The Eagle Lakes Series
14: Friends and Family
"Ric, it's been hours. What are we going to do?"
"Don't worry, Bird. The boys are out looking and the word's out around town. When someone spots him they'll call us and let us know."
For the first time, Ric's words didn't sooth Bird. Her youngest son was missing and no one had seen him even though Eagle Lakes was a small, close-knit community. Jed was hurting when he rushed away from the house and she worried about his emotional state.
"What's up, Sis?"
"Jed is out there somewhere, Mato. He's not in a good place right now and isn't thinking straight."
"I think Tom would know if he was in trouble."
"Would he? Why am I feeling this way all of a sudden and wouldn't Tom call if he could sense Jed?"
Nova put her book down and looked out of the window. The cold wind from the north had brought snow flurries along with it. She shivered and stood, walking closer to the window, staring out.
"Nova, are you okay?"
"I'm just going out to the barn for a minute. I need to check something."
"Shall I come with you?"
"It's okay, Brother. I'll be back in a bit."
Mato watched as Nova slipped on her jacket and headed out the door. He watched until she was out of sight around the back of the cabin before grabbing his coat and following her.
Jed was shivering uncontrollably. The sawdust pile was doing nothing to keep the bitter north wind and snow away from his half naked body. He was past the stage where he could get up and find better shelter. His violent shivering was the only thing keeping him conscious.
Nova stepped into the barn and looked around. She picked up the lantern she knew was by the open door and lit it, swinging it around, illuminating various parts of the barn. When she got to the sawdust pile she gasped and dropped the lantern, rushing over and falling to her knees beside Jed.
Mato entered the barn and picked up the lantern. "Nova, where are you?"
"Mato, it's Jed! Over here by the sawdust."
He reached his sister in a heartbeat, taking off his coat and helping Nova wrap it round their friend.
"He's freezing, Sis."
"I know. We have to get him into the cabin fast."
Mato bent down and picked up his friend as though he weighed nothing, clasping him tightly to his chest and rushing out into the snow. Nova followed him, a worried frown on her face.
When they were back in the brightly lit cabin and laid Jed on the bed in the guest room, they saw his scars for the first time. Tears filled both their eyes and they looked at each other, lost for words. Nova recovered first and began to loosen Jed's jeans.
"I'll do that, Sis. You go and get some sweats and a t-shirt from my room," Mato said, knowing his friend usually went commando and not wanting to see his sister embarrassed.
Nova was soon back with the clothes and some warm blankets. Mato dressed his friend and stood back letting Nova tend to him.
"We need to keep him warm, Mato. Can you light the fire in here, please?"
When he came back with an arm full of logs, Nova was under the blankets hugging Jed.
"It's the best way to warm him up, Brother," she smiled at the astonished look on his face. "Don't worry, I kept my clothes on."
"Is there anything else I can do," he asked after getting the fire lit.
"We need to call his folks to let them know where he is."
Bird came in from the kitchen carrying a large tray. All the men jumped up to help her but Tomas reached her first. He told her to sit while he poured coffee for everyone. The house phone rang just as he was about to sit. He picked it up.
"Tom, it's Bear."
"Any news, Bear?"
"Yes, we've got him. Nova found him in the barn."
"Is he okay?"
"He's freezing cold. Nova managed to get him to drink some of her sleeping potion when we got him inside."
"Shall I come and get him?"
"I think it's best he stay where he is for the night, Tom. He's settled in the guest room and Nova is getting his core temperature up. I'll get her to call you in a while to update you. Tell Ric and Bird he's fine, will you?"
"Thanks, Bear. I'll let the family know."
Every face was turned to him when he put the phone down.
"Nova found him in their big barn. He was in the sawdust pile trying to get warm. Bear said he was freezing when they found him but they've settled him in the guest room and Nova gave him something to help him rest. She's going to call us later."
"We must go and get him," Bird said.
"No, dear. He's in a good place. Nova will take care of him. It's pointless taking him from a warm place out into the cold to bring him home tonight. Let's just wait for her to call us and be thankful that they found him," Ric replied.
Eliot was on his cell talking quietly. Mel and Ayiana were hugging each other. Only TJ looked anything but happy.
"I've put the word out that he's been found," Eliot said, putting his phone down. "Tom, what's wrong?"
"I can't feel him. I don't feel cold, I can't sense his emotions. It's like he's not there at all."
"Maybe it's because of what he's been through today. Perhaps he's just shut down emotionally for a while."
"You could be right, Dad. With any luck I'll know when he wakes up."
Jed stretched and moaned, shivering a little as he opened his eyes. He looked around wondering where he was. Looking at the decor in the bedroom he found himself in, he realised that he must be in Mato and Nova's guest room. How did he get here? He eased himself up in the bed to rest against the headboard and looked down at the clothes he was wearing. Who had dressed him? Had Nova seen his scars? Would she be disgusted by what she saw? How could he bear to see the look of pity and disgust on the faces of his two best friends in the world? Just then the door opened slowly and Mato looked at his friend.
"Good morning, Jed. Have you warmed up yet?"
Jed could only see friendship in Mato's face and the smile his friend gave him looked genuine and unforced.
"How did I get here, Bear?"
"Nova had sensed that you were in distress, my friend and she found you in the barn. We got you in the house and she spent all night making sure that you warmed up safely. You were turning blue, man."
"We both saw, Jed," Mato said, walking over to sit on the edge of the bed next to his friend.
"How can you bear to be so close to me. I'm a hideous mess."
"Jed, you're our friend. You've been shot at close range and you have to carry the scars for the rest of your life. You are still Jedediah Daniel Hawkins, that hasn't changed. We still love you and always will. We love the whole of you, Jed, not just the external shell."
Jed allowed Mato to hug him close, wondering to himself if they were just words to calm him down or if his friend was being sincere. Before he could speak, the door opened again and Nova came in carrying a tray with hot drinks.
"Good morning, JD. It's good to see you awake and not shivering. I've made you a nice cup of fruit tea."
Jed accepted the steaming mug and smiled shyly to Nova, not trusting himself to speak to her just yet. He studied her face as they all sat together drinking their tea. She looked as she always had. There was no pity or disgust in her expression. Could Bear have been telling the truth? Did they still see him as they always had? Time would tell.
"I can make up the fire in here if you don't feel up to getting up just yet. We can bring your breakfast in here if you like."
"I think I can get up and join you in the kitchen. I'm nice and warm in your sweats, Bear. Do you have anything I can put on my feet?"
"I'll get you some moccasins. They'll keep your feet nice and warm."
Mato went off to his room to find a spare pair of moccasins, leaving Jed and Nova alone in the bedroom. Jed looked at his friend and held out his hand. Nova grabbed hold of him tightly, letting him know she was there for him.
"Thank you," he whispered.
"For what?" she asked.
"For not being repulsed by what you saw last night."
"Oh, Jed. Don't you know by now how I feel about you? I've been in love with you for years. It doesn't matter to me what scars you carry. You are still Jed, my life long friend and nothing will change that.
"I love you, Jed."
Jed blinked back the tears that were forming and stared at Nova. Did she really say she loved him? He held his arms out wide and hugged her as she fell into his embrace. What had he done to deserve the love of this wonderful woman? They were still locked in each others arms when Mato came back into the room.
"I'd say, 'get a room' but you're already in one," he laughed.
After a good, hot breakfast, Mato brought up the subject everyone had avoided throughout the meal.
"Shall I call your folks to come get you, Jed?"
Jed frowned before replying. "Would it be an imposition to ask if I can stay with you for a few days? I don't think I'm ready to face the family just yet. The way I 'unveiled' myself wasn't very subtle. I'm ashamed of the way I behaved and need some time to get to grips with my behaviour."
Nova reached over to take his hand, "I'll give them a call and speak to your dad. He'll understand and I'm sure he'll be able to explain things to Bird so that she realises why you need some time. Have you reached out to Tom?"
Jed shook his head. He didn't understand why but he couldn't feel Tom right now. He actually felt closer to Nova mentally, which was something he had to work out. Perhaps it was because they had both opened up to each other about their feelings.
"Who was on the phone, Ric?"
"It was Nova."
"Oh good. Has she said when Jed is coming home?"
"Bird, could you sit down for a minute, please?" Ric asked. When she was sitting, he continued. "Nova said Jed would be staying with them at the cabin for a few days. He needs to take some time to get his head straight."
Bird looked sad but surprised Ric by not getting upset. "I think I can understand, dear. He's been through an emotional rollercoaster and I think being with Nova and Mato will give him the peace and tranquillity he needs to get himself sorted. Nova can keep an eye on him for us."
"Bird, you're a wonder. I thought you'd have a hissy fit."
"Oh, Ric. Am I really that bad? I think I'm more worried about Tomas right now. He's not been able to sense Jed since he ran off. He thinks Jed is blocking him deliberately."
"I don't think he would know how to do that, or if he did I don't think he would. I'm guessing that his emotions are so mixed up right now that their connection has been temporarily broken."
The days turned into a couple of weeks and still Jed hadn't been in touch with his family. Ric and Bird were worried, Eliot was angry and Tomas was becoming more depressed by the day. Ayiana was doing her best to cheer him up but nothing she did could lift the black cloud over his head. Alex came into the living room and looked around at his new friends.
"Would it be at all possible for me to borrow a vehicle, please?"
"I can take you anywhere you need to go, Alex," Eliot answered.
"Unfortunately, you cannot, my friend. I intend to visit Jedediah."
Tomas looked up at the mention of his twin's name and made to rise.
"No, Tomas. I must do this alone. I think he needs to speak to someone who is not his flesh and blood right now. I will do my best to find out how he is feeling and I shall return as quickly as I can."
Eliot threw his keys across to Alex, "Take my truck and watch out for ice patches."
"Thank you. I will take care."
"Eliot's truck just pulled up," Mato said, coming in from the barn. "Do you want to see him?"
Before Jed could reply, Nova looked out of the window. "Wait, it's not Eliot. It's Alex."
There was a knock on the door and Mato opened it, standing back to allow Alex to enter. Jed couldn't help but smile at his friend. He stood up and walked towards Alex and was soon enveloped in a tight hug.
"It is good to see you, my friend. You have lost weight. Are you well?"
"I'm good, Sacha. It's good to see you too."
"I told your family I would take back news of how you are faring. They are all worried about you."
"How's Tom? Sacha, I can't feel him. For the first time in our lives I feel...empty, empty and lost."
"In a way that is good to hear, my friend. Tomas has sunk into depression as he believes that you have blocked him from yourself."
"Me? Blocked him? I wouldn't know how to even if I ever wanted to. Tell him for me, please?"
"It would be better coming from you, Jed."
"I...I'm not ready yet, Sacha. Soon...but not yet. Could you let everyone know how sorry I am? Sorry to have made them worry. Sorry to be an asshole. Sorry to have let them all down."
"If that is your wish I shall let them know. Let me say this, though, you are missed and you are loved. Do not leave it too long, my friend. Your bridge is a little charred, not completely burned."
Alex stayed long enough to have some coffee and a slice of pie Nova had made earlier and then made his way back to relay his news to the family.
"Nova, Bear...I need to go home," Jed said one morning over breakfast.
"Your mum will be so happy, Jed," Bear answered.
"I'm going home, not to my folks place. Nova, would you come with me? I don't think I want to be alone right now."
Nova looked at her brother and he nodded slightly. He didn't want his friend to be alone but knew that he had to make the first step back to normality. He was happy that the couple in front of him had finally opened up their hearts to each other and knew it was right for Nova to leave with Jed.
"Yes, Jed. I would be honoured to go with you to your home. When shall we leave?"
"How long will it take you to pack?"
"Oh, man. I may as well get lunch started. She'll take all morning to get her shit together," Mato laughed.
"Hey, big brother, watch it. I can be ready in 15 minutes, Jed. I just need to throw some clothes and toiletries in a bag and I'm all yours. We can get more as and when I need it. It's not like we're going a million miles away."
"Fifty bucks says she'll be at least twice as long," Mato said when his sister had left the room.
"You're on," Jed replied, knowing that was one bet he was sure to win. Mato should know by now that when his sister put her mind to something she carried it out to the letter.
Fourteen minutes later she was back with a full bag. She smiled as Mato groaned and took out his wallet.
"How much?" she asked.
"Fifty," Jed replied. " We'll stop off at the store on the way and get some basic groceries with this."
Bird was keeping herself busy. She'd spent all morning baking and now she was dusting and polishing anything that wasn't moving. She walked into the main living room and noticed Tomas. He was just sitting staring out of the window, not seeing anything in front of him.
"Tomas, are you all right, darling?"
He looked up and sighed, "I'm fine, Ma. I think I'll go over to Jed's and do a bit of yard work. Just because he's not there doesn't mean we have to let it go wild."
"That's a good idea, son. Jed will appreciate it."
"Will he, Ma?"
Bird sighed as she watched her second son walk slowly out on to the terrace before making his way around to his jeep.
Nova was arranging some flowers when she saw Tomas pull up outside. He got out some garden tools and looked around the front yard before starting work. She smiled sadly as she watched him. He was hurting so bad. She walked through to the bedroom and looked at Jed. He was sleeping but he wasn't resting. He'd been struck down with a raging headache earlier in the day and after throwing up in the bathroom, was now lying there in the dark. She walked back to the front of the house and opened the door.
"Hi, TJ. How are you?"
"Oh, hey, Nova. I'm good thanks. A bit of a headache but working in the fresh air should clear it," he said, looking over at Nova and seeing her smile. "What?"
"Come inside, TJ. Jed's here."
"That may not be a good idea."
"Tom, he's in bed with a raging headache."
TJ followed her through the front door and stopped, frowning. He staggered a little and grasped onto the door frame. Nova turned and rushed over to him.
"I think Jed's waking up...Nova, I can feel his pain...where is he?"
TJ rushed to the master bedroom and opened the door. He slowly looked in and saw his twin groaning in the large bed. He walked over and sat on the edge looking down at Jed.
"JD," he said quietly.
Jed moaned and turned towards the voice. He tried to open his eyes, squinting against what little light there was in the darkened room.
TJ held open his arms and helped Jed as he tried to sit up. They were soon hugging each other tightly, tears running down both their faces. Nova stood in the doorway crying along with them. Who would have thought that a headache would be what brought the brothers back together again. Now all it needed was for Jed to make his peace with the rest of his friends and family.
TO BE CONTINUED...
BACK TO CHAPTER 13
BACK TO LIBRISCROWE