7 years later.
“Blue?” Ocean yelps as a man so familiar passes him on the street.
“Blue.” Ocean calls out again. No reaction.
“Chris?” Ocean tries and runs towards the man.
“Ocean?” Blue says in barely a whisper.
Ocean nods, tears in his eyes. He can’t believe it.
“Blue?” Ocean gasps. Blue blinks but doesn’t nod or say yes.
“You have time for coffee?” Blue asks.
“Yes, yes please.” Ocean says blowing off his afternoon class in his head.
“You here for school?” Blue asks as they sit down. He places a banana milkshake in front of Ocean and a coffee for himself. Ocean giggles just the way he did as a small boy.
“You know I really shouldn’t be having this sugar but I still love it. They use Blue ice-cream here?” Ocean asks.
“Yeah they do.” Blue says blushing.
“It is still the best.” Ocean says.
“So you here for school. It looks like you’re still a gymnast, though a tall one.” Blue says.
“Yeah I am here for school and I’m a gymnast. Not tippy top but a good team contributor, or I hope to be when season starts.” Ocean says.
“Gymnastics scholarship?” Blue asks.
“Academic. With Gervais, George and Robin teaching me and test prep from Katelyn I was a national merit scholar and got a full ride here. I was always aiming to walk on. Spence would have paid for school so we targeted teams where I would be able to compete a lot. I got lucky.” Ocean says.
“I love that they all look out for you. How are Spence and Andy?” Blue asks.
“So happy. They live at Abby’s farm, obviously without you there was no restaurant but the farm does well and they grow for the soups and for mom’s delis and loads of restaurants. He doesn’t sell wholesale at all.” Ocean says so proud of his friends.
“I knew Andy could do it. Did he make any wine?” Blue asks.
“No, we tend the vines still and sell the grapes to other winemakers.” Ocean says.
“Do they have kids?” Blue asks.
“No. They are so busy they don’t think it is time yet.” Ocean says.
“And Will do you see him? Is he married?” Blue asks.
“He is married, three kids, a girl and two boys, just like you. Siblings he adopted with his husband. He coaches with Spence. Did you never look anyone up?” Ocean asks.
“No I never wanted to risk it. What about your mom? Are she and Roe?” Blue asks.
“Mom and Marsha have seven delis and are happily married. Roe and your momma have a long distance thing. Roe spends months up at the retreat at times and your momma joins her, she’s called Clare now. Bea is called Nicola, teaches at the lake as she always wanted to. We all pretend she isn’t Bea. It’s a real comfort for your mom to be able to see her when she’s in town.” Ocean says.
“Bea was allowed back? Wow. I wonder if Chris ever became a vet.” Blue says.
“I don’t know. Nicola was worried you two didn’t make it, as you’d never been in touch. She said she left the program, keeping her final identity as she trusted the people at the lake would protect her. She came back 3 years ago, applied for the teaching position legitimately and no one knew it was her, this is all from Katelyn, she still keeps in touch up there. Then she arrived and the community just accepted her straight away. She’s dating one of Deke’s cousins and I think they’ll get married one day.” Ocean says.
“What about Robin? And George you said George was one of your teachers.” Blue asks.
“George and Dylan got married and divorced. George is working on his Phd at MIT. He is happy, single and loves his studies. Robin is still a total slut. He runs the food business. After college he came back and told mom and Arnold he was more than just the IT guy and within a year he was fully managing distribution and now he runs the whole thing. Ollie is still with the company, he and Tad married and got custody of all the siblings, they have a house on Abby’s farm.” Ocean explains.
“Not Mikes?” Blue asks.
“Mike married Ella and Tad fell out with him over it. For a long time. Ella and Mike had two babies and Tad and Larry felt pretty pushed out. Tad is a doting older brother but he and Mike will never work together or be close. Both Larry and Tad feel like Ella has stolen the farm for her kids and it’s never going to be theirs. Larry left town after college and we don’t hear from him.” Ocean says.
“That would have been a huge blow for Tad. He had so many plans to take on Mike’s farm and wasn’t a partner with us because of that. Is he now?” Blue asks.
“Yes, obviously when the ice-cream exploded in popularity and the soup took off Ollie became pretty wealthy and they bought more surrounding land. Not really fair on you was it, your recipes making everyone else rich.” Ocean says.
“I went to a dinner a few years ago and was asked to bring first course. So I made my baked potato soup. I was accused of buying Blue soup and passing it off as my own. Made me laugh on both counts. I am glad it is a success. I imagine Arnold and Claud are delighted.” Blue says.
“Yeah they love it. Claud still likes to see his name on the board and visits all of mom’s delis to check in.” Ocean laughs.
“Is Heidi still around?” Blue asks.
“Yeah she has the bakery and her charity work. She’s happy, single and barely has time to date.” Ocean says.
“Are you dating?” Blue asks.
“I got to school a few weeks ago. I have a single room because Spence, well you know Spence is Spence and said I should mix with non-athletes and offered to pay the difference for me to get a single in the nicest dorm. I love it and it makes things easier if I want to bring someone back but after the first week I figured that hook-ups are not for me. I’ve not found anyone I like. I think back on how you were when you started college and how obsessed I was with you and Gervais getting married. I have been lucky to have seen you two, and you and Will, Spence and Andy, Tad and Ollie. I have grown up amongst these great couples and that is what I want and I will wait until I find him, or her. Jane and I dated most of high school, we broke up a year ago and I’ve only dated men since.” Ocean says.
“How is Gervais? Is he married?” Blue asks the questions he never lets himself think about. Gervais and Will have been locked away in his brain and he never lets himself think of them and what he missed out on. Life is hard enough.
“He is not married. Mom and I moved in to your house after you left at Gervais request and Gervais and I lived there, with the others initially, until I left for college. He dated now and then but no one serious. He was pretty bad after the trial when you didn’t come back. When Paul’s trial started we all realized what had happened, I mean we had guessed but it confirmed it.” Ocean says.
“I hope things were not too intrusive.” Blue says.
“No, or I was shielded from it all. It is not like there was any trace of the three of you. After the trial Gervais was pretty bad like I said and he seemed to give up on everything, it was hard. Its why I didn’t move out when mom and Marsha got married. Abby died around that time too and it was too much for him. He’s fine now, single and always working on a million projects. I guess I can’t tell him I’ve seen you? Who are you now? What happened? Have you always been here?” Ocean says.
“Abby died? What about Gladys?” Blue asks.
“Gladys is in a care home now. We all see her as much as we can. Abby left almost everything to Gervais. A huge surprise for him. She left a letter saying it was to be shared with you if you came back and smaller bits went to Heidi, Andy and others in the town.” Ocean says.
“I wish I could have seen her again, seen all of you. I begged to be able to say goodbye to Will, we were in a fight and I hated leaving things the way we did. It was really hard to start over when I was leaving behind such a mess.” Blue says.
“He went back with the guys and trained with Spence there for the year. What about you? Can you tell me?” Ocean asks.
“Don’t you have class?” “Blue asks.
“I skipped it already. I have practice in an hour.” Ocean says.
“Well maybe I can see you again soon. I want to tell you everything but somewhere else. Your dorm room maybe? Or do you have a dining hall? Somewhere too loud to be overheard?” Blue asks.
“Lets go now and get a burner phone each.” Ocean says and Blue nods.
“It is so good to see you. All grown up and so handsome.” Blue says.
“You look so different, all skinny. Do you eat at all?” Ocean asks.
“Not so much. I’m vegan now.” Blue says.
“What do I call you?” Ocean asks.
“Skye. I go by Skye now.” Blue smiles.
“No more Cloudy Day.” Ocean says.
“No, I’ve been Skye for 2 years now. The longest I’ve been anyone since.” Blue says and then pays for the phones in cash.
“I missed you. I had a million fantasies that you’d turn up to watch me compete at nationals or be there at graduation and slip away.” Ocean says.
“I’m sorry.” Blue says.
“We have a meet the team gym thing in two weeks.” Ocean says.
“Are people coming?” Blue asks.
“No, I told them not to come until season. Spence really wants to but its midweek.” Ocean says.
“I guess they were all here to see you settled.” Blue says as he walks Ocean back towards school.
“Yeah you could have walked in on us having a lobster lunch.” Ocean grins.
“That would have been crazy.” Blue says.
“You won’t have to leave will you? Because of me?” Ocean asks.
“I am not going to tell. Maybe you’re my new boyfriend.” Blue grins.
“I love you but not like that.” Ocean says and throws his arms around Blue and hugs him so tightly not wanting to let him go.
“I love you too bananaboy.” Blue says and kisses Ocean’s cheek and heads home.
Ocean is a mess during practice. He can’t believe Blue is right here. It feels like fate, the one school he got a full ride at is where Blue is. He wants to text Gervais and let him know but knows he can’t risk Blue having to move on.
Ocean always felt it was so unfair that Blue had to leave when it was Chris and Bea’s family that were the criminals. He grew to understand the level of danger Blue was in when Bea and Chris’s cousins were murdered before giving their testimony. They were all scared to death at that point and worried that they would never find out if something happened to the triplets.
When Bea came back they all hoped Blue would do the same, Chris too. But there was never any word and Bea, Nicola promised she had never heard a thing from either of them and Ocean believed her. Will got married shortly after Bea got back, he said Blue was now choosing to stay away and it was easier to commit.
Ocean, Gervais and Robin talked long into the night about it. How they didn’t blame Will but there was no way Blue could know Bea was back and safe. Gervais and Robin are Ocean’s closest friends, when they graduated they came straight back home and moved in with him and his mom. Robin eventually bought himself a big house in town and his mom moved out to be with Marsha full time.
Ocean asked Gervais if he could stay and Gervais told him that Blue had signed over the house on the condition Cheryl and Ocean always had a home there. It was Gervais who made sure his transition into high school went well and that he ate healthily and got his homework done. Gervais became his big brother, dad, and best friend rolled into one.
After practice Ocean goes for a run to get rid of the energy he didn’t expend in the gym and after a long shower does his homework.
Ocean is in a suite like Blue and the guys were and gets on okay with the others but only Okay. He’ll eat with them now and then and watch some TV but much like Blue when he got to school Ocean misses the countryside, misses his chickens and Andy’s fresh produce. He remembers how Blue found him and Cheryl when seeking out veggie food and knows he’ll have to do the same shortly. His coach is not entirely on board with his diet but he figures as long as he doesn’t have many practices like today he’ll be okay.
Once done Ocean unwraps his phone, carefully enters Blue’s number and messages him.
“When can you come over?” Ocean asks.
“Any day after 3.” Blue replies.
“Tomorrow 4pm, where you left me today.” Ocean states.
“Okay.” Blue replies and smiles to himself.
Blue is totally unsure what to do or how to feel. He can’t believe Bea is living at the lake, with a support system and friends and he and Chris are still going it alone in secret. Well for all he knows Chris could be married and settled.
Blue rarely thinks about his siblings, it is too painful. Just as they were becoming family, just as he and Chris had let their guard down around each other they were split up again, never to see each other again.
But at least he got to say goodbye to them.
Blue dreams of all his friends that night, of Will’s family, of Cheryl and her string of delis of Andy working on the farm. He wakes and finds he was crying in his sleep washes and heads to work.
Ocean daydreams through class, like his big brothers he is finding college classes a breeze. He only went to high school part time and Gervais, George and Robin supplementing his classes and taking him far beyond the high school curriculum. He’s called upon in one class, asks for the question to be repeated, laughed at and then answers perfectly. Ocean has a tough shell and everything washes off without issue.
He runs to the meeting place once he’s free, unsure what to expect.
“I think your room would be best, we can play music to drown us out.” Blue says and Ocean grins.
“So were you in a safe house at the start?” Ocean asks once he’s shown Blue around and put some music on.
“Yes for a few weeks. I then went to college for a year. I didn’t want to be there and took extra classes online a session of summer school and got my degree. I was just settling into my next home when Will pulled that stunt at the Olympics and I had to move.” Blue says.
“Oh boy did he regret that when the trial started, was beside himself.” Ocean says. Will made it to the Olympic team and won a silver medal on parallel bars, with TV cameras on him he held up a picture of Blue and dedicated his medal to him.
“I was in a secure house during the trial out in the desert, it was not fun. I couldn’t go out at all. I spent all my time working out and cooking. I had no electronics and there were only a few books in the house. Sheer torture. After that I was given another identity and a job in a college library. It was a tiny school, no sports teams, pretty isolating. It was there I had the dinner with the soup. Then three students in a row asked if I was the guy from the Olympics photo, I think it got shown on a TV quiz or something and I told my handler and was moved here. Got my own business this time, I’m a baker.” Blue grins.
“Oh Blue that is great.” Ocean smiles.
“Just baking, we supply hotels and restaurants. I have totally stolen some of Heidi’s recipes but I figure I’m far enough away no one but you will notice.” Blue says.
“So you don’t have a shop. No interacting with people?” Ocean asks.
“No, no yoga classes, cheesecake or ginger houses to make cash. Just baking 12 hours a day. It does okay. I own it free and clear and have low outgoings. It isn’t like I can take trips or anything.” Blue says.
“But you still do yoga?” Ocean asks.
“Yeah, I run after work and I do yoga during my break and a longer session on Sundays.” Blue says.
“Are you dating?” Ocean asks.
“After I got moved on from the college I didn’t bother dating or making friends. Nothing can go anywhere, I’ll only get moved on. Its pointless. I’m pretty bitter these days. I’m not the guy you knew as your big bro.” Blue says honestly.
“It isn’t your fault. You lost everything that mattered to you. All of us and your dreams, your businesses. You didn’t get to share in any of the successes or failures. You’ve been alone. We didn’t know until Bea came back that you’d been split up the whole time. Surely now Lana’s father is dead the risk to you is low. You can live your life.” Ocean says.
“He’s dead?” Blue asks.
“Do you never watch the news?” Ocean asks.
“I don’t have a TV. I have a basic phone for work and no other electronics. Too much temptation.” Blue says simply.
“But you had them when you were in school.” Ocean says.
“Yeah I did. After the safe house during the trial I figured I’d detoxed and wouldn’t go back. I never dared look you guys up when I was in school, I didn’t want to put any of you at risk. I thought of sending a post card or something but then worried about a mail man with connections seeing it. I am crazy paranoid. I know seeing you is a risk and I might be moved on but I think I am monitored less now.” Blue says.
“You want to see pictures?” Ocean asks.
“I can see some.” Blue says pointing to Ocean’s notice board.
“All the weddings, my graduation, Will’s leaving party for Rio.” Ocean says pointing everything out.
“All the things I missed.” Blue says sadly.
“We wanted you there.” Ocean says.
“But life goes on.” Blue says.
“Not the same. There was always a hole. We all had guilt. All of us. We all knew you were sacrificing for us. We all missed you. I know it wasn’t anything compared to what you’ve been through but it wasn’t easy for any of us.” Ocean says.
“Robin became a CEO, Spence and Andy got married and are fulfilling their dreams. You’re a top college gymnast, your mom has a string of delis and Bea, Bea who got me in to all of this mess is living her dream life teaching up at the lake. Most of those things would never have happened without me. And my reward is nothing. I have to be grateful you’re all safe but I have nothing to look forward to ever. I try and be grateful for the amazing trip to Australia and the months I had with Will, the friends I had, but it is hard to live a life knowing it was over at 21.” Blue says angry at himself for taking it out on Ocean.
“I know it isn’t fair. I get that Blue.” Ocean says.
“Skye. You have to call me Skye. That other guy doesn’t exist anymore. I should go. I’m sorry for dumping on you like this. Gosh I am no good to be around. I will come to your welcome meet. Text me the details. I wish I could be who you need me to be, I wish I could be like your mom was for me. It is just too hard.” Blue says and Ocean nods totally understanding and feeling awful, wishing he could make things better.
“Maybe we could go fishing one Sunday, get out of the city. Well maybe not now you’re vegan.” Ocean asks.
“I developed a skin condition, the doctor recommended I give up dairy. Far easier to say I was vegan after that and gradually I realized I was. I’d love to go fishing with you or just for a hike. I totally get that you want to get out of the city.” Blue says.
“Thanks Skye.” Ocean says and hugs Blue.
“Sorry for being such a jerk.” Blue says.
“I guess I’m the first person in seven years you could talk to about it. Its not like I’ve never had a melt down on you.” Ocean says just glad he could be there and not at all sure how he will keep everything inside.
Blue turns and hugs Ocean again. Holding him for far too long, wanting to remember everything. Just in case it is the last time.
Just over a week later they meet up early one Sunday morning and drive out of the city. They hike for a couple of hours and then rest for a picnic. Blue has made his old banana nut muffins for Ocean and some secret cookies.
“I still love all this stuff. We tried to get a range of cookies up and running but it never worked. Ollie tried to make these for Abby’s wake but they were not the same.” Ocean says.
“Are you going to go into the farming or food production after school?” Blue asks.
“No. I am a country boy I know that but I want to be a small town accountant or solicitor. Robin says there will always be a job for me but I want to be independent.” Ocean says.
“What happened with you and Jane?” Blue asks.
“She got tired of me never being able to take her out on a Saturday night, never going to school dances and stuff. At first it was fine as she wasn’t in to all that. Then she was and I was out. It was okay. I dated a bit after, just guys like I said before. Now I am being a lot more selective.” Ocean says.
“What’s your type?” Blue asks, it has been so, so long since he was able to talk about guys with any one, it is kind of weird to be doing it with Ocean.
“I don’t know. Kind, funny, smart. The rest doesn’t matter so much. My mom raised me too well.” Ocean grins.
“I like small guys with nice feet. That isn’t the only type but Will and Gervais fit and Robin who was my first real crush.” Blue says.
“Gervais has always had beautiful feet.” Ocean giggles.
“Did you ever have a crush on him?” Blue asks.
“Nah, he’s more like my dad.” Ocean says.
“You ever see your dad? Or your grandparents?” Blue asks.
“Not in years. Mike tried for a while even after the break up then he dumped me when he started dating Ella.” Ocean says.
“What did Arnold think of that?” Blue asks.
“He was supportive, gets to keep his daughter nearby and Mike won’t mess her around. He dotes on the grandkids obviously.” Ocean says.
“Do you want kids?” Blue asks.
“No. I did for a long time. I wanted to be a clone of you, I wanted a smallholding and my partner and kids. But I see how much work Will and Aled have to do for their three and how difficult the babies were for Ella and it puts me off.” Ocean says.
“We were pretty low maintenance.” Blue says.
“Yeah we were. Am, I am a pretty low maintenance kid.” Ocean says.
“Are you making friends?” Blue asks.
“I get on well with my teammates and okay with the guys in my suite but no proper friends, not yet. I have asked some people in class for coffee but not hit it off too well. Next year when I have got the study and competing rhythm down I’ll join some clubs and make some friends.” Ocean says.
“Make sure you do. College is hell without friends. You never had trouble making them.” Blue says.
“You are in a better mood today.” Ocean says.
“I work hard to find things to live for. I know that sounds dramatic. But it is hard at times.” Blue says.
“I cannot imagine how hard it has been.” Ocean says.
“I tried, I really tried to be positive and enjoy the journey but when I realized I have a target on my back for life. I gave up trying. I enjoy my work but I have no ambition to take it further and I wish I was outside.” Blue says.
“Maybe I don’t want an office job.” Ocean laughs.
“I always thought you’d do something big. President Ocean.” Blue says.
“Low key is what I want. Lots of leisure time for fishing and hiking and yoga.” Ocean says.
“Nothing to stop you teaching yoga.” Blue says.
“True, I would love to. Wow you’re back in my life for 2 weeks and you’ve cut through all the bullshit and options and put me on the right path.” Ocean says.
“You used to love helping me in class. I’m guessing for some reason you don’t want to coach gymnastics. I’d put that smallholding back on the table and find some getting by jobs. Make sure you’re happy, have time for your friends and family.” Blue says.
“Seeing you has made me want to run home and hug everyone. You put everything in perspective.” Ocean says.
“You just needed some time outdoors and someone safe to talk to. I’m no one special. I am so glad Gervais stepped in with you.” Blue says.
“He’s a great guy. He misses you a lot, he’s the only one who I can talk to about you regularly.” Ocean says.
“It is hard for me to say his name, or Will. Two chances at love and I lost them both. Feelings like that don’t come round again. Those connections are priceless and I wish I could have had another chance to fight for them. Tell Gervais to get back out there to find someone. He needs to be dating, he needs a partner.” Blue says.
“Nah, everyone is on at him to date, not me. In his own time he’ll get there when he finds the right man.” Ocean says.
“I guess. I don’t like to think of him alone.” Blue says.
“He says the same about you.” Ocean says.
They hike back ad make plans for the meet the team gym night.
“I hope I can see you more. But I understand we have to be careful.” Ocean says.
“We’ll work something out. Just need to take it slow and build up. I want to see you too. So much Ocean. To have a link to my old life is amazing and this is the longest conversation I have had in five years.” Blue says.
“Message me any time.” Ocean says.
“Thanks kid.” Blue says.
Blue is running late for the gym event. Ocean had left him a ticket but the event is far from full. Blue gasps as he enters the venue and shakes his head, what has Ocean done?
Blue sits down and slips his arm around the guy next to him. He might have aged but Blue knows that Blonde hair anywhere. Gervais turns ready to shrug off the drunk student and gasps himself. The pair sit sobbing, Gervais head on Blue’s chest.
Ocean runs on as he’s introduced and looks up at the pair and grins. He knows it is a risk but he couldn’t leave them lonely and apart, they belong together.