CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN
Jackie Littrell sat anxiously at the kitchen table, her hands absent-mindedly caressing the smooth wooden surface for something to do as she waited. She had been waiting ever since she had received her son’s call from the airport.
He was coming home to her. Brian and Kevin were both returning to see their families and Jackie had almost cried in relief. She had heard the news about AJ and the drugs from Kevin and though she had prayed for AJ’s safety, she had also been terribly worried about her own baby son. The poor darling had been stabbed himself and how would he react now his friend was in the same situation?
But AJ was going to be fine and now Brian was coming home so that she could look after him. He was going to be fine to.
She smiled in relief when she heard the doorbell ring and rushed to open the door.
“Brian!” she exclaimed.
“Hey mom,” he replied, smiling as he obediently buried himself in her welcoming arms.
She held him close to her possessively as if she could protect him from the world that surrounded him; the cruel world that her baby still wasn’t used to.
He slowly pulled away from her and she took the opportunity to scrutinise his face. She had noticed when he had first arrived, the paleness of his skin and the dark rings beneath his eyes. Then there was the way his body became perfectly limp in her arms, just as he had done as a child when she had held him. She could see the changes that only a mother would see, the way he clung to her for protection. She stared into his blue eyes that could reflect the entire sky with its true colours, beauty and storm clouds. He could never conceal anything in those beautiful eyes and she could see his vulnerability in the way his pupils seemed to unconsciously dart about.
“How’s was the flight?” she asked, unnerved by the slight change within him.
Brian nodded. “Okay,” he replied.
She touched his face. “You don’t look well, you tired honey?”
He nodded slowly. “It’s been a long few days.” His voice was faint, frightened almost and his wide eyes gazed about their surroundings before he smiled contentedly.
He was home now and he had his mother to take care of him.
“Is Kevin here?” she asked.
Brian shook his head, still gazing about him before he slowly crossed to the kitchen. “We both got different taxis at the airport. His mom is sick and he wanted to go straight to her.”
“I spoke to her yesterday and she’s fine, just a bit of flu.”
She watched as Brian’s eyes searched the kitchen, as if looking for any hidden dangers and then he smiled again as he sat down upon a stool. “Is dad here?”
“He’s away on business. He’ll be back later tonight. Your brother’s here though. He’s just gone to do the shopping for me.”
“Harry, I’ve not seen him in a while,” Brian said smiling again. It was nice to see him smiling. It made Jackie realise how alive he was and reassured her troubled mind greatly, but he still seemed a little nervous. He was bound to be after the vicious attack on AJ.
“He’ll be here soon and he’ll be pleased to see you. He’s worried about you.”
“I’m fine,” Brian replied stubbornly. “Just tired.”
“Would you like some coffee?”
“Actually is it okay if I have a shower? I’ll wait until Harry and dad get back and then I think I’ll go to bed. I need some sleep.”
“Of course it is.”
She watched as he slowly picked his bags up and began to make his way up the stairs.
“I’ll make you a drink for when you’re done,” she called.
“Okay,” Brian replied.
“Brian… it’s good to have you home,” she whispered, not sure if he heard the words or not.
She wished he would open up to her like he had done as a child. She may have been able to read his emotions in those innocent eyes, but rarely did he choose to disclose his fears to her face anymore. He preferred not to worry her but he did not seem to grasp that she did become anxious when she realised that something was wrong and that he did not want to tell her.
And from his reactions just now she knew that something was very wrong indeed.
Tick tock tick tock tick tock.
He could hear each second passing by. Each second that slowly slipped past him and brought him closer to the light of the day.
He was tired, but he didn’t want to sleep. Sleeping in a soft veil of unconsciousness would allow the nightmares into his skull. Even closing his eyes was enough to bring AJ’s pale face to his mind, only this time he was not so fortunate to escape with small wounds.
Who was it? Who was it? WHO WAS IT!
Was it somebody he knew? Or was it a stranger?
Was it Liam?
Too many questions plagued him constantly and there were no answers to be given. What he did know was that someone had taken a set of his house keys from his home on the day he had… met… Liam. They had then been used to break into his house and paint ‘Murderer’ upon his wall. The keys had then been sent to Kevin along with the last note (Brian had heard it all from Kevin himself). The police had used the postal mark to determine where it had been sent from, but so far they had found nothing and Brian’s stalker was still at large.
But Brian didn’t even known why he had a stalker like this. This person was no obsessive fan. This was someone who hated him. Someone out there loathed him and wanted nothing more than for Brian to suffer, preferably in prison it seemed.
Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.
Another few, slow seconds crept past him as he listened to the reassuring clock, knowing that it was forcing time to press towards the sunlight of dawn.
He remembered nights as a child when he had lain awake like this for hours on end, just listening to the clock and waiting for the choking darkness and bad dreams to be washed away by the first rays of light. He used to creep into his parents’ or his brother’s room sometimes and just sit at the bottom of the bed, simply being reassured by their breathing which was enough to scare any nightmares away from his fragile mind.
He was too old now to run or his parents or brother. He was not sure who had decided that but it was what people said. When you’ve grown up, you don’t need to run to your parents all the time because you’re not a baby anymore.
But wouldn’t he always be his mother’s baby? Her little Baby Duck? Could a person ever actually grow out of their parents’ reach?
Brian didn’t care how old he was. Sometimes he could do nothing but run to his mother for loving comfort and support. She had been there for him all of his life, even when he had been an adult and Brian wasn’t ashamed to admit that he had cried on her shoulder during the past year or so. She was his mother.
And now when he was frightened the most, he had come to her again. He felt safe here in this house. It had kept him safe throughout his childhood and it was as if it was a protective cocoon where the world outside just stopped. Nobody could hurt him here.
Tick tock. Tick tock…
The endless ticking of the clock was driving him insane now. It was no longer comforting, but irritating. His old clock he’d had as a child had been nowhere near as noisy as this one. He sighed slightly and sat up to stare about his darkened room. The walls were covered in unnatural shadows that crept along the wallpaper and beckoned to him with claws of blood.
He shuddered slightly and glanced through the window at the far end of the room, but outside it was still dark with no sign of the sun.
Brian lie back down and wrapped himself in his blanket and duvet. He closed his eyes for a second and then opened them again as the ticking of the clock struck through his mind. He sat up again in annoyance and reached out to snatch the clock from his bedside table. He turned it around and then flipped the lid from the back. He carefully tipped it to the side and used his fingers to pry the batteries out of it.
He fell back down on the bed, but as he tried to make himself comfortable he was aware of how sticky dry his throat had become. Groaning and wondering if his body would ever allow him any sleep he staggered out of bed and to the door.
He glanced about the landing and then tiptoes to the bathroom, careful not to tread on the one squeaky floorboard in case he awakened his family. He slowly picked up a beaker from beside the sink and filled with cool water before beginning to creep back to his own room.
He was safe in this house. No one was going to hurt him here and he could pretend that the rest of the world did not exist. He was going to stop being a scared little boy and he was going to go back to sleep.
He silently closed the door behind him and took a deep drink of the water to quench his thirst. He sighed for a moment as he stood in front of the window and then he reached out with his right hand and pulled back the curtain slightly so that he could look out into the street below.
It always looked so pretty at night. The houses dark and snug in sleep and the slight orange glow that the street lights cast. Many nights he had just stood here and gazed out into the street to show him that there was no monsters waiting for him.
He froze slightly as he saw someone standing in front of his house. Someone was watching him. Their head was tilted up and they were staring at him!
Brian felt his lip tremble slightly and he immediately released the curtain and allowed it to fall back into place to shield him from the watcher below. He stood with his back against the wall and his hands shook so much that the water sloshed about inside of the beaker. He slowly placed it down on the desk and then peeked out of a tiny corner of the curtain again. The street was empty. He pushed the curtain back further to gaze intently at the street, but there was no movement and no watcher. He scrutinised the shadows carefully, but they did not seem to conceal anybody.
Now instead of the ticking of the clock he could hear his heartbeat drumming inside of him. The rapid, steady thumps made him feel sick inside and small beads of sweat crept down his face.
No, there had been nobody there. He was just being paranoid…
He ran to the door and immediately turned the key in the lock. His mother had never kept the key in his room when he had been a child, but now she always kept it in the door so that she didn’t lose it.
Checking that it was firmly lost, he drank the rest of his water to dampen his nervously dry mouth and then placed the beaker back down upon the desk. He crept back to bed and hid himself beneath the covers to try and hide from his fear.
Someone was watching him. That person had been staring up at his window!
‘Maybe it was a fan… They’ve come here before. It must have been a fan…’
Or it could have been someone else.
He pressed his trembling hands to his face and wiped his forehead free from droplets of sweat, even though his hands were clammy and did little to clear his face up. He crawled out from beneath the covers and then retrieved the batteries from the floor. He picked up the clock and slotted them back into place.
Tick tock. Tick tock.
Now he just had to wait for this night to end.