I’d wanted to sleep in, as I often wanted to do on Sundays. It became a sticking point for me and my mom. We’d fight every weekend because I didn’t care about going to church. I was too old for Sunday school and didn’t see the importance of going. We’d argued that morning, and I’d screamed at them from my room and slammed the door in my mother’s face. They’d left late because of me, much later than usual, and when they drove through the intersection of Main Street and Fourth, the drunk driver was there, running the red light just in time to slam into the passenger side door, killing my mom instantly and banging up my dad pretty badly. He was airlifted to a nearby hospital and died from bleeding inside his brain two days later.
If I’d just been selfless enough that Sunday morning and put my own needs aside, I would have gone with my parents. They wouldn’t have left late, and they’d still be alive. But they weren’t, which was why I worked so hard to make amends for their deaths. It couldn’t be all for nothing.
Glancing at nearby passengers, I brushed at my cheeks, wiping away a few tears that had sneaked past my defenses. I took a few deep breaths, willing myself to think about something different, and clasped the journal tightly on my lap.
The journal. I hadn’t intended to look inside Knox’s notebook, but the boring bus ride, a desperate need to avoid my own depressing thoughts, and my overwhelming curiosity were a lethal combination, and within seconds my fingers were itching to open its pages. I glanced around again at the passengers around me, like they’d somehow know I was snooping. But of course no one was paying me any attention. I took a deep breath and unthreaded the little leather tie securing the book, then opened the book slowly, as if it held a great secret that I wanted to savor.
Inside the pages was anything but what I expected. Outside it looked like a journal, but there were no journal entries. Just sketch after sketch of the same woman. She was incredibly lifelike and beautiful with long dark hair curled in soft tendrils around her shoulders, wide yet sad eyes, and a graceful neck that led to a delicate collarbone. The simple pencil sketches with smudges of gray and black against the stark whiteness of the page gave the drawings a gritty, realistic feeling.
I could almost see Knox bent over this notebook, pencil in hand, a furrow of concentration slashed between his eyebrows. I wondered who the woman was. A former lover? His girlfriend? For the first time, I wondered about the man beyond his sexual addiction. I knew from my training that a sexual addition was often masking some other issue. With Knox, I had no idea what that might be. He seemed healthy and in control. But perhaps that was just a mask he put on.
I was so engrossed in the sketches that when the bus rolled to a stop, I barely noticed. Startled by other passengers rising and exiting the bus, I quickly wrapped the notebook with its leather ties and joined them when I realized it was my stop.
Huddling into my jacket for warmth, I walked through the neighborhood, noting the older homes, likely built in the early 1900s. Most were in need of a fresh coat of paint, and some needed a whole lot more—new windows, a replacement roof, or even a bulldozer.
When I found the house that bore his address, I stopped and looked up at the three-story home to see peeling pale yellow paint, a slanted front porch, and a heavy wooden door. It should have looked cold and uninviting, but some unspecified characteristic gave it charm. It felt homey and inviting, even if it was a strange home for a guy who appeared to be in his early twenties. Maybe he shared the big space with several roommates.
Clutching the leather-bound notebook in my hands, I climbed up the front steps and knocked on the door. Voices sounded from inside, but no one came. I waited several long moments and knocked again, more firmly this time.
A young boy with messy dark hair answered the door. “Hi,” he said simply, his smile revealing two missing front teeth.
“Hi. Um, is Knox here?” I asked uncertainly, all traces of confidence vanishing.
“Uh-huh.” He turned from the front door, leaving it wide open, presumably for me to follow him inside. With my heart slamming nervously into my ribs, I crossed the threshold and followed the little boy, sensing that everything I thought I knew was about to be challenged.
The scene in front of me took a moment to process. Knox was holding a baby girl in his arms and two teenage boys were wrestling on the living room couch. With all the commotion, they’d yet to notice me.
Knox looked completely at ease with the baby resting in his strong arms, and she was happily engrossed watching the wrestling match, blowing bubbles and cooing at the sight. I took all this in within a matter of seconds, trying to place what exactly I was seeing.
All three boys looked like mini versions of Knox. Dark hair, soulful caramel-colored eyes, and all of them were tall. Even the little boy who’d answered the door nearly reached my height of five foot two. But the baby had me baffled. She had light golden-blonde hair that hung in tiny ringlets around her face and big bright blue eyes.
Knox and the other guys still hadn’t noticed me, and the little boy who’d answered the door had busied himself with a giant pile of Legos in the center of the living room floor, while the others continued arguing. I took the opportunity to glance around at the rooms around me. The house was decorated with mismatched furnishings that had seen better days. But it was cozy and fairly neat. A large blue couch sat atop a woven brown rug and was flanked by wooden end tables scattered with papers and a baby bottle. A set of shelves held an array of toys and books, and straight ahead I could see the kitchen and dining room, along with a set of stairs that went off to my right. The home felt lived-in, not at all like my cramped, industrial-feeling apartment where everything was beige.
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