Afflicted 13: Chapter 12

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Jack and Bevan walked down the road early in the morning on the last day of their determined pact, heading to Rick’s house. Jack’s face was drawn and he didn’t speak. He stalked along moodily, hands buried deep in the pockets of his hoodie, the hood up, and his eyes rooted to the ground. Bevan smoked incessantly, and relished the smell of the smoke. He’d stared rolling his own from the Bank that he got Jack’s older brother to buy for him. The corpse was still there, but it was hidden behind a wall of sweet, chocolatey-smelling smoke. He was wearing a crappy jumper that he often wore fishing, because his mum never went near it: he could therefore smoke as much as he wanted whilst in it and, he believed, his mother would never be the wiser for it.

The two of them walked along in silence, ignoring everybody and everything, and particularly ignoring the beautiful morning. The fact that it was the end of the week had given them each a private hope that once they’d reported this damn thing that their relevant afflictions would leave them the fuck alone. Imagine, thought Bevan, being able to breathe, eat, and function normally, without the stench of corpse.

Jack merely hoped quietly that his sense of despair would lessen.They reached Rick’s front door. Bevan rang the doorbell whilst simultaneously flicking his smoke over the fence and removing the offending jumper and ditching it in the same manner. Rick’s mum answered the door with a teatowel over her shoulder and, after getting over her surprise at the boys’ arrival so early on a Saturday morning, turned to look for Rick; but he was already behind her and waiting for her to get out of the way. Her son’s keenness to get out of the house offended some deep-rooted family-binding instinct that Rick’s mum had, and she barked at him to be back by midday because of the imminent arrival of guests, which was the first time Rick had heard about said visitors. To shut her up, he agreed with everything she said, without listening to a word of it, and breathed a sigh of relief once they were out of sight of the house. Once they’d turned the corner, Bevan retrieved his jumper and rolled and lit up another smoke immediately, dropping back a pace from the others so that he could enjoy it while it lasted. And despite Jack’s evident displeasure with him, Rick couldn’t resist a word or two.

‘About bloody time, eh?’

Jack glowered up at him from underneath his hoodie, and Rick started to realise how much his inveterate curiosity was costing his friend. He didn’t bother about Bevan because Bevan, while smoking enough to power a small village, was still sleeping and studying in such a way to give a healthy man the shits.

‘No thanks to you,’ grated Jack.

Rick started to defend himself, but Bevan piped up.

‘Leave it, fucker,’ he cautioned.

Once at the cop shop, Jack and Bevan let Rick do all the talking, until they were each questioned separately, but briefly, about their involvement. They were offered a cup of coffee while they were talked at by a concerned young woman, who wanted to give them counselling. They didn’t consent to being identified in the press as the discoverers, and only grudgingly consented to their parents being told; the latter mainly because each felt it would get them off the hook with their recent familial transgressions, however slightly. And that was really it.

All in all, the event of letting other people deal with it was a huge relief to each of them. Bevan managed to not smoke until he got home, and even made his mother a cup of tea, while Rick’s colour gradually returned—much to his parents’ relief. Jack felt like he didn’t have to worry about certain things, but was still mired in his own worries. Of course, it was necessary that the boys had to cop an earbashing from their respective mothers for not coming forward earlier, for potentially obstructing justice, for being less helpful than they could’ve been. They shouldn’t have been so stupid, they were told, they wouldn’t be this stupid in the future, would they, god forbid, and for god’s sake they did make their mothers worry. And so on, in the way that mothers are apt to be when they are trying to show their sympathy.The boys endured these nags with a relatively good-natured perception of what was going on, and were each surprised to see that the event bonded their mothers together. They knew that their parents were relieved and so, even if they didn’t listen to most of the tirades, knew that they would not be punished. Jack’s mother, he was bemused to see, was even warm towards him.

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