“There is a moment of silence, and, of course, there is a silent tension in the room. It seems to cling to the air, just like death would cling to a person. Slowly eating its way out, from the inside.”
Chapter One: The Questioning
There is a moment of silence, and, of course, there is a silent tension in the room. It seems to cling to the air, just like death would cling to a person. Slowly eating its way out, from the inside.
“Are you ready to start?” There is silence in response. Everyone seems to hold their breath as if something unexpected would happen. “Ahem, okay, first question… ” Michael glares at her from across the table, his handcuffs digging into his bare skin.
“What was your weapon of murder?” The reporter hurriedly grabs her pen and awaits a response.
“Excuse me?” Michael asks, with a clear hint of irritation in his voice. “What do you mean ‘weapon of murder?!’” The reporter nervously looks around, shifting uncomfortably in the dusty, gray prison chair.
“There was no weapon of murder. This is a waste of time. I’m telling you. I did not kill my girlfriend.” Michael looks at the reporter. Her beady eyes eat up all the information hungrily. She scribbles madly in her notepad, leaving Michael only to his thoughts.
The reporter stares at him intensely, as if there is something there that she is missing from him, as if she is trying to crack a code. She then licks her lips and says through a smile, “Yet, you mention the death of your girlfriend… I didn’t ask about that. I simply sai — ”
Michael, all of a sudden furious all over again, stands up abruptly and swiftly. The anger in his eyes makes the reporter’s heart beat at an alarming rate. “Riddle me this! Why?! Why do you think I would kill my own gi — ” He couldn’t finish, feeling the tears swell up in his eyes. Remembering that night… that horrible dreadful night.
He takes a breath and starts again, “Why would I kill her… she was the love of my life… ”
The reporter smiles, her inside info, is no match for him, or so she thinks. “Well… Michael, isn’t it true that even before her death she accused you of cheating… ” Michael’s jaw drops as the color drains from his face, “… and even after her death, didn’t you have an affair with another woman?”
Michael’s heart stops. The only thing on his mind right now is Sadie. There’s no way she could have been involved. Not after what she’s gone through, and not after what they’ve gone through together.
Michael looks over to the guard standing by the doorway and mouths him something. “I don’t have to be here doing this right now. In fact, I’m not doing this right now. Your stupid newspaper is the least of my concerns.” Michael gets up and walks over to the guard, who leads him out of the small room, leaving only the dumbfounded reporter and her little notepad to sit on the ugly, little, gray chair.
Chapter 2: March. 23. 2006
Michael’s feet pedal hard, and sweat is running down his forehead. He pedals like a madman, as if he is riding off anger. But the look on his face says otherwise, as he turns the corner to Julie’s house.
He chuckles to himself, ready to see the look on her face when she sees what he’s done for her.
The house Julie lives in is a small yellow one. Comparing it to a Florida home would be silly, but it’s not tiny. The smallness of the home is more cozy than uninviting. The familiar tiling of the roof is a burgundy colour, and the small rounded windows make the house look bigger than it is.
Michael dashes to the door, almost forgetting his purpose of coming. He sprints back to the little basket in his bike quickly, seizing the present he has, and runs up to the doorbell. But after hearing silence in response, he remembers that the Walsh’s doorbell is broken.
Remembering this, he starts knocking crazily, until he sees through the side glass that someone is coming. Julie’s mom appears at the door suddenly, wearing nothing but a tight satin dress.
“Michael.” They look at each other like two snakes would.
“What a surprise to see you here… ”
Not knowing what to say, Michael responds with, “You too… ”
After realizing what he said, he’s saved by, “Claudia! Who’s at the door!?” He can hear Mr. Walsh now yelling from the living room.
“Nobody of importance, dear! No reason to come over he — ”
Too late. Mr. Walsh is already standing in front of Michael, smiling ear to ear as if they’re old buds at a reunion.
“Michael, son! How long has it been? C’mere!” He grabs Michael and puts him in a headlock and starts noogying him hard. Michael laughs along with him, trying to hide his real pain.
“Not long enough, sir! Just visiting because it is a special day for Julie after all.”
Mr. Walsh pats Michael on the head gently and says, “Boy, didn’t I tell you to call me Dave? It’s only appropriate… ” Michael looks up at Mrs. Walsh, “… Come on in. I won’t take no for an answer!”
Michael, now smirking, looks directly at her while saying, “Will do… Dave.”
“That’s the spirit, son!” He chuckles and leads him into the bright home.
The walls are decorated with all types of green decorations and a sign that reads, ‘Happy 17th Birthday Jules!’ Michael also spots a family portrait of the Walsh’s on the wall. And it’s the only picture they have with Julia in it.
She looks about 12 in it, her hair a brown-black with a tinge of orange that lays on her shoulders in neat sections. The unique thing is that it’s naturally straight. Her blue eyes complement her dark skin, and her full lips are apart, revealing a set of pearly teeth. Next to her is her little sister, who is a baby in this (one to two years old) who looks a lot like her, except her straight hair is gone, and replaced with gorgeous curls, which complement her round face. And instead of wearing regular clothes, she’s dressed up in a frilly baby dress, with a tutu, and fancy little socks that come out of her white shoes.
Michael smiles at the photo without realizing, studying every detail, as it dawns on him that Julia was just as pretty when she was a child. But he’s snapped back into reality, realizing that Dave’s been talking to him the whole time. “And then I said, well, buddy! Then you shouldn’t have eaten it if it made noises!” He bursts out laughing, so Michael laughs along, completely unaware of the joke’s purpose.
But their laughing stops as they both hear, “No! No! No! I’m telling Mom!! Mom! Mom, where are you!! I want a dress like Julia’s!”
Michael looks over at Dave, startled by all the yelling, who takes a sip of his coffee and sighs. “Trouble in paradise… ” He takes another sip of the coffee and winces. “Strong stuff.. want some?”
Michael turns down the coffee politely, but doesn’t bother hiding the disgust in his voice.
Thump, thump, thump… They both turn to where the sound is coming from, and it’s all three of them.
Zelda is first with a salty expression on her face that tells Michael she never did get that dress she was so hopelessly yelling for. Next is Claudia, but Michael isn’t exactly looking at her. He is looking at the elegant swan that is coming down after her. Julia finally… He sits there for moments breathlessly, as she approaches him.
“So? Aren’t you going to say anything? Or at least hand me my gifts?” She bats her eyelashes at him. Zelda stares at the lovestruck two angrily.
“Mommy, first Julia gets to wear a pretty dress, and she gets a Prince Charming! That’s just not fair!” She pouts and looks up at Claudia, who lifts her into her arms and kisses her forehead.
“Don’t be upset, Zelda,” she tells her, reassuringly. “You always have a chance to find your Prince Charming. You just haven’t found yours yet.” She sets her down, takes her hand, and they head for the living room.
Julia looks at the two men, mouths gaping. “Well if you don’t say anything, Michael, than I’m sure Daddy will.” She looks over at her father who takes another sip of his coffee.
Putting one hand over hers, he says, “The only thing that I have to say is, look at my little girl all grown up!” As he pulls her into a tight hug, he nuzzles his face in her hair. As he lets her go, he turns to Michael and says, “Stop drooling, Prince Charming, have her back by curfew, say… 10:30… 11, max. And no funny business.” He glares at Michael, only leaving him to do nothing but gulp. “Just kidding! Have fun, kids!”
Julia and Michael look at each other anxiously and force a chuckle.
“Let’s go, babe!” Julia starts pulling Michael off the little kitchen chair, but before she can, he brings her in and plants a big kiss on her. She grabs his face, and they make out. It feels as though both are flying, he pulls on her hair gently and groans. She pulls out.
“What? Too much?” Michael says, and the expression he wears is one of hurt.
Letting her hair finally go, he retreats in shame. She slides her hand into his and leans against his warm chest. Feeling his heartbeat is calming, and it makes her feel safe.
“It was perfect. There’s nothing in the world that could have ruined that… ” She looks up at him, smiling. Michael suddenly gets that flying feeling again, as he intensely stares into her deep blue eyes. He feels like they’re a pool he can jump right into, head on, and never get enough breath out of.
“Oh, Julie, by the way… Happy Birthday!”
He pulls out a little box wrapped in bright green wrapping paper, the little bow is scraggly, and wonky, the wrapping is horrible and there’s tape everywhere, but Julia beams as though she’s just won the lottery.
She takes the little bow and undoes it. The bright green wrapping paper comes off next, and soon she’s left with a small, velvet-covered box. She stares at the box with such immense intensity, that Michael looks down at the box, and at her, worriedly. The truth is she already knows what’s in the box.
“Why don’t you just ope — ” He gets cut off to Julia jumping on him. She squeezes him tight enough for it to be a chokehold.
“You remembered… ” she whispers into his ear. “You remembered the beautiful butterfly brooch we saw at the store… the thrift store. It’s just so… ” She sighs deeply and turns to him. “Breathtaking… ”
Of course he remembered. He could never forget. Her reaction to the brooch is priceless, and although it seems like an old, rusty, little brooch, she saw something in it, and so did he. He saw her in it. The little butterfly moving in fast motions, graceful, and a deep blue, just like her eyes who at the moment were dancing with glee.
“C’mon let’s go! Quick!” Michael grabs her by the arm, and they fly out the door.
Julia laughs heartily, “Where are we headed to?”
He stops. He looks down at her and suddenly scoops her into his arms, into a warm embrace. He smiles and looks down at her. “It’s a surprise… This is your second present! And I’m sure you’ll like it, but I reckon we’re going to have to take a ride to my house, to get my dad’s car first.”
Julia runs a hand through her short hair as Michael looks up at her. And for the first time that day, he really looks at her.
Julia’s short hair stands up behind her, the slight orange tone in it intensifies as she steps into the light. Although her relatively wide eyes make her look awake, you can see the bags she tries covering, with poorly applied concealer. Her lips, round and plump, are in a straight line, not moving from their position. Her little green dress makes the blue color in her eyes sparkle, and her perfume stinks of death as she gets on the bike with Michael.
Chapter Three: Gun Powder and Dynamite
As Michael and Julia pull up to his house on his bicycle, Julia gets a good look at his house.
A small gray duplex, the lawn clearly hasn’t been mowed in a while. The trash is in a heap at the entrance. The overgrown vines do little to benefit the small space. As they pull up into the garage, Julia gets off first, making sure to steady the bike so it doesn’t topple over. Julia is fascinated by the odd smell and the uncleanliness. Although this isn’t the first time she’s seen his house, it is the worst state she’s seen it in.
As Julia eagerly approaches the doorbell, Michael stops her. “Wait! Stop! Hold up!”
Julia stops dead in her tracks, and turns around to see an out-of-breath Michael, running towards her at full speed.
“What?! What is it?! Michael, are you okay?!” She holds him by the shoulders, peering at him.
He sighs deeply and looks her in the eyes.
“He… my dad, he’s been… um… laid off…”
He looks behind Julia, away into the distance wearily. She looks up at him confused, and concerned.
“Well, I mean… so? Why do you care so much?”
Michael looks at her, not bothering to hide how disgusted he is at her. Julia stares at him slowly, still confused.
“He’s my father,” Michael, now furious, yells at Julia, oblivious to the fact that he’s standing right in front of the open window. “Of course I care! I don’t want him to turn into a good-for-nothing bum! And I want him to find a job… ” Voice now quivering, he continues, “He is an unemployed 53-year-old man… and when Mom died it was so hard on him. He turned to drinking as an escape, like most do. And he just completely fell apart… and I don’t want him to turn into that again.”
Looking now straight at Julia, he puts the back of his hand on her cheek. Softly rubbing up and down.
Julia smiles into his hand, her mind racing, and heart pumping. She nods silently, and rings the doorbell. Michael looks at her and smiles, thinking to himself, How lucky I am to have someone like her…
The door stands, not budging. The paint is chipping at the sides, and the bolts are ready to pop out any second. They stand there for what feels like ages, finally hearing a loud groan, followed by slow shuffling. Soon, a man stands at the doorway, beer in hand. His stomach slightly exposed, spilling out of his pajama pants. He looked disheveled, fresh stubble covering the lower part of his chin. Hair graying in patches, the other parts of his hair are a fawn-ish colour. His hair lay in messy curls all across his head. His eyes are a deep chocolate brown, and the bags under them not any lighter. He has small dark freckles splattered across his whole face. Julia takes a deep breath, stepping forward.
“Mr. Greene, Hello… it’s Julia.”
There is a pause as he studies her. After moments of examination, he smiles.
“Please, call me Robert. Michael hasn’t mentioned you before.”
Michael looks at Julia in shame. Turning back to his father, he says, “Actually I have, you just might be too drunk to remember.”
Michael marches past him, pushing him out of the way, leaving Julia to stand outside with Robert. He stands there smiling, his eyes hungry at the sight of her.
Beckoning her inside, he asks, “Would you like to see my gun collection?”
Eyes sparkling, he smiles at her, leading her into the room where the guns are kept.
“What about Michael? Won’t he be — ”
He cuts her off, waving his hand, “Nonsense. Don’t let some silly boy stop you.”
They walk through the minuscule hallway. Cracks in the bare walls make Julia shudder. She thinks of her small, nicely furnished home. This place is such a wreck compared to it. No wonder Michael is worried about his father.
They stop in front of a small door… Well, Robert stops. Julia just follows him.
Robert suddenly starts feeling around in his pants for something. Finally, his hand dives into one of the pockets, returning with a single key, which he uses to unlock the heavy-metal hard duty lock, that’s on the old door. He pushes the door open, sending a cloud of dust out. Julia scrambles back, waving off the dust as if there was a fly. Robert steps in first, leaving her to do nothing but follow.
“One sec… just got to find the light switch.”
He coughs loudly from somewhere in the room; Julia hears little scrambling sounds shortly after. Stepping back, she feels a pinch on her right butt cheek. Startled by this, she cautiously starts backing away. Suddenly the light turns on. Robert smiles a toothy grin, still holding the light switch in the back of the room.
“Fou — ” he coughs… hard. It sounds as if though his lungs will give out any minute. His face red, he lifts his head back up and says, “Ahem, sorry about that. I meant to say found it.”
Julia shudders in relief, but in the back of her mind she can only think about what she felt in the dark. There’s a tension that follows.
Robert must feel it too because he says, “So… if you look right here you can see a 49.367 gun, a classic… ”
Julia quickly gets distracted by something in the corner of the crowded room. She walks over, and sees a little crate standing on the corner. On it is a pocket knife, and what seems to be a little figurine of a year ballerina. Part of it carved out and the other part of it is smooth.
“That was supposed to be a present for Donna… ”
Julia turns around to see Robert looking at her. But he isn’t exactly looking at her. His eyes are there, but he actually seems very distant. Suddenly he turns back to the guns as if nothing happened. Julia walks up behind him, peering over his shoulder.
“Who-who’s Donna?” she asks, sounding genuinely curious.
Not turning back to even face her, Robert says, “She is — was… my wife. She was a ballerina, and so I assumed it was only appropriate… ” He chuckles. “She had, um… she was very fond of small things. So I decided to carve her a little ballerina… but she’s gone now, so I… I’m not going to bother finishing.”
Julia sympathizes with him, putting one hand on his shoulder.
Julia turns his face to hers; Robert looks at the ground. Julia notices the wetness under his eyes. She lifts his chin up. His eyes meet hers.
“Listen… death is a natural thing. The sooner you learn to get over it, the sooner it’s easier for you. And plus just because she’s gone… doesn’t mean that you should grieve. You should celebrate her moving onto the other life.” Julia’s surprised at her own response. Still looking her directly in the eyes, Robert moves back, forcing Julia onto the counter behind her. He leans against her so close, that she feels his breath on her chest. Afraid to make any sudden moves, Julia sits still, awaiting his next move. Robert’s hand goes up slowly, as he touches her cheek gently. He closes his eyes, leaning closer and closer to Julia until —
“Julia!” Michael comes into the room, completely unaware of what he was about to see.
Julia gets off the counter as quickly as she got on. Terror in her eyes. Michael stands at the doorway, confused and disgusted, more so than when he came home.
“Aherm… ” His father walks out the room, pushing Michael to the side.
Robert’s hand is up at his nose, making it look like he is thinking hard about something. Sprinting over to Julia, Michael wears a worried expression.
“What the fuck was that? Why were you two literally inches from each other… ”
Michael looks like he’s about to blow a fuse, which is a realistic outcome considering his extremely short temper. Julie’s eyes widen, and her mind races, and she quickly tries to come up with an excuse, or at least manage words. Would the truth be better? Or a believable lie? Either way, she is in for it with Michael.
“Listen, Michael… ” She slowly hops back onto the counter, and sits, just looking down at her fingers. “He… he just needed some closure… He just lost Don — his wife. And he just got fired! I was just trying to help… ” She looks up at Michael, hoping to see the tiniest bit of sympathy and understanding in his eyes. But the expected reaction came.
“What were you thinking?! Why do you… ” He puts his head into his hands. Julia could hear him trying to calm himself, as he took a deep breath. Looking at Julia is unbearable for him, especially in the moment, but he loves her. Making one mistake doesn’t change who she is, and he won’t let a bump in the road mess up their relationship. While Julia is anticipating an answer, Michael finally looks up.
“Can we just… forget about this?” Julia vigorously nods, as Michael laughs a hearty laugh. “Okay. Okay. You know your mistake, and I want to just forget this… Let me just take you to your birthday place.” Smiling at her, Michael feels a warm glow inside of himself seeing her smile in response.
As Julia gets off the counter top, Michael takes a long look around the room, before shutting the lights off. He shudders, thinking about how he can only be in the room with the thing he hates most for one person… Julia. Remembering the reason the room was on a lock, the only thing that scares him more than opening up is guns. Guns scare him. As he grabs the keys to his dad’s old pickup truck, he thinks about his dad… He would kill him.
Chapter Four: T.O.D
The car ride is tense, but as soon as Michael turns on the radio, Julia’s just jamming out to Adele. Michael can’t sing for anything, but when he hears Julia sing, it’s like the gateway to heaven is opening up. He turns it up extra loud, looking over to the passenger’s seat, hoping to get a glimpse of his dearest singing her heart out.
Julia knows Michael is looking at her while she sings, but it’s nothing new. She knows she’s a great singer, and she knows Michael himself would agree. She smiles to herself knowingly, as Michael watches her sing “Rolling In the Deep.”
“I love Adele.”
Michael looks at her. “Huh?”
“I said, I love Adele… ”
Michael turns down the volume a bit, just as it goes to an ad.
“She’s so powerful, you know? Like there isn’t a single thing that holds her back. If she started an alliance, or even a cult… I think I’d join… ”
Michael laughs at her little joke. Minding the road ahead of him, making sure to drive carefully.
By now it is late, and the moon is out. The rectangular window of the dashboard has fluorescent numbers that read, 9:25. They aren’t late… yet. Julia’s dad said to have her back by 11:00, max. They’d still have plenty of time, and Julia would be able to enjoy her surprise.
Michael starts driving faster, eventually arriving at the woods. Julia looks around, confused. She was waiting for a surprise for so long, and all she gets is to see some boring old woods?!
Baffled, Julia starts complaining to Michael. “Is this really my surprise. Don’t take it the wrong way. It’s very… beautiful? I was just hoping for something… more.”
Michael looks over at Julia. She has been complaining about it nonstop for 20 minutes, and kept asking him if they’re there yet. Of course they weren’t there yet, but Michael wasn’t about to ruin his surprise for her just yet. So he gets out of the car silently, leaving Julia to do nothing but follow… Again.
“C’mon, Michael, I don’t want to be walking around for half an hour!” She sighs and frustradely looks at Michael, who still isn’t talking.
Seeing as Michael hasn’t cracked yet, she sighs heavily and trails behind him. Finally she walks in front of him and faces him. She stops and scowls. How can he make her go through all this? It’s terrible, it’s evil, it’s —
“Beautiful… ” Julia breathes out the words.
Michael spins her around to face the marvelous waterfall that’s hiding just between two tall trees. She steps out to look closer. He makes his way behind her, slowing with every step. They both stand there marvelling at the beauty, mostly Julia. Michael has been here many times before. It’s where he went when his mother was first diagnosed with tuberculosis. And the first place she went after they buried her body.