Gerald ran up the concrete walkway to his childhood home. He hadn’t been there in years. In any other circumstance, he was sure his family would have been thrilled to see him. But he couldn’t let himself care about that tonight.
Tonight, he was in hiding.
He fumbled around nervously for his keys. His shaking hands couldn’t quell the monstrous rattle of metal as he attempted unlocking the door. He looked back behind him. No one seemed to be following, but his uneasiness grew. They seemed to have given up the chase very quickly.
After several tries, Gerald finally opened the front door and stumbled inside. It was pitch black. Everyone was likely in bed. He’d have to be extra quiet so as not to wake them.
Once his eyes adjusted to the room, he made his way to the kitchen, hoping a beer would calm his nerves. He opened the refrigerator and grabbed a Budweiser. He closed the door and jumped; his sister was standing behind it.
“You scared me half to death, Rachel!” he exclaimed. “How did you move so quietly?”
She ignored the question. “Gerald! I haven’t seen you in so long!” She leapt forward and grabbed him in a big hug.
Gerald returned the hug as best he could while still being nervous. “It’s good to see you too, Rach. But please keep your voice down.”
Rachel looked up at him. “Why? You know Mom and Dad will want to see you, no matter what time of night it is.”
Gerald frantically grabbed her shoulders. “Please keep it down. Don’t wake them up. I’m just here to catch my breath, grab a couple things from my bedroom, and leave again. This isn’t a random visit.”
Rachel grew worried. She snuck a glance at the clock. 2:07 AM. “Yeah, it’s a little late for a random visit anyway. Why are you here?”
“I told you. I just need to grab a couple things from my room.”
“What kind of things?”
Gerald stammered. “D-does it really m-matter?” He wished she hadn’t discovered him in the first place. The last thing he wanted to do was get his family roped into something they would never understand.
Rachel looked at him quizzically. “Kind of. I mean, we haven’t seen you for years, or heard from you in a few months. Then out of nowhere you decide to show up at two in the morning and you don’t even want to see us? What are you grabbing from your room?”
Gerald looked at his sister. He had always felt a stronger connection to her than to anyone else in his family. If anyone could understand, it was her. “I… uh…”
“Well?” She put her hands on her hips.
He took a sip of his beer and tried to collect his thoughts. “Well, Rachel… There are some things you don’t know about me.”
She raised her eyebrows. “I bet. You’ve been a mystery man for so long. You didn’t even have that beard when I saw you last.”
“Well, I’ve done a lot in these past few years that I’m not so proud of. And, well…”
Rachel waited for the end of that sentence. “Well?”
Gerald gulped. “I, uh… I’m in hiding.”
“Hiding from what?”
Gerald lowered his voice even further. “A group of terrible men. They want to kill me.”
Rachel gasped. “Why? Why would they want to kill you?”
Gerald paused. This was the moment of truth. He was not entirely sure why he was confessing, but once he did, there was no going back. “Because, I killed their leader.”
The weight of those words hung heavy in the air. Gerald knew his little sister’s opinion of him would be forever changed. She was now related to a murderer. He looked to her for a reaction. Her eyes suddenly darted behind him, captured by a small movement.
The sound of someone cocking a gun echoed in the kitchen and Gerald knew he was in trouble. They were still following him after all.
“Hands in the air!” the gun-wielder shouted. Gerald obeyed. “Turn around slowly!”
Gerald took several baby steps until he was face-to-face with his assailant. Nothing in his shady past could have prepared him for what he saw. “Dad?”
His father stared back at him, his gun aimed directly at his son’s nose. “No son of mine drinks Budweiser!”
Gerald was confused. He looked at his hand in the air, still clutching the can. “What do you mean? I got it from your refrigerator!”
Without warning, his dad thrust a well-aimed foot into the center of Gerald’s chest, knocking him back into the opposing cabinet. He landed with a hard thud, knocking the wind out of him as the cabinet splintered across the linoleum.
“Gerald, we are a Miller Lite family!” He fired a warning shot at his son’s ear. “At only 96 calories a can, you can drink full-bodied flavor with no guilt.”
Rachel reached into the refrigerator, grabbed a can of Miller Lite, and chucked it at her gasping brother. “Throw that bathwater aside and drink a man’s beer!”
Between heaves of pain, Gerald managed to open the can. He tossed back a swig of his family’s favorite beverage and tried his best to smile. The spikes of wood from the cabinet he lay in continued cutting up his torso, but even he couldn’t deny he had tasted the best thing to ever touch his tongue. “I can’t believe I’ve ever tried anything else!” he said with strained breath.
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