Nate Makes Plans
That night, Nate had a hard time sleeping. His mind kept wandering to what Patrick had said. Nate thought of the trip and what he would actually do. He knew that his parents would say yes; they always said yes to him. Sometimes it made him feel like they were just trying to get him out of the house so that the rest of the family wouldn’t have to deal with him. But he did not care this time. He was going to leave and never come back.
Nate was concerned about whether or not he should tell Patrick what he was going to do or if he should just disappear one night on their trip. As he thought through all the different ways that he could disappear on the trip, he finally fell asleep.
The next few weeks of school flew by. The end of school always had a way of doing that. Patrick was a constant presence, telling him about all the things they would see and do. Nate kept a mental note of all the places that he might be able to disappear. He also listened to the amount of supplies that Patrick said that they would need so that he could pack enough to get him to his final destination.
Nate started to think about that, too. Where exactly would he go? He could not just stay in the woods forever; he would have to go somewhere, and Brevard was way too small to try and hide from his parents. He would be found out the first day that someone knew he was back in town.
That night, Nate used the computer at the house. It was set up in the family room, so everyone was around. Beth, his older sister, came up and asked him what he was looking at. Nate was thankful that the site he pulled up was easy enough to explain away. “Oh, I am just looking at the trail and the trail heads for the Appalachian.”
“Cool!” Beth said “Maybe we can come up and do a day hike with you while you are on your trip with Patrick.”
“I don’t know. It is supposed to be a wilderness type of trip. It might be hard for us to come out and see you somewhere.”
Nate knew that he had hurt Beth’s feelings. She was not a bad sister; he just did not want this to get any more complicated than it needed to be. If she was going to be up there to meet him, she might see that he was not planning on returning home. Nate quickly started to show his sister all the places that they were going along the way in hopes of making it up to her. Beth just patted him on the shoulder and walked away.
Nate did not want to be this way with his sister. He wanted to be nice to her, but he needed to get out. He had to remember what his goal was. He could not let those few moments when people pretended to care about him cloud his plan to leave.
After the incident with Beth, Nate kept his plans to himself. He started using the computer at school to find out information about where he was going and how he would get there. By the time school let out, Nate was almost positive of where he would leave Patrick and start on his own adventure. Now he just needed to be patient and not let the cat out of the bag.
Once Nate asked his parents about going on the trip and them saying yes, it was almost impossible to keep Patrick away. He started coming over and made friends with all of Nate’s family. It did not surprise Nate that Patrick was accepted into the family, Patrick was more like them than Nate was. Nate felt like Patrick spoke their language; he knew all their games and funny ways better than he did. It just helped him feel like this idea to run away was the right idea. How could he possibly live with a family that loved a stranger and enjoyed the company of stranger more than one of their very own.
The more that Patrick was around, the more Nate withdrew from the family. Nate even started to imagine that once he was gone that the family would just take Patrick in his place. He could see it play out in his mind. Patrick would return from the trip and have to tell his parents that Nate had disappeared. There would be some tears, mainly because they would be required in such a situation, but no one would really miss him. They would ask Patrick to come over in order to comfort him and to let him know that they did not blame him for Nate’s disappearance. Before long, everyone would just forget Nate’s name and that he ever existed. But then, Nate kind of felt like that was true in some ways right now.
Nate worked his way through the end of the school year. He started to enjoy Patrick’s company at lunch and after school, but he still did not trust him with his plans. Nate felt like Patrick was the good Boy Scout that would tell his parents what Nate was up to or where he had
gone. Patrick was a good kid. Nate also discovered that Patrick’s family was a nice. Nate went over to Patrick’s house one time so that he could take a look at Patrick’s supplies for the trip.
Patrick’s mom was there when they showed up after school. She had been baking and offered the boys cookies as they walked through the kitchen. Nate liked the taste of them. He did not get many treats like this at home. His mom did not bake very often, and when she did it normally had something weird in it like spelt or cane juice. Nate breathed in the air. It was filled with the scent of normal. Normal people who made normal cookies and did normal things. That was exactly what Nate was going to have his new place smell like, normal.
There was a lot that Nate actually liked about Patrick’s house. Turned out that Patrick was an only child. His house was quiet, and his parents actually talked to him and listened to Patrick when he talked. Patrick did not have to compete with anyone for attention or love. It was obvious to Nate that Patrick’s parents loved him, unlike his own parents who barely tolerated him and did not even notice when he was home or not.
Nate had hoped that once the summer started he would have more time to prepare for his trip. But because he was going to be gone for two weeks, his parents decided that they all needed to spend quality time together. Nate did not understand why they felt the need to do this now. It seemed so fake to him. He went along because he thought it would be a good way to say good bye to his family. So that they would remember him and see what they had lost once he was gone. At least he hoped they would see what they had lost.
Nate’s mom created an entire schedule for his days leading up to the hike. It was time with each of his siblings doing something either alone or with their parents. Nate did not know how she had got his oldest siblings to agree to do those things. Normally their summers between
semesters were spent making money or taking classes at the local college. His first day was with Stephen.
Stephen was the oldest of Nate’s brothers and sisters. He was in his junior year at Davidson. Nate was never sure exactly what Stephen was studying, but it did not matter because their day was to be spent getting Nate a backpack for his hiking trip. Stephen knocked on his door well before breakfast.
“What?” Nate asked from his bed.
“Get up. I’m taking you out to breakfast,” Stephen said from the other side of the door.
Nate pulled himself out of bed. “I will be right there. Give me a second.”
Nate hurriedly put on his clothes and threw on a ball cap to cover his untamed mop of hair. When he opened the bedroom door, there stood Stephen in all his glory. He was by far the most handsome of all his brothers. Nate had never seen Stephen look like he did at that moment. Stephen’s clothes were always wrinkle free and looked as if they could be from the cover of a magazine. Nate was jealous of Stephen’s ability to do that. Even on Sunday mornings, when Nate put on his best clothes and a tie he still looked like a slob.
“Come on, little bro’. I’m gonna take you out to the best breakfast in town,” Stephen said.
Nate put his seatbelt on and closed his eyes as Stephen turned on his music and headed onto the road. They drove for a while listening to the tunes move through the early morning air. Nate was pulled out of light sleep when Stephen told him they were there. It was a little restaurant that he had never seen before. When they walked inside, everyone waved and said hello to Stephen. Nate guessed he was a regular there.
The waitress came over and made small talk with Stephen then turned to Nate and said, “We just love your big brother around here. You are one lucky fellow to have him in your family.” She never once stopped smiling or beaming at Stephen. It made Nate want to scream, to yell out the truth about his family, about himself. Instead, he mumbled something socially acceptable and asked if he could get a glass of juice.
Stephen had been right; the breakfast was really good. They cooked his eggs exactly the way he liked them. His mom always called it splat fried-the yolks were broke and then flipped and fried until the egg was well done. While he chewed on the last of his homemade toast, Stephen continued to talk with the folks around them. He seemed to be friends with everyone in the restaurant. Nate just added it to the list of things he did not like about Stephen and how perfect he was.
“Now that we’ve had a good breakfast, what do you say we go find you a backpack for this trip of yours,” Stephen said.
“Sure,” Nate said, glad to be leaving and getting closer to the end of his day with Stephen. Nate looked at his perfect smile as they were leaving the restaurant and the ease of which he waved good bye to their waitress. Friendship seemed so easy for Stephen.
Nate was thankful that the store they were going to was not very far away. They did not have to do any real talking once they got there. The sales man helped them pick out a pack and weighed it down to make sure it would be comfortable for Nate while he was hiking. Nate felt the weight of the pack and tried to imagine what the real weight would be like the day that he left home. Regardless of the physical burden, Nate felt sure that the mental relief would counter its stress on his body.
Once Nate picked out the backpack that was most comfortable, he and Stephen took it up to the register. Nate went to pull out his wallet to pay for the pack with his money.
Stephen grabbed his hand and said, “Let me take care of this for you.”
Nate did not know what to think at first, but then he realized that Mom must have given Stephen the money to pay for it.
“Okay. Thanks,” Nate said.
When they got back into the car, Stephen did not start for their house. “Nate, I’d really like to talk to you about something.”
“What is it?” Nate asked hesitantly.
“I’m thinking about not coming back to stay with the family next year when I graduate. I wanted to see what you thought about that.”
“Where were you thinking of going?” Nate was secretly hoping that Stephen was not planning on moving to where he hoped to escape to.
“I was thinking of going to Atlanta. That way I’d be close enough to come home if anyone needed me or for holidays. But there’s a really great job opportunity there.”
“Sounds like a good idea. Atlanta is a pretty big city. When exactly would you go and what would you be doing there?”
“If I could, I would already be there. There’s a company that wants me to start work for them and to finish up my degree there in Atlanta. But I think Mom and Dad would be upset. They just love having us all around them.”
Nate thought, “Yeah, right. Too bad I’m not part of the us they love.” The fact that Stephen already had a job offer just proved to Nate that he was perfect.
Nate said to Stephen, “I think they would understand.”
“What about you? How would you feel about me moving on?”
Nate was surprised by the question. Why would Stephen really care what Nate thought if he were around or not? Nate thought that Stephen never thought about him. Stephen was perfect in every way that Nate could think of. Why would he care the slightest bit over whether or not he would be miss him? Nate realized that Stephen was probably just pulling his leg in regards to how he would feel, that Stephen had just made a mistake by bringing it up and then felt obligated to ask his opinion. Anger flashed through Nate for allowing himself to believe that someone might actually care what he thought.
“Whatever you want,” Nate said. He folded his arms and stared out the window. Stephen droned on and on about where he would be and what type of work he would be doing. Nate ignored it all because he felt like it was just another slap in the face.
When they got home, Nate took his backpack to his room and stayed there for the rest of the day. He lay down on his bed and started dreaming about the life he was going to have once he stopped being a nobody in his family. He was going to dress just like Stephen and have clothes just like him, look sharp, so no one would ever know that he was a nobody on the inside.