One starry night Joshua, his little brother Justin, and I sat on a curb not far from where the boys lived. They had gotten into another one of their infamous family feuds and bolted out the door. It happened at least once a week; one of the boys would do or say something, their dad would become furious and threaten to hit them, and their mom would sit idly by. Their father had a very bad temper, paired with a never-ending drinking problem and he always seemed to take it out on his children, they grew up abused and lacking love. I felt for them, so I always made sure to be there for them whenever they would call, which is why I sat with them on a curb at eleven o’clock that night. It was freezing and I was only covered in a robe, wearing fuzzy shorts and a tank top underneath, and fur trimmed boot slippers, but their wellbeing was more important to me than my warmth at the time that I was leaving my apartment. Both of the boys however, were still dressed in their street clothes.
“Are you guys okay?” I finally asked glancing with concern at both distraught boys sitting on either side of me.
“Yeah.” Justin replied still staring downward picking at the asphalt, his breath visible as he responded. Justin never really talked much when it came to these situations. I think he probably took it the hardest. He was only seventeen and he lacked a lot of the confidence he should’ve possessed. He kept everything he felt sealed inside himself, but I knew his internal issues stemmed from the years of abuse he received from his father and the lack of empathy from his mother. It was both physical and emotional abuse. The boys would never hear as much as an ‘I love you’ growing up, all they had was each other and me. I stared at him sadly, but he still didn’t meet my gaze. Instead, he continued picking at the asphalt. I think it was his way of trying to hold himself together.
Joshua on the other hand, didn’t mind letting himself be vulnerable. At least not towards me anyway. We had been friends for almost the entirety of our lives so he had always confided in me. He grabbed for my hand before answering my question, “We’re okay. Thanks for being here for us tonight.” He finally said.
“Of course,” I gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “anytime you guys need me I’ll always be here for the both of you. We’ve been friends for so long, you guys are like family to me. I’d do anything for the two of you.”
“I’m glad you brought that up.” He said nervously, “There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”
“You know you can tell me anything.”
Justin finally looked up, but at his brother, not me, and they nodded at one other. Joshua took a deep breath; I had never seen him this nervous before.
“What is going on?” I questioned.
He stood, so I did the same and then he took both of my hands in his and began to speak.
“Katie.” He started as he stared intensely into my eyes, “We’ve been friends basically since we were both born.”
“Yes, that is true.”
“Just friends.” He continued placing emphasis on the word ‘just.’ “But I think that we click so well and we just get each other you know what I mean? We’ve been in each other’s lives for so long and I don’t see you ever not being in my life, but I do see you being more than just my friend in the future. I could see you being my girlfriend. My wife even. So, I guess what I’m asking you right now is if you’ll take the next step with me and make this official. Katie I’m so in love with you and I believe that you could possibly feel the same way about me too so what do you say? Will you be my girlfriend?”
“Joshua, I kid you not I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.” I laughed nervously. “Yes! Yes, I will be your girlfriend. Oh, and I love you too!”
We kissed for the first time and Justin clapped which made us both laugh hysterically.
“This is the best night of my life!” Joshua exclaimed.
“Oh, stop it!”
“I’m serious! Actually being with you will improve my life by one-hundred percent! My life can only go up from here! We should celebrate!”
“You know I’m not much of a celebrator.”
“I’m just talking a few drinks back at your apartment.”
“Can I have a drink?” Justin chimed in.
“A sip.” I told him.
“Just a sip? What? That’s not even enough to feel a buzz.”
“Exactly!” Joshua laughed.
“You guys are such buzz kills!” Justin laughed. “I think I’ll just head home. The beast should be asleep by now.”
“Okay, we’ll walk you home.” I told him.
We started walking towards their house, Justin a few steps ahead of us throwing rocks at the concrete and Joshua and I behind him walking hand in hand. It took us only a few minutes to reach the house where we hugged Justin goodbye and promised to call him first thing in the morning. After he disappeared inside the house, Joshua and I got into his black SUV and headed towards my place. It was a short drive since we lived fairly close to each other, but it was still too far to walk at that time of night. When we got back to my apartment, Joshua and I downed shot after shot of vodka and tequila in celebration of our new title. We had a blast talking, laughing, and reminiscing. Eventually, we both knocked out on the couch and when I awoke Joshua was gone and a note was in his place. It read:
Hey Katie, sorry I had to run so abruptly Justin needed me. Apparently our father awoke and more shit went down so I had to get in my car and rush home as quickly as I could. I’ll call you as soon as I can!
After reading his note I frantically looked for my phone to check for any missed calls. I threw all the pillows off the couch and turned over the cushions trying to locate my phone. I didn’t see it anywhere. I ran my hand underneath the couch and that’s where I finally found it tucked underneath, I must’ve dropped it in my drunken slumber. I unlocked my phone and discovered that I had multiple missed calls from Justin and then one from a number I did not readily recognize which was odd. I listened to the messages:
Hey it’s Justin, can you call me back whenever you get the chance please? It’s urgent. 6:45am.
Hey, Katie, hello? Something really bad has happened please answer. Hello? 6:48am.
Katie I know it’s early and I’m sorry for calling you so many times, but it’s Josh. Something bad just happened to him can you please call me? I don’t know what to do and I’m freaking out. 6:51am.
Katie, this is Josh. I don’t know if my brother already called and told you, but I got arrested this morning. I only have one phone call so I made it you. I’m really sorry and tell Justin I’m sorry he had to witness that. They’re holding me for manslaughter, Katie. I knew I shouldn’t have driven home buzzed. I’m so scared, I think I’m gonna go to prison. Are you there? I need you. I’m so sorry. I love you. 7:01am.
End of messages