He stared at his hands in disbelief. He hadn’t even been angry, not very. Not enough. Only a psychopath would act as he had acted, but he wasn’t a psychopath, he knew.
“The asshole had it coming,” he told himself, but he didn’t believe it. He tried again. “I didn’t have any other choice.”
The house was dark when he came home. Experience had taught him how to sneak through the back door. It made less noise than the front, and was closed off from the rest of the house.
The seventh and thirteenth steps creaked. He counted and stepped over them.
As he entered his room, he turned on the light and started to remove his shirt. The blood was his, from the struggle, but he didn’t want to explain. He didn’t have a lie prepared.
He jumped when he saw his dad sleeping in his bed. The light hadn’t stirred him, but the brief exclamation from Noel’s adrenaline-poisoned body had, and the man woke up asking questions.
“So you’re home. Where’ve you been?”
Noel’s body shook, and he shook his head. He couldn’t push his tongue against any part of his mouth. All that came out as he tried to talk was a slow stream of dribble.
His dad shushed him. “You don’t have to talk. I know. It’s okay.”
Noel looked up. He started to shake his head again, but his father went on. “Just tell me. What did you do with the body?”
Noel gasped. He wouldn’t explain. He couldn’t.
“Never mind. I’m proud of you, boy. I was a few years older than you when first took a life. You’re a man now.”
Noel nodded. He didn’t believe it yet, but he nodded.
He would be a man the rest of his life.