No such luck.
Although I should have known better since luck and I hadn’t seemed to be friends not just the last few years, but my entire life.
I looked around the apartment for something I could use as a key, like a small screwdriver or a nail file when I noticed a paint splattered sheet in the corner of the room covering what looked like a little alcove.
Crossing the room as quickly as my broken body would allow, I tugged on the bottom of the sheet, freeing it from where it had been tucked behind something at the top of the pile it had been concealing. As it fell to the floor it revealed the entire life it had been hiding underneath.
An older style TV, much thicker than the more modern flat screens, with fake wooden paneling on the sides sat in the center. On top of the TV was a stack of Harley Davidson coffee table books and behind that was a display case with three hooks holding long curved samurai swords with gold handles. A framed poster of Johnny Cash flipping the bird with the title “AT SAN QUENTIN” over his right shoulder sat on the floor against the wall where a huge BEACH BASTARDS black flag was held unrolled with the Beach Bastards logo peeking out from the folds like an uninvited guest.
I was about to search the kitchen drawers when something in the center of the pile caught my attention. A framed picture of three young men.
One I recognized instantly as Bear, his ridiculously blue eyes practically shone through the old faded picture and although I’d met him when he was twenty-one, he was even younger in the picture, I would guess around fifteen or sixteen. He was facial hair free and his cheeks still had that slight roundness to them that would eventually fade and give way to the sharp intensity that Bear was today. The leather cut he wore read PROSPECT across one side in a U shape at the bottom. I recognized another boy as King, but with slightly longer hair that was too short to give way to the budding half curls that surrounded his face. King was also smiling, but unlike Bear, King already looked hardened in the picture, maybe even a bit sad.
In the middle of the two teenagers, who would grow up to be larger than life men, was a boy who was a good head smaller than Bear or King, which by anyone’s standards still made him taller than most. He was dressed up, different than the t-shirt and jeans of his friends, although the setting didn’t look as if they were going somewhere that required that kind of formal dress. They were sitting on a bright blue picnic table, tall skinny trees and twinkling water in the background. The kid I didn’t know wore a short sleeved white dress shirt tucked into khaki pants with a lime green bow tie with checked suspenders and just like the Johnny Cash poster, he was flipping off the camera. The letters FU were tattooed down his middle finger.
With all the shit I had going on and with the need to run coursing through my very being, I was surprised that a picture of all things had me at a pause. I ran my fingers across the faces of the three boys and wondered if they knew what kind of men they would eventually become.
I found myself jealous of the easy friendship that radiated through the photo.
Socially awkward was an understatement, but after Jesse died and I took on more and more at the grove, friends were no longer an issue because I didn’t have time for them. Between my part-time job at the Stop-n-Go and trying not to fold under the pressure, school dances and first kisses were never a priority.
They were never even a consideration.
I did have one friend.
Buck. I called him Bucky. He was the only one who no matter how many times I told him I couldn’t hang out, he always made time to come to the grove to check up on me. Bring me lunch. He was the only one who amongst a sea of adults realized that I had taken on more than what any normal teenager ever could or should.
Buck was the deputy sheriff. He and Sheriff Buckingham were the only law in Jessep, maybe if I got to Bucky first then he could help me convince the sheriff of the truth? That this was all just a horrible, horrible tragic accident.
I couldn’t go to jail. Not that I thought jail or thinking of being there took any precedence over what had happened to my parents. But because I couldn’t sit there day in and day out and stew over what I had done. What I could have done differently. That my entire family was dead.
I wouldn’t survive.
The thought of survival brought me back to the present and my task at hand. Setting down the picture, I went to the kitchen where the drawers and cabinets were all bare. Growing frustrated with each passing second I made a decision. I walked over to the samurai swords and removed one from the hooks, unsheathing it slowly so I wouldn’t accidentally cut myself on the blade.
I may not be able to unlock the door.
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