Robbie opened his eyes to darkness. Where was he? What happened? Why did his head hurt?
He blinked a few times, becoming more aware. He was laying on something cold, hard and crunchy. Why was it so dark?
He remembered playing with his brothers at the stream. Thomas had sent him off to look for more twigs. What had happened?
Robbie started to set up, then a sharp pain in his left ankle sent him back to the ground. Ah, crap. He had stepped in a hole. He remembered now, he had felt his ankle twist, and he was falling... He reached up and touched the goose egg on his forehead. He must have hit his head and now it was dark and he was lost in the woods. He felt the panic start to rise.
"Help!" he shouted. "Help!"
He jumped at the shuffling of leaves. His shouts had scared up something out there not far from him. What was it? A bear? A monster?
Robbie's eyes began to flood. Don't cry. Only babies cry.
"Mommy," he whimpered.
He had to find his way home. He began looking around. Which way was it? He had come from that direction, or was it that way?
It was no use; it was too dark.
He heard the crunching of leaves again. Something was near. What was it? Robbie tried to see. He could feel it getting closer to him; then he felt warmth between his legs and realized he had wet himself.
"Help!" he shouted again. He listened to what ever had been out there run off, scared by his scream.
Robbie tried to stand, but his swollen ankle wouldn’t let him. He was cold and wet and very very scared, and it looked like he would have to sit there all night, waiting for the sun to come up and someone to find him.
He placed his face in this hands and sobbed.
Robbie Chase sat on a park bench, his camera in his hands. He was looking for some motivation, but wasn’t finding anything. He watched the people, usually an endless source of inspiration; today they all seemed flat, two dimensional, boring.
He had closed up his art gallery early wanting to get out and take some pictures. While he doubted he would ever get rich off his photographs, he did manage to eek out a decent living with his gallery and freelance work, and even more important, he was doing something he loved. At twenty-eight he was happy with where life had taken him, for the most part at least.
His cell phone vibrated in his pocket. He fished it out and looked at the caller ID, 'unknown.'
"This is Robbie."
"Oh, Robbie," he heard his mother sob.
"Mom? What's wrong?"
"I need you to come home, please. It's your father..."
After receiving the news Robbie disconnected and dialed Koi, his partner of two years.
"Hey Lover, what's up? You coming by the restaurant tonight?" Koi asked. He was a world-class chef and had opened his own restaurant four years ago. It pulled in a decent crowd in their local neighborhood.
"Koi, I have to go home."
"Home. Okay, so are you coming by later or will you wait up until I get through here?" Koi asked, misunderstanding what Robbie was saying.
"No, not home as in our place, home as in Gary, Indiana."
"Indiana? What on earth for?" Koi knew where Robbie was from but never, since they had met, had Robbie traveled there.
"My father had a stroke."
"Oh my, Robbie, I'm so sorry. I'll come with you."
"No," Robbie said, maybe a little too quickly. "I don't know how long I'll be, you need to stay here with the restaurant."
"Nonsense, I need to be there to support you."
"Oh come on Robbie, do you really think they don't know?"
"My parents don't, and now is not the time to come out to them. What would I say? Sorry you had a stroke Dad, oh, by the way, meet my male lover?"
"So, I'll stay at the hotel...."
"Koi, no, please," Robbie interrupted. "I need to go alone. If I need you to fly out later I'll let you know. Please?"
Koi sighed, "Okay. When do you fly out?"
"I haven't called the airport yet, but on the first flight I can get."
"Keep me posted," Koi said. "I love you."
"I love you too. I'll call you as soon as I know something."
Robbie stood, walking out of the park to hail a cab. He needed to go home and pack a bag; he could call the airline from the taxi.
Once the flight was booked Robbie sat back and tried to remember the last time he had been home. It has been while he was still in college. He and his father had gotten in another fight over his liberal arts major and Robbie had ended the weekend at home early.
He was still in touch with his mother, calling her every few weeks and sending cards and flowers on her birthday and holidays. It wasn't so much that he and his father weren't speaking, it was more that they had nothing to say.
Robbie supposed seeing Thomas again would be the most stressful. They hadn't spoke since Robbie was sixteen and had come out to his brothers one weekend when both Jamie and Thomas had been home from college. Thomas had been enraged by Robbie's revelation; they had exchanged heated words and Thomas had stormed off. Jamie had been more supportive and had tried for a few years to mend the split between the brothers by finally had given up.
All through childhood Jamie had been Robbie's biggest advocate. They still were close, talking on the phone a couple of times a month and exchanging emails almost every day. They saw each other a couple times a year, with either Jamie coming to New York or Robbie flying to Houston. At least if Jamie were there with them, maybe Thomas would keep his opinions to himself, but then again when had Thomas ever kept his opinions to himself?
Robbie was brought out of his thoughts when the taxi came to a stop in front of their condo. With a glance to his watch Robbie paid the cabby and headed up to pack, trying to calculate how long it would take him to get across town and to the airport. If his flight were on time he would be in Gary by early evening. He hoped one of his brothers could get there quicker; he hated thinking of his mother there alone.
He sighed as he let himself into the apartment. This was probably the start of a very long stressful trip.