Edward sat on the edge of his bed, his shoulders hunched, sighs heavy, with his tense jaw laying in his cupped hands. He knew the revelation of the truth was imminent. He would have to tell them, he owed them that much. They were his best friends and they deserved to know the truth from him first. If only he hadn’t been noticed. Why does everyone have to have a camera nowadays?
The setting of the city sun shone through his window in a shadowed haze as he looked into the mirror across the room. He had gone over and over in his mind about how he would tell them. He knew it was likely they would never speak to him again, but it was a chance he had to take. Each time he would try rehearsing what he would say to them, he could never find the words. Maybe if I practice them out loud, I will have better luck, he resolved.
He looked dead into the mirror and began. “Guys, listen, there’s something I want to talk to you about.” His breaths shuddered as he continued, “Soon you may hear some things about me and I wanted you to hear the whole story, the truth from me before you heard it from anyone else.” He paused and took a deep breath. “There are some things about me and my life you don’t know about; things I didn’t tell you. I am just so damn ashamed that I let myself get roped into something like this.”
The phone rang shaking him from his confession and ignored it. There is no way to make this easy, I just need to do it. How did I ever get myself into a mess like this? What the hell was I thinking? He thought back to the day that would inevitably change his whole life. Why did I succumb to this crap that has taken over my life? Looking over at the clock on the nightstand. “Time to go” he whispered, then walked out the door.
He arrived at O’Brien’s Irish Pub where he and his buddies had been hanging out for years, hopped off his fully restored 1976 Harley pan head and stood for a moment to admire its glory. He had spent so much time and money on it, but finally, it was exactly what he had envisioned. Each detail planned and brought to life down to the skulls etched in the midnight blue tank and skull foot kickstand. This was his baby, his pride and joy, and he would crush the fingers of anyone who dared lay them on it.
Edward walked towards the door and noticed the stares from passersby. The looks on their faces made him chuckle inside. They told a story of fear and intimidation, but who wouldn’t be? He stood over six feet tall and was no small man by any means. His Hell’s Angel t-shirt was accented by skull and panther tattoos on either arm. His shaved head and skull earring just added to the intimidation. Seeing him on the street would make anyone think twice about walking past him. He loved the fear factor he brought with him, giving him a sense of control and power. A young couple walking towards him began to cross the street when they noticed him. He couldn’t resist the urge, staring at them with commitment. He looked like he could kill with his bare hands, but he was all bark and no bite. He loved to play the part.
As he entered O’Brien’s it was like entering Ireland itself. It was as though they had picked a pub from Ireland and placed it right where it stood, dust and all. Sitting dead center was an oversized stone fireplace. The smoke-stained stone and glow of the winters fire set the ambiance for the entire place. It was one of the friends old and new gathered around the fire to share their sometimes-inflated stories. The low roar of the middle-aged crowd gave Edward a sense of comfort. A place he could come to escape– that was until his secret came out.
Every wall filled with mementos and photos from the old country owner Quinn Mulligan brought to the States with him. Why he didn’t name the pub after himself had to do with some family feud he never wanted to talk about. When asked, a solemn look would flood his face as he changed the subject with haste.
“Eddie” a voice yelled from the opposite side of the room. Jolted from his daze, Edward turned to see his oldest friend Sean sitting at a table under the tattered Irish flag in the corner of the room. A flag Quinn said reminded him of the battles his country fought for religious freedom from, and the main reason he fled to the U.S. Sean was the epitome of an Irishman adorned with red curly hair and freckles. He was a tall gangly man with a big mouth that didn’t have volume control. Sean and Edward had spent many weekends working on and riding their bikes. It was a passion they both shared, well for now anyway. Once he found out Edward’s big secret he probably would have nothing to do with him anymore.
“Hey buddy,” Edward muttered heading towards the table. The heaviness of his shoulders grew with each step. Walking the green mile, except he would not be able to escape the humiliation of his fate.
“How are things?” Sean reached for his friend’s hand.
“Not too bad, Sean,” with a somber tone. Edward tried to smile but right now there was nothing for him to smile about.
“You look like the world just fell on you,” Sean commented, “what’s going on?”
Edward sat across from his friend and tried to muster the words. It was then their friend Patty walked up to the table.
“H-H-Hey guys,” Patty stuttered. Patty was a timid soft-spoken accountant who sat under fluorescent lights all day making his skin white and pasty white, and where he got his nickname Pasty from.
“Hey there Pasty,” Edward bellowed with a stiff slap to his back which sent Patty’s glasses tumbling from his nose.
“H-Hi Eddie,” he stammered and replaced his glasses. Edward and Sean had only met Patty a couple of years ago here at O’Brien’s. Sitting alone in a corner booth they thought they’d have some fun by teasing him. Strangely enough, he turned out to be their best friend. Pasty wasn’t what someone would picture as a biker, in fact, Edward and Sean were shocked that he could ride his Harley Sportster 883 typically driven by women but was the only one he could hold up. He was a weekend rider at best. During the week it was the family minivan that he drove the streets in. “Where are we riding this weekend,” Patty asked trying so hard to fit in.
“I’m jonesing for a long ride,” Sean blurted out.
Edward knew that the weekend ride wouldn’t happen. It was only a matter of time before his buddies would learn the truth, Several times he opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out. He couldn’t muster the words to tell them. With the pit growing deeper in his stomach he knew he would have to do some serious bribing to get them on his side.
“What’ll ya have,” the waitress squeaked with enthusiasm.
“I’ll have–” Sean began, but was interrupted by Edward.
“Gimmie a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue,” Edward ordered with his chest puffing out. With a sideward glance, the waitress nodded and walked towards the bar.
“Walker Blue,” Sean said astonished, “What the hell is going on?” They all knew how expensive it was and that Edward didn’t make enough money to drink it on a normal day.
With a yelp, Pasty spoke up. “What’s going on Eddie?”
Edward opened his mouth but the words still didn’t come. He had spent hours practicing how he would tell the guys, but he just couldn’t. Seeing the distressed look in his eyes, Sean chimed in.
“Edie what the hell is going on?” he leaned closer in. With perfect timing, the waitress returned to the table with the bottle and three glasses.
“Can’t I buy my buddies a drink without there having to be something wrong?”
With that, he poured the drinks and raised his glass. “To good friends and good times,” all the while thinking what a damn chicken he was. Together they toasted and sipped slowly some of the finest scotch they had ever drunk. For a moment it was like nothing was wrong and everything would stay the same. The three friends talked about the adventures from the week, each shared some hilarious story or antidote. He was almost able to forget, almost. Edward knew this might be the last drink he shared with his buddies. How could they ever understand why I did what I did?
As if on cue, Sean said, “So you gonna tell us what the hell is going on?”
“Yeah, buddy,” Patty chimed in, trying to downplay the situation Edward stood up grabbed the bottle in one hand and his glass in the other,
“Let’s go outside for a smoke.” His friends followed willingly. In the chill of the night air, they stood next to the fire pit as Edward handed them each a cigar.
“Magnum, Ashton Magnum Eddie,” with utter shook Sean continued, “Now I know something is wrong. What the hell is going on?” Not willing to take no for an answer he repeated himself, “What the hell is going on?” Before answering his friend, he lit his cigar, puffed it making rings above him. First the Walker Blue, and now Ashton Magnum cigars, some of the most expensive cigars there were.
“There is something I’ve been meaning to tell you,” Edward began barely able to mutter the words. As if on cue, Edward’s phone rang.
“I gotta take this,” as he walked away to the corner of the patio.
The two remaining friends glanced at one another. They both knew something wasn’t right. As Edward talked to the unknown caller Sean and Patty leaned closer in hopes of overhearing the conversation. Edward’s tones were muffled, and they were only able to get a few sporadic words of his conversation, that is until Edward began to yell.
“I told you I am done with this bullshit!”He drew the attention of those inside the pub. “No… I don’t care about that,” Edward’s face grew as red as the coals in the fire pit.
Pasty looked to Sean with disbelief.”I have never seen Eddie get so mad before,” shaking his head he continued, “something bad must have happened.”
“I don’t know dude, in all the years I have known him I have never seen him lose his cool like that,” Sean added.
“If you think you can make me do this you’ve got another thing coming,” Edward then, spewed with rage,” Why don’t you just kiss my ass.” With that, he hung up.
Edward returned. “I gotta head out,” not looking his friends in the eyes, “Finish the bottle off and I’ll talk to you later.” With utter disbelief, the two friends sat speechless as he disappeared inside the pub. Chasing after him and yelling.
“Get back here Eddie,” Sean screamed.
“Eddie,” Pasty echoed but their friend ignored them. Not long after, they heard the rumble of his bike as he sped away.
Riding down the street, Edward felt anxiety overtake him. All he wanted to do was just floor it and ride all this crap away. His thoughts brought him back to when it all began. If only he hadn’t let his temptations get the best of him. If only he had just walked away. Why the hell am I so weak? Why the hell couldn’t I just say no? The dimming city streets faded into the distance, replaced by the seclusion of pine trees dotting the hillside. With each mile that passed, the more Edward wanted to ride, trying to find an escapable route to free him from his inescapable situation. Maybe if I drive far enough all this will disappear.
As the blanket of the storm-filled night covered the moonlit sky Edward felt karma begin to fall from it. “Rain. It figures,” slowing his bike on the slick pavement. He knew better than to try to ride in the rain. Nothing was going his way. He couldn’t even manage to run away right. He pulled over to the shoulder. Edward idled his bike as he decided what he would do. There is no other choice but to go. He made a u-turn heading for home and knew he could not escape his fate.
Edward laid sleepless in bed listening to the rain pounding the roof and thunder erupting in the distance. He picked up his cell phone from the nightstand.
“Five a.m.,” whispering to himself.
It was just a matter of time before he would be inundated with texts, emails, and calls. There would be no place to run, no place to hide. Everyone would know, and worst of all Sean and Patty would. How could he ever face them again? Edward’s thoughts slipped back to the day when his greed would change his life forever. His insatiable need to have others perceive him as more than he actually was ruined everything. I couldn’t just be happy with what I had. I had to be a damn greedy bastard.
Edward’s heart pounded harder with every passing minute as though it were trying to escape his chest. “It’s just a matter of time now,” he mumbled, got up and went to the kitchen. The normalcy of everything around him was almost eerie. With everything in its place just as it had been for so long somehow expecting it to be different was just as ridiculous as expecting his secret not to come out. The security of his home would not keep out the impending doom. He made a pot of coffee, left it in the kitchen to brew and went to shower.
With the water massaging his tense shoulders, Edward stood paralyzed, not from cold but from the fear he was allowing himself to succumb to. Time seemed to stand still. The world is frozen in time that would hold his actions with it. If I could just stay here forever. Time sped up when the warm stream of water turned to freezing pins and needles, reminding him times stops for no one. With the water no longer falling to distract him he noticed the silence around him. The storm had passed. Picking up his phone and expecting it to be inundated with messages and missed calls, he found none. He began to feel hopeful, hopeful that maybe just maybe a photo was never taken. Maybe his paranoia got the best of him and he worried for nothing. With his shoulders feeling lighter, Edward headed for his coffee.
The more time that passed the more relieved he becomes. Checking and double-checking his phone, but still nothing. For the first time in days, Edward began to relax, sipping his coffee and checking the web to see if it had gone viral, that is if there was actually something to go viral. He found nothing. He settled into his chair with coffee in hand and eyes closed. The clock rang out and chimed six. Following in synchronized rhythm, the doorbell rang. Someone showing up at six a.m. could only mean one thing. He sat frozen in his chair hoping the early morning visitor would disappear. The shuffling of shoes could be heard on the porch and down the front steps. Edward exhaled, realizing he had been holding his breath. With his body relaxing again in the chair he gulped down his coffee and put his cup in the sink.
The sleepless night he had just endured caught up with him as he yawned deeply. Edward turned to head toward the bedroom when he heard footsteps scuffing along the back porch. With a lump growing in his throat he saw the silhouette in the back door window. With closer examination, he realized it was Sean. By the look on Sean’s face he knew it wasn’t a friendly greeting He banged full fisted continuously on the door until Edward opened it.
With no greetings, Sean blurted out angrily, “Why didn’t you tell me. Why did I have to find out like this?” He held his phone up to Edward. Before Edward could say a word, his phone began going crazy with calls and texts.
“I-I,” The words still lost, Edward plopped into his chair.