Scorpion Grasses: Part 3
Author's Note: Me, says part 3 will be short. Also me, makes part 3 the longest chapter. Oh well, what can I say? I got a little carried away because I love Eddie. Anyway, this was a blast to write. Please let me know what you think! Also, I keep forgetting to mention that Scorpion Grasses are another name for Forget-Me-Nots (pretty blue flowers), which is where our title comes from. Oh, also this post marks me hitting over 500,000 words of fic on this site B)
Richie had only been gone for four days when Eddie's mother declared that it was bill day. Bill day, despite the fun sounding name (a day just for Big Bill? Sign Eddie up), was actually comprised of the three most boring hours of Eddie's month.
The day was poorly disguised by Sonia Kaspbrak as a chance for mother/son bonding, which also served to teach Eddie a valuable life skill. In reality, Sonia was just too vain to admit that she needed glasses and couldn't see the numbers on the bills anymore. Thus Eddie became her eyes.
So once a month she and Eddie sat down together, and Sonia walked him through the bill paying process and then balancing the checkbook. It was a task so boring that the 13 year old could cry. It also made him think of Stan, which also made him want to cry because Stan wasn't boring, and Eddie missed him.
Sonia Kaspbrak was already seated at the kitchen table when she sent Eddie outside to check the mail for any late bills (Eddie's mother would complain for 20 minutes if there were any because 'If those people expect to be paid they should have the decency to send the bill out on time. Don't they care about punctuality? Eddie, you know how important it is to be punctual, don't you? Of course you do, you're mommy's good boy.').
As Eddie pulled the few pieces of mail out of the mailbox he stewed. Each day since Richie had gone Eddie had become more and more irritable towards his mother. Rationally he knew it wasn't her fault that Richie had moved, but he also knew that she was planning to take him away and didn't even have the guts to tell him. Of course, even if she wasn't secretly planning a move he still would have been mad at her simply because she was an adult and a parent, and why did adults never care what their children wanted?
Eddie barely scanned the mail as he walked back into the house, too busy trying to think of a way to get away from his mother. It was purely chance that as he entered the kitchen he happened to see his name on an envelope in Richie's messy scrawl. His hand moved seemingly without his thoughts as he shoved the envelope deep into his pocket.
His mother looked up, hearing the sound. Her eyes were bad, but her hearing was good.
"What was that, Eddie?" She asked, suspicious of him instantly.
"Nothing, Mama. Just the new Highlight's," Eddie said as casually as possible before he went to the table and sat down next to her, his arm brushing hers.
A few minutes ago he was as close to hating her as he'd ever been, but now he just needed to keep the letter in his pocket to himself. So he did what he'd taken to doing since the end of the summer where the losers got together.
He sat close to her and laid his head on her shoulder and then looked up at her with wide, innocent eyes, "Can you explain how to do this again? I kind of forget."
In his eyes and voice and body language he made sure he said what she wanted to hear. He said, Momma, please help me with this very difficult thing. I'm just a boy after all, your little boy. I need your help with everything I do- I always will. I love you so much. I doubt I could ever function without you here taking care of me. I've very fragile, and sometimes it's like I can hardly wipe my own ass without you, Ma.
Some days he did it to throw her a bone, others it was in an exchange. Today it was an exchange. Three hours where he pretended he was solely dependent on her in exchange for her pretending she didn't know he was hiding something in his pocket.
As usual she looked at him, considering him and perhaps realizing that she should be afraid of him, before announcing her agreement with a soft smile and a hand through his hair. She was just as good at pretending as he was.
"Oh course, Eddie. You know your mother's always here to take care you," she said it tenderly, her heart so full of that feeling that she thought was love but was really fear and dependence and a need for control.
"Thanks, ma," he said smiling brightly up at her.
In that moment, if the house were to catch on fire he'd save the letter before he saved her. But then that was assuming he'd save her at all.
Five hours later, when bills had been paid and gameshows had been watched, Eddie was finally able to retreat up to his room.
Before the door was even shut, he'd had the letter out and half open. He was shoving a chair under the doorknob (his mother didn't allow any locks on doors other than the ones leading outside- including the bathroom), when he realized it was completely blank.
He sank to the floor as he flipped over the piece of notebook paper to check the other side. But it was what it was—completely blank.
Hot tears welled in his eyes and his breathing thinned. It was a mistake. It couldn't be blank. Richie wasn't so cruel. Not Richie who had let him kiss him. Not Richie who made him laugh. Not Richie who—
The realization of why the paper was blank hit him suddenly and sent him scrambling for the shelf where he kept his markers. He grabbed a blue one out of a plastic tub and almost sent the whole thing flying, but managed to shove it back. He then flew back to the paper on the floor and began coloring the entire thing in blue marker.
It'd been last year when Richie had gotten the 'invisible pen,' the white marker (not a pen despite the name) that drew on clear but then could be seen when you colored over it. For months Richie had used the damn thing to write secret messages to his friends, which more often than not consisted of dick pictures. Eddie had almost forgotten about it. But luckily only almost.
Words appeared before him and Eddie felt his breathing evening out again. Within a few seconds he had a letter in front of him, one so secret that Richie had made sure that Mrs. Kaspbrak hadn't been able to read it. Eddie wanted to savor it. He read it quickly instead and then read it over and over again until the words were memorized.
My dearest, most darling, most specialest Eds,
I wish I was writing this from my new house, but I'm not. I'm writing from my bedroom, where a few minutes ago you climbed out my window, and a minute after that I puked out of it (what a busy hole in the wall, am I right?).
Anyway, I wish I knew what to write you. It's hard because you just left, and the thing most on my mind in kissing you again. Yowza, kissing is fun. But I also want to talk to you more, pinch your cheeks, and maybe get married and get a dog or something. You make a guy feel awfully queer, Kaspbrak.
I guess a good thing to say is that I'm glad you kissed me. I'm sorry I was scared to. It's fucking nuts to think I would have spent my last night sleeping instead of with my tongue in your mouth. Fuck, that's where my tongue was meant to be, Eds. And I guess the rest of me was meant to be with the rest of you.
I don't want to get too sappy with this, but I really love you, Eddie. A lot. I think maybe I have since I met you. I saw your cute little cheeks and was hooked. Or maybe it was just how you talked. You always had a comeback or sometimes something nice to say. I really like that. I hope when I see you again you have lots to say. You know I'll talk your ear off either way.
With all of my heart, soul, and record collection,
The Love of Your Damn Life,
P.S. 25 years or sooner, your ass is mine, Eds. Anyone else can forget it.
Eddie stayed up late into the night looking at the letter, running his fingertips over it until they were stained blue with marker. He thought about the night they'd shared only a few days ago and dreamed of sharing more of them. He imagined them older, away from their parents, just being together. He'd have a Cadillac and Richie would always ride shotgun and control the music, and maybe they'd have a dog sitting in the backseat. Eddie figured his mother was lying about him being allergic anyway.
And they'd be with the other losers, too. All of them together, taking drives and going wherever they wanted to go. And he and Richie would be holding hands, and their friends wouldn't care. No—they would care. Because they'd be happy for them.
In the back of his mind something tried to nip at Eddie's fantasy, something dark that wanted him to remember that when he saw Richie again it wouldn't be anywhere near as wonderful as he was imagining it.
But he pushed it away and kept the darkness out of his pure dreams. He thought of blissful, happy things until he could barely keep his eyes open, and then he folded up the letter and hid it in the trunk of his largest and most favorite model car (one of few hiding spots he didn't think his mother had discovered yet).
Over the course of the next few months Eddie read the letter hundreds of times. No one had heard from Richie other than that one letter, just as they suspected no one would. So when Eddie missed him he pulled out his letter and thought about a future where they were together. He figured he'd pay whatever price was necessary for that. And when his time in Derry was coming to a close, he packed the letter up with his model cars and hoped that it would mean something to the him that would be reborn in New York.
Eddie spent his final childhood days in Derry with his friends, much like Richie had before he left.
He smoked his first cigarette ever with Bev, coughing the whole time but not stopping because the burning itch from smoking felt nothing like the constriction he felt when he was having an 'asthma' attack. Bev also didn't care about the fit that his lungs were throwing, instead letting him choke it out because she said he wasn't smoking any worse than she had the first time.
In between coughs they talked about everything, a stark change from their usual time alone. In the past when it was just the two of them, they were quiet. It had never been an uncomfortable quiet, but one that was soft and safe. One where they passed comics back and forth, and usually the only noise happened when they caught each other's eyes over a book and started laughing for no reason. Or maybe the reason had simply been because together they felt light.
But the last time they talked they weren't quiet because the safety they felt together was cracking and neither of them could bare to ignore it.
They talked about forgetting.
Bev told him about how she'd known she'd never hear from Richie again, but couldn't say it to him or even to herself until it happened. She talked about how she'd felt guilty because she'd tried to convince herself that Stan just hadn't wanted to call and that Richie would want to, and how awful the thought was because Stan wasn't like that.
Eddie told her that he'd talked to Richie that night, leaving out that they'd kissed because telling her that would have felt like saying 'I miss him more' when he knew that he could never miss him any more or any less than Bev or the other losers did. He told her that Richie had known what was coming, that he was facing it how he did everything, with terrible jokes and a forced confidence that had everyone believing in Richie, even when Richie didn't.
They talked about how scared they were of forgetting who they'd grown to be. They'd both learned what love really was that summer and forgetting that terrified them in a way that none of the others could have understood. They both promised that they'd learn again if they had to, even if it wasn't for 25 years.
They cried together. Frantic tears as they both tried to put into words their fear and their love.
And then they spent their last half hour together in silence, wrapped into one another trying to absorb the safety they felt together before they had to part, Bev to help her mother and Eddie to meet with Ben and Mike.
Mike took Eddie and Ben fishing. He told them about how sometimes a man needed to go fishing, about how he'd taken Richie fishing, and about how he regretted not taking Stan.
None of them could imagine Stan putting the muddy worms on the hook, but Mike said he would have done that part for him; fishing wasn't actually about the fishing.
Eddie found that he agreed with that as he spent the afternoon on the boat. They put worms on hooks and pulled fish out of the water, one flopping onto Ben's face before falling out of the boat while they all cackled, but that wasn't the point. It was the freedom and the peace. There was a certain ease that fell over Eddie as the three of them sat shoulder to shoulder with poles in their hands looking out at the water. Fishing wasn't about fishing.
When they got back to the house Mike had offered to teach them to gut the fish and Ben and Eddie had foolishly agreed. As it turned out, the worms were not the grossest part of the fishing experience. Eddie couldn't believe when he heard that Mike had spared Richie the gutting experience. Of course the one person who might have almost enjoyed it got out of it. But still they laughed throughout the process and Eddie left feeling more like an adult (at least an un-traumatized one) than he ever had.
It was dark when he left, but he didn't go home. He went to Bill's house. He had one more full day in Derry before he left early in the morning and he planned to spend that time with Bill.
Bill had been home from Bangor for about an hour when Eddie arrived. The two immediately went to the kitchen where Eddie called his mother on the Denbrough's telephone while Bill stood watch in the kitchen doorway.
Eddie told his mother that he was staying the night at Bill's and then all of the next day too. They fought for a few minutes, which ended with Eddie telling her that it she wanted to call the cops to get him home, then that was fine. He'd just throw the biggest, most dramatic fit anyone in Derry had ever seen, and he'd make sure it was good and public, too. He promised it'd be one so big that the embarrassment would follow her all the way to New York.
He then hung up the phone and the two boys let Bill's parents know that Sonia was okay with Eddie staying the night. When the cops didn't show up, the two boys laughed and joked that she must have been.
The two boys stayed up late listening to records quietly while they read comic books. They finally went to sleep at the third warning they received from Bill's mother for noise.
They both crawled into Bill's bed after Eddie had changed into some of Bill's oversized pajamas. At some point in their friendship Bill's father had mentioned that they were really too old to be sharing a bed anymore, and they had stopped because Bill's father had taken the time to acknowledge Bill to say it.
But this time it wasn't a discussion. Eddie didn't ask if he could and Bill didn't ask if he wanted to, and no look was shared between them. They simply got in the bed together, went to sleep shoulder to shoulder, and woke up holding each other.
They spent the next day together. They went all over Derry, Bill riding Eddie double as they went too fast through the streets, making the most of their time and challenging cars to hit them.
They saw a movie at the Aladdin, then got burgers from the bowling alley, which they ate before going to the train tracks. Usually Eddie went to the tracks alone. He liked watching the trains go, loved it when one carrying cars went by. But this time he wanted Bill with him.
They watched for a long time and they talked. Bill was able to put into words why Eddie liked it. He waxed poetry about freedom that Eddie would have never been able to form in his mind, let alone state verbally. But Bill had a way with words and a way with Eddie, and Eddie loved him fiercely for it.
'Do y-you want me to stay the n-n-night so t-that I'm there in the morning?' Bill had asked suddenly when they were getting ready to leave the tracks.
Eddie had stood stock still, the answer stuck in his throat. He wondered if that was how talking felt for Bill all the time. 'I'd rather you didn't.'
'I'm g-glad. I-I don't think I-I could sta-and it. W-watching y-you go, I mean.' Bill had said, and his stutter had been so bad that Eddie had grabbed him and hugged him firmly, Bill's head falling on his shoulder.
'I don't want you to see me cry this time, Bill. I'm always crying in front of you. I just want to be strong for you for once.' Eddie confessed, tears only held back by the force of his will.
'You have been.' And then Bill had pulled away and looked at him and something in his eyes said he was remembering, but his gaze was so intense and for a second Eddie thought he might kiss him and then he burst out into laughter so hard that he did cry a little.
Bill had been grinning suddenly, 'I was serious!'
But Eddie shook his head as his laughter quieted, 'I was just remembering something that Richie said before he left.' God, could he picture Richie with that 'I told you so' grin, egging him on to give Bill a big wet one even though he knew Eddie wouldn't.
'S-Something Richie said made y-you laugh?' Bill had asked, smirk on his face, and then they were both giggling the way 13 year olds did when something was too funny.
After they left the tracks they wandered through town. They hit up more of their favorite spots, talking and laughing the whole time as though they had nothing to worry about. And for awhile it really did feel like there was nothing to worry about.
Eddie had felt good with Bill by his side, like nothing could touch him. It always felt like that when Bill was around though. Because when Bill was around you could outrun the devil and your lungs were as big as buildings.
But then it had gotten dark, and as the night chill had set in Bill had walked Eddie home, pushing his bike beside them to stretch out their time together.
They stopped a house away from Eddie's where they wouldn't be seen by Sonia, who they knew was in the living room peeking out the blinds every 30 second or so.
'G-guess this is it. You su-ure you d-don't want me t-to stay?' Bill had asked as he laid Silver down in the grass gently.
'Yeah. You still sure you don't want to?' Eddie had asked.
Then they'd hugged for a long moment in the dark, and it was only when Eddie had felt Bill's body shake that he'd realized that Big Bill was crying.
He'd been shocked and hadn't known what to do at first. He'd never thought that Bill would cry when he was holding it together. So Eddie had pulled him in closer and tried to steady himself.
'It's okay, Billy.' Eddie had tried, even as tears welled in his own eyes.
'I-I'm sc-scared I-I-I'm gonna b-be l-last,' Bill had spit out, a complete stuttering mess in Eddie's arms.
'What are you talking about?' Eddie had asked even though if he'd taken a moment to think about it, he would have known.
Bill had pulled away from Eddie, wiping his eyes as he spoke, 'E-everyone's l-l-l-l—FUCK! Leaving! S-Someone's g-g-going to leave l-last.'
It felt the way it did every winter when Richie would put a handful of snow down his jacket. He always knew it was going to happen, but he never thought about it enough to expect it. The cold sting shocked him every time.
Eddie had known when they left that they would forget, but he didn't let himself dwell on the fact that one by one they were leaving Derry. It wasn't coincidence, he didn't think. They were all being forced out. Probably they all would be.
And that meant that one person would be last. One person would watch everyone go. Feel the pain of losing the six people who made them invincible. And then they would be left alone in the town where it happened. Where It lived.
Even if it was just for a little while, just a week or two, Eddie didn't know how any of them could stand it. Derry was bad- a town filled with blood once you got to looking. How could any of them be expected to be there alone?
'I-I'm s-scared it's gonna b-be me. But I-I'm scared it w-won't be. I d-don't wa-want it t-to be any of t-them,' Then Bill had gone stick straight, tears drying at once, and Eddie had feared his next words. 'E-Eddie, It's in the sewer. Did… Is It dead?'
Bill hadn't looked like he had fully understood the question he had asked, and truthfully Eddie hadn't either. But they were both still terrified. They understood plenty enough to be terrified.
Eddie latched onto Bill and held him tight. Something inside him told him that, no, whatever it was wasn't dead. That's what they were coming back for.
'I-I don't know, Bill.' But he did know, and so did Bill.
'You'll come back?' Bill's stuttering had stopped.
'For you, Bill.' And Eddie knew that he would, for Bill and for the rest of them.
Bill had squeezed his shoulders and then he'd disconnected their bodies. He'd nodded and Eddie had nodded back, and then they'd gone their separate ways.
Eddie had barely made it through the door before his tears started. But he hadn't cried in front of Bill and that had been enough.
Eddie and Sonia Kaspbrak left early in the morning for New York despite having had a rather late night. Sonia had been up waiting for Eddie to return home ('I was so worried I was about to call the police!'), and when he'd entered into the front door only to immediately break out into tears, she had panicked.
It had taken Eddie near half an hour to explain that he wasn't hurt or sick; he was sad ('Do you know what sad is? Am I allowed to feel anything without having to go to the emergency room?).
And then his mother had cried, and then he'd cried more, and it'd continued until finally they'd both had enough and had gone to their separate bedrooms.
Suffice it to say, the trip thus far had been awkward and tense. Eddie had only spoken to his mother in clipped sentences in the morning and hadn't talked to her at all on the cab ride to the train station.
It wasn't until they were boarded onto the train, their own private compartment (too many germs otherwise), that Sonia couldn't seem to stand the silence any longer.
"How do you like the train, Eddie? I know you've always wanted to ride in one."
A part of Eddie wanted to bite out, 'Yeah, and you never let me until it was convenient for you,' or perhaps something even nastier, but he knew it wasn't fair.
She was his mother, and she was honestly trying. He knew she wasn't impressed with the train, the way she wasn't impressed by most things that had a possibility of crashing, but she was pretending for him. Or at the very least she wasn't complaining about it to his face.
Eddie shrugged. "The inside doesn't look like I thought it would. I thought it'd be more industrial."
Eddie wondered how much of his mother was actually his mother and how much of her was Derry. As they chugged along the tracks, getting farther and farther from his hometown, Eddie could feel the forgetting starting. Already the bad thing that had happened that summer had been reduced to the bad thing. Eddie couldn't for the life of him remember what it was, but he knew it was the reason why he was forgetting.
He wondered if his mother would forget things too. He wondered if she would still be as overbearing in New York, and if there she would still want him to be sick if that's what it took for him not to leave her.
He thought for a moment that maybe there was a chance that while he was forgetting who he was, his mother was forgetting what Derry had made her. Maybe she could learn to love him right. Maybe he could love her and still keep his breath.
But then Sonia Kaspbrak spoke.
"I don't know what's been happening to you, Eddie, but things will be different in New York. They'll be better. We'll go back to how it used to be. You'll be my sweet little boy again; I know you will. And I won't ever let anything bad happen to you."
Fear and anger boiled up and fought within Eddie as his lungs threatened to squeeze him dry of air.
She wanted to go back to before. Back to broken lungs, no friends, and fear. So much fear. Choking fear.
She'd never change. She was born in Derry, and Derry lived inside her. She would choke him. God if he let her, she would choke him.
And he was forgetting.
He couldn't breathe.
"Eddie? Eddie! Let me get someone!" She stood to get help, but before she could open their compartment door he grabbed her arm like a vice.
His breathing was shallow, but he spoke, "No." He forced his breathing to even, replacing his fear with all the anger he had.
"Eddie, you need your inhaler. And I need to find a doctor—"
"I said no." His voice didn't shake, and his lungs were filled.
"I don't need a doctor, and I don't need my damn inhaler because I don't have fucking asthma," Sonia moaned in sorrow at his choice of language. "But I do need you to listen to me, because things are going to be different in New York. Because you don't have any bargaining chips there. Without my friends around there's nothing for you to use against me, nothing for you to trade. You don't have a way to control me anymore, Ma. So get used to that. You did it to yourself."
His mother's tears dried instantly, and she stared at him dumbfounded. But it wasn't just that. In that moment he was a stranger to her, a stranger in her delicate son's body making demands of his behalf. He was an adult, and she was scared of him.
But the moment passed and she shook her head quickly, almost in an uncontrollable way. "This isn't you. This isn't you. It'll get better. I know it will. I know it."
"I hate you." It was the only time he'd ever said it to her, and a part of him couldn't believe that he had. But a bigger part of him, the part of him that had grown out of the summer with the sewers that he no longer remembered, felt righteous. She deserved to be hated for what she had created out of him, for what she had tried to make him be. Her delicate, fragile boy who was too afraid to leave her side.
But that wasn't him. He wasn't delicate or fragile. He was strong, he could run, and he could breathe. He was brave. So brave that the only thing he truly feared anymore was forgetting that.
His words were a final stand. Let her know how things would be, so that even if he forgot his demands, she wouldn't. Let her remember that he hated her, even if he forgot. Even if it was pushed so far down inside of himself that it only came up to help fight the choking when he was sure he was going to take his last breath. Let her remember. And let it be enough for things to change.
She didn't say anything in response. Maybe she knew that if she pushed him, his words would only hit harder. Maybe she was too angry. Maybe she was too scared. Maybe she hated him too, because she'd only ever known how to love things that bent the way she wanted them to. But it didn't matter. She turned away from him, and they sat in silence.
Eddie closed his eyes as he leaned his head against the cool glass window of the train, not wanting to get distracted by the scenery passing by.
He closed his eyes, and he thought about the things he wanted to remember, about the six people who he loved so dearly and so much more than himself. He thought of their faces and how they made him laugh.
And then slowly he felt the details leave him.
He forgot the finer features of their faces and which comics were their favorites, but it wasn't until he realized that he couldn't remember Bill's last name that he truly began to panic.
Bill. Big Bill. Big Bill what? What was his last name? Eddie couldn't remember. But he knew that Bill had been there the longest. That he'd known Bill since he could remember knowing anybody. But he was still losing him.
Why was he losing Bill? Bill hadn't become part of his life when… When the others had. Bill had always been there. Why was he forgetting him too?
It wasn't fair. He hadn't prepared for the loss the way he had the others. How had he known to prepare at all?
Silent tears were rolling down his face as he tried to hold on to his memories. He was losing them. He was losing all six of them.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
He couldn't hold on. He knew he couldn't. There was no way to hold them all, not even to hold one. So instead he picked one moment. One moment to signify everything he was losing.
He thought of kissing Richie. Of kissing a boy in awkward light with big glasses and unruly hair. He thought of being brave, brave enough to kiss a boy. He loved that boy. He loved his friend.
He ran the image through his mind on a loop, and each time it lost a little bit of detail.
It was like holding a fist full of sand, and little by little the grains ran through his fingers.
He forgot who the boy was and what he looked like. He forgot how it'd felt to kiss him. He forgot why they were kissing in the first place.
By the time the train arrived at the station, Eddie's memory of Richie was at best a faceless daydream that he was trying to hold onto.
"Eddie, we're here," his mother said softly from the seat across from him.
He looked to her startled, having forgotten that she was there. And in that startled moment, it was as if he'd opened his fist and dropped the remaining bits of sand caught in his hand.
He stood up to follow her, and effectively wiped the sand away on his shorts.
"I'm coming, Ma."
And just like that, he didn't remember Richie Tozier.
It was the next day when Eddie sat in his new bedroom unpacking boxes. The day before he and his mother had unpacked the essentials quietly before she had sent him to his empty room to sleep at 8 o'clock while she watched gameshows by herself.
It had been strange, usually they watched game shows together, but he hadn't dared argue. He figured she just wanted him to get some sleep since the train ride had been so long. Besides, he hadn't minded. He wasn't sure why he'd been crying on the train, but he knew that he had been. So he must have been tired.
He opened another box, peeling back packing tape with his fingers because he knew his mother would never trust him with the box cutter she'd been using the night before (frankly she didn't seem to trust herself with it, given how she had held it as far away from her body as her arm would allow).
Inside the box were Eddie's favorite model cars. He smiled at them the way he would a friend (if he had any), before he began carefully unpacking them from the box. He aligned them all on the floor in front of him, wanting to make a plan as to how to position them on his new shelf. It wasn't until he was halfway through the process that he stopped, a feeling of déjà vu practically slamming into his gut. But it didn't feel like something he'd done before... Maybe something he'd watched someone do? He didn't know, and when he poked at the thought, trying to remember, all he got was a feeling of dread.
So he pushed the feeling far away and continued unpacking his box, no longer caring if the cars were in a straight and organized line. Once they were all sitting out in front of him, Eddie began placing them on the shelf. Smaller ones sat on the far sides of the shelf, and then bigger cars beside them, leaving the space in the middle for the biggest (and also his favorite) car.
He grabbed the model carefully and held it in his hands, inspecting it, although for what he wasn't sure.
The car was a large '57 Cadillac DeVille, a model that Eddie desperately wanted to own one day, made extra special to him because of the detail spent on the inner workings of the car. It wasn't every day you got a model where you actually had to put engine pieces together. But Eddie had loved it for that. It was practice for when he could do the real thing.
A thought struck Eddie suddenly and he stared at the car as though he'd never seen it before.
Where the hell did he get it? Who got it for him?
His mother didn't appreciate his interest in cars ('Cars are death traps, Eddie, even for healthy people. And you with your poor lungs- what if you had an asthma attack on the road? And fixing them! Only dirty people are mechanics, Eddie. You'll be a business man. That's really what you're most suited to.'), so she never would have bought it for him.
He didn't have any friends back in Derry, so that was ruled out. Even if he'd had friends, it was an expensive model. He would have had to have had several friends all pitching in to buy it. Ha, what a thought. Eddie being friends with someone who didn't birth him.
Could it have been one of his aunts? It almost had to have been. But he couldn't imagine any of them giving him a gift he liked so much. The only thing they really knew about him was how his cheeks felt when they were pinching them.
But he supposed it didn't matter where the car came from. Why kick a gift horse?
He went to put the car on the shelf when he noticed that the trunk latch wasn't shut. Rather than pushing it shut, he opened it up. Inside he found a piece of folded paper, blue ink leaking through it.
He grabbed the paper before gently setting the model car on the shelf. Like the car itself, Eddie had no idea where it'd come from, but that made him all the more curious.
Upon opening the sheet it took him a moment to process that within the blue ink there was messy white scrawl, but once he'd made the discovery he immediately began reading the text (text that should have been illegible because of the penmanship combined with the writing utensil used, but that Eddie could read as though he'd had years of practice at it).
He made it to the second paragraph before his throat began to tighten.
Kiss him again? He'd kissed someone? This letter couldn't be talking about him.
But it was addressed to him. It had his first and last name, along with an awful attempt at a nickname. It had to be to him. But how did he not remember kissing someone? How had this note gotten into his car? He had to have been the one to have put it there. And the ink was smudged in so many places from where it'd been handled before. Someone had read this letter before, and they hadn't been satisfied only reading it once. All signs pointed to him being the culprit.
He pushed onward with the letter, trying not to choke on the air he didn't have as he read. He went quickly, trying to finish before he ran out of breath, but it was difficult when every word tripped him up.
He kissed someone first? With tongue? That someone loved him? Someone loved him? How the hell had that happened?
And then he reached the signature and every part of his body froze with it.
With all of my heart, soul, and record collection,
The Love of Your Damn Life,
The Love of Your Damn Life,
A boy. He'd kissed a boy.
Oh, fuck, he'd kissed a boy.
He should be choking but suddenly his stomach was flipping and it felt good.
Could it really be true? Could he have kissed a boy? Could one be in love with him?
That would be awful. It'd be gross. That was how people got sick. How many times had his mother said so?
But, oh, how his stomach was flipping pleasantly at the mere thought that it could be true.
But then he heard his mother's heavy steps coming down the hall, and he panicked. His mother couldn't see the note. She'd take him to the hospital, and he'd never leave.
It was automatic as his hands ripped the letter to sheds and let the pieces fall into a garbage bag that he'd set aside for his trash from unpacking. He didn't have time to be horrified at his action before his mother walked into the room.
"Eddie, do you- Are you okay?" His mother suddenly looked terrified as she hurried over to him.
"D...Dust," he lied as he dug into his back pocket for his inhaler. When he didn't find it he patted all of his pockets down before he looked up at her desperately. "I-I don't... My inhaler."
For a second she looked shocked, but Eddie couldn't focus on that when he felt like his throat was about to collapse. Luckily his mother came back to action quickly.
"Here, Eddie, I have your spare inhaler." She pulled the thing out of the pocket of her housecoat as though she'd been prepared to need it, and Eddie was thankful for it.
Eddie grabbed the inhaler and quickly took two puffs before his breathing evened out.
"Thank you, Momma," Eddie said gratefully. "I don't know what happened to mine."
To Eddie's surprise, his mother just stared at him. It was like she was waiting on him to give her the punch line to a joke, like 'Just kidding, Ma! I had it the whole time! I just love that burning feeling in my lungs!' But when none came she broke into a grin.
"That's okay, Eddie. We can go to the pharmacy and get you another one tomorrow," she said softly as she ran a hand through his hair gingerly.
"Thank you, Momma. Sorry I lost mine."
"That's okay, sweetie. You probably lost it on the train; they're a terrible way to travel. I'm just glad I was here to take care of you. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn't been."
Eddie's lungs clenched at the thought.
"Why don't I get some of this trash out of your room so there isn't so much dust?" His mother asked, already picking up the garbage bag. "And you go wash up for dinner. We can eat while we watch Wheel of Fortune."
Eddie wanted to argue, his eyes stuck on the blue strips of paper that used to comprise a note, but he knew that he couldn't. There was no reason to keep the trash other than the truth, which he couldn't ever admit to. And even if he could, he'd never be able to piece the note together again. So instead he nodded silently, and he watched as his mother took out the trash along with any sign that a boy named Richie Tozier had ever loved him.
Once his mother had left the room Eddie took another hit from his inhaler before wiping at his eyes, which had begun to water.
Whoever Richie had been talking about in his letter, it wasn't Eddie. He would never be brave enough to kiss a boy, let alone love one. A voice in the back of his head wanted to argue- that obviously he was that brave (Look at the evidence, Numbnuts). But Eddie looked down at his spare inhaler and choked back the tears.
If the Eddie in that letter had ever existed he was sure as hell gone now.
But, God, how Eddie wished that was who he was.
But he wasn't. He was just a delicate boy who needed his mother to keep him from suffocating.
But, God, he wished.