Page 21 of Together

‘Maybe,’ said William. He put on Robbie’s coat and dug for his cigarettes in the pocket.

Adam followed him outside and frisked around him as he smoked, like a puppy.

Chapter Twelve

She walked through the sliding door at Logan arrivals and saw Robbie immediately. It was an enormous relief. A rush of warmth and happiness. Coming home.

He didn’t wait for her to come around the railing to where people waited; he ran up to her and hugged her, making her drop the handle of her bag to hug him back. She breathed in his familiar scent. He kissed her once, hard on the lips, and then again, more tenderly.

‘I missed you,’ she said, although they’d both said it many times over the phone. ‘I’m so glad to be back.’

‘I’m only half here without you.’ He took her suitcase and they walked, holding hands, through the lot to where he’d parked her car. New England cold was different from English cold: it was dry and crisp and breathtaking, rather than damp and insinuating. They’d had more snow since she’d been gone.

‘Adam didn’t want to come?’

‘He wanted to stay with his brother. I was more comfortable with William having company, to be honest.’

‘You don’t think he’d do anything? Rob the house to get some money?’

‘I don’t know. I don’t know him, Emily. It’s like there’s this huge empty space between the boy I used to know and the man he is now. I keep on thinking that if I’d been there for him, he’d have an easier life now.’

‘It’s as much my fault as yours.’

‘He won’t even mention his mother’s name in front of me. I can only imagine what she’s told him.’ He put her suitcase in the boot. ‘I can’t help thinking that most of it would be true.’

She knew this expression on Robbie’s face. It was the expression he always got when they discussed William: hopeless, sad, angry, full of regret. She wondered if he showed that expression to William, and if William could see what it meant.

‘It’s not true,’ she said. ‘And you’ve found him, now. So that’s what counts. More family can only ever be a good thing.’

‘It’s more family for you, too.’ Before they got into the car, he reached across and hugged her again. ‘I’m so sorry about what happened with your dad and Polly.’

‘Me too. But I’m looking forward to meeting William for the first time.’

‘They’ve been inseparable – Adam and William. They’ve spent all weekend together, watching movies and kicking around a ball in the driveway. He won’t say anything to me except for muffled growls, but he talks to Adam. I think they like each other.’

‘It’s what Adam’s always wanted, and what we could never give him.’

‘That part’s good. The rest . . .’ Robbie shrugged sadly.

Darkness fell early, while they were still making their way up Route 1 to home, and when they pulled up in the drive all the lights were on in the house. Before they stepped on to the porch they could hear the music blasting out through the closed doors and windows. Emily exchanged a look with Robbie.

‘Bonding session while the grown-ups are out?’ she suggested.

‘At least I can’t object to the music.’ It was one of Robbie’s own AC/DC albums. The bass was loud enough to rattle the windows. When they opened the door it got exponentially louder.

‘Adam?’ called Emily, but her voice was drowned in the music. The kitchen was empty, though there was a pizza box on the table with a couple of cold slices of pepperoni pizza in it. She went straight through to the living room and turned the stereo down. The room smelled of cigarettes and strongly of alcohol. A red plastic cup sat on the coffee table, next to a saucer filled with cigarette butts; she picked it up and sniffed it.

‘He found some money,’ she said to Robbie, who’d followed her. He winced.

‘He’s passed out upstairs, maybe,’ he said. ‘His truck’s still here.’

‘Where’s Adam, though?’

William was in the guest room at the top of the stairs, sitting on the side of the bed with his boots off and his shirt unbuttoned. His belongings were scattered all over the room, clothes puddled on the floor and draped over the furniture, a paperback book on his pillow. He had a half-burned cigarette between his fingers and another red plastic cup in his hand. When they stood in the doorway, he looked up blearily.

‘Wha’ happened to the music?’ he slurred.

‘Where’s Adam?’ demanded Robbie.

‘I dunno. Inna bathroom?’ He took a drink.

The bathroom door was locked. Robbie knocked, and then pounded when there was no response. ‘Adam?’

‘There were two cups,’ said Emily, her heart racing. ‘William had one and there was one downstairs.’

Robbie put his shoulder to the door. It took three goes to break the lock. The door swung open and Adam was lying on the bathmat. Emily rushed to him, touching his neck, feeling his pulse. His eyes were closed, his breathing slow, his skin clammy. He had been sick on the floor.

‘Call 911,’ she said to Robbie, and immediately checked his airways, put him in the recovery position on his side, and covered him with towels. All on automatic. The fear didn’t kick in until she was holding him, his pale face near her leg, the freckles on it standing out against the stark white.

Chapter Thirteen

Robbie got home from Pen Bay Hospital about half past midnight and was dully surprised to see William’s truck still in the driveway. When he got inside, William was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. The pizza had been cleared up and the house smelled only vaguely of cigarette smoke.

William stood up immediately. ‘How is he?’

Robbie couldn’t look at him. He was too angry. ‘They’re keeping him in for the night and maybe tomorrow too. He’s on a drip.’

‘Is he going to be all right?’

‘No thanks to you. Emily’s spending the night with him. She works there at the hospital; they know her.’

‘I didn’t mean to—’

‘Didn’t mean to what? Get him drunk? Get him in trouble?’ The anger was a relief, after the hours in the hospital. ‘What did you mean to do then?’

‘I thought . . . we were just having a good time.’

‘He’s fourteen. Fourteen. What kind of a good time was that?’

‘I had my first drink when I was about that age.’

‘And you want Adam to turn out just like you, do you? You’ve got it so good?’

William snarled. ‘At least he’s got a dad,’ he said.

‘You’re blaming me because you got him drunk?’

‘He was the one who drank it, not me.’

‘How did he get it? How did you get it? I thought you were broke.’

William looked at the floor.

‘Was it Adam? Did he give you the money from what he had saved? Was it his idea?’ Robbie put his hands to his face. He couldn’t have two sons who were strangers to him. Not this one, sobering up and sullen, and the other, pale and frail in a hospital bed.

‘I bugged him for the money. We drove into town. It was like a party. It was supposed to be a party. We got pizza, and I poured him a couple of drinks. I told him it would be fun.’

‘That kid idolises you! You’re his hero – did you know that?’

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