His mother’s mouth fell open and she covered her eyes. “What are you doing?”
“My god, put some clothes on!” his sister, Christina, shouted.
While they kept their eyes averted, he hurried to his dresser. He pulled open the drawer and grabbed a pair of and put them on. The timeline had taken him back over twenty years and if it weren’t for the insidious cancer decimating his body there would have been no way he could have fit into them.
“Okay,” he said, “all covered.”
His mother and sister returned their gazes to him. He didn’t even know what to say or how to approach any semblance of conversation with either of them after all he had put them through but then he remembered he was now placed sometime before the worst of it.
“Did you hear back from your father’s lawyer?” his mother asked.
The question was like being hit with a hammer in the gut. It made him recall one of the last times he’d seen her alive and he realized he was reliving those very moments. It was the day he came to see the kind of person he really was.
“No, no, not yet.”
“Well, all right,” she said.
Her face fell in disappointment and she shuffled out of his bedroom. His sister remained. She nodded her head and folded her arms over her chest.
“How long do you plan on livin’ here?” she asked.
He ran his hand over his bald head but didn’t reply.
“Don’t you think you’ve sucked her dry long enough?”
“Sucked her dry?” The comment hit a nerve and he reacted just how his sister had expected.
“I think staying here for the last three years for free while Dad is dying is the equivalent of that.”
“I have a job—”
“Oh, I forgot, you’re an artist.” She laughed and shook her head, he could feel the anger radiating off of her.
“Your hair, or lack thereof, looks stupid.”
She towered over him even while he was standing. She was built like a linebacker and had fists like sledgehammers.
“Why don’t you just leave me the hell alone.”
“One of these days you’re gonna get repaid for all the shit you’ve ever pulled,” his sister said and stomped from the room.
At the time he rolled his eyes as she left but now, with Annie in control, he felt her words hanging around his neck like an anchor.
He sat on his bed, the same one he’d used as a teenager. The walls were still decorated with posters from his adolescence. He’d left them all hanging there when he moved out the first time and made his way to Los Angeles. He’d returned under the guise of being there for his mother while his father died but, in reality, he was broke and looking for money anywhere he could find it. He needed to jump-start his career again, and his father’s life insurance money would be his ticket to accomplish that.
“This was a pivotal moment in your career, wasn’t it?” Annie’s voice spoke.
“I told you all about this.”
“No, you told me your side. I think it’s time to see how things actually went down, how you came back to L.A. with enough money to fund your next project, and your sister. . . ”
“Don’t do this.”
“It’s too late; it’s already been done. The audience is just experiencing it from your eyes, getting a glimpse of the real you.”
“What was the project you made after this?”
He refused to answer; it pained him to even recall the name.
“Oh. Yes, River Bloom, your comeback art-sploitation flick. It made you a big star. What was the name of your lead actress?”
He didn’t respond.
“She was gorgeous but couldn’t swim worth a shit,” Annie said coldly.
“That was an accident.”
“And consent forms keep you from being responsible for accidents.”
“I loved her once,” he stammered.
“Just like you loved your mom, right?”
“Annie, I don’t think I can continue with this . . .”
“Sorry, I’m the director now. This is your grand finale, your last great performance before the cancer eats you up; it has to be something no one will forget,” she said. “nd you always give the audience what they ask for!”
Annie watched him sit in the image, his face contorted in unearthed shame. She saw the real him, which he had tried to bury long before his name was big in the gothic art scene and he was hailed as a god of capturing raw grief and pain on film and transforming them into exquisite displays.
Around him, the image blurred and Annie could hear the furies gathering around him like hidden thunderstorms. They awaited his end, the righteous justice so many of his hidden victims longed for, even Annie.
“I believe the good part is...