chapter 2...Hidden Resentment
"I have to go...my lecture" Charlie said struggling to speak each word. His mind refused to process what just happened and all he wanted to do was turn around and run. As if running would somehow enable him to escape those cruel and hurtful words. However Charlie found moving his legs to be just as difficult as speaking. But he had to get away and finally he managed to turn awkwardly around to leave...
"Charles Edward Eppes don't you dare take another step." Alan demanded with such parental authority Charlie froze in his tracks. "Turn around and look at me."
Don still sitting dared not move a muscle at hearing his father speak this way. But he nervously glanced over at Charlie and watched as his brother slowly turned back around.
Standing in the doorway Charlie is staring straight ahead yet not focusing on anything or anybody. The pain on his face is clear to see and it reminds Don of why his brother is'nt very good at lying or keeping a secret. Charlies face is so open...it saids too much.
Alan takes a few steps towards Charlie and starts to speak this time in a calmer tone "I'm not sure what you heard..."
"Everything" Charlie interrupts surprising himself " from when you said Mom was not having an affair."
Alan closed his eyes and lowered his head. It meant the unthinkable Charlie had indeed heard everything. Now in a panic Alans mind is racing with thoughts on what to do next.
The only thing Alan does know for sure is that he can't let Charlie leave without saying something. Its the reason he spoke so harshly at first.
"Charlie I want you to listen to me and listen very carefully." Alan said looking directly at him.
" The things you heard me say were never things I felt."
"They were spoken out of anger and frustration at the situation."
" I wish with my whole being I could take them back and that you never heard them. Because there is absolutely no truth in them."
"I love you Charlie exactly as you are... with all my heart."
"I always have and always will and I hope that you...can forgive me."
Alan fighting hard to keep his composure kept his eyes fixed on Charlie hoping for a response.
Don had been sitting there quietly feeling like a helpless spectator wondering if he should say or do anything. But for now he felt it was better to leave his Dad and brother alone in working through this.
He looked at his Dad and then at Charlie in their silence and wondered if things could ever be the same again between them... maybe in time he thought.
"I understand" Charlie spoke softly "I... I forgive you."
Don noticed as his brother spoke he still had the same look of pain and shock on his face. It was as if his reaction to the cruel words had been frozen in place and it broke Dons heart. He wanted so badly to do something ...anything. But what could he do to alleviate his brothers pain?
"Thank You Charlie" Alan spoke gently "I know to forgive me its going to take more than saying the words." "To truly forgive me from your heart its going to take time and I'll be here Charlie for as long as that takes".
"I have to go or I 'll be late" Charlie said as he turned around and left.
Don jumped up finally feeling he could help in some way "I 'll go after him."
"No Don" Alan said "Let him be"
"But Dad he should not be alone he needs us" Don paused "he needs me."
"What he needs is time to himself" Alan said firmly.
"No Dad" Don said visibly upset at the idea his brother should handle this alone.
"Don you are the one thats always telling me to treat your brother as an adult" Alan reminded him. "Think about it, how would you feel if you were hit with something this hard?" "I know you Donny and you would need some time to absorb what happened and to sort out your feelings." "Please give that to Charlie!"
Don reluctantly agreed "Fine I will give him some time."
But Don already was planning on letting his job know he would not be in for the rest of the day. He would be waiting at the college for Charlie when he finished with his lecture.
"I need to lay down for a while" Alan said "and you need to get back to work."
"Are you OK Dad?" Don asked as he put his arm around him while they walked indoors. "Yes Donny just tired"
"I'm so sorry about everything that happened Dad" Don said trying to comfort him. "Things will work out." "Try to get some rest and call me if you need anything." "I'll check in on you later."
"Thanks Donny I will" Alan said as he headed upstairs.
Alan was tired and emotionally drained but he wasn't going to sleep .He was headed to that place where parents go when they are heart broken and need to cry. Which is any place you won't be seen by your children.
Don camped outside the college till he knew Charlies lecture was over. But when he went inside to find Charlie, his classroom was empty and there was no sign a lecture had ever taken place. He tried Charlies cell phone with no luck. "Probably turned the dam thing off" Don said out loud frustrated.
"If you are looking for Charles hes gone for the day" Larry Fleinhardt said entering the room. "He asked me to reschedule his lecture, something about not feeling well? "
"Do you have any idea where he went Larry?" Don asked.
"No but one can rule out a doctor. Your brother is a terrible liar."
"Charles was not himself" Larry continued. "He could barely look at me. I'm not going to pry Don but perhaps I can help in some way?"
"Yeah Larry you can" Don said. "Is there any place you can think of where Charlie may go say if he wanted to be alone." " Maybe somewhere in the building or around the campus?"
"Well" Larry thought " Not that I can think of off hand. Being anywhere on campus during a week day it would be hard to find solitute. But I'll show you every possible place I can think of."
"Thanks Larry" Don said as he followed Larry out of the classroom.
The search of the campus yielded no sign of Charlie as did all the other places Don checked off campus afterwards.
Now driving around aimlessly Don was racking his brain on where his brother may be. "Where are you Buddy?" "Where would you go?"
Dons frustration was now growing into genuine concern for his brother. Its been hours without a hint of where Charlie could be
Dons cell phone rings and its Larry. " Have you found Charles?"
"No" Don said "and I'm starting to get really worried Larry." "I checked everywhere I could think and now I don't know what to do."
"Well" Larry paused a moment to think. "How about a location Charles has an special attachment to?" "Perhap a place from his past or even his childhood that would be of some comfort to him."
"I've been thinking along that line too Larry and I checked everywhere I could think of including the cemetary." "Wait an minute, there is a another place he might go?" Its a long shot but I have to try" Don said as he turned his car around.
"Its well into the woods off that trail that runs parallel with Sprain Brook road." Don continued. "I was in high school when I found this place and all I could think of was how much Charlie would love it. I could'nt wait to show it to him." "It was the perfect hideout better than any clubhouse you could buy or make. " "But its been so long Larry I don't know if I can remember how to find it and Charlie could'nt possibly remember he was so young." "Thanks Larry, thanks for all your help I'll call you when I find him."
"Please do " Larry said thinking to himself how lucky Charles is to have a brother that loves him so much.
Don had no problem finding the main trailway that ran along Sprain Brook road. Its been an favorite place for people to bike, walk. or run for decades and Charlie and Don had spent quite a bit of time there while growing up.Walking along the wooded area after so many years brought back a lot of memories for Don,especially the look on Charlie face when he showed him his new hideout in the woods.Now if only he could remember the way once he got off the main trail. But Don found it easier than he thought possible ,remembering everyone of the connecting smaller pathways, as if he knew them instinctively.
Now working his way uphill he could see the familar cluster of boulders towards the top. Don looked for the mark on the one specific rock that told him it was the right place to climb up and into this secret hideaway.A mark that always reminded Don of a key. A key like the one used to open "The Magic Garden."A book and movie Don loved passionately but would never openly admit to.
As he stepped onto the platform of rock he smiled. Charlie was sitting close to the front end of it with his back to Don.This reminded him of when they were kids and how scared he was at first about Charlie falling. Until he saw it was a short drop to an slowly descending grass hill.
As Don walked towards Charlie he was visibly reminded of how wonderful this place was. It was flat enough to walk on yet it had its own built in furniture with its lumps and bumps of rock.
"Its been a long time since I've been here" Don said. "How did you ever find it after all these years?"
"It was'nt hard" Charlie said matter of factly.
"I forgot how nice this view is " Don said looking at the green hill below and woods that laid beyond that."I'll have to remember it the next time I need to escape."
"I''m not escaping I'm thinking" Charlie corrects him.
"Are you OK Charlie? Don asks as he sits down on the same rock Charlie is using.
"Don't know" Charlie saids staring straight ahead.
"Guess I would' nt know either if I were in your place" Don said. "Dad told me to give you some time alone but I needed to see for myself that you were OK."
"Dad was right" Charlie said refusing to even glance in Dons direction.
"I understand" Don said getting up. "I've seen for myself you are physically fine so I'll go if thats what you want."
"I've been up here all afternoon by myself "
"Are you inviting me to stay Charlie?" Don asks.
"No, but you can if you want."
Don then sat back down on the rock this time closer to his brother. "Do you want to talk about what happened?"
"No" Charlie replies quietly.
"Charlie why can't you look at me?" Don asks "Larry mentioned this to me too." "Whats going on?"
"You saw Larry?" Charlie asked in part from curiousity and in part to avoid the question "Why?"
"Why do you think Charlie?" Don asked "You were'nt at the college when I went there to check on you,thats where I meet Larry. We have spent the whole afternoon searching for you because both of us are worried about you.
"You did 'nt have to check up on me Don I am fine."
"No your not Charlie" "How could you be after what happened today?"
"I 'm fine" Charlie insists. "Dad explained things and I forgave him."
"Look at me than and say that " Don said.
"What?" Charlie asked but knowing exactly what Don meant.
"Look at me and tell me you are fine and then I'll back off" Don said almost demanding Charlie to do so.
"I can't" Charlie said putting his head in his hands. It was the first time since this ordeal began that Don could hear emotion in his brothers voice. He put his arm around him wanting to comfort him but Charlie pulled away. "Leave me alone.Don." Its been hard enough knowing how much I hurt you when we were kids." "But now knowing what I did to Dad and Mom is unbearable."
When Charlie pulled away Don thought he had seen tears running down his face. But now facing forward with his head down slightly Charlies black curls blocked Dons view.
"I don't want this to be real Don." Charlie said his voice breaking "I want to pretend things were like they use to be." "Thats why I came here to remember how I felt before all this happened." "That day you first showed me this place was one of the happiest days I can remember" "I was the only one you wanted to tell about this spot and you said it would be our secret hideout." "You did this Don even when I knew you resented me for taking time from Mom and Dad that belonged to you."
Now Don did 'nt have to see that Charlie was crying he could hear him sobbing softly. Don can handle just about anything but even just the idea of his little brother crying destroys him inside. He tries once again to pull his brother close but once again Charlie pulls away.
"Leave me alone Don...just go." Charlie said putting his head back in his hands.
"No Charlie I'm not going anywhere and you are wrong to think you hurt me or Mom and Dad." "Some adjustments were needed because of your special schooling but so what, thats what familes members do for each other."I'll admit to sometimes wishing Mom or Dad could have spend more time with me but it was no big deal Charlie." "Because most of the time I was busy doing things that made me happy like playing baseball. hanging out wih my friends and being proud of you...my little brother." "You are a genius Charlie and you continue to amaze me with what you are capable of." "But its the way you use your gift to help people that I admire the most about you Buddy."
"Its because of you Don" Charlie said lifting his head a little "You showed me how important it is to help people by who you are Don and the job you do."
"Thank you Charlie" Don said quietly now on the verge of tears himself. "Glad I could help in some way and I wish I could take all the credit." "But most of the reason is you Charlie you have a good heart,just like Mom."
Charlie did not say anything but Don could tell he was starting to get throught to him and it was important for Don to put things in another prospective.
"Now lets shift things around Charlie." "There nothing about me thats ever bothered you while growing up?"
Charlie wiped his eyes with his hands " No not that I can think of."
"Charlie be honest" Don said giving him the oh come on now voice.
"You always did well in sports and were popular in school Don which did bother me a little." "You're also good with people while I'm so uncomfortable around them." "Sometimes I did resent you for these things but most of the time Don I was just happy you were my brother."
"Charlie do you see how its Ok to have these feelings?" Don said "Thats its just part of being human" "Having an occasional bad thought or resentment won't change the way an family truly feels about each other"
"You are trying to make a point about what Dad said are'nt you Don?" Charlie said.
"Yes, you know he did 'nt mean any of those things he said don't you Charlie?"
"Yes but it hurt Don, it really hurt to hear Dad say those words"
"I know Buddy" Don said his heart breaking at hearing his brothers painful. He wanted nothing more than to put his arms around his brother but with two failed attempts he was going to try comforting him in another way...a diversion.
"Hey Charlie I noticed you left out the number one thing about me that bugs you." Don said.
"Whats that" Charlie said sounding both confused and worried at the same time.
"You always resented me Charlie because woman find me irresistible" Don said.trying very hard to keep a straight face "With all the luck I've had with woman you can't help but be jealous of me?"
Now that statement got Charlies attention and he finally looked Don in the eyes. With a puzzled look and tears still on his face a smile started to appear. Seeing how it was starting to work Don kept it up."I'd be more than happy to give you some pointers."
Charlie could not contain himself anymore and he burst out laughing and Don joined in. It made Don happy to see his brother smile. But Don was on a mission to cheer his brother up
"After all Charlie you know all the success I've had with woman." Charlie stopped laughing and looked at his brother for a long moment. He was profoundly touched that Don would mock his own personal pain to help him feel better, and that he took time off from work and spent all afternoon looking for him.
Charlie impulsively reached over and grabbed Don, wrapping his arms around him and hugging him tightly. Don hugged Charlie even more tightly as holding his brother is all Don had wanted to do since he found him.
"What was that for?" Don asks after he reluctantly lets go.
"Its for caring." Charlie said.
"Of course I care dumbass, and Dad does to." "You do know this Charlie... right?" Don asks.
"Yeah" Charlie said stretching the word out and smiling as he said it "I do know and I care about the both of you too."
Don looks at Charlie "Lets go home and see Dad" Charlie nods in agreement and they start heading back to Dons car.
"Is Dad OK Don?"Charlie asks.
"He will be once he sees you and once he stops beating himself up." "Hes been doing it for years over this Charlie." Don saids.
"I don't want Dad hurting anymore Don." Maybe I can help him to finally let himself off the hook" Charlie saids.
"You really are something Charlie" Don said looking proudly at Charlie.
"Thanks " Charlie said smiling "Hey Don I have an idea on how to improve your success rate with woman.
"And whats that?" Don dared to ask
You can tell them your favorite movie is "The Secret Garden" Charlie giggled. "My calculations say it will improve your chances."
"What are you talking about I don't..." Charlie interupts "Save it big brother I've known your secret for years." "The question is does your FBI team know what you are watching?"
"You would'nt dare?" Don saids his eyes widening
Charlie teases Don without mercy " Maybe I will and maybe I won't."
With the look Don gave him Charlie felt it was in is best interest to run, and that he did with Don chasing after him.all the way to the car.
Back at the house Alan was busy in the kitchen cooking when he heard the front door open..
As Charlie and Don stepped in he greeted them with an hello and asked if they were hungry. Alan was trying hard to act as if everything was fine. But his sons could see how much he was suffering over what happened
Before another word was spoken Charlie walked over to his father and hugged him "We are going to be Ok Dad" "I forgave you, now please forgive yourself." "I don't want you to hurt anymore."
"OK Charlie" was all Alan could sayhe was so moved by his sons generousity. "I'll going to get us something to eat now."
Don looked at his brother and smiled nodding with approval.
Sitting at the table eating dinner their conversations were a little awkward at first.But gradually the talk started to flow a little smoother .
Charlie even got back to teasing Don "Hey Dad do you know what Dons favorite movie is?"
Dons favorite movie" Alan repeated the phrase noticing that Don gave Charlie a glaring you are going to be sorry look. "Dons favorite movie" Alan said one more time giving it some more thought.
"Of course I know my sons favorite movies. Dons is "The Secret Garden" and yours is 101 Dalmations. "Have you ever been able to get an accurate count of those dogs Charlie?" Alan asked as he looked over at Don and winked.
Don burst out laughing "101 Dalmations?" "I wonder how your students would feel if they knew what theirprofessor was watching"
Charlie looks at his Dad in disbelief "You knew what I was up to all along did'nt you Dad."
"Of course I did" Alan smiled. "I'm your father."
Don sits back still laughing a little at his brothers choice for a favorite movie and he watches his Dad and Charlie talk for a while. He studies their faces blocking out anything they are saying and he can see without words the unconditional love between them.
Don knew at that moment things could be the same between his Dad and Charlie...maybe even better.