Dwayne always did everything he could to hide the exhaustion from his eyes when Kyle was around but when he kept falling asleep on the train it was a pretty big giveaway. Kyle poked him in the ribs when the subway came to their stop and Dwayne jerked awake. The heel of his hand rubbed into his eye as he grabbed at the pole to hoist himself up.
“Don’t let me nod off like that, buddy. Okay?”
Kyle jumped over the tiny gap between the platform and the car and his backpack bounced with him.
“You’re tired, Dad. You can sleep.”
The turnstile came up to Kyle’s neck and Dwayne reached out a hand to push it for him.
“Not on the train. Only bums sleep on the train. Am I a bum?”
His white teeth shone bright against his tanned skin and Kyle wagged his head back and forth. He grabbed onto Dwayne’s hand and guided him the block and a half to school. The thumping of his feet on the pavement was enough of a constant jolt to keep him aware of his surroundings. Kids screaming and shrieking and whizzing past him let him know that they were at Kyle’s school and the boy was tugging on his hand.
Dwayne willed the sleep out of his eyes as he looked down at this son. The boy had blue eyes and blonde hair like his mother but his skin and smile was all Dwayne’s. It was an off combination but Kyle never complained. Not like Dwayne could do anything about it anyway.
“Have a good day at school, okay, kiddo?”
His lips touched lightly on the blonde hairline and his hand came up quickly to pat his head. Kyle reassured him it would be a good day before he ran up the stone stairs and into the old stone building retrofitted to a house a bunch of kids. Only when Dwayne was sure Kyle was safe inside did he make his way back to the subway station. Ever since he’d stopped with the gangs he was paranoid to let Kyle go anywhere by himself. He was too young to ride the subway anyway but like people in the ‘burbs have carpools, the city has subway pools. Each parent takes their turn taking their group of kids to school for a week. Dwayne couldn’t even handle that. What if the parent looked away and someone snatched him? What if Dwayne fell asleep on the train and when he opened his eyes his son was gone? He wanted to kick himself for being so stupid.
On the short ride home a knot started to form in his stomach. Something wasn’t right. Was it Kyle? Should he go back? No, he was safe in school. Only he and his teachers could get at him there. That thought didn’t make his stomach right, though. It developed into nausea the closer he got to his apartment. When he put the key in the lock and the door opened without him turning the knob he knew exactly where that sick feeling was coming from.
Without stepping inside Dwayne pushed the door open while positioning his key between his fingers. Nothing looked different. Except for the waste on his couch watching TV. Dammit. She still had a key.
“Who the fuck let you in?”
He already knew the answer but felt the need to ask anyway.
A gaunt head with bugging, bloodshot eyes turned to look at him. The crust around her mouth flaked off when she opened it.
“Still had my key.”
She juggled it between her fingers before tossing it over to him.
She looked like a spider sprawled across his couch. She was as tall as he was but was closer in weight to Kyle. She’d gotten worse since the last time he’d seen her. The skin on her face was pulled back tight over her skull and she looked like nothing more than bones wrapped in flesh-colored cellophane. She used to be a beautiful girl but that was all lost somewhere in the track marks pocking her arms.
“Doesn’t mean you’re welcome.”
“I’m allowed to see my son, Dwayne. He came out of my twat, remember?”
“That was a long time ago. Back when you were still human.” Kayleen made to say something but Dwayne cut her off. “What do you want?”
“I told you. I want to see my son.”
“Like I’d like let him see you like this? You’ll give him nightmares.”
“I can make Victor make you hand him over.”
The threat always came down to Victor. He was the one Dwayne used to work for. Kay’d been fucking him for a few years now and being his number one whore had its advantages.
“And I can make us both disappear. You done?”
Kayleen stood up, wobbling on brittle legs, and walked over to him. Their noses touched. Every time she breathed he could smell the rot from her mouth. He suppressed an urge to gag as her yellowed eyes bore into his.
“Victor knows you’re unhappy, Dwayne. He knows that you’re just itching to drop that job. It’s only a matter of time, isn’t it? You won’t have your faggy goons to protect you anymore, will you?”
The urge to retort was right at the back of his throat but Dwayne swallowed it down. It’s not like the bitch was wrong but he’d be damned if he admitted it. And there just wasn’t any point to arguing with her, goading her, pushing her way-to-visible buttons. That’d only mean she’d stay longer and the stink of death on her breath was starting to get to him. Not to mention the coat of grim she left on his couch made him want to slap her. She’d only snap in half with how frail she was now. It was amazing that she still held herself with the same confidence she had when there was a body on her bones. That was all Victor right there.
“I’ll say it again: You done?”
He didn’t move. He hardly even blinked. He just stared straight in Kayleen’s dead eyes and prayed to god she’d get the fuck out of his house. A crooked smile crept up the side of her face and it exposed some blackened nubs that were once teeth. Kyle will never see her like this. Never. Which probably meant he’ll never see her again. From the looks of it she’d rather die than give her dragon-chasing up.
“We’re watching you, D.” Dwayne suppressed another gag as she spoke in his face. “I’ll get my son and Victor will put you back into place where you belong. You hear me in there?” She knocked on the side of his head but he didn’t flinch. “Your faggot friends can’t be around all the time and we’re just counting down the minutes until you drop that spot. Even got a pool going. My bet’s on the seventeenth so if you could help the mother of your kid out—”
It was more of a growl than anything spoken but it didn’t phase Kayleen. She just smiled her decaying smile and turned away from him.
With a hand on the doorknob she stuck her head back into the room, her scraggly hair framing her yellow, skeletal face.
“See you later, D.”
The door slammed behind her. As soon as he could no longer hear her footsteps in the hallway he relaxed his posture and pressed a thumb into his temple. Dwayne turned to look at the couch to his side and couldn’t help but sneer. Bits and pieces of her filth were deposited on the cushions and, no doubt, if he got close enough he could smell her stank. Kayleen was rotting alive and she didn’t seem to care. He really needed to get him and Kyle out of the city and away from all this bullshit. It was only a matter of time before Kyle got wise to what was going on. He was a smart kid. Too smart.
Dwayne slumped down even further when he realized he had things to do before he could crash for a few hours and his brain just wanted to scream. But the couch wasn’t going to clean itself and the lock needed to be replaced. The bitch was a junkie but he wouldn’t put it past her to be smart enough to copy the key before giving it back to him. Victor again. Cunts. Both of them.