The household was quiet and dark, though the sun rose as it did every morning. Jayce awoke with little Annaliese cuddled up to him, with her worn teddy smushed between them. He kissed her forehead and her eyes opened.
“Good morning, princess.”
“Good morning, daddy.”
Annaliese jumped up into his arms, but not before scooping up the bear. She nestled into his neck. “What are we going to do about Mommy? When is she coming home?”
Tears filled Jayce’s eyes. “I don’t know yet, baby. We’ll figure it all out. Don’t worry.”
They stopped at Dawson’s bedroom door and knocked. “Daws? I’m making breakfast and I’d like you to join us.”
No response. Jayce opened the door.
“Dad! What the hell! Get outta here!” Dawson yelled from his bed.
“Dawson, breakfast in ten.”
Jayce left the door open and as he walked away, still holding Annaliese, he heard Dawson mutter, “I hate you.”
Eventually, the family, minus one, ate quietly at the table. When Annaliese finished, she gave her daddy a kiss and asked if she could go play. Jayce hugged her and chose to take the opportunity to try and communicate with his son.
“So that was quite the news yesterday. What’s going through your head?”
Dawson, staring at the table, spoke with a scowl, “You did this. You did this to her, and you did this to us. You belong in there, rotting.”
Jayce was more than startled. He hadn’t realized the full extent of his sons contempt. “All of us make choices, whether good or bad. I was stuck in stupidity for a long stretch there, son. I’ll be the first to admit it. But please, please understand that I’ve left that behind now. I’ve walked away! I’m one hundred percent here for you and Anna now, and will always be.”
Dawson chuckled then said, “I’m one hundred percent sure that’s total crap. Look…you want to play the dad role? I guess now even the single dad role considering where you’ve put my mother! Do it. I don’t care. It’s too late for me. Don’t screw up Anna like you screwed up me and mom.”
With that, he got up and walked the hall to his room. After the slam of the door, the house was silent. Except for the sound of Annalieses music box and her humming in the distance.
Jayce sat there and with his head in his hands, he wept. His entire married life flashed before him, the good times and bad. How did every single aspect get uprooted and how could all these broken pieces and people be mended?
Jayce managed to compose himself, but for a moment. In what felt like extreme slow motion, Jayce looked to his right to see Dawson storm out of his room, and in his hand he carried a sawed off shotgun.
As he walked, he readied the weapon and aimed it at his father’s chest. Jayce’s hands shot up in the air. The only sound audible were Dawson’s loud foot steps. His finger found the trigger and curled around it, ready to pull.
And then, in the blink of an eye, with her bear in hand, danced little Annaliese out into the hallway, right between her brother and her father. With a second to smile at her daddy, the gun went off.
The round went through the back of her head and her face popped like a ripe, red tomato. Bits of flesh and skull and blood soaked the table, as well as Jayce. Her body fell to the floor and besides that thump, the only sound in both Jayce’s and Dawson’s ears was a high pitch ringing.
Jayce bolted up and began screaming. He looked at his crying son, looking at his dead sister. In the time Jayce had to take a step toward his son, the barrel released again, this time finding it’s original mark in Jayce’s chest.
With his heart and a lung blown completely out of his torso, Jayce felt no pain. He collapsed on the floor as his spirit exited his body. Blood pooled from both daddy and daughter, and they intermingled, just as they would in the afterlife.
Dawson stood with them at his feet. As the adrenaline faded, the shock increased, and the regret and horror that overtook him was too much for anyone….
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