His father was dead. It was a shock. But Ethan knew he would die, he just didn't expect it to be so sudden - a gunshot fired to his head. Ethan had expected to be able to say goodbye, but he didn't get the chance.
And now, stood in the rain by his father's grave, accepting condolences from his fathers' friends and family that had bothered to come, the question on Ethan's mind was: where does he go now?
He got sent to his aunt on his mothers' side, who lived in a small semi-detached house on a road of willow trees, hence the name: Willow Avenue.
Ethan wasn't sure he liked his aunt, he was always doing the washing up while her husband and their three sons watched TV. He was sure he was only a nuisance, but he guessed he was a bit of free labour.
So he acted out, got drunk and introduced the eldest son, at fourteen, to weed. He made big scenes in front of their neighbours, shouting at them and then passing out on the front lawn.
Soon his aunt got fed up, not to mention angry when she found out Ethan had hooked her 'perfect' son on pot, and she sent him to her brother in London.
Ethan hated his mothers' brother, HATED him. He was a druggie, so Ethan had to work practically 24/7 to feed his uncles' habit.
When he came home to an empty flat and a note that said:
I've gone to the Mediterranean, with my girl, you know the one. I made arrangements for you to go to your Dad's sister tonight. A car will come for you, don't worry, I've sorted it.
So that's how it was, you get a better chance and you dump me, Ethan thought bitterly, swigging some gin and liking the burn he felt as it slipped down his throat.
Aunty Sarah tried to make it work, the whole moving to a new family member every few weeks thing, but she couldn't cope with Ethan.
Ethan was in trouble at school, when he did bother to turn up; he figured the teachers got paid whether he turned up or not, so it shouldn't matter if he skipped. When he did go, he caused trouble in the classroom and he got suspended seven times for drinking and smoking pot on the school grounds. Ethan got expelled when he was caught selling pot to some classmates, after only two months there.
His aunt sent him to his uncle on his father's side, hoping that the toughness of Uncle Brian would bring Ethan to his senses. God she hoped so.
Ethan knew his Uncle Brian had fought in a war, Aunty Sarah had told him that. So he had to be tough, Ethan thought as the car drove up a winding dirt road to his uncles' house.
He knocked on the formidable wooden door, his knocks echoing through the house. The door gave way slowly, revealing a tall man with a army uniform on and a dark head of hair.
So that's where I get my hair from, Ethan thought, pulling his suitcase inside.
Once he had put his suitcase by the stairs, Ethan was told to go to the study. He opened the door into the darken study.
"Sit." His uncle said, sitting on a wooden chair behind a desk.
Ethan meekly sat down, intimated by his uncle's fearsome blue eyes.
"You've been causing trouble, drinking and the like," his uncle said, tapping his fingers on the desk,"Look at me!"
Ethan looked up from his knees and looked his uncle in the eye. He gulped.
"There'll be none of that while you're under my roof. Do you hear?" Uncle Brian thundered, before going on in a calmer, but still firm voice, "Before you arrived, I took the pleasure in organising your first few weeks here."
As Ethan opened his mouth to ask, his uncle interrupted.
"No, you will not be going to school, due to your track record. Yes, I will expect you to do certain chores, including gardening. Yes, you will be expected to read for at least an hour each day, and you will be reading what I give you, nothing else. Yes, I shall keep an eye on you."
His uncle dismissed Ethan without a second glance. So that's what 'real' punishment is, he thought, while going up the rickety staircase. He took a left and found the door that had clearly been left open so he could find it.
Ethan didn't bother unpacking, after all, he'd be out of here in a few weeks.
He was woken at half past six the next morning by his uncle, who insisted that Ethan go on a run with him, before the sun came up.
Ten minutes later, Ethan was outside in his jogging bottams and a t-shirt that said "Kill me." on it. It was pitch black outside, he couldn't see past his uncle, who at thirty-nine, was fitter than he was. Embarrassing really.
As Ethan puffed his way up their last hill, the sun began to rise in the east, bathing everything in its golden light.
His uncle looked at him when he collapsed next to him on the grass and said, "You're out of breathe. You're going to do the same route each morning, until you get fitter. Got it?"
As Ethan nodded, he felt like he'd just signed his own death warrant.
That afternoon his uncle introduced him to the garden he would be trying to tame.
"It's massive." Ethan said, amazed.
His uncle just shrugged, "I don't expect you to clear the whole thing, just half of it."
The garden was at least fifty feet long, he thought. That means he'd got to clear twenty-five feet of garden.
"The tools are over there," Uncle Brian said, pointing to a shed over then stone path, "Get on with it."
Ethan was glad it was a colder day in winter, because if it was a hot day, he'd be hotter than he was already.
He leaned against his shovel and took five minutes rest. He took off his t-shirt and drank some cool water from the hose, before getting back to work.
As he broke through the brambles, he got scratched, but he didn't stop for such a small cut. That would cost him later on.
Two months ago, when he'd first arrived, he'd been weak and pale, but now, due to the morning runs and the gardening, he was much stronger and tanned. His tan made his black, shoulder-length hair and green eyes stand out. Whereas before, he had to have a rest after the six mile morning run before gardening; now he could get straight on with it. He was immensely proud of his tall, but muscular form.
Ethan heard a knock on the door and went to answer it. His uncle had had to start working to keep him fed, he ate a lot after a long days work.
He opened the door, "Hello."
The farm boy from the farm three miles away - their nearest neighbours - had come with their daily supply of food.
"I've got your food for you, behind the motorbike. Come on." He said, leading Ethan towards a old black motorbike parked on the dirt driveway.
The farm boy picked up three boxes and Ethan picked up the remaining two. Ethan led him into their old-fashioned kitchen.
"What's your name?" Ethan asked, putting the food away while the farm boy watched him, leaning against the doorframe.
"Why are you here?" Scott asked.
"Well... Put it this way. When my father died, I got shunned from family member to family member, none of them really wanting me, so I acted out - drinking, smoking, doing drugs - that sort of thing. Eventually, my aunt couldn't deal with me anymore, so I got sent here, to Uncle Brian, in the hopes that he would straighten me out. And he did." Ethan explained, now sitting down on a chair, having finished putting the food away.
"Heavy." was all Scott said, before going, "Oh damn, I've gotta go. Bye Ethan."
Ethan heard the sound of Scott's motorbike fade away, before continuing with his gardening.
Ethan began to look forward to Scott's visits, although he wished he could have a motorbike. He'd broached the subject with his uncle the night before and had been told, "He'd think about it."
Well, Ethan reasoned, it was better than an outright no.
He was already at the door when Scott knocked. He opened the door to find a wet and windswept Scott. He laughed before inviting him in.
"Scott, you're soaked." Ethan said.
"You think I didn't notice?" Scott growled, dumping the food by the door.
"Well... No." He said, leading Scott into the kitchen and motioning for him to sit next to the roaring fire.
Ethan made a coffee for both of them and then he sat by the fire.
Sipping on his coffee, Scott asked, "How's the garden going?"
"Not very well. I haven't been able to got outside for the past three days due to the weather." He said, looking out of the window to the dark sky and the pelting rain. A bolt of lightning streaked down the sky, soon followed by a crash of thunder.
When he looked back at Scott, he found the blonde-haired boy shaking with fear. "Are you scared of thunder?" He asked, getting a shaky nod as an answer.
"Ok. Do you want to sit up here or go downstairs?" Ethan asked.
"In the basement. There's no windows and I bet you can't hear the thunder."
Ethan looked at Scott, who nodded.
Ethan turned the light on to reveal a room painted dark red with the two sofas and an armchair matching the colour of the walls. The only light in the room came from the three tall modern lamps in each corner, making the room seem smaller and cosier.
Ethan sat at one sofa and Scott sat at the other end.
"Ah... I'd forgotten about this..." Ethan murmured, getting up and opening up a small wooden glass-fronted cabinet. In the cabinet was a few bottles of wine, whiskey and gin. He picked a decent bottle of wine, poured himself a glass and offered some to Scott, who accepted.
They sat in a comfortable silence, sipping their wine. A roll of thunder was muted, but it still made Scott jump.
Ethan looked at Scott, thinking that Scott was still terrified, but he didn't want to embarrass himself. Scott was curled up and shaking slightly.
Ethan shuffled up towards Scott, intending to soothe him. He patted his shoulder and when Scott looked at him, Ethan simply said, "Its alright. I'm scared of things to, like falling."
"Ok." Scott said.
They sat in the same position until the storm stopped, about an hour.
"Anymore news on the motorbike idea?" Ethan asked.
"Well... I guess you could have one, providing you are careful and you look after it." His uncle said.
"Yes!" He yelled, jumping up from his chair.
Uncle Brian chuckled, "If you calm down long enough, you could go outside and look at your newish motorbike."
Ethan ran outside, in the pouring rain, into the small garage. In the middle of the floor, there was a sleek black motorbike, its chrome shining.
"I take it you like it then?" His uncles' voice floated in from behind him.
"Yeah!" Ethan said, running his hands over the glistening handlebars.
He noticed the shiny blue helmet and leather gloves next to the motorbike. He picked them up, marvelling at the shininess.
"This is so cool!" He yelled.
When Scott arrived that morning with their food, Ethan had suggested going on a ride on his new motorbike, seeing as the day was sunny and dry, and also to test his bike out. Scott had agreed.
"Do you want to go faster?" He yelled, and he felt rather than heard Scott's answer. A nod against his right shoulder.
Ethan turned right onto a tarmac road and opened up the throttle. They rocketed up from thirty miles an hour to sixty miles an hour.
"Whoop whoop!" Scott yelled.
Ethan stopped the bike off the road, turned the key and let Scott jump off first. He got off after with ease.
"How was that?" Ethan said to the more experienced Scott.
"Well... It wasn't that bad - for a newbie." Scott said, nudging Ethan.
"Hey!" Ethan pulled into a headlock and then wrestled him to the ground.
Ethan was on top of Scott, with his knees pinning Scott down and his hands on Scott's shoulders. Ethan put his face right above Scott's, their noses touching.
They both went still when they realised the implications of the position they were in. Ethan let go of Scott and sat next to him instead.
"Let's not do that again." Scott said.
Ethan agreed with him.
Ethan was stood by his fathers' grave. He read the inscription on the stone:
Allen G. Thompson.
1st October 1952 - 22nd January 2012
Beloved father, son and friend.
It had been just over a year since his father had died.
He'd driven over here on his motorbike, as soon as he'd realised the date.
"Dad, I love you. You know everyone hates me right? Well... I've found two people who don't - your brother, Brian, and Scott. I guess you already know who Scott is, cause you're watching from up their, aren't you?" Ethan said to the gravestone.
The wind whipped through his hair, making his hair go in his face.
"Where did you go?" Scott's worried voice came through the headset Ethan had in his helmet.
Ethan was speeding down the motorway, at sixty miles an hour. He was on his way home, to his uncles'.
"I just went somewhere, ok? I'm on my way back now." Ethan answered, going passed a car.
"Where? I was worried."
"Ok... I went to my Dad's grave."
"Oh, I could've come with you, you know." Scott said.
"Its one of those things I had to do on my own, you know?"
"I understand. Bye."
"Bye." Ethan said to an hung-up phone.
As he speeded down the motorway, Ethan thought how much his life had changed in a year. He had a permanent house; a great uncle; and, most of all, Scott, the best mate anyone could ask for.
A/N: Reviews are much appreciated.