The cold water dripped down Jacob’s cheeks. The bathroom door muffled drunken conversations and grating laughter from the dining room. Jacob closed his eyes and breathed deeply. The loud conversations drifted away with each long exhale.
It was better than screaming.
Jacob lifted his face to the mirror, gazing at his reflection.
The family said he looked like his now-deceased grandfather, Jacob didn’t buy it. He would never be his grandfather, the war hero and civil rights activist. Why did the family put pressure on Jacob? At granddad’s funeral no less?
His grandfather’s legacy was impossible to match. However, they would probably end the same way, coughing up blood and shitting in a bedpan. Their blissful eternity would be dull white walls, sterilized scents, and the monotonous droning of life-sustaining equipment. Then, they would have something in common.
Jacob breathed. He didn’t resent his grandfather. They talked for hours on long walks about everything from the war to Jacob’s newest girlfriend. Jacob knew the man that was his grandfather, not the war hero. He was decent and hated injustice. However, he also loved the bottle. Two loves he struggled to balance. One made him a better man, the other broke him.
The nerves along Jacob’s right arm trembled from the elbow to his fingertips. His eyelids spasmed and anxiety flooded his legs. He needed his fix, the prescription in his car. Just a quick walk outside. No one would see him, no one would know.
A knock at the door startled him. “Hey, Champ, are you going to keep hiding in there?”
Jacob took another deep breath, still gazing into the mirror. You can handle this. He reached for the door. Once more into the trenches of family drama. Jacob grabbed the door and opened it.
Jacob’s father stood before him, beaming. He put his arm around his son’s shoulders “Hey, Jake,” he said. “There is something I must show you. I think you will like it.”
Cackling laughter flooded the hall, dominating the murmurs of mourners from the dining area. Aunt Maria was far too drunk.
“Today, Dad? At Granddad’s funeral?”
Jacob’s dad headed down the hall, opposite the party. There was the sound of glass shattering on the floor followed by a grief-filled yelling match.
Jacob’s father waited down the hall at the base of the stairs. “Are you coming? I would hate to celebrate this alone.”
“What the hell?” said Jacob, shrugging.
They walked up the stairs to an old bedroom.
Jacob’s father opened the door and the two men maneuvered through the piles of photos; generations of the family captured on film. Several boxes cluttered the far wall near a leaning stack of vinyl records. A Led Zeppelin album was on top. His grandfather would have once called that devil music. Jacob giggled.
His father moved an old cuckoo clock to access the closet. He removed a leather jacket from the shadows. Jacob’s eyes widened. His father held granddad’s World War II bomber jacket.
Jacob’s father folded the jacket over his arm and handed it to the young man. Jacob grabbed the hanger and wrapped his free arm around the jacket.
“I thought Granddad lost this.” Jacob whistled. His hands ran along the sleeve of the jacket.
“No,” his father said. His eyes peered around the empty, he lowered his voice, “I didn’t want the family thinking it would be a good addition to some museum.”
Jacob looked up at his father. “Fair enough.”
“That’s yours now. Your grandfather wanted you to have it after he died.”
Jacob’s eyes widened further.
His father leaned in and whispered. “Just don’t tell the family.”
Jacob nodded, his eyes transfixed on the bomber jacket.
“He was about your age when he joined the army for the war, so it’s your size. Try it on. I will be right back.”
His father maneuvered through the clutter and out the door. He glanced at Jacob. “You’ve grown into a fine man, Jacob.”
Jacob’s dad smiled and closed the door.
Jacob pressed his hand over the jacket and smiled. He looked at the brunette pinup girl drawn on the back of the jacket. She wore a short red dress and sat on a rock with flames licking the sky behind her. “Devil’s Angel” was stenciled above her, the name of his grandfather’s bomber in WWII.
Jacob held the jacket before him. “Thanks, granddad. I will treasure this.”
His hands trembled as he slid his arms into the jacket. His heart fluttered when the old leather fit around his body. “Maybe I am more like granddad. His jacket fits, at least.”
He moved to a large mirror laying against the wall near the vinyl records. Jacob smiled, pleased with his look. He wore a piece of family history.
He reached into the pockets and posed with a wry smile. “Perhaps it would help to pick up chicks. Well, maybe not with the pinup girl.” Jacob chuckled. “It’s a new age.”
Jacobs rocked from his heels to his toes, staring into the mirror. He couldn’t help but smile. Granddad had been his age when he started his legacy, and he gave the most important piece of his legacy to Jacob. He needed to thank his father.
Jacob felt his hand tremble again. His throat was parched. He still needed the medicine in his car.
He caught a shimmer in the mirror, movement. He saw an old man reflected in the mirror, near the door.
The old man’s eyes and face narrowed. A shadow flashed across the room’s reflection in the mirror.
Jacob pivoted toward the door; there was no one. He glanced back at the mirror: no one.
Hallucinations were a new symptom; Jacob would talk to the doctor about that later. Adrenaline filled his legs. They nearly buckled. His medicine, he needed to get to the car.
The gunshot rang through the house. The sound assaulted Jacob’s ears. His eyes spasmed; his vision darkened. Jacob’s knees buckled and he collapsed into piles of family photos. His head hit the floor. His body shook with tremors in sync with the gunshot’s echo in his ears.
Aunt Maria screamed.
© 2019 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.