The crowded plane gave another unnerving shudder as it encountered turbulence and the seatbelt sign glowed orange overhead, causing the passengers of the enormous aircraft to hiss in annoyance and reluctantly trudge back to their seats and fasten their seatbelts.

Carver, who had been sitting in the same position since the plane had taken off, broke out of his reverie as another fellow soldier jostled his arm off the armrest.

"Sorry pal," muttered the burly soldier who repositioned the little pillow behind his thick neck and closed his eyes.

Carver just looked at the man for a moment and said nothing, eventually turning his attention back to the window, staring out into the blackness of the night that surrounded the aircraft. He had been in deep thought about life outside the military.

He was going to be thrust into normal civilian life after having been entrenched in war, the bleak juxtaposition made his stomach clench in fear. It was ironic that a battle-hardened soldier of the likes of him who had endured some of the most horrific and gruelling challenges a person could face was being undone by the merest thought of home; or perhaps the lack of it.

Carver did not hold the same feeling of unrestrained joy and excitement that all of the other soldiers had. While they were all chomping at the bit to get to their families; to kiss their wives and girlfriends and hug their children. He was feeling the waves of dread roll over him in sickening succession.

The only thing that had offered him any respite was the thought of Marina, the one person who had stuck by him throughout his miserable life. But even she hadn't replied to any of his letters for over two years. After failing to receive a response from her after a couple of months, he had given up his weekly ritual of pouring his heart out to her.

Those letters were the one thing that had gotten him through the years of army training and service for his country. She was his lifeline outside the hellish reality of his existence. Reading about her normal day to day activities afforded him a sense of calm, reminding him of what he could have when this was all over.

He slumped down further into his seat and tapped his calloused fingers in a repetitive melancholic beat against the worn plastic of the armrest. The seatbelt sign had gone off and people were starting to get up and roam around again, he could hear them complaining about the long line for the tiny bathroom.

He sighed again and let his thoughts wander back into the events that had led up to this very moment. It had all begun that fateful night that he had finally lost it. He could not control that burning hatred that poured out of his very being and he had finally given in...

Carver felt the hot tears slide down his plump cheek as another resounding slap rang through the air. The bitter connection of hand against vulnerable flesh made his skin crawl; he had almost clapped his hands over his ears to stop the fateful sound reaching them.

The soft, almost resigned sobs of his mother who lay cowering in the corner of the room at the mercy of a towering hulk of a man whom she called her husband, cut a pitiful beat against his heart.

Mary Henson was a troubled woman. She spent most of her adult life battling with her crippling depression; no doubt instigated by her barbarian of a husband who had no tolerance for such things; especially when he was roaring drunk on a few dozen shots of cheap liquor and his own inflated sense of self, today being no exception.

"Shut your trap you crazy bitch, before I shut it for you!" The man lumbered forward and raised a threatening arm as if to backhand her again for having the sheer cheek to cry.

His mother recoiled further into the wall and tightened her arms across her face. Sobbing, she cried out, "I'm sorry! Please...Just please... Stop!" the fat tears running down her slender ivory cheeks to join the blood in the corner of her mouth where her lip had split from the teeth jarring blow he had landed earlier.

Mary endured this torment simply for having asked where he had been all night. An innocent enough question you would think. But the man heard this as an accusation through the haze of alcohol, and his savage anger had reared its ugly head like a rabid Rottweiler and lashed out against the woman who did not deserve it.

Carver watched this happen under his very nose, as he sat crouched on the stairs. Things were not always like this; he had always known that this man was not his biological father. That his mother had married him soon after Carver was born. Mary never spoke of Carver's real father. Whether it was because she couldn't bear to think about him or she simply wanted to forget about him; Carver could not tell.

They had never been what you and I would call a happy family, but it was not always as it was now. The man had never been much of a father figure and had regarded Carver as an unfortunate and irritating encumbrance, who only served to rile his anger and take up space in his already cramped pre-fabricated condo.

The violence had started when his step-father had been made redundant from his factory job manufacturing reclaimed-meat products. He remembered the fetid stench of the man after he would finish his shift; the smell was akin to stale body odor and death - a potent combination.

The man had become bitter and resentful towards the government and all the external forces which had meddled in his life. Rather than doing the sensible thing and getting another job, he set about becoming one of the most disreputable drunkards this side of the Earth.

Mary was the main target of his brutality, whenever he would begin one of his tirades, she would frantically usher Carver out of the front door and tell him to go play for a while.

Carver had caught on pretty quick to what was happening to his mother while he was outside playing. Mary would always be hunched over, as if in pain, pressing a hand to the tender flesh of her abdomen. She tried not to let on that she was suffering when she was around Carver, but he had glimpsed the mottled purplish bruises on her arms one day. The man was very careful not to hit her where anyone could see; lest the neighbors saw and raised suspicions.

He had pleaded with his mother to inform the police more often than he could remember; he even threatened to do it himself. But he was always met with that pleading beg from his mother who had tried to convince him that he was not a bad person, and it must have been her fault that he had hit her. That she was the one to blame.

But she could not proclaim that he was a good man when he had rounded on Carver himself, whipping him with his thick leather belt for his insolence when he confronted him about his violent behaviour against his mother.

Carver had sported these thick welts on his back and legs for years, ever since he had been in middle school. They almost felt as if they had always adorned his young skin. The man may have had his mother in a grip of terror but every day that went on, Carver felt his hatred for this monster grow.

Teachers had given him concerned looks every now and then; perhaps not quite sure what to make of the silent boy with the haunted look in his eyes. To them he was just another case for the school guidance counsellor; not that they had done anything to help. Just a pat on the back and a half hearted pep talk promising that everything would work out in the end. He did not; of course believe that for a moment.

He was always wary around people; one wrong move from his part and he would be separated from his mother by social services and left to rot in foster care for the rest of his life, according to his step-father who knew how to prey upon Carver's fears.

The only person that he had truly confided his predicament to was Billy Shepherd: best friend. His carefully constructed veil of forced joviality was soon picked apart by this acutely observant boy. One visit to his house for a game of 'Mario Cart' led to this thin veneer to be cracked open and all his secrets to come tumbling out.

He always had a feeling that Billy's mother had known about his tragic home life, and would frequently question him sympathetically about the numerous bruises that had marred his tanned skin. He had joined the football team to throw her off the scent, hoping that she would attribute the injuries to the rough nature of the sport, so that he would not have to keep lying to her.

When he spent a few merciful hours at Billy's house just hanging out with his family; his mother, father and little sister he would realise just how twisted and depressing his life really was. But he could escape and pretend that he was part of a loving family, even if it was just for a few hours. Of course, he would feel the ball of guilt weigh heavy in his heart when he arrived back home and saw the utter hopelessness in his mother's eyes.

His friendship with Billy had brought him out of his shell; he went from a child who was afraid of his own shadow to a confident young adult. Well, as confident as someone in his position could be. Every time he had another bust-up with his step-father he could count on Billy to bring him back down to Earth. But now he was adrift with no-one to rein him back in.

"Excuse me sir, but would you like something to drink?" Carver was ripped from his reminiscence by a rather harassed looking flight-attendant in an uncomfortable polyester uniform. She looked as if she wanted nothing more than to jump out of the plane than serve him drinks. He politely declined.

He looked at the on board display that informed the passengers how long they must endure the tedium of the flight. Carver noted that the plane would land in an hour or so. Most of the passengers had finally fallen asleep in their cramped seats, cocooned in the thin blankets that smelled faintly of vomit. He used the heels of his large hands to press down firmly on his slightly bloodshot eyes relieving some of the dryness that had been a side effect of the artificial atmosphere in the cabin.

Carver wanted to get up and stretch his legs but he was effectively caged in against the side of the plane by the thickset soldier beside him. He didn't know him too well and he didn't really want to know him. The only person he'd grudgingly let into his life was Billy and look where that had gotten him. Billy should have been in that seat next to him. But he wasn't.

Billy was dead.

He didn't like to think about it, but that just made the truth all the more evident. For so long, the years they'd known each other before the army and then, those years that had really brought them closer in comradeship and brotherhood. He had joined the army at the age of eighteen, full of anger and resentment and an urge to prove himself to the world.

Perhaps he had been too eager and Billy, who was not one to be left out when something new was to be experienced, had been caught up in the whirlwind of Carver's teenage angst and they had embarked on this misguided venture together; much to the disapproval of Grace, Billy's younger sister who detested the very idea of them going off to war.

Grace being two years younger than both Billy and Carver had always looked up to them as any younger sister would. She would hang onto their every word, listening to their teenage banter with rapt attention. As they grew older Billy would proclaim that his skinny younger sister was cramping his style and try and avoid her at all costs.

Carver could read the hurt in her eyes whenever she was shooed away like a bad smell. If he was honest with himself he would admit that he had liked it when she was around, he had always wanted a younger sibling, but he could not wish the type of life he had on another innocent child.

It had made him feel important; that there was someone who actually wanted him around. He took his role as a surrogate older brother very seriously, looking out for her when the wrong type of boy would try and get too familiar or when Billy was being an ass and they both needed someone to talk to.

He had felt a swell of pride when she had declared that she would rather that he was her brother than Billy, much to the other boy's chagrin.

It had been a regular Tuesday afternoon and Carver and Billy had both returned from football practice, he found that he could unleash his anger on the football field in a cathartic manner which pleased both him and the coach; not so much the unfortunate soul on the receiving end of his fury.

Carver had joined the Logan's for dinner as usual after practice. It had started innocently enough with them all chatting amiably over spaghetti and meatballs until, that is, when Mr Logan asked the seemingly innocuous question, "What colleges have you applied to Carver?" that it had all started.

He had been chewing on a meatball when he mumbled his response and shrugged his broad shoulders that he was not going to college. Mr Logan had raised an eyebrow at this piece of information he put his fork down and steepled his fingers, "Are you sure about this young man?" he asked with concern.

Carver looked around the table and saw that everyone was staring at him in shock. Billy had stopped teasing Grace about her braces and was looking at him quizzically, he hadn't expressed this reluctance for higher education with his best friend.

"Uh, yes Sir. I'm pretty sure that I won't be going to college." He cleared his throat self-consciously and took a sip of water from his glass. He had thought about this situation for a long time, he could not afford to leave home to go to college and risk having his mother tortured in his absence.

It had been years since he had first witnessed his step-father physically assault his poor mother and Carver had made a promise to himself that he would not leave his mother to fend for herself. His step-father would stay out and drink during all hours of the night and sleep all day. The money that he had received in his redundancy package was all but gone on fuelling his alcoholism, and Carver had to take up two extra jobs on top of school to just about keep them afloat. Without his regular income he was pretty sure that they would have starved a long time ago.

He sure as hell knew that he couldn't afford to go to college and his grades were nowhere good enough for a scholarship. The only thing that he was any good at was football. Carver discovered that he truly had a talent for the sport and he couldn't get over the thrill of the game. It also hadn't hurt when he met his girlfriend Marina, who was the head cheerleader, either.

Several scouts had approached him with offers of sports scholarships but he had refused them all, much to the chagrin and bewilderment of his coach.

He needed to be at home.

"What are you gonna do then?" asked Grace who was trying to eat a dinner roll without it getting caught in her braces.

Carver tried not to laugh as he replied, "I'm going to work full time."

"But I thought you were going for a football scholarship?" she said with a hand covering her mouth sheepishly.

"Change of plans Gracie." he said with a smile which caused her to nearly choke on a wad of bread.

"And anyway," cut in Billy who had figured out what was going on, "He's pretty lousy at playing football!" he grinned mischievously and stuffed a forkful of pasta into his mouth, chewing obnoxiously.

"Urgh!" Could you shut your mouth when you do that?" Grace cried in disgust at her brother's antics.

"Nope." he replied nonchalant and continued to chomp noisily.

"Mom! Tell him to quit being so gross!" Grace prodded her mother who had been sitting contemplatively all this time.

"William! Stop that at once! Where are your manners?" Billy snorted derisively at his mother's use of his full name, but closed his mouth all the same.

"Have you applied for any jobs, Carver dear?" she had turned towards him and was piling more food on his plate.

He knew that job opportunities would be slim pickings with his level of education, and the best he could hope for was a position as an office clerk. But he was not one to sit on his ass all day and answer phone calls.

"Not really, but Manny at the garage said he'd give me a job if I needed one." he shrugged, knowing that it was not exactly a glamorous career choice.

"Well that's good, at least you'll be doing something you love." she smiled encouragingly at him and nodded.

He heard the pity in her voice and it honestly made him feel like shit. Life wasn't exactly a bed of roses for him but he wasn't going to feel sorry for himself. He smiled politely back at her and sat quietly all throughout dinner.

Later than evening when he was in Billy's car getting a lift home he asked, "Have you ever felt sorry for me?"

Billy was slightly taken aback by this question and turned the radio off in the car, "What?"

"Have you ever felt sorry for me?" he repeated bluntly again, looking him straight in the eyes.

"I mean yeah man, of course I have. It must suck major ass being in your situation!" he said with his face set in a grimace.

"Is that why you're friends with me? Because you pity me?" Carver didn't know where all this was coming from, but he was strangely fascinated about how people regarded him.

"What? Come on!" Billy asked incredulously as he pulled into Carver's unkempt driveway, the light from the car throwing the ugly exterior of the shabby house into stark relief.

"No! I'm not just your friend because I pity you!" his eyebrows rose up high until they disappeared under a shock of sandy blond hair. "You are like a brother to me, man." he said earnestly as Carver opened the door and climbed out of the car.

"Good, because I don't want-," but before he could finish what he wanted to say, he heard an almighty crash from inside the house and his heart jumped to his throat.

"Fuck!" he swore viciously and leapt into action, tearing up the rickety porch steps and burst through the front door into the cramped lounge where he saw his mother lying motionless in a pile of glass shards; the remnants of the dated coffee table.

His Step-father swaying slightly in the doorway to the kitchen, clutching a bottle of vodka and looking pissed off.

Carver fell to his knees beside her and cradled her prone form in his strong arms, "Mom?" he shook her slightly, panic rose quickly within him when she didn't respond, "Mom!" he yelled again.

He pulled her closer to his chest and felt a hot trickle of sticky blood ooze down his exposed, corded forearm. He gasped and used his other hand to feel the back of her head and almost lost it when he felt a deep gash at the base of her skull.

"Shit!" Carver's head snapped up and saw Billy standing on the other side of the carnage looking horrified. He had whipped his cell phone out and had already called the police and an ambulance; he simply couldn't believe what he was seeing.

Carver's expression hardened as he looked back down at his mother who was only breathing faintly. He heaved her up in his arms and deposited her tenderly on the dirty couch next to the door, his boot crunching on the bits of glass that littered the floor.

"Stay with her." He bit out quickly to his friend who nodded jerkily, gulping down the bile that threatened to overcome him.

Carver calmly brushed a lock of his mother's dark hair away from her forehead and suddenly swung round to face his step-father who was cackling and slurred, "Tell that dirty bitch to get the fuck up and clean the damn floor!"

Carver's mind went blank at that moment and he launched himself at the man, tackling him to the ground. His head connected with the floor with a sickening crack.

With a howl Carver drew back his fist and punched the monster in the nose so hard that he felt the cartilage snap under his knuckles. Blood was spurting everywhere as he punched him repeatedly, the other man's face a mangled mess of blood and hunks of torn flesh.

The man was writhing around in agony, trying to buck Carver off his bloated torso. But Carver had him clenched firmly between his knees as he continued his maddened assault. Years of pent up anger came pouring out of Carver, and every time his fist connected with the other man's flesh he would growl in morbid satisfaction.

Carver pulled the man up by his greasy lapels and slammed him against the thin plasterboard wall, making a sizable dent. He sunk his fist in the massive expanse of the man's gut and bared a gritted smile as the man doubled over.

"This is for my mother you fucking son-of-a-bitch!" he brought his knee up brutally to the man's groin and watched as he cried in pain.

Carver stepped back and stood in the middle of the room, Billy had been watching the destruction with a mixture of repulsion and a sense of justice for his best friend.

He swiped the back of his hand across his cheek where globs of congealed blood had landed. The man was staggering towards Carver with the broken end of the bottle of vodka. He charged at Carver, his eyes narrowed in hatred. Flecks of blood and spittle sprayed from his busted mouth as he hissed with venomous intent.

The man's responses were severely dulled from the alcohol and he missed Carver by yards. Instead he ran, head first into the other wall and knocked himself out.

By the time the EMT's had arrived, his mother was in critical condition and she was whisked away in the wake of the shrill siren. His step-father was also taken away, unfortunately not in a body bag.

Carver was handcuffed and questioned by the police as to his involvement in the situation. Billy had vouched for him that it was in self-defence and they had reluctantly let him go.

He knew he must have looked gruesome, covered in blood and perspiration. His clothes would be taken as evidence.

His mother had not survived that night.

It turned out that she had suffered massive internal bleeding and a brain haemorrhage.

His step-father had lived; only to see the inside of a cell for grievous bodily harm and manslaughter.

Carver had stood over his mother's grave, looking at the head stone he had purchased with the money he had saved from his pizza delivery job. It had simply said;

Mary Henson


My Beloved Mother

He hadn't cried until he had finally been alone that night. He found that he was all alone in the world. Not even Billy, Grace or Marina could get through to him.

He had somehow managed to graduate high school, but he knew that he had no future. That's when he first seriously had contemplated joining the army. There was nothing for him anymore. He had been even more shocked when he told Billy his crazy idea and found that his best friend, also wanted to join.

He could still remember Grace's reaction when she had heard that both of them were planning to join the army, they had just graduated high school and Billy should have been starting college. But both boys had their minds set on the idea (Billy going along more for his friend than any real convictions for the military).

The last thing she had said to them was, "You two better look after each other and come back in one piece or I'll kill you myself!" She had sobbed uncontrollably, looking younger than her sixteen years.

Carver had promised.

A promise he had broken.

Carver did not realise that in his extremely vivid recollections, he had been clenching his fists until the knuckles had gone white. He could still see the scars across them, his entire body had tensed and to anybody else on the plane it would look like he was going to be sick.

"Hey man, are you alright?" the burly soldier next to him asked with some concern in his voice. "You look like you're gonna hurl."

Carver let out the breath that he'd being holding in and shook his head in negative, "I'm all right, just anxious I guess." he lied.

"Oh! I get it, it's the missus right?" he winked conspiratorially, "I know I'm nervous about that myself." he laughed a great booming laugh that woke several people around them.

Carver just nodded and tried to relax.

"My old lady and two boys are waiting for me, when I land." he went on with a wistful smile on his face.

Carver could not tell this virtual stranger that there was no-one waiting for him.

Hey everyone! :D

I'm sorry for the inactivity but I was simply inundated with work.

I hope you like my new story, it was something I was working on.

As always I will love you guys forever if you would take the time to tell me what you think. ^_^

(Sorry again! You have my permission to really pelt me with rocks this time!)