I sighed, sitting on the edge of my bed. I hadn’t slept correctly in almost four months and now I was still wide awake in the middle of the night, with my dad saying this to me, “You heard anything from Michael, lately?”
After successfully getting Sam out without any damage, I’d hoped my father would just go back to the couch, go to sleep, and I’d do the same. But I wasn’t so lucky. When I’d hightailed it to my room after kicking Sam out, Jimmy had followed me and uttered that haunting question.
I looked up at him. “Do you remember the night you left?” He shrugged and I took that as a sign to continue. “I was ten; Michael was 13. You slapped me, nearly knocked me out. Then, you punched Michael a couple times. Then again.” I took a shuddering breath, breaking eye contact for a minute while I composed myself again. “You had a scotch in one hand, a handful of Michael’s hair in the other. He was kicking and squirming in your grasp. Then you slammed him down,”—he winced as I said this—“gave him a kick, and finally knocked him over the head with the bottle.” Another deep breath. His eyes looked remorseful and a tiny bit…scared? “You stepped over his unconscious figure so you would walk out the door. Mom was at—
“The Sutton’s,” he joined in. I nodded. “She cheated on me, Shannon.”
“And you beat up her and your kids, Jimmy.” Again, he winced noticeably. “But, then again, I forgot, you ‘went to rehab’,” I taunted, the biting sarcasm in my voice as clear as day.
“What about Michael?”
“That night,” I continued, “after you left, I waited and waited for Michael to wake up.” I felt tears form in the corners of my eyes. “When he finally did, I had to use my stupid girl scout training to patch him up. Then he took me to Derek’s house.”
“And?” he prompted, the look in his eyes clearly showing what he was afraid of. He was worried that he had killed his son. That’s why I wasn’t answering him.
“He broke into the Sutton’s house and tried to find Mom.”
He threw his hands up. “So he’s in jail?! He did a B and E and got put in jail?!”
And here it was. My father was about to find out that his son was dead. And I had to be the one to tell him.
I got out the words, “Mr. Sutton’s shot him,” and I watched his expression change. It was like a scene from a movie. His mouth opened, the corners turning down slightly. And then his eyes softened, he looked down and I heard the most shocking noise. My father began to cry. He sat down next to me on my bed, his arm went around my shoulder, and I didn’t even try to stop him. And for that peaceful moment in time, it felt incredibly right. We cried together over the loss of Michael—for me it was an old wound, but for Jimmy, it was incredibly new, and I knew that he was suffering even worse than I had. For now, the most I could do was tell him whatever he wanted to know. But that would have to wait, because as soon as we’d begun to cry, I’d gotten a phone call that would change everything I believed about my past, about Derek’s death, and ultimately, everything I lived for. That phone call came from someone I hadn’t spoken to in years—and that phone call was the most important thing that ever happened to me.