Harper barged out the doorway, shook his head as he stepped out of the house. James trailed him, towards the silver sedan.
“Harper, it’s alright,” James said sheepishly, feeling responsible for the fight, “we don’t have to…”
“James, shut up,” came the cut off from his older cousin. Harper pointed to the car, James nodded.
Avelyn wheeled up to the doorway and commanded, “I want him back before midnight, Harper.”
“Zach’ll be by in half an hour to keep you company.” Harper opened his door, looked at James by the passenger’s side, the boy’s eyes unsure. “Get in,” he ordered.
James complied, got in the car as Harper turned to Avelyn. The old woman and the grown up cousin exchanged another heated second before Harper repeated his thesis statement; “It’s his 21st birthday, Avelyn. You want him to learn to make choices for himself, have his own life?”
James sighed. He knew how to make choices for himself. He wasn’t a kid, and he didn’t need Harper defending him. If he wanted to leave, he could. Or at least… he’d like to think so.
“Alright, shut up,” Avelyn surrendered, hands up. “Get out of here. Just get him back before midnight.”
Harper saluted sarcastically, then turned for the car and got in. James looked at him, shook his head. He wasn’t necessarily looking forward to drinking, really. Never had tasted alcohol before, honestly didn’t like the prospect of losing control. But mostly, he just didn’t like being fought over. He was an adult, and nobody seemed to notice in the midst of their own agendas for him. Maybe it was really all about control. He’d just like to have some over his own life, really.
“Make him take his pills!” Avelyn called out as the car pulled off.
James tapped his fingers nervously on the armrest as Harper drove, one hand on the steering wheel, the other with his phone pressed to his ear.
“Yeah, just stay out of her way,” Harper said to the phone. “She’s in a rare mood tonight. Alright. Thanks, man. Bye.”
The phone went into the empty cup holder, and Harper looked to the road ahead for a moment. “Don’t worry,” he said to James, sensing the kid’s unease, “I won’t let you get too wasted.”
“I just want her to be happy with me,” James replied.
“She is,” Harper nodded. He looked to James. The kid was sweating something fierce. He didn’t look well. “Look, if you want to turn around…”
“I could use a break,” James assured.
Harper grinned, punched James’ shoulder. “That’s my boy.” He looked back to the road. James was either really nervous, or he really hadn’t been taking his pills. And that could pose a substantial problem.
Avelyn sat on her bed, with her journal in her lap. That muscle-headed buffoon “Zach” had been on the couch watching television for the last hour. Keep me company my ass. Not that she wanted his company.
Despite her protests, Avelyn had anticipated James’ absence this night for weeks. She knew she couldn’t get him out of the house unless he thought she didn’t want him to leave. God love that kid, but he was clingy since day one.
She paused at the thought, looked down at the words she had written in her journal. This was the end. It had to be. Day one… such a magical birth. There was really no other word for it. Magical. The impossible becoming reality. She could love again.
And it was because of her love for him that this had to happen. She didn’t have much time. She had to finish her last entry before the next phase began.
His large shadow blackened the door as he reached for it and knocked. Hand inside of his jacket, he grabbed the silenced gun as the bulky man opened the door.
“Evening,” he said to the man.
The man froze, looked at him with a fearful recognition. He savored the fear. He was a vain man, and he knew it. He could afford his vanity, because he was that damn good.
And then two bullets from his gun killed Zach.
Avelyn, now in her wheelchair, turned her back to the door and exhaled as she examined at the moonlight peering through the blinds. Little streaks of faint bluish white light. The moon was full, and she felt it.
And then he entered the room. She wondered, did he think he was fooling anyone? An old son of a bitch with no future beyond his present objective. Surely he knows what they’ll do with him. The same as all the others. James would long outlast this dog.
“Has it already been three months?” Avelyn asked, her back to the tall man in the jacket.
“Where is he?” the tall man’s graveled voice whispered.
“Out for a drink with Harper,” she replied, chuckling at the thought. “It’s his birthday.” She shook her head, turned the wheelchair and faced Webb with tears. “Just remember the deal.”
“If I’m satisfied,” Webb slithered. “Otherwise, he’s as dead as you.”
Avelyn watched this old dog, studied his eyes. Not a clue. She gripped her chair’s armrests firmly, then summoned her legs to tighten.
And she stood.
As they left the bedroom, the journal slightly protruded from the other side of the bed, just out of Webb’s sight. The next phase was in effect.