Chapter 16:

Simon and Peter


My eyes squint at the tall guy with blue dreadlocks and green headphones. Is that Simon? Simon and his twin brother, Peter were two of the children that Ruth and Kathleen fostered together. They've grown up since I last saw them—now they're twice the size of me.

His brother Peter strolls out of the bathroom with pink dreadlocks and a light green tuxedo. I'm sure from their smug body language and hipster swing that they're my uncles.

I'm not suggesting that every black person in Newark are my aunts and uncles, but many certainly have my grandfather's eyes.

I don't know how I'm going to approach them. Amazing if they even know who I am. They were only with Ruth and Kathleen for a few months when they were six and they went back to their mother and grandparents as soon as they got better.

Annie's flirting with them at the bar. I can see Father District's annoyed. He's mumbling curse words under his breath.

"Why does Annie have to follow us everywhere?"

"Maybe she likes you," Father District says. "She's not as scary as you think. Give her a chance and she's a lovely lady. She's just trying to break free of the devil's grip."

"The devil doesn't exist," Todd blurts out. "Neither does God."

"I had a feeling you would be a non-believer." Father District stands up and makes his way towards the exit. He points at Todd. "It's not too late to change your mind."

People are a mystery to me.

Simon and Peter approach us just as Father District waves to me out of the window. "Hey!" Simon says. "You, all right? Haven't seen you in ages."

The smell of beer and weed overwhelms us. Looks like they're on one of their pub crawls again. A smell we have to get used to when they join us at out table.

"Ruth said you called over." It's amazing that they even know who I am. "She's still not accepted the truth."

"What truth?" I begin to fear the worst. Annie's come forward, and I have a feeling that these boys are about to tell their side of the story too.

"About the incidents."

"Not you two as well," Todd grumbles.

Simon reluctantly nods. "I'm afraid so."

If Kathleen is still alive and is the person Todd is talking to. I would understand. Kathleen would feel shame and heartache from the accusations and would hide. Hide her social media from everyone she knew and start anew with Todd. It would make sense.

But it makes no sense at all—because she's dead. I don't understand a thing. Why was Annie the only person who came forward? Why has it taken the others so long? Why wait ten years after her death?

"I hope I don't come across as rude," I say. "But I would like to ask some questions, if that's alright with you two."

Both men nod. "Yes, of course it's okay."

"What was my sister like as a person?"

"She was nice," Peter says, "a bit doolally, but she was kind to us at first."

"Then what happened?"

"She started stripping off and walking around naked. She came onto us all the time. I don't know what came over her. It was like a devil had possessed her overnight. Ruth rang the police and we were taken back to our parents."

Peter nodded. "We missed Ruth. She was lovely. She looked out for us."

"Do you still talk to her?"

"Yeah we talk on Facebook. We've been planning to go up and see her but she's so busy with the kids and we're busy with uni. We're going back to Uni tomorrow."

"What are you studying?" I ask.

"We're both doing a master's in engineering."

They're more people who know what they're doing with their life. It still puts me to shame. All these people despite their problems still smile through it all and get on with their dreams.

What is my dream? I've already got a lot of game achievements and 100% save files piled up and can achieve a perfect score in Tetris, but I can't think of anything else that I want.

I think my only wish is to be happy. Maybe once I've finally had closure from all of this, I can go back and become a priest again. Return to church with a clear vision in my mind.

Maybe I should have listened to Todd earlier. I scrunch up the list in my pocket. There's no way it's Todd or Peter—they're too busy with university. I enjoy talking to them, it feels great to rant about which Zelda game is the best and which console is superior.

Todd loses track of the conversation as he gets more drinks for himself. I don't have much money, but I still offer them a drink, but they insist on buying me one.

Kathleen and Ruth had raised them for years. It's clear that they've been brought up well. It's a shame that Kathleen acted in the way she did. A part of me is still in denial, but I don't think the lads would lie about something like this.

There will be no sleep tonight.

Flashback: Kathleen & Ruth

Kathleen and Ruth were the perfect couple. They never quarrelled over anything. They worked as a team and they were always together since leaving school. Even when a lot of their friends from school were out of the picture, Kathleen and Ruth stood firm together.

They had so many ideas. They wanted to sleep in every beach in the world, dine in the rooftops of vibrant cities and grow old together.

Ruth never dated anyone else after Kathleen's death. Reminds me of my grandad in a way, he never remarried after his wife died. But thinking about it, grandad still sleeps around. Ruth never even looks at anyone.

I remember when Kathleen first said she had cancer. She got me, Ruth and Grandad together in the house and bought us all a pizza.

"Guys, I have something to tell you." She had her legs crossed and her eyes to the floor. Her fingers were twiddling along with her twitching eyes. My stomach churned.

I knew it something bad.

Somehow, I knew she was going to say that she was dying.

"I've got cancer, and I only have a few months to live."

The way she was so blunt with her words caused Ruth to break out in tears. Grandpa gathered us all in a circle for one of his group hugs. "It's okay, we'll get through it. You might survive this."

Grandpa has outlived his sons, brothers and one of his grandchildren. I have a feeling if Annie carries on the way she is, that he will outlive her too. How he still stays alive amazes he. I bet he will live on well into his hundreds.