No, no, don’t. Please don’t…
Had Julie begged? Did the bastard make her beg before he shot her? Richard stared at the ceiling of his studio, refusing to close his eyes because it only made his thoughts more real. Occasionally, he drank from the beer bottle in his hand, but mostly he stared, studying the swirls of plaster above him while his baby sister was murdered again in his mind.
Please don’t kill me…
The phone rang then, scattering his thoughts. Please. Thoughts of Julie dissolved, abruptly replaced by trying to remember where the phone was. On the end table. Rolling over, hearing the clink of a bottle hit the floor, he grabbed for the phone. Squinting, he forced himself to focus on the caller ID.
DeLuca, Paul. 412-555-1126.
From the moment Charles had called him with the news last night, he knew that it was only a matter of time before Rory came sniffing around. About time. He could do this. Taking a deep breath, he put the phone to his ear and returned to lying on his back, staring at the ceiling.
“What do you want?” He imagined her now: sitting at a desk, papers all neatly organized around her, a mug of tea or some other genteel drink sitting on a coaster. She probably never lost a minute’s sleep over Julie. She would go to bed tonight and dream, undisturbed. He wouldn’t. He’d spend the hours thinking about what Charles had told him – a bullet between her eyes, a shallow grave on what had been family property. Perhaps he needed another bottle. Just one more. Perhaps that would help him close his eyes without seeing Julie or imagining her last minutes.
“To talk to you about Julie.”
Her voice and he was back in the woods, pulling her down, trying to show her how much he loved her. He was there again, holding her as she sobbed afterwards. He was in his room with her, that day when she threw it in his face, accusing him of the unthinkable. Her voice and he was eighteen again, in love with the unattainable Aurora Haverly.
“No!” Richard’s refusal echoed around the room. She would destroy him again. Destroy Julie again. He jumped off the couch, pacing. Thinking of Julie, frightened and begging for her life, as someone put the muzzle of a .22 to her head. “NO!”
“Richard, please, this is your sister we’re talking about. My best friend. At least give her some dignity. You know I’ll do right by her.”
“You killed her and now you want to bury her?” He caught his reflection in a window, saw himself screaming at her, as he should have back then. Outside, it was pitch black. As black as a grave. Julie’s grave. His reflection followed him in the glass, pacing right along with him. He pulled the blinds down.
“I did not, you know that!”
“Bullshit, Rory! Bullshit! She listened to you and did everything you told her to do. You killed her and you goddamned well know it.”
“No, listen to me, Richard, please…”
She should be here, in front of him, crying and begging his forgiveness for what she did to him and his family. Then he could refuse, hold it above her head just out of reach. He could refuse to forgive her and they’d be even.
“Like hell I’ll listen to some stupid bitch who was so jealous of my sister that she killed her! You have no idea what you did to my family, Rory! You don’t know!” The words echoed around him as he screamed, the veins stood out on his neck. He hadn’t planned to explode. He’d been expecting her call, and he was ready – or so he had thought – to talk to her calmly, for Julie’s sake. After all these years, he thought it would have been easy. Who knew that a simple sound could shatter his plans?
“I know all about you, did you know that? I know you went on and married a nice guy that everyone loves. He smacks you around from what I hear. Know what? You deserve it. You deserve everything he gives you. And you know what else? Next time he’s hitting you, pretend it’s me.”
He could hear her gasp, but she didn’t cry. He wanted her to sob and beg him to stop, to swear that she didn’t mean to kill Julie, that she had loved her as much as anyone. He remembered how she had cried in his arms all those years ago – and then turned around and wrote those lies.
He slammed the phone down.