They called him a monster. They called him a killer. Peter Houghton left the world bearing those names.
Even though she wouldn't admit it, not even to herself, Lacy understood the parents who didn't care what Peter had suffered or how pitiful his life was - only that he had killed their children. Joey. Joey had been killed in a car accident with a drunk driver the year before. Joey, her little baby boy. Everyone loved Joey. He wasn't only a straight A student, but a wonderful kid. He was very athletic, the star of his team. His school. His family. Everyone loved Joey. Although the sister of the drunk driver told Lacy how sorry she was, and told her to understand that even though he had gotten drunk that night, he was still a good young man, Lacy saw him as a killer. A monster. Everything that the parents of the dead had called Peter and more. Everyone loved Joey. So why? Why?
When Joey died, everyone was devastated. Friends, neighbors, friends of Joey, even some of Joey's teachers, left things like casseroles, flowers, notes, and gifts on her doorstep. Joey died a victim. But Peter, when he died, even though no one dared to say it in front of Lacy, she knew people were saying things like, "It's about time!", "An eye for an eye. If only we could've killed him ten times."
What people didn't know was that Peter was the victim. Peter himself may have stolen the lives of ten people that day, but some of those kids who died - not saying they deserved to die so young - stole Peter's childhood. Lacy knew that Peter was gone. But she didn't want him to leave the world with everyone hating him.
People will always remember Hitler as a terrible, terrible, person. Lacy wished the opposite for her son. When the name "Peter Houghton" was said, she knew that the image of a seventeen-year-old with a gun would pop into peoples' heads. Peter Houghton meant killer. Peter Houghton meant monster. But to her, Peter Houghton meant tender, loving little boy.
"Something still exists as long as there's someone around to remember it," Alex once told Lacy. It was those words that had kept Lacy's spirit alive. Those words assured her that yes, the Peter she knew was still somewhere. But what about after she was gone? Or even right then. She was the only person who did truly know Peter, while the rest of the world thought otherwise. If majority rules, who is right?
If you typed "Peter Houghton" into Google, a long list of links would pop up. The first few would be articles from the New York Times talking about the shooting. If you knocked on a random door in Sterling, New Hampshire and asked the person who opened it who Peter Houghton was, you would get the story about Peter, the killer of ten people, many of whom were children. There was next to nothing in the world that told the story of a troubled little boy, unable to engrave his name in the stone heart of the world.
Peter's death, Lacy knew, was different from his brother's in that this time, she had no where to go. If Lacy ran next door crying after Joey's death, she'd be hugged and given a warm cup of coffee or tea. She'd be told wonderful things about her son. But, Lacy knew, if she ran into someone's arms crying about the death of Peter, there would be a silence, and then an awkward apology, fake sympathy.
Everyone is born good, Lacy realized. It's life that makes you who you are. So what should you judge a person by, what they are born as, or what life has made them?