Can the bonds of FRIENDSHIP overcome all odds?
The Code
The Truth Will Set You Free
“So, what’s your plan?” Bethany asked, peering down at her sketch which was spread across the cool sand.
Dylan pointed toward one corner. “Well, you see this window here? It’s far enough from the main gate that we could get in unnoticed.”
Bethany nodded. “Sure, that would work great, but how do we get through the gate?”
Dylan smirked. “Well, that’s where your girlyness comes in.”
Bethany raised her eyebrows. “My girlyness?”
Dylan nodded. “Uh-huh. Here’s the deal. You’ll walk over to the guards in tears, saying that you were kidnapped in the morning, but then the kidnappers thought they were being followed, so they dropped you off here.”
Bethany gasped. “You want me to lie?”
Dylan licked his lips. “I sure do.” Dylan moved his finger a little to the left. “I’ll be waiting here. Once you’ve distracted the guards enough, I’ll sneak through the gate. There’s a fuse box a little ways in the property. If I can get in that, I can pull the fuse for the outside lighting. That’ll buy you enough time to sneak by the confused guards and find me inside the fenced in area.” Dylan took a deep breath. “The rest shouldn’t be much harder.”
Bethany thought about that for a moment. “Well, I suppose that might work. But I’ve never been very good at fake crying.”
Dylan blinked. “Well, you’d better get better, and fast. We need to move tonight.”
“Well, I’ll do my best.”
Dylan looked down at the sketch again, beaming. He was pretty proud of himself for crafting a plan like that.
Bethany could tell what he was thinking. “Now, don’t get too big of a head over this. After all, we don’t know how well it’ll work yet.”
“Oh, it’ll work,” Dylan stated matter-o-factly. “It has to. I put a lot of thought into it.”
Bethany opened her mouth to say something, but the voice behind her beat her to it.
Bethany spun around. “Who’s there-“ Her jaw dropped as her eyes met another pair. “T-Travis?”
Travis smiled weakly. “Hey...”
Dylan took a step in front of Bethany and narrowed his eyes protectively.
“What are you doing here?”
Travis swallowed. “I... I was told you could use my help?”
“I thought you didn’t want to come,” Dylan accused. “Did you come to finally take revenge?”
Travis rolled his eyes. “No, I didn’t. I came to apologize.”
Bethany gently pushed in front of Dylan. “You did?”
Travis nodded. “Yeah, I figured it was well overdue.” He raised his eyebrows at Dylan. “That is, if I’m allowed to.”
Bethany smiled at Dylan. “I think it’s for the best, don’t you?”
Dylan blinked. “Yes, I suppose.” He took a step back. “By all means.”
Travis took a step toward Bethany. “Well, I suppose you’re awfully mad at me, aren’t you?”
She shrugged. “No, not really.”
Travis raised his eyebrows. “You’re not?”
Bethany shook her head.
“Well, why not?” Travis wrinkled his forehead. “After all I said to you, about you, how I treated you, and you don’t hate me? Maybe you are crazy...”
Bethany laughed. “Well, I don’t know about that. But no, I’m not angry. I figured you had a good reason.”
Travis sighed. “Well, I had a reason, but it wasn’t a very good one.”
“And what reason was that?”
Travis didn’t answer. Dylan took a nervous breath. “Bethany, maybe it’d be better if you didn’t ask.”
“No, no, it’s okay,” Travis said. “It’s about time she knew the truth.”
Bethany cocked her head. “The truth about what?”
Travis pursed his lips. “You’d better take a seat, it’s a long story.”
Bethany took her seat, and crossed her legs on the sand. She looked up at Travis expectantly. He took a seat across from her and took a deep breath. “My parents married young. They were both twenty when they ‘tied the knot,’ as my grandpa would say.”
Dylan shifted back and forth on his feet anxiously, but Bethany shot him a look, and he plopped down next to her on the sand.
Travis continued. “I didn’t know much about my parents before I was born, but I knew that my parents had been happy. I would see pictures on my dad’s phone or hung on the wall of my mom and dad, smiling and laughing. My mom’s eyes glistened like a candle. My dad used to say that her eyes were a light that could never go out. But after I was born, the light in my mom’s eyes slowly faded. The day I started kindergarten, my mom was supposed to drive me down to the school to meet my teacher. But when that morning came, my mom wouldn’t get out of bed. She told me, ‘School is just prison with brightly colored walls.’ My dad had to go to work, but my mom still refused to take me. As it turns out, my dad had to take the day off from work to take me to school and make sure I got home later.”
Travis paused and closed his eyes. Bethany opened her mouth to say something, but Dylan caught her eye and shook his head. Bethany pressed her lips shut and waited patiently for more.
Travis exhaled loudly and pulled his eyes back open. “A week or two later, one night, I couldn’t sleep because my parents were fighting in the kitchen. I lied in bed for several minutes, hoping that they would stop, but the screaming kept getting louder. Eventually, I rolled out of bed and snuck downstairs. From the end of the steps, I could see into the kitchen, and I could hear every word being said.”
“What were they saying?” Bethany asked quietly.
Travis shrugged. “Oh, lots of things. My mom accused my dad of keeping all the money to himself, and leaving her with nothing. My dad called my mom greedy and called me needy, and then said that it’s a woman’s job to stay home and keep the house tidy. My mom threatened to walk out, but my dad said she wouldn’t dare, since she’d have to take me along. My mom simply said, ‘Watch me.’”
Travis’ voice grew shaky. “The, um, the next morning, I woke up when I heard the back door slam. I ran to my parent’s room to wake them up, but their bed was empty. I hurried downstairs to find my dad leaning against the front door frame, staring out to the driveway. I pushed my self under his arm and out the door. I stopped, barefoot, on the edge of the porch, watching my dad’s red pickup truck pulling out into the street, my mom in the driver’s seat. The truck bed was filled with furniture, books, and my grandma’s fine china. I took off down the driveway, calling out to my mom. She slowed the truck down a little and glanced at me through the side mirror, then slammed her foot down on the gas pedal and took off. She didn’t look back, not even once. I waddled back to my dad, who was now standing at the edge of the porch. ‘Where is mommy going?’ I had asked, not understanding what had just happened. ‘Away,’ my dad responded coldly. ‘When is she coming back?’ I asked again, quieter this time. My dad didn’t respond right away. Instead, he just watched the sun poke over the horizon. I blinked. ‘Dad?’ He looked down at me, and for the only time in my entire life, I saw him smile sympathetically. ‘She’s not.’”
Bethany’s breath caught in her throat. Everything was slowly beginning to make sense.
“And then, all at once, I understood. She was gone for good, and it was my fault.”
“Your fault?” Bethany cocked her head. “How?”
Travis sighed. “She just didn’t want to deal with me anymore. I’m not a very easy person to be around, you know, because of my disability.”
Bethany’s eyes widened. “Disability? What disability?”
Travis looked over to Dylan. “You, you didn’t tell her?”
Dyan shrugged. “It never came up in conversation, I guess.”
Travis turned back to Bethany. “So, you don’t know?”
She shook her head.
“I’m autistic.”
Bethany blinked. “Oh.” She thought for a moment. “So, that means...”
Dylan cut in. “That means that Travis is wired differently in the mind. He senses things differently, behaves differently, learns differently. He has a hard time understanding social cues, things that you and I pick up on right away.”
Bethany slowly nodded. “I see.” She turned back toward Travis. “But that doesn’t mean that what she did is your fault.”
Travis shrugged. “Well, I guess I can understand that now, but not as a kindergartener.”
“That makes sense,” she agreed. “What happened next?”
Travis thought back to his story. “My dad took off work for that day, too, since he was the only one around to take me to school. I was pretty upset for most of the school day, but I wouldn’t talk to anyone. The teacher kept trying to figure out what was wrong, but I never told her. At recess, Dylan came over and asked me what was wrong.”
Dylan smiled slightly at the mention of his name.
“I told him what happened, and then I made him promise me something.”
Bethany squinted her eyes quizzically. “What was that?”
“I made him promise that no matter what, we were going to hate girls. We weren’t going to talk to them or interact with them or anything. They were disgusting creatures and I didn’t want anything to do with them, and I wanted Dylan to join me.”
Bethany nodded. “Aaah.” She glanced over at Dylan and then back at Travis. “This whole thing makes a lot more sense now.”
Travis nodded. “So, that’s why we, why I was so mean to you when we met. It was wrong, and I see that now, but it was nothing personal, honest. We treated all girls that way. It was almost as if they were all a deadly virus, and the only way to avoid infection was to avoid contact. So, that’s what we did.”
Dylan nodded. “It’s embarrassing to think that I once acted that way, but it’s true. I was awful.”
We were awful,” Travis corrected, “and we weren’t fair to you, Bethany.”
Bethany managed a laugh. “Yeah, you guys were pretty bad.”
“So when Dylan started talking to you and when you guys became friends, I grew furious at the both of you- him for betraying our code, and you because you had stolen my best friend away.”
Bethany grew pink. “I didn’t mean to, honest.”
Travis held up his hand. “Hang on, I’m not done yet.” He brought his hand to his pocket and bit his lip. “But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that you didn’t steal Dylan away- I was holding him captive. As I watched you and him grow closer, I saw parts of my best friend that I had never seen before, good parts, awesome parts, that I had forced him to hide. I was dependent on him for everything, and by no means should a friendship be that way.” Travis turned toward Dylan. “And for that, I am sorry.”
Dylan smiled and gave Travis a short side hug. “Don’t worry about it. No hard feelings.”
Travis then turned back to Bethany and frowned. “And I hated you before even knew you, and that’s not fair towards you. I let my envy consume me, and I’ll admit, I’m not proud of the things it caused me to do. I egged your house and wrecked your yard, and I wish I never had.”
Bethany’s eyes grew wide. “That was you?”
Travis nodded. “And I am sorry. I promise I’ll make it up to you one day.”
Bethany laughed. “Oh, that’s alright. It doesn’t really matter anymore.”
“But it does,” Travis persisted. “I need you to understand something, Bethany. You’ve changed me without even trying, and you need to know how grateful I am. But even more than that, you need to know how sorry I am.”
Bethany’s breath caught in her throat once again. “Travis, I don’t really know what to say.”
Travis furrowed his eyebrows and stuck out his hand. “Are we cool?”
Bethany smiled and shook Travis’ hand. “Yes, yes we are.”
Travis let out a sigh of relief and dropped his hand. “I am so glad that that’s over.”
Dylan grinned and placed a hand on Travis’ shoulder. “So, are you sticking around?”
Travis picked up his backpack that Bethany and Dylan had failed to notice off the sand and held it in front of him. “Well, I didn’t haul this huge thing around for nothing!”
“Great!” Bethany exclaimed, pumping her fist up in the air.
“So,” Travis cracked his knuckles and bent over the map on the sand. “What’s the plan?”

Keep Reading

Chapter 25

A Never Ending Adventure

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