Authors: Aurora Rose Reynolds
“Nothing. I just want my life back,” I fib.
“Autumn, you know you can’t. Not yet.”
“Soon?” I ask on a whisper.
“Angel, I wish I could tell you the cops caught the guy or that they have a lead, but right now, they’ve got nothing. You’re safe there.”
That’s a joke; I’m in more danger here than I was back home.
Why am I so upset about this
“Did you hear me?” Link asks, pulling me from my thoughts.
“I asked how you and Kenton are getting along.”
“Oh, fine… You know, he goes his way and I go mine,” I answer casually.
“What are you leaving out?”
“Guess what? I got a job in Nashville at a hospital,” I say, changing the subject. I do not want to talk to Link about Kenton. They were friends long before I was in the picture.
“That’s good news, Autumn, but…” He clears his throat, and I can’t tell that he’s trying not to burst my bubble. “I know you’re a long way from here, but that doesn’t mean you’re one hundred percent safe.”
“Only you know where I am, right? So I should be okay.”
“Just be careful…and keep Kenton up-to-date about what’s going on,” he tells me.
“Will do,” I say, knowing that I won’t be doing anything like that at all.
“Call me if you need anything.”
“Okay. Talk to you later,” I say softly, hanging up the phone. “May as well go get breakfast,” I mutter to myself, putting my car back in drive. I reach a small town after fifteen minutes, pull into the first restaurant I see, get out of my car, and head inside.
The place is small, with a total of five booths and a long counter that stretches the length of the diner, which has short barstools lining the front of it. I walk to a small booth in the back, pushing my bag across the seat before sitting down. The smell of bacon and eggs has my mouth watering.
“What can I getcha, sugar?” asks a pretty, older woman with dark-brown hair that’s in a bun at the top of her head as she pulls a pen from behind her ear.
“Coffee, pancakes, bacon, and eggs.”
Her head lifts, looking at me. “A woman who’s not afraid to eat,” she smiles. “Be back with your coffee.”
As soon as she leaves, I take out my cell phone and pull up my Kindle app. Any time I need a break from reality, I read. There is nothing better than going on an adventure or imagining two people falling in love.
“What’s your name, sugar?” the woman asks, making me jump in my chair.
“Autumn. Thank you,” I say when she sets the cup down in front of me.
“I’m Viv. You got man problems?” she asks, sitting down across from me like it’s completely normal to sit with someone you don’t know and ask them such a personal question.
“Never mind. I see it in your eyes that you do.”
“I—” I start to tell her that I don’t when she cuts me off again.
“My mamma was able to see things, you know?”
“Sure,” I agree, because who am I to judge? For all I know, her mom could have a gift.
“Well, I can see things too,” she says. I watch her, wondering where she’s going with this. “The guy you like, well… He’s kinda an ass, like my old man used to be,” she tells me, leaning forward like it’s a secret between us.
“Well, you see, he doesn’t know what to do with what he’s feeling, so he’s an ass.” She shakes her head. “You hear what I’m sayin’?”
I have no idea what she’s saying, but she’s dead-on that Kenton is an ass, so I nod my head in agreement.
“Make him grovel. Whatever you do, you make him pay for being an asshole.”
“Got it.” I smile.
“Now, when you do forgive him”—she shocks me by grabbing my hand—“what you’re feeling right now will be worth it in the end.”
“Uh, okay,” I tell her, patting her hand.
“All right, now you just sit back and I’m going to feed you the best pancakes you’ve ever eaten in your life. Food makes everything okay.” She stands, leaving me wondering what the hell just happened.
Viv comes back a few minutes later with a plate overflowing with pancakes, bacon, and eggs. She sets the plate in front of me before taking a seat across from me again.
“So I take it you’re new around these parts?”
“I just moved here,” I tell her, my mouth watering from the smell coming from the plate.
“Did you move here to be with the ass?”
I can’t help but smile at her name for Kenton. “Um…no, and we’re not together. I mean, we have never been together.”
“Whatever—tomato, tomatoes.” She waves her hand at me, and I can’t help but smile at the way she messed up the saying. “You got family ’round here?” she asks, sitting forward in the booth like my answer is really important.
“No.” I shake my head, taking a bite of bacon.
“Well, you need to come over and have dinner sometime.
ass makes a mean brisket.” She smiles, watching me take another bite. “Good, right?” she prompts.
“Very.” I nod, covering my mouth.
“You should come over next Sunday. We close the diner early that day and have a big Sunday meal with all the fixings. My daughter and my niece are a little younger than you, but I would guess my nephew is about your age, though he doesn’t always show up. I’m sure the girls would like to show you around. One sure way to get your man to mind is to find another man to show him you can have someone else if you want to,” she rambles, and I can feel my eyes growing in size, so I cut her off.
“That’s very nice, but—”
“No buts. Dinner’s at three. We eat early. I’ll give you my address. I expect to see you there,” she says, standing up, and before I can come up with a good reason not to have Sunday dinner with her, her ‘ass,’ and their families, she disappears behind the counter and starts taking care of other customers.
I sit there for another hour, eating and reading on my phone. When Viv comes back, she gives me her address, cell phone number, and a very sweet hug. I leave the diner, get in my car, and head back to Kenton’s. This time when I get there, his car is gone, and I breathe out a sigh of relief that I don’t have to face him for a while.
I wake up
to the sound of pounding and the doorbell going off. I roll and look at the clock on my bedside table, seeing that it’s after three in the morning. “What the hell?” I mumble sitting up. My brain is still asleep as I stumble through my bedroom door and down the stairs. When I reach the front door, I look out the peephole and see a beautiful woman with dark hair and sun-kissed skin standing outside.
“I know you’re in there! Open up!” she yells.
I turn off the alarm and open the door, leaving the night latch in place as I peek out the crack. “Can I help you?”
“Can you help me?” She waves her arms around. “Can
? Yes, bitch, you can help me by telling me what you’re doing in my man’s house,” she says, pushing on the door, the lock keeping her out.
“Your man?” I repeat, putting my weight against the door.
man.” She shoves the door a little harder and I’m surprised when I hear the sound of wood cracking.
“Look, if you’re Kenton’s girlfriend, then you need to call him. He’s not home,” I tell her, not liking the way my chest feels as the word ‘girlfriend’ leaves my mouth.
“I know he’s not home,” she says, pressing on the door again.
“You should call him or come see him tomorrow when he is here,” I suggest, trying to be reasonable.
“Let me inside.” She takes her shoulder and slams it into the door.
She is really crazy. What the hell?
She stumbles back and then runs at the door again like some kind of football player. This time, the door crashes open. I fall on my ass and she flies into the house, falling onto the floor.
“Are you fucking
” I ask her, standing and feeling a bruise forming on my hip. I look at the lock on the door, seeing it swinging on the doorjamb.
“You wouldn’t let me in.” She rolls over, getting on her knees before standing up.
“That’s because Kenton’s not here, you psycho. Now get out before I call the cops.” I walk to the door, opening it wider, signaling for her to leave.
“No, I’m going to wait for Kenton.”
“You’re on crack if you think I’m letting you stay here to wait for him. Get out!” I point out the door just as lights beam through the house.
I look outside and watch Kenton pull up and park. He sees me standing in the door, and that’s when I realize that all I have on is a T-shirt and panties—and it’s not even a long shirt. His eyes slide from me to the woman in the house and then narrow.
“Cassie, what the fuck?” he growls at her, walking through the door.
“We need to talk,” she cries, taking a step towards him, only to stop when his eyes narrow further.
“You opened the door to her?” he asks, looking at me.
I shake my head no, taking a step back from the look on his face.
His head swings in her direction. “You know what time it is?” he asks.
“Yes. I got home to find all my stuff outside on my front porch.”
“You came to my house and forced your way inside when I wasn’t home?”
“All my stuff is ruined,” she whines on a huff.
“You okay, baby?” he asks as he turns his head my way, his eyes locking on mine.
Heat boils under my skin at the endearment. I want to claw his eyes out.
“‘Baby’? Really? You call her ‘baby’? You never called
that!” Cassie screeches, looking at me.
“I wouldn’t get too upset, honey,” I tell her softly. “I’m just a stripper and don’t mean shit to Kenton.” My eyes go from her to him, and seeing his jaw ticking makes me feel better. “Now,” I say happily, “if you two don’t mind carrying on this love spat without me, I’m going to bed.”
I turn and head up the stairs, smiling when I hear Cassie yell, “Stripper?! A fucking
is living with you?”
I close my bedroom door and crawl into bed. I listen to the rumble of Kenton’s voice for a few minutes, and then I hear the door close and the alarm being set. I hold my breath as I listen to feet pound up the stairs. I don’t know how I know, but I can feel him standing outside my bedroom door. The hall is silent for a few moments, and then he says my name. I ignore it, pulling the covers over my head.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers.
I hear a thump then the sound of feet moving away from the door, and I squeeze my eyes closed, blocking him out. No way am I buying into that again. I run my finger over the tattoo behind my ear, taking comfort in it.
It’s the only physical thing I have that connects me to my son. I wasn’t allowed pictures or any other reminders from the nine months I carried him or the few hours I spent with him after his birth. Not that I would need them—he was embedded in me, a piece of my soul that was taken from me before I was strong enough to fight for myself or him.
When I was sixteen, I met a guy. His sister used to compete in pageants against me, and he would show up at the competitions and sit in the crowd, looking annoyed about having to be there. He would growl at his mother, telling her how wrong it was what she was doing to his sister. He fascinated me. I wanted someone like him to fight for me or teach me how to fight for myself.
Not long after the first time I saw him, he found me in one of my favorite hiding spots. At first, he was rude and distant, only recognizing me as another snotty pageant girl, but then I told him that I hated it. I explained that I didn’t have a choice and what would happen if I didn’t perform.
After that, we met often. I trusted him. He told me what I wanted to hear—we could be together, he had an apartment, and he would save me from the life I was living. For a girl who was broken and didn’t know any better, he was perfect. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with him and give him the piece of myself that was the only real thing I had to give another person. I thought he loved me too; I thought he was willing to fight for me. He used my weakness to get what he wanted.
In the end, I learned a hard lesson. Not only did he not care about me, but when I ended up pregnant, he turned his back on me, allowing my mother to send me to a home for young girls to give birth to my son before being forced to give him away.
I pull my pillow over my face and cry into the soft material as images of my son flash through my head. I think I memorized everything about him during those few short hours. He was so tiny, weighing only six pounds. His small head was covered in dark hair and his eyes were bluish grey. I remember praying that I would be able to see them one day to know what color they turned out to be.
He had a birthmark on his right thigh. I looked at the small area of discolored skin for a long time while I held him. The shape was unique, just like him. Not long after moving to Vegas, I was walking down the street and looked into a tattoo shop window. I hadn’t wanted a tattoo until one of the posters on the wall caught my eye and I saw my son’s birthmark. I went inside to find out what it was.
The old guy behind the counter got on his computer and looked it up for me. He told me that the symbol was an Ankh, the origin was Egyptian, and it represented eternal life or the giving of life. I couldn’t believe that his birthmark had that kind of meaning behind it.