Stewart Wilcox sat on his front porch as the sun set, taking a drag from a cigarette tucked in between his index and middle finger.
He'd had been clean all the way up to three years ago. He used to smoke nearly a pack a day back in his teenage years, but he gave it up when he met the girl that would be his future wife. He had never wanted to look back when they had their first and only child.
But it's been about three years since his daughter died.
His breathing was ragged, heavy. All from remembering the day that she left to go on the trip, her mother worried that there could be an accident or that she could get in trouble. He told her not to worry about it, told her that their daughter needed to spread her wings and fly. He said there was no way any sort of tragedy would happen to her.
A tear rolled down his face, his left hand trembling.
He was so proud of her. Standing up for herself, making it clear who she was and taking measures to do something that he couldn't see as anything other than unimaginably difficult. She had grown so much into a strong, well adjusted young adult. She had been capable of taking care of herself. More capable than he had been at her age.
Then a couple of hours after she left, the news broke that her plane had crashed.
Stewart clutched the side of his face, shaking his head back and forth, mouth grimacing, trying to hold back the tears. The pain that he had felt that day had not dulled even the slightest bit.
He took another drag from his cigarette before flicking some ash off into the grass.
Maybe he and his wife would have been able to move on if it had just been a freak accident. As painful as it was, as tragic as it was, sometimes bad things happen to good people out of nowhere. They could've at least had peace in the knowledge that their daughter would have died quickly, surrounded by her friends and classmates, even if she had died scared and afraid. Maybe they could've handled that. Their lives still would have never been the same, they still would have felt the dull ache of loss to this day, but maybe the wounds wouldn't have felt so fresh for so long.
But that wasn't how their daughter died.
Once the news broke that the class hadn't simply died in a plane crash, but had been abducted by the terrorist cell responsible for Survival of the Fittest, a terrorist cell that America had thought disappeared after their fourth abduction went sour, Stewart and his wife didn't know what to feel.
Hope had returned, if only for a brief instant. Maybe their daughter was still alive, they thought. But even with that hope for her survival, they couldn't bring themselves to watch the footage, to see for themselves, to make sure. Instead they waited, hoping for their daughter to turn up safe. Even if it meant that all her other classmates were dead, it would all be worth it to see her again.
But she never came. Two months passed, and together they decided to look up the footage. To see what happened. To see how their daughter died.
To finally get some closure.
Stewart took a long drag on his cigarette, before hacking and coughing at the sheer amount of smoke he inhaled. He clenched his fist on his knee, remembering.
They saw her crying, begging them to forgive her. They saw her raise that wretched weapon to her chin before seeing her skull be plastered all over the wall she had been sitting against. That image of her body slumped there, not moving haunted him to this very day.
His breathing sped up.
And today, after all that his family and the families all around Seattle had went through, he heard on the news that it happened again. That a sixth class of students had been abducted. That another hundred families would suffer the same anguish and torment that they did.
Stewart threw his cigarette on the ground, stomping on it before going back inside. The house was empty and quiet it felt even emptier now, standing just inside, the dim lighting and silence taunting him.
His wife had taken her own life a little over a year ago. She was always saying that she felt responsible, that she was to blame for their daughter's death. That she couldn't bare the thought that their baby had died desperately trying to ask them for forgiveness when she was the one to blame. Eventually, even though he tried his best to convince her, even though that he got therapy for the both of them, it wasn't enough. Her feelings of guilt had become too much for her.
Stewart sat down in his recliner before turning on the TV only to be greeted by yet another story about the recent abduction. He reached over to the table sitting next to him, grabbing a bottle of vodka and his anti-depressants.
Her stared at the bottles he held in his hands, contemplating.
Maybe he'd follow in his wife's and daughter's footsteps.
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