Sun setting, snow falling slowly, the icy wind whistling through the gaps in the windows. Jacin shivered as he zipped up his thin sweater—his only sweater. He glanced at his mother huddled in the corner, shivering and asleep, and decided to drape another blanket over her frail frame. He let out a sigh, his eyes landing on the picture hanging on the wall over her.
Him, his mom, and his dad. Smiling. Laughing.
A normal family.
Memories of his life before the incident flooded back to him. His mom —healthy. His dad —alive. Jacin shook his head in an attempt to get rid of the thoughts. Thinking about the past wouldn’t help him and his mom right now. But his dad…Jacin’s thoughts drifted back against his will. He remembered his dad behind bars, seeing the life slowly draining out of him. His dad was a good man, and even though they were barely getting by, Jacin’s childhood was full of fun times with his parents. His dad wanted the best for him, always telling him to try his hardest and to aim for the highest. Accused of robbery, Jacin’s dad was sentenced to life in prison, less if he took the plea deal. But he didn’t. Maybe he thought there was a possibility they would let him out. Jacin didn’t know. This was his second felony—the first one being before Jacin was born and with no money to post bail, he was stuck in jail. A 12-year-old at the time, he couldn’t believe it. His dad? His kind, joking, and loving dad? Committing a crime? It wasn’t something he could think of. But now, 6 years later, he could not only believe it, but he could understand it. His dad did what he had to do to survive given their circumstances. His previous arrest made it so that finding a job and house was hard, and with a family to support, Jacin guessed he had no choice. His eyes stung as he remembered the look on his mom’s face when the news of his death came. After that was when she changed. She was not really there anymore. She stopped working, a hollow look permanently in her eyes—both because of him dying as well as not eating.
Jacin looked at his phone. He bent down and kissed his mother’s forehead. Moving slowly to avoid waking her up with the creaking floors, Jacin got his shoes, glanced one last time at his mother, and stepped outside. As his hand moved to pat his back pocket, he wondered what she would think of him now. Since he was young, Jacin dreamed of becoming a lawyer, hoping to bring justice to an otherwise unjust system. But that dream wouldn’t come true anytime soon. Jacin and his mother were barely able to eat every day let alone pay for college. Would she still see him as her young son, eager to learn and destined to do great things? Or would she see him as a failure? He didn’t want to think about it. For all she knew, he was working a regular job, one with a uniform and consistent work hours.
She couldn’t know the truth.
She couldn’t know about the countless employers who turned him away once they saw him.
She couldn’t know about the several times he’d been stopped and searched on the street.
She couldn’t know about the multiple times he’d spent the night in jail as a suspect for a crime.
She couldn’t know.
Jacin winced as the cold air sliced across his face. He turned around and took one last look at their house, with its slanted door, chipped-off paint, and discolored roof. Everyone knew each other in the small town they lived in, despite the area being pretty populated. He patted his pockets, pulled his hood down low, checked the address on the text, and set off. As the wind swirled around him, slipping in and out of his sleeves and pant legs, Jacin shoved his hands deeper into his pockets and quickened his pace, hoping against all hope that the night sky and howling wind would hide him. Despite this being the third time he was meeting up, his heart raced and his breath quickened at the thought of getting caught. It wouldn’t be the first time he was stopped, but it would be the first time the cops would find something. What would happen to his mom? Where would they bring her? Would she be okay?
Just as he thought it, it happened, in the form of a police officer in the near distance. In the direction he wanted to go in. Unwilling to look suspicious, Jacin avoided turning around and instead relaxed his posture, slowed his pace, and kept walking. Once he turned the corner out of the police officer’s sight, he quickened his stride almost to a run.
“Stop right there! Hey! Come back!”
Jacin turned around to see that the police officer had followed him, his hand resting on his pistol.
He contemplated simply running away, but decided against it. That would most likely be certain death. Was he really getting caught? Was this it? Was he going to die in jail like his father?
Jacin’s thoughts crashed together in his head, mapping out a future he did not like. A future without his mother. A future without a life. He took a step back, and then made the biggest mistake. It all happened so quickly.
His hand reached towards his back pocket out of habit.
He slowly looked down, his other hand quickly finding his chest.
He couldn’t comprehend what had happened. He couldn’t feel the pain.
His breath hitched as he took his last breath.