Author's Note: I hope you all enjoyed this story. Now enjoy the epilogue.
And thanks for your help, Neo H.B.B. Sam.
Midday light streamed in through a window, illuminating an open suitcase that rested on top of a a bed. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, brushes, shampoo, conditioner, and a myriad of other items were neatly organized within. A fat duffel bag sat next to the suitcase, and it was stuffed to the brim with shirts, pants, underwear, and other items, a strong contrast to its neighbor. Someone suddenly grabbed the duffel bag and began to zip it up, although they found it more difficult than they imagined, having to tug and pull on the zipper violently to get it to close up. The person then reached over to the suitcase and quickly latched it shut, encasing the contents in a shallow darkness. The person began to sling the duffel bag over their shoulder, but then suddenly stopped. They dropped the duffel bag back onto the bed and then turned around. They walked over to a dresser, which was completely bare, save for a large oval mirror. The person then stopped in front of the mirror and stared at their reflection.
Her hair was a complete mess, strands of it poking out every which way, and her face seemed like it was pulled tight over her skull. She was tired. She had spent the whole morning packing; at first she had gone about it in an organized fashion, but after a while she just started shoving things in bags carelessly. She had never truly realized how many things she owned, even after throwing out most of her toys or giving them away. It was all a part of growing up, and she was finally at the scariest part of growing up so far: moving. She was finally leaving the place where she grew up and moving on with her life. It seemed almost unreal. She would be leaving behind all the familiar places she had seen and been to all her life. She would no longer be able to go down to the playground that she had spent years having fun in and take a ride on the swings, or be able to explore the junkyard and find strange things to play with or keep as a souvenir. But it wasn't all bad; after all, she would still have two people she knew to keep her company. She pulled her jean jacket around her tightly as she continued to stare at her reflection.
"You ready, Sarah?" someone asked from the doorway, causing her to snap out of her thoughts and look over at the doorway. Sarah gave a weak little smile when she spotted Jimmy in the doorway, leaning up against the door frame casually. He was wearing a pair of brown khaki pants and a a light blue polo shirt.
"Yeah... just gotta do a little something about my hair," Sarah answered before she pulled a scrunchie out of her pocket and pulled her hair back into a pony tail. She took one last look at herself before walking over to her bed where the suitcase and duffel bag still sat.
"Need any help?" Jimmy asked as he stepped out of the doorway and into her room.
"I've got it," she responded as he slung the duffel bag over her shoulder and then took hold of the handle on the briefcase. The two of them then exited the room, Sarah closing the door softly behind them, and made for the stairs.
"I thought your parents would be here to see us off," Jimmy commented as they descended the stairs.
"Don't worry, we went through the goodbyes yesterday," Sarah answered as they walked toward the front door. "But there was a lot of crying..." Jimmy smirked a little.
"We can always come down and see your parents whenever you want to..." Jimmy trailed off as he opened the door for her. "It'd be no trouble." The two of them stepped outside and began to walk toward Jimmy's compact car.
"I know... but I'll miss them..." Sarah said breathlessly as Jimmy opened up his trunk. "And I'll miss the neighborhood too." Jimmy watched her as she deposited her suitcase and duffel bag next to Jimmy's luggage. Jimmy shut the trunk and then looked at Sarah's tired face.
"I will too."
Some say that one can tell a lot about a woman by the contents of her purse. What the woman carries around with her everyday can tell one her habits, her likes, her beliefs, and a myriad of other things.
But one could argue the same about a woman's funeral. The people who bother to show up, how hard they weep for the deceased, and the words spoken about that woman's life can tell one all they need to know about that woman and the life she led.
Only four people showed up for their funerals. And only one truly cried. Because only one thought that she knew the deceased. Knew them so well. And now they were gone forever, taken from her by some boy she didn't even know. The other three had never been there. They barely knew the deceased. But they felt some unknown obligation to be there. Perhaps they really did care and wept on the inside. Or maybe they thought showing up would make up for never being there for their daughters.
"Hey, Sarah," Jimmy suddenly said, causing Sarah to look away from the passing buildings and over at him.
"Yeah?" Sarah asked as Jimmy watched the road carefully for road signs.
"We need gas, so I'm gonna stop at this station up here," Jimmy began as a gas station came into view. "Do you need anything?" Jimmy asked as he flashed her a quick look.
"I'm fine," Sarah answered as Jimmy nodded. They pulled into the gas station and Jimmy pulled up to a gas pump labeled "2". Sarah watched Jimmy shut off the car and then exit the vehicle, lightly closing the door behind him. Jimmy strolled across the parking lot and toward a squat building with a busted sign that read "Pump Smart" on it. Jimmy entered the building and heard the familiar jingle of a bell as he entered. He sighed as he gazed around at the shelves of snacks, magazines, and other assorted goods. He then spotted the counter and began to walk toward it.
"Hello?" Jimmy said as he peered over the counter and saw no one. Jimmy looked for some sort of bell or anything to ring for service, but he found none.
"Sorry about that, sir," a voice said from behind Jimmy as he turned around. "Jimmy?" the person said as the two faced each other. Jonny stood before Jimmy in his blue work shirt and worn khaki pants. Jimmy cracked a smile.
"Hey, Jonny," Jimmy said.
"So you're finally doing it, huh?" Jonny asked, skipping the introduction. He walked around the counter and went to the register.
"Yep," Jimmy answered as he retrieved his wallet from his pocket. Jimmy fished around in his wallet as Jonny watched him carefully. "I think thirty will do it," Jimmy finally said as he pulled a twenty and two fives out of his wallet. Jonny nodded and then took the cash. "I'd like a receipt as well," Jimmy added. Jonny rung up the thirty dollars and then gave Jimmy his receipt."Thanks, Jonny," Jimmy said as he turned away and began to walk out.
"Wait a sec," Jonny suddenly said, causing Jimmy to stop and face him. Jonny stared at Jimmy for a moment, who was looking at him inquisitively. "Tell Sarah I'm gonna miss you guys," Jonny said. Jimmy smiled and then nodded. "Oh, and tell her brother I said hi."
These words were tossed around carelessly by those with superficial knowledge. But that's what always happens with situations like these. Three innocents gunned down in cold blood by their asshole boyfriends. For these observers, it seemed so cut and dry. No evidence needed. No court proceedings were necessary. No innocence before guilt. They were ready for punishment to be dolled out to these three lowlifes.
Over all the vicious fighting, the kids tried their best to set the record straight. They put their own reputations on the line. Years of mistreatment rediscovered through trembling lips and nervous eyes. Vengeful plotting that came to fruition laid bare for everyone to see. And the deeds of the three "victims" revealed to gawking mouths and wide eyes. They fought tooth and nail to defend the accused.
In the end, it was a bittersweet victory. As much evidence as they had, a crime had been committed. And there would be justice.
One of them was set free because he was found mentally unfit. He had the mind of a child and no apparent comprehension skills. Could he have really known what was going on?
One of them was found guilty of fourth degree murder and sentenced to a meager eighteen months. It wasn't a lifetime of pain... or was it? A bright future filled with possibilities ruined because a system couldn't find it in its heart to let him go without scars.
One of them took the blame for it all. He told everyone that he pulled the trigger. That he ended their lives. He should be the one to be punished. Just leave his friends alone. The kids couldn't defend him. His parents couldn't defend him. The lawyer couldn't defend him. He had admitted to the deed. But he knew the consequences of this admission. He knew the shit he was getting himself into. He didn't care. He also knew that because of this admission of guilt, he'd be joining the Kankers in hell in the near future.
"Well, here we are," Jimmy said as he stared up at the tall brick building that loomed overhead. Sarah and Jimmy stood outside of the car, which was parked carefully between a truck and a van on the side of the street. Sarah stood with her duffel bag hanging loosely from her shoulder and the suitcase dangling in her hand. Jimmy had a backpack on stuffed full of his belongings and a suitcase of his own in his hand. The sounds of the city buzzed lightly around them, although this particular street was relatively calm compared to the others through which Jimmy had to drive through. But they were here at last. The two of them stood there a bit longer to suck up the breezy Fall air, and then finally stepped toward the building.
The elevator was out of order, so they had no choice but to walk up the stairs; they were thankful that their destination was only on the third floor. They climbed the stairs carefully, taking each step slowly. Sarah was nervous beyond belief. She was happy, sure, but she couldn't help but feel some force telling her to go running back to Jimmy's car and curl up. She knew why she felt this way. She hadn't seen him in a very long time. It had literally been years. She had made sure to talk to him on the phone as much as possible, but to actually be in the same room as him?
Jimmy and Sarah finally reached the third floor and began to look for their destination. Room numbers floated by as they passed doorway after doorway. 304. 305. 306. 307. Finally the room they were looking for came into view: 308. This was it. Jimmy gave Sarah a encouraging smile as she sucked in a breath of air. Sarah studied the door for a while before finally gathering the courage to reach out and rap on it a few times. The two of them then stood there for a few moments as they waited for an answer. Sarah was sweating. She could feel it. Sarah almost jumped at the sound of the locks on the door being unlatched. The two of them watched as the door began to slowly open, light from within spilling out into the dimly lit hallway. As the door finally swung open all the way, Sarah finally saw the person on the other side.
Moving on was probably the hardest part for everyone.
For some, it would difficult but doable. This experience was scarring, but they made it out unscathed. Their families could rest easy knowing that no permanent damage had been done.
For some, it would be an insurmountable task. After all, how does one move on from knowing that your son will forever have the scar of prison time upon him?
And for others, it would be impossible. Their loved ones were either staring down death or had already joined him. How can one move on from that?
But most moved on regardless. Even those who didn't want to move on, found that time forced them to. As much as the pain had burrowed deep within them, time slowly pulled the thorns out until the pain was nothing more than an afterthought. But almost everyone forced themselves to remember from time to time, no matter how dulled the pain was.
Several pictures graced the walls of the room, which was surprisingly roomy and very cozy. There were pictures of Sarah and Jimmy at the high school prom, which Sarah had insisted on sending as soon as possible. Jimmy looked very handsome in his tuxedo with his hair all done up. Sarah stood next to him, her arm locked with Jimmy's; she was wearing a white gown that shimmered in the light.
There was one of Nazz and Rolf in front of a produce store. It wasn't just any store, however: it was theirs. Rolf had his arm slung over Nazz's shoulder and the two were grinning widely. It had taken days for Nazz to finally convince Rolf to take a picture with her, but, when she finally did it, it was only a matter of time before she sent it to her friends.
There was also one of Kevin sitting on his bike outside of a liquor store. He had a black jacket and tight leather pants on, and he had a little smile on his face. An odd picture to give someone, but it didn't matter; the thought counted more than anything.
There was also a picture of someone that no one recognized at first, although they soon learned that it had come from Eddy's Brother. He was standing outside of a strange whale-shaped trailer and had a pair of white shades on. He was wearing a brown hat, a red plaid jacket, and a basketball jersey. He didn't look very happy. On the back of the photo, there was a single word: "Sorry". No one knew what it meant.
A strange object sat on the floor underneath these pictures: an old wooden board. It had a worn face on it that grinned with devious delight. Jonny had found it a few years after losing it, and, finding that he couldn't stand to keep it anymore, gave it away as a token of remembrance.
Finally, there was a large picture that sat in the middle of all these sweet memories of years gone by. Three boys all stood side by side next to a tan wall, each of them grinning in delight. Party hats adorned their heads, save for the tallest who was wearing his over his mouth. At the bottom of the photo it read "Eddy's Thirteenth Birthday". Sarah's stare lingered on this photo for a few minutes, memories welling up inside of her. She wished she could go back and make things different. Especially this memory in particular. She wished she could've been at the party. She didn't want to go at the time. She didn't want anything to do with Eddy, who had begrudgingly invited her, and instead spent her entire day at her house watching television. Such a waste of time. She should've spent those precious few moments that she had with her brother and his two friends. Looking at the photo, she could tell she had missed out. They looked like they had had the party of a lifetime.
But she knew that hindsight was twenty-twenty. She would've never guessed that, only a few years later, things would change more than she could've ever imagined. And she would no longer be able to share in the memories that the three Eds were making together. Sarah suddenly snapped out her thoughts when she heard someone enter the room. She gave a little grin when she spotted Ed, who had two cups of hot chocolate in his hands. He handed one to her and then joined her at her side. "Thank you," Sarah said as she took a sip of the hot chocolate.
"No problem," Ed answered quietly as he looked down at her and smiled.
"Thanks again for letting Jimmy and I stay with you," Sarah said as she looked up at Ed, who was now taking a little sip of his hot chocolate. She took a moment to examine at her brother. It had been years since she had seen him, and he had changed slightly. He was wearing a stained black t-shirt with some band name that she didn't recognize on it, and he had a faded pair of jeans on. He was still a pretty messy person, although he had made sure to keep his filth limited to his own bedroom and kept the rest of his apartment relatively clean. He had even gotten a job as a graphic designer, and a few of his drawings were pinned up on the walls in various places. The two of them were then quiet for a couple minutes, each of them taking little sips of their hot chocolate every few moments.
"Where's Jimmy?" Ed suddenly asked as he sat his hot chocolate down on a nearby coffee table.
"He went down to get some more things out of the car," Sarah answered as she sat down her hot chocolate, which she had finished. "How's Double D doing?" Sarah asked as she looked over at Ed. Ed hesitated a few moments before finally answering.
"He's fine..." Ed began. "I saw him a few days ago at the grocery store. I told him about how you and Jimmy were coming to stay with me for a while, and he said he'd like to come and see you guys some time," Ed explained as Sarah smiled warmly.
"That's good to hear... I haven't seen him in a while," Sarah answered. Sarah suddenly noticed that Ed was looking at her strangely. "What is it?" Sarah asked as Ed continued to stare at her. For some reason, Sarah's mentioning of Edd began to make Ed feel strange. Something was trying to worm its way into his head. Words suddenly flooded into Ed's head from the past: Ed, one day, in the near future, Sarah will realize how much you matter to her and she will tell you. Just give her time. Ed bit his lip as Sarah continued to give him a confused look. "Ed, wh-"
"I love you, Sarah," Ed finally said as he stared longingly down at his no-longer-baby sister, who's mouth hung open, still stuck mid-sentence. Sarah stood there for a moment, taken aback by Ed's words. Her lips then closed and curled into a sad little smile.
"I love you too, Ed," Sarah said happily as she stepped toward him. Hugging one another tightly, each of them enjoying the warmth of the embrace, their eyes squeezed shut. Jimmy watched quietly from the doorway, not wanting to interrupt the moment; he had a sad little smile on his face. Ed relished the warm, loving embrace of his sister. You guys are everything to me. Tears formed in Ed's eyes; he tightened his grip on his sister as the noises of the city faded into the background, save for the distant sound of sirens speeding off to some unknown tragedy.