It was raining. Cody sat in his room alone curled inside a blanket listening to the sound of heavy water drops splash across the windows. He was in deep thought, concentrating on the cardboard bound wad of paper he had been furiously scribbling on for the past hour. Normally, writing in his journal seemed like a favorite hobby that he would take his time each day to flesh out to chronicle the meaningful and meaningless things in life. But, today was very different…
"Dear Journal, it is I Cody Martin. It's been a year now since Justin left, and I still feel like it all happened yesterday. That's why this will have to be the last entry I will ever write. And it's because I need closure. I need to put the final thoughts in my head to rest so I can move on. Something happened to me recently, something big. And if I don't get it out of my head I'm gonna explode! I just need to start from the beginning. Starting with the biggest most important day of my life; the day Justin died. It was a day that I will never forget. He did something so brave and incredibly courageous that I'm not sure how I'll ever be able to wrap my head around it. When they told me at the hospital what Justin did for Zack, I didn't know what to say, or do. Mom and Dad were overwhelmed. After Zack woke up it was the most bittersweet day of my life. Zack stayed at the hospital, but mom, dad and me went home to the Tipton. We had to make up one convincing story after another to explain why we all left so abruptly, where Zack went, and where Justin had gone. The story ended up being that Zack was at some kind of wood shop camp and wouldn't be returning for a month or so, and that Justin went back home to live with his aunt, like he talked about before. Eventually Zack came home and disappeared inside our suite for a couple more months and one day emerged as the healthy happy kid we all remembered. And then it occurred to me this day that almost nobody talks about Justin anymore. It's as if he never existed. I guess it's how it should be since we don't want anyone to know the truth. But I'm still bothered. A year has passed, and I realize more and more each day that he gave me back my brother. We had Justin's remains cremated and spread across the park he loved so much. He would've wanted it that way. We had to destroy the drawings, the pictures we took and leave no trace of his existence in case somebody else was still looking for him. It all seems so weird, now that I think about it. Before the day Justin died I thought we were all going to be together forever. It turned out that I was kind of right. We're back at the Tipton but this time, Dad stayed and hasn't left since. Every time I see Zack without a shirt I automatically look at the scar in the middle of his chest. It's almost nonexistent! Pretty soon the doctors said that it might even disappear all together. They said that it was the most successful surgery they had ever performed in such a short amount of time. Normally they have to fight with the body to accept a foreign part into the system and not reject it. But with Justin's heart, there was no problem, like it was where it always belonged. I miss him. I think deep down inside, he made sure that he would never be forgotten. This is why I had to write out everything today. There are times when Zack starts acting strange, doing little odd things every now and then that make me wonder about him. Sometimes he gets the urge to draw for hours and hours scribbling away on sheet after sheet of paper. He sleepwalks sometimes and closes all the curtains and shades in the suite. He stopped sneaking pie and ice cream, talking about living healthy and long enough to have two lifetimes of memories and all sorts of stuff. I was beginning to move on with life. That is, until yesterday. Justin always had a way of turning your world upside down one way or another, and last night felt like Justin was still alive and breathing, ready for one last curtain call. The whole thing started three days before…"
Three days earlier…
"Hey Cody!" Zack said. Cody lifted his head abruptly and turned around just in time to see a water balloon splash right in front of his face.
"You are so dead when I find you." Cody laughed.
Life at the Tipton had returned to normal. They were once again the twin terrors of Moseby's life and a breath of fresh air to the staff. Max and Tapeworm managed to sneak past security yet again and was now loading up on additional ammo. The lobby was off limits but that never stopped Cody from using it as his hiding spot.
Maddie looked over at Cody,
" So I presume that since your mom is going out again that you're gonna need a babysitter?"
Carrie and Kurt may have started seeing each other again, but there was no certainty that they were going to ever get married again. It was just too early to tell. Cody didn't mind. After all, he was happy that the whole family could at least be together every once in a while.
"Uh, I don't know if we really need a babysitter anymore, I think were old enough to_"
Suddenly Zack's head popped up.
"He's just joking, of course we need a babysitter. Right buddy."
Zack glared at Cody as if to send a subliminal message of death if Maddie doesn't end up hanging around him tonight.
Cody smiled, "Of course I'm joking. Heh…"
The others eventually met up in the lobby. Much to Max's dismay she realized that they weren't armed.
"Yo, are we playing or what?"
Moseby came swooping around the corner. "I knew I saw you two hooligans running around my hotel like giant rats. All of you outside, I have very important 'rich' guests arriving here any minute. I don't want them to think that the place is infested."
Once they all scurried outside Max and Tapeworm decided to split since the snobbery at the hotel was unusually high. Just then, Zack and Cody saw an expensive car pull up to the outside of the hotel and a rich couple walked inside with their twelve-year-old son, lagging behind. It was strange, both parents were blonde but he had dark red hair. Suddenly the boy stopped in his tracks and looked at Zack as if he had seen a ghost. Then he stared at Cody. He seemed to relax.
"As I scribble away in this journal, I remember thinking he was just some weird rich kid. He seemed pretty nice though. He smiled almost immediately and introduced himself."
" Hi, I'm Ryan. I'm from California, wanna hang out?"
Zack looked at the Limo and realized that this kid had to be loaded. His parents were covered with expensive watches and fur coats. They had several people following behind them tending to their every need. Zack felt if the kid was bizarre, at least he could pretend to like him long enough to have some fun with all the toys and gadgets he brought with him to the hotel.
"I'm Zack, this is Cody." He finally said.
"I'll show you all my toys." The kid replied.
"The most bizarre thing about this kid was probably the fact that while he was rich, it seemed like he just discovered that he was rich. I dunno. It's like he was as equally surprised as we were when he showed us all his stuff. Over the course of 3 days we hung out and showed him all around town. On the final day of his stay, we went into Ryan's hotel suite that his parents rented out just for him. There was an ipod here, Xbox there; computer set up on a tabletop, you know, rich kid stuff. We hung out for a little while playing videogames, rocking out to his killer surround sound system, and took full advantage of the room service he kept ordering."
"Oh man, this is the life!" Zack shouted.
"I had to agree with him, this was literally the nicest rich kid we ever met at this hotel. He let us play all his games, order whatever we wanted, and it was pretty cool. But things just didn't seem right. While I was geeked out by all the specs on his computer and it's video card capabilities, he came up behind me and just stared at me. It was a little unsettling so I tried to make small talk."
"Dude, your computer rocks!"
"He was silent for a little while, doing nothing but sitting there and staring. Then he spoke."
"I turned back in surprise to see if I heard him right. Ryan had this look in his eyes that I don't think I'll ever forget. There was this deep sadness within, and I'm not talking about the rich kid angst of having everything but nothing kind of sadness. I couldn't understand it. Before I could ask why, he turned away when Zack shouted at the big screen TV still playing Xbox.
"Dude, you are so lucky to have this entertainment system. I'd never go to sleep if I had this in my room."
"He said it again… Zack and me just kinda looked at each other to see if this kid was serious. No regular kid would just offer another kid all his toys.
"It's yours, everything in here is yours. You can have it."
"I wasn't sure what was going on."
"Ryan, are you okay?"
"The kid said nothing. And then out of nowhere a single tear came out of his left eye. He was visibly disturbed about something and it started freaking me and Zack out. Then he smiled and said,"
"After all, it's the very least I can do…"
"I was like,"
"What do you mean it's the very least you can do? Ryan you've been nothing but cool to Zack and me. If anything we should probably do something for you."
"Cody's right buddy. What's the matter?"
"I was totally confused but then out of nowhere, he says something that stops time."
"It's the least I can do because you're the closest I'll ever get to thanking Justin."
"My blood ran cold. I looked at Zack who was equally surprised. My heart started
beating a million times per second. I had only one question in my mind…"
"Who are you?"
"He wiped away the tear from his face and kept smiling."
"My name is Ryan... Well, at least it is now."
"H-How do you know that name?" Zack asked.
"It's a name that every one of us knows. It's the name of a hero who save my life along with many others like me."
"At this point it was clear that this was no ordinary kid. It was then I started understanding what hid behind those eyes. Behind those eyes lived a million little secrets locked away. He sat down in a chair, and then we sat down too. Ryan began telling us a story. His story… Justin's story... And after he finished, he left the hotel with his rich parents and both Zack and me knew that after he drove away, we would never see this kid ever again. The story was unlike anything I ever heard. It was truly unforgettable."
"My name is Ryan. And at one time, my name was just another number, like Justin.
We met when we were very little. We had the same life and the same master. We lived in the cold, and we were taught to kill. I wasn't exactly as strong or as fast as the other kids but it didn't matter to Justin. No matter what he was told to do, no matter how many times I was left behind to fend for myself, he still came looking for me. We watched each other's back. One night he disappeared. I wondered for the longest time if I would ever see him again. The day he came back, I remember how different everything was about him. It was like he found some secret treasure that nobody else knew about. At night, he told me what he had found. It was you guys."
"I could feel the emotions welling up inside of me. It was a very meaningful thing to know how much Justin wanted to be with us even though he couldn't be. Ryan could sense it too."
"He said that there was nothing greater on this planet than finding a family to call your own, and love you for who you are no matter how bad you may seem. At first I thought he was delusional because he had been gone for a while. I thought wherever he was, he got brainwashed and was suffering from the side effects. But soon enough, I started listening to the way he talked about you guys, your mom and your dad. I had never felt all the things he was talking about. Just the way he was talking about it made me feel good inside, and that was different from any feeling I ever had growing up. The more he talked about the things you guys did together, the more I wanted to know. I wasn't the only one that was listening to him that night he came back. All of our brothers and sisters were listening. The more Justin talked, the closer we all gathered. We had bandages and bruises all over us from when we were forced to fight each other earlier, but we felt happy. When he finished his story, he told us that there was so much to life that we were all missing. And that our master had been lying to us since the day we were born. That was the last night I would see Justin. But before he left, he told me that he was going to set us all free. That we would get a chance to feel the same freedom he felt. I didn't understand what he meant at that time, but soon enough, all of these cars and buses pulled up and tried to take us all away. These strange people started wrapping blankets around us as we loaded up. Our first response to something like this is to break away and spread apart. So we did. After turning the buses over and tackling everyone that held us captive, we ran our separate ways and ended up meeting in a field where nobody could find us. And there we all were standing in front of each other. That was when we all came to an agreement. That Justin had set us free because he wanted us to find the freedom that he was talking about. So from that day forth, we all went our ways, in search for the destinies that would eventually come to us all. We were all in hopes of finding the same thing Justin found. Some of us would get lucky, others maybe not. But one thing that was for certain, Justin made it possible for us to choose what we wanted to do with our lives. And this is what I found; people that took me in and called me their child."
"I was very happy for Ryan. Not everyone got as lucky as he did. I was glad that I got to meet him. I think that it was a good thing that Zack met him too. After all, Justin's heart was beating inside of him now. It was like connecting the final pieces of a puzzle together. Then Ryan smiled."
"I don't even know what to do with all of this stuff they gave me. All I know is that they love me. And I owe that all to Justin."
"And that was the end of the story. Just as quickly as this kid popped into our lives, he slipped back out never to be seen again. Now here I sit in my room, curled inside a blanket listening to the sound of heavy water drops splash across the windows, wondering what I'm supposed to do with all this emotion that has been splayed across all these papers as evidence of a life gone awry. Fortunately, this has been the last entry I have written. It's been a year now since Justin left. With that year gone, the pain and the heartache must go too. I feel that this kid Ryan finally put some closure in my life. And with that, I can close this book and call it a finished story."
Cody sat up and pulled the blanket off of him. With the journal in hand, he drops it into a steel trashcan and disables the smoke alarm in the room. He then takes a match, lights it up, and drops it into the can. The papers begin to blacken and the fire starts to rise. The snick snak sounds of flames begin to etch into his brain as a comforting reaffirmation that this story would forever remain a secret. A cup of water douses the flames. Zack had slipped into the room unnoticed. He stood by Cody's side with an empty cup in his hand. The fire had done what it was supposed to do. Zack said nothing, but nodded his head in reassurance. Both of them knew that it was finally over. As a break from the silence, Zack tosses Cody a basketball.
"The guys are waiting downstairs." He said.
Cody just smiles. He then follows Zack out of the room. He takes one last look around the tiny little apartment and closes the door. Inside that place lived a hundred thousand memories. It was truly the suite life of Zack and Cody.
Thanks for reading. Now I gotta finish the other story.