Outside, the wind gusted. Brian heard the fallen leaves rustle through the yard from his open window. Halloween was just over a week away, yet Indian Summer refused to recede without a fight, and a mild breeze flowed through the window screen and into Brian's darkened room. Homework pages ruffled on his desk as the curtains billowed in.
Brian groaned and rolled away from the window. He tried to ease himself to sleep but his mind was a turbulent whirlpool of scattered thoughts which pulled him unrelentingly toward wakefulness and refused to settle. He was well versed in this routine: the harder he tried to go to sleep, the more agitated he became. It was a bad and endless cycle. As he lay on his back and stared up at the ceiling, Brian was already well aware this was going to be a crappy night.
The wind chimes tinkled in the night, a gentle melody that wafted through the yard. But to Brian, it was a jackhammer assault on his ears that seemed to have no end. After tossing and turning for another ten minutes, he finally swore softly and swung his legs out of bed. His bare feet hit the cool hardwood floor with a soft pat, then he stood and strode confidently through the dark house until he walked into the kitchen. He neglected switching on the lights because he didn't need them; this walk to the fridge was a nightly routine. How many times had he performed this circuit from his bedroom to the kitchen?
He groaned and thought, Too many to count.
He pulled open the refrigerator doors and instantly the kitchen was illuminated by its light. He grabbed the orange juice container and swung away from the fridge, leaving the doors open. He unscrewed the top and left the cap on the kitchen island on his way to the cupboard above the sink. He glanced outside, through the windows, and was not overly surprised to see the driveway empty; his mom had no doubt been forced to pull another twelve-hour shift because her boss was an ass hat, in Brian's estimation. Brian grimaced and reached above to pull the box of Ambien from the cupboard. He pulled the appropriate dose from the box and then replaced the box where he'd found it. He wasn't a big fan of these meds because he was afraid they might make him loopy, but he was desperate.
He popped the pills into his mouth and chased them with a few hard gulps of the OJ before returning the juice to the refrigerator. He was about to close the doors when he heard the wind chimes jangle again, right outside. Brian spun on his bare heels hard enough to make them squeak on the kitchen tile, and trudged to the sliding glass doors at the rear of the house. He opened them and flinched when the bracing cold October air touched his bare legs below his boxers.
Wasn't the air unseasonably warm just a few minutes ago? Was Indian Summer so abrupt in its final departure for the season? Was a frost soon to follow? Brian didn't concern himself with such thoughts as he pulled the wind chimes down and slipped back inside. He plunked the chimes on the kitchen island and continued on to his bedroom. The room was cold, so he closed the window and settled into bed, beneath the covers, and pulled a blanket up from the foot of the bed. As soon as his head hit the coolness of his pillow, the cacophony of swirling thoughts inside his brain came to a halt and Brian imagined he might actually gets a couple hours of welcome shut-eye.
He felt the mattress slowly absorb and consume his body as sleep seeped into his bones.
And then he heard those goddamn wind chimes again, and his heart froze in his chest.