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It Takes Time to Heal
At this point, he was done. The best thing he could do was get in his car and drive away. No more people pitying him because of his recent divorce. from his past, away from his ex. Getting away from the judgement regarding his drinking sounded perfect. A fresh start, away from his past, away from his ex. When he married his high school sweetheart and everyone told them they were too young, Wes ignored it all because he thought they were meant to be. Then, she wanted to move out of the town they grew up in, and Wes wanted to stay. The disagreement led to fighting, and when the fighting got bad, Wes started drinking. Things only got worse when she left.
Now, Wes decided to drive away from it all. He always imagined himself in the town he grew up in, with the girl that he loved since he was fifteen. It was time for him to take some time for himself. Not to deal with anyone else or their stupid opinions. Maybe he still felt little buzzed from a long night of drinking, but he knew leaving was the right decision for everyone.
The road was pitch black, only lit by the car’s headlights. There weren’t any other cars on the road. This caused him to begin to speed. The faster Wes got out the better. Suddenly, a man stumbled into the road. Wes slammed on the brakes and his entire body jerked forward.
His headlights shined on the man who had a busted lip and was holding his side. The man had messy dark hair and his blue eyes pleaded to Wes for help. Tonight was the night he was finally going to leave. He couldn’t stop and help.The last thing he needed was to be responsible for some guy on the side of the road. After taking a moment to catch his breath, he drove around the man.
He drove slowly at first, unsure of his decision. Of course, he knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but he needed to get out of town. The image of the man was stuck in his head. The pain in his eyes haunted Wes.Then, he realized he on thought of himself, even then he only thought of his own guilt. When had he gotten so selfish? For most of his life, Wes would have jumped out of the car and helped the man. Everything he had gone through had made him so coldhearted.
Turning his car around, Wes went back to the man. Still, he wandered in the street. If possible, he looked worse. Wes unbuckled his seatbelt and got out of the car. Suddenly, the dark-haired man started to collapse to the ground. Wes launched himself forward and helped the man up. Wrapping his arm around the man’s torso, he walked him over to the car.
“What happened to you?” Wes asked. Without a word, the man fumbled forward. Wes shifted his body in front of the him to catch his weight, his arm still wrapped around him.
“Come on,” he gritted his teeth, attempting to lift him back to his feet. His forehead pressed into Wes’s shoulder, the rest of his body felt almost boneless. Wes laid him on the hood of his car and noticed blood pouring out of his side.
“Crap,” Wes muttered to himself, looking at both of their blood-stained shirts. The man’s head kept bobbing from Wes to the wound. until his head dipped down and didn’t come back up.
“No,” Wes swooped down to him. “You are not dying on the hood of my car.” He carried him to the other side of the car and buckled him into the seat. Grabbing his shoulder, Wes shook the man, waking him a little.
“You aren’t dying alright,” he grabbed his phone. “I’m calling a hospital.”
When he raised his phone to his ear, a hand grabbed his wrist.
“No hospital,” he muttered. Wes’s eyes widened out of fear that if he didn’t go to a hospital this man would die.
“What do you want me to do then?” Wes shouted, probably too harshly.
“No hospital. No cops,” his blue eyes looked up at him. “Please.”
Out of frustration, Wes punched his steering wheel, before starting to drive. He glanced in the seat beside him. The man’s eyes were closed. He slapped him on the chest.
“No dying,” Wes demanded. He looked down at his wound, then back at Wes, tilting his head. His blue eyes began shutting.
“What part of ‘no dying’ do you not understand?” he said, hitting him again.
“Not dying,” he mumbled, slurring his words. “Sleeping.”
The man tilted his head at Wes as if he were asking if he could sleep. Wes just looked away. The only place he could think to go to was his family’s lakehouse. Before all of this, he considered going there anyway. Now it seemed like the perfect place to take this guy-- and to get away.
Every now and then on the drive, Wes would glance over at the man in the other seat to make sure he wasn’t dead. Each time he noticed the man’s chest rising up and down. Then, he would let out a sigh of relief and get his eyes back on the road.
Once they arrived at the house, Wes helped him walked inside and placed him on the couch. As he sat him on the couch, the man winced in pain. Still, he appeared barely awake, probably due to blood loss because they were both covered in his blood.
“Since you don’t want to go to a hospital I’m going to have to patch you up, alright?” Wes asked. He nodded with an undeniable fear in his eyes. Wes searched the lake house for the first aid kit and some whiskey, and then brought it back into the den. Never in his life had he given someone else stitches. He had gotten into a few bar fights and sewn himself up, but never anyone else.
“Shirt off,” Wes said, shortly, attempting to make it less awkward. As he took off his shirt, the man made little whimpering noises. Wes opened the bottle of whiskey and took a quick swig. Then, Wes knelt in front of the couch with the whiskey in his hand.
“Okay, now that I’m saving your life,” Wes said, opening the bottle again. “How about you tell me your name?”
“Neil,” he answered. Wes poured the alcohol over his wound. Neil gritted his teeth and made a noise that sounded like a concealed scream.
“Sorry, sorry,” Wes apologized, reaching for the needle.
“Hey, Neil, I’m Wes,” he said, sounding out of breath from panic. Cringing as he sunk the needle into the man’s skin, he reached for the whiskey again, taking another quick sip.
“Hi, Wes,” Neil said, grabbing ahold of the couch, focusing his eyes on Wes.
“Do you want to tell me what happened?” Wes asked, stitching him up. Neil looked away from him and shook his head. They both fell silent after the question. Neil wouldn’t look at him anymore. Something weighed on him. Wes could recognize it because he had felt it, the weight of not recognizing yourself anymore.
After he finished, Wes situated him on the old worn couch. Even after all the sleep he had gotten in the car, he looked exhausted.
“I’m going to get some sleep in the room back there,” he got up off his knees. “Yell if you need anything.” Neil was already lying on his good side with his eyes partially closed.
“Thank you,” he whispered.“You’re a good guy.”
“Believe me, I’m no saint either man,” he shot him a half smile.
“But you stopped.”
“Not at first.”
“But you did,” he looked up at Wes. He looked genuinely confused as to why Wes would doubt himself. There was a lot he didn’t know about him. A lot that Wes wished wasn’t true.
Over the next three days, Wes stayed in his room and drank. Sometimes he would sit out in the den with Neil. They never talked much though, or at least Neil didn’t. Due to all the liquor his grandfather left in the house, Wes had told Neil way too much about himself. Neil never chipped in though; he just watched Wes and listened intently.
At night, when Wes would walk through the den to go into the kitchen, Neil would be staring at the wall with a lost look in his eyes. Wes could never get him to eat very much. Much to Wes’s surprise, Neil started to get better despite everything.
“Let me see those stitches,” Wes greeted him, casually. With absolutely no reaction to the violation of privacy, Neil lifted the blanket Wes gave him and revealed the wound.
“Those stitches look pretty good of I do say so myself,” he commented and Neil rolled his eyes.
“You say that every time you check,” he said, concealing a smile.
“It’s not every day when I get to patch someone up,” Wes said. “How about you try standing today?”
“Where would I go?” he glared up at him.
“You’ve been sitting in this dark den for like three days. You should really see the kitchen. It’s like a whole other world in there,” Wes said, obviously over exaggerating. Being here and helping Neil made him feel better than he had in a long time. It wasn’t about divorces or drinking problems. The only thing he had to worry about was keeping this guy alive.
“Alright,” he said and Wes helped him off the couch. Wes still sort of had to help him walk. He could tell how much Neil hated it. If he was being honest, he would hate it too, relying on someone else to walk.
“And here we are,” he said, sitting him down in one of the chairs at the kitchen bar.
“This is almost as thrilling as I imagined,” Neil sighed, sarcastically.
He slumped forward on the counter and propped himself up with his elbows. Wes sifted through the cabinets to find some old canned food that hopefully wouldn’t kill them. He cooked himself a can of soup and he gave Neil the can of peaches he insisted he wanted.
“Peaches, for a meal?” Wes said, watching him eat the peaches straight from the can. Neil shrugged. This was the most he had eaten since Wes brought him there.
“So where are you going?”
“What? Nowhere,” Wes said.
“You told me you were leaving your home for a new start,” he said, focusing on eating the peaches.
“I haven’t gotten that far yet,” Wes laughed at himself.
“Then why are you going?” Neil asked.
“I need a change and I can’t change there.”
“Reasonable,” he shrugged, scraping the last of syrup out of the can.
“Are you ever going to tell me what happened to you?”
“No,” he said, plainly, setting his can on the counter.
“Why? I think I’ve earned it. I’ve given you stitches, a place to stay, and peaches,” Wes said. “I don’t give my canned peaches to just anyone.”
For the first time in three days, Neil laughed a little, holding his side.
“Because I was really broken down and I wasn’t myself. I don’t want to talk about who I was then. The thing I really need is to heal and move on. I just want to change,” he shrugged.
“I’ll drink to that.”
“Well, I’ve noticed you’ll drink to anything,” Neil said, giving him a humorous look.
Once they finished eating, Wes took him to the bathroom to clean himself up since he was still kind of bloody. Then, he put him back on the couch. By the end of the day, he stood up a couple times on his own to go get water.
The next morning Wes walked into the den. Well, more like the afternoon. Everything began to feel like a routine. He walked into the den to begin their routine.
“Let me see those stitches,” he strutted in and pointed at the couch. Neil was gone. Was he just in the bathroom?
“Neil?” he called out. Wes explored the house looking for him. How far could he have really gotten?
“Neil!” he ran out to his car. It was still there. He pulled out his phone and called the police.
“911. What’s your emergency?”
“Has anyone reported an injured man? Mid-twenties, blue eyes, dark hair,” he rambled.
“No, sir. Would you like to report a missing person?” the voice said. He quickly remembered Neil begging him to not call the cops. Rushing back into the house, he hung up the phone and went into the kitchen.
The bottle of whiskey was almost empty since he had been working on it for a couple of days. Honestly, he didn’t know why it shocked him. Of course, the super vague wounded guy would run off. If he were in his position, he would have done the same thing.
After finishing the bottle, he looked out onto the lake. Then, he spotted Neil sitting on the old family dock. Setting down the empty bottle, he rushed outside and ran down to the dock.
“What the hell?” he shouted. Neil glanced back at him and looked confused.
“Sorry, did I scare you?’ he appeared to be truly sorry.
“Neil, I called the damn cops,” he snapped.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated. “I just needed a moment.”
“A moment for what?”
“To watch the sun go down and say goodbye to the old me,” he stared out at the water. It had been a long time since Wes had appreciated a beautiful day. Sitting out in the sun by the water was such a great feeling. He hated that he had forgot that.
“Where are you going?” Wes asked him.
“I haven’t gotten that far yet,” Neil quoted him.
“Can I tell you something?”
“I don’t know anything about myself. I decided on who I was at such a young age and then it all got taken away from me. That’s what hurt the most,” Wes admitted.
“You’ll heal,” Neil said, looking up at the sky as the sun set. The sky was painted with beautiful colors. Normally, he would think sunsets were stupid, but this was different.
“I’m not so sure about that,” he looked down at the water. Neil observed the stitched up wound on his abdomen.
“Look at me, I got beaten up and stabbed. If I can, you can,” Neil looked up at Wes. Wes shook his head and looked back to the painted sky.
“Tomorrow,” Neil looked up at the sky with him. “We’ll both start fresh tomorrow.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Wes smiled, as the sky went dark.
“Of course you will,” Neil grinned.