Castle Roland

Memories of Eric: The Road to Hell

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The river was a long, long way down. A long way to fall. Benjamin had been told it would break your neck on impact if you fell off the bridge. He figured the same held true for someone who jumped.

It's not like anyone would miss him. His parents barely spoke to him, his classmates hated him, teachers couldn't care less. No friends worth the name, he didn't have a girlfriend – what a joke, the idea of him with a girlfriend – and certainly no one to care.

He was alone in the world, and it was time to end it. He stared out into space, enjoying the last few moments of his life before he climbed up onto the railing, the freedom and peace of knowing it was all about to end. He reached out to grab the bridge's support cable to help him balance as he climbed.

"Hey there, beautiful view, isn't it?" A tall man, a few years older than Ben, leaned against the railing beside him. Dirty blond hair framed his face as he smiled into the rising sun. Ben jumped backwards, startled. "Don't be scared, I won't hurt you," the man said.

"Who're you?" Ben demanded harshly, to cover his fright.

"Name's Eric Stephens, and you?" the man replied affably, sticking his hand out.

Ben took it hesitantly, "Benjamin Corelli."

"Nice to meat you, Benjamin," the man grinned, and then turned back to the sunrise. "Beautiful day. Shame you won't see the rest of it."

"What... what do you mean?" Ben stammered, suddenly scared.

"Well, it's just a shame that you're going to take the exit when there is so much more to do, so much more to see."

"I don't..." Ben backed away slowly.

"You never know what one day might bring. You never know what joys the simple act of telling the truth can allow." The man seemed to be speaking to himself, but the words struck straight to Benjamin's soul. "You could try just one more day, give life one more chance to make it right. Give it a helping hand, even. If you plan on taking a swan dive," the stranger leaned out over the railing to look down, "and this looks like quite the dive, by the way! As I was saying, if you're planning on ending it anyway, why not let your parents know why you've been so distant. Maybe they've just been trying to give you a bit of space, remembering how badly they wanted it at your age. Maybe your best friend could be more, if you were just willing to admit to him why you ran out the other day."

Ben was slowly backing up, and as the words seemed to narrow in on him, he sprinted away. The stranger couldn't – he couldn't! – and yet, it seemed he did. Had he been following Ben? But... even if he'd been following him, how could he know? He hadn't told anyone!

A little over a year later, Benjamin visited the bridge again, bringing his best friend, or rather his boyfriend, Derrick, with him. "Here's where I met him, Derrick."

"I owe him – we owe him – a lot," Derrick murmured softly, snuggling up to the arm over his shoulder. From a distance, you might not think much of it: just two close friends, walking around. They'd had plenty of time to practice not being obvious about their relationship. But it was there, and it ran deep. Both their parent's knew, though Derrick's weren't too terribly happy with his choice of "lifestyle". Ben's parents, on the other hand, supported him fully. Once they'd realized that in their efforts to give him the space he wanted, the room he needed to grow as a teen, they'd actually distanced themselves from him, they'd crowded in all the tighter.

He hadn't told anyone except Derrick about why he had come here a year ago, and he'd only told him this morning, after seeing Eric's face in the newspaper's obit section. They'd come here to remember the man who'd saved his life, since they couldn't attend the funeral. It was in the middle of the school day, and the school wasn't going to let them have the day off to attend the funeral of a man – in the words of the principal – that they "barely knew, and couldn't possibly be interested in as anything other than an excuse to play hookey!"

Derrick stared into the sunset for a few moments. "You know... our parents can only kill us once if we decide to play hookey."

"Great minds think alike, Der," came the amused response, "great minds think alike."

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