Kevin rang the doorbell and stepped back on the porch to wait. He looked over his shoulder at Rosy, parked on the curb. That hunk of red metal was older than he was! He hoped Esther hadn’t seen him arrive. He didn’t want her to think Rosy was his! Better to clarify that point before she got a chance to see it. He shuffled a bit to the side, to block the view of the car from the door.
This porch made his spine crawl. It wasn’t that long ago that he’d watched Esther get punched through a wall here by her insane brother, Caleb. The only reason she hadn’t died was because she had a special ability that granted her incredible toughness, and extended that toughness to those she loved when was near them. Man, what Kevin wouldn’t give to have an awesome ability like that, instead of his stupid bacon-making power.
The door cracked open, and Esther peeked out. “Hey, Kevin! Come on in. Just give me a second. I’m cleaning some carrots.”
Kevin stepped inside. “Carrots? I mean, hi.”
Esther smiled over her shoulder as she walked into the kitchen. “I like to snack when I get nervous…” She saw the blush rising into Kevin’s cheeks and clarified: “Oh, no. You don’t make me nervous. It’s the prison. That place creeps me out.”
“Oh,” said Kevin. “Yeah, of course.” He stood in the entryway, not sure whether he should close the front door behind him. The wall in front of him was still boarded over where Esther had gone crashing through it. “Well,” said Kevin, “if you need anything extra to munch on later…” He held up his hand and shrugged.
“Hmm?” Esther raised her eyebrows. “Oh, right, bacon. Thanks, but I’ll stick to carrots. Nice and healthy, you know.” She chopped the carrots she’d been cleaning into small sticks, chucked them into a plastic container, and dropped the snack into her purse. “Okay, let’s go.”
Kevin stood out of the way as she took her coat out of the closet and pulled on her shoes. “So, my car is, um… out of commission,” he said.
“Er, yeah. What are the odds, right? I had to borrow Andy’s car. I hope that’s okay.”
“Sure,” said Esther. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
“Well,” said Kevin. He stepped out onto the porch, opening up a sight line to the car.
Esther hesitated for a moment, then laughed. “That’s what Andy drives?”
Kevin nodded, embarrassed for both his friend and himself.
“Man, an old beater like that totally suits him.”
“Yeah, I guess it does,” admitted Kevin. He led Esther down the car and opened her door for her. “You can’t unlock it from the inside,” he explained. “You have to do it with the key.”
Rosy started on the first try this time around, saving Kevin some additional embarrassment. Soon he and Esther were making empty, meaningless conversation over the faint crackling sounds of classic rock—the only radio station Andy’s car seemed capable of picking up—as they passed through Goldstream and climbed the Malahat towards Shawnigan.
“So,” said Kevin, after a bit of a lull in the small talk, “how are you and Max doing these days?”
Esther’s eyes clouded a little. “We’re… getting there. I mean, I’m fine. As fine as can be expected, anyways, considering that Caleb went crazy and tried to murder me. Max has been having a harder time of it, though. He has nightmares again, like he used to before we left Vancouver. He knows Caleb can’t come back for him anymore, but it isn’t something he can deal with rationally. There’s psychological damage that is going to take some time to work through. And that’s tough, because he’s my little brother and I want to protect him, but I can’t protect him from his own mind, you know?”
“Mm hmm.” Kevin had experienced a few nightmares of his own, with Caleb chasing him down endless dark hallways. He couldn’t imagine how much more terrifying it had been for Max, who had been attacked twice in the space of a few days, and badly injured. By his own brother, too. That was guaranteed to mess with your head. Maybe he shouldn’t have brought this up. He wanted Esther to be enjoying her time with him, not reliving that difficult night. Should I change the subject? he asked himself. Express my sympathy somehow? There were several seconds of silence, and Kevin found himself counting in his head to fill the gap. Ten, eleven, twelve… Thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five…
“Caleb’s been making some progress,” Esther said, breaking the silence.
“Progress?” said Kevin. “In what sense?”
“Well he was really incoherent and scattered at first, after he lost his powers. He would thrash around a lot, and kept trying to break out of his room as if he still thought he was strong enough to just smash through whatever he wanted. But they say he’s been calming down more, now, and actually stringing some sentences together, so that’s good news.”
“I thought you didn’t care what happened to him,” said Kevin. “You told me that afterwards, when he was being arrested.”
“I didn’t care. But, I don’t know… I’ve been talking to my parents a lot, and in the end he is still my brother, right? I’m not saying I’d be happy to see him walking around free in public again, but that doesn’t mean I want him to spend the rest of his life strapped down on a bed, either.”
“I guess,” said Kevin.
A few quiet minutes later, they turned off of the highway and followed the signs to the prison. As they approached the imposing gates Esther reached into her purse, pulled out a carrot stick, and began crunching.
The prison guards screened Kevin and Esther at the gate. Since they didn’t know who Kevin was, they paid extra attention to him, in the form of a somewhat privacy-invading pat-down. Kevin half thought they were going to go for the strip search next, and was wishing fervently that he hadn’t worn his Yoda boxers today, but they finally let him pass fully clothed, though they made Esther leave her carrots in the car.
The prison was a bare, sterile, uncomfortable place. Kevin could see the tension in Esther’s back and shoulders as she walked. Her jaws were working slowly, like she desperately needed something to chew on. He wondered how much trouble he’d get in if he slipped her a little bit of bacon.
They were led to a small office occupied by two flustered-looking ladies and several mountains of documents and forms. Esther gave her name, and one of the women started spinning circles in her chair as she hunted through the stacks. “Ah ha!” the lady cried at last, as if she’d unearthed some paradigm-altering archaeological artifact. “There we go. Initials here, here, and here, and signatures there and there, please.”
Esther spent a few minutes conscientiously scanning through the forms.
“What are they?” asked Kevin.
“Just some legal stuff,” said Esther, “about the criminal charges. And this one has to do with his psychiatric care.”
“Shouldn’t that kind of thing be your parents’ responsibility?”
Esther shrugged. “They asked me to take care of it. They’re over on the mainland, so…” She signed the forms and handed them back. “That’s that.”
“Time to head home?”
“In a minute,” said Esther. She turned to the secretary who had been helping them. “Do you know if it would be possible to see my brother today?”
“Let me check, dear.” The woman picked up a phone and relayed the request. “Oh, I’m sorry, hun. Not today. He’s pretty worked up, they said. Something about some previous visitors he had. Someone from the police, I think.”
“Okay, thank you,” said Esther. They headed out down to the hallway towards the exit. “I thought the cops had finished their questioning already,” Esther said to Kevin, frowning.
“Maybe they found something else to ask about,” said Kevin.
They got back into Andy’s car. Kevin had to crank the engine six times before it started, but finally Rosy decided to play along, and they rolled out back towards Victoria.