Why was she telling me it would be okay? She was the one who would die. She must have thought I was someone else. Maybe she was looking for her son.
Suddenly, I wished she were my mom.
A strange, beautiful woman who I’d never met before but felt a connection to.
“Why are you calling me Gabriel?” I lowered the gun to study her. I couldn’t shake the familiar feelings, and the feeling that hurting this woman would be a mistake.
I looked to my father for guidance. “Dad?”
“It doesn’t matter what the bitch calls you. Do you want your freedom, boy?”
“Then kill her,” he sneered. He took my hand and lifted the gun again, pressing my finger into the trigger. All I had to do was squeeze a little more, but for some reason, I didn’t want her to die.
I shouldn’t do this.
I couldn’t do this.
“It’s okay, Gabriel.” She nodded her head weakly. The tears were endless as they fell from her eyes.
You’re not Gabriel. Just kill her. You’ll be free.
“I will always love you.”
The gun went off.
The blast was loud, but I didn’t feel the pain in my arm. It reached far beyond the physical. I didn’t remember squeezing the trigger. I didn’t remember killing her, but there was one thing I would always remember hearing…
“Good job, son.” My father’s evil chuckled echoed behind me. “You just killed your mother.”
There was no possibility of redemption. What was I thinking? Threatening Keiran like that was like committing suicide. The rush of it all, mingled with fear and hate, clawed at my emotions. When I went in search of Keiran after class, I merely wanted to see if he was okay. The look on his face as he left class was one I’d never seen before. It was a mixture of pain and anger, and with Keiran, who knew how deadly a combination that could be?
I only meant to peek in on him when I saw him rush off to the gym, but when I saw him playing basketball alone something compelled me to call out to him. I had known before it happened that it was a mistake, but sadly I was never one to listen to my instincts.
How could he have known about my Aunt Karen and Uncle Ben, much less where they lived? Surprisingly, I recovered quicker than I would have in the past. Keiran was much more effective in tearing me apart to near destruction in the past.
My anger was unprecedented, but the threat that followed was even more surprising. More than that, it was the realization I had meant it. I was done letting Keiran use my family against me. I was done letting him use me period.
Before today, I hoped deep down that Keiran could be redeemed but now it seemed nearly impossible. I had to figure out a way to beat him at his own game.
Keiran was guided by his ruthlessness, but I was guided by my love for my family. It was no contest on which was more powerful.
He wasn’t the only one who watched and waited. I knew he was up to something, and I knew whatever it was had to do with Mitch. It wasn’t surprising to me how closed mouth he was about his plans. So much so, prying Sheldon for information would be fruitless. For all I knew, Mitch had already been taken care.
Mitch wouldn’t go too far. His first attempt to kill his sons and brother for money may have failed, but he would try again. The only question remaining was which one would Mitch come after first this time? He used me as a pawn the first time. Would he do so again? He knew where I lived, and it could very well be my aunt who steps through the door next time.
With Keiran gone I had a chance to keep everyone safe. I was going to put him away once and for all.
I just needed to find the chink in his armor.
* * *
Instead of going home after school, I decided to pay Keenan a visit. The last time I was there, he was still very much close to death, and with Sheldon still being an emotional wreck, I figured I could step in. He had become a friend, too.
Keenan startled at the sound of my knock followed by my voice.
“Lake,” he questioned. What are you doing here?”
I paused in the doorway and rethought my decision to come. His voice wasn’t cold or angry, but it wasn’t exactly welcoming. He sounded sad most of all.
“I wanted to visit a friend, and I’m sorry, but you agreed to be my friend, so I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.” I walked in and took the chair next to his bedside. He eyed me and then looked at the object I held in my hand. I had almost forgotten about the flowers I held. I thrust them awkwardly in his face, and he took them reluctantly, though I could tell he was fighting back a smile.
“I hear roses are your favorite.”
“Actually, I prefer daisies and walks in the park, but this will do for now. Besides, how can I say no to someone so beautiful?” he flirted.
Normally, I would scold him, but I could only feel hope all of Keenan wasn’t lost. Going through as much as he had could really change a person. Sometimes for better, but often, it was something much worse. I could only hope that, for Keenan, it was the former.
After a couple of hours watching the stale television shows the hospital provided, and then completing several crossword puzzles, I finally decided to ask the question at the back of my mind.
“So when are they letting you out of here?”
He piped up a little at the mention of leaving the hospital. As energetic as he always was, I knew being cooped up in a hospital had to be driving him crazy.