouldn’t have to deal with it. I glanced back at Brian and wrapped my arm around him as we walked into the terminal. I could see Kevin waving at us, trying to get our attention. We headed his way. It was then I could hear a few screams.
“Oh my god, you’re Brian!” We’d kept Brian pretty hidden from the spotlight. It was going to happen sooner or later, people discovering that he was alive and no longer missing. But I knew we didn’t need this now. There was also that look in her eyes, that one where if we tried to run, she’d be crazy enough to chase us.
“That’s what everyone tells me.” Brian joked. It didn’t feel as funny as it used to.
“Where have you been?”
“It’s a long story.” I said, jumping in. I stared at the girl, who was wearing a freaking press badge to boot to some random Georgia newspaper. She was staring at me like I was a piece of meat.
“I’m patient enough to hear it.”
“But we have a lot to do today.” The deeper voice belonging to Kevin, our current savior replied as he cut between us and the fan. “But Brian’s doing alright, right cuz?”
Brian grinned and for a moment, I almost believed it. Almost.
Then I remembered performing was what we did for a living.
Kevin started leading us away from her. I could hear her yelling in the background as she tried to navigate the crowd. Thank all that is holy and Howie that another plane had landed and a new load of people were coming inside. That mob was just what we needed to get some distance away from her. Now I always love our fans, but really, it’s bad enough people would now know Brian was back. I don’t need some reporter fan blasting our story all over the press. That was going to happen soon enough anyway.
“But wait! Brian! I have so many questions! I don’t live that far from you either!” A glance back showed her shoving like crazy to get past people.
“Maybe we should stop.”
I gave Brian a look.
“It’s not a good time, besides, he’s waiting for you.”
A small smile appeared, this time it was a real one. “Right.”
We hurried out of there like bats out of hell. Kevin went ahead to grab us a cab while I glanced back to make sure that crazy fan wasn’t still following us. Luckily she wasn’t. She’d looked familiar so I knew it was one of the ones we met repeatedly. Most of our fans are great, others just don’t know when to push and when not to. It comes with the business. Right then, it was frustrating after all our efforts to keep this quiet. Now, this was going to be all over the internet by nightfall and we knew it. Brian watched me, my expression. He was looking to see if I thought it was going to be okay. So I smiled. We’d deal with the media later. He was looking kind of pale, and it confirmed my earlier suspicions that the way he was being before was just an act.
“It’s weird…I forget that to them, it wasn’t just yesterday that, it happened.”
I nodded; amazed he would even reference it. “We’re going to have to do an interview with someone, get it out there so we don’t get mobbed. That girl is going to tell the world she saw you.”
“I know. I just…I want to go home.”
I saw Kevin standing beside a cab as we stepped outside. I pat Brian on the back as I shared a look with his cousin. It was weird, taking care of Brian this time. All my life practically, it was the opposite. Now I had to be the one doing the protecting. And I would do it. My old mission was to find him. My new mission was to keep him safe till he didn’t need me guarding him anymore. Until the day a semblance of the friend I’d once known came back full force. He’d never be back completely, part of it died with Leighanne. But I saw pieces of him still alive. I just was waiting for it all to come back together. So I made myself look happy and confident that everything would be alright.
“Yeah, let’s get you home.”
When we arrived at his house, I couldn’t help but feel weird. The last time I’d been here was to try and find answers. And I’ll be honest, as much as I wanted them, a part of me didn’t expect to find any. I climbed out of the cab after paying the man. Kevin’s done enough and Brian was already out of the car. Up by the door, there stood Baylee with his grandparents.
It was something out of a movie. I almost expected it to go into slow motion as Brian and Baylee rushed towards each other. I swallowed hard; someone had to keep his composure. I’m not one to tear up, but after everything, it was so good seeing them together again. Brian was swinging his son around in his arms. I could hear them both crying. Never had Baylee looked more like a clone of his father. Though I knew, from now on, all Brian would ever see in him was Leighanne. He needed to. They both did.
Kevin tapped my shoulder and the two of us walked towards the backyard. They needed their reunion right then. It really was beautiful here. The home wasn’t small by any means but you really couldn’t tell it was the home of a celebrity if you didn’t know better. Bri’s always been like that. And the backyard always felt more like a piece of wilderness. Maybe that’s why he enjoys living in the south as much as he does.
“You said you found something.” I finally said, I knew that’s another reason why he led me away.
“I did some looking online, called a few therapists.”
“Anything to explain this? I mean…Brian doesn’t remember anything.”
“I’m told that’s normal.”
My gaze focused on a robin flittering around from tree to tree. “You’re shitting me.”
“No, they call it…” He pulled something from his pocket and opened it up to read it. “Dissociative Fugue.”
“Dissociative Fugue. It’s where you basically up and leave, taking on a new identity when something tragic happens in your life. That’s what Brian did. He couldn’t grieve so his mind had him leave and take on that new life as Brendan.”
I whistled low, running a hand through my hair because I couldn’t think of what else to do. I really needed to cut it. “But, he just woke up one day and-”
“That happens too. Sometimes there’s a trigger, sometimes there’s not.” He looked at his notes again. “They said they can’t diagnose it without talking to Brian, but that I described it perfectly. And that it was probably the sight of you that helped him recover his old identity.”
“Will he…do it again?” I hated myself for asking.
“Supposedly it’s doubtful, but there’s no guarantee.”
We kept walking around the house, making our way back towards the front. Now it was Jackie and Harold who were hugging Brian like he was the prodigal son. Yes I knew that story thanks to him. I guess in a way he was that now. I wiped my eyes at the scene. Kevin’s arm wrapped around my shoulders as we watched. Brian had a long way to go. But the hardest thing had finally happened. He had come home.
“I don’t think he will.”
“Neither do I.”
One day, he would be able to move on.
I was sure of it.
(Author’s Note – Yes, Dissociative Fugue is a rare but real psychological disorder. I thought it would be a neat idea for a story. There’s a little more info about dissociative fugue if anyone is interested HERE )