The Alphabet Stories: Trust
Story by Liane Carter
Illustration by E.J. Klepinger
Ben woke, feeling a weight pushing down on his chest. He moved his hands and felt fur beneath his fingers. His eyes sprang open and he went to leap off the bed. He then saw Charlotte snuggled in her fleecy pyjamas and snuggled into him! He smiled. Her head seemed to weigh as much as an elephant, but he didn’t want to move her. Was this really happening? Charlotte’s head was resting on his chest, in his bed. This had to be one of the best mornings of his life. He smiled and kissed the top of her head.
She stirred, moaned and hugged him. Ben hugged her back and felt tears spring to his eyes.
In a sleepy voice she said, “Mm, can I stay here forever? I am so cosy.”
He beamed. “Yes, although it might be better to go to work so we have money for more midnight feasts ... if you want more.”
Charlotte raised her head and looked into his eyes and sighed.
“I don’t want to go to work,” she said. “I want to stay here, but you’re right. Having the same boss would make it a bit suspect if we both called in sick.”
“I really wouldn’t feel good about it either, when Edward has done so much for me,” Ben said.
Charlotte tilted her head to the side and smiled.
“No wonder I’ve fallen for you, Ben. You’re beautiful.”
He brushed a strand of hair away from her face.
“So are you.”
He kissed her and she broke away.
“Uh, not that I want to stop this,” she said, “but what time is it?”
Ben grabbed his phone.
“Shit. Five past ten.”
She giggled and leaped out of bed.
“Well, we’re already late. Let’s not make it worse. I’ll just splash water on my face and brush my teeth.”
“Right. I’ll make us a coffee. We can drink it on the way.”
Ben tried to call Edward, but his line was busy, so he sent a text. They giggled on the way to work, although both felt nervous about disrespecting Edward. He had been good to them both.
When they arrived, a few of the workers smirked at them with raised eyebrows and wide eyes. Ben and Charlotte headed straight for Edward’s office.
His door was closed and he was on the phone, but he looked up and saw them through the window and gestured for them to come in.
“Yes, I’ll call you at lunchtime, or he will. Thanks. Bye.”
Edward put down the phone and looked at them both.
“Sorry we’re late,” Ben said. “We overslept.”
“Together? Let’s hope there’s more together and less lateness.”
“Sorry, Edward,” Charlotte said. “It was my fault.”
Ben glanced at her and frowned.
“No,” Ben said. “It was-”
“Stop, both of you,” Edward said. “Charlotte, go and get on with your shift. Ben, you and I need to talk.”
Charlotte looked up at Ben with concern in her eyes, yet did as Edward said and left the office.
“Shut the door please, Charlotte.”
She did and Ben turned back to Edward.
“I’m so sorry. You’ve done so much for me and I didn’t mean-“
“Stop. Sit down.”
“You were late. It’s forgotten. I trust you. You’ve never been late before and Charlotte, well, that one always arrives before her shift, and, after what happened yesterday with you having to go back to your childhood home, to all those awful memories … well, how are you?”
Ben shuddered then smiled.
“Has Charlotte got something to do with that?”
Ben nodded and felt his cheeks flush. “And you. You calling last night to check on me. And all Jon has taught me in our sessions.”
“Speaking of Jon, I’ve just been talking to him. He has something to tell you and I said I would let you know. He thought it might be better hearing it from me first.”
Ben gripped the arms of the chair. Was Jon going to stop the therapy sessions with him? Ben needed him. Was this because he had called Jon yesterday evening in a panic, outside office hours? Jon had told him he could. But maybe he was being polite. Ben trusted Edward and Jon and maybe he had trusted them too much.
Ben watched Edward’s lips move, could hear his voice through the fog in his ears, but couldn’t make out any of the words.
“Ben … Ben, are you okay?”
Ben shook his head.
“Jon wants to stop the therapy sessions?”
Edward furrowed his brow.
“What are you talking about? Of course not. Did you hear what I just said?”
Ben looked at Edward.
“I didn’t hear anything after ‘He thought it best if you tell me first’. I sort of went into a panic.”
“Ha. So much for it being better for me to say.”
Edward got up from his desk and walked around to Ben. Edward perched on the edge of his desk and took Ben’s hand.
“What I’ve got to tell you is a good thing. At least, I think it is a good thing. Because you and I are like brothers, and well, this is a family thing, Jon thought it might be good to hear it from me.”
“A family thing?”
“Yes. Guess who visited Jon.”
Edward leaned forward.
“Amanda. Your sister.”
Ben felt his mouth drop open. He had spent his adult years promising not to see her, so she would be safe.
“Jon told her where I was?”
“She said she wanted to find you. He told her he knew you. He said she looks just like you.”
Tears spilled down Ben’s cheeks.
“Isn’t this great?” Edward said.
Ben shook his head.
“I don’t want to see her.”
Edward dropped to a squat beside Ben.
“Why not? You told us both that you love her.”
“That’s why I can’t see her.”
“I don’t understand.”
“My parents, my aunt. I didn’t want to hurt her too. Staying away from her has kept her safe. As long as I don’t get close to people, they are safe. I can’t trust myself.”
Edward wrapped Ben’s hand in both of his.
“Ben, what about me then? What about Jon? You are close to us. And I am like a brother to you.”
“And what about Charlotte? You are proving yourself safe.”
“Oh, God. Charlotte. Maybe I need to end it.”
“Stop. Ben, remember your homework. Look how far you’ve come. You are a different person now. You are seeing who you really are. Before, you wouldn’t have dared to get close to Charlotte. Look at the evidence. You’ve been out together more than once and last night … well, I am guessing you were together all night as you both turned up together this morning. So …”
“So this proves you can trust yourself.”
“Have you had any … bad thoughts about Charlotte?”
Ben grinned and shook his head.
“See. Look at you. You light up like a Christmas tree at the mention of her. And she’s the same with you.”
She was. Ben didn’t know how he’d gotten so lucky.
“You need to lean in to trust. To trust yourself. You are a good man, Ben.”
Ben swallowed. Could he trust himself enough to see his sister?