He was so tired by the time he crawled into bed that he couldn't sleep. He lay flat on his back, staring wide-eyed at the ceiling. A gentle breeze fluttered in through the open window, and a nearby street light cast shadows like huge, leering tentacles across the bedroom walls.
The emptiness of the room around him seemed to yawn endlessly, and he was just about to finally drift off to sleep when something thumped hard against the window screen. Thinking it was his imagination playing tricks on him, he turned on his side and away from the window. It seemed somehow like an eye watching him.
Another thump, and the realization hit him that it was a rock; someone was throwing rocks at his window. Someone. Not just anyone. No, he knew who it was. He sighed with irritation and relief as he pushed the thin sheet off his weary legs and stumbled toward the window.
The familiar figure on the ground below, hunched in a jacket that was way too big, grinned up at him. The glow of the street light caught the white of his eye, making it sparkle for just a moment. "You gotta let me in, James," Josh Wilson called up to his brother in a hushed whisper.
James just shook his head and withdrew from the open window. A mantra of unspeakable curses ran through his mind and played soundlessly on his lips as he descended the stairs of his parents' home. He was far from calm, though his expression was blank and neutral, as he pulled open the door to let Josh in.
Josh went past him without a word, focused on getting to the kitchen. He went directly to the fridge and claimed the new jug of milk, drinking straight from the bottle, and then sliding it back into place on the shelf.
"What?" Josh wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. "I didn't want to dirty a glass."
"How thoughtful," James slumped against the door frame, looking every bit as defeated as he felt. "Where the hell have you been? I've been all over this town looking for you. Mama wanted to call the cops, Josh. I put her off, till morning."
Josh shrugged nonchalantly. "But you knew I'd come back." He caressed the refrigerator door handle as if it were a lover. "You know I'll always come back."
"Will you?" James said as he turned to head back up the stairs. The silence that seemed to follow him was all too revealing, and it echoed in James's head as he stood in the bathroom, splashing cold water on his face.