All you could feel sometimes, when looking at the corridors of his house, was an acrid stench of wrongness and solitude. There was a pungent aroma in the air, which stephane always linked to days spent staring out of the windows, lost in thoughts waiting for someone to acknowledge his presence. Which hardly happened.
The house used to be alive, once. The pictures his mother kept staring at, the anecdotes she kept telling over and over with that horrifying, out of tune voice, that monotone singy-songy mumbling that she had since her breakdow, were proof that once, that house had been a home.
There wasnt anything special therte but there was an attempt at loving each other, at giving each other some laughs or tears, anything. Then his father started disappearing more and more. While Stephane kept morpohing into an adult, his father clearly felt less and less interested in him. He wasnt a baby, now. He was a person, with ideas and opinions and a mind of his own. And that clearly wasnt something his dad felt like dealing with. All he wanted was a son to be shaped into his own personal project, and that son was escaping that, even involuntarily. So the man just quit. He didnt really left, but he spent all the time he could with people that werent Stephane and his mother. And slowly dropped any sign of affection towards them, turning into an invisible presence in the house.
And his mother, who loved him, but also wanted a lover and a acompanion to face life and stgill be a woman, broke down. Stephane always wondered if she blamed him for what happened. If they would've been happier if he was never born. She said once, that people like her and her father werent supposed to have kids, but then it happened and they did their best with it. But the best wasnt enough to hold them together. And thats all she said about it.
Then she spiraled into depression and self abuse. The smart, sweet, loving woman that taught Stephane how to paint, to play chess and gave him his first adult book, "Of Men And Mice", when he was only ten, just disappeared. And what was left was a shgell fo a woman that wept and mumbled endlessly. Stephane felt his heart crumble everytime he watched her, on the bed, with always the same tear stained clothes, devastated by alcholo and pills and cigarettes and carelessness.
But what could he do? He tried and no one wanted his help. He was just fourteen and all he could do was to escape from there as soon as possible.
And thats why he spent so much at his schoolmate Eric's house. Him and Eric did not have a book like friendship. They were different, liked different things, had different lives. Stephane liked sports, liked animals, liked acting slightly more like a kid than he was supposed to. When he was at home, it was like his own free spirit was poisoned and forced to a slow death. So he let loose outside. Eric seemed in his own way, to like that: He was a kid with opportunities and talent. His family had built a world of ideas and dreams to make true aroudn him.
ERic knew how to play guitar, had tons of books, could paint, and fence. Many at school thought he was an overpriviliged spoiled brat, but Stephane knew that was not the case. Eric had a family that had seen his strength and wanted to make it grow into something better.
If there was one thing Stephane envied Eric though, even more than the rest, was his family. His mother was gentle, caring and full of heart and love. She always looked at her child with attentive eyes, drinking up all his words and often she did that with Stephane too. She made him feel interesting and accepted.
Also she was clearly in love with her husband. Eric's father was a charming man. Strong, funny, looking very young for his age and with a lust for life that was all over his actions. He seemed to have a passion for everything: writing, sculpture, sports. And he wasnt, as his father would've said, an "artsy slacker", he had a job and made good money, giving his family a good life, so they could still be themselves. He seemed to love his son anjd wife immensely.
He had a special friendship with Stephane. He encourage him to stay at the house, write things and develop his own creativity. He was sincerely interest in his ideas, wanted to see him create and be himself. Stephane couldnt help but feeling his heartbeat rush whenever he tried to accomplish something under the man's eyes. And whwnever he got complimented he felt like melting and aching, with a need for appreciation that had piled up for too long.
The days passed and Stephane realized thatr his real family didnt really care if he was home or not. As long as he was alive and did not bother them, they were too busy with theiur own despair to care about him. So he spent more and more time at Eric's house, even sleeping there. Him and Eric were like brothers.
One summer night, he couldnt sleep. The heat was intense, drecnhing him in sweat and making his head ache. He was spending the night at Eric's house as suual. His father was home and he was proabably delaing with mother and her anger. He did not want to be there.
He stood up and went in the garden. Eric's father was there too. He smiled st him.
"Nope, too hot"
"Yeah, i feel that way too. Also, the night gets so beautiful at this time of the year"
They bothy enjoyed the silence. Stephane felt a rush of blood to the head, suddenly.
Robert, Eric's father, stared at him and smiled calmingly.
"I like to have you here, Steph. You're special. You're a good friend to Eric and he loves you, in his own way"
Stephane didnt really know what to say, so he just looked elsewhere, feeling weirdly.
"I know you have troubles, in your life and i wish i could help. But some things have to be fixed on your own, you know?"
"So i'm telling you: talk to me whenever you need, ask me anything. and whenever you'll be ready, you can stay here. with us. with me"
Stephane felt a knot in his stomach clench.
"But... What about Eric.... And your wife.... Would they want me here?"
" i want you here. I love you, Steph".
Robert looked at him. And everything felt wrong or right.
He kissed him.
What happened next, wasnt right or wrong. It happened and it existed. Steph was chyanged. Some things were shaken out of their roots and ripped out forever. It was one of those moments that wouldve set his path in life in a certain direction. He wouldve done things differently, from now on. Be a different person. Better or worse, no one could know but him.
In the morning Stephane, with a face stained by tears and strange things in his head, entered his house. The smell of acrid was there, but different. Something had happened. The house was silent.
His head was dizzy, but he managed to get in the main room, slowly and silently.
His father's body was in a pool of blood on the gorund. Stabbed.
His mother came in the frame. Stephane couldnt move. He wanted to throw up and scream but couldnt.
His mother was standing, with glassy eyes, and the knife still in her hands. She was smiling, just like in the old days.
"Steph. It will be ok. Now things will be back to normal. I will be a good mother to you, Steph. I promise. I love you"
She moved to hug him. He wanted to run, but couldnt. Her face was just like time hadnt passed. Like nothing bad had happened. He lt himself loose in her embrace. It felt so warm, so calming, so sweet and made time go backwards. It was his mom, again. His mom. She was there for him.
He felt a shar pain in his guts. Let out a sound he couldnt really hear. Slipped slowly to the floor. She was crying.
"I'm sorry, baby... sorry... we're over.... its all over..."
Evrything went black. While fading, he heard her make a whimpering noise and slip. Thjen he thought of Robert. Of Eric. Of....
And then there was nothing.