“I love you. Do you love me?”
“Uh – yeah. Yeah, I do love you.”
“You are getting distracted, Henry.”
“I know Dad. But I – I can’t help it.”
“You must. Stop being sentimental or I’ll have to do it myself. You know how I feel about getting my hands dirty.”
“Forget about her. Or I’ll make you.”
I walk across the lawn and reach the door.
Gently knocking, I look around, taking in my surroundings and committing them to memory.
A plant next to the door giving off a sweet fragrance, the freshly wet grass in the lawn, the welcome mat having a bulge possibly with a spare key, an aroma of peppermint from inside, everything is noted.
I hear gentle footsteps come towards the door, followed by the rattle of the chain and peering through the peephole.
The person audibly hesitates before opening the door.
I’m met with a girl, who asks the floor, “Excuse me, who are you?”
Putting on my legitimate student mask, I say, “I’m here to see Professor James. I’m his student, and I’ve been invited to stay at your house for a month, to get specialized training.”
“Which class of Dad’s are you in?”
Her father teaches anthropology and psychology at Marjory University.
I have a feeling that she’s just asking me this question to stall time.
How does it matter what he teaches me?
I need to enter.
Luckily, she gets the hint, and gestures for me to come inside the house.
The scent of peppermint is stronger, the wallpaper and carpet are welcoming, it’s nice and airy inside.
“Ah! Henry, I was just about to call you!”
I turn to smile at Professor, his shirt straining against his enormous belly.
“Professor James, a pleasure to meet you again.”
“I see you’ve met my daughter Abigail.”
I look at the timid girl, whose eyes are still stuck on something particularly interesting on the floor.
She is afraid of her father.
But she respects him.
Killing him would probably relieve her or crush her.
But I don’t base my actions on emotions.
So let it have the effect it is supposed to.
I’m going to kill him anyway.
“Henry, you need to be quick about it. I’ve prepared you your entire life, now it’s all on you.”
“I won’t let you down this time, Dad.”
“Don’t make me regret this.”
He just hangs up without a ‘bye’ or a ‘love you’ or even a ‘talk to you later’.
Sometimes I just wish I had a normal father and a normal life.
But there’s no chance of that happening.
Especially since I’ve been sent here to kill his ex-best friend.
Dad used to be in love with this woman named Maia.
Then she cheated on him with Professor James.
This woman could have been my mother, but instead, she’s now Abigail’s mother.
Professor and Dad were the thickest of friends before this horrible ‘betrayal’ happened.
Now he wanted Professor dead, all because of a tragic teenage love story.
And I had been trained my entire life for this, tortured to become as emotionless as Dad wanted me to be.
But I wasn’t.
I am not as strong as I need to be.
I can’t kill him.
But I have to.
I realize that I’m crying and swiftly wipe off my tears.
However, someone has already seen them.
Abigail walks inside the guest room and places her hand on my shoulder.
“I’m fine,” I say, and brush off her hand.
“Of course you are because people cry when they’re fine.”
I look at her, shocked that so many words just came out of her all at once.
“I don’t mean to push Henry, but you’re going to live here for the rest of the month. I think we should at least get along by the end of it.”
“I really don’t think that’s necessary.”
“Well, I do. And when I want something, I get it.”
I didn’t take her to be such a brat.
“Alright then Abigail, if I agree to this, will you leave me alone?”
“But the whole point of this thing is to…”
“Yes, I realize that, but could you leave me alone for the rest of the day if I agree?”
She doesn’t sound too convinced, but that’s enough for me.
“Now will you leave, or will I have to push you out?”
I figure that being unnecessarily mean will dissuade her from trying to strike up a friendship, but I’m terribly wrong.
“You’re just in a bad mood right now. I’m sure that you’ll feel better soon.”
She squeezes my shoulder and leaves the room.
As she closes the door, I swear loudly.
There is now a slight complication in the plan.
Abigail doesn’t let me out of her sight nowadays.
She insists that I call her Abby.
I just do it to get her off my back, but soon I begin to enjoy her company.
She is my first real friend.
She’s the first person who honestly cares about how I feel.
Even though I promised myself I wouldn’t, I begin to love her like a sister.
And she loves me like a brother.
Now I know for sure that I can’t kill her father.
I get off the phone with Dad, feeling more conflicted than before the call.
I stand there for a while, debating with myself.
Abby catches me standing there, staring into nothingness.
She snaps her fingers in front of my face, and I get out of my head and smile at her.
“Nothing, nothing’s wrong.”
“No seriously Abby, everything’s fine.”
“I thought we had gotten past the point where you tell me you’re fine when you really aren’t.”
“I’m fine, really. I was just confused about this psychology thing that your father assigned to me.”
“I know a thing or two about psychology, maybe I can help you.”
“Uh, that really – isn’t necessary. Thanks though.”
She looks at me quizzically, while I pick up my papers, and head to Professor’s study.
I know that she doesn’t believe a word of what I just said, but I’ll deal with it later.
I’ve got a bigger problem on my hands.
I wasn’t supposed to actually get interested in psychology.
It was supposed to be just a ruse to get closer to Professor.
I wasn’t supposed to like Professor.
But I couldn’t help but love the jolly man who was nothing like Dad.
I wasn’t supposed to love Abby.
But I ended up loving her anyway.
I wasn’t supposed to muck up the plan.
But I went ahead and mucked up everything.
I now realize why Dad doesn’t trust me with anything.
It’s because I can’t be trusted to do anything right.
It’s because I’m too emotional, too sentimental, too easily attached to people.
All the qualities Dad had tried to remove from me were just getting stronger with every second.
The poison is in my hand.
The cup of tea is on his study’s desk.
All it takes is a simple motion.
Open the cap of the bottle and tip its contents inside the cup.
I could have done it on the first day here.
But that would have seemed too suspicious.
So I am now standing here, wondering if I should poison him or not.
Get an ‘I am proud of you’ from Dad or an ‘I hate you’ from Abby.
Lose all my chances at pursuing the subject of my interest or stay here and severe all my connections with Dad.
“Yes Sir, that is him.”
As the police officers handcuff Dad, he looks at me angrily.
“I knew that you were a worthless piece of sh –”
“Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law, so speak wisely or say nothing at all.”
Abby comes over to me and holds my hand.
I look at Dad, feeling guilty at having sold him out.
“You did the right thing, Henry.”
“Did I? Was snitching on Dad to the cops the right thing to do?”
“I know it feels wrong at this point of time, but trust me, it will soon dawn on you that you did something that very few people can.”
“And what’s that?”
“You were brave enough to do what's right."
I squeeze her hand in gratitude.
I was about to throw the pills out of the window when Professor caught me in the act.
I didn’t even have to explain it to him.
He had known that I was Dad’s son from the moment he’d started to teach me.
He thought that I was different.
At being proven correct at his assumption, he advised me on what he thought would be the right thing to do.
“We’ve decided to adopt you.”
I’m frozen, unable to say a word.
“I – you don’t – thank you – you have no idea how much – I –”
“We know Henry, we know,” Abby says, her eyes moistening.
I pull her in for a hug, digging my head into her shoulder and crying.
“I thought that you would be happy.”
“I am, I am happy Professor. You have no idea how much this means to me.”
“You deserve a family, a good one. And we’re one of the best ones out there. Don’t you think so Maia?”
Abby’s mother nods, tears falling from her eyes too.
“And also, the first rule of being in a family. You don’t call your father Professor.”
“You call your father Dad.”
“Dad,” I say, testing out saying the word with love.
“Thank you, Dad.”