tiptoes

It was midnight when Billy crept through the backdoor, shoes in his hands, brown hair hanging into his eyes, sock feet soft on the hardwood, still squeaking because who, really, memorized the squeaky floorboards? It never seemed like an important thing to do, until it was. He sounded impossibly loud, but he told himself he could have clonked in and slammed the door behind him and no one would notice, or care.

First to the sitting room. Billy’s sheet music was still sitting strewn about the piano, and he nearly cried with relief. Next, up the stairs, his room, the LP’s, only five out of the boxful that he couldn’t bear to leave behind. There was a handful of change on his dresser that he absently swept into his pocket; 80p would of course be indispensable, he thought wryly to himself as he noticed what he was doing. There was nothing else in here he loved, at least nothing that could be crammed into a rucksack or dragged soundlessly down the stairs.

There were seven family portraits hung proudly in the hallway, evolution of the Matthews. He’d only been happy in two of them, he decided, scrutinizing the expressions blanked in green inks. The other five he took carefully off the walls, cradling in his arms as he crept back down the stairs.

“Are you done yet?” Garret hissed at Billy from the back door as he finally reappeared.

“Almost,” Billy said. He put his key on the kitchen table, in his usual place. Then, without a word, he slammed the stack of pictures against the edge of the table, impossibly loud. Glass everywhere, and when he stepped there were bloody footprints on the hardwood.

“I didn’t want them up there anymore,” Billy explained.

Garret swore, and he grabbed Billy by the wrist and pulled him out the door, down the street to where they’d left the car. All the lights in the house had come on, and Billy was laughing. He had been disowned for thirty-two hours, and he was already a dirty delinquent, a ne’er-do-well of the highest calibre. Those late-night news reports had been right, he supposed.

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