Author: Samarium PM
Julius Carpenter has lived his life in a box, from which few people emerge and almost no one enters. His brother is the only person he trusts and his strive to be better than everyone he challenges is what keeps him going. His inferiority complex rules his life, and eventually, it rules everyone else's lives, too.Rated: Fiction T - English - Suspense/Family - Chapters: 54 - Words: 155,424 - Reviews: 62 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 04-15-13 - Published: 10-15-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3065888
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I lied awake until seven, when I saw snow tumbling down out the window. Desmond was still out like a light despite his reputation as a morning person, so I got up quietly. My heart skipped a beat when I realized Mom's mirror was still in my pocket from last night.
As I popped open the mirror, I tried to remember the last thing I ever said to my mother. I'd been trying all these years, but I knew I'd never remember. I'd come to terms with it, or at least I'd pretended to do.
I put on a sweater and sauntered out of the house, into the snow – hopefully the last of the year. It was nearing the end of winter, so I knew that the snow wasn't likely to last more than a few hours on the ground. I walked out onto the street, ignoring the chilly wind blasting into my face, blowing my hair back and making my eyes water. I stared into Mom's mirror, noticing every nuance of my eyes. They were wide and scared.
I wasn't wearing shoes, I'd noticed after a moment. Ha, how stupid of me. I looked down to my feet, my toes poking out every which way, my arches collapsed. It was unlike me to take my socks off, I never wanted to look at my feet, warped, twisted and pained. I remembered the agonizing run home from the night before, but my feet didn't hurt anymore. Nothing hurt anymore...
I stood there for a few more minutes before deciding to walk around on the grass, wet and sloppy. I trudged through the muddy slush absently, musing over what I'd done blankly. I wasn't angry, I wasn't scared, I was just empty, empty, empty. "It's okay," I said to myself. Everything is okay now.
The bare trees and bushes that littered the yard were a comfortable sight as I floated around the property, eventually settling on sitting on the porch. I was freezing to death, I suddenly realized. Not that it mattered.
I went back inside and showered, but unable to get clean. I could still see my muscled arm harshly stabbing Gordie's back. Blood everywhere. But I'd begun to feel again, for better or worse. I didn't want to feel this, but I knew I had to. I had to face it.
I was still out of it, dead tired and too horrified at myself to do anything but sit and stare outside at the snow slowly covering the roofs of houses, icing the grass and trees.
I should turn myself in, really. It was the right thing to do. But I wouldn't do that, of course. I should leave, now, while everyone is still asleep, go far away where no one will know me, where I can't get caught, where even my own guilt can't find me. But I wouldn't do that either, I couldn't.
Blood, blood, blood...
I breathed deeply. Maybe the only way to escape myself would be to end it, to kill myself like I killed Gordie. That would only look worse; surely they'd found the body by now, and if even one person could place me at that party... No, no one would. I'd done it flawlessly, no one would ever suspect me.
Desmond had gotten up while I was thinking. I jumped slightly when I noticed his sleepy face staring at me curiously.
"Hungover?" he asked in regard to my sleep-deprived state. I just nodded, though I didn't feel sick in the least. Not physically, that is. "Oh, hey, it's snowing."
He sat down and turned on the TV. I hadn't even considered the fact that there might be a news report about it, but a split-second later, there it was. It was the same reporter from before, face still static, unemotional.
"The victim, Gordon Duncan, was a high school senior at Todsfall High School. Police arrived on the scene at around two thirty a.m., after two teenagers leaving the house found him in the yard. The victim suffered nine stab wounds to the back and neck..."
Desmond took a moment before he realized. "Hey, isn't he in your grade? What happened?" he blurted out, suddenly understanding the gravity of the situation: someone we knew, a peer, had been stabbed to death. I kept my face just the right mixture of confused, shocked and horrified.
"Police have no immediate suspects."
I wanted to scream in relief, in pride, in absolute accomplishment. It was over. Now that I was in the clear (at least for the moment), I could relax. I could accept what I'd done and relish in it. He was fucking dead. I would never have to see his smug face, his shaggy hair, his long arms again.
"Wow, that's so scary," Desmond said. I wondered briefly if he could make the connection between me and Gordie's death, but he seemed to be too distracted. "I can't believe it. Crime's pretty rare in places like Todsfall." I felt like I was in a state of nirvana. I'd literally gotten away with murder – for now.
"He was in my art class," I murmured quietly, feigning shock. "I knew him..."
"It's not like we were friends, but..." Understatement of the year. "Still. Wow."
I couldn't think of what else to say. Desmond turned off the news and went to get dressed. All I could do was feel conflicted over my actions and stare out at the slowly melting snow. A small bird had perched itself on a tree in the backyard, calmly whistling to itself and ruffling its feathers. It hadn't a care in the world.
Monday was hell. Between Mikey and Bridget's shocked introspection on Gordie's murder to the start of the second semester, the school was chaos.
We picked up Bridget on our way to school, as she'd somehow managed to miss the school bus that stopped right outside her house. I figured she just wanted to talk to us about Gordie. "Did you hear about what happened?" she asked incredulously as she got in the back with Desmond. "I still can't believe it!"
"I know, I just talked to him a week ago," Mikey recalled, combing hair out of his eyes to see where he was going. He'd forgone the ponytail as of late, and had been half-heartedly talking about cutting his hair short. I, of course, didn't believe a word of that kind of talk; Mikey had had hair a yard long since fifth grade and I knew he would never cut it.
I tried to remain detached: "Wasn't that pretty close to where Jennifer lives, Bridget?"
"Yeah, three houses down. Just imagine how Sarah Birkman must feel; it was her house party where it happened."
"Yeah," Mikey added, "I heard the cops searched the house and found a bunch of booze and weed and stuff. What an idiot, leaving all that shit for them to find."
"What, you think Sarah did it?" Bridget said.
Mikey shrugged as he pulled into the school parking lot. "I don't know. There were a lot of people at that party, it could've been any of them. It could've been a neighbour, someone walking by, a spy..."
"A spy?" Desmond finally chimed in.
"You never know."
I had never anticipated this much discussion about him. When I thought about it, I supposed it made sense. Even though we hadn't been friends with Gordie, he had been our classmate, we'd talked to him, collaborated with him. We'd known him for years. More than that, I suspected it was the novelty, the fact that it hit so close to home, literally. It was the fact that nothing interesting had happened to Todsfall in years, nothing like this.
Both Desmond and I were less than enthusiastic about our first period gym class, but Mikey couldn't be more in his element. While I excelled greatly at soccer and occasionally at volleyball, I sucked at and hated most sports. Due to Desmond's eating problems, physical exercise served only to tire him out and even depress him. He was the weakest person I knew, and had thusly failed gym two years in a row. I supposed that being in class with me and Mikey would be the only way he would pass – we would push him, because we both knew that if Desmond didn't graduate this year, he would probably end up dropping out.
Mikey had to be the only person who actually liked gym and who would voluntarily take the class four years in a row. "It's a bird course," he'd say.
Lucky for Des and I, class had been cancelled for the morning to host an impromptu assembly regarding Gordie. I was less than enthusiastic about missing class to talk about him, but there wasn't much I could have done about it.
Empty words concerning "this terrible event" and "this untimely crisis" went in one ear, out the other. The principal assured us that the police were doing everything in their power to find the person responsible for Gordie's murder. The word "murder" was never used, though. It was always pathetically substituted with "death", "crisis", "incident" and "occurrence", as though we were all children being told that the cat had been hit by a car. Maybe I was just desensitized to violence because of my dad and Des.
I stayed silent throughout the entire assembly, the words meaning nothing to me as they floated superficially through the auditorium, only the most gullible of students taking them to heart. We stood for a moment of silence, and I watched out of the corner of my eye as kids texted on their phones, whispered to each other and twiddled their thumbs. No one seemed to care. This excited me, though I knew it shouldn't have.
The rest of the week was spent dipping in and out of emotional turmoil; one second I was awash in guilt and pain and the next I was relishing in the fact that Gordie wasn't in my classes, he wasn't on the soccer team, he wasn't in my life anymore. I had no more competition for the top marks. I had nothing the fear, nothing the hate. I was set free. At the same time, I had no challenges. No one to take his place meant that I would let my anger out on Desmond, Mikey and Bridget. I watched in amused pity as officials scrambled for evidence that didn't exist, as they questioned neighbours and peers until they were blue in the face. Articles on the autopsy reports and the investigation flooded the media, and no one could understand how such a crime could go unsolved. I felt unbelievable happiness when the autopsy details were released, only to find no trace of the roofies in his system – even Craig wouldn't be able to make the connection. The police were incompetent, the state had decided. I almost felt bad for them, but I was too satisfied, proud even, that I could so successfully evade the law. I'd left no fingerprints, no marks, nothing. I watched from the sidelines as my crime went unsolved for the entire year.
I often remembered that last moment Before, the lights out and the music pounding in my head. The terror, the adrenaline that had pulsated through my body, the need. I knew that I would have to do it again someday. There were always other Gordies in the world, and I knew that when I graduated, I would meet them out in the real world. I couldn't control myself, I couldn't stop, and more than that, I didn't want to stop.
Mikey and Bridget were horrified for a few days before it began to sink in that they really barely knew Gordie, and his death would not ultimately impact them. A blanket of pity was felt for his small number of close friends, but by the end of March, no one seemed to talk about it anymore. Even Desmond, once he realized that I had no interest in the case, dropped it a few weeks in. Every time it would come up, my throat would close and I would worry that he would accuse me of the crime, that he'd piece together my false alibi and my terrifying breakdown when I'd come that night, but he never did. He was forever under my spell, never questioning his brother because he trusted me so completely.
I sailed through the year once he was dead. Mikey and I had made captain and we'd led the team to a modest fourth place among the county school teams. I managed to convince Desmond to accept his university offer to Saint Paul's instead of taking another SAT the following year to try and get into East Athena. I wanted more than anything to be with him, but I'd realized that it was time for him to get out on his own, maybe against my better judgement.
We graduated in June. I was granted a full scholarship for my tuition at EA and graduated with the highest average in the grade. Desmond came in fourth – if only thanks to me forcing him to gain weight to pass gym – and he got a full ride as well. Mikey won an athletic scholarship for soccer, of which I was jealous for a few days before getting over it. Bridget had almost failed business, but had pulled it off with a fifty-one at the last minute, which we all celebrated with a few drinks, the vomit-filled stupor that followed and Desmond's declaration that he would never drink again.
Our last day of school was less climatic than we'd expected, and we said a non-sentimental goodbye to the school as we took the bus back to Central for the last time. Des, Mikey and I got off at our stop and headed back home. Mrs. Forrester's roses were as bright as ever.