A swirl of red sparks burst around him, enveloping him in a fiery shroud. He cringed at the sting of thousands of sparks on his skin, and opened his eyes to find himself face to face with a horned beast, covered in cherry coloured skin that looked like scales of leather, and deep black eyes that bore into his soul. It opened its mouth and smiled at him, releasing an acrid smell of sulfur and brimstone that made his stomach heave and his bowels quicken.
“Feeling afraid? You poor thing.” He tried to pull away from the clawed foot that stroked his face in mock sympathy, but the hand over his mouth held his head firmly in place. “It’s not nice to face a monster, is it? But you were never ashamed to make your own son fear you. Now you know how he felt when you shouted at him and threw things at him. Sometimes those things hit him. Some of them… cut his face.” The monster looked at Angus in mock sympathy as it suddenly drew one of its claws across the side of his forehead, slicing skin and flesh open. Blood washed over his right eye, turning his vision as red as the beast that taunted him.
“How dare you? I’m no monster.” The beast snarled at him, its nostrils flaring. “There’s only one monster here, Angus.”
More memories plagued his conscience as the monster continued with the next slap, “Oh, you asked for that.” The hands that held him turned him around so that the monster could kick his backside with its foot, but his cries of outrage and pain were suppressed by the hand that still covered his mouth.
“You’re pathetic. You disgust me. Get out of my sight!” The monster roared, and his mind filled with echoes of the many times Rory had begged for mercy, pleaded with his father not to hit him again, and sobbed as he tended to his own cuts and bruises.
Rose smiled at Rory as she opened her arms for him when the church bells rang out twelve peals for midnight, kissing him warmly on the cheek. “Happy New Year, Rory. We love you.”
Blinking back tears and swallowing the lump that had suddenly appeared in his throat, he could barely whisper “Happy New Year, Rose,” in response. Trevor’s arms wrapped around them both as the final bell pealed and the first firework exploded in the sky above them.
“Right on time!” Trixie said, looking up at the sky.
“You can’t win them all, I suppose! Happy New Year,Tom!” Kathleen added as she wrapped her arms around her brother and cousin and hugged them close to her. “Here’s to new beginnings!”
“New beginnings indeed,” replied Trixie, smiling as she watched Rose and Trevor enfold Rory in the most loving embrace he had ever known.