Grudges Come Back to Haunt Us

This is for last week’s prompt to the 52 week writing challenge, “a story about justice being done.” I’d struggled with this at first because I felt like justice was such a loaded and complicated term, but I think I captured that feeling pretty well here. Warning: there is profanity and violence in this story. Proceed with caution!

Kieran sat on the hard bench, stifled by the collar of his button up shirt and stiff blazer. Neither of those things compared to the cuffs around his wrists though. The cold metal chafed his vulnerable skin, and the raw red welts made him see the blood on his hands from that night.

***

            He hadn’t meant for things to get out of hand. He just wanted an explanation for why the man he’d considered his best friend for so long would betray him that way. It’d been five years since the night Kieran caught him with the woman he loved, but it still grated him to see their pictures online, happy together, smiling, taunting him.

He should have let it go. It was done and over. Nothing left to do or say from any of them. But he didn’t let go. He held onto the pain and anger and let it fester away at his soul, fueling that rage with endless bottles of Jack and Jim. Holding grudges was always Kieran’s specialty, and that night it overwhelmed him.

With breath reeking of alcohol, and a staggering step, he arrived at his former best friend’s house, banging a fist so hard against the door he splintered the area around the knocker. Kieran heard grumbling from the other side as a light went on in the dark house. They’d already been asleep. People do that at two in the morning.

The door opened and for the first time in five years, Kieran stood face to face with the man who’d stolen his girlfriend from him. “Kieran, what the hell are you doing?”

“You never told me why, Lucius. Why’d you do it?” Kieran slurred his words.

Lucius sighed. “Kieran, you’re drunk. Let me get you a cab home.”

Kieran reached out. “No, you’re gonna answer my question.” His voice rose in volume. “Why did you take her from me?”

“Kieran, please. It’s late and you’re gonna wake the neighbors.”

“Then fucking answer me,” Kieran bellowed.

Lucius put a hand out, pleading for him to quiet down. “Okay, okay, let’s talk. Come around this way.” He led Kieran to the shed on the side of the house.

“You were my best friend.” Kieran got quiet now. “And I loved her.”

“Kieran, I’m sorry. It just happened.”

“Bullshit.” Yelling again.

Lucius put a hand up again. “Look, Kieran, the truth is, you have a problem. And Mary, she couldn’t take it anymore. We tried to get you help, but look at you now. You refuse to face your problems head on.”

Kieran’s nostrils flared. “I had it under control. Until you went and took her from me.”

Lucius shook his head. “She came to me, looking for a friend to help. And I tried. But we couldn’t help you. And in the process…” He looked down, guilty.

“Yeah, in the process of wanting to help me, you abandoned me. Ran off into the sunset together.” Kieran was wobbling now, getting in close to Lucius.

Lucius reached a hand out to Kieran’s shoulder, but Kieran knocked it away. “I don’t want your pity. I don’t want anything from you.” Spit flew from his mouth now.

“Kieran, please. Calm down.” Lucius’s voice shook. “You’re gonna cause a scene and I don’t want someone to call the police on you.” He reached a hand out again, but this time Kieran grabbed it and knocked Lucius back.

Lucius stumbled against the table, but still tried to settle his comrade’s rage. “Please, Kieran. Look at yourself. You’re a mess right now. Don’t do this.”

Kieran stepped forward and grabbed his former friend’s shirt front. “You took everything from me.” His other hand came forward in a fist, full force. Bone cracked against bone, but Kieran felt nothing.

Lucius tried to cry out, but Kieran kept going, not letting the man who’d taken his life take a single breath. By the time he realized what he’d done, Lucius lay still in his arms. Kieran shook him but received no response. “Lucius? Lucius?” Nothing.

Kieran’s eyes teared up and his breath hitched. “Oh god, no. What did I do? Fuck. Shit. Fuck.”

“Lucius what’s going—?” The sleepy voice behind him stopped short. Mary stepped forward into the light. “Kieran? Where’s—?” That’s when she saw him and her hands shot up to her face. “Oh my god, Kieran. What happened? What did you do?”

Kieran let go of Lucius’s limp body, watching in horror as his former friend fell to the floor, unmoving. “Mary, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. It just happened.”

She knelt down, hands shaking as she reached for her husband’s neck to check his pulse. She pulled them back instantly like she’d been bitten by a snake. Kieran ran out, not looking back at the damage he’d done.

***

            Now, he waited for his name to be called. Waited for judgment. Waited to be forced to look Mary in the eye one last time before he was found guilty of first degree murder.

“Kieran Nieto.” This was it. He took a deep breath and got up on his feet. It felt strange to stumble forward without alcohol in his system.

As he walked down the aisle to the front of the court room, he managed to catch Mary’s eye and found her gazing back, stone-faced with eyes cold and hard as ice. She had every right to hate him. He’d gone too far. Past the point of no return.

The judge’s gavel came down and Kieran swallowed down the lump in his throat. This would be quick and easy. He already knew what he wanted to do. When the moment of confession came, for the first time in his life, he did the right thing. “In the case of…” He hardly heard the rest. He was ready with his answer. “Guilty.” The word fell from his lips like a broken promise.

The next hour or so went in a flurry as he was propelled from the room to his next destination. Handled from one officer to another, he finally made his way to a secure vehicle, only to find himself alone at the end.

Kieran looked around, confused at this breach in protocol. A sinking feeling hit the pit of his stomach, and then just as suddenly, a sharp, cold pain shot into his spine.

“There’s no saving you, Kieran. You’ve been dead a long time.” He’d never heard Mary’s voice that way before. Soulless. Frozen. Venomous.

“Mary.” He gurgled as his knees buckled beneath him. “Please.”

She came around to face him. “This is your justice, Kieran.”

No, he thought as it all faded away. It’s your ghost.

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