Chapter 14

Five days later, and Hayden was back to lying in his room all day, not eating, not sleeping, not talking, just doodling and watching movies on his laptop. Leo would bring plates of food in three times a day, and come back for them almost completely untouched hours later. Hayden knew he was sending his brother into a panic over his behavior, but couldn't bring himself to care.

Being alone with his thoughts was more dangerous than he realized. He'd lie on his bed and just think over everything that had gone wrong in his life. His parents dying, changing his entire life so his brother could take care of him, falling in love with a boy too afraid to admit his feelings, then having that same boy die in his arms while begging for his forgiveness, then his best friend leaving him to go across the country. Thoughts like that left him clinging to a pillow and trying to quiet his sounds as the panic attack overcame him. He was lost and desperately in need of guidance, but the thought of being around people just scared him.

Leo tried, he really did. Telling Hayden his favorite show was on, asking if he wanted to go to the movies or shopping on his dime, offering to let him drive his Camaro, or telling him he had mail. It was all ignored.

On the fifth day, he got a text from Cameron addressed to him and Mira.

We need to enjoy these final moments we may have together, meet me at the park tomorrow at 3?

Final moments. Hayden's hands shook as he stared down at the phone. How could everything in his life be falling apart like this? How could he be down to the 'final moments' with his best friends?

He sat heavily on his bed and pressed his face into his hands, forcing himself to breathe through the pains. It was too much. It was way too much.

Hayden opened his closet door for Seth's leather jacket. He couldn't bare to touch it after bringing it home with him, so instead he hung it up and hugged his former lover's pillow to his chest at night.

He pulled it from the hanger and sat back on the bed, hugging it to his chest. He imagined the way Seth's arms would feel under the leather sleeves, how the collar would brush his neck and Hayden would brush it away to suck on the special spot that always drove him wild, the way Hayden would slip his arms under it when Seth held him tight while wearing it.

He rubbed the faded Hugo Boss tag at the nape of the neck, tracing along the inside with his fingers.

"Ow!" he yelped, pulling his hand away sharply. What the hell? Pulling the zipper down, he noticed an inside pocket he'd never seen before, with a corner of a piece of paper sticking out. Hayden pulled it out quickly. It was an envelope. He ripped it open and unfolded the letter within.

Dear Hayden,

If you are reading this, then it means that I didn't make it through prom. I'm sorry. I am writing this the night before prom, so I don't know when you'll read this.

The first thing I want you to know is that this is NOT your fault. You didn't force me out, and you didn't cause this. I really have no excuse for this or anything to say except that it wasn't your fault. It was my decision.

In case I didn't get a chance to tell you at prom. I love you. Hayden, I tried so hard not to love you, but I can't stop. You are all I think about. You were my reason to get up in the morning, because every hour away from you hurt in a way I never thought it could. You were the only person I ever loved. But more than that, you were the only thing in my life that I was sure of. The only thing in my life that I knew I could count on.

If you're wondering where I've been the last few weeks, the answer is LA. I submitted your resume to UCLA, along with a portfolio. I spent the weeks in an apartment, sitting by the window and wanting to call you. I missed touching you so much. I wanted to call you every minute and apologize for what I said. I never meant any of it.

Honestly, the thought of suicide has been one on my mind for a long time.
I never intended to make it through my senior year, Hayden. I just wanted to get drunk, be numb, go to clubs, and lie to the world. But you saw through that. Over a thousand people go to Brennan High and you are the only one who saw me for who I was, and I will always love you for that. You weren't some experiment or something, I know I loved you.

I want you to always remember that I love you. I've loved you from the start and I want you to always hold that close to you. That way, we'll never be apart.

Forever your's


Hayden's wasn't aware he was crying until he found himself sniffling instead of breathing. The letter fell to his knees and he wrapped his shaking arms around himself, teeth chattering with the force of sobs as he let the floodgates open, dropping to the floor and sobbing loud and messy into the carpet. Snot and tears dirtied the ground, and he was vaguely aware of Cujo pawing at him and attempting to lick his face until he gave up and curled up beside him.

Hayden laid there and sobbed for a very, very long time.

Two hours later, Hayden was able to collect himself enough to sit up and click on his lamp, red and puffy eyes squinting against the light. He leaned against the nightstand and sighed.

Cujo whimpered and licked his face. Hayden wrapped an arm around his neck and hugged him tightly. The dog stepped forward, causing a crinkling sound to be heard from underfoot. Hayden looked down quickly, seeing Cujo's foot on Seth's discarded letter.

"No no no!" He said loudly, startling the animal to back away. Hayden picked it up, relieved to see it unharmed. "You don't wanna mess this up," he said mostly to himself. "It's the last..." his eyes landed on the fourth paragraph and he frowned.

If you're wondering where I've been the last few weeks, the answer is LA. I submitted your resume to UCLA, along with a portfolio.

UCLA? Hayden frowned.

He had applied to various art colleges across the country, but hadn't thought about them whatsoever the last few weeks. Maybe...

Next thing Hayden knew he was sprinting down the hallway, through the front room where Leo was on his laptop. The older man startled, but Hayden raced into the kitchen.


He shoved the blender filled with protein shake aside and snatched up the little basket for their mail. He picked up a wad of envelopes and began flipping through them, tossing each aside with rejection. Please please please...

He was down to three when he saw it. A letter to Hayden M. James with a return address of the University of Los Angeles. Like he did with Seth's letter before it, he tore it open and shook the letter out, reading quickly.

"Hayden?" Leo's voice came from beside him, followed by a hand on his shoulder.

"I got in," Hayden whispered.

"What is that?"

Hayden didn't answer, the letter dropped from his hand and he turned, throwing himself into his brother's arms and nearly knocking him over.

The first thing Mira did when he saw her the next day was hand him a piece of paper.

"What's this?" he asked, not opening it.

"My letter of deferral," she explained quietly. "I'm not... I'm not going to NYCDA."

"But that's been your dream school for four years," Hayden said, floored. Behind her, Cameron watched quietly.

"It is but," she gave him a small smile. "You need me here more. I'll go next year."

"Me too," Cam tossed in, stepping beside her and handing him a piece of paper as well. "I'm not going to Chicago with Dylan."

Hayden stared at his two best friends, his brother and sister, his companions. Their faces shone with support and love for him, ready to give everything up to stay here and make sure he could make it through another day. His fingers twisted in the paper and he ripped both letters clear in half.

Mira and Cameron's eyes widened in surprise, startling as he ripped them again and threw them to the ground.

"Hayden?" Cameron asked.

"You guys have no idea how much this means to me," he said softly, tears dancing in his eyes. "But I can't let you do this."

"We want to," Mira said firmly.

"No you don't," he said patiently. "You want to go to New York and you want to go to Chicago. And I can't be the reason why you don't go." They both began to protest, but he held his hands up and silenced them.

"Cameron," he began. "You always said you were above the people in this town, and you're right. You're smarter and you have more ambition than anyone I've ever met. Don't squander this opportunity. You've earned this chance and you know it."

Cameron nodded dumbly, green eyes welling up.

"And Mira," he reached for her hand. "You've wanted to be a star your whole life. And if I thought for even a second that I stood in the way of that dream, I couldn't live with myself. NYCDA picked you to attend and you need to go."

Mira's eyes were joining Cameron's in filling with tears. With a choked laugh, she pulled Hayden into a tight hug. He hugged back as hard as he could without physically hurting her, smiling over to Cameron and holding his arm out for him to join. The three friends embraced, eyes squeezed shut.

"I love you guys," he whispered.

"We love you, too," they said together.

They stood there for awhile in that hug, as if trying to stockpile any extra affection for later.

"Wait," Mira said, carefully extracting herself from the hug. "What happens to you?"


"Come with me," Cameron suddenly interrupted. "You can live with me and Dylan in Chicago."

"Cam," Hayden said affectionately.

"Seriously," he said quickly. "You don't deserve to be here all alone. I swear, you won't have to pay rent or work or anything. We'll take care of you and everything."

"Cam," he said again. "I'm not going to be alone and I'm not staying here."

"You're not?" Cameron asked at the same time as Mira's "What?"

Hayden pulled his acceptance letter from his pocket and held it up for them to see. They're eyes were wide as they read.

"You got in?" Mira spoke first. Hayden nodded.

"Seth got me in," Hayden said softly. "That's where he was. He left me all his money and got me an apartment there too."

"How much did he leave you?" Cameron asked in shock, not noticing Mira's glare.

"A lot."

"A lot like...?"

"Like a lot." Hayden shrugged. "And a few other things." He nodded over his shoulder to Seth's car -now titled in his name- where a black and white Siberian husky stuck his head out the opened window, enjoying the warm air. He watched Cameron and Mira look at each other once again, smiling, then back at him.

"You're gonna be okay, aren't you?" Cameron asked with a grin.

"Yeah, I think I am."

"Los Angeles?" Leo asked softly. "That's... far."

"Only a six hour drive," Hayden said. "An hour plane ride."

"It's just," Leo's blue eyes were large and fearful looking. "You'll be all alone." Hayden didn't say anything. "And after all that's happened, you-"

"Need you?" Hayden finished with a sad smile. "You're right. I do need you. I'll always need you, Leo. But LA is where I belong. I want to start my life there."

A tear slid down his brother's face, but he nodded. "This is really what you want to do?" he asked.


Leo nodded, eyes on the table. "Then I'm behind you, kiddo. One hundred percent."

A week later, Hayden stood in the airport terminal watching the plane take off the ground as his best friend left to pursue her dream. Leo, Cameron, Dylan, and Mira's family had come to see her off. One the plane was out of sight, the crowd began to disperse.

"She's gonna be big," Dylan said behind him. Hayden turned and nodded.

"She is."

Dylan smiled a smile that was so unlike his other cocky, arrogant, and all around obnoxious. This was warm and confident as he stuck his hand out. Hayden stared at it a moment in confusion before shaking it.

"Good luck in LA," Dylan said firmly. "You deserve happiness."

"Thanks," he replied. "good luck in Chicago. Don't break Cameron's heart."

Dylan chuckled. "I won't." He squeezed Hayden's hand one last time before taking his hand back. "Stay in touch, Hayden."

"I will."

"Need some help with that?" Leo asked, watching his brother force his suitcase closed.

"No, I got it," he grunted, shutting the locks and wiping his brow.

Leo fidgeted in the door, taking a breath and walking in and holding something out. "Here."

"Car keys?"

"My car keys," he corrected. "I want you to take the camaro."

The suitcase fell back on the bed. "But that car's your baby," he protested.

Leo smiled lovingly, taking Hayden's hand and setting the keys in his palm. "No," he said softly. "it's not my baby."

"Leo, I can't take this." He put them back in his brother's hand. "I have Seth's car, remember?"

"I know," he shifted uncomfortably. "I just want you to have something to remember me by."

"You mean besides all the photos, new clothes, and the credit card-"

"For emergencies only."

"I'll remember you Leo," Hayden promised, wrapping the man's fingers around the keys and squeezing them affectionately. "Not every older brother would take in a nine year old and raise him."

"I am pretty awesome," Leo joked weakly, eyes sad. "God kid, I'm gonna miss you." He yanked him to his chest, hugging him tight.

"I'm gonna miss you, too," he whispered, feeling a hand running through his hair. "I'm gonna miss you so much."

"I love you," Leo whispered. "Don't forget that. If this LA thing doesn't work, you can always come home. Do you understand?"

Hayden nodded against his shoulder. "I know."

Leo pulled back, hand on the boy's shoulder, gripping it tightly and shaking him ever so slightly. The man nodded to himself.

"Make me proud, okay?" he said. "Show LA what James men can do."

Hayden watched Leo in the rearview mirror until he was completely out of sight. All four windows of Seth's car was down, letting in the mid June air. Cujo was in the backseat, head sticking out and tongue lolling in the wind. The GPS told him to turn right at the next exit, but Hayden went left, turning it off and making his way down the road toward his destination.

He pulled into a spot and put the car into park, rolling up the windows and exiting the vehicle with the leash and muzzle in his hands.

"Wanna go see him one last time?" he asked the dog, clipping the muzzle on and ruffling his ears. The dog yipped happily.

They trekked across the grassy land, passing row after row of marble until they reached a certain spot. Cujo kept going, stopping only when the leash went taut.

Hayden stared down at the headstone.

Seth Joseph Elsen

June 17th 1996- April 29th 2014

Beloved Son and Friend

"Your Patient Courage is a Beloved Memory"

Hayden knelt down, setting the white spider mum against the marble. "Hey," he greeted softly. "Sorry I haven't come to see you." Cujo snuggled up beside him, sniffing the headstone curiously. "God I miss you though."

A warm breeze blew his hair in his eyes, and he swiped it away. "Seth how did this happen to us?" he wondered aloud. "How did the love we had get complicated? How did you..." he stopped with a sigh. "I want to blame you so bad. I want to be pissed at you and scream and just lose it, but I'm not mad at you." A tear fell to his shirt. "I don't blame you for being afraid. You weren't a coward, you were lost. You needed guidance and no one was there to help you.

"I hope you're at peace, Seth. After everything, you deserve to be at peace. You don't need to feel lost or alone or unloved anymore." He traced his finger over the S in his first name. "But you meant the world to me; you were the only thing I was ever completely sure of. And today we could have been celebrating your eighteenth birthday." His fingers slid to the flower. "Happy Birthday."

Hayden sat there for a few more minutes in silence. It was almost tranquil, like he was getting the closure he desperately needed.

"I'll never forget you," Hayden whispered. "I'll hold onto my love for you for as long as I can, and I won't let it hold me back. You would never want that for me." His voice cracked. "I wish I could see you again, I'd give anything to just see you again. To be with you again. Even if it were for just one more night, I'd give anything"

He rose to his feet. "I love you, Seth. You didn't die unloved in this world." He kissed the tips of his fingers and pressed them to the headstone. "Goodbye, love."

Hayden pulled Cujo's leash and boy and dog went back to the car. Hayden opened the back door and let the dog hop in, closing it behind him. He paused at his own door and looked back. Seth was lost in the congregation of marble headstones stretching miles and miles, but Hayden smiled slightly all the same.

"Goodbye," he whispered one last time, getting into the car and turning on the GPS. He pulled the car from the lot and drove.

The wind whipped his hair and roared in his ears, drowning out the soft radio music and partially blocking the GPS voice, but he didn't roll it up. It was the sound of his freedom, it was the sound of the future.

And Hayden intended to listen to it as long as he could.

The End.

I hope everyone enjoyed this story! as I mentioned in an earlier chapter, it was meant to be a writing exercise and I ended up just going along with it.

I do plan on releasing a one-chaptered sequel that takes place a few years in the future, if anyone is interested in seeing how everything turns out, stay tuned.

And please do tell me what you thought of this story, I am always eager to know how my work was viewed!

Read and Review!