Absolution
Author:Amanda Dick

But they were just fantasies. The reality was that he would never be able to go home, that Callum would never understand why he left and that Ally would never be able to throw herself into his arms again.

 

Sometimes, in the moments just before waking, he almost felt her curled into his body on the bed, her hair tickling his nostrils. He could swear he felt her long, smooth legs entwined with his, his hand curled around hers beneath the pillow.

 

And then he woke alone, his arms empty, his bed cold.

 

He had taken something from her that she would never be able to get back. As she lay in the ICU that night, he remembered thinking that she looked whole. But she wasn’t. A shattered spinal cord did invisible damage, damage that could never be repaired. She would never walk again and it was his fault. He carried that knowledge around with him like an anchor that simultaneously tied him to her and tore her away from him.

 

Questions haunted him, but he was afraid to ask them. He told himself it would be easier if they didn’t talk about her, warning his father that it had to be this way. The delusion was paper-thin. Just because they didn’t talk about her didn’t mean she was far from his mind. He shook off the musings, taking another swig from his bottle. He didn’t deserve to know.

 

Staring down at the untouched slice of cold pizza on his plate, he saw his whole life stretched out in front of him. Alone in some grubby little apartment, working a dead-end job miles from home. Throwing himself into harm’s way – tempting fate, but too much of a coward to take matters into his own hands. Working himself to the brink of physical and mental exhaustion, trying to block everything out. How had he ended up here?

 

He stood up and stared out the dirt-covered window into the back of the building in front of his. After a few moments, he took what was left of his beer over to the couch and sank into it, the fabric on the arms smooth with the ingrained grease and dirt of previous tenants. His gaze crawled over the faded, peeling wallpaper as he tried to psyche himself up for the fight tonight. He had been instructed to take a dive in the third round, which got under his skin. He knew his opponent, had seen him fight. He was bigger, but he was clumsier too. If he put his mind to it, he could take him, but he had his instructions. Didn’t matter if he could take him or not.

 

The trill of his ringing cell phone broke into his thoughts and he picked it up off the stack of pizza boxes that passed for a coffee table. An unfamiliar number blinked at him from the screen.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Jack?” The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. “Hello?”

 

“Who is this?” he asked tentatively, although the voice was far too familiar to be mistaken.

 

“It’s me. Callum.” His heart thumped in his ears. “You still there?”

 

“I’m here.”

 

How the hell did Callum get this number?

 

“I’ve got some bad news. It’s your Dad.”

 

The words hung in the air between them, his heart breaking as if it knew the truth before he did.

 

“He’s dead, Jack.”

 

Silence. Utter devastation.

 

“He had a heart attack.”

 

Jack stared at the wall opposite him. “When?”

 

“This afternoon. I came over to –” Callum’s voice broke and he cleared his throat. “He was in the living room.”

 

The world stopped spinning.

 

“Your number was in his phone. I thought you’d want to know.”

 

Jack nodded blankly.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

He nodded again, forgetting that Callum couldn’t see him.

 

“Funeral’s on Friday.”

 

The pause was long and uncomfortable. He imagined Callum’s face on the other end of the phone. He felt dead inside. Empty. Alone.

 

“Are you coming home?” His heart hammered in his chest, fear pulsing through him at the thought. “Jack? Are you planning on coming home, for the funeral?”

 

The harshness in Callum’s tone shocked him into answering. “I don’t know.”

 

“I don’t care one way or the other. It’s your call.” Jack closed his eyes against the obvious distaste in his voice. “I just thought that if you were, Ally should know.”

 

His eyes flew open at the mention of her name.

 

“She said she doesn’t want to see you. So if you decide to come, stay away from her – I mean it. She doesn’t need this shit from you, not now.” The anger was unmistakable. “Funeral’s Friday, at eleven. Father David’s handling it. You can call him for all the details.”

 

Callum rattled off the number as Jack scrawled it on the top of the nearest pizza box with a pen he dug out. He stared at the number, barely able to read his own writing, his hands were shaking so badly.

 

“Thanks,” he mumbled automatically.

 

“I mean it, Jack. Stay away from her. You owe her that much.”

 

The line went dead. His heart thundered in his ears. He blinked once, twice, as the colours around him faded until he was staring at a wall of grey.