When Arthur awoke, he found the incredible yet familiar pain in his head so annoying that he had forgotten where he was. He reached out to the side to pick up a cup of water on the nightstand but found to his surprise that no matter how much he groped the empty air, he just grasp his fingers around the cup. Opening his eyes reluctantly, Arthur’s firsthand view of the mold growing on the ceiling of his cell prompted the memory of last night to come forward to him in a rush.
Recalling that horrid arrangement of events made Arthur sick to his stomach. The way that he had behaved…it just wasn’t like him. Arthur was still fuzzy on the details of his encounters but judging by the emotions that resurfaced, it was probably best if he didn’t try to hard to remember just how badly he had embarrassed himself.
The first thing he had to do was get out of this disgusting place. His back was already aching from sleeping on the hard bench with a blanket that had made toilet paper seem warm and toasty. Arthur wished so badly to get back home as soon as he could and plop his rear in a comfy chair just to sleep the hours, days, weeks and years away. An overwhelming sense of fatigue weighed him down. Even though he was in an incredibly uncomfortable position, there just seemed to be something preventing him from moving a muscle. Although Arthur didn’t feel frozen…there was a certain stiffness about him. It was as though the struggle of trying to get through every day with almost robotic intention had prompted the formation of rust on his very being.
It was incredibly hard for Arthur to get the motivation to even lift a finger. He swallowed, slowly raising his arm and gripping a bar of the cell tightly, trying to pull himself up. “Excuse me, please.” He muttered softly, trying to get the attention of the nearest guard.
Evidently pleased by Arthur’s flip in demeanor, the guard acknowledged him and approached the cell. “Yeah?”
“Can you please…let me out now?” asked Arthur softly, touching his other hand to his head. The bandages seemed loose and his clothes felt sticky. Evidently, his fitful sleep had been accompanied with nervous sweating. Arthur could only imagined how pathetic and foul he looked, not to mention smelled.
“Afraid not, Mr.Kirkland.” Said the guard. “There has been a bail set for you, but I can’t release you unless it’s been posted. It’s going to be £5,000. Cash only. The lawyer set it up for you the night before.”
Arthur felt the pang in his head intensify. Five thousand pounds was nothing for him, but cash only was what made this situation even more problematic for Arthur. Antonio must have known that it was impossible for Arthur to be able to put up that kind of money if he was stuck in the cell. That must have meant that…he intended for Arthur to stay.
Concerned by Arthur’s silence and feeling much more willing to be helpful now that he wasn’t behaving so bratty, the officer coughed lightly and continued. “You have anyone else that can post it up for you?”
“Ah…yes.” Said Arthur, still seeming lost in his own self-pity. He looked up and nibbled his lower lip before taking a deep breath. “May I make a phone call?”
“Are you sure you remember it this time?” said the guard with a friendly grin, turning around to get it.
Arthur didn’t smile. “Thank you.” He said, taking the phone through the bars. Looking at the number pad, Arthur took another deep breath, so that the oxygen could at least help his gunked up brain as best as it could. He took his time dialing the number, deliberately pressing every key slowly and mumbling it aloud to make sure that it was absolutely right. The only variable present now that could possibly bite him in the ass would be if it was too early in the morning, then the boys would be too sluggish to answer the phone after being shaken out of a lovely dream.
Arthur heard the phone ring once. Then twice. On the third ring, Arthur squeezed his hand into a fist and closed his eyes, trying to use psychic energy to get someone to the phone as soon as possible. Fourth ring. Arthur felt his whole body tense up, his breathing growing ragged. Fifth ring. Arthur wished he could just squeeze in through the mouthpiece and travel along the electrical wires. Sixth Ring. If they didn’t pick up, they had better be dead.
A pause. As soon as Arthur heard his own voice on the answering machine, he hung up. The phone damp in his sweaty hand, bandages on his forehead already peeling away on their own accord. The officer came forward to take the phone back.
“No! No- wait.” Begged Artur, holding up a hand. “Let me just call one other person. Please, just, one more chance to try them instead. One more.”
The guard folded his arms and nodded. “One more.” He agreed, standing close and watching Arthur carefully.
Arthur nodded back quickly and punched in his house number again. This was literally his last chance to get out of this sordid little hell hole. His meager family was the only thing in his life that he could even barely rely on anymore.
As the phone rung again, Arthur glared at it in desperation. They were going to pick up. They just had to. Otherwise…
Arthur was speechless
“Allo? Who is this calling?”
A Frenchman. A man who ommited the H entirely and converted the TH and S into an animalistic Z sound. Of all the people that Antonio could have left his children with, it had to be someone from the land of chocolate, sex and coffee. Feeling a strange sense of aggressive nationality overtake him. In his response, he took great care in enunciation, radically different from his normal crude manner of nonstop complaints slurring into one another like a great big smoothie.
“THiS. IS. ArTHur.” He said carefully, as though the other was both slow and hard of hearing. “Let me SPeak. to Alfred.”
“Oooh! Arthur!” said the Frenchman. Arthur winced visibly at how badly the other had butchered his name in that thick frog accent. “Are you on your way home now? Antonio told me that you had missed your bus back home from your holiday yesterday!” gushed the Frenchman cheerfully.
Arthur sputtered in confusion. “My…holiday.” He repeated, feeling both embarrassed and relieved that Antonio hadn’t told his friend the truth about Arthur’s absence. “Aah, actually there’s been another snag, I’ve uh..managed to get my wallet nicked so I- can you put my son on?” he said, not exactly eager to spin up a story only to eventually suffocate on his own web of lies.
“Oh no!” exclaimed the Frenchman in sympathy. “No no no! That’s horrible! You have just got to stay out of the dark alleys of Italy, they’re ruthless there. Aaah still, I’d love to go to Italy sometime…” he gushed. “Their art is just incredible. Oh I’d want to go to a museum and see the work of all the great masters, no? And the architecture! I’ve heard that it’s just so beautiful!”
Damn romantics. “Italy is certainly a fine place.” Said Arthur truthfully. “The Colosseum is an astounding sight to behold even now.” Catching the look on the guard’s face, Arthur grew frantic about the nature of this chitchat, not even listening to what the Frenchman said back other than the fact that in the midst of all that chatter, he had introduced himself as Francis.
“Francis!” interupted Arthur. “Listen- I’m calling from a pay phone and this is my last coin, so I’d really appreciate if you’d let me speak to Alfred now.” He said, patience wearing thin.
“Ah! Oh but of course, here you are.” Said Francis. Arthur was instantly blessed with the voice of his elder son.
“Sup pops.” Said Alfred.
Arthur took a moment and sighed softly, smiling and already feeling his heart warm up. Even though Alfred was still home, Arthur already felt he closeness of his son brightening his mood. “Heey…” he said softly, so grateful to hear Alfred again. It had felt like years since Arthur had even seen him. “How are you doing?”
“Oh me?” said Alfred with a snicker. “Oh yeah I’m cool, just kinda wondering why the heck you left me and Matthew all alone to starve and shit while you teleported all the way to Italy.”
Arthur flushed red again. “Oh- Alfred, I’m not.”
“It’s a joke man!” interrupted Alfred. “You know, kinda like you?”
Arthur could just see that cocky grin Alfred probably had on even now. “You watch you mouth when you’re talking to me!” snapped Arthur suddenly, his initial enthusiasm ebbing. Alfred was quite annoying at times, always stepping out of line and making it so terribly hard to love him.
“Whatchu gonna do about it?” countered Alfred. “Why should I listen to some dude sitting in a crusty old cell somewhere?”
“Because this ‘dude’ is your father!” exclaimed Arthur. He took a deep breath and tried to calm down. Getting riled up would do no good and he was already starting to feel dizzy from the blood pulsing in his head. “Alfred please…I’ve had a really, really terrible night. I have a headache…the car is wrecked, and I need you to come pick me up.”
“So you DID crash the car.” Noted Alfred so bluntly that Arthur winced. Snorting, Alfred went on. “Yeah, I thought that’s what I heard before the phone died. So. What? Are your legs broken or something? Can’t you walk home?”
“No. I. Can’t.” Snarled Arthur through clenched teeth, wounded at how cold and selfish Alfred was. Of course, he didn’t know why Alfred’s actions even surprised him anymore. This was a constant struggle. He knew that teenagers just couldn’t help but be egocentric, something to do with their brains not being fully developed, but it still hurt. “Alfred, listen. I am begging you, literally begging you now. Just listen to me for once. Just pretend. Can you do that? Pretend, please that for once you’re actually a good kid if you can’t be one. Pretend. Just for today.”
Arthur heard Alfred suck his teeth before huffing and snickering again. Everything just seemed to be a joke to this kid. “Fine, whatever.” Agreed Alfred. “But seriously, why do you nee me?”
“I need you to bring money?”
“Like I have any.”
“Well.” Said Arthur with a sniff. “You do know that wouldn’t be the case if you got off of your fat ass and got yourself a job.” He said, scowling and gripping the phone tightly. “As you know, there’s plenty of work available for you. You’re just too lazy to get up and do the work. You like to eat don’t you?” Arthur nodded his head and leaned forward, putting his finger down as though trying to demonstrate how serious he was to Alfred, even though the other couldn’t see him. “Food costs money, so next time you want to stuff your face and disrespect me, make sure that you have all of your own groceries all set and ready. You need to go out. Make it happen. And stop being such a leech!”
Silence. One of the loudest silences Arthur had ever heard. Oh, he knew this boy, this cretin, did not dare just hang up on him. “HELLO!” he snarled into the phone, ready to reach through and strangle someone.
“Yeah!” called Alfred back, gasping. “I’m still here!” came Alfred’s voice in a defensive whine. “Shit…” he added in an soft undertone that Arthur chose to ignore for the sake of continuing on. Alfred was impossible to control.
“Anyway, here’s what I need you to do.” Said Arthur. “Go to my bedroom and lift up the mattress, there’s an envelope there full of money. “I need you to take out £5,000 and put the rest in a new envelope, then seal it. DON’T you DARE take out any more than that and think that you can have an endless snack party. That money is for emergencies only and-”
“5000 pounds?” said Alfred, sucking his teeth again. “Pft, I could get you double that if I took a hose and sucked my stomach out.” He said, in a tone that Arthur found rather strange, almost mocking. Although he didn’t quite get it at first, it suddenly hit him and he laughed softly.
“Oh-! Right you are, ahaha! Oh the dangers of raising a boy in America, maybe that’s why you’re so thick in the head and the thighs. Anyway, come as soon as you can, don’t dawdle.” Said Arthur, in a much better mood now that he knew he was going to come home.
Alfred paused before replying. “Aha, yeah, okay. Lemme just find some change for the train.” He said, speaking a little quieter.
“I love you.” Said Arthur, his smiling growing bigger. He waited and waited for Alfred’s response, only to hear the phone beeping, indicating that Alfred had hung up on him. Had he even heard it? His smile became harder to maintain as he handed the phone back to the officer and which was worse, Alfred hanging up without responding to the love, or hanging up before he had even heard it.