Worth A Thousand Words

Written by:
Linda Kay


BILL & TED characters are trademarks of Nelson 1991 Inc. The motion picture BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE & © 1989 Nelson Films Inc. All Rights Reserved. The motion picture BILL & TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY © 1991 Orion Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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He wasn't sure what had awakened him. Sitting up, Ted swung his head around clumsily, squinting his eyes to try to make out the time on his bedside clock through the sleepiness. He hadn't meant to fall asleep, but it must have gotten pretty late. After unsuccessfully trying to read the slightly illuminated hands by closing one eye, then the other, Ted finally leaned across the bed and put his face right up to the clock to make out one hand pointing toward the twelve and the other toward the eight. Eight o'clock? He'd been in bed by nine and had been lying awake at least until ten. Morning then . . . had he really slept that late? It then dawned on him that it was still dark outside, so his mind calculated the probable answer and he finally realized it was twelve forty in the morning.

Sitting back up, Ted yawned slightly and swung his legs over the edge of the mattress, pushing himself out of bed with tired effort. He could hear movement from somewhere in the house and decided he would see what had transpired during his sleep. He was somewhat surprised he even fell asleep, as he had been somewhat worried. Even at thirteen, which he considered to be a very mature age since he had actually become a teenager, and the newfound responsibilities which had come with it including watching over his little brother Deacon when his parents went out, he found himself becoming nervous when one or the other was even a little bit late coming home. It had been that way for years, and he knew much of it stemmed from the fact that his father was a police officer out battling the evil of the city. He couldn't really sleep well unless he knew his father was home at night, and that sometimes meant laying awake very late waiting for the sound of his footsteps in the hallway.

Slowly opening his bedroom door, he peered out through the crack, trying to verify his parents' presence without actually being seen and possibly receiving a scolding for being up so late. The hallway was dark and no one was in sight, so he stepped out of the room, noticing a light on in the living room but his parents' room door in the opposite direction open to darkness inside.

Turning away from the living room, he tiptoed to the open master bedroom door and peered in, allowing a couple of seconds for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Still not sure of what he was seeing, he took a few cautious steps toward the bed, trying to make out a form there. But there was none. He could finally see more clearly and realized the bed was unoccupied. It hadn't even been slept in, as the covers were still pulled up neatly over the pillows.

Confused, Ted walked out of the bedroom and toward the living room. He couldn't hear any conversation, but felt someone was there. As he reached the end of the hallway, he carefully looked around the corner into the room, spotting his father almost immediately sitting with his back to him at his desk. The man looked tired, as his head was bent forward and he didn't seem to be writing or doing anything.

Realizing that with his father's back to him he could enter the living room enough to look into the kitchen without being seen, Ted crossed halfway into the room and glanced over to the kitchen. It was empty. Now very confused and somewhat nervous, Ted decided being caught up late didn't matter.

Slowly he walked toward the desk until he was standing to his father's side, waiting for the man to catch his movement and look up at him. When he didn't look up, Ted fidgeted slightly and finally said softly, "Dad?"

His father's head shot up suddenly, startling Ted into taking a step back. The man's eyes glanced about, confused and red, until recognition came over them and his body relaxed somewhat. He had a look on his face Ted had never seen before. It was as if the man were utterly lost. Seeing that kind of expression in his father's eyes, the man who had always been to him the very epitome of everything stoic and brave, scared him very much.

Captain Logan looked at Ted for a moment, then quickly moved his eyes back to the top of his desk, where Ted could see there was no work spread out. "What are you doing up so late?"

"I couldn't sleep," Ted lied. "Where's Mom?"

His father became very still, staring down at nothing and not answering the question. For a moment he sat there, perfectly still yet emotion moving through him all too tangibly. His eyes then clenched tightly and he slammed his hands down on the desk, screaming out an expletive and then knocking several of the items from his desk with a swipe of his arm.

Terrified, Ted backed away from his father, who had turned to him with a look of complete horror and apology. The huge man lurched forward and Ted tried to back away farther, thinking for sure he was going to be the next object of his father's wrath. Instead the man fell on his knees in front of him and grabbed his son's shoulders, pulling him into a tight hug and swinging him from side to side slightly. Ted froze, not knowing what to do or say . . . not understanding what was happening. He could feel his father's chest heave in and out against him, and the man's breath coming in strange, gasping sputters.

Suddenly it dawned upon him. His father was actually crying. And with that realization Ted's heart sank and the world suddenly became cold and non-existent. He knew something really bad had happened.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Sprinting along at a steady pace, Bill panted, not used to exerting such energy so early in the morning. He turned the corner onto Ted's street and quickened his run slightly, realizing they would be cutting it close as it was. He couldn't fathom why Ted hadn't come by his house to walk to school with him, but he'd realized after a time that if he didn't try to at least meet Ted part way they'd never get to school on time. Now he was almost to Ted's house and still hadn't met him coming his direction, so he was getting slightly worried.

He slowed his run into a walk as Ted's driveway came into sight and he could see Captain Logan's patrol car sitting in front of the garage with a large, blue Sedan parked behind it. He didn't remember seeing that car before, and was also surprised that Ted's dad would be home. He usually went to work before Ted went to school.

Rounding the tail end of the Sedan, Bill headed for the front steps, seeing the front door was slightly open behind the screen door and several people were walking around inside talking. Deacon was sitting on the front step with his head in his hands eyeing Bill without expression.

"Hey, Deacon," Bill greeted, trying to glance through the screen door to see who was inside. "What's going on?"

"My aunt's here . . . and the cousins . . . " Deacon answered absent-mindedly, his voice quieter than usual.

"Yeah?" Bill asked, thinking that was strange but not pursuing it further. "Is Ted ready for school? We're totally late."

"We're not going to school today."

"Why not?" Bill asked, still trying to catch a snippet of the conversation going on inside the house.

"Mom died."

Bill was straining to hear what the woman inside was saying and it took a moment for the statement to register. He looked down at Deacon, wanting to make sure he'd heard correctly. "Huh?"

"Last night. In a car wreck . . . or something."

Bill turned his head to the ground, focusing on nothing as he tried to comprehend what he was hearing. "Mrs. Logan?" Deacon didn't answer, which was answer enough. "Aw geez . . . . "

Bill stood in silence as Deacon looked away. He could somehow now catch bits of the conversation between Ted's dad and aunt, confirming the reality of what Deacon had said.

"We got more relatives coming over later," Deacon said softly, still looking the other way.

Bill pivoted in one place, trying to decide what to do. Finally he stood, looking at the house then back to Deacon. "Where's Ted?"

Deacon shrugged. "Inside somewhere."

Bill took a step toward the front porch. "Think they'd mind if I saw him?"

Deacon looked over his shoulder at Bill with an uncertain look. "I dunno. Dad's not in the mood for much, you know?"

Bill nodded, stepping back. Captain Logan had never been very fond of him at the best of times. He couldn't imagine trying to face the man during such a personal tragedy. "Maybe I'll go around back and see if Ted's in his room."

Deacon nodded with a slight shrug as Bill made his way around the side of the house.

Fumbling with the side gate latch, Bill managed to lift it quietly and push the usually squeaky door open without a sound as he had done many times before. Closing it behind him, he walked toward the back of the house, his mind a mess of jumbled thoughts and emotions. Ted's mom. How could Ted's mother be . . . gone? Just like that? It was so unrealistic . . . he wasn't sure he believed it. But he had to believe it. Obviously it was true, with Ted's relatives coming over and everything.

As he approached Ted's window he began to wonder what he could do . . . what on earth could he possibly say? His own mother had left years before and it had been painful, but his mom had only divorced his dad. She was still alive. Ted's mom was so . . . nice. The kind of mother he wished he could have had himself. What could he possibly say that would be of any help whatsoever?

Bill reached up to the windowsill and pulled his chin over the edge, peering through the glass. He could see the door to the room was closed and then he saw that Ted was lying on his bed with his back to the window. He wasn't moving . . . he was just lying there.

Reaching up to tap on the glass, Bill stopped in mid-gesture and then withdrew his hand. What if Ted was asleep? He didn't think he would be, but then again maybe he hadn't gotten any sleep that night. What if he woke him up when he'd just gotten to sleep?

Bill looked into the window for some time, debating whether or not he should knock. Suddenly he felt small and out of place, and pulled back from the window, leaning against the wall a moment before turning and walking back toward the front yard. He didn't belong there. This wasn't a time or a place for him. This was a family thing that he didn't belong in, and he wouldn't know what to say anyway. He knew Ted would get in touch with him when it was the right time. But not now.

Ted lifted his head slightly, looking in the mirror which reflected the opposite wall and a corner of the window behind him. He thought he'd seen a movement out of the corner of his eye, but whatever it was had disappeared. Ted concluded it was probably just a bird which had flitted past his windowsill. It crossed his mind that it was his mother who'd wanted to put the bird feeder in the back yard in the first place.

Dropping his head back onto the pillow, then moving it back slightly to avoid the already wet spot, Ted allowed another stream of tears to escape from his eyes and tried to drown out the sound of talking from the living room. He wanted to go to sleep and wake up to find the world as it was before. But he knew he wouldn't be able to go to sleep.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The living room was a sea of black milling quietly to and fro. As if in a rhythmic dance, people moved from one side of the room to the other and back again, stopping and talking amongst themselves in hushed tones. For as quietly and slowly as people were moving, the air was filled with a sense of urgency as the aunts tried to keep things flowing steadily and well-organized. Ted sat slumped in a chair off to one side, noting the proceedings but not taking much interest in them. He fidgeted with the collar of his best white shirt, which scratched against his neck. The suit only made him feel more uncomfortable than he already was amongst this throng of relatives, some of whom he'd hardly seen in the past ten years. Deacon was similarly clad and uncomfortable, but seemed to be finding some solace hovering near the table which was spread with various foods that people had either brought or sent. In fact Deacon was the only one in the room who appeared to have any kind of appetite. Ted couldn't even think about eating.

His Dad appeared from a group of people, thanking them over his shoulder as he approached Ted's Aunt Dody, who was standing close to Ted's chair. "I can't thank you enough for helping to organize everything today. I wouldn't have known where to start."

"It's quite all right. How are you holding up?"

Captain Logan sighed, glancing about the room as if looking for an answer. "I'm okay. Just taking it one day at a time."

Ted watched as Aunt Dody looked toward Deacon then turned back to his father. "The poor kid. To lose his mother at such a young age. How has he been?"

"The boys are holding up quite well, everything considered," Captain Logan said, glancing at Ted with a somewhat disapproving look. He motioned for Ted to get up and come over to them.

Ted remained seated for a moment, not wanting to have to talk to anyone. Since the night of the accident his dad hadn't talked about it at all. He only spoke to Ted to remind him to do something or ask him to help out. A second look from his father told him he'd better get up and say something to his Aunt Dody.

As he approached, Aunt Dody turned to him and smiled a short smile. "How're you doing, hon?" she asked sweetly.

"Okay, I guess," he shrugged.

"He's getting to be a big boy, isn't he?" Aunt Dody asked Captain Logan, who nodded absently. Ted stood patiently and waited for a chance to escape. "I know things seem bad now, but try to believe me when I say they will get better."

Much to his surprise, Aunt Dody reached up and ran a hand across his cheek. "You look so much like your mother in many ways."

Ted looked to his Dad as the man turned away, not looking Ted in the face. Somehow it made Ted feel terrible, like he'd done something wrong, but he didn't really understand what. He was grateful when the doorbell rang and his Dad turned to him, urging him to answer the door.

Before Ted could get to the door it had been opened by another aunt, who was leaning outside to retrieve something left on the doorstep. She turned back into the room, closing the door behind her as Ted approached. "A delivery boy left it, I guess. Looks like something for the table. Theodore, would you set it over there?"

Ted took the odd-looking basket and carried it to the table. It didn't look like any of the ornate fruit baskets which the other relatives had sent. Glancing inside the Circle K bag which covered up the contents, Ted found an assortment of snack cakes, nuts and candy bars. A small square card attached to the top of the basket said simply, "To the Logans". Ted recognized the handwriting and smiled slightly, knowing that Bill was thinking of him. He realized he missed seeing his friend the past few days.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Bill sat on the stage with his guitar set across his lap, pretending to tune the instrument. The fact that he didn't know how to tune it didn't matter since his mind was elsewhere anyway. He looked out through the open garage door to the street as a car passed by and wondered how Ted was doing. He felt somewhat guilty about having left a measly basket of food, ringing the doorbell and running away. He had wanted to go inside and pay his respects to Ted and his family, but his dad said that since he wasn't invited it wouldn't be appropriate, but that sending some food would be a way he could show his sympathy. Somehow it didn't seem like enough to Bill.

He wished he could pick up the phone and call Ted, but what would he say? How would he know when it was the right time to approach him? As much as he wanted to see Ted, he also dreaded it, worrying about saying the right thing. He didn't want to say anything that would make Ted feel worse instead of better.

A movement caught his eye and he looked up, realizing that he had no more time to worry about his problem. Ted was walking up the driveway, moving slowly with his head lowered. He stopped at the edge of the open garage and lifted his head, eyeing Bill without smiling. "Can I come in?"

"Sure, dude," Bill said, getting to his feet. "I didn't . . . I mean, I wasn't sure if you'd be coming over . . . you know . . . anytime soon or anything."

"Well, I wanted to get out of the house," Ted said, then realized that didn't sound right. He sat down clumsily on the edge of the stage and looked up at Bill. "And I wanted to thank you . . . for the basket of stuff."

"That's okay. Sorry I didn't stop in. I just thought . . . you know."

"It's okay. You didn't miss anything. Just a bunch of relatives standing around . . . not eating."

Bill paced slightly, trying to think of what to say. "You wanna jam? A little?"

Ted shook his head, keeping his eyes lowered. "Naw. Not today."

"Ted . . . " Bill paused, feeling awkward. "Are you . . . okay?"

Ted kept his head lowered, then took a deep breath, looking as if he were fighting back his emotions. "I don't know. I mean . . . I just feel kind of numb, you know? Like nothing's real." He looked up at Bill to see if what he was saying was making any sense to his friend. He was surprised to see Bill was turned away from him in a strange way. "Dude?" he asked with concern.

Bill turned back around slightly, glancing a moment at his friend. Ted was startled to see that tears were running from Bill's eyes. It so surprised him he just sat, staring up in bewilderment.

"Sorry, dude . . . " Bill sputtered, trying to find his voice. "I just . . . I didn't know what to say, you know? I felt so stupid not doing anything . . . not being around." Bill could see by Ted's confused expression that he wasn't making himself clear. "Geez, Ted . . . I'm . . . I'm just so sorry this happened to you. I wish I could make it not have happened, that's all."

Ted felt his emotions well and didn't fight back the tears. Of all the wishes and condolences he'd been given by well-meaning relatives, no one . . . not one person . . . had ever said they were sorry about what happened to him. Ted felt Bill really understood his pain, and it was such a relief for him to know someone actually cared enough to cry for him. He got to his feet and stepped toward Bill, giving him a quick hug. "Thanks, dude."

They sat together on the makeshift stage in the Preston's garage for the rest of the afternoon, sometimes talking, sometimes just sitting in silence, but sharing the grief. And although Ted hadn't taken his Aunt's sentiments to heart when she said them to him, in a small way he felt she might have been right . . . that maybe someday things would get better.

THE END