I was out of school for some days. I had the flu. Our exams were coming up, and I thought it was better that I stay at home and get well before going back to school and having a relapse or something.
Wayne visited me one evening.
“I found a family. They have a dog. You think Stacy’s gonna be okay with a dog?”
“Yeah, sure, why not, she loves Kai a lot, doesn’t she?”
“Yeah, I guess. These guys… the Wilsons… Stacy Wilson sounds nice, doesn’t it?”
“What about you? You okay with it? Did you tell her about it?”
“She shouted at me. Says she’s not going anywhere without her brother. She’s met the mother once though, and they seemed to get along well. She tried to convince them to take me too.”
“What’d they say?”
“Oh, they wanted me too. They wanted to have both of us… I just told them I was terminal, and not gonna live long enough to hit even twenty. They’re taking just Stacy now.”
Sometimes it was hard even for me to know when my best friend was lying, and when he was being serious.
My exams came and went. I went down with the flu again. My sister got married, and I went to the church. Her boyfriend looked kind of scary, but I guess that was just because of his tattoos. The flu and the getting – better lasted for more than a month. I had no news of Wayne. He never used to visit me too much anyway. I got his card at the wedding, though. It was signed “The Boy who Cried Wolf”.
It was almost two months before I visited Wayne again at his place. He was playing with his sister. He looked sick and frail. Very sick and frail. He chased her away as I sat down.
“Got your card at the wedding. Thought you’d be there too, though.”
“Was there a drinks bar?”
“Not this time.”
“Well, you have your answer,” he grinned. “You look well.”
“You don’t. What’s wrong with you? How’s Stacy?”
“Leaving. She’ll be gone by next month. Twenty-seventh.”
“She agreed to it?”
“Once I explained what terminal meant, yeah.”
“Stop fooling around. What’s wrong with you, anyway? And don’t tell me you’re ‘terminal’.”
“I’ve got cancer.”
There was nothing bitter in his smile now. In fact, it looked almost as if he was actually smiling.
It seems the big, bad wolf really does come around to kill the boy and his sheep in the end.
It’s been two years now since Wayne has been dead. My parents have been divorced for the past year now. My sister’s in rehab. Her husband’s dead of a drug OD, and they say she will lose the baby too. I visit her sometimes. She’s gotten very thin. My mother visits us sometimes. She says she’s sorry, and I believe her. I am sorry too. My friends ask, and I tell them my sister’s in the hospital after a car accident. I tell them my mother is sick, and in hospital too. My teachers ask, and I tell them I’m okay, my grades will definitely get better this time around. I lie to them. I wonder how long it is before they start calling me The Boy.
I was at Wayne’s funeral. I met the Wilsons. It seems they knew about him and his condition, and that’s why they took Stacy in so quick. She cried the whole hour, and wanted to know if I was hiding her brother.
The parents seemed nice; his sister will have a much better life than he ever did. They put up some verse from the Bible on his tombstone, and it looks very grand. I visit the place sometimes. I think we should have put his name up there too – the Boy who Cried Wolf. We’d have had a good laugh about it.
I sit on the schoolhouse roof, but I’m always alone nowadays. The beer is still there, though. I think about my best friend. Did he die happy? Did he live happy? I don’t have the answer to either question. I have the answer to his other questions, though. It’s not cowardly.
It gets hard to escape life now. We are already twenty.