Welcome back to my interactive writing experiment, Write A Novel With Me. If you are unaware of what this project is, please click here to learn all about it. You can also read Chapter 2 (Chapter 1 is here) and check out the best answers provided by you, the reader, to the question: “Who is at the door?”
And now, without further adieu, please enjoy Chapter 3 of our story where we find out who’s been knocking at Jaden’s door based on your votes.
“Hey there, little brother.”
The hobo standing at the door — complete with scruffy beard, long, unkempt hair and disheveled clothing that reeked of skunk and moss — pushed Jaden aside as he stormed into the apartment and scurried through every room like a little rat looking for a mate. Jaden instantly wanted to beat the hell out of the schmuck, but something kept him from doing it — a familiarity rattling somewhere around in the back of his mind. But for the life of him, he couldn’t make any connection.
Damn sleep deprivation — the best way to get drunk when you’ve been forbidden alcohol.
He rubbed his eyes, trying desperately to hunt down that illusive memory, the echo of little brother finally opening them to the truth.
“Rick?” Jaden choked out as he closed the door. He still didn’t believe it was him, as this odd stranger shared absolutely no resemblance with the strapping, buff heartthrob of a football player that saw more action than Bond and Kirk combined.
That boy will break a lot of records, his dad used to say. And a lot of hearts. You mark my words, he’ll be buried in his grave with alimony.
Rick came out of the bedroom and went directly to the window, urgently checking the frame. “Do you have anything to cover this?” he asked.
Jaden shook his head with hardly any movement. “No…” he said, as he stared directly at the man’s face. He didn’t want to believe it could be Rick, but even though his voice was a little deeper than Jaden remembered, there was no denying it came from the very same older brother who disappeared without a word so long ago.
As Rick dashed into the bedroom once again, Jaden had to sit down to try and take it all in. Where had he been all of these years? Why did he take off? Why did he leave him behind? How could he be so inconsiderate? So foolish? So…
Rick returned with a large blanket. He ruffled through some drawers in the kitchen until he found a roll of duct tape to strap the blanket over the window, hiding the light glow of the sunrise. When he finished, he turned back to Jaden and gave him a big smile. “How you been, man?”
Jaden leaned back with his arms extended, his mouth agape in curiosity and utter confusion. Rick ignored the gesture and returned to the kitchen to scrounge through the refrigerator, which was surprisingly empty considering Jaden lived with a woman. When Rick couldn’t find anything appetizing, he grabbed a bag of stale tortilla chips from the pantry and plopped down next to Jaden. “You don’t got anything to say to your big bro?” he said, shoving a couple of chips into his mouth.
It took Jaden a second to wrap his head around the chaos of his thoughts. All he could come up with was, “What the hell?”
Rick smiled with another chip and a flash of his eyebrows.
Jaden tried to say more, but he just couldn’t form any words that would mean anything. After awhile, Rick got annoyed.
“What’s up with you, man? Can’t I get some love from my little brother?”
“Love?” Jaden was up on his feet with his hands pressed firmly to his head. “I haven’t seen you for twenty years.”
“Nineteen, I think.”
Jaden’s eyes were wider than a Tarsier’s. “I see nothing’s changed with you… except everything. What the hell are you doing here?”
“All right, straight to business then. Well, brother, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I have something to tell you about your fiancée. Sawyer, is it?”
“My…? How the hell do you know Sawyer?”
“She’s been lying to you. She’s a foreigner not of this world.”
“A foreigner not of this… Who talks like that?”
Rick shook his head. “Sorry. Occupational hazard. The point is your girlfriend — Salinar, as I know her — is a shape shifter from another planet.”
Jaden’s mouth was wide open. It felt like years before he actually said, “A what?”
“Better yet, she’s come here for the greatest treasure in the galaxy.”
Jaden took a breath, trying hard to find the right words. “You are certifiable, you know that?” he finally exclaimed.
“Maybe, but I guarantee you it’s true. I’ve been following her for a long time, kid.”
“You’ve been what?” Jaden whispered, confused more now than ever. Suddenly, the events of the night came flooding back to him and he made the only connection he could. “You son of a bitch.” Jaden grabbed Rick off the couch, spilling the chips all across the floor, and nailed him with a solid right hook.
Rick shoved Jaden off him and backed away, spitting up a bit of blood. “What the hell?”
“What did you do to her?” Jaden screamed.
Flexing his jaw, Rick refused to answer. He stammered into the kitchen to grab a towel and run it under some cold water. After spitting up some more blood (into the sink this time), he pressed the towel to his lip.
Jaden repeated his question with more force (and a mix of frustration and sadness).
“I didn’t do anything to her, Jaden. She’s not dead.”
The words took a long while to sink in. “She’s not dead?” he whispered. “No… I saw it. She was shot.”
“Did you find a body?”
Jaden’s heart skipped a beat.
“That’s what I thought. Look, little brother, if you’ll let me explain, I promise it will all make sense.”
Jaden threw up his arms, giving Rick his permission. Rick took a moment to check to see if his lip was still bleeding (and that his teeth were still intact — can’t hurt the teeth!), and then walked back to the couch, his eyes glued to his brother the whole way.
“Sit down,” he said.
“You have five minutes until I throw you out that window.”
“What is with all this animosity, man?”
“You leave me to take care of dad all by myself without so much as a word, and you don’t expect there to be any animosity? You have no idea how bad he got after you left.”
“I have my suspicions.”
“You had no right leaving me there like that,” Jaden continued. “I was only twelve for Christ’s sake.”
Rick took a breath. “You’re right. But I had no choice.” He paused a second to think and then, “No, that’s not right. It was my choice, but I didn’t really have one. If that makes any sense.”
“Right, sure. What happened? You knock up some Russian mobster’s daughter or something?”
“Funny,” Rick said, clearly not amused. “But, no.”
“Then tell me. What was so important that you had to leave us the way you did?”
“You,” Rick said.
Jaden laughed. “Yeah, okay. That’s more ridiculous than my girlfriend being some extraterrestrial shape-shifter from another galaxy.”
“I never said she was from another galaxy. Another solar system, yes…”
“Who cares?” Jaden screamed.
“The point is, I was protecting you, Jaden. And dad. And Lauren.” He paused again to let it sink in a little. “Do you remember the night I left?”
“Not particularly. I didn’t even realize you were gone until the next night when I had to give dad his bath — alone.” That word stung Rick a little. “I tried everyone I knew, including Lauren. Nobody knew where you were.”
“Lauren did,” Rick said. “At least I thought she did. There’s always a chance they wiped her memory.”
Jaden’s confusion turned to utter bafflement. Rick chuffed a light laugh.
“I don’t expect you to believe any of this, but hear me out. If you still want me gone after I’ve explained everything, fine. I’ll leave you and never come back. But you have to keep an open mind. Can you do that?”
Jaden sat down. He stared at Rick. “Go ahead.”
“Promise me,” Rick said, his voice soft and deep.
“Yeah, yeah. I promise. Whatever. Just get on with it.”
Rick studied Jaden’s demeanor for a moment, unsure if he was lying just to get him out of his apartment — which he didn’t fault him for. It’s exactly how he’d feel in the same situation.
“All right,” he said. “The night I left, I took Lauren to that park she liked, you know to have a late night picnic.”
What happened to Rick and Lauren at the park?
Be as creative as you can, as outrageous as you want, and as detailed as possible. The best answer will determine where the story goes next.
Post your answers to Facebook, Twitter (using #WriteANovelWithMe and @phoenixmoirai) or in the comments section below by 5 p.m. PST on Thursday, October 30, 2014. You can give as many different answers as you want. The top 5 will be posted on Friday.
I can’t wait to see where your imaginations soar.