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Estimated reading time โ€” 6 minutes

Ryan slammed his back against the wall and slowly slid down, sitting on the bathroom floor. The iron-like smell of blood filled his nostrils and partially repulsed him. He closed his eyes to take in the moment โ€“ the moment after his crime. He felt the water seeping into the fabric of his jeans, the liquid pulling at him like tiny hands dragging him down, down, down.

He leant his head back before opening his eyes to stare at the smoke-stained yellow ceiling. His blue eyes flickered for a moment, like a wave of nostalgia washed over him like warm current. ‘I used to live here,’ he thought to himself in a moment of reflection, ‘I used to stare at this ceiling every day, once upon a time…’ His chest heaved from exhaustion, slowly pushing his back further and further from the tiled wall behind him. When he noticed, he readjusted himself to sit bold upright, now staring directly forward. The once-white tiles of the bathroom were in full view. Most of them were plain, but the outer edge of tiles had a subtle cursive frame surrounding the otherwise dull walls. Ryan’s Mom had designed the bathroom. She’d decorated the entire apartment when they had bought it. She was always so proud of it. His father seemed to be busy either working of out with his friends to care about the dรฉcor of the apartment. That or he was too drunk to care.

Ryan shook his head and ran his fingers through his dark brown hair to bring himself back to the present. He’d been too caught up in the past to see the sickening new details on the tiles โ€“ fingernail scratched with patches of red. He made his way to his feet, walking passed the semi-submerged body in the now cold and burgundy bath water, multiple stab wounds littering its torso and arms. He took a sideways glance at the body. ‘She must be half his age’, Ryan thought, fists clenched into tight balls, one now carrying a small kitchen knife. He stopped and corrected himself, ‘Was…she was half his age’.

She had dyed blonde hair with a black layer underneath. Her fingernails were donned with little designs of unicorns and dragons, which must have went down well in the school she worked at. She was a short but dumpy lady and, from what Ryan remembered, had a low and rumbling voice caused by twelve solid years of smoking thirty cigarettes a day. ‘A perfect match for Dad, then’ he’d always say. Suddenly Ryan froze. He threw the bloody knife in front of him into the bedroom and gripped his hair with both hands. ‘She did nothing wrong, she did nothing wrong, she did nothing wrong’ he said to himself, rocking gently while still on his feet. Tears welled up in the corners of his eyes and he shook from fear. He took a few deep breaths and he suddenly stopped shaking. His hands returned to his waist and his eyes opened, now looking cold and remorseless. ‘It doesn’t matter’ he thought to himself, ‘it’s done now’

The apartment was tiny now Ryan had returned to it as an adult. The bathroom led directly into the master bedroom. He remembered a few good Christmases in this room with his parents, all huddled, around, opening presents and eating candy. Now, though, all he could see was deception. He took one final look back at the murder scene, taking in what he had done for the final time, before closing the door. He couldn’t stand the smell any more. The bedroom brought a new aroma to his nose โ€“ alcohol. His Dad’s favourite pass time, he always told his teachers. They’d usually laugh it off as a funny joke made by a stupid kid, but it was true. His Mom always tried to curb his drinking and smoking, especially around ‘the boy’, but it never ended well. He kicked at an empty bottle of cheap whiskey with his black boots, leaving red footprints behind him. This room, too, was discoloured by cigarette smoke and, in some places close to the bed, spilled liquid and vomit. Memories of the times he spent here tried entering the chaos which was his mind at this point, but he cut them out. ‘It’s in the past, focus on the now’ he’d tell himself as he continued out of the bedroom and towards the living room.

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He’d walked passed everything in all the other rooms so he could do…the deed…and hadn’t noticed much from the living room โ€“ the room which was essentially his room. Mom would always mark out a corner for him to play and do schoolwork, when she wasn’t helping Dad in from a bar or working two jobs to make up for Dad’s latest redundancy. The couch โ€“ now a museum for old and empty beer bottles โ€“ was Ryan’s bed. To see it in such disrepair was horrifying to him. He remembered a lot of fond times watching the TV on a Saturday morning, turned up as loud as the box could handle. He always knew why it was turned up that loud, he’d hear it between programmes or ad breaks. The splash of vomit hitting the toilet water, the clink of bottles as they rattled around the floor, the screaming contests his Mom and Dad would routinely have…the loud sharp slap of hand meeting cheek…The deafening silence that followed. The doors slamming as his Dad left the apartment for the bar…The soft sobbing noise of his Mom crying by the bedside table. Sometimes, Ryan would go into the room to hug her and say everything was OK, not fully understanding what was going on. She’d smile and stroke his hair, tears still running down her slowly bruising cheek and eye.

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Ryan shook once more with rage. He kicked a bottle towards the TV set, smashing it with an electrical flash. He stood and walked towards the front door. He remembered the day his Mom had done the same, his Dad on his knees, sobbing like a spoilt child as she passed him, begging like a hungry dog. Her eyes were full of tears, but she only showed them to Ryan, she didn’t want to give that satisfaction to his Father. She grabbed a few small things from the tiny kitchen and walked out the door with a deafening slam following it. Ryan’s remembered his Dad howling with despair for a good hour after she’d gone, with Ryan staring silently from the front door. When he looked up from his tear soaked hands, he had a look of pure rage. The verbal tirade that left his Father’s mouth was nothing new to Ryan, but this time it was aimed solely at him. He didn’t understand a lot of it, but the words “you’re mine” always stuck out in his mind, just before he felt the cold, calloused hand of his Father hit him for the first time.

Ryan was in the kitchen, standing in the exact same spot as his Mother had twelve years earlier. She’d moved out of the state to be closer to her parents. She found it difficult to settle in a new home. ‘You can’t blame her’, Ryan always thought, ‘all she had been through’. Luckily, Gran and Grandpa looked out for her and got her some help. Ryan saw his Mom a few of days before he made the trip back to his old home. She looked empty, almost doll like from her vacant stares and movements. The love was still there, but she couldn’t show it anymore. Her now ex-husband, the man he ashamedly called his Father, had a much more profound impact than even he could have imagined…and he was going to pay.

Ryan washed whatever blood he could see off himself and damped his hair to get the rest out. He stood facing the door, ready to leave for the last time. He opened it and walked slowly to the elevators. When he rounded the corner, he came face-to-face with a familiar figure. The greying mop of dark brown hair, the dim blue eyes, and the thick moustache perched above a mouth full of rotting teeth. The tall yet dumpy figure that faced him was his Father. Both men were shocked into silence. The moment the old man opened his mouth to hurl abuse at Ryan, the final chapter of his life at that apartment came flooding back. The daily beatings were now fresh wounds again, bleeding like he had been sliced by a fine blade. The constant verbal battery was back both in his mind and in front of him, as the old man shouted and screamed about getting off his property. He suddenly fell silent as he noticed a vivid streak up the front of Ryan’s shirt โ€“ blood. Their eyes met for what seemed like an eternity. His father was the first to crack. Ryan stared back at him, an emotionless expression reminiscent of the one his Mom now permanently wore. The old man darted for his apartment, dropping the large plastic bag full of wine and cigarettes. Another moment of silence flooded the hallways before a blood curdling scream was heard from behind the door. Ryan stood for a moment, before turning and continuing towards the elevators. ‘He finally knows what it’s like to lose someone he truly loves’ he thought, as the elevator doors slowly closed in front of him.

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Credit: M.L Anderson

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