Duke's Redemption

Page 51

What if Duke is really a serial killer or something? Could definitely be a possibility.
Okay, maybe I’ve seen a few too many true crime documentaries. I can see the headline for this one:
Handyman Homicide.
Geez, I sound ridiculous.
I don’t know what I’m getting so worked up over. So, what if Duke doesn’t want to tell me all of his deep, dark secrets? In a couple months from now, none of this will even matter.
Even as I think the words, I feel that they aren’t true. Something about what Duke and I share seems special. But with how he acted this afternoon, I’m starting to think that maybe he doesn’t feel the same way.
Finally, I decide to cease my pity party and get out of the bathtub. I throw on a tank top and shorts before heading downstairs to fix some tea before bed.
As I wait for the water to warm up, I open a package of cheese crackers and start munching on them. I turn on some music on my phone to drown out the deafening silence around me. As soon as I turn it on, though, I immediately pause it because I hear a noise outside.
Feeling more numb instead of scared, I decide to go investigate. As I walk out the back door, I see the furry bandit that Duke was talking about. Much to my surprise, the fat little thing stops rooting through the trash to look at me.
He jumps off of the can and scurries over so he’s just a few feet away. I worry for a moment that he will attack, but he just stands there. We have this weird staring contest for I’m not sure how long before I toss him a couple of crackers that I have. They land a few inches to his right, and he walks right over to take them.
Let me tell you that I know next to nothing about raccoons. But I know that they’re cute and furry, and that’s right up my alley. I’m convinced that my death will happen when I’m trying to do something like pet a wild tiger or snuggle a bear.
Fascinated by my new furry friend, I sit outside for I don’t know how long just watching him and feeding him crackers. It’s not exactly how I thought I’d be spending my night, but it’s better than nothing, I guess.
“Do you have a name, little guy?” I ask, as if the animal is going to answer me. “What should I call you? Fred? No. Pete? No. Hank.” When I say the last one, he lifts his head to look at me. “Hank it is.”
Finally, I run out of crackers, so Hank moves on with his night, and I head back inside. Bored and with nothing else to do, I decide to head upstairs for the night. Just as soon as my head hits the pillow, though, a knock on the front door jolts me awake.
“Who the fuck?” I mutter to myself.
As I get out of bed, I hear the door swing open. I freeze as my heart thumps, but then, I hear Duke.
“Avery! Avery, you home?”
Before I even have the chance to answer, I hear him running up the stairs, taking them two at a time. He reaches my bedroom door, and I take a good look at him. This isn’t the normal stoic and put-together Duke that I’m used to.
Now, he looks like an absolute mess.
“Avery, thank goodness you’re here.” He drops to his knees and wraps his arms around my waist.
“Duke?” I ask, looking down at him. “Are you okay?”
“No,” he answers, holding onto me even tighter. “I’m so sorry I was an ass to you earlier. I shouldn’t have treated you like that.”
I run my hands through his short hair. “It’s okay.”
“No, it’s not.”
He’s starting to freak me out a little, so I say, “Hey, why don’t we go over and sit on the bed and talk?” It takes him a moment, but he gets up and leads me over there. When we are comfortable, I say, “Alright, Duke, what’s going on?”
“Avery, I’m going to pull ayouand ramble for a minute, but I just need you to listen until I’m done, okay?”
“Alright,” I agree.
“When I was a kid, I never knew my dad. My brothers and I are products of a bunch of one-night stands gone wrong. My mother held onto the fact that one day, she may find love, so she got serious with every guy who paid her a little bit of attention. Some were okay, but most were jerks, and one of them was worse than all the rest. He made a hobby out of using her as a punching bag. One day, I skipped one of my classes and decided to go home. I don’t know what made me do it, but I just had a feeling. When I got there, things were the worst I’d ever seen them. I pulled him off my mom, and we came to blows. I swung on him–hard. On the way down, he cracked his head on the coffee table.” He pauses for a moment before whispering, “I killed him.”
I want to say something–to offer some words of comfort, but I told him I wouldn’t interrupt. Instead, I lay my hand on his thigh to let him know that I’m listening and not going anywhere.
“When it happened, my mom blamed me. She actually told me it was my fault. All I remember is her screaming at me that I should have been at school. Why did I have to come home? I’m sure it was something that she did out of grief in the heat of the moment, but I’ll never forget it. Over the years, she’s apologized more times than I can count, but she kept doing the same things. She kept getting with every guy who would have her, and they all tried to play daddy. She always put them above us.”