Charley woke up, laying in the grass at the park. He sat up urgently, looking around. The park was much emptier now than it had been when he’d laid down. He’d been so riled up he didn’t know what to do. All he’d wanted was to lay on the ground until his heart stopped racing, until his faced stopped burning but… Jesus, he’d dozed off and it was getting late now. The sun was setting. He pulled his blazer around himself, and looked around. His picnic was still all laid out. He jumped to his feet and shoved everything into the basket, haphazardly. He ran back to his mother’s car. He needed to make it home before the sun set. He had to.
Charley was normally a very cautious driver, but he sped home, taking sloppy turns and not giving a shit. His vision was still blurry with tears. He wiped them away violently when they formed, but they wouldn’t stop. He blamed his nap in the park. There must have been pollen floating around in breeze. The sky had gone from orange to deep blue very quickly and was still getting darker. He took another sharp turn and heard someone laying on their horn. He snapped his head around and saw a car that he could have sworn had just appeared, it’s angry driver flipping him off as he sped away. The sky was nearly black when Charley finally pulled into the driveway. When he got out a the car, a large gust of wind blew through the neighborhood, howling through the hole’s in Jerry’s house. Charley stood, staring at it, breath caught in his lungs and not budging. His heart was beating loudly in his ears. Something was stirring in the house, he just knew it. Something was going on. He took a cautious step towards it.
“Charley!” He jumped and spun around. His mom was standing in the doorway, a worried expression on her face.
“Charley, what happened, where have you been? Get inside, I think it’s about to rain.”
Charley sighed and walked back into his own house, casting one last look towards Jerry’s over his shoulder.
“Charley, are you okay? God, have you been crying?”
“I’m fine mom…” He said, ducking away from her hands as she tried to grab his shoulders.
“Where were you, it’s almost time for me to go to work.”
“Sorry, I fell asleep at the park.”
“You fell asleep while you were on a date with Amy? Charley…”
“No, she had to...she had to go.”
“Did you get into a fight, is that why you’re crying?”
“No, mom, I’m not crying, it’s just allergies.”
“Please, calm down, Mom. It’s okay.” His mother’s frantic energy definitely wasn’t helping his anxiety.
“Are you sure? I mean, you...Did you guys hear about- Oh, gosh…”
“Hear about what, mom?”
“About Ed’s dad?”
“What happened to Ed’s dad?” Charley asked, trying to read his mother’s face. She was chewing on her lip and her eyebrows were drawn together. Whatever it was, she really didn’t want to say it.
“He um...Well, the police let him out of custody but he, uh,” She paused and sighed deeply. “He died. There was some kind of animal attack when he was on his way home and he just… Bled out.” She shook her head then put her hand to her cheek. “I didn’t like that man, but, I don’t think anyone should have to go out like that.”
Charley was shaking where he stood. “Animal attack? Are you sure it- What ki- Do they know what kind of animal?”
She shrugged. “A wolf or a dog, something like that. Oh god, Charley, you look terrible, maybe I should have waited to tell you.”
Charley felt his vision go fuzzy. A wave of nausea came over him and he leaned onto the stair rail to balance himself.
“Charley, are you going to be alright? You look very pale.”
“Yeah, mom. I should just...I should go upstairs.”
She looked down at her watch, then sighed, putting her hand on her forehead in exasperation.
“I’m sorry, I have to go to work now, Charley...Take some medicine and try to get some rest, sweetie.” She kissed him on the forehead, then grabbed her purse and headed to the door.
“I’ll see you in the morning, sweetie.”
“Have a good night at work, mom.”
“I love you, Charley. Very much.” She said, looking very worried.
“I love you too, mom.”