Painful memories flashed in quick succession. Raw emotions bubbling to the surface as visions of a future were thrown about without any order. A pair of golden eyes open suddenly and a young man sits up in bed, sweat rolling down his face, his black hair sticking to his face and forehead. An aching pain throbbed in his chest. He closed his eyes and brought his knees up, curling in up for a moment. Muffled cursing could be heard, “Fuck, fuck, fuck,”. Remnants of the nightmare flashed whenever he closed his eyes. His breath wheezed out painfully from his lungs as he tried to calm himself down.
The blurry memories and visions he thought were merely nightmares shook him. Without looking, he reached to the side and gently pulled a photo resting on a stack of worn books. His eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light and he made out his parents holding him as an infant.
A series of knocks interrupted the pleasant warmth, he got from seeing his parents. He was brought back to the reality he wished was only a nightmare. Already as he approached the door, he could hear a commotion erupting from down on the main floor.
“Caleb, get up,” the words were whispered as their knuckles rapped against the door. The doorknob rattled for a moment but the girl on the other side gave up and knocked once more. Before she could whisper to him, Caleb asked, “What is going on?” as the young man reluctantly pulled on some pajamas and a simple black tee that was a size too big.
“Because Dad will kill you if you make him look bad, AGAIN.” Caleb opened the door and groaned as the light flooded in. His eyes took a moment to adjust and his golden gaze met his cousin’s.
“I couldn’t care less. I’m not staying here the whole day, I have plans.” Caleb flicked on the light for a moment to grab his clothes for the day.
“If your plans are with grandpa, then you know what will happ-” Another crash came from downstairs. Caleb rolled his eyes as the younger girl trembled before looking to her cousin.
“I’ll handle him if it comes down to it. I’m not afraid of him anymore. I haven’t been since last year.” With his interruption, their conversation ended, and Caleb left his cousin to return to his uncle. The thought that he had everyday arose. Why is this like a fairy tale? Why couldn’t this have been just a normal family?
A chill ran down his spine. Cold tile greeted his feet as he walked down the hall from his room. Why they insisted on tile, Caleb would never understand. It isn’t like his uncle didn’t have the money to pay for a cleaner. His fist clenched as that thought crossed his mind. “Bastard,” he muttered to himself before stepping into his bathroom. The image before him was familiar, yet painful. The stark peach-colored scar that ran across the bridge of his nose and extended to nearly his cheekbone, stood out against his dark skin.
There was a twitch.
Caleb found his fist pressed against the mirror. A sharp exhale, the wheezing still clung to his lungs as the breath escaped his clenched teeth. Frantic golden eyes were staring back at him as he pulled his scarred fist back from the mirror. He had barely managed to stop himself from shattering another mirror.
The rings of the shower flew across the bar before being flung close. Steam rolled from under and from above the curtain as almost scalding water cascaded down Caleb’s dark frame. He closed his eyes. Long black hair curtained his face as he stood under the spray of water. After burning away the dreariness and sleepiness, Caleb bathed as he would normally, his hands ran over his slim frame. Some muscle was inherent to his build but he wasn’t large by any extent of the imagination.
Once he finished, he dressed in dreary grey clothing, matching the weather. He planned to head out as quickly as he could before anyone else noticed him. His golden eyes caught a pair of dull brown eyes watching him from downstairs. At the bottom of the stairs stood a rotund, middle-aged man with dishwater brown hair. Their eyes met in a fearsome glare as Caleb descended the steps. His worn-out black boots clicked on the wooden floor as the two squared off. Their eyes never left each other. “Where did you think you’re going?”
“With Gramps,” Caleb spoke out defiantly. At 16, he towered over the shorter, pudgy man though he was outweighed by him.
A grimace and a scowl came over the man’s face, “Who gave you the right to call him here?” he tried getting into Caleb’s face but found himself taking a step back instead. His eyes had a surreal glow to them as they widened to stare down his uncle.
Caleb didn’t answer, only looking at the guests sitting at the table watching the confrontation, before his gaze found his uncle’s once more. “I’m leaving.” he patted his pants making sure he had everything before stepping out the front door. "You should know better than to throw a tantrum before inviting people here," he taunted, his eyes narrowing at this uncle before the door closed behind Caleb.
The boarish man huffed and grumbled as his nephew left. His legs were shaking after seeing the boy so adamantly defy him. But why was this time any different from the other countless times he and his nephew clashed? Why did he feel he was going to piss himself right then and there?
He approached the window that looked out to the front yard. The sight of his father pulling up to pick up his nephew only infuriated him. The other reminder of his insecurities. A man entering his 70s standing taller than Caleb, stepped out and hugged him before looking over to the window. What Caleb’s uncle saw was a look of condescension. But the older man only held a look of regret from what the young man could see. He knew what his grandfather was looking at.
“Come on,” he said, patting his grandfather on the shoulder. Caleb was about to hop into the passenger seat of his grandfather’s ‘72 Gran Torino. But his grandfather stopped and handed him the keys while in full view of the entire family. Caleb’s dark fingers closed around the keys before looking at them than at his family. He stood apart, that was certain, against their dull, fair-skinned features contrasted by his scarred, dark tan skin highlighted by his intense golden eyes.
From the window, his uncle’s fists were now shaking. His sleepy, bloodshot eyes now radiated with jealousy. He dug his nails so hard into the window frame that they began to crack. His son pulled him away from the window after Caleb and his grandfather left.
Inside the car, there was uneasiness clinging in the air as they drove out of the finely paved driveway. The tension eased as they made their way out onto the road and began descending the hills. Soon the house was buried by other houses and trees sitting along the hillside.
Once they were well out of the line of sight of the house, Caleb eased up on the wheel and looked at his grandfather when they came to a stop at the edge of the neighborhood. The older man had a mane of silver hair tied back. If it weren’t for the world-weary look in his eyes, one could mistake him for 50 years old.
“Are any of your friends available?” he asked with a gentle tone.
Caleb shook his head, “No…” the pause was clear. His mind wandered to the previous year when so much began to go wrong but before he could dwell on the past, his grandfather tapped him on the shoulder and indicated for him to go. Caleb’s foot let loose from the brake and slowly began accelerating as they drove out of the affluent neighborhood his home sat in.