This Is the Day:Chapters 12/13

12

Michael

 

 

                        It was Lucy crying and laughing at the same time that woke him up.  He was utterly confused at first.  Confused by the noise coming from his lounge, and confused by the other body sharing his bed with him.  Then slowly he remembered it all.  Drinks, the pub, punching Anthony, losing Danny, murderer on the door.  That was all of it, wasn’t it?  He gave Billy a kick and swung his legs out of bed.  Billy sat up with his mobile in his hand.  “God, I’ve got like six missed calls from Sophie,” he complained, looking like he was finding it hard to open his eyes.  Michael grunted and started pulling on clothes quickly.  The flat was freezing as usual. “What’s going on in there?” Billy asked him, as he busily typed replies into his phone.  Michael shrugged.

            “I don’t know.  I’ll go and find out.  You want coffee?”

            “Nah, I’m gonna’ shoot straight off actually.  Sophie’s been really worried by the looks of it.”

            Michael groaned as he headed for the door.  “Don’t tell me you’re another one totally under the thumb,” he said, and left the room.  In the lounge he found Danny with his arm around Lucy, looking distraught.  She was holding a tissue to her mouth, had tears running down her face, and yet her shoulders were shaking with barely controlled laughter.  “You had a nose bleed or something?”

            “No,” Danny told him quickly, regretfully. “It was fucking me.”

            “You what?”

            “It was an accident,” Lucy said in a firm voice as she glared at Danny. “He was having a bad dream and his fist caught me, that’s all.”  Danny just hung his head, while Lucy turned to Michael and rolled her eyes at him.  “Will you tell him Michael?  It was an accident.  He was asleep, for Christ’s sake.”

            Michael could see Danny felt terrible.  He was biting at his lower lip, his eyes staring, his forehead low.  He thought the best thing to do was make light of it.  He let out a raucous laugh, as Billy followed him into the lounge, and he reached out to Danny and slapped him on the back.  “First me and Anthony, now you two, eh? Maybe we should cut down our drinking!”

            “You all right Luce?” Billy was peering at her curiously.

            “Yes,” she replied impatiently.  “Do you want a lift home Billy?  My dad just texted me, he’s already round at mine to sort the door out.” Billy nodded at her and grabbed his coat from the back of a chair. Lucy turned and pointed a finger into Danny’s face. “And you,” she said, “first you get on the phone to the police and tell them about these doors, okay?  Then you have a nice day with Mike and Zach, and stop being so silly about this.” She looked at the tissue she was holding, and then screwed it up and stuffed it into her pocket.  Danny nodded at her in reply. “I’ll call or text you later,” she added as she slipped her shoes on. “So keep your phone charged up okay?”

            “Okay.”

            Michael watched Lucy lean in for a kiss.  Danny sighed and grabbed her by the arms, leaning down to kiss her properly on the lips.  “Thanks Mike,” she said, as she walked towards the front door with Billy. “You have a good time with Zach yeah?”

            “Oh yeah, you can count on it. And thanks for helping sort this place out Luce.  Really appreciate it.  You are a total legend.”  He kissed her on the cheek at the door, and shook hands with Billy. “Don’t be a stranger mate.”

            Billy grinned and held his hand out to Danny as well. “So good to see you Danny,” he was nodding vigorously. “Best and most mental night I’ve had in ages! Good to be back together again, wasn’t it?”

            “Definitely,” Danny nodded at him. “You say hi to your dad for me yeah? I’ll make my way around to him when I can.”

            “I will, I will. He’ll be really pleased.”

           

            When they had gone, Michael dived into the kitchen to finally put the kettle on.  “So,” he said, with his back to Danny. “You really going to call the cops?”

            “Have to,” came the reply. “It’s not fair on you guys.”

            “It’s only paint Dan. It’ll wash off.”

            “That’s not what I mean. Its scared Lucy, I know it has.  Besides, maybe we should put our trust in them this time, you know.”

            Michael turned to look at him, wondering what that meant, but Danny was already walking away, frowning as he tapped numbers into his phone.  Michael left him to it, and tried not to listen, as he made them both coffee and toast, and then tidied the kitchen up a bit more for when Zach came.  Danny reappeared ten minute later with his hands in his pockets and a resigned expression on his face.  “They’re sending someone over here when they can,” he shrugged. “So I guess I better stay in all day and wait.”

            “Okay mate.  That’s not a problem.  What did they say about it?”

            “Not much really.”

            “They won’t be able to do much,” Michael commented, carrying their coffee and toast through to the lounge.  Danny followed with sagging shoulders.

            “I know, but at least I can text Luce, and tell her I’ve tried.  She deserves that.” He sank onto the sofa besides Michael and rested his head in one hand. “God Mike, did you see her lip?”

            “Oh Danny, don’t get hung up on it,” Michael warned him. “It was an accident.  You lashed out in your sleep.  It’s not your fault. You always used to sleep like that at the bed-sit, remember? It’s not your fault mate.”

            “No maybe not, but it just makes me question even more what the hell she’s doing with me.”

            “Don’t be stupid. She’s crazy about you. Always has been.”  He looked at Danny as he ate his toast.  “You worried about this graffiti?” he asked him then.  Danny nodded in reply.  “You been thinking what I’ve been thinking?”

            Danny dropped his hand, sat back in the sofa and looked wearily at Michael. “The old man?”

            “Yeah.  What do you reckon the chances are?”

            “I don’t know.” Danny picked up his toast and held it unsurely between his fingers.  “The graffiti came after we saw him in the cemetery, so…” His eyes met with Michael’s again.  Michael nodded, and tried to read his expression.  They knew each other so well, he thought then, even eight years apart had not changed that. 

            “So it could have been him,” he finished Danny’s sentence for him.  “Or someone he got to do it.  Didn’t he live in Essex though?”

            “I think so yeah.”

            “You might have to ask your mum,” Michael said then, with a mouthful of toast.  “Like did she ever go to meet his folks?”

            Danny frowned, took a tiny bite of toast and chewed thoughtfully.  Finally he lifted and dropped his shoulders.  “I don’t know.  I have no idea.”

            “But you never met them?” Michael pushed. “Howard’s family never came down here?  To stay or anything?”

            “No,” Danny shook his head. “Never.”

            “Maybe he lives here now,” Michael was thinking aloud now.  He took a sip of his coffee and watched Danny’s eyes grow wider in alarm. “Think about it,” he said to him. “What were the chances of him being there, of him driving down from fucking Essex to visit the grave or whatever, and being there at exactly the same time we go and take a piss on it?” His lips tugged into a grin at the thought of this.  Danny just looked confused and concerned.

            “I don’t know,” he shrugged again. “It could be possible.”

            “But chances are slim,” Michael persisted. “Very slim my friend.  I reckon you need to speak to your mum urgently.  Find out what she knows about them and their movements after you got sent down.”

            “You really think it’s Howard’s family behind the graffiti?” Danny said this softly, his voice not more than a whisper.  Michael put down his coffee.

            “I don’t mean to scare you mate, but who else would it be?  Who else would give a shit?  I mean, if I remember rightly, at the time everyone was on your side.  You know, especially because your mum believed you and told her story.  You know?”

            Danny shivered violently and dragged his phone back out from his pocket. “I don’t even want to think about it.”

            “What, it being Howard’s family?  How much family did he even have?”

            “I’m not sure.  Just his mum and dad I think. Oh and a brother. Although I never knew if that was true or not.” He rubbed at his chin with two fingers.

            “Brother?”

            “He mentioned one a few times,” Danny said again, phone in hand.

            “Well,” Michael said. “You need to find out then. I think they’re the top suspects in all this.  Okay, it could just be some retard trying to wind you up.  If so, time will tell.”

            Danny looked at him sharply.  “What do you mean?”

            “Well I mean, they know where you’ve been staying since you got out.  Here and Lucy’s place.  They know your movements.  If they want to take it up a notch they can.”  Michael got up then, with his plate and cup in hand.  He could feel his friend’s eyes burning into him from the sofa. 

            “So you think I did the right thing calling the cops then?” he called after him.  Michael turned at the door.

            “Yeah.  Just don’t mention the part about us pissing on the grave, okay?”

            He watched a slow smile creep across Danny’s face.  “Okay.” 

They spent the next few hours cleaning and tidying the flat.  Michael tried hard not to let the strange frisson of excitement he felt show itself to Danny.  He texted ‘sorry I am a twat’ to Anthony, and hoped to receive an equally self-deprecating reply.  Danny sent a message to his mother asking if he could meet with her again, and was waiting for a reply when the doorbell buzzed.  Michael checked the time, before slinging on his coat and grabbing his car keys from the coffee table in the lounge. “That’ll be for you,” he told Danny. “I’ve got to get Zach now.  See you in a bit yeah?”

Danny nodded grimly in reply and came to the door.  Michael ran down the stairs and opened the bottom door to let the two police officers in. “He’s up there,” he told them brightly, and sauntered off down the alley to his car.  As he got in, he lit up a cigarette, and rolled down the window.  His phone beeped. Anthony; u r lucky I didn’t smack u back.  Michael shrugged and turned on the engine before replying with; cops with Dan now. More graffiti. On way 2 get Zach.   He drove off, his cigarette between his teeth, his mind whirring with everything that had happened.  He couldn’t deny to himself that it all made him feel alive again, that there was adrenalin pumping through his veins for the first time in years, and that made him kind of a bastard.  Billy had said it himself though, he thought defensively, he had said last night had been great and mental, and he was right.  Who wanted to live a boring life anyway, he questioned as he sped through the streets towards his ex-girlfriends house.

 

She rented a little mid-terrace just ten minutes from the high street.  It was along a busy main road, just next to the level crossing, which led to the school opposite.  Would be Zach’s school he realised, before long.  He had to park around the back and walk round.  As he approached the front door to knock, Michael carried with him the familiar heaviness of nerves in his belly.  It was a small amount of dread, he realised, at seeing Jenny and Zach, at how both of them served to remind him of how hugely he had fucked things up. The door opened and he fixed a huge smile upon his face, and before he could even address Jenny, Zach zoomed past her and flung himself at him.  “Daddy daddy!” he was yelling excitedly.  Michael laughed, and sat him on his hip.

“All right mate?  You been good for your mummy?”

“He’s been very good,” Jenny smiled. “He’s had his coat and shoes on for half an hour and his bag all packed, bless him.”

Michael checked the small Thomas the Tank Engine rucksack his son had strapped to his back.  “Oh yeah!  Look at that!  What you got in there then?”

“Um, colouring book, crayons,” Zach started to count the items off on his fingers, and Michael swapped a proud look with Jenny. “Teddy, spare pants, spare socks, snacks and some sweeties for you daddy!”

Michael grinned and cuddled him close, planting a kiss on the top of his head. “Sounds good to me buddy.  What do you want to do today?”

“Play cars…oh no I forgot my cars!” Zach looked momentarily alarmed. Michael quickly dropped him down to the floor.

“Well off you go and get them then, quick!  We need cars don’t we!”

Zach ran off, back down the hallway, his rucksack swinging from side to side.  Michael sunk his hands into his pockets and looked to Jenny.  She looked well, he thought.  She looked like she had had her hair done maybe.  She had a soft, round face, and full lips that she had passed on to Zach.  She hadn’t passed on her wide blue eyes though, and Michael remembered how they had stood out to him when he had first met her, how beautiful and innocent she had looked.  In a weird way, there had been something about her that had reminded him of his best friend, his locked up best friend.  Face of an angel, but how different he had been underneath.  It had amused and bewildered him when he discovered that Jenny was just how she looked on the outside, sweet, beautiful and innocent.  He thought about telling her that her hair looked good, but then changed his mind.   He often worried that she still had feelings for him, just because of the way she sometimes looked at him, and he was loathe to encourage her or give her any false signals. “Um, Jenny,” he said instead, looking awkwardly down at the carpet. “Do you remember me telling you about my friend Danny?  Who was in prison?”

Jenny nodded quickly.  She was still smiling at him, but kept her arms crossed over her chest. “Yes of course I do.  Is he okay?”

“Yes, yes he’s okay, he’s out now.  He came out a few days ago.” He raised his eyes, expecting to see her expression change or darken in concern, but Jenny’s smile simply grew wider.

“Oh wow, really?  That’s great!”

“Yeah, yeah it is great.  The thing is though, he’s sort of staying at mine for the moment.  Until he gets himself sorted.” He looked at her apologetically. “I thought you might want to know.  Because of Zach.”

Just then Zach came hurtling back, this time throwing his small arms around his mothers legs. “Bye bye mummy, I’m going now!” Jenny laughed and picked him up for a hug.

“It’s fine,” she told Michael over Zach’s head. “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure Zach will enjoy meeting him.  It doesn’t bother me, if that’s what you think.”

“Oh okay, okay, thanks Jenny, that’s great.” He nodded at her in thanks, almost tipped her a wink, and then thought better of it.  He had messed her around enough, he thought.  She was supposedly happy now, wasn’t she?  With this new guy Brian.  Leave her to it, he told himself as he took Zach’s hand and went out of the door. “What time do you want him back tomorrow then?” he looked at her and asked.  She leant in the doorway, head cocked and eyes on his.  That was it; Michael thought then, that was the look.  That was the look that filled him with gut wrenching guilt.

“Bring him back to suit you,” she told him, her smile gentle and tentative.  She was always so grateful, he remembered, so grateful for everything, and yet really she should want to be as far away from him as possible.  He was toxic.  He had caused her nothing but heartache.  He felt the urge to touch her arm, or kiss her cheek, just to thank her, but he knew he could not.

“Okay, well I’ll text you then?  Check when it’s okay.  Say bye to mummy Zach.”

“Bye mummy!”

 

Michael walked his son back to his car, lifted him onto his booster seat and strapped him in.  He sighed shakily before he closed the door on him and walked around to the driver’s side.  That little tiny body, he would think to himself, I am responsible for that little tiny body.  It was at once both humbling and terrifying.  He drove slowly home, checking his mirrors constantly, checking everything. 

Back at the flat he discovered Danny alone again, stood at the window and smoking a cigarette, which he quickly stubbed out when he saw Zach.  “Oh hi.  Hi, you must be Zach?” Michael grinned, thinking that his friend looked as terrified as he felt himself.  Look at us, he wanted to laugh, two grown men shit scared of a little boy.  Zach smiled shyly, his hand clinging tightly to Michaels.

“He’s brought loads of cars,” Michael said, looking down at him. “Haven’t you buddy?  Why don’t you show Danny your cars?  This is my good friend Danny.”

Zach slowly pulled his hand from Michael’s and knelt down on the floor, letting his rucksack slip from his arms.  He did not speak, but just grinned as he unzipped his bag and started to pull out his toy cars, one by one.  Michael caught Danny’s eye.

“So what did they say?”

“Oh not much.  Not much.  I can keep a record if I like,” Danny shrugged and closed the window he had been smoking out of.  “You know, write down the times and dates if anything else happens.  They asked if I had any names, any people I might suspect.”

“Did you tell them any?”

“Nope.”  He sighed and walked apprehensively towards Michael’s son.  He looked as if he wanted to say something to him, but then sort of gave up and sighed again, and shrugged uselessly.  “He looks like you Mike.”

“I know he does. Goddamn handsome he is.”

“So what’s the plan?”

“Oh I don’t know, I never know.  Play it by ear.  Maybe take him to the park?  McDonalds?  Where you see all the other sad weekend dads.” Michael rolled his eyes and dropped down beside Zach. “These are the coolest cars ever mate.  Which one can I be?”

“This one,” Zach said and placed a bright red sports car into his palm. “That’s like your car daddy.  You be it.  I’m this one.” He held up a sleek shiny silver car then started to broom it across the carpet.  Michael looked up at Danny and shook his head at him. 

“Clueless I am,” he said.  Danny frowned.

“You seem fine to me.  I’ll put the kettle on.”

Michael watched him leave the room, and then got down on his belly and pushed the little red car alongside Zach’s.  He looked at his son, at his little boy, and took a deep breath.  Three years now, he thought.  When was he going to stop feeling so utterly terrified every time he was left alone with him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13

Danny

 

 

            Danny found himself watching Michael and his son from afar.  He felt undeniably twitchy and nervous, and kept his phone in his hand, looking at it constantly to see if his mum had replied yet.  He watched Michael playing with Zach, pushing toy cars around the lounge.  He watched the way Zach looked at Michael, the way his big brown eyes grew even wider, and it reminded him of the way Michael had once looked at Anthony.  The little boy was beautiful he thought, when he dared to look at him.  A small, neat version of Michael.  His mother obviously cared for him well.  His clothes looked clean and ironed.  His hair was cut short, but had Michael’s thick dark waves on top.  He looked at him, and shook his head at him in wonder.  It was almost impossible to believe Michael had created this little person, and not only created him, but helped nurture and shape him, and keep him safe.

            He didn’t understand what Michael was so worried about either.  He seemed perfectly natural with the boy, as far as Danny could tell.  The little boy hung on his every word, and kept shoving his little hand into Michael’s.  Michael made him lunch and even cleared the table so he could sit there to eat it.  They both stood back and looked at him then, mesmerised by this small person, feet swinging from the chair, lips smeared with strawberry jam.  Michael nudged Danny with an elbow. “You think you and Lucy?” he asked. “You know?  One day?” He nodded at Zach.

            “No way,” Danny said it too quickly, and saw his friend’s brow crease in concern.  He felt like apologising. “No offence,” he said. “But it’s not for me.”

            “Well I thought that, until he came along.  I know I said it’s scary, but I wouldn’t change it now, you know.  I wouldn’t be without him.”

            “No way,” Danny said it again, offered Michael a grin and turned away to give fuss to the dog. 

            “Why?  What are you scared of?” Michael’s voice followed him.

            “Oh, just everything!” Just then his phone beeped and he thought thank fuck, and pulled it from his pocket.  His mum; I’m free now honey, on my lunch break. Shall I come and pick u up? He breathed a sigh of relief and typed in; yes please. Flat 21a Belfield park high street. Thanks.

            He put the phone back into his pocket. “Mum’s coming to pick me up, so I’ll be out of your hair for a while.”

            “Oh I was hoping you’d come to the park with us, but never mind.” Michael stood behind Zach’s chair and reached out to mess up his dark hair.  Danny watched the little boy squirm and giggle in delight.

            “Have you made things up with Anthony?” Danny asked him.  Michael lifted his eyes to the ceiling.

            “Sort of.”

            “What was that about anyway?  Why did you hit him?”

            “He was going on at me,” Michael shrugged. “Saying it’s about time I acted like an adult, that sort of thing. The trouble is mate; he stays with his wife out of this sense of duty. He’s like determined his kids won’t have an upbringing like we did.  He thinks I’m doing that to Zach, you know.  Letting him down.”

            “I’m sure he doesn’t really think that.”

            “Well he basically said it Dan.” Michael told him. “He said I didn’t realise it but I was acting like our parents did.  Always drunk and that.  That’s why I hit him because that was a fucking low thing to say, and even though I’ve texted him sorry, I will be having that out with him when I see him, believe me.”

            “Neither of you are like your parents,” Danny said softly, watching Michael’s face as his gaze settled back on the top of Zach’s head.  “Neither of you need to worry about that, you know.  You’re both lovely people.  Amazing parents.  I’ve only seen you with him a few hours and I can see how amazing you are.”

            “I wouldn’t say that mate.  I messed things up majorly with his mum.  I am bloody lucky she lets me have anything to do with him.”

            “You were young,” Danny shrugged at him.  “You didn’t love her.  That’s not your fault.  That doesn’t make you a bad father.”

            “No I really hurt her I mean,” Michael looked up at him.  “I really messed with her head, even though I didn’t mean to.  I led her on.  Broke her heart.  I don’t know why.  I just couldn’t cope with it all.  And actually, now that I think about it, I was just stupid.  We were good together.  I mean, we could have been.”

            “You’re too hard on yourself,” Danny told him.  “You’re doing the best you can, that’s what you have to remember.  You’re already doing a hundred times better than your parents did, yeah?”

            Michael grinned at him wryly.  “Be pretty hard to do worse than them,” he said, and then narrowed his eyes slightly at Danny.  “Is that kind of why you don’t want any kids?  I mean, because you think you’ll do a bad job?”

            Danny wiped his mouth with his hand and looked away.  He did not know how to tell Michael that the thought of having his own child, a tiny helpless child, a vulnerable being totally dependent on him, actually chilled him to the bone.  How would he do it, he thought, how would he do all the things that fathers do, how would he tell a child off, discipline a child?  What if it all got too much and he lost his temper?  What if a light smack led to something more?  He felt suddenly like he could not breathe in the flat, with Zach there.  There was something about his tiny little body that made him uncomfortable, made him anxious, and he could not really pinpoint why.  How could he trust himself though?  Babies cry, they cry all night, and little kids; they throw massive tantrums and drive their parents crazy.  He recalled, how many times his mother had literally pulled out her own hair trying to deal with him.  They had locked horns and fought viciously from the beginning.  Even back then, even before things really went downhill, they had been more like enemies than anything else. 

            “Just couldn’t do it,” he muttered to Michael, checking his phone again. “It’s not me.”  He glanced up long enough to see the look in his friend’s eye.  The knowing.

            “Fair enough,” he said

 

Twenty minutes later his mother sent a text telling him she was parked outside, so he grabbed Kurt, said goodbye to Zach and left.  His mother was smiling in hopeful anticipation as he climbed into her car with Kurt under his arm. “Does that dog have to go everywhere with you?” she asked jokingly.

“He’s old now,” Danny replied, with a sigh. “Not got much time left.  I missed most of his life, so yes, he does have to go everywhere with me.”  He glanced at her, and wondered if that had come out pricklier than he had intended, as she stared back at him, her eyes wounded.

“Okay,” she said slowly.  “Sorry for asking.  Are you okay?  You don’t look like you’ve slept well.”

Danny breathed out through his nose and stared straight ahead through the windscreen, as she turned the key in the ignition and started to drive.  “I have these dreams,” he told her stiffly.  She looked his way, silently waiting for more. “About the day I killed him.  I have the same dreams nearly every night.”

He heard her suck in her breath, and then exhale it slowly as she absorbed this information, as she shouldered yet more guilt.  “I didn’t know,” she said softly. “I’m sorry love.  Maybe they will stop now, in time.”

“Hope so because I get pretty violent in them, and last night I accidentally smacked Lucy in the mouth.”

His mother gasped.  Covered her mouth quickly, and then immediately tried to disguise her shock.  “Oh Danny.  Was she okay?  You didn’t mean it!  Maybe you need to see the doctor about these dreams?”

“Maybe.”

“Was she okay?”

“Yeah I suppose.  I cut her lip. I don’t know why she bothers with me.”

“Oh Danny don’t say that!” his mother cried at him as she drove. “She loves you, anyone can see that, and you deserve that love, for God’s sake.”

“Well I’ll just probably ruin her life, that’s all.”

“Oh aren’t you the gloomy one today?” Kay scolded him then. “Now come on, you ought to be focusing on the positives.  Like being free.  Like starting your life.  And having a girl who worships you, and friends who would do anything for you.”

“Yeah, and I’m already fucking things up nicely for them,” he told her darkly, looking her way.  He wondered what was wrong with him.  He had been feeling tense in the flat, looking forward to escaping, but it seemed like as soon as he had got into the car, darkness had fallen over him.  He felt strangely petulant and accusing.  He felt like a kid. 

“What do you mean?” she asked him.

“Well since I got back, Lucy and Michael have both had things sprayed on their front doors.” He looked back at her and saw her eyes, flitting nervously from the road, to him and back.  “’Killer’ on Lucy’s,” he explained. “And ‘murderer’ on Mikes.  So I called the cops today, and they came round, but there’s not much they can do, so I’ve just got to sit back and wait and see if this person targets me or my friends again.” He shrugged his shoulders at her and realised there was a vicious part of him that was enjoying the guilt etched heavily on her face.  “So that’s fun.  Wondering what will happen next.  Trying to work out who might have it in for me.”

He waited, looked sideways at her and saw her swallowing nervously, her hands tight on the steering wheel.  “I don’t know what to say,” she said finally. “I’m glad you contacted the police.  They’ll keep a log.  I don’t know why anyone would do that, I really don’t.  Everyone was on your side, you know.  Everyone.”

“Not everyone,” Danny corrected her, looking out of the window and realising that they were heading down Barrack road. 

“What do you mean?”

“Not his family,” he said to her. “Not his parents.”

What?  Lee’s parents?”

“Yes,” he nodded. “They wouldn’t have been on my side.  You know I never even thought about it before.  Not once.  Totally forgot he had a family.  Totally forgot about their existence.”

“I don’t know what you’re trying to say Danny, but…”

“Hey, do me a favour, take the next left, yeah?  I want to go to the cemetery.”

What?” His mother practically screamed at him.  He breathed in and out slowly, attempting to hold onto himself, although he wondered if he could somehow feel himself slipping gradually away.  That little voice inside his head, the little voice that calmed him down and told him what to do had fallen silent.  “Why Danny?  What do you mean?  Why do you want to go there?”

“Just do it,” he told her, and his tone was fierce.  She swallowed, blinked in dismay at the road ahead, and signalled left.  Yeah that’s right, he thought unkindly as she turned the car down the road and through the iron gates to the car park, you do whatever I say, because you have to don’t you?

She stopped the car and turned off the engine.  “Danny…”

He opened the door abruptly and got out, only stopping to drop Kurt down to the ground to trot at his side.  He started to walk quickly across the gravel.  He heard the other car door slam shut, and his mother’s footsteps crunching urgently after him.  She caught his sleeve and held on. “What are you doing?”

“I came here the other day,” he told her.

“What?  Why?”

“To check,” he shrugged at her, hands in pockets.  “To make sure there was a grave and everything.  To make sure he was dead.”

His mother was getting breathless, hanging onto his sleeve and hurrying along at his side. “Oh Danny,” she cried helplessly.  “What are you doing?  Why do you want to be here now?”

“He was here.”

Who?”

“An old man.  Lee’s dad.” He shot a look her way, accusingly.  “What’s his name?  Do you know his name?”

“Jerry,” she told him, tears now shining in her eyes. “He’s called Jerry, but he doesn’t live around here Danny.”

“Well he was here the other day.  He saw me mum.  He shouted at me!”

They both stopped walking then.  They had arrived at Lee Howard’s grave without even trying to locate it.  They looked down and saw the fresh bunch of mixed flowers someone had laid there. “Yours?” Danny hissed at her.

“No!” she shouted back.  “Why would they be?  For God’s sake!”

“Whose then?  His dads?  See?  He’s here.  He must know I’m out, so he came back, he’s here, and it’s probably him doing all this stuff!” Danny pulled his arm free of her grip and stepped away from her.  He felt the rage creeping over him slowly, edging its way through his limbs.  He tried to shake it off, but realised he did not really want to.  Maybe he needed it, he reasoned.  Like that day.  Like that morning when he had placed all the knives around his clothes before leaving the bed-sit. 

“Jerry was here?” his mother was asking him, wringing her hands together nervously.  He nodded at her, and then down at the grave.

“Me and Mike,” he said then, “we were pissing on it.”

Kay’s eyes widened in disbelief.  “Danny!”

“What?” he sneered back at her.  “What about it?”

She just shook her head at him, her shoulders sagging. “He saw you?”

“Yeah he saw us.  He didn’t like that I can tell you!” He searched his pockets, found his packet of cigarettes and pulled it out.  “Ooh no, he didn’t like that.  The old cunt.  Started storming over, waving his fucking stick!” Danny tipped back his head and roared laughter up at the sky.  Kay looked on in distress. He stuck a cigarette between his lips and lit it up, puffing grey smoke viciously into the air.

“You shouldn’t have done that, you know,” she was saying.  He glared at her.

“Why not?  Why shouldn’t I come and piss on his grave?” he demanded, watching her flinch.  “I told him I would you know!  Yeah!  Didn’t know that did you?  In the kitchen.  He’s all stabbed up and bleeding and whining and I told him I was gonna’ piss on his grave.” Kay was looking at him as if she did not recognise him.

He sucked hungrily on his cigarette, expelling sharp bursts of smoke into the cold air around them, while his mother shook her head at him. “You need help son,” she said eventually.  “You need help to come to terms with it all.  With being out.  With what you did.”

“There’s nothing that can help me,” he told her. “What’s done is done.  Whatever.  I just want to know who has it in for me and why, so I can work out what I’m dealing with.”

Her forehead furrowed. “What do you mean by that?”

“So I know what to expect,” he shrugged, wondering why it was not obvious to her what he meant.  “Say it’s Howard’s dad?  Say it’s him.  He’ll have more lined up, won’t he?  He’ll have more little tricks up his sleeve to pay me back, won’t he eh?  That’s not gonna’ be it.  There’ll be more.”

“Danny, you just have to leave it with the police, you just have to…”

“Howard was good at little tricks you know,” he cut in suddenly, smiling at her.

“What?”

“Oh yeah.  He was really special at tricks.  Really clever.”

“What tricks Danny?” Her tone had lowered, her eyes softened. He saw the way she pursed her lips, as if holding them in with her teeth, preventing them from trembling. 

“Oh you know,” he rolled his eyes at her, and started pacing back and forth across the grave, smoking his cigarette. “When he first moved in.  You remember me and Mike played pranks on him to scare him off?”

“I remember.”

“Well once he was in, he paid me back,” Danny laughed at her bewildered expression, and the mounting horror in her eyes as she watched him stomping across the grave.  “Like moving my stuff,” he went on, staring down as he marched. “Hiding my stuff so I couldn’t find it.  Going in my room and messing with stuff.  Messing with my head.  Salt on my toothbrush, that was another one.  Slashed tyres on my bike, and then there was the whole him running over my bike thing, you remember that?”

“You were always just leaving it in the driveway,” Kay murmured, shaking her head at the ground.

“Yeah, but not that time,” Danny corrected her.  “I put it away.  He got it back out.  He ran over it.  So let’s say his dad is really pissed off with me for killing him, and pissing on his grave, and wants to play some tricks on me?” He stopped pacing then and cocked his head at her, his eyes narrowed.  “He’s the number one suspect as far as I can see.”

“I didn’t know about those things Danny,” his mother said, her voice small and lost.  “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Oh don’t start,” he groaned. “Why didn’t you tell meWhy didn’t you tell me?  You know why mother! Anyway, I thought I was going crazy half the time, imagining it.  I thought people would laugh at me if I said.  And I thought in a way, I deserved it.”

“Why?”

“Because I’d done it to him.  He paid me back.  Cool.”

“It’s not cool, Danny.” Kay reached out for him then, attempting to grab his arm and slow down his pacing, but he was not ready to be stopped, or reached out to.  He pulled away and continued to walk back and forth over the grave. “Look, we need to go,” she said instead, trying to catch his eye. “We shouldn’t be here Danny.  It’s just not right.  Can you stop that and listen to me please?”

“Did you ever meet his parents?” Danny asked, ignoring her plea.  He kept his eyes down and focused on his feet as they marched back and forth.  He was aware of something rising inside him, something that he had kept crushed down for the past eight years.  He felt it, coming from his belly, from deep within, anger and grief and horror, swelling like a pregnant wave. 

“What?  Yes.  Once.”

“When?”

“At the wedding.”

“Oh yeah.”  He stopped walking for a moment, cigarette in hand, eyes lifting briefly to the pale white sky.  His mother watched him, anxiously pulling her coat tighter around her body.  “I didn’t go.”

“I was so upset at the time,” Kay said, rolling her eyes at her own stupidity back then.  She placed her hands inside the pockets of her coat and stared at him, but he would not meet her eyes. “Of course, Lee made such a deal of it, how wrong it was for you to make me cry on my wedding day.  How selfish and attention seeking you were.” She lifted her chin, releasing a sad and hollow laugh at herself. “God it still sickens me you know, how easy I was to manipulate.  How easily I saw his view of things, instead of yours.” Kay coughed to clear her throat and edged closer to where her son remained with his feet planted right on top of her dead husbands grave.  “And then, when we came back from the honeymoon, he made this huge show of talking to you man to man, do you remember?  He made out like you’d been upset, but he’d talked it over with you, and now you were fine.  I bought it.  I can’t believe it now, looking back, but I actually believed it.”

Danny sucked the last of the nicotine from his cigarette, before dropping it to the ground, and grinding it out beneath his shoe.  Looking down, he saw the muddy track his marching had engraved upon the plot.  His footsteps, for everyone to see.  People would think it disgusting, wouldn’t they?  Disrespectful and outrageous.  He stepped away, and found himself standing on the opposite side to his mother.  “I’d run away,” he told her.  She frowned instantly, not understanding.

“When?”

“The day you came back from honeymoon. The day you’re talking about. I tried to run away.”

“What do you mean you tried?”

“He came up to me in my room,” Danny heard himself speaking, he heard the words leave his mouth, and it only occurred to him then that it was the first time he had ever spoken them.  That there were many, many unspoken things.  That really, no one knew the truth, no one except him and Howard.  He stared down at the mess he had made of the plot and his stomach tightened.  “He laid down the law.  You know what he said?  All this shit about being my dad now.  My dad.  It made me want to vomit.  He told me to tidy my room.  When he left I just snapped, I just thought I’m not taking this anymore, I’m not.  I packed a bag and hid it.”

“Oh Danny,” he heard his mother murmur.  He swallowed and concentrated instead on the images in his mind.  He could see his younger self frantically stuffing clothes and money into a bag and hiding it under his bed.

“I ran out, when you’d both gone to bed because you were jetlagged.  Do you remember? We all had pizza together in the lounge.  You looked so happy.”

“I remember that.”

“I thought he was asleep, with you,” Danny went on, and he felt his stomach tightening further still, only now the tightening, the sensation of the air being squeezed from his body, was travelling up to his chest.  “Then he appeared behind me when I was running for it, he shouted at me, so I kept running.  Got to the base in the woods.” He flicked his gaze up finally to meet his mothers.  She was staring back at him with wretched eyes.  “Me and the boys, we had this base.  This old caravan we mucked about in.  But he knew about it somehow mum.  He left it a while, and I was just settled and calming myself down, when he burst in on me laughing.” He watched his mother flinching, her eyes darting around, bouncing from his and away again, as if she was finding it increasingly difficult to look him in the eye.  Danny gritted his teeth then, as the emotion flooded him.  He realised he had not thought about that moment for years.  He had never told anyone about the only other time he had tried to get away.  How Howard had held him by the arms and told him he knew everything about him, that he had eyes everywhere, so he could never escape.  “He threatened to hurt you, you know,” he said to his mother then.  “He said he’d hurt you to teach me a lesson. He said he could kill you.  Anyway, I gave in.  I let him take me back home.  Then the next day he fucking worked his magic on you as usual.” Danny’s top lip lifted in disgust.  He dug back into his pocket, needing another smoke.

“I know,” Kay’s voice was small and hoarse.  She had now folded her arms across her chest, and when he looked, he could see thin trails of tears sliding down each cheek.  “He should have been an actor, that man.”

“I’ve never told anyone about that. Until now. I felt like such a prick.”

“Why?”

“Why?  Why did I feel like a prick?”  He was lighting up another cigarette, cupping it between his hands, as the wind had started to pick up.  “Because I was pathetic.  Because he knew everything and I was just a stupid little kid.  Because he was always going to be bigger and stronger than me.  Because it was humiliating in every possible way.  That’s why.”  He shrugged his shoulder and kicked at the dirt with one foot.  “Anyway, fuck it, right?  Look at him now eh?” He caught his mother’s eye and pulled a fake smile across his lips.  She shivered in reply.

“We need to go Danny.  This is not doing any good whatsoever.”

“I don’t know what else to do.”

“Find Lucy.  Think about a job.  Start to live your life.  I thought you more than anyone would not want to drag the past up like this.” She walked slowly around the grave then and stopped at his side.  He was staring back at her and he felt strangely enraged by her.

“Dragging up the past?” he questioned. “I’ve barely told you a thing about the way it was for me, you do realise that don’t you?”

Kay inhaled a deep breath, keeping her arms crossed firmly. “I know that.  And I’ve told you many times that you can talk to me about anything you want, but right now Danny, right now, stood here, this is not the right way, or the right place.”

“I’m not the one dragging up the past anyway,” he said sulkily, narrowing his eyes at her as he puffed on the smoke.  “Someone else is, remember?  Someone who knows who I’m staying with.  Someone who wants to give me a message about what I did.”

“You need to ignore it, you can’t let it get to you…”

“Mum, you don’t understand, this is the thing, you just don’t get!” His voice was gradually getting higher.  He looked at her and felt a roaring frustration, and it was overwhelming, when during eight years of incarceration he had so looked forward to her visits, and her news, and her love.  “It’s happening again, that’s what you don’t get!”

“Oh Danny, please…”

“Mum, this is the same.  I’m fucking telling you!  There’ll be more, I know it!” He stared into her eyes, hoping she could somehow read his fear, but she was just shaking her head at him.  “It won’t just be graffiti mum, will it?”

She took his arm then.  She placed her hand on his forearm, and his trembles spread up her own arm.  “Danny, listen to me.  I can understand why this is kicking it all off again for you.  Coming out of jail is a huge thing.  Coming back here, to Lucy and your friends, to all the memories you’ve spent years ignoring, it is bound to mess with your head.  Maybe we should think about getting you some professional help.  To help you get through this period of transition.”

“Mum,” he said to her, and he placed his other hand over hers, where he could feel both his own shivers and hers.  “Did his dad move back here?  After he died?  Did you ever hear from his parents?”

He saw her swallow and her eyes darted away quickly before returning to meet his.  “His father was very angry,” she said, her voice tight.  “But that does not mean he is behind the graffiti and even if he is Danny, the police are the ones to deal with it.”

“Did he speak to you?  Did he confront you about what I did?”

“He threw a fit when I turned up at the funeral.”

Danny stood back slightly.  “You went to the funeral?”

“I stayed in the distance.  I was trying to make sense of it all.  I don’t know.  I don’t know why I went, but anyway, neither of them liked it one little bit.  There was a scene.”  She pressed her hand down upon his arm. “Danny, let’s go now.  I thought I was going to take you out for lunch or something.  I wanted to hear all about the last few days and how it’s been.  All your news. I know what John gave to you, you know. I wanted to ask you about that.”

Danny growled in impatience and shook her hand away.  “Don’t even mention that!  He can fuck off as well. Where was he when I really needed him eh? And the last few days have been shit,” he told her.  “Because someone’s following me around spraying killer wherever I go. Kind of hard to move on and feel good about the future with that hanging over me.  And then there’s Lucy and my friends, all in a mess, all fucked up in their own way, and all because of me.”

“Well what does that mean?” Kay demanded, as she dragged the back of one hand across her leaking eyes. 

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, shaking his head.  “But it’s true, that’s all.  They haven’t really moved on, any more than I have, and we’ve all just been pretending that we have, that’s the thing.  Because there’s Michael still living the life we lived back then, for that year in the bed-sit.  He hasn’t changed or moved on mum.  He’s terrified of his own kid.  He thinks he’s messing it up.  And I know why.  And Lucy, I smacked her in the mouth last night, you know?  So what the hell she wants to do with me I have no idea!”

“Danny, calm down,” Kay reached for his arm, and this time when he tried to pull away she held on tight.  “You are your own worst enemy when you get like this!”

“Oh am I?” he snarled back at her, and yet again, when he looked into her face he felt that swelling rage again, that wave rising up suddenly.  “I thought my worst enemy was six foot under!”

She dropped his arm and shook her head in disgust.  “Just stop it.  There is no need.  There is no need for melodramatics.”

“Oh drama queen am I?  I remember you calling me that.  And him,” he jerked his head viciously towards the grave.  “Drama queen, craving attention, wasn’t I?”

“Danny I want to go, I want to get away from here right now!”

“Mum, someone has it in for me, and yet again, here you are, not listening to me.  Not wanting to hear.  Not believing me.”  Danny drew on his cigarette and puffed the smoke over her head.  She looked mad now, he thought.  Now they were getting somewhere.  Now they were getting to the truth of it.  Eight years, he thought then, as he trembled with rage before her, taller and bigger than her now, a grown man apparently, although god knows he did not feel like one.  Especially when he was around her. She was glaring back at him, guilt and anger filling her eyes, her mouth a small, hard line. 

“What is this supposed to achieve?” she asked him.  He laughed at her.

“I just want you to believe me for once mother.  You say you’ve felt guilty for  years, for not knowing what he was like, but you still think I’m melodramatic and a martyr, isn’t that what you said the other day?”

“I don’t think I will ever understand you Danny,” she said this softly, and her eyes lost some of the anger, as she looked him up and down and sighed.  “Whether we are too alike, or too different, I still can’t decide.  But you must know that I love you.  And good God, you must know how bitterly I regret what you went through, and I thought, I just thought that we had moved on past that?  I thought you and me were okay?  But suddenly I really don’t feel like we are.”

“I wanted to forget it all,” Danny said then, throwing down the second butt.  He did not bother to stamp on it this time.  “That was the easiest way to survive.  I could have killed myself I suppose.” He shrugged at her casually. “That was always an option.  A way out of constant self-loathing.  But I didn’t.  Because of Lucy, and my friends, and because I didn’t want him to win.  So I tried to forget it all, and you know that better than anyone.  You know because you came to visit me even more than Mike did.  And how often did we talk about the past mum?”

Kay looked down then.  Her blue eyes scanned the ground, sweeping back and forth across the churned up grave which held the body of her husband.  “Not much,” she admitted with a sigh.  “But I thought that was what you wanted.  You seemed so brave, yet so young inside prison.  You were trying to be hopeful, I could see that. It seemed best to let you be like that.  To talk about other things.”

“Yeah well,” he looked away from her then.  He was taken back by the sudden sting of tears in his eyes.  He stared down at the grave, and then his eyes moved to the headstone.  Beloved son it read there.  “As far as you know his parents stayed in Essex then?”

“His mother died.”

“When?”

“Not long after.  Few months.”

Danny frowned. “So that’s probably my fault too then.”

“Don’t be stupid.  I want to go.  This is giving me the creeps.”

“Did he have any other family?” Danny asked her.  “Any close friends apart from Freeman?” He saw her intake of breath then, at the mention of the other unspoken thing that lay between them.  He stared into her eyes, challenging her, but at the same time, wondering if he would ever have the guts to tell her about the part Jack Freeman had played in Lee Howard’s death.  She knew what he had said at the trial, but they had never spoken of it. 

“He had a brother,” she said to him.  Danny felt suddenly filled with wonder and confusion.

“Did he?  I didn’t know for sure. He mentioned one a few times.”

“They fell out.  Years before I met him.  When they were kids.  Dennis I think he was called.  He mentioned him once or twice but they were estranged.  Had nothing to do with each other.”

Danny looked back at the headstone, mystified. “I wonder why?”

“Who knows?  He never said.  He wasn’t at the funeral anyway.  Danny, let’s go now.  I really don’t think this is doing you any good love.”

“Okay,” he nodded at her.  He breathed in, and felt something else take the place of the anger and the sorrow that had been swelling up inside of him.  He wondered if he could hear that other part of him, the sensible talking part that had talked him through the years in prison, telling him that everything would be okay, trying to do the same again now.  He nodded again, and stuffed his hands into his pockets, and finally stepped away from the grave. “Can you take me back to Mike’s?”

“Oh,” his mother looked up at him in dismay.  “Danny I was really hoping we could have some lunch together.  Or you could come back to mine later…”

“No I don’t think so.  Could do with being alone right now.”  And he strode on ahead of her, little Kurt at his heels.

“What are you going to do?” she called after him, following him as he wound his way through the rows of headstones.  “I don’t want you to do anything stupid, Danny.”

“Like what?” he turned and looked at her when they had reached the car park.  He looked around, noticing that there were two cars parked there alongside his mothers.  They hadn’t been there before.  He found himself walking slowly around them both, his eyes running over the number plates and the makes.  Kay unlocked her car, and watched what he was doing.

“Danny?”

He made a mental note of the cars, a ruby red Galaxy people carrier, and a silver-blue Ford Focus.  He nodded to himself and got into his mother’s car.  He did not speak on the journey back to Belfield park.  He looked at his phone twice, to see that he had messages from Lucy and Anthony.  Lucy was letting him know her father had managed to get the paint off her door, and Anthony wanted to know how he was. Unfortunately forced to revisit the past, he replied to this one.  Anthony immediately sent another text asking what he meant. More graffiti on Mike’s door last night. Think it could be Howard’s family.  Again, Anthony text him back almost instantly, just as they pulled up into the alley behind Michael’s flat.  They were just in time to see the back of Michael and Zach, as they walked hand in hand around the corner at the other end of the alley. Fuck! Anthony had messaged, I’ll try and come round later.

“Is that his little boy?” Kay was asking, nodding towards where Michael and Zach just disappeared from view.  Danny looked up and nodded.

“Yeah. Zach.”

“Ahh.  How old is he?”

“Three, I think.”

“He looks just like Michael, doesn’t he?  He’s adorable.” Danny looked her way and saw a sad smile stretched upon her lips.  He thought that she looked pale and drawn.  Another person touched by his company, he thought bitterly and opened the car door. “I can still see you at that age,” she said then, and he hesitated. Her eyes were fixed ahead on the alley, on the spot where Michael and Zach had vanished. “You were so cheeky.  So fearless.  The amount of times I took you to the doctors or the hospital because you’d jumped out of a tree or thrown yourself off of something.  Always up to mischief you were.”

“Mum, I’ve got to go…”

“What is Michael worried about? He looks like he is doing a good job to me.  Looked like a happy little boy.”

Danny shrugged tiredly.  Did he really want to try and explain it to her?  Did he really want to engage in any more conversations about the past?  All he could really think about was snuggling up on the sofa with Kurt and trying not to think about anything, just for a while.  Then he imagined he would phone Lucy and see how things were between them.  “I think Lucy wants to talk to you, by the way,” he sighed as he swung his legs out of the car.

“Oh.  That sounds ominous for some reason.  Why?”

“I don’t know,” he stood up and shrugged. “I think she wants to understand it all.  I don’t know,” he shrugged again.  “You’ll have to ask her.  Shall I tell her that’s okay?”

“Of course it’s okay,” Kay replied, lifting her hands from the steering wheel just briefly.  “Danny, I wish we could have at least gone for some coffee or something.  I was so looking forward to seeing you, and I didn’t envision our time together being at the cemetery like that.” She released a sigh and managed another smile.  “Is there anything else you want to know?  Anything else I can answer?”

Danny scratched his head and glanced behind him at the door, where the word ‘murderer’ was still splashed violently across it.  “Look,” he said, turning back to her. “I’m sorry about that.  I got myself a bit worked up, with the graffiti, and just you know, hurting Lucy and everything.  The cops don’t seem to think it’s anything to worry about so I’m going to try to relax.  Maybe nothing else will happen.”

Kay was nodding at him, looking relieved. “Yes.  Maybe nothing will.  Maybe Jerry was just down visiting the grave.  I guess he must do that.”

A thought occurred to Danny then. “Was he at the trial?” he asked. “Were any of his family at the trial?”

“Jerry was,” Kay nodded in reply.  “Just him.”

“And did he ever say anything to you?  I mean, did he believe what I was saying about his son?”

Kay bit down on her lip and her eyes dropped to the floor of her car for a moment, before she lifted them painfully back to meet her son’s questioning face. “He had a few words to say to me,” she told him. “I tried to ignore him, and I certainly did not want to listen to him.  He did not believe you, no.  He did not believe the picture your side tried to paint of his son.”

“They were close weren’t they?  Him and his dad?”

“I think so.” Kay frowned slightly. “In a weird sort of way.  He would visit his parents maybe once a month, maybe less.”

“He had a lot of respect for them,” Danny insisted. “I remember that.  I remember him going on about it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just, you know.” Danny lifted his shoulders and shook his head before dropping them down again.  He realised that he felt exhausted then.  His body felt utterly wiped out. “You know, he’d say I didn’t respect him like he respected them. That annoyed him a lot.”

“Who knows?” Kay murmured then, shaking her head, and then rubbing at her eyes with both hands. “Who knows what went through his mind?  God knows I’ve spent enough years trying to figure out who I married, and what he wanted.  I still think you knew him a lot better than I ever did.  For all the wrong reasons.  Danny?”

“Yeah?”

“We can talk like this any time you know.” She reached out then across the passenger seat, and he looked down at her hand, held out to him.  He took it hesitantly in his own.  “I know it’s painful, and it’s horrible, but maybe that’s where we went wrong, you know, when I saw you in prison?  If it helps you come to terms with things, if it helps us both make sense of it all, we can talk like this any time.  You know?”  He nodded at her, and smiled a small smile. “It’s a hell of a lot to get your head around,” she went on, tightening her fingers around his hand, “and you are still so young.  I just want you to be happy Danny.  Just happy and carefree, like you should be.  If it helps you to off load, you can, you know?  You can even tell me about Jack as well, you know….”

Danny grimaced uncontrollably and dropped her hand. “Look I better go mum, it’s freezing out here, so…”

“Okay, I’m sorry Danny, I didn’t mean…” Kay pulled her hand back to the steering wheel and blinked her sudden tears away. “I’m sorry,” she said, again, as he closed the door.

“It’s okay,” he told her, before her walked away, but it wasn’t.  It wasn’t okay, and he wondered if it ever truly would be.  He found his key, unlocked the door to Michael’s flat and went inside.  He found it warm, for the first time since he had arrived.  Kurt jumped straight up onto the sofa and curled into a tight ball.  Danny thought about making himself some tea, but did not seem to have the energy.  He paused for a few indecisive minutes, just standing in the lounge, staring at Kurt on the sofa, a million things roaring and tumbling through his mind. 

He realised then that he had mistakenly thought coming out of prison was finally the end of it all.  The past would be the past, and he would just move on.  Now he saw things differently.  He sat down on the sofa next to Kurt and dropped his head into his hands.  I don’t know who I am…I don’t know who I am… The same thought kept pushing through the whirlwind of his mind.  I’m a naughty little boy who drives my mother mad…It was all coming again, he felt it helplessly, and supposed it did not matter now that he was all alone again, and there was no one to pretend to, no one to hide from. I’m a sulky teenager and I hate all my mother’s boyfriends…Tears were filling the space behind his closed eyes.  He used one forefinger from each hand to push them away as they emerged. I’m so angry, so angry, I want to make her pay, I want to make her sorry. It was like a drumbeat throbbing inside his brain, all the memories and the emotions, and he shook his head slowly from side to side.  The pictures in his mind flashed up endlessly, rolling and blurring into each other, and stupid things, stupid thing he had not thought about for years.  Getting arrested at school for punching Eddie Higgs in the nose.  At one time it had seemed like the worse thing he could ever do, it had felt like the end of the world, and it had felt like his mother would never be able to claw back from the utter loathing she must have felt for him then. I’m scared, I’m scared all the time…I’m just a little man, a little man, I’m a shit stain, I’m nothing, I’m weak and helpless and no one knows…

He saw himself in his mind then, caught by the man he would later plan to kill. It didn’t matter what thing he had done wrong, sometimes it was nothing, sometimes it was something, most of the time it was Howard’s desire to inflict pain and exert control that propelled things forward, and they would both find themselves trapped within it, trapped in a cycle. Howard holding him down on the floor and telling him he was going to slap his face until he either cried or bled.  He had refused to cry.  Howard’s eyes had been lit up, shining with that intense look he always got when he started lashing out.  In the end two streams of red had snaked out from either nostril, and Howard had seized upon them gleefully, using his thumbs to press down on them, almost pushing the blood back into his skin, as he smeared it with his thumbs outwards onto Danny’s cheeks. Danny had never felt so marked, as he had felt then, so owned.

I’ll fucking kill you, how many times had he been brave or stupid enough to say that to Howard?… One day I will fucking kill you…Had he meant it?  When he was a skinny fourteen, fifteen year old kid?  When he was hurt and bleeding, when every part of his body throbbed with the memory of hard fists?  Had he meant it, had he known he would one day do it?

Danny rubbed frantically at his eyes, wiping at the tears that kept coming, wondering if he was going crazy.  Had he been crazy that day?  Insane?  They had asked him if he could remember what was going through his head, the police had asked him, his solicitor had asked him, the therapist had asked him.  All he could remember, all he could still remember was thinking it will be over, I am going to end it, I am going to end it, so it will be over…Something had snapped inside him that day.  He knew that now.  And it wasn’t just the lines of coke he had snorted before he left the bed-sit.  Something had died inside of him.  Something had been lost, something human, he reasoned, something had been missing in order for him to do what he did that day.  Was it still missing?  Was there still a part of him dead inside?

I am a killer…I killed him…I ended him…but I didn’t end it, I didn’t end it, because it’s not over….

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