-Published in Echo Cognitio 2016

           As he stood at the rickety front gates of his grandparent’s estate, Allen felt his stomach twisting in knots and his mouth going dry. He toyed with the simple necklace dangling from his neck, hoping to soothe his nerves. His hand tightened around the small bouquet of roses he had bought. He held them closer to his body, trying to protect the fragile flowers from the cold.

          It was a bitter December evening. The sun was just beginning to fall beyond the horizon, although the dense clouds blocked out any warmth or light the sun could give. The wind whipped around Allen, chilling him. With one hand, he pulled his scarf around his neck tighter.

          Taking a deep, shaky breath, he grasped the gate with his bare hands. The icy chill of the rusting metal numbed his fingers as he forced it open. It fought against him, as if denying him entrance to the property, before finally giving in and granting access.

          He had never had the chance to visit his mother. Whenever his father and brother would leave to see her, they left him behind.

          “You’re not allowed to see her,” his father had told him, “Not after what you did.”

          For nearly twenty-eight years Allen believed that, but now he understood that his father was wrong to ever say that. He had the right to see his mother, and although the thought terrified him, he now felt strong enough to face his past. Allen walked along the snow-covered brick path that lead through the garden; his boots crunched in the snow, echoing around him in the silence.

          Everything was dead now, buried by a layer of thick snow. Only the trees were strong enough to hold up against the weight of frozen water clinging to their branches. As he walked through the maze of paths, he saw the statues his mother had collected standing crooked on the sunken earth. Mother Mary, in her pristine white robes, watched him, her lifeless eyes staring at him as he passed. Guilt tore through him as he continued moving forward.

          Although Allen barely knew anything about his mother, he felt more connected to her than anyone else. He knew that in her prime she was gorgeous; a slender woman with golden blond hair and the lightest blue eyes anyone in their small town had ever seen. His brother had told him that their father used to lovingly described her as having skin as pale as marble, her beauty eternal like a Grecian statue. Allen had inherited her looks. This seemed to anger his father the most.

          Allen had grown up hearing stories of his mother’s hands feeling as soft as rose petals, moving delicately with precision as she painted marvelous masterpieces that never seemed to sell. Allen sighed woefully, seeing his mother’s resting place come up before him. It looked cold and dark, and he wondered if he should have brought candles or a blanket for her. His flowers would have to do. He was told that his mother had loved flowers, especially red roses.


          "Allen! Don’t go over there!” eleven-year-old Kyle warned in a panic as he ran over to his little brother, who was pattering over to the mound of weedy dirt by the fence. “Dad will kill you if you crush Mom’s flowers!” Kyle grabbed Allen’s wrist tightly and pulled him back, frowning when the five-year-old started pulling away.

          “My ball went over here!” Allen said stubbornly, his words melting together in a lisp. The gap where his tooth used to be made it hard for him to talk like his brother. Kyle saw the purple ball covered in yellow stars sitting amongst the sparse roses. Luckily, it didn’t trample the withering flowers and had seated itself safely in a dip in the earth.

          “I’ll get it for you,” Kyle said as he made Allen sit down on the grass. “You just stay here, okay?” Allen sulked and crossed his tiny arms, glaring and grumbling to himself about the flowers being ugly anyways. His brother carefully stepped around the flowers, reaching over to grab the ball and toss it back to Allen. As Kyle made his way back to the yard, they heard a loud bellowing come from inside the house. It sounded vaguely like Kyle’s name, but had a strange slur to it that Allen couldn’t understand.

          “Uh oh,” Kyle said as he hurried out of the dying garden and grabbed Allen, scooping him up by the armpits. Allen dropped his ball again, crying out and fighting to grab it as it rolled away from them. Kyle ran Allen back into the house and hurried to their bedroom. He put Allen on his bed and gave him one of his favorite stuffed animals, a worn ragdoll cat that used to belong to Kyle. “Stay here. Don’t come out of the room. Got that?”

          Allen huffed and nodded quietly. Kyle turned on the radio on his desk and jammed in one of his favorite cassette tapes. We Didn’t Start The Fire started blaring. Kyle quickly left the room and closed the door behind him. Allen played with the doll as he listened to Kyle’s music, unaware of the screaming and beating that went on in the living room.    


          That was Allen’s clearest memory of his mother’s rose garden. Although his father had tried to tend for them, the last of the roses dried out soon after that day. The memory of those fragile flowers withering away choked Allen as he stopped in front of the cracking gravestone before him.

          He dropped to his knees, burying his legs into the mound of snow that laid atop of his mother’s grave as he set the bouquet of roses beside the slab of rock. The red rose petals looked like blood pooling on the fresh white snow. Gingerly he brushed away the snow that covered the headstone and traced his fingers over the engraving, mouthing every word:

December 29th, 1958 – February 14th, 1985

​          “Hi Mom,” he croaked, his voice catching in his throat like thick molasses, the words struggling to escape his mouth. “I didn’t forget your birthday this year. I mean, I never really forgot…I just couldn’t come before to wish you a happy birthday.” He cleared his throat a bit, going silent as if waiting for an answer. “I…um…I’m grown up now,” he stammered, unsure of what to say. He couldn’t ignore the guilt eating away at him, just like how the wet snow was seeping through his jeans and freezing his skin. Tears welled up in Allen’s eyes as he took a shaky breath. His heart ached with misery and burden.

          If only she hadn’t tried for a second son, if only she hadn’t had complications during birth, if only he had died instead of her. Then the world would have a beautiful person walking among the earth instead of this mistake.


          “It's cause of you that your mom isn't here no more,” his father had yelled, throwing his third empty liquor bottle at the locked door to Allen’s bedroom. He managed to not miss this time, the glass shattering with a loud bang against the wood. Allen cowered under his bed, covering his ears to try and drown out the hurtful words his father spat at him. “I never even wanted you, but your mom wanted Kyle to have a brother, 'n look what happened!”

          “I’m sorry,” Allen whimpered as his father slammed his fists against the door. His apology went unheard, his voice too quiet to overcome his father’s anger.

          “Twelve years!” he roared. The doorknob jingled as he tried to fumble with the lock. “That was the last time she was with us!” Allen prayed that this time his father wouldn’t be able to come in, that he would be safe and sound under the bed where no one could find him; but his prayers went unanswered. His father easily broke down the door and stormed in.

          In a stumbling flurry of rage, he grabbed Allen’s ankle tightly and ripped him from under the bed. He grabbed Allen with both of his hands and lifted him up by the hips, holding him upside down easily; the ninety pound boy weighed nothing compared to his father’s strength. “You tryin' to hide from the truth, boy?” his father barked, his face inches away from Allen’s. His breath reeked of cheap whisky and nicotine. He never used Allen’s name. “You ashamed that you killed your mom?”

          Allen didn’t have a chance to react before a large calloused hand smacked him in the face. His brain seemed to rattle in his head, his vision blurring as he gasped in pain that he should be used to by now. “Kyle,” he cried, his face turning red from the blood rushing to his head. It only angered his father more.

          “Your brother left us to become some doctor,” he sneered, his words slurring as he threw Allen’s tiny body onto the bed. Allen bounced off and rolled into the wall, smacking his head against the bed frame. “Kyle went to do something good with his life unlike you, you stupid excuse of a child!”

          Allen peered up from behind the bed, watching with wide eyes as his father undid his belt and pulled it from his belt loops. He cracked it against the wall like a whip and stared at Allen with bleary eyes. Allen cowered in fear, pressing himself against the wall as his father came closer. He wished that Kyle was still there to protect him.


          Allen felt stupid. Here he was: a twenty-eight year old college drop out with a job he was severely unqualified for, no future in sight, talking to a dead woman’s grave like a psychopath. Maybe he did belong in therapy after all. He was more messed up than he wanted to admit.

          He shivered as his fingertips and toes began to grow numb. He couldn’t stay out much longer unless he wanted to catch pneumonia. The idea of leaving now was tempting, but he couldn’t do that to his mom. She deserved to have a long visit from the son she never had the chance to meet.

          The desire to confess, to own up to his mistakes and to let them go, overwhelmed him. After all, they would be falling upon deaf ears. No one was here to shame him or look down upon him. He rubbed his eyes, smudging the tears away.

          “I’m probably not who you wanted me to be,” he admitted. “I’ve done terrible things, made pretty bad mistakes, too many to count I’m sure. But I tried. I tried my hardest to be what you would have wanted me to be.” He paused, swallowing back the lump in his throat. His voice was raw, throbbing with the pain of letting go.

          “What would you have done if you hadn’t died?” Allen asked, a pang of guilt coming over him. What the hell was he thinking, asking his mom such a question? It was offensive. Allen shook his head, stopping his thoughts from becoming negative. “I mean, I guess what I’m trying to ask is…do you think Kyle and I wouldn’t have been as abused? Kyle never told me if he was abused before I was born. Was Dad really like that? Did he become an alcoholic because of me, or because you died? Do you think we would have been a happy family?”

          His questions poured out of him before he could try to hold them back. He was like a dam that had finally cracked under the constant pressure. Allen looked down at his hands and noticed they were shaking. He couldn’t feel them anymore, but he doubted they were trembling from the cold.

          “I like to think that things would have been different,” he murmured with a frown. “I like to think I would have had friends and would have done better in school. Kyle was lucky that he was able to achieve so much. I worked really hard to try and keep up with him, but I couldn’t.”

          Kyle was Allen’s only real friend in school. Middle school was easier because he at least had Kyle around for one year to help him get situated. High school, however, was a completely different hellish world, and Allen was already at his breaking point by the middle of his freshman year.


          "Mr. Carnak, you're late," Allen’s English teacher, Mr. Haine, said sternly as Allen closed the door behind him. The bell that had been ringing to signal classes beginning ended at that moment. 

          "I made it on time," Allen said as he pointed to the clock hanging above the blackboard.

          "Do not argue with me," Mr. Haine snapped. Everyone in the class was staring at Allen, snickering. Allen could hear his blood rushing in his ears. "You are late and you need to go to the Detention Office to get a slip."

          "What?" Allen asked incredulously. "That's a load of bull! The bell stopped after I was in the door! I'm technically not late! You haven’t even started class yet!”

          Mr. Haine slammed his worn copy of Lord of the Flies onto his desk, silencing the chuckles and murmurs spreading across the room. "Mr. Carnak! I will not tolerate you having lip in my classroom!" He thrusted his index finger toward the door, seeming to stab right through Allen with his anger. "Detention Office, now! Before I have to get the principal involved!"

          Narrowing his eyes in seething anger, Allen stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind him, shaking the walls as he headed to the Detention Office. He hated this school. He loathed everything about it, especially his teachers constantly making him feel stupid and his peers mocking and bullying him.

          Not to mention he had another four years to look forward to. He cursed under his breath at the idea at the thought.

          Instead of going to the Detention Office, he headed toward the men's bathroom, slamming the door behind him. No one was in the dirty restroom. A film of grime seemed to cover the walls and the stalls. Wet wads of toilet paper were littered on the floor. He dropped his book haphazardly onto the ground and stared at himself in the mirror. 

          All he saw was the shell of a person: a kid with no direction, no help, and no guidance. His face was imperfect by a scar across his eye after the neighbor’s dog scratched him when he was seven. His eyes looked empty and hollow without life reflecting in them. His clothes were ragged, hand-me-downs from Kyle, outdated and faded. He could only imagine the bruises from his father's belt dancing across his back and stomach, but he could clearly see the web of scars crawling up his wrists and arms. 

          His reflection angered him, and in a flurry of rage he curled his hand into a fist and drove it straight into his reflection, shattering the glass and fracturing the image looking back at him. His knuckles were cut, and blood was starting to seep from the small wounds.

          "That's better," he huffed, staring at his broken form.


          Allen looked down at his hands and wrists, seeing the faded scars. He was ashamed at how he had given into hurting himself, as if it would have actually made him feel better.

          “I stopped self-harming my sophomore year, so don’t worry mom. I’m okay. I managed to become friends with a varsity football player named Ethan. Funny, huh? He noticed my scars one day and called me out on it. From then on, he kinda acted like my bodyguard. It made high school easier,” Allen explained as he looked up at the clouded sky and saw snowflakes beginning to fall. Was that a sign from his mom, trying to console him from heaven? He wanted to believe that.

          He closed his eyes and sighed, feeling the puff of his breath against his skin. His lips were chapped, but the snowflakes falling against the sensitive flesh soothed him. He took a moment to sit in silence, enjoying the strange comfort that came from knowing he was alone. He had all the time in the world to bond with his Mom, to forgive himself and his family for everything that he had to endure.

          Allen opened his eyes, staring straight up to the heavens. He imagined that his mom was there, looking down on him. He could almost feel it if he really tried hard to pretend.

          “I was able to get away,” he whispered, feeling tears streaming down his face. A small smile formed on his lips. “I was able to get away from Dad and reinvent myself.”


          “You know what? Fuck this! I don’t have to stay here anymore!” Allen shouted as he dodged another plate that flew at his head, the ceramic shattering as it hit the wall behind him. He had gotten good at avoiding being hit. Bullies at school and his father’s rages seemed to have some bitter benefit to them. “Living on the streets is better than living here with you!”

          “Hah! An eighteen year old pussy like you wouldn’t last a day on the streets,” his father sneered, his voice dripping with hatred and disgust. His father was more sober than usual, and his words stung more than Allen wanted to admit.

          “Just watch me. I’ll leave like Kyle did and you won’t have anyone to pick up your shit after you.” Allen could feel his blood pressure rising. He stood up a bit straighter, anger pumping through his veins as he sized up his dad. Maybe he could land one good punch and knock out his dad for once. The last time Allen tried, he ended up with a broken rib and a black eye.  

          His father barked a raspy laugh, “That’s funny. Trying to compare yourself to your brother. What makes you think you can live up to him?”

          Something inside Allen snapped.

          Without warning, Allen sprang forward. The sudden movement caught his father off guard for a moment, giving him valuable time. He grabbed the liquor bottle right from his dad’s grasp and smashed it against the counter. Glass and booze splattered everywhere, covering both of them in liquor.

          “That was for calling me a pussy!” Allen shouted as he threw the neck of the broken bottle at his dad. It hit him in the chest, cutting a shallow mark in his skin.

          His father growled with anger, staring at the small beads of blood pooling on his flesh. He went after Allen. “Why you little –”
          Allen reached up into the cabinet where all of his father’s liquor was kept and knocked them to the floor with a grunt. “And that was for making me put up with all of your bullshit!”

          His father lunged at him, but Allen was slender and more fit that his potbellied father. He jumped back as he watched his father slip and stagger on the slick floor. Allen grabbed the last bottle of wine from off the counter and ran into the living room. He broke the neck of the bottle on the edge of the table before emptying it onto the carpets and furniture. Now his father’s dingy white property was stained and covered with red.

          “And this is for blaming me for Mom’s death all these years!”

          Dropping the bottle onto the floor, he ran to the safest room in the house: his father’s bedroom. He was never allowed in there as a kid, which was why he planned on destroying everything he could before his father was able to break down the door.

          Allen locked the door behind him and immediately started to trash the room, ripping the pillows apart and turning over the tables. He felt empowered, unstoppable. Finally, he was standing up for himself and wreaking havoc on the one person he despised most. He could hear his father banging on the door, his hulking weight slamming against it in an attempt to break it down. Allen knew he only had a few more seconds left.

          He hurried to the window, planning to slip through and escape however, his eyes caught sight of the tipped over bed side table. The bottom drawer was dangling open and its contents were spilled onto the floor. He saw the usual items his dad stashed: condoms, a pack of cigarettes, and a small travel size bottle of vodka. However, he also noticed a wallet sized photo of his mother and an antique silver necklace amidst the chaos. He scooped up the necklace in one hand and grabbed her photo in the other. She was smiling, unaware of how horrible her husband had become.

          Satisfied, Allen slipped out the window as his father busted the lock and broke in. Allen could practically hear his father screaming in fury as he sprinted down the street.

          He was free.


          Allen felt good. He felt alive. Letting go of all of those memories that had acted like chains was liberating. He found himself beaming and crying as he spoke to his mother. He had completely forgotten about the fact he was sitting alone in a family cemetery talking to a headstone.

          “I tried living on my own,” he said happily, his voice growing lighter hearted. “I wasn’t able to finish college, but I worked hard to earn a living for myself. I was able to get in touch with Ethan and he let me crash at his place for a couple of months while I tried to earn enough to live in my own place. Don’t worry, I didn’t mooch off of him. I paid rent, but it was a hell of a lot cheaper than trying to live in my own apartment. When I turned nineteen, I was able to get a job as a bartender at the local bar in town and made quite a bit of money that way.”

          An image of a familiar face flashed in his mind: fair skin, fiery red hair, and green eyes that could hypnotize anyone who stared for too long. Her face caused him to trip over his words for a moment. He cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck. He had almost forgotten about her.

          “There was a woman that frequented the bar,” he said. He wasn’t sure why he was bringing this up. Would a mother really be interested in hearing about her son’s failure of a love life? He figured it wouldn’t hurt to get it off his chest.

          “Her name was Rachel. She was really cool, Mom,” he murmured with a small smile. “She was a dancer, a drinker, and a real party girl. We became friends and…well…I can’t say we were in a relationship, but there was definitely stuff going on between us.” Allen felt his face heat up.

          “I think she was the only person I could ever say I had fallen in love with. She had this personality that was contagious. I was always happy whenever I was around her,” Allen paused for a moment. He stared ahead, looking at the small snow filled crack on the side of his mother’s gravestone. “She left soon after I told her I loved her. That was when I started drinking heavily.”

          When he was with her, Allen had developed his love for alcohol. They would often drink themselves silly and spend the entire night in the clubs on nights when he wasn’t working them. When she left, he truly became what his father had been. He found himself angry, lonely, and drunk.

          “Dad once said that Kyle took after you, which means I guess I was destined to follow in Dad’s footsteps,” he said weakly, his voice quivering. “It was horrifying to see myself turning into him.”

          Allen looked over his shoulder to see the Mother Mary statue. He had almost expected her to be facing him, still watching over him. However, she was still looking at the entrance. In a way, he thought she was disappointed in him.

          “I know…I’m upset with myself too for allowing myself to become that,” Allen said as he looked back up into the sky. “I was able to get help. Once I realized what I was becoming, I quit my job at the bar and I went looking for Kyle. I figured a doctor would be able to help me.”


          Allen looked down at the address written down on the slightly torn, coffee stained napkin. 34501 Cantin Street. He looked back up at the address on the metallic black mailbox hanging on the side of the brick house. For some reason, Allen hadn't expected Kyle to move to a smaller place, but he figured it was because his brother was a bachelor who didn't need to live in a ranch style home all on his own. In a way, the townhouse seemed to suit him more.

          Taking a long breath to compose himself, he walked up the few steps that led to the tiny excuse of a porch and knocked on the aluminum door. Three quick knocks. That was all it took before Kyle was opening the door for his younger brother with a bright smile.

          "Allen! My God, you've gotten so much bigger since the last time I saw you! How old are you now?" Kyle said as he pulled Allen into a big hug. Allen grimaced slightly, overwhelmed by the affection, before hugging his brother back tightly.

          "I’m twenty-three now, and I hit my growth spurt in high school," Allen mumbled, his face buried into his brother's shoulder. Even though Allen was now a solid six feet, Kyle still seemed to tower over him. 

          Kyle pulled away and grinned at him, reaching up to run his hand through Allen's hair to brush back his shaggy blond bangs, "You seriously need to get a haircut." Allen groaned, rolling his eyes. Kyle merely laughed, "Sorry, sorry. I can't help it. You know how I can be."

          "Overbearing and affectionate? Yeah, how could I ever forget?"

          Patting Allen on the back, Kyle led him into the small two bedroom home. It was pristine, the walls a sterile white and the carpets shampooed and vacuumed to perfection. Kyle told Allen to take off his shoes before moving in past the foot rug in front of the door. Allen slipped off his shoes and stepped into the plush carpeting, feeling the cloud like cushion between his sock covered toes. 

          "Feel free to make yourself at home," Kyle said warmly as he walked into the kitchen connected to the living room. He went to the wooden cabinets above the counter and reached inside to grab a glass. "After all, you said on the phone you were thinking about moving in with me?"

          Allen smiled sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck, "If you don't mind. I figured moving in with you might be easier than just trying to live on my own."

          "It's a smart idea. I know when I left home I had a hard time finding a place on my own," Kyle agreed as he poured Allen a glass of Sierra Mist, knowing that it was his brother's favorite drink. He walked back over to Allen who had taken a seat onto the brown sofa. Allen nodded in thanks as Kyle sat beside him. Kyle waited a moment, staring at Allen in silence. "So what made you leave?"

          Allen set down his glass onto the cardboard coaster on the coffee table and sighed. He leaned forward, resting his head in his hands as he rubbed his temples. He didn't want to tell Kyle he had lost his temper and had destroyed his dad's property. What would he think of him? That he had become some vandalizing trouble maker? 

          "I just couldn't live with Dad anymore," he said as he stared at his drink, watching the carbonated bubbles float to the top of the glass and the condensation bead on the side of the glass.

          "That's why I left," Kyle said lowly. He turned to face Allen, staring at him with an intensity Allen never remembered seeing in his brother's eyes. 


          "Allen, know that I never wanted to leave you behind. The last thing I wanted to do was leave you with him. I wanted to protect you."

          "Then why didn't you?" Allen asked sharply, his frustration boiling over. "Why didn't you get help? Why did you leave me with him?"

          "Dad threatened that he'd hurt you before any help could come," Kyle said, his voice resonating with grief and hurt. "I couldn't tell if he was drunk or serious, so I just didn't chance it! I didn't want to risk you getting really hurt or worse!" Allen scoffed and crossed his arms over his chest. Kyle paused and rested a hand on Allen's shoulder, squeezing his fingers. "I wanted to take you with me, but I knew I wouldn't have been able to care for you and go to school at the same time. I knew that if I wanted to keep you safe, I had to focus on myself and work hard so I could support the both of us."    

          "And that meant leaving me behind?" Allen asked accusingly.

          "Unfortunately, yeah..."

          Allen could feel tears stinging in his eyes, threatening to well over. He hated the emotions that were being brought up. All these years, he had wondered if Kyle had abandoned him, left him because he didn't care. He didn't want to believe it, but his father had ingrained it into his head for so long he had started to think it was true. Hearing Kyle say that he never stopped loving him, never wanted to leave him, and only wanted to protect him lifted a huge weight off his chest.

          "I forgive you," Allen said in a hushed tone, fighting back the desire to cry tears of...frustration? Joy? Relief? He wasn't entirely sure.

          “Thank you,” Kyle said as he reached over to hug his brother once more. Allen hugged him back, burying his face onto more into his shoulder. They sat in silence holding each other, never wanting to have to let each other go again.


          “With Kyle’s help, I was able to find a new job. He talked to the Headmistress of the academy he attended for his studies and was able to get me a job as a historian. It’s more of a glorified librarian. Ironic, huh Mom? The dyslexic son gets the bookkeeping job. I’m amazed I haven’t lost it just yet, but the headmistress seems to have faith in me.”

          Allen rubbed his eyes, wiping away the tears. He couldn’t help but chuckle a little at the idea. Reaching up to take the necklace dangling around his neck, he sighed. Although it was girly, his mother’s necklace was able to bring him comfort. He still carried his mother’s worn photograph folded in his wallet. He sighed, reaching out to rest his hand on the gravestone. His fingertips retraced his mother’s name softly.

          “I’m sorry I made so many mistakes,” he apologized. “I hope I turned out all right.” He sat in silence for a few more minutes, letting relief wash over him. For the first time in years, he felt at peace.

          Allen looked at his watch and noticed that it was seven in the evening. The sun had set, but the street lights kept the area lit up just enough for him to see. He had been at the estate for three hours.

          “I think it’s time for me to go,” he said with a sad smile. “I’m really glad I was finally able to meet you.” He stood up slowly, his body aching after staying in one position for so long. He brushed off the snow that clung to him and wiped away the icy tracks of tears on his cheeks. “I hope you aren’t mad at me for taking your necklace when I left home,” he said as he held the pendant in his palm. He could barely feel the cold metal against his skin. “I can always give it back, but I don’t think I’m ready yet.” He smiled to himself, feeling better that he had gotten everything off his chest. He looked one last time at his mother’s grave, leaning over to press his lips against the rough stone. “I’ll come back and visit again soon.”

          Before leaving, he saw the three other headstones positioned beside his mother’s. He walked over to them stiffly, stretching as he moved. Two of which belonged to his grandparents. They were his mother’s parents, and this was their estate. He never had the chance to meet them. They had passed away before he was born.

          “You raised a wonderful person,” he told them before turning to look at the final grave beside his mother’s. He frowned, almost glaring at it. His father had no right to be laid to rest next to her.

          However, despite his anger and hatred for the man that made his life a living hell, he knew that this was part of his healing. Allen walked over to it and stood in front silently, staring at the grave of the man who was a monster.


          Allen could see Kyle standing on the sidewalk just outside of the estate, his hands buried deep into his pockets and his face covered by the thick scarf he wore. Allen had given it to him for Christmas. It matched his own.

          “You were there for quite a while,” Kyle said as Allen walked up to him.

          “Were you standing out there waiting for me the entire time?” Allen asked as Kyle unlocked the doors to his Blue Ford Fusion. Allen sat inside and shivered, rubbing his hands together.

          “No, I sat in the car most of the time,” Kyle said with a chuckle. “I wasn’t going to freeze my butt out there.”

          Allen laughed. “Sorry, but Mom and I were having a very in depth conversation. We had nearly thirty years worth of catching up to do.”

          Kyle grinned as he started up the car. He blasted the heat as Allen aimed the vents towards him. He could practically feel his body thawing out. Kyle turned on the headlights and pulled away from the estate, heading back home.

          “I noticed you went to Dad’s gravestone,” Kyle mentioned, looking over at Allen.

          “Yeah, I had to do something,” he replied as he stared out the foggy window.

          “What did you do?” Kyle asked.

          Allen didn’t reply. The two were silent for most of the ride home. Allen only spoke up again once they were already parked and heading into the house.

          “I forgave him.”

​Dani Cojo