Stefan reveals a dark secret to Ashley before saying goodbye!
Half past twelve approached and the air was ice cold. That would mean the water would be too. That didn't matter. Nothing would stop him. The bridge was not far off now, he could see it just past the shrubbery. His vision was tainted by the blur of tears. The beating of his heart loud in his ears. Throat closed up. Breath ragged and uneven. Scared. He could feel his ice cold blood pumping through his veins. That was the fear.
The sound of crashing water lapping up against the bridge filled his senses, bringing the realization to the situation. The tears stung in his eyes and he bit his lip, where the pain had subsided due to the cold of the air. As he turned the corner, he spotted Ashley sat upon the wall of the bridge and he suddenly felt happy, yet extremely sad, that same unbareable weight dropping down of his shoulders. Ashley soon spotted him and waved enthusiastically. He looked happy. He had no idea.
Stefan approached him and sat down next to him, the cold air washing away the tears, disguising them. He swung his legs aimlessly, looking over his shoulders into the water. The water that looked dangerous and scared him more than anything at that moment. But more so, it was welcoming. Stefan looked sideways at Ashley, who looked back at him, his eyes puzzled but also welcoming.
"You ok?" Ashley asked, hunching his shoulders questioningly.
"Uhh... no actually. I really need to talk to you..." He replied, shuffling a little closer to him. He looked into Ashley's eyes and he looked back, clueless to Stefan's horror. They were silent for a minute, both of them unsure of what to say. Ashley nodded to urge him on.
"Ok... so what is it?" he wondered, smiling at him slightly. Stefan looked away, back into the deep river, back into his fate. The way the water crashed against the rocks made his heart skip a few beats and the breath catch in his throat. Ashley nudged him lightly. He didn't know how to say it. The words were struggling to come out now he was here although he wanted to speak more than ever.
"I need to show you something." He said finally and looked at Ashley, troubled eyes into innocent, unknowing ones. Love hurt more than anything he had ever experienced. More than his Achalasia. More than when he had broken his wirst when he was young. It was too much to handle. So he figured he didn't have to handle it. His mother had tried to speak with him but he didn't want to talk about it. He didn't want to live. So he didn't let Ashley speak this time, although he could tell he was about to as he opened his mouth. but as Stefan moved to lift up his top, Ashley froze. Stefan pulled it up until his whole sliced up stomach was revealed, the air making them all sting. Ashley gasp and eyed the scars with horror in his eyes, his mouth slightly ajar in worry.
"Stefan... no..." he bought his hand up to his mouth and shook his head a little in disbelief, "what happened?" Stefan looked down, almost in shame.
"I'm sorry Ash, I know I said I never would... but I did..." he couldn't bring himself to look at Ashley anymore so he sniffed back his tears and looked away, "i'm sorry..." his last 6words were a mere whisper as the tears began to spill, dropping onto his lap. He could feel Ashley's eyes on him and felt his hand rest on his arm. They sat in silence for a moment, gathering their thoughts by the river side.
"Why? Stef... why?" He eventually asked, not removing his hand from his arm. In all honesty, that wasn't helping Stefan at all. He shrugged smally.
"Its a long st-" he needed an excuse because Ashley wouldn't give up until he knew the truth, so he thought hard, "uhh... you dont know how bad these kids have gotten at school... y'know, those Garbles kids?"
"Oh yeah... I thought they just picked on you a little?"
"No, its much worse." Stefan felt terrible lying but what else could he do? Tell him the truth? That would never work in a million years. He shrugged aimlessley again, eyes glued to the water beneath them. He swallowed hard. Once then twice. Swallowing his fear. He wanted to do this. It was absurd. Completely ridiculous. But if he was miserable enough to drag a blade along his stomach repetively then he was surely miserable enough to do this.
"Oh my God Stef, why didn't you say anything?" Ashley wondered, his voice dripping with concern. Stefan forced himself to look at Ashley and he shook his head.
"I don't... I can't talk about it... look thats not the reason I asked to meet you here..." he said, knowing that the goodbye would have to come soon. The most painful moment of his very short life. Ashley stared back into his eyes, the chirping of the birds and the swaying of the river clear around them. Stefan heard a dog bark a little way off. A loud laugh in the distance. The wind rustling through the leaves. Ashley's breathing. Life. Something Stefan should of held onto, made his own. Lived. But he couldn't. Everybody would go on. Hurting due to him. Knowing that they wouldn't see him again. Thinking it was their fault for not listening to his cry for help. But he didn't want them to hear it. He knew long ago that he was alone with this burden. Nobody needed to be troubled by it. So they shouldn't feel guilty. Stefan was aware it was all his fault and this was him punishing himself.
"I just want to thank you... for being a good friend..." He eventually said, knowing it sounded absolutely ridiculous but he was resorted to nothing more. Ashley raised his eyebrow a little, still the look of sympathy in his eyes but he just waited for Stefan to say more, to Stefan's relief, he didn't want the pain of hearing Ashley's voice too much: "for me, things haven't turned out so great. You don't know but... I've been struggling recently and you also don't know that you've helped me a lot. I mean a lot." Stefan chuckled a little, trying to ease the pain and the difficulty of the conversation.
"I'm... i'm really confused," Ashley laughed a little, although he still sounded scared, "so... what are you trying to say?"
"Uhh... just... you're great, ok? You mean a lot to me." he said slowley, nodding and biting his lip. Ashley's frown deepened and he tightened his grip on his arm. Stefan allowed another tear roll onto his lap and a sob caught in his throat.
"Stefan, tell me now. Whats going on?" Ashley said sternly, looking a little angry but more concerned than anything. Stefan just carried on staring at the water, not knowing that to say, mind completely blank.
"I... dont know... Ash..." he sighed loudly and smiled a little, wondering why it had to all end like this, why everything that had happened had to happen to him, "anyway... dont you have to go to church today? You dont want to be late..." he addded, remembering Ashley's weekly visit to the church services with Nanny Horne. He wondered what Ashley would say if he knew where Stefan was planning to go... what he was planning to do.
Ashley bit his lip and sighed: "Uh, yeah alright Stef... if you wanna chat, like any time at all, then..." he sighed again, frowning a little in thought, clearly loseing his words, "just phone me, even if its in the middle of the night, i dont mind. I'll be there. Because i've been exactly where you are right now and... its not nice." he smirked, looking sideways at Stefan, who looked back at him. They stayed in that moment for a while, just looking at each other, Ashley's eyes more understanding than Stefan had ever seen them. Once again, the love for his best friend took over any other emotion and he turned away, hating himself more than ever. He cleared his throat before speaking again.
"Ok Ash... just go," he said kindly, looking down slightly, wishing they were just an inch closer so their foreheads would be touching, "have fun with your nan, i'll be fine." Ashley finally smiled genuinely and patted him on the shoulder. Stefan automatically reached up and placed his hand on Ashley's. He couldn't help it, the reaction was like a reflex, he closed his eyes and looked away, almost immediately snatching his hand away. Ashley didn't seem to notice. He didn't seem to care. Because he didn't have the same feelings coursing through his veins like Stefan did.
"See you then..." Ashley hopped off the wall and began walking away, waving back at his best friend, who still sat upon the wall, looking a little spaced out, his eyes moist with tears he was willing to keep back. Stefan waved back at him weakly, his hand soon dropping back to his lap, hopelessness taking over his body completely. Stefan watched him disappear behind the bushes and stood up on the wall, slowley bringing himself to his feet. He had a better view of things up here. The dirty water feircely attacking the rocks and the river bank, entwining amongst each other and almost inviting him in. Once more, for the last time, that sad, slow music played in his head, the one he made up by himself on the spot, the one that came to him on the spot, whenever he needed inspiration the lyrics were just there.
A sob forced its way out of his throat and the tears instantly began falling, an uncontrollable waterfall of self loathing and pain escaping because he just couldn't hold any of it back anymore. It was time. He couldn't take it anymore. He couldn't resist the temptation to just... leave it all behind. Because the weight had been pushing him down for far too long now and since happiness had abandonned him and misery had become a friend, he might as well give into it. So he took a deep breath, his face stinging with the harsh wind. His eyes delved deep into the water, fear overtaking him, overwhelming him from every emotion that a usual teenage boy should be feeling. He wished with all his heart that he could switch lives with Ashley at the moment; oblivious, clueless and happy. He couldn't remember what it was like to feel that way.
"I love you mummy..." he sobbed, feeling pathetic and small, weak and hopeless, "i love you daddy... i'm sorry." those were the last words he spoke before he allowed the wind to push him over the wall, his weak body lifeless as he hit the water.