Tyrant
Author:T.M. Frazier

Tap Tap Tap

I thought what I was hearing was still the ice cracking from my dream, but when it grew louder and more impatient I opened my eyes and realized that the sound was coming from my window.

When I opened my eyes I realized that the TV I’d left on for light had turned off sometime during the night and I was encased in darkness that made my fear spike to epic proportions.

And then I heard the distinct sound of the window slowly sliding open. I froze, having no clue where there might be something I could defend myself with and not wanting to bring any more attention to my location. The only thing I could do was clutch my comforter to my chest, and wait.

The unavoidable shadow slinked through the window, one long leg after the other. I spotted a snow globe on the desk and was about to make my move to grab it and launch it at the intruder when the shadow started toward my bed. Then to my surprise as the shadow moved closer to the bed, my panic receded.

There was only one person whose very presence could quiet my overwhelmingly loud fear of the dark.

King.

My anger toward him, which I’d been suppressing all day, was barely a thought in the back of my mind as I leapt out of bed. But just as I was about to jump into his arms a cloud rolled away from the moon, the light beaming into my room like a spotlight, introducing my visitor.

Tanner.

I stopped abruptly and when I realized I was still holding my arms open in the air, I lowered them and awkwardly held my wrist behind my back.

“What are you doing here?” I asked breathlessly.

“I told you I was coming to talk to you,” Tanner answered. “And who did you think I was?”

I shook my head and waved my hand dismissively. “Oh, no one, you just surprised me is all when you came through the window.” I lied. “Who’s with Sammy?”

Tanner gave me a look that said he wasn’t buying my answer, but thankfully he moved on anyway. “My mom’s watching him.”

“Oh,” I said. Twisting around at my waist, averting looking Tanner in the eye.

“I’m sorry that I surprised you. And honestly, I didn’t even think about coming through your front door instead of the window, because unless I had Sammy this is just how I always came…” Tanner stopped and closed his eyes tightly. He shook his head and moved over to the bed. He shot me a tentative look and I nodded. Taking up only a small portion of the corner of the bed, he wasn’t really sitting, more like bracing himself. “I keep forgetting that you don’t remember any of this.” He pointed at himself and then me.

“You don’t have to explain anything to me,” I said.

But despite my protest, Tanner attempted to explain anyway. “Your father. He’s an ass, always has been. But you’ve probably figured that out already. He only mildly tolerates me because of my family’s last name. My dad’s a fourth generation Redmond Shoes C.E.O. and although the senator has been trying to convince you to get rid of me since we were in diapers, after we had Sammy I think he finally came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going anywhere. But no matter how much he likes my name, I’m still the dude that knocked up his teenage daughter. So even though we share a kid, I’m still climbing that damn tree and sneaking in your window like I’ve been doing since we learned how to climb trees, because your disapproving father likes to think he has control over everything that goes on in his house.” Tanner flashed me a smile that glinted in the moonlight. “So me being here, like this, is…frowned upon.”

“Frowned upon?” I asked. The turn of phrase sounded out of place being spoken by someone my age.

“Your father’s words not mine,” he admitted. “And you know what I mean, Ray. Don’t be a smart ass,” Tanner said playfully.

I sat down at the foot of the bed. “I have so much to ask you, my head has more questions than answers, but I don’t have a clue where I should start,” I admitted.

Tanner nudged my elbow with his. “Well, I have some questions of my own…if you don’t mind,” Tanner said. “So how about we trade off, one question at a time. But you have to promise to answer honestly. We’ve never lied to each other and I’m not about to start now.”

“Okay,” I agreed.

“You start.” Tanner said. “What do you want to know first?”

There was one thing that I needed to know first. “I want to know about us, about Samuel. Sammy.” I was a bit in shock earlier to ask you too much about it.

Tanner clapped his hands onto his knees. “Then I shall start at the beginning,” he said in some sort of strange accent. I raised an eyebrow, not sure how to react to his brand of humor. He looked down at the carpet and continued on, accent free. “You and I have been together since we were in diapers. If you take the short cut, it’s only a five-minute walk between our houses. Our moms were close, before yours decided that vodka made a better friend than people do. We were in every class together growing up. We used to pretend to get married in our fort when we were little. Another one of our friends used to pretend to be the reverend. She even cut up one of her dad’s Hugo Boss shirts to make her ‘sacred robes’ and got herself grounded for a week, and after her parents told ours, the three of us didn’t see each other for the entire summer.” Tanner laughed nervously. He rested his chin on the back of his hand and sighed. “It feels really weird to try to explain us to you.”

“I can assure you that hearing it is probably weirder,” I admitted.

Tanner struggled stopping and starting again but he took a deep breath and continued., “We were fifteen when Samuel…happened. We had originally planned to wait to have…to be…physical, until we graduated.” He looked pained as her tapping his sneaker on the floor. “But then I got sick. Real sick.” He turned to face me. “Leukemia.”