Chapter 16

Nine Days Later

"It has to end. I have to end."

"No! Russ, don't!"

Siler woke up screaming.

He kicked off the covers and sat up, grabbing fistfuls of his hair. He shouted Russell's name again and again until his throat was sore.

The door to his room swung open and in came Marcus and Siler's mother. She ran to her son's side and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.

"Siler! Stop! I'm here."

Marcus pulled Siler's hands down from his head. His best friend's eyes were squeezed shut and he shook in contorted sobs. Marcus regrettably had to smack Siler across the face just to snap him out of it.

Siler blinked, eyes widened.

"Marcus!" Mrs. Cox yelled.

He shrugged, "It worked didn't it?" He gestured to Siler who was now quiet and indeed seemed like he was lucid again.

"What the hell happened?" He asked.

Marcus sighed, "You were dreaming again man. The same nightmare."

"About Russell?"

Marcus nodded sadly.

Mrs. Cox touched Siler's cheek, "Honey, this has gone for days. You really need to talk to someone. It's not healthy to keep everything bottled up like this. That's why you keep having nightmares."

Siler pulled away from his mother, "The only person I need to talk to is Ryan."

"He's not answering his phone. I've tried calling him for the last week, nothing. He obviously doesn't want to talk to anyone."

Siler gave Marcus an indignant glare, "That's because you're calling. I know he would talk to me. He did last time."

Siler shoved the rest of the crumpled sheet off him and got out of bed. He stormed across the room and picked up a blue sweatshirt that was draped over the desk chair.

Mrs. Cox reached for him, "Siler please, I'm your mother and Marcus is your best friend. Talk to us."

Siler spun around with such velocity it startled them both,

"Talk to YOU?" Siler demanded, "I have nothing to say Mom. You lied to me for years, YEARS! You let me hate a man who never really left us in the first place! He was murdered! Just like cousin Millie, just like all those people at the park. I watched my friend blow his own head off! You think I can just sit down and share my feelings? Then you're even more delusional than I thought! Now get out of my way and leave me alone!"

He pushed past his mother and pulled on the sweatshirt, running out of the room. Siler felt a pang of remorse tug at his heart at how he just spoke to his mom but he pushed it away. He needed to see Ryan, that was all that mattered.

"Siler!" He heard Marcus call after him. With a sigh, he stopped and turned around.


Marcus approached him glowering, "Don't what me. What the fuck has gotten into you? Your mom is in there sobbing. How could you say those things to her?"

"I don't want to get into this right now Marc. I have to leave."

"Ryan can fucking wait man! I haven't had a decent conversation with you in weeks! Or have you forgotten who your best friend is because of your stupid crush?"

"It's not a stupid crush! I'm in love with him!"

Marcus grunted and scrubbed a hand over his face, "Siler please. Just a few minutes okay? Then you go can see Ryan."

Siler studied his friend and realized just how selfish and unreasonable he was being. Marcus was right, they were best friends. Marcus had come over almost everyday since the shooting just so he wouldn't be alone. Siler had seen Ryan a few times since that tragic day but Ryan had also mentioned that his father was suffering from PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. Siler was in the same boat and Marcus was trying to help him just like Ryan was trying to help his father.

"Okay, let's go downstairs," Siler said.

They went down and stood in the hall as Siler pulled on his coat.

"Look," Marcus started and crossed his arms, "I will never pretend to understand what you saw that day in the park. And I still can't believe that Russell was a part of the massacres. That means that he was there at the mall when my mom was shot."

Siler zipped up the coat and eyed Marcus, "How is her recovery going? She doing okay?"

Marcus's mother had finally been released from the hospital a week ago.

He nodded, "Yeah she's getting there. It's going to take a long time but she's finally starting to look like Mom again."

Siler smiled, "That's awesome. Hey, tell you what. Once I come back from Ryan's, I'll go home with you so I can see her. I haven't since the hospital and I feel terrible about that."

"Well, I'm leaving soon because my dad has to go to work so I need to be home with Mom. How about tomorrow? I don't think she's up for visitors tonight."

Siler understood that. "Sure, that's fine," He replied.

There was a moment of silence between them then. Siler took it to step forward and pull Marcus into a hug.

"Thank you," He clapped Marcus gently on the back, "You are my best friend, never forget that. I'll never put anyone above you."

"You too man."

They released and Siler headed for the door. Marcus glanced up the stairway as he followed.

"By the way, where the hell has Samuel been? I've seen him maybe twice in the last week."

Siler scowled at the mention of his brother's name, "I don't know and don't care. I can't worry about him anymore. He doesn't give a shit so why should I?"

"Fair enough I guess."

Siler paused before leaving, "Tell my mom I'll talk to her when I get back. And I'll call you later."

He didn't see the solemn look on Marcus's face as he left. He was in too much of a rush.

As it turned out, Ryan only lived a half mile from Siler. He'd found this out a couple days after the shooting when he first went to Ryan's house. It was a large, two-story Colonial with a backyard the size of a soccer field. Siler felt like he was in standing in a museum when he went inside. It was so clean and organized and everything had to be perfect. Ryan explained that his father had severe OCD.

As Siler walked the steps to the wraparound porch, a cold wind blew against him. The temperature had plummeted within the last week. It was as if since the tragedy at Hallock Park, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. A blizzard was predicted for the weekend.

He came up and knocked on the door. Siler hoped he wasn't coming at a bad time. He'd tried calling Ryan on the walk over but it went straight to voicemail. That was never a positive sign.

At least a minute went by until the door finally opened. Ryan stood before Siler looking haggard and exhausted. Siler chewed on his bottom lip suddenly consumed with concern.

"Ryan, Christ, are you okay?'

He stepped aside so Siler could come in. He lifted his hand to touch Ryan's cheek but then hesitated, not wanting to overstep boundaries.

"My dad's in the psych ward at Stonybrook hospital," Ryan said.

"What? When did this happen?"

Ryan rubbed his tired eyes, "Yesterday, I didn't get home until 4 in the morning."

"God, why didn't you call me?"

"I figured you have enough to deal with."

"Seriously? Ryan, we went through the same thing. It happened to both of us. We saw people die. I feel like I'm losing my mind too sometimes. I've had the same fucking nightmare about Russell for days now. I wake up screaming."

Ryan's eyes widened slightly and he shook his head in disbelief, "I'm sorry. I've been so wrapped up with my Dad's problems that I forgot about what you witnessed too. Russell was one of your good friends right?"

Siler nodded.

Ryan pulled him into a tight and secure embrace, catching Siler off guard.

"We'll get through this I promise," He whispered.

They held each other for another minute and then with a shaky breath, Siler leaned back. He stared into Ryan's dark eyes and the response was shared. His expression was no longer of a drained and worn out man, but of emotion and want.

Siler did not hesitate this time. He touched his cheek and brushed his fingertips over soft skin.

Ryan kissed him.

It was instant magic.

Siler wrapped his arms around his shoulders as Ryan tugged him into the den. He kissed him with a fire and passion he never felt before. Ryan reacted just as intensely and opened his mouth, welcoming Siler's tongue inside.

Siler yanked off his coat and threw it to the floor. Ryan ran his finger through Siler's thick hair as he planted warm kisses on his neck. Siler closed his eyes in ecstasy and leaned his head back as Ryan mouthed his throat. Siler grew hard and Ryan gripped him through his jeans.

Soon, both of their shirts were off and they were on the couch in the midst of the hottest make-out session either have ever been involved in. Skin to skin. Kisses on chest, neck, lips and stomach.

Siler had never felt more alive.

Marcus left the Cox house twenty minutes after Siler ditched him. He had to be the one to go up and calm Mrs. Cox down. He had to be the one who acted more like a son than her own two ungrateful ones.

Marcus was glad to have smoothed things over with Siler and he understood that his friend was going through a terrible time. But how could he treat his mother the way he did? Didn't he understand that he was lucky to have such an amazing mother. His own was still in intensive recovery and wouldn't speak more than three words a day. Marcus lied to Siler when he said that she was starting to seem like his mom again. In reality, it was the opposite.

And then there was the Ryan situation. Siler was so lovesick over the jock that he neglected their friendship. Maybe things were beginning to look better now but Marcus still held some resent toward Siler.

It wasn't right.

Marcus pulled the hood of his jacket over his head as he walked down the street toward his house. He resided two half-blocks away from Siler's. In the opposite direction of Ryan.

As he ambled, his thoughts journeyed to Russell. From Siler's accounts of that day, Russell had gunned down a cop that was about to put a bullet in Siler's head. Then he apologized and said that it was time for him to end. Lights out.

So many questions ran tracks in Marcus's mind about it. How could Russell be involved in something so terrible? How many people had he killed? Was he the one who shot his mom? What did his final words mean?

Russell was the only one who could answer those questions and he was dead.

The minutes ticked by and Marcus was turning onto his streets when he suddenly heard the screeching of tires. He turned at the sound and saw a red SUV speeding down the road like NASCAR.

It was heading right for him.

Marcus tried to leap out of the way but the SUV was coming too fast. It slammed into him with the force of a freight train. Marcus was thrown backwards twenty feet and skidded along the pavement like fresh road kill.

Marcus's body rocked with tremors. His legs were mangled and broken. His arms had snapped and were twisted behind him. Blood poured out several wounds like a faucet.

The SUV made a U-turn and fled the scene. Marcus died shortly thereafter.