Let me go. To Lonnie's. If Will's there, it means he ran away. If he sees the cops there, he'll think he's in trouble. He'll hide. You know, he's good at hiding.


His father wasn't always angry.

Sometimes Lonnie tried to teach Will something and no matter how little Will was actually interested in baiting a hook or the correct way to throw a ball, he hid his apathy for the subject at hand. As long as Will feigned an interest, or at least successfully concealed his disinterest, for that moment, however long it lasted, he wasn't a disappointment, a burden, an embarrassment.

Those moments couldn't last forever, of course. Eventually, Will's lack of athleticism or his squeamishness would show through. And then Lonnie wouldn't hesitate to show Will just how he felt. Jonathan wasn't a budding outdoorsman or an athlete either. Neither of the Byers boys showed any sort of aptitude for anything their father considered to be worthwhile masculine pursuits, something Lonnie complained bitterly about to Joyce who he blamed for making them soft. Mama's boys, both of them. It would have been better to have had daughters. But at least Jonathan could fight back and in a strange sort of way, their father respected that.

Will wondered sometimes when his father baited him and baited him and baited him if Lonnie wasn't trying to see just how hard he had to push Will before Will pushed back. For Jonathan the tipping point had been when Will needed protection. Will remembered the day clearly, the first time Jonathan ever struck their father. He'd been watching a Chicago Cubs game. Any real Cubs fan should have been comfortable with the inevitability of a losing season, but for reasons unknown Lonnie had placed an ill advised wager on this particular game and his mood increasingly soured as any hope of replacing the tires on his truck faded further away with each passing inning.

Will had the misfortune of returning home just at the moment when the Cubs gave up yet another two runs. And worse yet, he came home on the heels of yet another humiliating incident at the hands of the class bully.

"What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing," Will knew how to read his father quickly and accurately and adjust himself accordingly. Injured feelings were not going to be tolerated and he knew it.

The Cubs let another run get past them and because Lonnie couldn't bear to look at the game for one more second, he focused on Will instead. "Don't lie to me, boy." His voice was dangerous and it stopped Will dead in his tracks. Will ducked his head and hoped the tears he felt welling in his eyes weren't visible.

"Really, Dad, I'm fine. I just felt like coming home is all."

"You're letting someone pick on you, aren't you?" As though being targeted was a character flaw on his part.

"I-I-I just..I," Will stammered, not quite sure why he was in trouble other than he was weak and his father despised weakness. And then whatever was left of Will's facade melted away and the tears he'd hoped would stay hidden betrayed him and rolled down his cheeks. Lonnie was incensed.

"You're crying now? Jesus Christ! How in the hell did I get stuck with two pansies for sons. You knock that shit off right now or I'll give you something to cry about!"

"I'm sorry," Will half whispered, but if anything, his submission only made Lonnie more angry. Will tried to control it, but he choked out a sob. And his father lost it.

Jonathan came home to find Will his face a mixture of snot and tears, his eyes fixated on Lonnie, frozen by the unmistakable sound of a leather belt being pulled through denim belt loops.

"Leave him alone!" It took everyone (including Jonathan himself) a beat to realize Jonathan was the one who had yelled at Lonnie. Will couldn't remember whether he'd actually heard Jonathan telling him to hide, but verbal or not, the message was very clear. Will ran out the backdoor and hid in the bushes at the edge of their property while all hell broke loss inside.

After what seemed like an eternity, Lonnie staggered outside sporting a split lip and what would ultimately darken into a black eye. He got into his truck, slammed the door and skidded out of the driveway in reverse. For his part, Jonathan wore long sleeves even though it was summer and sat perched at the very edge of his chair for the next week, but never admitted to having sustained any injuries.

That was the summer Jonathan helped him build Castle Byers. Will had been reading A Bridge to Terribithia and wished for his own island on which to build an imaginary country. Jonathan couldn't find him an island, but he could build him a sanctuary out of scrap wood and trash. A place where bullies (even those of the grown man variety) wouldn't find him. A refuge. A safe haven.

As it turns out, some monsters are harder to hide from than others.