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Proud of You

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Whatever dark presence that’d made Henry’s mind a home crept to the edge with a hiss and began to dissipate. He couldn’t move and adjust them so they could be more comfortable while they watched TV.

Lisa didn’t complain -not even with her arm pinched between his side and the couch cushions. She must’ve been under the same spell that afflicted him. The comforting warmth of her pressing into his side chilled.

The TV’s static nearly masked the click of the apartment door opening. Then Sal stood in front of them.

Horror buzzed through every cell in Henry’s body.

What did you do? The words stuck to the back of his throat.

Blood dripped down the blade of a knife and dappled the lower half of his son’s prosthetic. Sal’s clothes clung to his tensed frame, his maroon pants splotched with a deeper crimson and the black fabric of his shirt concealing any other bloodstains.

“Hey, kiddo. There’s some leftover lasagna in the fridge, if you’re hungry.” If Henry could have twisted toward Lisa, he would have. That was literally the worst thing to say in this situation. The spell or sickness or something must be bound around her tighter than he thought.

Sal didn’t react.

Under the shadow of his prosthetic, a fake eye gleamed. The other, Sal’s real one, gazed at them with a clouded sheen Henry hadn’t seen since the dog attack.

It didn’t make sense. He’d been fine, happy even. Or maybe not.

When they first moved into the apartments, Sal acted like he was fine. Then one night Henry ran out of sleeping pills, and he caught him sneaking out during a relapse. It was extremely awkward for both of them. He’d been on his second beer or something and Sal had been so panicked that he was five seconds away from leaving the apartment without his prosthetic.

Henry had asked what he was doing, and he’d said he had a nightmare. Then he’d fled to Larry’s, hair covering his face. After that incident, Henry noticed his son missing more and more often, but since he had nightmares as well—since he was too caught up in his addiction so those nightmares would go away—he’d left Sal to piece shit together by himself instead of being the parent he should have been and talking stuff through with his son, or finding him another psychiatrist, or anything really.

Sal was nineteen now, he’d moved out and now he was visiting, covered in blood, holding a possible murder weapon, and not all there.

He’d ignored his child’s suffering, and this was the consequence.

He couldn’t go back in time, but he had to act now.

The darkness at the corners of his mind twisted, struck in a last ditch effort of self-preservation.

He spoke, but not willingly—still frozen to his spot. “You know, I may not say this enough, but I’m proud of you, Sal.” No. That wasn’t what he meant to say at all. “You’ve come a long way, and I know it hasn’t all been easy.

“I look at you now and I’m excited about the man you’re becoming. I think you’ve got a bright future ahead of you. I really do.”

His future was bleak unless he got help right now.

“I love you, buddy.” That… was the truth. Even if he never showed it enough. He’d always love him.

The corners of his son’s eyes crinkled. Maybe he could talk him down, if he could just move, say the words he wanted to say. He coul-

Sal lashed out with two precise strikes, one for him and the other for Lisa. Sal gazed at them for a few moments longer before walking away, footsteps mechanical as if he were only going through the motions. He didn’t bother closing the door behind him.

Henry couldn’t bring himself to look at Lisa so he stared at the ceiling instead. Sirens rang in the distance.

Diane… Diane was going to kill him for letting this happen to their child.