Steve and Brenda finish whispering to each other in the kitchen. Brenda yells downstairs, “Brad… We need to talk to you about something.”
Brenda looks over the railing, but she hears nothing. “Brad?”
Steve stands up from the table. “Is he down there?”
“I don’t know − maybe he just has his TV on too loud.” She walks downstairs, talking as she goes. “Brad, this isn’t funny − if you’re in there − come out − we need to talk to you.”
Steve raises his voice. “Brad, get out here now.”
The hallway feels haunted. Something is not right. The stress of having a troubled child is finally catching up to her, making her feel older than she really is. “Brad?”
Still no response. Brenda grabs the door handle. She turns it and pushes the door open. Rays of TV light flash in her eyes and shadows leap up and dance on the walls.
Brenda feels her heart press against her chest. Things have been going so horribly wrong the last few months, and she wonders what’s going to happen next.
Is she about to find her son hanging in the closet with a rope around his neck? Or curled up on the floor with a bottle of pills in his hand? Or blood dripping from his wrists? Oh God, what horrible nightmare is coming next?
She can’t take any more of this. She freezes in the doorway.
Steve pushes his wife to the side and stomps into the room. The colors from the TV melt into the walls, and they see a large dark object lying on the floor. Brenda drops to her knees and grabs it. She thinks it is Brad, but looks up stunned when she realizes it’s just a pile of blankets. What is this? What is happening? Moonlight shines through an open window onto the floor. The screen is popped out; Brad is gone, and now he’s on the run from the law.
Brenda paces the kitchen floor and yells at Steve every time he tries to say something. “I don’t care what happens next, I want him caught. I don’t want him starting more fires and hurting more people.”
Steve shakes his head, “But if we get the police involved, they’ll arrest him. I don’t want to see him in jail again.”
“But what if more houses are burned down? Or people die this time?” Her eyes try to focus on the phone in her hands. “We’ve got to do something now.”
Steve shakes his head, “But I’m not ready to split up our family. This call could change our lives forever.”
“Don’t be afraid to do the right thing, Steve! Think about other people for a change.” She presses the 9 for 911. “This time it’s not going to be my fault.” She presses the 1 button.
Steve shakes his head. He slams his chair into the table, “Fine then, call the police and lock up our only son. I hope you’re happy when we’re all alone in this house.”
Brenda paces the floor, “I don’t care; I want him off the streets tonight. I’ll deal with myself tomorrow.”
Her fingers shake as she gets ready to press the last 1. Brenda rubs the tears out of her eyes. But before she does, they hear something crash through the basement window, and she hangs up the phone. She looks at Steve, “Did you hear that?”
They run down the stairs and burst through the bedroom door. Brad climbs through the window and falls onto the bed. Something is wrong.
Steve screams at him, “What are you doing? We almost called the cops on you.”
Brenda holds him back, “Where were you, Brad? Answer me that!”
Brad’s vision is blurry. He tries to stand up and face this strange reality.
Brenda slaps her son. The tears start flowing from her eyes. She can’t believe she just hit her child. “Answer me, Brad, where were you?”
Brad thinks about hitting her back, and then mumbles. “I went for a walk.”
“Don’t you care about your freedom?” Brenda screams. “You can’t just do whatever you want!”
Brad’s thoughts feel clear and then fade quickly. The marijuana he smoked rolls through his mind like a dark storm cloud. He laughs. “I haven’t felt free in this house for the last year.”
Steve clenches his fist to punch him, but Brenda holds him back. “You smell funny. Are you using drugs now?”
Brad glares into her eyes. He doesn’t say anything.
She doesn’t know how to respond. “What’s happening to you? Are you going to be this monster forever?”
Brad grins. He knows he won this battle.
His parents can’t think of any more words to scream at him. They shut down and realize they’ve lost. Brad is in control, and he’s on a mission to destroy them all.
His parents leave the room broken, and they wonder if they’ll ever have control of their lives again.