Author: friendoftheearth PM
Aaron runs from his demons...Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Aaron L. - Chapters: 35 - Words: 66,602 - Reviews: 187 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 10 - Updated: 02-04-13 - Published: 08-03-11 - id: 7247418
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
My thanks to Sylvain for the beta work.
Returning home, Aaron leant against the kitchen counter and stared at the clock. He knew Micah's Sunday routine like the back of his hand. The morning service would be ending soon; Micah would then set things up for the evening service before leaving to make his home visits. They usually took a good few hours, Aaron didn't want to wait that long before telling him about Marc, about his father. With only himself for company he'd do his usual brooding, which would only leave him on a downer. Anyway, Micah needed to know about it because it was going to affect him, too.
When certain he had given the congregation enough time to leave, Aaron made his way to the church. Pushing the heavy wooden door open, he took a tentative step inside. He spotted Micah instantly as he was walking down the aisle towards the door. It seemed he'd caught him just in time
Micah's greeting had been accompanied by a huge smile, he was obviously both surprised and pleased to see him just like Aaron knew he would be.
"Is it safe to come in? I'm not going to be hit by a thunderbolt or anything, am I?" His teasing had made Micah laugh.
"Missing me, were you?" Micah said as he pulled his boyfriend into his arms.
"You could say that." Aaron tensed a little; he didn't think they should be getting all touchy-feely in here. Micah certainly didn't have a problem with it though, he'd just dropped a kiss on his lips.
"Well, what do you think?" Micah asked gesturing around him.
Aaron let his gaze sweep around the church, around what was an alien environment as far as he was concerned. It was obviously old, the stained glass windows impressive. It was quiet, peaceful, it had a nice feel to it, but he wasn't sure how best to sum it up. But Micah obviously had a great affection for the place and he wanted to say the right thing, "Yeah it's... I like it."
"It needs some work, but considering its age, it's not in too bad a nick. I don't think you're here for a guided tour though, are you? Aaron?
"No. We needed milk so I went to Maudie's."
"And?" Micah said as he led Aaron over to the nearest pew. He knew his boyfriend was working his way up to telling him something, the fact he'd actually come here to tell him meant it was something of importance.
"Marc was there, you know from football practice. Did you know he was Tom Bryant's son?
"Yes… but to be honest, I'd forgotten all about the connection. Why? What's happened?"
"Bryant's told him not to talk to me, that he can't come to practice. In other words, to keep well away from me!"
"And his reason?" He already had a good idea what that was but he wondered what reason Bryant had given his son.
"Because I'm gay."
"He knows full well I'm gay but he never stopped Marc coming to any of the sessions I took."
"Which just goes to prove he's got it in for me."
"It certainly adds credence to it being him making the phone calls.'' He'd been certain it was Bryant, still he'd hoped he was wrong. "I don't know where he thinks it will get him; it's his son who'll miss out."
"And it's not going to stop at his son, is it? I bet only a handful of those boys, if that, turn up to next week's practice."
"Everyone around here knows I'm gay. No one's ever had a problem with me coaching their son, why should they have a problem with you?"
"You haven't killed anyone, I have."
"You didn't kill Jackson…"
"Come on, Micah! You know some people will see it as murder, just like Jerry does, like Bryant obviously does. He's not going to keep what he knows to himself, not knowing it will stir up trouble for me. We knew this was coming, that what happened with Jackson would come out. We just didn't know how… well we do now. I just wish…"
"I just wish it didn't involve those lads."
"We don't know for sure it will…"
"Alright, one or two of the parents might take issue with it. But you can't lose faith in a whole community just because of one idiot…"
"You're going to have to look for someone else to take the sessions."
"What? You're not going to give in that easily are you, before there's even any real hint of a problem?"
"That way it won't get to be a problem."
"You need to stand your ground…"
"You think I'm running from it, don't you? Well I'm not."
"But by not facing up to it, by not meeting it head on, you're doing exactly that. And apart from that, those boys are counting on you, you saw their faces when they realised they had a permanent coach. You can't let them down and you can't let yourself down, and that's what you'd be doing Aaron."
"And when one of them asks me about Jackson, how do I answer him?"
"You just tell him the truth; you tell him how it really was. We've talked about this, haven't we? Like you said, we knew it was coming, it's something you knew you would have to do."
"Yeah, but they're just kids!"
"Kids appreciate honesty more than adults. And they're more open-minded than them too. I wouldn't worry about telling those boys, I think they just might surprise you."
Aaron sat silently thinking on Micah's words; heaving a resolved sigh, he said, "You're right. It's the so-called grownups that'll be the problem, and you're right about me running too, old habits die hard!" He forced a smile, wanting to reassure Micah he was back on track.
"You can do this, Aaron."
"Yeah." He liked that Micah had such faith in him; he just wished he had the same kind of belief in himself. "Shouldn't you be going?" Aaron didn't want to discuss it anymore and he certainly didn't want to keep Micah from doing his job.
Micah checked his watch, "Mrs. Carter will have the kettle on the boil as we speak… but she won't mind me being late, it wouldn't be the first time. So if you need to talk this through some more then…"
"No, you've got me over the wobbler! I'm alright now."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah." And that was the end of the matter as far as he was concerned, for now anyway. He wasn't going to think about it again today, and not until he had to.
He walked with Micah to his car. Just as he was about to get into the vehicle, the older man suddenly groaned in annoyance.
"I didn't lock the sacristy door!" It was the last thing he did normally but, with Aaron being there, he'd been distracted, had completely forgotten about it.
"It's where I keep everything of importance. I'll have to go back and …"
"You're already running late; I'll do it if you like."
"Would you? That would be great, here…" Micah fished the church keys out of his trouser pocket and pointed out the ones Aaron would need. "That big key is for the main door, and that funny-looking one there is for the sacristy, it's the small room to the left of the altar. You might have to play about with it, it's an old lock and a bit temperamental. One of these days, I might just get round to replacing it!"
Aaron waited until Micah was driving away before making his way back to the church. He left the main door open expecting his task to only take him a minute, but he had struggled to lock the door in question. Micah had warned him about it, had said it needed replacing, well that was something he could do, how hard could it be?
As he'd walked back into the main body of the church, a shrill voice echoed around him, startling him as it did so.
"What are you doing in here?"
Aaron had only ever seen Milly Holden from a distance, but he'd have known her anywhere, and to his horror, she was now standing just feet away from him! She looked so prim and proper with her white hair pulled up into a bun and her stick-thin frame covered by some drab coloured coat.
He didn't like the way she was looking at him, or the tone of voice she'd just used, nor her question to him for that matter! It had put him on the defensive and he snapped back, "I could ask you the same thing."
"This is my place of worship!"
Milly's indignant reply had only served to irritate him some more, "Morning service ended nearly an hour ago!"
"Then why is the door open when Reverend James isn't here? He always locks the door."
"I know and I'll be locking it when I leave."
"Does he know you're here?"
"Of course he does, why? Do you think I've been helping myself to the silver while his back's turned?" He could tell by the look on Milly's face that she believed him up to no good. No surprises there. She'd taken against him ever since she'd witnessed his aggression towards Tom Bryant. She'd reported him to the Bishop… he suddenly remembered Bishop Peters' words, his thoughts on Milly and realised he was handling the situation badly, he needed to back down. Taking a calming breath he said, "Sorry. I know you're just looking out for Micah, protecting his interests, but he doesn't need protecting from me."
The iciness in her eyes, in her voice told him Milly knew about Jackson. Yeah, that would be right! Bryant would make a point of telling someone like Milly, someone who would kick up the most fuss. He was on the defensive again now, "Meaning?"
"The Reverend James is a good man…"
He shouldn't be interrupting but he couldn't stop himself, "You mean too good for the likes of me?" He wasn't going to give her chance to answer, "I'd have to agree with you there." That admission appeared to have thrown Milly, she seemed lost for words but not for long.
"What you did was wrong!"
Milly knew alright! At least she knew what Bryant had told her, and that, no matter where he'd got the information, wouldn't be the whole story, it wouldn't be the truth. She had no right judging him, "In your opinion."
"In the eyes of God!"
"He might have been there but you weren't! You don't know anything about Jackson, about what he went through. You don't know how unbearable his life had become and how desperate he was to end it." Milly had just visibly flinched at his words, they'd obviously had some kind of an impact on her, had sickened her probably. That was just too bad. He hadn't finished yet.
"I loved him and I did everything I could to make him change his mind, so did his mum. But nothing we said or did made any difference. He'd made up his mind. It was his decision. I didn't want him to die. I didn't want to go through life without him.'' He saw something flash in Milly's eyes, for a heartbeat he thought it was understanding, but realised it couldn't be, not from someone as cold and unfeeling as she seemed to be.
"I told him I wouldn't help him do it. I couldn't! But when the time came, his mum… she… she just wasn't strong enough… so I helped him find the peace he was so desperate for." That was all Milly needed to know, more than she needed to know, but he felt happier knowing she now knew the truth and not just some sensationalized version from Bryant.
He never had been able to control his emotions, his tears always fell way too easily, he knew there were tears in his eyes now, they'd come out of nowhere yet again. He wanted to turn away, he wanted to hide them, but he couldn't, he had to look Milly Holden in the eye. He had to keep his head held high like Micah had told him to do. In the end, it was her who turned away, hurrying then towards the door.
He'd expected some reaction from her, had been ready for one, ready to defend what he'd done still further. But she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction! He slumped down onto a nearby seat, trying to rein in his emotions, annoyed at the fact he'd let them get the better of him again.
It was some time before he realised he was no longer alone, that Milly was now walking back down the aisle towards him. So she did want another pop at him then! He forced himself to meet her gaze, not quite able to believe it when she sat down beside him. There was something different about her now, something he couldn't put his finger on, and when she started to speak, her voice was soft and low, confusing him even more.
"My husband was a good man, a man of great dignity. He accepted everything life threw at him with grace and fortitude. We were never blessed with children; Harry used to say it just wasn't meant to be. So it was always just the two of us. We had forty wonderful years together before a stroke robbed him of everything except his mind. That remained as agile as it had always been.
"At first, I could see frustration in his eyes, he wanted to get better, he wanted his life back. But slowly, that frustration turned to despair. I would tell myself I was imagining what I saw in his eyes, the pleading, the begging… and so his suffering went on for the longest time.
"I let them keep him alive; I let them prolong his agony. I just sat there and held his hand… I couldn't bear the thought of life without him. I wish I'd had the strength to say enough, no more. I wish I'd had the courage to let him go."
He was suddenly aware of Milly pressing something into his hand, a hanky, her fingers then gently folded around his. Left dazed by her words and comforting gesture he could only stare after her when she rose to her feet and slowly walked away.