Language/Content warning: Some material and subject matter NOT suitable for young children.
Coming home early from school was something Gage simply never did. For one, his classes never let out early, and hanging out with his friends afterwards had become a staple of his social life. Today, however, at quarter-past two, Gage was strolling up the lawn and towards his front door. Today, he was on his way to fetch his father and take him right back to Calleen High—a move crucial in preventing his expulsion; or so he hoped.
Gage didn't quite know what to expect. For one, there was the matter of what his parents would do when they found out about the little show that he put on in the middle of class today—but for some reason he couldn't help but think that his father might laugh, and that was why it was important t make contact with him before his mother even knew he had come home. He usually wouldn't even have to come all the way home to get his dad; he had originally gone to Calleen Steel to find him, when the receptionist laughed wryly and told him that his father had gone home.
And that led to the other thing that made Gage Sam uneasy. What if he walked in his mom and dad having each other in the living room or something? He tried to put the thought at the farthest reach in the back of his mind; that would as he decided, be the least of his problems in just a moment. He held on to the front door's knob for a brief moment before turning it, his jaws dropping as he pushed it open.
Not knowing what to expect indeed. He would've taken the image of his parents' naked bodies roughly pounding unto each other any day. What he got instead was his mother whimpering in the sofa. And his father…well he was holding a pistol aimed squarely between her eyes.
Neither of them must have heard him come in, because they both jumped at the sound of his voice. His father took it a notch further, spinning in his direction and aiming the gun at him instead. Gage's eyes widened, suddenly wishing that he hadn't taken Melissa's bet and flaunted his goods for the History class. His fright eased however, as his father realized who it was and lowered his gun, throwing his an annoyed glance as if to say "what are you doing here?"
And so his mother saw an opportunity. She sprang to her feet and lashed into her husband like a lioness cornered, connecting whatever blows she could with whatever part of his body was in the particular way at the particular time while screaming in rhythm "don't…point…that…thing…at…my…son!"
But Chris Sam was a strong man, and it wasn't long before he overpowered her. And then, as if to assert his dominance, he slammed the butt of the pistol into her forehead, rupturing the flesh above her left eye. She fell back into the sofa and stood still.
All the while Gage's jaws had still been dropped. His processing of the entire situation had admittedly been a bit slow, but by now it sank in that his father's unorthodox violent streak could quite possibly end in death. This was when he lost it.
"What the hell are you doing, dad?!" He yelled. "Leave her alone!"
The right side of his father's cheek curled into a calm grin. "Gage, listen; why don't you shut the door and come over here?"
For most his life, Gage had been fairly obedient to his father, but now, he didn't even budge. He imagined his face must have looked horrified—he sure felt horrified—because his father then gave him a sympathetic look. It was the same look he got when he was being urged into the pool for the first time as a child, or when he did something wrong and was afraid to confess. To be honest, it sent a tremor riding down his spine.
"Gage, I won't hurt you, okay?" His father's voice was calm and honest. "Just close the door and come over here."
Gage still didn't move. Too many things were racing through his mind. What was his father going to do to him then? What was his father going to do to his mother? Why?
The gun in his father's hand aimed again…at his mother. "Gage you had better do what I say," he growled.
Never before did Chris ever speak in that way. There was a mixture of anger and fear in his voice; things that seemed so alien to Gage about his dad. All his life he had never seen his father lose him temper, or become scared. Chris Sam was known to be always calm, and always collected, and it was because of this that Gage had long decided with childish naivety that his father was not capable of being angry or afraid.
The sixteen year old boy shut the door and almost ran across the room. He hastily sat next to his mom, holding his hands up in the air like the innocent hostages always did in the movies. Those cheesy action movies…
"Take your hands down, Gage," Chris muttered. "Or I just might shoot you if only to purge the image of some bad movie about a bank robbery."
His mother mumbled, and a wave of panic shot through his veins, that is until he realized that his dad was only joking. The nerve. That isn't to say that he wasn't relieved; if anything this gave hope that the man could still be reasoned with.
"Dad what are you going to do?" The question was sudden, and frankly Gage was surprised that he managed to pull it off with such a solid voice. He had imagined that his voice would have sunk as far down as his testicles by now.
"Honest?" Chris sounded as he would on a lazy afternoon when his son would ask him some obscure question to strike up conversation. Without waiting, he answered. "I'm going to kill your mother."
Hearing his father say it like that had a strange effect, and all the same, it made him think even more that the man could be reasoned with.
By now Chris didn't at all seem angry anymore, but Gage saw what he believed was fear in his small black eyes.
"Well I'm a little bit drunk right now, Gage. I got laid off today, see? And I was drinking. And then I came home, and your mother"—he paused and glanced at his weak, bleeding wife—"just had to pick today to be a bitch. So I lost it."
"You're going to kill mom because you lost your job? I just pretty much, probably got expelled! What, should I kill you?"
Gage wasn't at all trying to be funny, but his father laughed all the same. "Is that why you're home? You're being expelled?"
"I was supposed to get one of you guys…" Gage muttered. There was a tinge of regret in his voice.
"Sorry…" Chris chuckled. And then he asked conversationally: "So what did you do?"
"Dad…don't kill mom, okay?" Gage was surprised by how childish he sounded, but it was exactly what he felt.
"I know what you're thinking, Gage; I'm beyond reasoning now. The bitch had it coming."
Gage noticed it was the second time his father referred to his mother in that particular manner this afternoon. Although he had long ago sensed a dysfunction between his parents, it made him wonder just what his mom could have said to aggravate his dad, for he never used such terms to describe her.
"You had it coming…" Mrs. Sam said, uttering her first words in quite a while. They were instantly rebuked by a harsh blow to the face, and she fell silent again.
"Dad," now, Gage's voice was broken. "Please just stop. Just put the gun down and let me get mom some ice. Please just don't do anything you'll regret."
"Well it's too late for that," Chris admitted. "And now I have to finish the job, so to speak."
Chris gave a laugh that truly frightened his son. Not because it was sinister or fabricated, but because it was genuine. His bright eyes, now void of fear, bored into his son's matching ones with what Gage supposed was curiosity.
"Gage, tell me," he said. "I've always been the one who was nice to you, right? Not that bitch? I've been the one who took care of you, right?"
Gage didn't want to answer that question in front of his mother. It was funny, he thought, that now of all times he chose to worry about such mundane fuckery. He knew the answer to his father's question a hundred thousand heartbeats before it was put to him, and that was to say he saw what his father was really asking. A part of him wanted to worry about his mundane fuckery just a little more; to deny his dad the satisfaction of knowing, but another, just in case his father might never get a chance to know again, wanted to say "yes dad, I love you."
It wasn't even the "I love you more" he supposed his father was expecting. Whether or not he loved his mother had always been a source of confliction, after all however crude they may have been, his father's remarks had just been the tip of a colossal iceberg, and they were most of all true. He felt guilty thinking about his mother in such a way, given the circumstances, but confliction rarely gave a choice about its appropriateness.
For just a second, so briefly that in the next he wondered if it had really happened, he saw a glint in his father's eyes. He knew.
"Go get your mother that ice then," he said.
Gage didn't believe for a second that his father wanted him to bring his mother ice at all, but he was, for the most part, obedient to his father. That's what he was doing, he supposed; obeying. He watched, like an unattached third, as his knees straightened and took him into the hallway. They stopped, and his body turned to them. His eyes fell on his parents for what they thought were the last time. His mother was staring coldly at him with one eye swollen, but the other had something that resembled malice. And rightly so he though; he was abandoning her. His father was standing above her, his head turned towards him and eyes trembling with tears.
It wasn't long before his feet did that thing again and took him into the kitchen—where he met a surprise. His uncle Paul was lying on the tiled floor. The only thing on his body was hair and blood, both of which covered his head, and what used to be his most prized possession. His eyes were open, but still, and greyer than their usual. The man was dead.
Suddenly, or maybe not so much, there came a bang from the living room, and then a pause, and then another bang. Gage turned back at the doorway, thinking for a second of running back in there to make sure, but he convinced himself not to.
And then, in a moment of numb realization, everything made sense to Gage. His father had come home early from work to find his mother and uncle having each other, something that Gage should have suspected a long time ago. That was what his father meant when he said that she "just had to pick today to be a bitch." His father must have then lost it, and killed his own brother before bringing his unfaithful wife into the living room to finish her off when Gage came home. Even when his father had said that it was too late made sense now, too; his father had obviously taken his own life.
As he dried his rapidly moistening eyes, he realized that his father had taken away everything, and a part of him despised that. But at the same time, he understood. He didn't for a second agree, but he understood.