Sequel: If Only Until Morning

Pictures on Silence

Chapter 36

"I miss touring," I complained to my brother Aibhlin, who sat on the couch playing "Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver". "When we were out on the road, I missed home, and now that I'm here, I miss the road." It had only been a day and I already wanted these six days off to be done.

"Well, that's what happens, I hear," he responded, sucking some guys soul out. "All you can do is find balance between the two and stop whining like an emo kid about his parents. You're starting out again next week."

I sneered sarcastically at him laughing. "Thanks, Aiv." Just then my phone started playing Muse's "Supermassive Black Hole" in my pocket. I yanked it out and smiled happily at the sleek black flippy piece of plastic; tour had allowed me to buy a new cell that I actually liked. And having Brendon calling me wasn't too bad, either.

"Heyya, Bren," I greeted. "What's up?"

"Hey, Angie." There was something in his voice I didn't like, something that sounded entirely too much like bad news.

"Something's the matter. What's happened?"

Brendon made a lame attempt at laughter. "Yeah, you're way too quick." He cleared his throat and lowered his voice. "Ryan's dad died."

I sat frozen in my armchair, staring across the room with a glazed expression. My throat clenched. "Wow," I whispered. Aibhlin glanced at me, and I waved a hand at him dismissively. "When?"

"Day before yesterday. Funeral's in a few days, so we're back in Vegas."

My stomach hurt all of a sudden, and I was pretty sure it wasn't the tuna sandwich I had for lunch, though that could have been the perpetrator. Dead. I repeated the word in my head; despite listening to bands that sang about death a lot, I never could fully grasp the concept. I never had been able to, even after much contemplation.

The question that had instantly sprung to mind reappeared in my forethoughts and I licked my lips. "How is he?" I asked slowly.

"Pretty torn up, obviously," Brendon answered shortly. "How do you think you'd feel if--" He cut off suddenly. After a moment of silence I guessed that Ryan had come into earshot. "Well, you know."

"No," I said softly, twisting one of my earrings, "I can't really say that I do." The closest I'd ever come to meeting Death was my grandfather's funeral in seventh grade; I hadn't really known him well, for he'd been sick most of my memorable life. I cleared my throat, shaking away that certain memory. "Can I talk to him?"

"Yeah, hold on." I waited, listening to the murmurs on the other end of the line. Soon enough Ryan'ssweet soothing familiar voice came through the receiver. "Hi, Angie."

"Hey, Ry," I said, not sure how to act. Should I be sympathetic or pretend I didn't know? Ryan didn't strike me as the type who would want to be showered in empty words of sympathy. "How are you?"

"Shitty," he said with a sigh. "There's a lot of shit to do and I can barely get a moment to myself. 'Swhy I came over here."

"Oh." I faltered, biting my lip. "I'm sorry." Not that his father was dead, that I was interrupting his escape. I mean, I wasn't not sorry his dad died, but I meant about... Right. The rambling.

Ryan let out a noise that combined weariness with frustration. "You know, I've been hearing those words a lot lately, and I'm beginning to get really fucking sick of it."

I swallowed, gripping the arm of my chair and shifting my legs. "Well, maybe the people who say it don't know what else to say," I suggested quietly.

"Then they shouldn't say anything!" Ryan retorted. "I fucking know my dad died and I know they're trying to help, but I don't want to fucking hear it." I listened silently, chewing my lip. I didn't mean to hurt his feelings... "What are you fucking sorry for, Angie? You've only met him once."

"I didn't mean--" I began softly, but he cut me off.

"Yeah, I know you didn't mean to, but you did. I don't want your god damn sympathy, Rhiannon!"

His usage of my full name brought up my temper. "Fine, Ryan," I said acidly, "I understand that, but that doesn't mean you should ye--"

"What do you mean, you understand?" he almost-shouted. My eyes started to prickle. "Of course you don't fucking understand! You don't have any fucking idea what I'm going through!"

"Would you stop interrupting me!" I demanded desperately with salty eyes. "If you would just listen to me for a second--"

"No, I'm done fucking listening to your useless babble!" Ryan yelled into the phone. My jaw quivered, and I struggled to hold back tears. "Just... don't talk to me for a while, alright?"

I swallowed hard, gritting my teeth. "Gladly," I hissed. "I'll see you when you stop being such a fucking asshole, Ross." I snapped my phone shut and jammed it into my pocket. Aibhlin stared silently at me with concerned expression. With a sniffle, I got up, grabbed my set of keys from the hook on the wall, and strode out to the car.

Ten minutes later, I was peeling up the mountain, going far too fast for safety on the twisting road. I could have cared less. A crash might have been nice.

I parked in a little alcove overlooking the city; slamming my door, I stamped over to a stone table and plopped on, burying my face in my arms.

"Don't yell at me," I whimpered, tears streaming down my face. I was so angry I could barely think straight. I hated everyone and everything in the world, but most of all I hated Ryan, though in retrospect he didn't deserve it.

But he called me useless. Blind with rage, I stepped up onto the wobbly stone slab and glared at my sprawling, quiet hometown.

My eyes clenched shut as my guttural scream echoed over the landscape. A flock of birds fluttered up from a patch of trees on the hill. Cars slowed on the highway, drivers wondering what was happening. Shaking violently all over, I sat down hard on the table and sobbed. My throat burned dryly.

"Don't you fucking yell at me."

Leaning against the counter in the kitchen, I listened silently as Ryan shouted into the phone and winced when he slammed it onto the table. Okay, Bren, I thought to myself, Now here's the question: side with your friend whose dad just died, or remind him the truth that he just yelled an emotionally unstable teenage girl?

After a minute or two, I walked into the living room. Ryan sat on the couch with his head in his hands. I sat down in the armchair and waited, trying to decide what to say. "Look, man..."

"Just don't, okay?" he requested quietly, not looking up. I nodded and tapped my fingers on the chairs arm. The house lay still except for the clock ticking on the wall. It seemed much too loud. "I'm a a complete asshole, aren't I?"

"Kind of, yeah," I replied honestly. "But, I mean, you're under a lot of stress, you know?"

Ryan's face appeared from behind his hands, on which he rested his chin. He licked his lips and stared into the wall. "I just fucked up big time," he stated inarguably. Ryan glanced at me and nodded. "Big time."