Page 24

I laugh, but there's no joy in it. "I remember all the times you did use it on me, all the things you did. I have so many scars from you that I can't think straight. No one saved me from you, and yet, here you are on the day my mother died, telling me that it's my own damn fault that I got raped, and that it was my fault that she never believed me.

"Oh wait, she did believe me—and you knew—and it's funny. Like ha-ha funny, like tragically ironic." I touch the knife to his throat as I speak, pressing the tip into his neck deeper and deeper. The last string that was holding me together has come undone, and it's blowing in the wind. No one will save me. It's like last time, and I won't have this man waiting for me in the shadows anymore.

Dean is swearing at me, threatening all kinds of things, but he can't move with the knife where it is without slitting his throat. I twist the point and watch a bead of red drip down his neck. My eyes flick to his. I feel the tension in my arm, the need to release the energy and fear, inside of me.

That's when I hear his voice. It moves through the shadows toward me. At first I think I'm hallucinating, then I actually see Peter. His dark hair hangs in his eyes and his face is lowered. He kicks a stone as he speaks. "As much as I think you should flinch and cut his throat, I know you. I know what will happen after you do, when it's over." Peter comes closer.

I can't move. I grip the knife tighter, thinking that Peter will try to take it away. I don't wonder why he's here or how he found me. I see flashes of silver and think the blade is on me. I act like I'm the one being attacked and I can't stop. I don't want to stop. "He used this on me, this same blade. He scarred me inside and out."

"I know he did." Peter is next to me, but he doesn't touch my arm. He watches me from under those dark lashes. "So what are you waiting for?"

"What the fuck, man?" Dean looks horrified. I twist the blade again, and Dean tenses, trying to push his body into the wall. I watch as the cut deepens, but it does nothing to make me feel better.

"When this is over," Peter asks, "what will you do? After all the blood has drained from his body, after he dies in front of your eyes, what will you do?"

The sound of my breath fills my head. I feel like I'm in control, but I'm not. I can't think; I can't blink. I don't know the answer to Peter's question, but I can't drop my arm. I'm locked in place, staring down the man who ruined my life.

"I know the name of the man who killed Gina. I know where he lives and I know exactly what I'd do to him. It would give me a great amount of pleasure to watch the light go out of his eyes."

"So why haven't you done something about it?"

"Because I already did. I once stood where you are now, but I didn't stop. I have to tell you that doing this will keep you trapped in your past for the rest of your life. This man will have ruined you in every way possible, and day in and day out you will remember that. Even after he's dead, he will haunt you. If you shove that knife into his throat and end his miserable life, he wins. He'll own you until you take your last breath. Is that what you want?"

His words hit me hard. A slew of emotions are twisting deep inside of me, trying to break out of the box I shoved them into. "I have to end this. I can't have him—" Peter's breath is on my neck. His hand is next to me and slowly slips over my arm.

"Then let me do it. Let me take care of this for you. You'll never see him again. I promise. Give me the knife." Peter slips his hand over mine as he speaks and closes his palm over mine. He pulls back slightly and the knife moves off of Dean's neck. He inhales sharply.

Peter holds me in his arms and kisses my face while keeping the knife blade accessible. The box cracks open, and emotions violently slam into me, so hard that I'm shaking. "I'm sorry, Peter."

Dean chokes and presses his fingers to his neck. They come away covered in blood. He starts yelling, "You crazy bitch, I'm going to make you—"

Peter's jaw tenses before he does it. His fist flies up and punches Dean so hard that he doubles over gasping for air. Peter releases me and slams his other fist into Dean's gut. Then he crashes a fist into Dean's back. The punches land harder and harder until Dean is on his knees and there's blood seeping into his shirt.

"Enough," a voice says and Sean appears. His hand is in his pocket. Sean's eyes flick to me, and he nods, like he's giving me his approval or something.

Peter is breathless. He wipes the sweat off his brow and says, "Tell him what he has to look forward to if he messes with Sidney again. Make sure he knows exactly what I mean." Peter's tension is palpable. Every last bit of him is strung like he's going to snap.

Everything happens so quickly. It feels like I'm in a daze and I can't do anything but blink. When did I become like this? What would push me so far that I'd actually hurt someone? Part of me is disgusted, but the other half is so damaged that I hope Sean scares the crap out of Dean. I want that man to hurt for everything he did to me—for everything he took away. That bastard stole my life, and I almost lost it completely. If Peter hadn't come when he did…

A shiver rakes through me, and reality catches up with my brain. A thin layer of sweat coats my skin. My face is so damn hot, but my arms are frozen. Before I can think, I'm forced to bend at the waist as my body tries to expel the contents of my stomach, but there isn't anything there, so I dry heave. Peter holds my back and speaks softly to me. His words float by my ears, but I don't understand him. I almost killed Dean. The thought hits me hard, and I can't stop shaking.

"I'll take care of this. Get her out of here." Sean grabs Dean by the neck and drags him into the woods. Panic shoots through me. I can't be responsible for this. Evil people are made by decisions like this. I can't allow it, no matter how far gone I was.

"Wait," I choke out, but Sean doesn't stop. Peter pulls me away, and I have to fight the urge to look back. "You can't kill him. You can't!"

"He won't kill the asshole. I would have if I'd come alone. That's why Sean insisted on being here today, now. He knows me better than I'd like to admit. Sean's just reminding that piece of shit that bad deeds don't go unpunished. Sean's a little more emotionally detached than I am. I'd kill him without meaning to." He looks at his hands like this is something he knows about himself, like he's killed before.

Sobs bubble up my throat, and I shiver. I shake my head and wrap my arms around my middle. Peter walks me over to a black sports car. It's Sean's, and the motorcycle is also Sean's. I slip into the seat and let fear strangle me into silence.


The following day Peter stands next to me as I place a rose on my mother's casket. We stay until everyone else has gone. Sam sits on one side of me and my father on the other. Dad stares blankly. He hasn't cried since the morning she died. He smiles at me when he sees me and says I look like her. His words haunt me. Every time I look in a mirror to brush my hair or make sure I haven't smeared makeup all over my face from crying, I see my mother's face. There are pictures of her all over the house. The ones where she's my age rattle me the most. I have no idea what her life was like. I went from being a child to being an adult and left without ever really knowing who she was.

I think about Mom often and wish I'd had more courage to come back sooner, but looking backward doesn't help me move forward. Peter keeps telling me that. Mourning the dead is needed. Sobbing is needed, but there's a point when tears become smiles and the memories aren't filled with pain. I hope that day comes soon, but so far it hasn't.

We drive back to the house in Sean's car. Peter is borrowing it until we head home to Texas. I shift in my seat. When I speak, I don't look at Peter. "Aren't you afraid that I snapped?"

We haven't spoken about what I did to Dean, but the thoughts float through my mind. Peter looks over at me. I feel his gaze on the side of my face. "No, you've been through a lot, Sidney. And piss-poor judgment on his part made him a walking target."

"The things you said to me that night—how did you know what was going through my head?"

Peter doesn't answer right away. He grips the wheel harder and focuses on the road. The ride back from the cemetery is long, and Peter takes a less direct route so we can talk. "I know because I had the same opportunity. The night Gina was killed, I rounded on one of the guys and stabbed him with his own knife. I couldn't stop. I couldn't think. It was instinct. The memory is there in the back of my mind. I can still sense the blade in my hand and feel it tearing through his flesh. It's blinding and overpowers every good deed I ever did. I stopped fighting for her. I changed who I was, but at the depths of my soul I was still the same man. I'd kill again if it would bring her back.

"That's why Sean sent you away. He knew I'd snap if I was pushed too far, since I already had once before. I didn't know what happened. After you left, I asked Sean, but he gave me a story and I believed it. He said you needed some time alone, which seemed off.

"Then Sean told me a bunch of crap about how you demanded money from him—he even showed me your bank account with all the cash he wired. He took a dirty shot. Someone did that to me before, and he knew it'd slow me down. Sean played me. I'm sorry I doubted you. I'm sorry it took me so long to get out here.

"I followed you last night to the grocery store and then to the park. I didn't understand why you went with Dean after you fought like hell last time he tried something. That's why I trailed you, and apparently Sean was following me to make sure I didn't put the guy in the ground.

"So to answer your question, I knew how you'd feel after you stabbed him, because I've done it. I didn't want you to feel like that, ever. I want that ghost gone, but the best I can do is banish him for a while. I love you, Sidney. I wish I could do more. I wish I could make it all go away."