Moonlight shone through the window, highlighting the pure rage on Jake’s face as he stood over the man in the closet. His usually-blue eyes were as dark as the surrounding night. He wore only a pair of black draw-string sweat pants. His chest and feet were bare.
He knelt next to the man crumpled in the closet, placing his hand behind his neck and forcing him to look in my direction. “Look at her, old man!” Jake commanded. I held the sheets up around my chest, one hand clutching my cheek. It throbbed in time with my racing pulse. “Does that look like me, Frank? Does she look like someone you can get drunk and beat up on, you stupid old man?”
A look of horror crossed the old man’s face. His shoulders slumped as he closed his eyes and shook his head. “I thought…” he whispered. “I’m so sorry.” He dropped his face in his hands and started to cry.
“Are you sorry for beating on her, or are you just sorry it wasn’t me? Cause either way, your apology don’t make shit better. What a piece of shit you are, coming here in the middle of the night, tanked off your ass. What part of this seemed like a good idea to you, you stupid fuck? You could have killed her!” Jake pulled his pistol from the back of his sweats and held the barrel to the old man’s temple. He leaned down close and looked the old man in the eyes. “I'm here because you have fucked up everything Mom worked for her entire life.”
“I’m here so the house she loved, the home you spend your time rotting in, doesn’t end up with the tax collector, and Reggie and Bo don’t end up on the fucking unemployment line. Because you sure as shit don’t seem to give a fuck about anything but drinking whiskey and wallowing in your own shit.” He cocked the gun.
My breath hitched.
This man was Jake’s dad...
The old man kept his eyes closed while Jake continued through gritted teeth. “While I’m in town, you are never to come here again, and if you so much as lay a fucking finger on Abby, I will blow your motherfucking head off.” As he spoke the last words, he nudged the gun against the old man’s temple, pushing his head against the wall of the closet. “You’re lucky I don’t just end you now, you sorry bastard.”
“Just kill me, then!” The old man cried. “Just fucking kill me, boy!” His face reddened, strings of saliva connected his top and bottom teeth.
Jake yanked the old man up by the back of his shirt. “Not today, old man,“ he said. Then he shoved him stumbling toward the hall and out of the room. The front door squealed open, then slammed shut.
Once again, there was only silence.
Some people threaten others in the heat of the moment, or as a reaction to an argument. I’ve heard boys fist-fighting in school threaten to kill each other while they traded blows in the parking lot after class. I know what that sounds like. But there was something different about Jake’s threats to his father, and it was more than just the obvious gun pointed at his head. This hadn’t sounded like the random anger of someone caught up in the heat of a moment, or the idle ravings of someone who had no intentions of following through on them. Jake’s words were solid descriptions of what was to come if the old man didn’t stay away. They weren’t threats at all.
They were promises.
Sleep was impossible after that. Not only was my mind racing, but my cheek exploded in pain every time I turned on my side. The pillow might as well have been stuffed with concrete.
The silence was interrupted when Jake came back into the apartment. The front door squeaked. Keys fell onto the coffee table. I could tell he was trying to be quiet, but even the cricket outside the window sounded like he was playing his song on a trombone.
Jake came into the room. As soon as he looked at me he cursed. “Shit.” He turned back around, disappearing down the hall, and I heard him fiddling around in the kitchen. Drawers slammed shut, the contents rolling and rattling as he searched for what he needed. Then, he appeared again holding a plastic sandwich bag filled with ice. He sat next to me and reached out to place the ice pack on my cheek. I grabbed it from him before he could make contact.
“I got it,” I assured him. “Thanks.” I placed the ice pack against my face, cringing at the sting of the cold.
“Bee, I’m so sorry. I didn’t think he would ever come here, let alone in the middle of the fucking night. Nobody’s seen him in almost a year. I don’t even know how he knew I was here.” He leaned in closer. “Are you okay?” There was hurt and concern in his voice.
“I’m fine,” I said. And I was. I was perfectly fine, because I was numb. Numb people can’t be anything other than fine.