I used to want to be a journalist. Not just any journalist, mind you; an investigative journalist. I wanted to uncover, expose, expound, and explain. I wanted, simply, to tell the truth.
I haven’t told the truth in years.
I was going to, really I was, but something got in the way. The duplicity of life; it snuck up behind me and tried to drown me. So, to protect myself I struck a bargain, made a deal with the devil. I told a lie.
Now I ask myself, can I even remember the truth? After all these years? Can I even bring myself to utter that which has been buried within me for so long? I think the answer is yes. I think it might be possible; I can finally accomplish what I set out to do in the first place. I think I can finally let it out.
That was, after all, the purpose of going to the lake house. Martha, my college roommate, had asked me if I wanted to join her there over the summer. She thought we could go, just the two of us and get away for a while. I could work on my writing and she could do a little reading. It was supposed to be relaxing, refreshing. It turned out to be something else entirely.
The house was tucked away in the deep woods, where the trees grew tallest. In the gloom of the forest, the moss grew thick and green, covering everything with its reaching carpeted fingers, tendrils of verdant disease. It gave everything an eerie, dank quality, like you’d somehow stepped onto another planet, an entirely different world governed by strange and unforgiving gods. The structure itself was a refurbished farmhouse, having been built up and painted thirty years earlier by Martha’s uncle. It was charming, almost quaint, but also enormous. To this day I’m not sure how big it actually was, how much square footage I mean. You could tell from the outside that it was a monster, but inside, it became difficult to keep your head. There was an entire section of the house that was a pure mystery to me until our last few days there.
We settled in for a good month-long stay. The lake was barely a minute’s walk from the back door, and we spent much of our time swimming and napping by the shore there. It wasn’t a very big lake, but it played host to series of small islands infested with trees. From the dock you could see them out there, floating in the sun like tiny visions, mirages of paradise so close we could hardly stand it. They were too far to swim to, but how I longed to paddle out, to come gasping up from the dark, ominous depths and slide onto the sand, to rest in the shade of the trees as I allowed my skin to dry in the fresh, open air. It was a dream, unreachable, until he appeared.
To this day I blush when I think of how we first met. Martha had set me up in the guest bedroom, where one wall of it was all windows, and the view was phenomenal. At night I could look out onto the shimmering black water and the two moons that shone upon it; one above and one below, mirror images of one another.
It happened as I lay awake one night, drifting ever so slowly into that land of unconscious reality. I heard footsteps in the hall outside my door and wondered why Martha was up and walking around so late at night. However, when the door to my room very slowly swung open and a silhouette I did not recognize stepped through the doorway, I was petrified. It wasn’t Martha that had been walking around; it was a man, a man I didn’t know, and suddenly he was coming into my room, stepping into the dark with hardly a sound. I barely heard his steps, I couldn’t hear his breathing. The first noise I heard from him was the gentle clink of his belt buckle as he stood by the side of the bed and dropped his pants. At that point my paralysis had dissipated, and I found it within my strength to scream at the top of my lungs.
“HELP! MARTHA! HELP!”
In return, he jumped away from the bed and toppled to the floor with his pants caught around his ankles. I leapt from beneath the sheets and bolted for the door, just waiting for a quick hand to reach out and snatch me by the ankle. But it didn’t. I made it halfway down the hall before I collided headfirst into Martha, coming from her room with her softball bat.
“What’s wrong?” she asked after she’d recovered from my hit.
“There’s a man in my room!” I shouted, terrified. She tried to push past me, bat in hand, but I grabbed her arm and tried to drag her down the hall.
“No, come on!” I hissed. “Let’s get out of here and call the cops!”
“Let go of me!” Martha had protested, trying to struggle out of my desperate grasp.
The voice of my alarming visitor stopped us both. “Martha?” he said quizzically from the dark of my doorway.
The hall light came on then, and there he was, hand on the light-switch, looking confused and curious and afraid. Also handsome; he was very handsome.
Martha sighed and lowered her bat. “Jesus, Richard!” she groaned. “You scared us half to death!”
I watched on, trembling and bewildered.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t know you’d be here.”
“The house is mine this month!” Martha reprimanded him. “Mine and Carrie’s, I mean.” She turned to me then. “Oh, by the way, this is my brother Richard. Richard, this is Carrie.”
“I’m so sorry if I startled you,” he said coming down the hallway towards us.
“That’s…okay,” I said tentatively, unsure of how to react. I felt so awkward, so out of place.
“He usually sleeps in your room when he visits,” Martha said by way of explanation.
“Oh,” I said, and then I felt guilty. It was his house. I was in his bed. “I didn’t mean to-.”
“No,” he said firmly. “You’re Martha’s guest. I didn’t mean to make you feel-.”
“It’s really alright,” I interjected. I couldn’t look him in the eye. I couldn’t look at him at all.
“Oh both of you just shut up and go to bed,” Martha grumbled. “Thanks for waking me up for nothing.”
I didn’t sleep a wink after that; I was too anxious, my mind running in circles. I had no reason to, but I felt horribly guilty, like I’d invaded some private area of this man’s life. He however, had been a perfect gentleman about it.
In the morning it was a little different. I met Martha in the downstairs kitchen, cooking eggs for her and myself.
“Hey,” she greeted me, “bit of a rough night last night, huh?”
I nodded in agreement.
“Well don’t worry about it, okay?” she said. “Richard was probably more freaked about it than you were.”
“You never told me you have a brother,” I said, sipping a glass of orange juice.
“I didn’t?” she queried. “Guess I just didn’t think about it.”
“Any other mystery siblings I should know about?” I teased.
She glanced down and shrugged as Richard came sauntering in from the upstairs.
“Good morning,” he said pleasantly, moving to stand next to his sister.
“Morning,” she muttered. “You want some eggs?”
“You know I hate eggs,” he said with a smile, winking in my direction. I couldn’t help but smile back.
Martha, on the other hand, had momentarily assumed a look of sheer horror. She froze, spatula in hand, eyes wide and lips parted. She glanced at her brother and then back at the pan. “Fine then,” she said, clearing her throat. “Carrie and I will eat them.”
“Okay, but just eggs?” he jibed. “Don’t you want something else to go with them? Maybe some toast or sausage, I could–”
“We’re fine,” she said. “We’re fine with the eggs.”
He frowned at her and leaned towards me. “What about you, Carrie?” he asked kindly, grinning. “Wouldn’t you like some toast with your eggs?”
Martha glared at the back of his head, the ferocity in her expression unmistakable. I tried to ignore it as I replied, “I think some toast would be great, if it’s not too much trouble?”
“For a guest of Martha’s, nothing is too much trouble,” he said, and left to fetch the bread.
Martha scooped some eggs onto a plate for me saying, “Here, eat. I’ll be right back,” and followed him into the pantry, which was big enough to be its own room and full to the brim with snacks and spices, and secrets. That room was full of secrets. I’m still not sure what Martha said to her brother in there that morning.
When they re-emerged, he very quietly made the toast, set it gently on my plate, and left the room without another word. In turn, I ate my eggs in silence, watching, hoping always for another grin, another wink. I found him charming, you see, and for some odd reason, I had imagined that he felt the same way about me.
It was something in his demeanor, in the way he spoke, the way he moved, the way he was. He was enchanting; that’s the only word for it.
I saw him again later in the day as Martha and I swam by the dock. I was laid out across the warm wood boards, soaking in the rays like a veritable sponge, feeling the water evaporate from my skin, the way my long hair dried across my back. I glanced up and saw him, standing on the back porch, watching us. He just stood there, hands in pockets, ogling. He might not have been staring, might not have even been paying attention, but I imagined that he was. I fantasized him gazing longingly in my direction, as I had begun to do to him.
He wouldn’t come down to the water. He only surveyed from afar.
At dinner he was quiet, reserved, and he would blush whenever I spoke to him. It was strange, I thought, to see him behave so shyly; he had been so dramatically different at breakfast, so open and inviting. He hardly said anything at all, the entire evening. He just sat there, watching me from the corner of his eye. A couple times I caught him staring, and I wasn’t sure how to react.
Martha didn’t seem to know either. Instead of looking at me, she stared very pointedly at her brother throughout the dinner, as if she were afraid he’d disappear should she take her eyes off of him.
The whole thing bothered me so much I couldn’t sleep that night. I just lay awake in bed, wondering what on earth had happened in that pantry? What had changed between breakfast and dinner that made him act so completely bizarrely? What was the change from morning to night?
At three in the morning I went down to the kitchen for a glass of milk. Walking through that dark house, hearing the stairs creak underfoot, the soft noise of complete silence. Running my hands along the walls, I was afraid of what I might feel. Blindly, my fingers danced through the air until they found the kitchen light switch. The room was quickly illuminated, revealing the thing I had been dreading since my first step out the bedroom door. Richard was leaning against the sink, bowl and spoon in hand. The milk and cereal stood on the counter beside him, his spoon now frozen in midair, his jaw slowly rotating through the motions of chewing. He eyed me carefully, but with no hostility, his coyness apparently diminished.
“Hello?” he greeted me quizzically.
“Hi,” I said, still standing in the doorway.
“Can’t sleep?” he asked knowingly.
I nodded with a frown.
“Grab a bowl,” he said, pushing the cereal towards me.
“I think I’ll just have a glass instead,” I said with a reluctant smile. With tentative steps I moved to his side where I pulled a cup from the cabinet and filled it with milk.
As I turned to go back up with my glass, he said, “Wait, drink it here. Keep me company for a while.”
I shrugged, “Okay,” and followed his example, leaning back against the counter, hands cupped around the cool glass. He smiled and munched slyly. “So,” he said between bites, “how do you like it here?”
“It’s been fun,” I replied. “It was very nice of your sister to invite me.”
“She never brings people out here,” he said. “Consider yourself lucky.”
I laughed a little and asked, “Why doesn’t she? It’s such a nice vacation spot, I’d think that-.”
“It’s because we’re always here,” he interjected. “Our family, I mean. She hates our family. She’s ashamed of us. She never wants her friends to meet us.”
“Oh,” I said, unsure of how to reply.
“I hope I’m not intruding,” I added quickly, attempting to alleviate some of my guilt. “If you want your usual room back you can have it. I’d be fine on the couch.”
He chuckled. “Please, you’re not intruding. The presence of any beautiful thing is never an intrusion.”
I know I must have turned beet red when he said that. It was just unbelievable, to hear those words come out of his mouth, to know that he was talking to me, about me, knowing that he really was looking at me the way I imagined.
“So why are you having trouble sleeping?” he asked, rinsing his bowl in the sink.
“I don’t know,” I said, setting my now empty glass down on the counter. “I guess I just have a lot on my mind.”
He grinned mischievously. “Well,” he said, “you know if it ever happens again, you’ll always be able to find me down here. I hardly ever sleep.”
“Oh,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” he said, moving past me. “It’s not your fault. But it could be.” He was so close to me then, his face inches from mine. He stared straight at me, and there was no doubt in my mind what he was looking at, why he was looking. I felt my heart beat faster and my hands begin to shake. I met his gaze with determination, scared as hell but wanting to belong, wanting to be where I was.
Then, he very abruptly said, “Goodnight,” and disappeared into the dark of the hall, leaving me positively breathless in the bright kitchen, not wanting to walk back to my room alone in the dark, wondering what had just happened?
Over the next few weeks we spent quite a bit of time together, Richard and I. We ate breakfast together each morning and dinner together each night. We watched movies and read books, played cards and talked for hours. Martha was always there of course, but he and I only had eyes for one another, it seemed; we were caught up in the throes of a perfect summer romance. And each night I went down to the kitchen and drank my cup of milk while he consumed a bowl of granola and beguiled me with those hauntingly delicious gazes, the enticing enchantments of his charm. He was ideal, perfect, beautiful. I’d never met anyone like him.
But the man I met in the kitchen was very different from the one I spent my days with. He was much more instinctual, more carnivorous, than the daytime Richard. The Richard I met always in the sunlight, always brightened by the fading rays of day, was much quieter. Much more the kindly gentleman from our first encounter, and yet my sense of his desire did not diminish.
Martha was furious, both with her brother and with myself. She confronted me one night, “What are you doing with Richard? I mean, are you two…?”
“No!” I cried defensively. “Nothing’s happened really, I just…find him…appealing.”
“Appealing?” she sneered. “Great. Well listen, you should stay away from him. It’s summer, and he’s my brother, and I promise, there’s almost nothing appealing about him.”
“What makes you say that?” I asked. She seemed so serious, so adamant.
“The fact that I grew up with him,” she said with disgust. “I know how he is, and he’s no good for you.”
I didn’t pay much attention to her warnings, although now of course I understand. It always seems to work that way, doesn’t it? People say you never appreciate what you have until it’s gone, well, sometimes it’s better not to have at all. Sometimes it’s better to never know.
I might have gotten through the week mentally unscathed that way. I might have gone on in blissful ignorance had it not been for my sudden bout of insomnia. I’d been lying awake for hours each night, fighting to stay conscious so that I could have an excuse to go down to the kitchen for milk. Then, when I tried to sleep, I couldn’t. My mind was too restless, to occupied with thoughts of Richard and Martha, summer and winter, beginnings and ends. The beginning of a new age, I’d thought, a new chapter in my life, or perhaps just an ephemeral chapter, a happy memory to glance back on now and again.
One night I went back to the kitchen, unsure of what I was after. Maybe something to eat, maybe another glass of milk; who knows what possessed me to wander down into the depths of that cavernous house? All I know is that I seemingly found myself staring down into an even deeper, more sinister pit, that my decision to venture once more into places unknown was the worst decision I have ever made.
I found the pantry door open, the light from inside spilling into the room. Curious, I poked my head in, half-expecting to see Richard rummaging for more cereal, wondering if he’d had the same impulse as I, but the pantry was empty. I stepped inside and peered around, gazing up at the contents of the shelves. It was then that I noticed that one of them was slightly out of place. One section of the floor to ceiling shelves had been moved, bumped, shifted crooked in its spot. I tried, with no effect, to push it back, and when it refused to give I peered behind it to see if something had fallen there, but nothing had fallen.
There was indeed something blocking the shelf. It was a large brick, used to prop open a door that the shelf normally obscured. When I peeked behind I found that I was staring not at a wall, but into a pitch-black hallway. Curious, I pushed the shelf further out of its position, until there was enough space for me to squeeze through the doorway.
On the threshold I paused, debating the wisdom of my impending adventure. What could be down there, I wondered? Why was there a secret doorway in the pantry? What did they possibly have to hide?
In the end of course I went in. In the end, the question was not what, but who?
At the end of the short hallway was a door, outlined in shining yellow light. It stood open barely a crack, a crack just big enough for me to peer through. What I saw terrified me more than anything I’ve ever experienced.
At a glance, I saw only Richard and Martha standing in a living room of sorts. Then, a few moments later, another form moved vaguely into my vision, a form I knew quite well. Suddenly there were two Richards in the room, two wonderfully handsome men. Two of the man that I had developed something of an obsession with; two liars, two fiends.
I heard Martha clear as day, “Leave her alone, both of you! She’s my friend, my guest. I don’t want either of you near her.”
“Oh please,” the first Richard said, “what are you going to do to stop us?”
“Well first of all, you are leaving tomorrow,” she said, pointing an accusatory finger at the second. “She will see him leave, and then you will not be able to show your face,” she scolded the first.
“Martha–” The second began to protest.
“This is my house,” the first said angrily. He had the most menacing voice. “And you will not tell me what I can and can’t do!”
“James, please,” the second said softly. “There’s no reason for this. We should call it off.”
James? Who was James?
“Call what off?” Martha demanded. “What the hell is going on with you both?”
“Oh Martha, you worry too much,” the one called James said, his tone less than amiable. “What are you afraid of?”
“She thinks you like her!” Martha shouted. “She thinks that–”
“Yes,” James agreed, “and before she leaves she will choose one of us. The one she likes best.”
“But she doesn’t know you are two different people!” Martha shouted.
“She ought to,” James said. “We’ve made it obvious enough, don’t you think Richard?”
“Martha’s right, James,” Richard argued. “It’s not right. We should never have–”
Then James let out a groan, but it sounded more like a roar, a hungry roar, a war cry. “Would both of you just shut up!” he growled. “We’re finishing it! She will choose!”
After that I had to leave. I was too frightened by what I’d just heard, too terrified to stand there another minute and hear them with their beautiful voices. They were so similar, and yet so very different. I’d never heard that tone, that growling, baleful tone, from Richard’s mouth. Never had I imagined he could make that sound, not with those perfect lips and teeth and that smile that I found so mesmerizing.
Now I realized it was only wolfish, only sinister. He the predator and I the prey; he the hunter and I the hunted. He’d baited the trap and I’d fallen for it, head over heels I’d fallen for it. I ran to my room in silent tears, feeling foolish, betrayed, bewildered. There were two of them! Two of them! Twins, exactly the same in every way, in competition for my affections. Yet their personalities, their voices, so totally different…how had I not noticed? How had I been so oblivious? And what would I do now that I knew? Panic swept through me like a storm, wracking my body with painful sobs and dry heaves. We were supposed to go out on the lake tomorrow. Not once had he been down to the water with me, not even within shouting distance, he’d always watched on, quietly, creepily now that I thought about it. Then out of the blue he’d invited to take me on a boat ride; he’d asked that night during our then customary kitchen conversation. I’d willingly and excitedly agreed, but now…what was I to do?
What could I do?
I was suddenly exhausted. The exertion of tears and the long nights without sleep had finally caught up to me. I swiftly drifted off to sleep and dreamt of Richard, taunting me.
The next morning we went out. Right after breakfast we strolled down to the water, Martha watching with concern from the kitchen window. A little rowboat waited there, the water lapping idly against the hull. I hid it well, my horror, knowing his secret as he handed me into the boat.
We shared a quiet ride out across the lake, and when the little islands began to loom closer, my heart began to pound. We beached the vessel and walked along the shore. When we had made it all the way around once I knew I had to confront him, I knew I had to end it. I couldn’t handle it: the knowledge that he expected me to choose between him and his brother. I wasn’t even sure which one he was, James or Richard, although I imagined it was James. He had the same beguiling eyes, the same evil grin. But I couldn’t know. How could I?
“So what do you think?” he asked after we had walked a few minutes more.
“About what?” I asked abruptly, caught off guard by the sound of his voice. He sounded so gentile, so very unlike what I thought I knew. I was even more unsure of his real identity then, even more confused about what I felt. Even if I were to choose, who would I pick? I realized I knew practically nothing about them, about Richard, or who I thought was Richard. I realized then that my image of him never existed to begin with.
“About the island,” he said. “What else could I mean?”
“Oh,” I laughed. “It’s just as wonderful as I imagined,” I said, and it was. The trees there were so green, so tall, so sequestered. A cloistered cluster of verdant beauty, covered all around by that concealing moss.
And yet I found it difficult to enjoy any of it.
“I’m glad,” he said, and placed an arm around my shoulder. I resisted the urge to flinch away. “I thought we might be able to talk while we’re out here, just you and I.”
I swallowed nervously, “What do you mean?”
Instead of answering, he only frowned at me as if I had just asked the dumbest question in the world, as if I were an idiot, as if had said something so horribly ridiculous, that I ought to be ashamed.
“What is there to talk about?” I asked, feeling my hands begin to tremble.
“Well–” he began.
“It’s not like there’s any big decision to make, right?” I said. I tried so hard to sound confident, but I only felt afraid. “It’s not like I’m confused!” I was beginning to sound hysterical; I could hear my voice rising.
He was staring at me with an expression so profound it caused my knees to shake, and then I was quivering all over, like a frightened rabbit, a rat in a trap.
“What are you talking about, Carrie?” he said sweetly, and I could see how he struggled to control himself.
“I know what’s going on,” I said. “I know what you’re doing, and I don’t want to be a part of it!”
“Excuse me?” he said.
“Don’t pretend you don’t understand!” I screamed. I felt myself start to cry again. “I don’t care what sort of sick competition you’ve put me in the middle of, you and your brother Richard or James or whatever your name is! I won’t choose! I don’t want anything to do with either of you, do you understand?”
He only stared at me for a moment, smiled wryly and began strolling away into the trees. He didn’t speak, he didn’t sigh, he didn’t even appear to breathe. When he’d nearly vanished, my curiosity got the best of me, and I started to follow.
The island was small, so we didn’t walk for long, but then, somewhere in the middle of the tiny forest, he’d stopped. He’d stopped in the middle of a circular, well-lit clearing. He just stood there, squinting up at the sky.
“This is my favorite place on the whole island,” he said. “I’ve explored all of them on this lake with all the time I’ve had here, but this one really is, by far, my favorite.”
I went to stand beside him, afraid to get too close.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” he said, “in the hidden rooms of that house. They were added on just for me. When I was younger, a nanny cared for me. I stayed there with her, cooped up in those rooms, while my brother, Richard, was out in the world, going to school, making friends, having a career, a life. And I was just here, spoiling.”
I watched his face then; a cloud had formed over it. He looked angry, menacing.
“I taught myself everything I know, and I like to think I know plenty,” he went on. “I’ve read every book in that house twice, and you haven’t even seen the library they keep for me, oh the books in there! I know plenty about literature, chemistry, mathematics. Oh, and anatomy; I love anatomy.”
My mouth had fallen open just a little, in awe at his despair, his disturbing clarity.
He turned his gaze on me again. “Do you want to know how I learned about anatomy?” he asked, but didn’t wait for my reply. “I know about all kinds of anatomy. Even animals. The first animal I ever dissected was a bird I found dead in the backyard. It was just so fascinating, you know, to see all the bones and organs in there, just nestled in with the feathers. The dogs were the best though; their bodies were so much more interesting. My parents gave me five before they figured out what I was doing with them. And when they stopped supplying the dogs…well, I lived on my own for several months before they came home and realized the nanny had disappeared.”
I was frozen where I stood, my feet sinking into the grass. I was petrified, listening to him rant. His eyes pierced mine like knives, knives I imagined he used for dissection, mutilation, the scientific discovery of his murderous nature. I couldn’t look at him anymore. I turned my eyes to the ground as he drew nearer. I watched his feet move closer.
“That’s why they keep me out here, you know,” he said. “They’re afraid of what I might do, should they unleash me into the real world. They’re afraid of me, and they should be.”
His foot came down on something hard, something that cracked a little under his weight. When he lifted his shoe again I saw that it was a skull, a human skull, the eyeholes gaping at me with black dread.
“But you have no reason to fear me,” he said, closing the gap between us, “should you accept my proposition.”
My eyes flashed around the clearing. There were bones everywhere. How had I not seen them before? I was standing in a graveyard! A killing field, a death trap. This was no catch and release. I was going to die there if I didn’t do something. “What proposition?” I asked, still refusing to look at him.
“It’s not so much a proposition, as a proposal,” he said, grabbing one of my hands. He squeezed it so tight I felt the knuckles crack. I hissed in pain but he paid no attention. “You could be my ticket out of this hellhole,” he told me forcefully. “You can get me out. If you agree to take me with you, to take me home, take me, perhaps, as your-.”
“No!” I screeched, jerking free of his grasp. “I won’t!”
“Let’s not be hasty,” he said threateningly.
I began to back away, but he kept after me, walking slowly in my direction. “I’ve given you my answer,” I said, my heart resounding like thunder through my ribcage. “Now let me go home.”
He sighed heavily and shook his head. “I’m afraid not,” he said piteously. “Now that I’ve shown you my clearing, now that you really do understand, I’m afraid you can’t leave.”
“I just want to go home,” I begged, retreating into the trees.
“I’m sorry to tell you,” he snarled, “but this is your home now.”
Then he lunged for me, and I went tearing through the woods. I didn’t have anywhere to run on such a small island. It took me barely a minute to reach the shore, and he, hot on my heels the whole time, his feet pounding so much louder than mine.
Just as I reached the water, he crashed into my back, sending me sprawling, face first, into the shallows. I struggled to rise again, taking one last huge gulp of air, before his massively strong hand found the back of my head and shoved it underwater, until he was astride my back, forcing me down into the choking waves. I struggled as much as I could, but it was no use. He was much too strong for me.
And then, just as I was about to give up, the pressure on my back was released, and I managed, but just barely, to lift my head up and breathe. I rolled over and floated against the shore for a moment, afraid to open my eyes, afraid to see why he had let me go.
When I finally did, Richard, the real Richard, was standing over me, his countenance laced with concern, his eyes sad, his nose bloodied. A few feet down the beach, James lay on the ground, either unconscious or dead. I’m still not sure if Richard killed him. I’m not really sure of anything.
“Are you alright?” he asked me, and I was only able to nod. “Good,” he said. “I’ll take you back to the house. Your things are already packed and in the car. Martha is waiting to take you home. I promise he won’t bother you again, but…you should go.”
Again, I only nodded my agreement. He helped me stand and practically carried me into his boat. As he rowed back, I watched his face and imagined that were I to actually choose, I would have picked him. I would have chosen the kind, gentle Richard over the guileful man we had left on the beach. But really I’ll never know what I might have done. I’ll never know what might have become of me had there not been two of them, had there been no choice at all.
Richard dropped me off on the dock sorrowfully, making sure my feet were steadily planted before releasing my hand.
“Thank you,” I croaked out, wishing to say more. I had so much to tell him, so much to express.
But he only said, “You’re welcome,” and offered a particularly grim smile. Then, just as I’d turned to go, he added, “Oh Carrie…please…you can’t tell anyone about this. My parents tried to so hard to save my brother. They really did everything they could think of. In the end, it couldn’t be helped. He’s a monster. People can’t know about him, about what he’s done. So please…I-I’m begging you.”
So much to say, and no way to actually say it. Finally I just said, “Okay, Richard,” and that was all. I never saw him again after that.
When I went home, my parents complained that I had changed, that something was different about me, something they couldn’t put their finger on. Of course I couldn’t tell them why, although to me the answer was obvious. I never ever told them the truth; I didn’t even hint at it. When it came down to it, I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about it. The wound was too fresh, the blood still warm.
Now that I’ve got it off my chest, I’m still not sure I can put it out there. I’ve written it out time and time again, and have never found the courage to complete my confession. Perhaps this time, I think.
But perhaps not yet.
[Image by Evgeni Dinev]