The houses with steps to the front door are always the hardest. Even if it’s just one step, the extra effort it takes to force myself to continue after meeting another obstacle is like getting out of the car all over again. Or like getting in the car in the first place; or any of the other steps I have to break down in order to overcome.
Thankfully, this time at least, the door is at the end of a slight descent and I’m drawn onwards by the sheer power of gravity. The window shades move when I’m still halfway between the road and the front door. I haven’t even been able to transition my thoughts from the process of approaching the house to the act of knocking when I catch a glimpse of the hallowed face of a man who has lost more than I will ever gain.
The door opens as I stop just before the worn welcome mat and the man’s wife stands by his side. Her eyes are red and puffy and he stares through me as if I don’t exist.
The forced rapidity of my actions causes me to stare between them blankly into the unlit house behind them for several seconds before I can kick my brain into action.
“Hello,” I say, but only a whimper escapes my lips.
When neither of them responds I make the mistake of catching her eye before quickly averting my gaze. They seem as content as I am to let the silence extend infinitely, but I’ve been through this before and it’s better for us all if I just get it over with. So I clear my throat and let my shoulders drop to make myself look smaller.
“Uh hi,” I manage to say with actual words this time. “Yes, hello. My name is Patrick Martin and I’m here to deliver you some bad news.”
I know they feel like there isn’t any news worse than what they’ve already been given so they wait patiently for me to continue. They think they will be able to thank me for saying what I have to say and go back to dealing with their sorrow alone. This is always the hardest part for me when I have to take their broken hearts and break them again.
“Unfortunately Mr and Mrs Stewart I fell in love with your daughter which is why she died.”
The thirteen times I’ve done this before have taught me to keep my head up and my eyes looking straight ahead, but it’s hard not to stare at my feet and cower from the coming explosion of emotion. At first Mrs Stewart’s head turns slightly, marking the first movement I’ve seen from either of them, and I can feel her eyes probing into me. And then it comes in a tidal wave from Mr Stewart and before I know it I’m on my ass with a stinging boot print in the centre of my chest. He is bearing down on me as I fight the instinct to scoot backwards like a crab.
“You’re that fucking kid that keeps popping up on the news every few months,” he yells, pointing a meaty finger down at my chest as he towers over me. “The Heartbreaker. Isn’t that what they call you? Well you know what they’re gonna call you after today? Fucking dead. Cause I’m going to tear your heart out of your god damned chest and bury you in the deepest hole I can find.”
Its at this point that you might think I would be worried for my safety but this doesn’t even rank in the top five of worst reactions to me telling a girl’s parents that she died because of my condition. I’ve got enough experience to stay calm and look apologetic waiting for the father’s fire to burn out and for the mother to step in and be understanding.
“After you did this to the first girl I’m sure you realised what you are,” Mr Stewart says, continuing his rant along a much calmer route. “You should have done the right thing and taken your own life. But no, you decide to jaunt across the fucking country falling in love with girl after girl and ruining countless lives. I can tell you’ve been in this situation before where you’ve apologised for what you’ve done. You think that eventually I’m going to calm down enough so that you can walk away and at some point in the future find yourself right back on your ass with another angry dad standing over you. Well you’re wrong. That wasn’t some idle threat I delivered. Mary, go and get my fucking gun.”
I adjust my focus to Mrs Stewart who I hadn’t even realised is standing directly beside her husband with the same fury in her eyes.
The scariest confrontation I’ve ever had was when the girl only had a single father to confront and there was no mother to calm him down. Yet somehow I know that this is worse. There needs to be a mother who can accept what happened and explain that killing me won’t solve anything. Without Mrs Stewart playing that role my hopes of surviving are slim at best.
She bares her teeth and utters a quiet growl before turning to more than likely retrieve her husband’s gun. With that my hopes shatter and I really don’t want to wait and see what will happen if she comes back with it.
So I stare into Mr Stewart’s eyes and look at him the way I’ve seen people look at their loved ones. “I love you, Michael,” I say honestly and the life goes out of him.
There is no grand fanfare. He is simply standing over me one second and crumpled on the ground atop of my legs the next. Mary spins back to see what caused the thud as Mr Stewart’s body hit the ground and I manage to catch her eye.
“I love you, Susan,” I say and she collapses sideways onto the lawn.
I pull my legs out from beneath the dead weight of Mr Stewart and dust myself off. I can feel the barrage of emotions attacking my face and trying to send forward a surge of tears but I don’t have the time to stick around and fall to pieces.
“I’m so sorry,” I say for taking their lives and for taking away their daughter.
Once I’ve driven several suburbs away I pull into the parking lot of an empty playground and fall to pieces.
Falling in love with Jessica had been an accident like it had with every girl before her. However using love as a weapon to kill her parents and save my own life had been premeditated. It was the first time I had delayed approaching the parents for several weeks, instead spending the time to learn all about them without ever meeting them. I didn’t know that any of it was going to work until it came down to it. All it really takes to love someone is to accept them for who they are. I could love the Stewarts because I knew that they were my only way to survive. And how can we not love unconditionally the things that save us.