Killian walked in the house, stood in the Victorian adorned foyer and felt a sense of unease. He wondered if it was breaking and entering if you walked into your unlocked childhood home while no one was there to greet you. It had been twenty years since he ran away, but Christmas was coming up and Christmas was a time for family. He hoped they would accept him back. His prison therapist said that he just needs to be honest about everything and at least he can say he tried.
He turned to find he had already shut the front door and so he shifted to his right, stepped into the living room and made his way to the mantle. Family photos were bordered by an unlit garland along the edge. It’s amazing what age can do to a person, he thought. He had vague memories of what his father, mother and sister looked like, but again, it had been twenty years and time had changed them.
His eyes left the mantle and traced the room. There was something different about it. It seemed smaller, but also differently shaped or placed. There was no trace of him either. Nothing. It was as though he never existed.
Killian sauntered toward the kitchen by way of the dining room and on his way caught sight of two small Santa trinkets. They were knit with a thick thread. It jarred something in his memory about a grandmother having a stroke and making these as part of her therapy afterwards. Was it his grandmother? Was it someone from prison?
He now stood in front of the open fridge door and spied the ingredients for the sandwich he didn’t know he was craving. After putting everything together and slicing it into two perfect triangles he returned to the sofa in the living room and focused on the tree.
Olive was not expecting to have anyone sitting in her living room when she returned from her lunch and shopping adventure with her partner, Yvonne, and her daughter Nicole, as they were the only inhabitants of the house. She was shocked by the presence of him, but not him specifically. He gave off a repentant, non-threatening air when he looked up at her after taking a bite from his sandwich.
She stood in the foyer. After sharing a glance with both Yvonne and Nicole they all put their bags down. She looked again at the man.
“Um, I’m sorry but can we help you?” Olive said.
He put the sandwich down on the coffee table in front of him and rose to his feet.
“Please stay there,” she said. “Again, who are you?”
“Mom, it’s Killian,” he said.
Nicole stared at Olive and Olive acknowledged this with a quick glance before regarding the man again.
“Killian. Okay. Do you mind taking a seat and we can have a chat?”
Killian didn’t envision this is how the meeting with his mother and sister would go. He also had no clue as to the identity of the other woman. He sat down and watched as his mother and sister sat in the chairs opposite the couch. The other woman walked from the foyer toward the hallway leading to the kitchen.
“I should explain,” he said, wondering how best to describe his time in prison and the events that led him there after running away.
“Yes, please do,” his sister said.
“I’m sorry for leaving,” he said. “Obviously, in retrospect, it was the absolute wrong decision and I apologize, with no reservations, about any of the hurt I caused any of you. Where is Dad?”
“My husband is dead,” his mother said and she reached for his sister’s hand, which accepted it.
“I am so, so sorry to hear that. I was hoping to see him again. When I left it was obviously for childish reasons and I have paid dearly for everything. The reason I am back is to apologize and atone as per what I have spoken about with my social worker, my therapist, and the parole board,” he said.
This crazy guy was in prison? Beautiful! Nicole thought. Great! Lovely! Can’t wait to get chopped into little pieces right now! Why the hell hasn’t Mom called the cops yet? What the actual fuck is happening? Merry Christmas to us! Goddamnit Yvonne, where the hell did you go?
“I am happy to hear that,” Olive said.
“I have to say it is really odd being back here. Things seem so familiar yet so different. I understand why you don’t have any pictures of me though. I deserve that,” he said.
“It was very hard for us, you have to understand,” Olive said.
She squeezed Nicole’s hand and the two shared a look. She hoped Yvonne was doing exactly what she hoped she was doing.
“With head trauma from the accident that got us caught and the beatings from Ray in the ten years leading up to that, I’m surprised I really remember anything,” he said.
Great! Nicole thought. Brilliant! Not only has this intruder been in prison, he has been severely concussed and actually thinks we are his family! He does look familiar but…oh shit!
Killian only glanced at his sister, but he could tell she was looking at him somewhat askew. His mother had her trademark welcoming and warm glow.
He stood slowly and walked to the back side of the sofa and looked out the bay window to the street.
“Even the street looks the same but with subtle differences, of course,” he said.
His back is to us! Now’s our shot! Nicole thought. She looked at her mother with urgency, but she shook her head and gestured her hands for Nicole to calm down. How the hell can I calm down? He’s going to start his, “And now I’m going to murder you,” speech when he turns around!
Killian glanced up and down the street. He noticed a man in his sixties standing in front of the house directly opposite them. He was next to a ladder and holding Christmas lights. The other woman that arrived with his mother and sister was gesturing to him with an insistence pointing toward his mother’s house. She was also holding a mobile phone to her ear. The man’s home looked very familiar as did the man himself. Killian searched his memories for his name.
Then something caught his eye that changed everything.
The telescope stood in the upstairs window on the southern end of the house above the front door. He remembered it more than anything else since he entered the house in which he now stood. He remembered sitting in that window as a boy and pointing the lens at the sky with no idea what he was looking at besides whatever random stars he would stumble upon. He also remembered pointing it at the windows of the house he was in now, spying on the girl he thought was his sister. Her name hit him. The girl he had just apologized to was not his sister at all, but his childhood crush and neighbor, Nicole.
Killian turned to face Nicole and her mother, but he could not remember the elder’s name.
“Well, it appears I have to apologize for other things,” he said.
“I’d say!” Nicole said.
“Let me just leave you – ”
Killian was interrupted by Yvonne rushing into the foyer with the man from across the street.
“Killian?” the man said.
“Dad?” Killian said.
The two men rushed toward each other with their arms outstretched and embraced when they met.
The women regarded them and then each other at first with concern, but then with relief.
The police sirens gained in volume as the cruisers tore around the corner and down the street.
“Well, it’s about goddamn time!” Nicole said.