Ten Questions for a Fictional Character:Stephen of Past and Present

 

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***SPOILER ALERT!!!***
This post contains information about my story The Past and Present. If you haven’t read this story yet, please click here.

Waiting in my car, I watch the crowd disperse leaving a solitary man in the shade of chilled stone.

Stephen lays his hand on the door of the mausoleum and drops his chin to his chest.

My research in my grasp I prepare myself for battle.

“Mr. Howling?”

My car’s door bangs shut making him jump.

Seeing my papers and audio recorder, his face contorts in disgust. He turns away.

“You’ll even dig into sacred ground to find your dirt, won’t you?” He says.

“How do you feel about Cole’s death?”

            His arms swing wide when he turns and I just miss being slapped in the head.

“What gives you the right to know?”

“I’m just wondering if you blame yourself for his death.”

            A red tide rolls up his neck, his nostrils flaring. “A tumor killed him. I’m not a god. I had nothing to do with it, but I would have given my life for his if I could.”

“I think you did have a part to play in his death. I think you crushed any desire he still had to live.” I toss news articles about Camilla’s  disappearance at his feet. “Before he died, he told me everything.”

            Stephen shakes his head, his eyes never leaving my face. “He was old and sick. Whatever he said, he didn’t understand.”

“He understood your guilt. Did you kill Camilla?”

            “No! And I don’t know who did.”

“I’ve done my research and his story lines up. You had a temper and everyone I interviewed said so. How did she end up in that field?”

            “I don’t know,” he says, slamming his palm against the marble.

“Really? Because I don’t believe you. I think you wanted to finish the job you started when you bashed her head in at 12 years old. What did you use, a rock?”

            He glares at me.

            “I’ll take that as a yes. It would be an easy enough weapon for a kid to find. Do you have any remorse?”

            “She was my world. Watching the pain she was in those years after the attack killed me.”

“Is that why you did it? She was your world, but you weren’t her’s?”

            His knuckles crackle as he flexes his hands. “I was like a brother to her. She was always safe when I walked her home.”

“Isn’t it amazing that the one day she refuses to let you walk her home, the day she tells her dad about the boy who wants to take her for a soda, she gets attacked.”

            “Is there a question behind that statement?” He says through gritted teeth.

“If you were so close and she did, in fact, run away when she was 15, did she tell you why?”

            His fingers twitch against the pocket of his button-down shirt and he stands silently, the ghosts of years gone by darting visibly behind his eyes.

“She did,” he says finally. “There were two letters she wrote the night she ran.”

Pulling a yellowed slip of paper from his pocket, he hands it to me.

“She thought the way she was, was hurting the people she loved.” He picks at a scab on his knuckle and says quietly, “I spent weeks looking for her.”

I scan the letter and my heart breaks for the lost life of a beautiful girl. “She didn’t remember the attack. Did she ever learn that you were the one who beat her?”

Wiping his nose on his arm, he sniffs.  “She never knew who hurt her.”

“Final question,” I hand the note back to him. “If you could, would you trade your life for hers?”

A crow screams overhead and he lets the paper flutter to the grass.

“Yes.”

 

Thank you all so much for reading! I truly appreciate it and I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece. Check back next week for a brand new story.

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