The days seemed to pass like a blur before Brian's very eyes. His mother had only been too ecstatic to have him home to fuss over for the week and Brian had been pleased to allow her to do so, still feeling vulnerable after the recent incident. It was comforting to stay with his parents and to live like a normal person.
Neither of his parents said anything to him about the attack and Brian did not tell them of the guilt that lurked deep within him, ready to surface and ounce upon him unsuspectingly in the night. Night was when he seemed to relive everything again, only this time it would be even more nightmarish.
"Sleep well?" his mother enquired every morning.
And every time Brian would smile at her and lie, but he was certain that she knew about the restlessness of his night-time slumber. He just wanted to avoid telling her in case she started to worry about him. She'd had enough stress with him in hospital for the past few days without knowing about the disturbing psychological effects that still haunted him.
When the day came for him to leave and return home, he found himself almost reluctant to step onto the plane. He had never enjoyed flying, but this time he felt even worse than ever when the time came for him to board. He realised that he wanted to stay safely in the loving surroundings of his family, but he couldn't hide away from the world forever.
"Come back and see us soon," his mother said, giving him a hug and a goodbye kiss. "We do miss you when you're away."
"I miss you too, mom," Brian replied. "I'll come back the next break we get, I promise."
He never seemed to find the time to come home lately and his only interaction with his mother was via long telephone calls. It hurt him more than ever to leave her and he felt exceedingly dismal as he seated himself upon the plane. He also found himself thinking about what would happen when he returned to his own house. The memories were still fresh in his mind and in his dreams and he wanted to stay away from any reminder as long as he possibly could.
Luckily, he did not have to face that reality just yet. As soon as he landed, Nick was awaiting him at the airport and Brian chuckled slightly as he saw Nick leaning against a wall and trying his hardest to look inconspicuous. As soon as the blond caught sight of him, he grinned and rushed over to help him with his bags.
"Brian! I'm so glad you're back!"
It was only with Nick's happy smile and cheerful embrace that made Brian forget about the parting from his family. He did not have to face his house yet because there was someone else here who was going to look after him until he was ready.
He ended up staying for almost a week at Nick's house - much longer than he had originally planned- but the two of them always lost track of the days. Sometimes the hours would be swallowed up by a computer game or at other times the time would sneak past them during a single conversation.
The best part was that Nick knew Brian better than Brian himself did and did everything he could to keep his older friend happy. Brian almost began to feel like his old self as he dribbled the basketball on the ball court away from Nick and laughed when his friend sulked over the loss.
He smiled at the memory of the past several days, but now he would see how strong he really was.
Now, Brian stood on the stairs that led up to his house and stared at the door before him. He had not been back since 'that night' and he was not sure what would meet his eyes when that door swung open. Would blood still be dripping down the walls and leaving ugly red splatters upon the carpet?
He took two more steps forward, which brought him to stand directly in front of his door and then allowed his eyes to close for a brief second. Home had always been a safe haven for him; a place where he could relax alone and be a normal person away from the bustling life of a Backstreet Boy, but now it did not seem safe at all and it probably never would again.
Even now, he could still remember the blood that had covered his hands. He could remember the feel of the wet warmth as it trickled down his hands… he could visualise those glassy eyes that would stare forever, but never see anything again. Whether it was real or imaginary, the image still felt real to him.
"It was self defence," he whispered. "I never intended to hurt him." He remembered the light glimmering upon the jagged blade of the carving knife. He could still feel the tearing pain as the blade cut into his arm spilling the blood onto his arm and causing him to squeal in pain and fright.
He touched his hand against his arm for a moment and thought of the scars that he would bear for the rest of his life after the gashes that had covered him.
Slowly he pulled the key from his pocket and slid it into the lock. He heard the click as the key turned and then he tentatively pushed open the door, which would lead him into his life again or back into a nightmare.
The hallway ahead of him was clean. There was not a single spot of blood remaining upon the walls or carpet. He smiled slightly as he felt his heart slowing to a more normal rate, he hadn't even noticed how anxious he had become.
Kevin and the others must have spent a long time cleaning the house for him and he wondered vaguely how they had succeeded in turning the bloody pink carpet back into it's beautiful purity of white. It was as if nothing had ever changed. It was over now, the nightmare had been shattered and left to drift away with the dust. What had happened had only been an accident and AJ had been right when he said that it had been Brian or Liam. He could easily recall that glitter of malevolent evil that had lurked within the dark depths of those eyes and the way he had smiled and leered when he had raised the carving knife to Brian's throat.
A shiver trembled through his body at the thought of Liam. What if he was alive? Would he come back to punish Brian for telling the police?
'No, he had been dead.' Those dull eyes could not possibly have contained any spark of life and the blood that had poured from the knife wound and dribbled from his mouth had only added to the confirmation that Liam was dead. But where had the body gone?
Brian was not certain as to which thought was more comforting: Liam dead and unable to harm him or anybody else again or Liam alive which would mean that Brian was no longer a murderer.
Murderer. No matter what the others said, that was what Brian felt like and what he now saw in himself. He had taken the life of another. He had had the blood of another upon his hands.
He shook his head for a moment. Whatever had become of Liam, it was over. Brian would have to press on with his life. He was not going to let a monster like Liam ruin everything for him.
He pushed the front door shut and then firmly bolted and chained it to make certain that nobody else could get inside. He turned back and suddenly spotted the note upon the side.
Brian, there's a guy coming on Tuesday to install a security alarm for you. Kevin.
He smiled and made a mental note to pay his cousin back. Kevin must have been the one who cleaned his house up and paid for the broken window, which had now been replaced with a shiny new piece of the frosted glass that Brian found so beautiful. It would not surprise him if Kevin and the others had brought him a new white carpet as well, they could never have completely cleansed it of the blood.
He slowly dropped his bag upon the floor and crossed over to the kitchen, which also looked as if it had been cleaned. He carefully pulled a glass from the cupboard upon the wall and filled it with water, but froze as his eyes suddenly fell upon the carving knife which had been left upon one of the work surfaces.
'Why'd they leave that out?'
He could already feel a queasiness beginning to bubble within his stomach and he almost felt the blade ripping into his arm again.
He slammed the glass down upon the table and seized the knife in a trembling hand. He stared at it for a second and felt a lazy globule of sweat slipping stealthily down his face before he yanked open a draw and threw the vicious instrument down before firmly slamming the drawer shut to seal it away from his sight.
He retrieved his glass of cool water and he could see the ripples upon the surface f it as his hands shook. He nervously held it to his lips and he felt his heart thumping as he remembered being cornered and trapped in the kitchen by Liam.
His eyes darted about the kitchen, as if he were trapped once again and searching for a way out. The fear sunk heavily to the bottom of his stomach. What if Liam came back to get him?
He quickly left the kitchen with its terrifying memories and clutched his glass protectively in his shaking fingers as he had done with the knife just before he had killed Liam. His fingers tightened about the thin glass as he made his way through the hallway, trying not to think of the blood that had once covered it and the way Liam had held the knife to his throat.
He closed his eyes as he entered the lounge and then closed the door and stood facing it. This was the one of the rooms that did not hold such brutal memories and a safe haven where the guilt and the terror could not worm their ways back into his chest.
His eyes flickered open and slowly his heart rate ceased its insane, fast rhythm against his chest as it slowed down. He leaned his forehead against the door and breathed steadily. H was being childish. There was nothing in this house that could hurt him and the only thing that was bringing the memories swirling back to the surface was himself. He took another reassuring sip of water and then turned around.
The glass slid from his hand and shattered upon the floor.
Brian began to scream as his eyes took in the blood red message that had been scrawled upon his wall.