Quick Notes: This is a Choose Your Own Adventure type story. To full understand this story you will need to read the previous chapters. You can find them here:
There you can also find more info about how to play along. As for everyone who’s caught up, enjoy!
Chapter 4: Answers
James’s hand lingered on the ring for a moment more. The urge to put it on and get out of this uncomfortable situation was strong. But instead he took his hand off the time traveling ring and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes and asked quietly, “Why did she leave?”
James’s father was silent for a while, but eventually said, “That is a…long story.”
James leaned back into the couch and sighed a little. He replied, “I’ve got time.”
James’s father sighed back and said, “Well I guess I’ll put on a pot of coffee then.”
As he turned toward the kitchen James suddenly said, “You never told me your name.”
His father stopped. He turned back toward his son and replied, “Arthur.”
“Arthur,” James repeated to himself.
Arthur continued into the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee. James sat in contemplative thought. He strained to process the information that he’d just been presented. His whole life his mother had told him his father had abandoned them. Just up and disappeared one day. James had believed her, though now he wondered why. Was it because, as a child, he simply couldn’t believe that his mother would lie to him? Or had it simply been easier to believe than the alternative? How different would his life had been had he grown up with his father instead of his mother?
As his thoughts turned to what might have been, James subconsciously rubbed the ring in his pocket. All he’d have to do is slip it on, go back, and find out for himself. But James had decided. He wanted to hear Arthur’s side of the story. He wanted to hear the truth.
James slowly came out of his deep introspection to find Arthur sitting in a chair staring at him. Arthur smiled and said, “Sorry. You were lost in thought again. I would have snapped you out of it, but, well…”
James nodded in understanding. His father had given him the time to process things and James was happy for that. After a few more moments James asked, “So, where do we start?”
Arthur took a drink of coffee and said, “Well, let’s see. How much do you know about your mom and I’s relationship?”
James thought for a moment and replied, “You and mom…fucked? At some point?”
Arthur and James stared awkwardly at each other for a while before they both burst into laughter. The awkwardness was somewhat alleviated by James’s strange answer.
As their laughter died down Arthur wiped tears from his eyes and said with a chuckle, “Well, yeah, that’s true. We did. It’s a bit more complicated than that. But sure, that’s the short version.”
“What’s the long version,” James asked, his nerves recharged.
Arthur furrowed his brow a bit before replying, “Your mother and I met back in high school. Sophomore year. She was new in school. Transfer student. It was in January, when the second semester had started. When I met her she was standing outside the door. Covered in snow. It had been snowing all morning. I actually thought she was a snowman at first. Until she moved. I asked her what she was doing out there. She told me she was too nervous to go in. So I told her I’d walk in with her.”
Arthur took another sip of coffee before continuing, “After that we were inseparable. Well, that is to say that after I couldn’t get rid of her. At first I was a bit annoyed. When I escorted her in that day, I was trying to be nice. I hadn’t expected her to follow me everywhere afterwards. Eventually though, as I got to know her, I didn’t mind as much. She was…interesting, to say the least. A little awkward. But in a cute kind of way. She had a habit of spacing out sometimes. She’d always find a way to steer a conversation toward dragons. She really liked dragons. No matter where she went she wore a fanny pack. Carried lots of gum in there.”
James reached for the cup of coffee his dad had placed before him while he had been spaced out and took a drink. He’d heard a lot of words used to describe his mother, but “cute” wasn’t one of them. Arthur continued, “After high school your mom and I moved away together. I went to medical school and your mom went to a local school. About a year later, she was pregnant with you. So, we got married. At the time we thought we were getting married because we loved each other, but…”
Arthur’s story drifted off and a new silence filled the room. James decided to offer his father the same courtesy he had given him and let Arthur have a moment. After a few minutes though James coughed a bit and said, “But, what?”
Arthur looked up at James and replied, “It soon became obvious that we were too young to be married. For a small while, we were okay. But it wasn’t long before things turned bad. We couldn’t afford to go on a honeymoon. Victoria was devastated. She wanted to go to Samoa. No idea why. Then she quit school to take care of you. Not long after that she tried to pressure me to quit med school. She said that I needed to get a job to support the family, but I suspected she just resented me staying in school. Sounds silly now, but at the time it was how I felt. It wasn’t long before we were getting in arguments every day. Before I left for school, when I got home from school, all the time. Eventually I started to take my time coming home. And that’s when it happened.”
Arthur put his cup down and put his face in his hands. Another silence followed before Arthur took a deep breath and said, “I cheated on your mother.”
At first James didn’t react. In fact, he couldn’t. The information that had just been presented to him was something he had never expected. His dad cheated on his mom? In all the years he had spent with his mother she had never mentioned or even hinted at something like that. But maybe that wasn’t so weird. She never mentioned Arthur at all. Maybe this was why? Maybe she had been truly devastated by this? Maybe this was when all her craziness started? Maybe Arthur really was to blame for the 16 years of hell his mother put him through? Maybe…
“Maybe…”James though, “Maybe that’s just what I want to think. Maybe I want to blame someone else for all that. Someone I feel I can hate and resent. Just like her…”
A tear rolled down James face as this realization hit him. He took a moment to compose himself before saying, “Go on.”
Arthur swallowed a bit, but continued, “I didn’t plan it. But when I started to take my time coming home, I started hanging out with one of my classmates. A woman named Mindy. We were study partners. She had always invited me out for a drink or a bite after school. At first, I said no. I wanted to get home to you and your mother. But soon I just wanted to get home to see you. And then soon…well, soon I just dreaded going home. I still loved you, don’t get me wrong. But your mother was like a stranger to me. An angry, sometimes violent stranger. So eventually I relented to Mindy’s offerings. After school we’d grab a drink, or run out and grab a slice of pizza. Sometimes we’d just sit at a cafe and talk. It was nice. It became obvious soon though, that Mindy was after something more than just a drink with a classmate.”
James looked at his and asked, “She wanted more?”
Arthur nodded and said, “She would flirt with me. Play footsie under the table. Offer me some of her drink. Put her hand on mine. At first, I didn’t say anything. I was so starved for friendly attention I couldn’t refuse it. Or perhaps I’m just making excuses. Anyway, after the first couple of weeks of it I told her I had a wife and child.” Arthur took another drink and continued, “She didn’t care. I tried to avoid her after that, but like your mother, she was persistent. And one day it happened. I went home right after school and was met by your mother. She was drunk. And angry. She was hysterical. For over an hour she yelled at me telling me that she couldn’t do this anymore, and she wanted me to quit school, and how much she hated me. I should have realized then that Victoria was unstable. I should have done something. Instead, I walked out the door and found Mindy. I told her what had happened. She consoled me. And then, well, you know.”
James nodded. He wasn’t happy with the way the story was going, but he couldn’t completely blame his father. No one else knew his mother like Arthur did but James. He knew how it felt to just want to be away from her.
Arthur finished his story by saying, “After it happened, I felt horrible. Dirty. Disgusted with myself. I decided to go home right away and confess. But I never got the chance. As soon as I left Mindy’s apartment, there was your mom. She’d followed me. I’d never seen her so angry. Tears were streaming from her eyes. Her face was beet red. I couldn’t even speak. Before I could process what was happening she kicked me in the balls, stole my car keys, and rode off. I knew I didn’t have much time to stop whatever she was about to do, so I started hailing a cab as quick as I could. Mindy offered me a ride, but I couldn’t risk showing up to the apartment with her. Your mother was already making me fear for yours and my life. I got a cab after a few minutes and he took me home as fast as he could. But when I got there, you were both gone.”
Again, a silence fell over the two men. It was a lot to process, but James accepted it as truth. It would explain almost everything. Why his mother never mentioned Arthur. Why they were so dirt poor all the time. Why he was told to avoid cops. His mom had kidnapped him. James felt sick.
Arthur got up and sat down next to James and put a hand on his shoulder. He said, “I’m sorry James. I’m sorry I didn’t realize how unstable Victoria was until it was too late. I’m sorry I didn’t just take that ride from Mindy and stopped your mother back then. I’m sorry that I didn’t find you sooner.”
James turned to his father. Arthur was crying. James started to cry too. And then both men embraced one another and hugged for the first time since James was two years old. The moment seemed to last forever. James decided then and there that he didn’t care what his dad had done. He as just happy to have his father back.
For a while James was lost in his own head. He kept thinking about what might happen next. The two men had a lot of catching up to do. His mind raced towards different activities he and his father could do. Play catch? Watch some movies together? Talk some more (preferably about less heavy content)? Maybe James could move in? His lease was almost up and his dad had to have a spare room or two.
All these thoughts and more were interrupted by the words, “Am I interrupting something?”
James and Arthur broke up their hug and turned toward the feminine voice. James’s eyes opened wide as saucers at the sight before him.
The source of the voice was none other than Rose, the girl that had taken his order at Arby’s.
James’s mind broke.
1 - Um, what the fuck? Why is Rose here? James asks Arthur what Rose is doing here.
2 - What is this shit? Why is Rose here? James asks Rose why she’s here.
3 - Haha, fuck this noise. James puts on the ring and gets the hell out of there.
4 - James.exe has crashed. James sits there staring in silence like a goober.
5 - Fatal error. James passes out from the sheer amount of mind being blown here.
Thanks for reading! Sorry this one took so long to come out, I got preoccupied. Once again congratulations to LaTerry for getting his suggestions included in this chapter. If you’d like to play along I’m taking suggestions for Chapter 5. This time I will need suggestions for: a type of tree, a brand name product, the name of a god, and something around the house. As always feel free to get weird with your suggestions if you want to. I’ll use anything you suggest. Thanks again to everyone who has participated so far. It means a lot that people seem to enjoy this story and that you play along. I promise to try and get Chapter 5 out in a more timely manner than this one.