He woke up with a terrible headache and his stomach in knots. He was also lying in his bed, which didn't make any sense.
Alexander felt miserable. Not only was his soul miserable, but now his body was, too. He looked over and saw his mother standing by the window, looking outside with a weary expression on her face.
When Laura turned to look at Alexander, her face lit up. "Alexander," she said, her voice wobbly from crying. "How do you feel?"
Nothing was said for a moment. Then, Laura took her son's hand and kissed it. "Well, you're home, and you're going to be well soon. That's all that matters for now." She kissed his hand again, and Alexander could feel how wet her face was from tears. "Why?" she whispered, her voice breaking.
Alexander knew Laura was asking why he'd sneaked out the night before. Why he had gotten himself drunk. Why he was such a bad son.
The sky was dark outside, matching the darkness of Alexander's soul. He turned away so he couldn't meet his mother's eyes. They were filled with questions that not even he could answer.
The sound of footsteps became clear, and Thomas' voice filled in the silence. "Is he awake?"
Alexander couldn't hear Laura say anything, but she must have nodded, because Thomas sighed and said softly, "Let me talk with him." The sorrow in his voice surprised Alexander. He'd expected Thomas to yell and exclaim what a terrible disappointment Alexander was turning out to be.
But perhaps Thomas' silence, as soon as Laura had left and shut the door behind herself, was worse than any yelling could have been. Alexander decided the silence must mean that Thomas didn't think his son was worthy of being talked to, so he lay there in complete wordlessness, heart drumming Failure! with every beat.
Finally, Thomas put his hand on Alexander's shoulder. "I'm glad you're home, son."
Instead of feeling relieved, like Alexander had expected, the only feeling that flooded him was remorse. I don't deserve to be here. I only deserve to be disowned.
Head throbbing, Alexander refused to turn his head to face his father. He couldn't look anyone in the eyes. He didn't think he'd ever be able to, after what he'd done.
"We found you out in the woods, in that old house. Is that where you were last night?"
Alexander managed a slight nod of his head, despite the overwhelming pain that ensued.
Alexander couldn't have said anything if he'd wanted to.
"I see," Thomas said, but there was no anger in his voice. Not yet. Only immense grief.
Alexander shook his head. He remained silent, tears streaming down his face. At long last, he turned to meet his father's eyes. "Dad, I've done something awful."
Thomas gave a nod. "I know, son, I know." He stood. "I'm going to find you another blanket and something to drink, alright?"
"Alright," Alexander said, hoarse.
Thomas left the room, albeit temporarily, leaving Alexander alone with his guilt. Alone with his guilt and the voices of damnation that tortured him with every breath.