Kate's night visit had brought more back than just my time in the forest. There had been another meeting that we had under slightly similar circumstances, and it was that day, that night in particular that came to mind now.
I had ultimately decided not to hold it against Kate, there was no way she could have known, but in those first moments after I woke up that night, I was ready to kill her.
As I slept, I had been dreaming of a memory, one of the few that I still remembered regarding my father, and it didn't stick in my mind because it was overly pleasant.
Far from it.
The dream was a stunning reproduction of the night my father had killed my mother, and almost killed me.
My unusually sound sleep had been interrupted by screaming, and I had the decision of staying in bed and waiting it out, or giving in to my curiosity and investigating. I chose the latter, and part of me has regretted it every day since. Part of me, the foolish part, wishes I had just stayed in bed, fallen back asleep, and listened to whatever lie my father had told me regarding the sudden disappearance of my mother. I would be believing a lie, but at least this lie wouldn't keep me up at night.
But no. I went and looked, peeking stealthily around a corner in our poor excuse for a house.
"You unfaithful bitch!" He shouted, backhanding so hard she nearly left the ground. Sadly this wasn't all that uncommon, my father was a drunk, and while the courageous part of me wanted to step in and help, the sensible part knew that doing that would shift the focus of that rage to myself.
Mother would have forbid it, she would have told me to get back, more than 'happy' to weather the storm if it meant that she was keeping me safe. We were all that we had anymore, and would often just hold each other while father was out, getting drunk once again. Looking back I am almost ashamed at the arrangement, realizing that the times where I stuck up for my mother were pitifully few in comparison to her own efforts for me.
Twelve-year-old me watched, recognizing he had a duty to step in, but allowing the inner conflict, the fear, to paralyze him. The beating continued as I watched, my mother protesting to the charges laid against her, which only infuriated him, my father, more. Open palms became closed fists...
...closed fists became a knife.
I saw my father grab the weapon but even then I didn't think he would actually use it, it was just an intimidation technique. He would never kill my mother.
Something unintelligible left my mouth as I saw that he did indeed intend to use the knife and both sets of eyes, my mother's and my father's, turned to me. The hope that the sight of me could have provided my mother with a sense of calm before she died was a feeble one, more than likely it had made her only more afraid that my life was going to follow hers, and in the aftermath of her death, I suppose her fear was justified.
"You bastard son of that filthy whore! You were in league with her weren't you!" he accused, baring the knife and moving slowly towards me, "You were keeping her secrets, weren't you?"
I still wonder if I could have handled him. Yes I was only twelve, and he was a grown man, but I was no weakling. For years I had been inducted into the family business of doing enough work to get the money that father needed to get drunk, and the extra that mother needed to feed the lot of us. Drunk as he was, I might have been able to catch him, knock him down a peg, turn him in, anything I could have to avenge the death of my mother, which at that moment I had placed entirely upon my passivity.
But twelve-year-old me didn't see that my father could barely stand, didn't consider the fact that one good hit could take him down, all he saw was the knife. The knife in my father's hand, the knife that he placed in front of my neck...
"Father, No!" I had cried, and that was usually where the dream ended, but that night, even when I woke it hadn't appeared to end. It was the middle of the night, there was a stranger in my bedroom, and there was a knife against my neck. The panic that had frozen me as a twelve-year-old now fueled my sense of survival and I was a few seconds shy of losing it and destroying the stranger in front of me, the idiot who had unwittingly decided to step into my father's shoes for a moment. But that panic was soon replaced by anger when instead of my father's voice, I heard the haughty taunting of a Hawk. I had still wanted to kill the intruder, but for very different reasons.
Obviously my father didn't kill me, I had begged and pleaded, and eventually reasoned with him, saying if he killed me, there would be no one to bring him money. Those words had both saved and doomed my life for the next six years. My father, the man I both hated yet owed my character to, instilled in me one of the lessons I held to this day. I had a responsibility to help my mom, whether she would have wanted me to or not, and I ignored it. That day I made a promise, a foolish one perhaps, but I was young, that I would never again abandon my duty regardless of the consequences, and that was a promise I never forgot. The nightmares made sure of it.
And now here I was, laying awake in bed, my window still open from Kate's departure; my heart and mind waging war over whether to break that very promise.