If only I weren't such a terrible child...
If only I managed to take school a little more serious...
If only I didn't get enticed by greed...
Uncountable past regrets appeared in Ethan's mind as he lay on his hospital bed.
An elderly man lying in the bed next to him was regularly coughing up blood. On his television, the older man watched a documentary about the deepest submarine dive in history. 10.928 meters. A new world record.
To be able to understand the narrator, the hearing impaired fellow had to nearly maximize the volume of the outdated tube television.
Yet neither the TV nor the constant coughing were noticed by Ethan, who was deeply immersed in his thoughts, reliving mostly painful memories.
His parents lived separated for a little over three months by now. Ethan was living with his mother. He didn't show too much interest in his family's situation. He was a rebellious teenager, after all. After returning home from school, he threw his backpack into a corner and without giving his mother, who patiently waited for him at the table in the living room, a second glance and went up the stairs towards his room, eager to spend his day playing various video games on his PC, as was his after school routine.
As he was two thirds up the stairs, his mother called out in a quiet, slightly teary voice.
Noticeably annoyed by having to delay the start of his gaming session by even a minute, he replied.
"What is it?!"
"Your guidance counselor called again, reporting that you didn't attend your weekly meeting with her. You know they were a requirement for you not having to repeat a year."
"Tch. Not my problem, I have nothing to talk to with that bitch."
Hearing this, Ethan's mother lowered her head.
"Ethan listen to me, I know it has been hard for you since your father left us, but it is important for you to talk about it. Miss Kalare only wants to help you. If you don't want to talk about your problems with me or your friends, at least do so with your guidance counsellor.."
Listening to his mom giving him advice, Ethan sneered.
"I can't listen to you anymore. Dad left us? Please, the one he left is you, because you didn't appreciate him enough and were always complaining. Talking to my friends? You mean the ones mocking me because my mom is a fucking slut? I can't do that now, can I? So how about you leave me alone and fix your own problems first?"
Harshly responding, he headed straight to his room and closed the door with a bang, without giving his mother any time to reply.
In the end, she couldn't suppress her tears any longer and started crying, attempting to use the sleeves of her woven cardigan to stop the tears from running down her rosy cheeks. Her husband left her for a different woman, and somehow she was the one being called a slut by her son.
The sole person she lived for blamed her for everything that went wrong in the family. She didn't have it in her to deny these accusations.
What if, after all, it was her fault.
What if she really was a bad wife and a horrible mother.
Is she the reason her son gets bullied?
Is she the reason he stopped caring about school and his other commitments?
Would he be better off if she was gone?
She was unable to shake off these dangerous concerns.
Slowly, over months, the dark thoughts took root deep inside her heart, growing every day, with every insult, with every nasty remark, with every time Ethan ignored his mother as if he would prefer if she just disappeared.
Half a year later, while Ethan spent some vacation days with his father,
the inevitable happened.
With no one to talk to and rely on as support, the dark thoughts inside her head took the upper hand, and she took her own life by taking an overdose of painkillers.
Ethan didn't realize yet, that this was the day the one and only person in his life, who truly loved him, left this world.
The death of his mother affected Ethan a lot. Since he slowly started to mature and now had to move in with his father, he quickly realized who was actually at fault for destroying their family.
As soon as Ethan's mother died, his father stopped caring about him. It almost seemed like the happy days they spent together, before the incident, were simply to spite his mother, and to drive a wedge between the mother and son pair.
He regularly came home very late, reeking of alcohol and smoke. Different girls in their early twenties frequently accompanied him. Ethan's dad worked as a manager in show business. Ethan assumed these girls were likely newcomer idols, attempting to use his father to further their careers.
He wondered if such a cheap harlot was the reason his dad left his mother.
While the hatred towards his father was immense, the guilt Ethan was feeling wasn't any smaller.
He could only imagine the pain she must have felt because of his ignorant and hurtful behavior.
These circumstances were too much to cope with for a boy barely of age.
Ethan stopped attending school. Because his dad was barely at home, the worried teachers never managed to reach anyone either, and thus Ethan had no one to put him back on the right track.
Starting with skipping school, he soon discovered the possibility to, at least temporarily, forget about his father and push the guilt, which was continually oppressing him, to the back of his mind. While he was initially able to pay for the alcohol and drugs using his savings, his reserves didn't last very long.
Searching for an alternative money source, he decided to mug multiple local convenience stores.
As one was able to see coming, Ethan was soon caught in the act and got his first conviction being just 18 years old.
Using this as a reason, his father cold-bloodedly kicked the boy out of his house with no consideration of his well-being.
With no money, no education, and an increasing craving for short term relieve using drugs, Ethan hit rock bottom.
It took Ethan multiple years of hard work and pure dedication to getting his life back on track.
After sleeping on cold park benches for a while during blustery autumn weather,
Ethan summoned up the rest of his courage and decided to seek help from a distant relative of his father's side. While he feared that these relatives might stick with his father and turn him away, he under no circumstances dared to ask relatives from his mother's side, still deeply ashamed of his past actions.
Mai, his dad's younger cousin, was shocked after receiving Ethan's sob-filled phone call. Without letting her speak so much as a single word, Ethan, down on his knees, begged her for a second chance and cried, asking for forgiveness.
Mai was unsure what happened to the once adorable boy she remembered and didn't know for what he wanted to be forgiven. It was likely it wasn't Mai from whom he wanted absolution.
One thing Mai knew for certain, though, everyone, especially this poor young fellow, deserves a second chance.
Thus Ethan finally had a roof over his head and a caring family supporting him again. Due to his past conviction and his nearly non-existent education, it was impossible to even think about finding a decent paying job.
Nevertheless, he did try his hardest and landed a job at a convenience store, one of the kind he mugged just a few years prior.
Saving the little money from his paycheck and regularly attending addiction counseling, he led a comparatively stable life.
One day, a work colleague he learned to trust over the years, approached him about an extraordinary business opportunity. He acquired insider information about a specific stock and was convinced that said stock would easily triple in price by the end of the week.
In the beginning, Ethan was more than skeptical, but his colleague never stopped sweet-talking the opportunity. One needed a minimum of $50.000 to trade the stock. His colleague claimed to have $30.000 already but needed someone he could trust to pitch in the remaining amount.
Thinking about what he could do with the potential profits, Ethan, unfortunately, became hooked on the idea and under no circumstances wanted to miss out.
After all, with this much money, he could easily repay Mia and her family for all they have done for him. He was convinced, it was the only chance for him ever to stop working as a cashier and climb up the ladder of success.
From his job, Ethan managed to save a total of $12.000. He spent a lot of time thinking up a way to acquire the remaining $8.000. With his background, there was no way a bank would lend him even a single dollar. Mia's family was also very risk-averse and would never consider partaking in insider trading.
Left with no other option, Ethan decided it was alright to secretly borrow the money from Mia without her noticing. For the unexperienced Ethan, it was a foolproof investment with a guaranteed return. In his view, he might even be doing Mia a considerable favor. Thinking of secretly putting double the amount back into the safe after he gets his investment return, he packed the bundle of cash with a content smile on his face.
To nobody's surprise, the trusted coworker took the money and claimed to have invested it already. A week later, he informed Ethan that the police identified the insider trader and that his money was gone. Enraged, Ethan grabbed his neck and pressed him against a wall, threatening to call the police to get his money back.
The coworker began to maniacally laugh at the idea of voluntarily confessing to trading insider information.
With a smirk on his face, he advised Ethan to simply get over it.
If you want to win in life, you have to lose sometimes, he claimed.
Dismayed and terrified, he went home. He didn't care too much about his money, but he couldn't afford to ruin Mia's trust.
Sadly, everything was too late. As Ethan arrived, Mia and her husband sat on the couch, awaiting him. One with an angry and stern expression, the other depressed and sorrowful.
Ethan dropped his head and faced the ground, avoiding Mia's expression, which seemed to pierce his soul directly.
In a quiet voice, almost unhearable, he whispered.
As the husband was about to shout at the culprit angrily, Mia stopped him with her hand.
"I believe you, Ethan. Nevertheless, you deeply betrayed our trust. We have a young daughter, and we can't have a bad influence in our house for her. Forgive me."
Ethan clenched his fists and closed his eyelids. Why was he such a moron?
Once more, he ruined everything, and the only one he can blame is himself. It seemed like history repeats itself after all.
"You don't have to be so considerate of the kid, honey. I guess his father made the right call kicking him out as soon as possible. Your bags are packed, get out, and leave us in peace. Don't you dare barge into our lives again!"
The husband interjected.
While he was very harsh and Mia still liked the young man a lot, she didn't correct her husband, for she knew this had to be done.
Tranquilly and without a plea, Ethan took the suitcases and left, not having the courage to look Mia in the eyes one last time.
After he once again became homeless, things took a turn for the worse.
Due to it being freezing outside and Ethan being very undernourished, he quickly got ill, with the situation getting more severe by the day.
Eventually, he had no choice but to admit himself to a hospital. Finally, he ended up in a room with the blood coughing senior.
Due to him not having any health insurance, nor money, he didn't get treated with the same care as regular patients, which is why no doctor took a more detailed look at his symptoms and only gave him standard antibiotics against a cold.
Ethan could feel his energy becoming less and less, slowly drifting off as he relived these key moments of his life.
"Ah, I'm such an idiot, aren't I.."
He muttered to himself, prepared for the inevitable.
"Haha, I suppose you are."
An imposing voice replied.