- Escape Of The Century
Swiftly she swerved through the shopping malls, dragging her reluctant son with her in their pursuit of the perfect Halloween costume. She didn’t understand what was wrong with him lately. He seemed distant towards her, more drawn to his father than his mother. Maybe it was because she’d constantly been away from him, leaving the child in the care of a seriously ill husband. She hated herself for doing that. She’d been weak, selfish and most of all, she’d been terribly scared. She had needed a way out, a backup plan. Brian had given her his blessing to go fairly quickly, probably glad she had gotten out of his hair. Not that there was any of it left.
She hadn’t been used to this. She was used to happiness, a rich life, with a lot of friends, a lot of love, and a lot of hope. She had achieved everything she had ever wanted to achieve and then some more. She had always wanted to become famous, one way or another. She’d always wanted to marry a sweet and devoted guy, preferably a famous one. She’d always wanted to start her own business, doing something she loved. She’d always wanted to be a mother to a baby boy. Her life couldn’t have been more perfect. She’d loved living. She’d loved her life. But from that one Friday in June, two years ago, her life had begun it’s crashing downfall.
She sighed exasperatedly and turned around, facing her son. “Now you listen to me, Baylee Littrell,” she spoke sternly and Baylee just glared at her, with that knowing look. Was she just imagining things, or did he really know. Maybe she was getting a little too paranoid.
“We’ve been to I don’t know how many shops, and you still haven’t decided on a costume. You do know Halloween’s tomorrow, right?”
“I told you, I want to be a vampire!” was all Baylee had to offer.
“Ha! Don’t act like we haven’t seen a hundred vampire costumes already,” she told him impatiently.
“They’re all stupid,” the child sulked. In many ways, Baylee had underwent a complete transformation from an outgoing, cheerful little kid, to a brooding, sulky teenager. Leighanne suspected it had something to do with his father.
“Okay look, if you don’t choose something from the next store, we’re going home and you’ll have to stay at home at Halloween, is that what you want?”
“I don’t care,” he suddenly yelled and tore his hand loose from her grip. “Just leave me alone!”
“Baylee! What in Christ’s name is the matter with you?” she exclaimed, astonished.
“What’s the matter with me? What’s the matter? You really don’t know, or are you just too stupid?”
“Excuse me?” she yelled hysterically. She couldn’t believe him. Was this still her baby boy?
“You can stop pretending mom! I know all about it! I finally figured it out! I can’t believe you! He’s not even dead yet! I fucking hate you!” he shouted, out of control and for once in her life, she didn’t know what to say as she watched her son tramping away from her.
From the moment they had gotten the diagnosis, she’d seen her husband falling into a deep gap of denial. Apparently he’d decided all on his own that there was nothing wrong, that he could just continue living the way he had before. Like it would just go away if he waited long enough. For a long time, she’d been the only one besides him that knew about the tumour. He hadn’t wanted to tell his band mates about the thing in his head that was torturing him more and more each day. He had resolutely left the hospital two days after the grim news and had gone back to the hotel the other guys were staying at.
Brian had never handled being sick really well, let alone being really sick. He’d pretended he was just fine when he was with his friends and whenever they became worried, he’d waved them off, or told them to mind their own business. They had watched him change from their well-known brother, to a plagued and tortured soul who had been building a huge wall around him consistently. He used to be nice, careless and mild-mannered, unable to get mad and avoiding everything that even remotely looked like a fight. Used to be. Slowly but surely they had noticed Brian being short-tempered, distant and rather forgetful. He was seen wearing the same baseball cap nearly everywhere they went and kept looking worse as time went by. For one long year he’d kept his illness a secret, stealthily receiving the medication he absolutely couldn’t do without, all the while making sure no one followed him on his trips to the hospital. There had come a point where he couldn’t lie anymore though.
There had been a lot of plans to beat the malignant mass of cells, slowly but steadily growing inside his head, oppressing the healthy cells and continuously worsening the pressure on his brain. In the beginning there was a lot of hope. Sure, the tumour was too big, too far away to be operated on. But maybe, with enough medication in the form of chemo’s, maybe with enough radiation therapy, the cancer could be reduced. They’d clung to that hope desperately, and it worked. At one sweet day, almost a year after the diagnosis, the doctors had declared his brain ‘operable’. There was only one small problem though, now he needed to tell his friends and family.
He would never forget the shocked look on Nick’s pale face, or the silent, sad understanding in Howie’s eyes, the sheer despair in Kevin’s expression or the disbelieving, husky tone of AJs voice.
“No…” was all he’d said, but it was enough to express the emotion and desperation he was feeling. Brian had called this meeting suddenly and he’d had no clue on the reason why. Sure, Brian had been acting strange for a long time now, miraculously forgetting lyrics to songs, or dance-steps during routines they’d sung and danced for years. He’d often appeared disconnected, had trouble finding the right words to express himself and seemed more mature, more serious than he had in all the time AJ had known him. Deep inside, he had suspected something being wrong with his friend for a long time, but to hear it out loud now, made it just too real. He watched breathlessly as Brian finally removed the cap from his head. AJ had tried to grab it in the past, but Brian had seemed to become animalistic when someone even came near his head. Seeing his hairless skull now revealed one of the most terrible truths AJ had ever had to face.
“Don’t worry. I’m going to be okay now. They just have to do this surgery, and then this all will be over,” Brian assured them quickly, desperately.
AJ wanted to yell at him. How could he not have told them? Were they not his brothers? Weren’t they supposed to know when this kind of stuff was happening to their friend? But AJ already knew the answers to those questions. He knew Brian didn’t like to talk about the things that were really bothering him, knew his friend would do his very best at all the jokes he could think of, just to hide the pale seriousness of his situation. He had seen it before, and had a feeling that he would see it again.
Before he had the time to yell though, he watched Nick stand up slowly and saw how the blond left the room wordlessly. Howie made an attempt at going after him, but AJ stopped him abruptly.
“Leave him, he’ll be fine,” he assured, his eyes not leaving Brian’s form.
“So, brain tumour huh?” he decided to get to the bottom of things.
“Yeah,” there was a short pause, “but not for long anymore.’’ AJ almost laughed. Brian sounded so sure, so serious, speaking the words slowly to not make any mistakes. He figured it was not a laughable situation though.
“When’s the surgery?” He asked sternly.
“In three weeks, June 5th if I remember correctly,” Brian answered reluctantly and AJ wondered what the hell he needed to assume when he heard Brian speak the word ‘remember’ now.
“Good, we’ll be there,” he promised and saw Kevin nod slightly, still dazed. AJ had noticed that the moment the word ‘cancer’ was mentioned, the oldest of the group had shut down. He still hadn’t moved a muscle or said a word. “You just make sure you’ll be there too,” AJ added and looked Brian in the eyes.
“I will do my very best,” Brian assured quickly and smiled slightly, genuine. AJ realized he hadn’t seen his friend doing that in a really long time.