Chapter Thirteen: Homecoming
“Are you sure it’s ok if you spend the night?” I asked my girlfriend for the ten thousandth time since we’d left our friend’s party. It had only been a fifteen minute drive.
Myra huffed. “Jeez, Jerry, I told you already! My mom thinks I’m spending the night at Susie’s house.”
I frowned, unsure, my hands gripping the steering wheel too tight for comfort. Already, my knuckles were cramping.
“Susie has her own phone line, ok?” She reached over to pry my hand from the steering column after I’d parked my mother’s Chrysler LaBaron in front of my house. “The only number my mom has is the one going directly to Susie’s room. She’s gonna cover for us. It’ll be fine.”
“You’re one hundred percent sure?” I liked Myra’s mother a lot and didn’t want to jeopardize our relationship, or her trust, in any way. I didn’t want to risk losing my girlfriend to one nights’ indiscretion.
“Yes, Jer, it’ll be fine… and, it’ll be wonderful to have you all night long,” she cooed, her hand coming from mine, hugging herself.
I stared at her, watched her eyes roll up into her head as she thought of all the delicious sexual acts we’d indulge over the course of the next few hours. We hadn’t planned on getting any sleep on our graduation night. Hell, no! We were going to spend what remained of it in each other’s arms, sharing our bodies.
It had sounded radical when we had planned it weeks prior, but now that we were about to break about two hundred rules, I was getting cold feet.
Then Myra vaulted from her side of the bench seat, squeezing her petite form between me and the steering wheel. She hiked up her dress and I felt her through her thin, cotton panties. She ground her pelvis into mine, her lips descending. I was lost. I was putty in her female clutches. I would’ve jumped off a cliff if she’d asked me. Her head came down and I rose to meet her as much as I was able. Our lips touched and blissful electric currents shot up and down my spine. I felt myself enlarge, thickening against the soft folds I felt through the fibrous fabric down below. In seconds, we were consumed.
We emerged from the car ten minutes later, both of eager for what was to come.
We scuttled up the flight of stairs, leading directly from the street, giggling and talking rapidly, warmed by more than just the summer night. Holding hands, we made our way up the walk no more than a few yards.
“I don’t give a shit about this house, you fucking whore. I’m going to sell it whether you like it or not!”
I felt my heart hit the concrete I was walking on. A sickening guilt flooded through me, washing away all the excitement and joy in one, relentless wave. I should’ve never left.
“Don’t you dare call me that, you pitiful excuse for a man!” responded my mother in kind.
From my vantage, I heard the sliding glass doors open and saw her step out onto the deck.
Then, I caught movement out of the corner of my eyes. I turned. I was astonished to see Roxanna come through the front door, her handbag on her wrist, a thin smile etched on the lower portion of her face.
I wanted to yank out her hair by the roots in that instant. She was getting off on my parents fighting. What a sick bitch!
“It’s over, Leonard! I want you out of the house tonight!”
I heard his laugh, drawn out, vile when he’d been drinking too much. “I ain’t going anywhere.”
Roxanna saw us and her smirk melted to a frown. She quick-stepped toward us, in the infuriating way women sometimes do when their trying too hard at looking feminine. “I hope everything is ok, Jerry,” she said the moment she was close enough and didn’t have to speak louder than a harsh whisper.
I felt my head wag from side-to-side. “Just get the fuck out of here, Roxanna.” Though I hadn’t known I could speak with a snarling rasp. It came out just the same.
She paused, sliding her body away from me and Myra, shock written plainly for us to see. “Well… I -.”
Myra was already muttering at my side. One minute more and this could get real nasty.
Though, I’d hoped for the better, things went horribly.
I hadn’t known I could frighten an adult. I liked the idea.
That was when I heard the first slap.
My head turned on a swivel.
At my side, Myra gasped, her hand coming to her mouth.
A slap? It had sounded like one, but at the same time it hadn’t. It wasn’t as loud, almost as if…
“You sonofabitch!” yelled my mother.
…I’d heard it the past. It had been a long time, but had heard it before. It wasn’t a slap.
“Come here, you pig,” snarled Lenny.
I’d heard that too. I’d been a boy, but the memory of it came back in a flash – full force, unedited by time. Back then his fists had been balled at his sides, his face a rictus of hate, his eyes blazed like a demon’s. He had given her a concussion that time.
There were footsteps upon the deck.
“You stay away from me, Leonard!”
Everything seemed to slow.
“I’ve only just begun, bitch.”
I was aware I was no longer beside Myra. I had left her somewhere in my wake. I could hear someone other than my mother yelling. The sound was behind me as well. It could’ve been my girlfriend, but I would never know for sure. The sound of my Mom’s screech hit me again, like a ton of bricks. I faltered, almost fell.
The awful sound of knuckles hitting flesh thwacked! in my ears.
My mother’s scream was cut short.
I felt sheer fury race through me. I regained my balance. Everything was tinged with red. My heart was in my head, no longer in my chest. I could feel my legs pumping for more speed, though it seemed like I was going no faster than a snail. I hadn’t noticed that everything else around me had slowed as well, even moreso. I didn’t have time to notice, to care, or even bother. I had to get to my Mom. She was the only thing that mattered.
I came around the house, the deck before me. I could see Lenny bent over, his hand balled, arm bent at the elbow. It was a piston-like movement and it was heading down once again. Though I couldn’t see her, I knew she was on the floor. I knew he had her by the hair, keeping her head in the direct path of his now descending fist. He was going to hit her again. He had all the leverage he was ever going to get. The blow would injure her, severely.
My foot hit the bottom stair of the case leading to the upper portion of the deck. I grabbed the handrail and squeezed. I was ready to vault up and over the balustrade. It would’ve been a tremendous athletic feat. I would have to move my body like a high-jumper. It was a motion I’d seen a million times from the track, watching my counterparts on my high school team as they practiced their field events. I could do it no problem. I would be next to my mom in a flash.
Something out of the corner of my eye distracted me. Instead, of catapulting myself forward, I slowed, my head turning toward the flowing white entity that had emerged from the house.
It wore a nightgown, long, billowing in the warm night air. It was barefoot. It had long hair, wispy, the finest I had ever seen. Its’ eyes were crazed. Its’ hand before it seemed like claws with nails three inches long. It was howling in such an inhuman fashion. When I realized who it was, I was astonished.
It was Valerie.
“You leave my mother aaaalooooone!”
Her voice was so otherworldly, it was ghastly. It was shrill, desperate, raging. It was ripped to the bone.
She tackled Lenny form the side, grabbing him by the arm with both of hers. Her momentum knocked him off kilter. For a moment, I thought they were going to go down in a heap, but Lenny shifted his back foot, bracing himself. The moment he felt resistance, he turned violently to the side. The move was intended to use my sister’s motion against her. It worked. She went sprawling past him and fell hard onto the wooden surface of the deck. She cried out, her hands and knees scuffing.
Lenny gazed after his daughter, hand still gripping a fistful of his wife’s hair. “You want some of this, you little slut?” He struck my mother, hard, right over her left eye.
I was suddenly woozy when I heard the thin bones of her face crack.
He chortled, through spittle and a leer. “I’m going to kill her right in front of you, Valerie. I’m going to kill your mother tonight. How do you feel about that?”
My sister was weeping uncontrollably, her hair obscuring half her face. “No, no, no, no…,” she kept saying.
Lenny wrenched my mother brutally, dragging her upon the deck, so my sister had a better view of the carnage about to unfold. “You watching, Valerie,” he asked drawing out the words. “I hope so, because you’re next…,” another chuckle, “Daddy’s gonna have so much fun with you tonight.”
I saw his fist rise again. He was going to hit her once more, in the exact same place. My mother’s head was listless in his grasp. He was going to kill her.
I saw my sister gather another horrified wail within her chest.
I heard Myra scream from somewhere in the yard.
I charged. I couldn’t wait any longer. He was going to kill my mother. I could see it in his eyes. He had crossed that line. There was no turning back for him. He had been flirting with it for far too long now. He knew it. He understood the ramifications, the consequences and for some reason he didn’t care. He was going to kill my mother.
I was accelerating, faster than I ever have, faster than if I’d blasted out of the blocks, gunshot in my ears.
I still wasn’t faster than him, though. He must’ve been gaining speed from the middle of the living room, using the distance between him and us to attain a velocity that was shocking to witness. Maybe it was adrenaline. Maybe it was no more than fear. Maybe it was primal, beastly, the prime directive in full bloom – to protect what is special.
To him, there was no one more special than her. He adored her. He worshipped the ground she walked on, and now she was going to die.
I had no more than an inkling he had passed me. He came from behind, on my right side, so close he must’ve traveled directly underneath my armpit. He came hurtling forth, a six-year-old. He was barefoot too, in his pajamas, with a primordial ululation upon his lips so strident it sounded as though his vocal cords were tearing.
He left the surface of the deck ten feet from Lenny, who was now turned away. He landed upon his back like a big African feline taking down its’ prey. He did the only thing he could do, being of diminutive size and strength. He began to rip at Lenny’s eyes, his thin nails gouging into his brow, his lids, the bridge of his nose with such alacrity I had trouble following.
Lenny stood there stunned for a few moments. Then, he jerked away from the pain, letting go of my mother.
She fell the rest of the way to the floor, unconscious.
I was no more than a step and a half away when I saw Lenny’s hands grab Elijah by his pajamas. I reached out, fingers made claws as the other man’s grip tightened about the thin fabric my little brother was wearing. I touched Lenny’s shoulder before he spun swiftly, like an Olympic hammer-thrower, firming his hold.
My little brother lost his balance. He slipped further into Lenny’s clutches.
I saw my one-time father’s muscles bunch just before my body collided with his. Even then, I was too late.
Valerie scrambled after his tiny form. She missed.
Myra’s footfalls hammered up onto the deck. “Noooooo!” She was so loud.
I hit the-man-I’d-once-called-my-father resoundingly in the side, beneath his arm. It was a linebacker’s sort of hit, meant to cause maximum damage through the direct transfer of kinetic energy. All of mine passed into him. My forward motion stopped cold. He went down hard, end over end. I went after hit him, cocked and locked.
That’s when I heard Elijah impact onto the lower portion of the deck, smashing directly onto one of my mother’s wicker chairs, completely destroying it before he smacked gruesomely onto the unforgiving wood. Even from where I was, I heard bones break – a lot of bones break.
I don’t remember much else after that moment. The instant it had registered my little brother had been reduced to a pulp. Everything was red and hazy. I don’t remember moving. I don’t remember anything of what I felt. I don’t remember a lifetime of anger and resentment coming to the fore, expressed all at once and without impediment. I don’t know why, but I don’t recall anything for what had to be the next few hours.
I woke up in the hospital, my hands bound in gauze and tape all the way beyond my wrists. There were policeman outside my room. Myra was at my side staring at me with an expression had had yet to see upon her beautiful face and have never seen since.
It was fear, real, unfettered.
It hurt me to see her look at me that way, because I had seen Lenny procure they very same cast from my mother more times than I care to recall here. I looked into the eyes of my rambunctious, life-loving girlfriend and vowed, before I even cared to know what had happened, I would never be anything like my father. As far as I was concerned, he was dead to me.
There’s not really much more I can write about it. It was one of the few times in my life beholden to such finality, it left little in the way of additional explanation. The decision was simple, a clean cut from the past. I would never go there again. I wouldn’t have too.
I no longer had a father. It was as simple as that.
“What happened?” I tried, though my throat felt like someone had been sandpapering it while I slept.
Myra grimaced, her eyes welling. “You don’t remember?” It was tiniest I had ever heard her speak. Myra wasn’t built that way. She wouldn’t temper her personality for anyone, and yet…
I shook my head.
“We were so confused we didn’t know what to do,” she began, but had to stop. Her tongue was suddenly too thick. She swallowed a few times. “It was the man, the guy living in the back house who finally pulled you off him.”
It was my turn to frown. “What are you talking about?”
She wiped away the tears beginning to fall. “It was Bruce.”
She breathed deeply. “He was the one who pulled you off your dad.”
“By then, he was nothing but a bloody mess, a horrific… indistinguishable mess.” Her forehead wrinkled. She appeared nauseated. “I couldn’t tell if he still had a nose… Oh god, Jerry, it was atrocious!” She was in my arms before her words had sunk in.
Who was she talking about? Was she talking about me? But, I didn’t remember turning Lenny into a bloody pulp. And why would he be a ruined mess in the first place? How could he have lost his nose?
“I d-don’t understand, My-My. What happened?”
She stiffened in my clench, pulling her head back to look me in the eyes. “Are you fucking with me?”
Once more, I shook my head, concerned over her choice words.
She grabbed my head with both of her hands. “You almost killed your father, Jerry.” I tried to jerk free of her, but she wouldn’t let me go. “You beat him. You kept hitting him and hitting him and hitting him - for so long and so hard. I couldn’t pull you free. You were so strong. I wanted to yell for Valerie, but she was taking care of your brother.”
ELIJAH!!! His name sounded in my head like the tolling of a bell. Oh my god, what happened to my baby brother?
Myra must’ve sensed the intensity of my curiosity, because her face softened instantaneously. “He’s hurt, Jer, pretty bad,” she said carefully. “He broke ribs that have punctured a lung and… he ruptured his spleen. The doctor’s had to remove it. He came out of surgery about an hour ago.” She gulped down a lump in her throat. “The doctors are keeping him in an induced coma for the time being, to give his body time to heal from all the trauma.”
I couldn’t do anything but cry.
She held me the entire time. Her small arms felt like the world had come to comfort me. Though one portion of my heart was being torn asunder, another was fortified by my love for her. I knew, despite the fact we were young and had our lives ahead of us, I was going to marry her. She was the one for me. I felt so blessed to have found her so early in life.
“And my mother?” I inquired after a time.
“She’s sleeping. She’s got facial fractures, a broken nose and a concussion.”
I felt my heart lurch.
Suddenly, she was kissing my face, soaking up my tears with her puffy lips. “She’s stable, my love. She’s resting. The doctors said it could’ve been a lot worse, especially if you and Eli hadn’t intervened when you did. One more punch to her face could’ve sent bone fragments into her brain…” She stopped abruptly, realizing what she’d said. Her eyes were wide with shock. “I’m sorry, Jerry. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” I whispered, feeling the weight of the entire planet upon my chest.
She was kissing me again. Her lovely lips were trailing along my jaw and down the curve of my neck.
“Why are my hands wrapped up in all this crap?” I wondered aloud, enjoying the feeling of her.
She was licking my clavicle, then snorted derisively. “You broke your left hand on your father’s face. Your right is just badly bruised.”
“Why don’t I feel anything?”
“You’re on a mild morphine drip, you dope,” she said, her eyes twinkling. She wasn’t afraid of me anymore.
I glanced through the safety-glass at the middle of the door to my room. “Why are the cops here?”
Myra turned, following my gaze. “They need to get a preliminary statement from somebody. I guess they figured you’d be the first one to wake-up.”
“Makes sense.” Then another thought hit me. “Where’s Lenny?”
“My father, where is he? How is he?” I clarified for her, more curious than concerned for his well-being.
She traced my eyebrow with her finger. “He’s not at this hospital anymore. Once they stabilized him, they took him somewhere else, where they specialize in reconstructive surgery, I assume.” She shrugged. “Other than that, I don’t know anything else.”
“Is the family here?” I was wondering why Myra and I had been alone for so long.
She kissed me on the lips, slow and lingering, just the way I like it. “They’re here. They’re with Valerie, watching over Eli and your Mom. The cops shooed them away when it looked like you were going to wake-up soon.”
I mock frowned at her reply. “And how is it you’re still here?”
“You think a couple of freakin’ cops are going to keep me from you?”
I had to laugh. It hurt, mostly about my neck, but it was worth it. It was alive, and so was my family. We might be a little broken right now, but we were all still alive.
“Is Valerie ok?”
“Just scrapes and bruises,” she smiled her retort. “Besides, she’s got Jose keeping her spirits up.” Her eyebrows shot up and down like Groucho Marks.
I rumbled with mirth, more careful this time. “Good, good. I like the guy.”
“Me too. He seems nice enough,” she said, but couldn’t say more.
Right then, a tall man in a wrinkled shirt and tie, and slacks walked in. His face was square. Its’ skin was weathered, ruddy and pot-marked. His hair was close cut, combed back, light brown. His eyes were matching. He had a flip-top notepad and an air of authority about him. “Well, I see you’re awake now.”
He came further into the room. “You feel up to telling me what happened back your house last night?”
I scowled, glancing at Myra.
She knew what I was thinking without me having to tell her. “You’ve been asleep for a while, babe. It’s already passed eight in the morning.”
“Wow,” was all I could think to say.
“I’m Sargent Detective Rollins, Mr. Favor,” said the man, using a more formal approach. He extended his hand.
I shook it as best as I could manage, my hands resembling a pair of zucchini than anything else. “What do you want to know?”
“Just the truth, young man, that’s all - nothing more, nothing less.” He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
I sighed, helped Myra take a seat on my bed and proceeded to fill in Sargent Detective Rollins about the scourge of our family – Leonard G. Favor.
It was a long tale.