Tiny snowflakes fell from the darkening sky as Angel sat in his car, staring at the house, shivering. A tall, beer-bellied shadow walked past the living room window. Angel put his hand on the door handle then jumped as his cell phone vibrated against his hip. He pulled it from his pocket, saw it was Nadia and flipped it open.
“Hi, baby, where are you?”
“On my way home with Jenn. Where are you?”
“At your place, in my car.”
“Well, I’ll see you soon, okay?”
“Sure. See ya.” Angel closed the phone and, shoving it back into his pocket, got out into the night.
His boots crunched on the snow as he walked towards the house. He hesitated a moment before knocking, listening to what sounded like a television. A dishevelled man, whiskey bottle in hand, opened the door and regarded Angel with bleary eyes.
“She’s not here. But c’mon in, kid, and have a drink.”
Angel nodded. Making friends with the old man first was always good. “Ah, sure, okay. What ya got?”
Nadia’s father shoved the bottle towards him. “Whiskey!”
Angel reached for it but the man pulled it away. “I’ll getcha a glass.”
Inside they walked past dirty dishes piled high in the sink and plates laden with old food on the table. Garbage spilled over its can in a corner, littering the dirt-specked floor.
The man—what did Nadia say his name was? Al something?—led Angel to a wet bar in the living room and picked up a glass.
“Damn kid, she never does any work around here,” he said, wiping the glass on his stained shirt.
After pouring some of the amber liquid from the bottle into the glass, he handed it to Angel. “Here ya go, kid.
A sudden gust of wind rattled past the house as the old man shoved aside newspapers covering the couch. Glancing at the window, he muttered something about the storm outside, then dropped onto the couch. “Sit down, kid.”
“No, I—” he started.
“I said sit,” growled the older man, “and take yer coat off too.”
Obeying, Angel, too, glanced out the window. The snowflakes, larger now, fell faster and threatened to become more furious as the night wore on. They pulsed in the wind and beat on the window like rampant anger. Angel averted his gaze to the floor.
“So you’re the one that’s captured my baby’s attention?”
Lifting his head to meet Al’s eyes, Angel nodded and wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans.
“Ya doin’ it with her?”
Angel cringed inwardly but never let his gaze falter from those bloodshot eyes. Then Al lifted the bottle to his lips. Angel took a drink of his own whiskey, feeling it burn a path all the way to his stomach.
Suddenly Al threw the empty bottle across the room where it smashed against a picture of Nadia and her late mother. Glass, photo and wooden frame all clattered to the floor. He jumped to his feet, crossed the room and, before Angel could react, grabbed the younger man’s shirt.
“Are ya?” he ranted.
“N-n-n-o,” stammered Angel as Nadia’s father yanked him to his feet.
The whiskey in the glass splashed onto Al’s t-shirt.
“Damn liar,” he shouted, pushing Angel back down. Then he stumbled to the kitchen.
With shaking hands, Angel downed the rest of the whiskey and dropped the glass onto the couch. He grabbed his jacket, shrugged into it, then reached into his boot.
In the kitchen he found Al dabbing at his shirt, an unopened whiskey bottle on the counter beside him. Angel stifled the urge to laugh. How close are you, Nadia, he wondered, then raised his hand above his head. Al, turning towards him, knocked the bottle to the floor. Golden liquid splashed across the room.
“Hey,” he called. “Whataya think yer doin’?”
For a moment, Angel didn’t know what to do. The wind outside screamed, just like Nadia, the day Angel had stopped in after work only to find Al holding her against the wall, trying to pour whiskey down her throat. He knew he couldn’t back down now. Al’s gaze fell on the boot-knife in Angel’s hand. His eyes widened, watched in drunken helplessness. The blade plunged deep into his chest.
Aloysius. Nadia’s father’s full name popped into Angel’s head as he backed away from the lifeless body.
“She’s safe from the storm, Aloysius,” Angel whispered, grasping the door knob. “Safe from your raging abuse. She’s mine now.”
He yanked the door open and cold fury blew deep into his soul. No one will know, he reminded himself, then remembered something else. Turning back, he knelt beside Aloysius and pulled the knife from the limp, bleeding body. In a moment of coherent paranoia, he washed the blade as the man’s lifeblood poured onto the floor, mixing with the drink it had always craved.
Sliding the knife back into its sheath inside his boot, he went out into the snowstorm. Small, white flakes stung his face as he rushed blindly to his vehicle, hoping to get away before Nadia arrived with Jenn. Heart pounding as erratic as the snowflakes, he shoved the key into the ignition, revved the engine. He shifted into gear, backed down the driveway and glanced into his rearview mirror. Nothing but his own terrified eyes, back dropped by white fury, looked back. He looked away and backed out.
A horn sounded. Angel slammed on the brakes as bright lights, glaring from a grill high above his little car, temporarily blinded him. Metal crunched on metal. The car rolled. His last thought as the shrieking wind drowned his own screams, and the storm stole his soul, was that Jenn drove a truck.
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Kellee Kranendonk is a Canadian writer, and an editor for Youth Imagination. Her previously published works have appeared in such magazines as Rural Delivery, 365 Tomorrows, Voluted Tales and Aurora Wolf. “If you immediately know the candle light is fire, then the meal was cooked a long time ago.” – Oma DeSala