Peter sat alone on the living room couch. The room was dark; no lights were turned on inside the empty house. A distant streetlight created gloomy shadows in the room as it flowed through the curtains in front of the large window.
He is content with being alone for now. Grandmother took his three brothers into town for a nice dinner. He did not want to go, so he lied and said he was not feeling well and wanted to go to bed early. James was at a play rehearsal, though he should be home shortly.
He had been sitting silently, not moving, for over an hour. Part of him was afraid to be alone with himself, but at the same time, he did not want to be around anyone else. No one would understand him. They would not be able to convince him that everything would be alright for him someday. They would think he was crazy if they knew what thoughts were running through his mind; dark thoughts, constantly reoccurring thoughts about suicide. The act of ending his own life terrified him, but the calm and relief he longed for would only be achieved after his demise. How could anyone ever understand that?
He felt so relaxed and tired by the thoughts of his far-off tranquility, problem-free future that he did not notice James walk past the window as he approached the front door. James did not notice Peter, of course, because the room was mostly dark.
As soon as James unlocked the door, however, Peter snapped back into reality. James stepped through the door into the front hall. Peter quietly watched him from his seat, hoping James would not spot him in the adjacent room.
James turned the hall light on and hung his coat and hat on the hooks. He could see Peter sitting alone on the couch once the light shed across the room.
"Peter?" James asked as he stepped into the front room and turned on another light. "What are you doing sitting in the dark?"
"Just thinking," Peter softly responded.
A confused expression washed over James' face. "I thought your grandmother was taking you all out for dinner tonight?"
"She did. I didn't want to go though," Peter admitted.
"Oh," James muttered softly. He was worried about this boy. Lately he had been so quiet and alone. Even when he was in the room with everyone else, he seemed to be all by himself.
Peter wished James would not look at him like that. Peter could feel him looking straight at his mind and heart. He had almost grown afraid of James because of how well he could read him.
"What's the matter?" James looked so serious, so concerned that it almost made Peter afraid of himself. "Peter?"
Peter's eyes were quickly filling with tears and his throat was so constricted that he did not even try to speak. He only shook his head and looked at his hands, limply resting on his lap. He hoped James would walk away; he knew if he opened his mouth, he would lose everything.
"What's wrong?" James carefully moved towards him. With each step he took, it became more difficult for Peter to hold onto the tears. He shook his head again, as if to try and shake James away from him, then he tried to rub away the moistness that slowly began to seep from his eyes.
James sat down on the coffee table in front of Peter and studied his eyes, his motions, and the tears that were streaming down his face. He started sobbing and had a hard time catching his breath because he was trying to hold everything inside.
"Peter?" James asked again.
His voice was soft and gentle. In a way, Peter was comforted just to hear him speak; yet at the same time, he was embarrassed that James was witnessing him lose control of himself. The humiliation, pain, and fear were too much for Peter. He quickly pushed himself up off the couch and stood there for a short moment. He tried concealing his eyes with one shaky hand.
James did not need to see his eyes to know the intensity of his pain. He could easily hear the hopelessness and despair in Peter's sobs as he stood alone, trembling. James slowly rose off the small table to his feet as well and faced Peter, who was trying to do everything he could not to look back at him.
"Please, tell me what's wrong?" James asked the boy again. He wanted to understand so badly what Peter could be feeling that was making him break down like this. But Peter was stubborn, scared, and shut inside himself.
"No," Peter uttered, louder than he had intended for his voice to go. He could not take any more of it, standing in front of James, completely stripped of the front he had been living behind. He tried to push past James, to get out of the spotlight, but James reached forward and grabbed onto his arm. "Let me go, please," Peter softly pleaded.
But James would not loosen his hold on Peter. Instead, he wrapped both arms around him in a bear hug. He held Peter for a brief moment, not knowing what else he could do for him.
As much as he tried, Peter could not stop crying or shaking. He was somewhat calmed by James' hug, and he wanted to wrap his own arms around him and feel like everything would be alright, but his fear was still in control. He pulled away from James, instead of moving closer. He rushed through the living room and up the stairs.