Authors: Stevie J. Cole
Copyright © 2015 by Stevie J. Cole
All rights reserved
This book is an original work of fiction. All of the names, characters, sponsors, and events are the product of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously. Any similarities to actual events, incidences, persons, deceased or living, is strictly coincidental.
Any opinions expressed in this book or solely those of the authors.
Copyright ©2015 by Stevie J. Cole
Published in the United States of America
Ebooks are non-transferable. They cannot be sold, shared, or given away. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is a crime punishable by law. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded to or downloaded from file sharing sites, or distributed in any other way via the internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement including infringement without monetary gain is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of Stevie J. Cole.
Editing: Ashley Mac Editing Services
Photographs for cover design: Dollar Photo Club
Cover Design: Stevie J. Cole
This book is dedicated to all the bloggers and readers who help my dreams come true every day! Thank you!
To my husband for supporting the madness that accompanies writing a book. I’m lucky to have you! Oh, and to my sister, Eva, but that’s a given because I love you so much!
Sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together. – Marilyn Monroe
To understand who I am, there are parts of my past you must first be privy to.
Even though I may look put together on the outside, I’m not. Even though I come off harsh and hard, mean and cold to some people, I’m not. And even though I pretended for years like I didn’t need anyone, I did.
Life is never fair, and I get that. When I met Jag, I was past being mad and bitter. I was at that point of almost being numb. I’d had a hard upbringing. I wasn’t naïve enough to think I was the only girl who ever had, and I was fully aware that some people had it a lot rougher than I did. But that doesn’t matter.
I don’t care how bitchy it makes me sound to say that.
I could say that I cared, but I’m not a liar and I’m not stupid.
I can sympathize, but nothing hurts the way personal experience does. Nothing blisters the way loss does. There is not one thing that eats away at a person’s soul the way abuse, neglect, destruction, and living in your own personal hell does.
I can vaguely recall the way my mother’s pink cashmere sweater smelled like White Diamonds. If I try really hard, I can hear the faint whisper of her laugh. But that’s it. I have vague memories of a life that once was normal, of a life most people have and don’t think twice about how lovely it really is. My mother died in a car wreck when I was a child, too small to remember very much about the person she was, or the life I had before she passed away.
My father had been driving when the accident happened. He’d had one stout drink and blamed himself.
After the reality set in—that she was gone and that he was a single father who would have to raise three small children—my father lost it. He went into a depression, became a drunk, and, soon after that, a meth-head and dealer.
I hear a lot of people say the most vivid memories of their lives are of Christmas morning, or birthdays, their parents reading to them at night. Something happy and nostalgic. For me, the most vivid memories are like a bad made-for-TV movie, and most of them revolve around death.
Before you jump to conclusions about me, about why I came off as such a bitch, about why I messed around with a guy that represented everything that had in the past done nothing but bring me pain; before you shame me for not telling him things I should have and for leaving him when I knew better, you need to understand my thought process.
If you can.
It’s easy for a person to look at another’s life and point out what they did that was wrong, to point out how stupid their decisions were, but everything’s easy when you’re on the outside.
I used to say I’d never be with someone like him—it’s really easy to
things, but I found it’s damn near impossible sometimes not to
things you say you won’t.
After you read this, if you still think I’m a bitch; if you think I was weak, or stupid, childish; if you can’t understand what I saw in him, and if you can’t see how fucked up addiction is…then I guess I didn’t explain this story as well as I should have. By the end it should be clear that the only person who could save me from my past was the same person I once thought would do nothing but destroy me.
It should be clear that life is not pretty, that love is not always kind, and that the kind of romance that is shoved down our throats is a crock of shit.
In fact, this may not even be a romance because it is raw, it is ugly, and it will make you hurt, but that’s what makes it so beautiful. It is something that was earned, something that neither of us really deserved. It is life. And to truly appreciate love, you have to know what it means to lose it. You have to make compromises, you have to accept flaws, and you have to be okay with less than perfect.
My life was always a fucked-up fairy tale, so to get my happily ever after, I needed a fucked-up Prince Charming.
I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Sean always answered my calls, and if he didn't make it to the phone in time he called me right back. He knew he and Layla were all I had—we were all he had. Our lives had been shit and the only thing we had was each other. I'd probably called him twenty times over three hours, and still no answer.
The leather wheel slid through my slick palms as I pulled into his apartment complex. My breathing was uneven, labored, and my stomach in knots. I shoved the gear into park and released a heavy breath. As I reached over to shove my purse underneath the seat I caught a glimpse of the scars covering the inside of my arm. Those morbid decorations conjured up moments from my past, ones I rarely let rear their heads. The memory jolted through my mind, and there was no stopping it from playing out like an HD movie.
My nostrils flared as I tried to hold back the screams, my vision blurred behind the tears I refused to let fall. I diverted my attention away from Bill, and my eyes landed on my father, who I knew wouldn’t save me. There he laid, passed out on that denim, grease-covered couch. That was normal for me, him drunk and snoring on that couch. If he wasn’t drunk he’d be all hyped up on meth, scurrying around the kitchen cooking more of the drug to sell.
"When you gonna learn to cry, girl? Huh?" Bill asked, and laid the hot end of the metal pipe on my forearm again, the skin singing. The disgusting smell of burning flesh filling my nose made a small amount of bile rise up in the back of my throat. Bill angled his face down, his blue eyes peering up at me and crinkling in the corners from the sick smile plastered over his face. "Cry, girl. Go on. Cry."
I refused. I would not give into him.
Even as a child, I was stubborn and tried to keep my emotions to myself. It was safer that way.
Layla, my little sister, started singing "Big Girls Don't Cry" as she rolled a Tonka truck over the filthy floor. She remained completely unaffected by this routine scenario of abuse.
This was no different than any other day. This was our normal. She didn’t know that she should be scared because this was just our way of life.
"You better learn to cry," he said with a gruffness to his voice that came from years of smoking, and flicked the lighter again.
I watched the flame spark to life and heat the end of the pipe, slowly making it glow a light orange under the bright blue flame. Bill's sunken eyes shot back up at me. "It's the only thing that'll save you sometimes.” He flipped my arm over and his fingers pressed into my skin. “Cry and wake your daddy up," he growled. “See if he’ll save you this time.”
I tried jerking my arm free, but his grip just tightened.
I focused on his hands. They were tan and leathery. Dirt and filth were caked underneath his nicotine-yellowed nails and grime had settled into the ridges of his knuckles.
"Cause if this won't make you cry—" he pressed the searing metal over my arm again and I winced silently, "what I'mma do to you later sure as hell will." A low, sick chuckle rumbled from him.
I closed my eyes, pretending I was dreaming. I had become well-versed at pretending most of my life had been a nightmare. A terrible fucking nightmare.
My dreams were my reality, my reality a nightmare. I'd convinced myself of that because I was certain there was no way in hell someone my age could have had so much terrible shit happen to them.
Bill grabbed me by the nape of my neck and pulled me up from the floor. I let loose the Cabbage Patch doll I'd been clinging to for dear life and it fell to the floor, the sudden thud causing the roach creeping across my plate of SpaghettiOs to scurry back toward one of the many cracks in the wall.
"Come on, girl. I'll show you how much crying can save you."
Just then, the tinkle of rattling dishes interrupted the constant bubbling sound from our kitchen. The flimsy floors shook beneath my older brother's heavy steps, and in with him wafted the sulfurous smell of the meth he’d been cooking.
"Leave her alone!" Sean growled.
My eyes widened and I stared at Sean’s face. It was red and sweaty. I wasn't sure if it was from anger, or from the heat of the pot he'd been standing over while he waited for the rocks to form.
Bill laughed, then wiped his free hand over his cracked white lips. "What the fuck you gonna do, boy?"
Sean widened his stance. His nostrils flared and his lips twitched. "Put. Her. Down." He paused to swallow. “Or I’ll kill you.”
Ignoring Sean, Bill laughed and turned to carry me down the hall.
I let out a whimper, then heard a growl come from behind me, followed by a loud crack. Warm liquid sprayed against my cheeks.
Bill gasped and stumbled, his hold on me loosening as we tumbled forward and slammed against the floor. I closed my eyes again and laid completely still, terrified to move.
"Roxy. Roxy? Come on. Get up," Sean's voice trembled. Layla was screeching behind him, which told me something very bad had just happened.
I opened one eye and saw my father still lying motionless on the couch and snoring. Then I turned to look at Bill and immediately hyperventilated. His head had been split open; his scalp loose. Meat with tendrils of scruffy blonde hair flapped over the top of his head. Blood poured down his skull and pooled on the floor underneath my arm. I couldn't scream, I couldn't move—I was honestly paralyzed with fear.
Sean stood over us, a metal bat clutched tightly in his hand. I watched his eyes move away from Bill and to me; his face was white, his jaw wide open, and he dropped the bat. The clunk of it hitting the floor was drowned out by Layla howling behind us. “Bubba, bubba. No, bubba. Angry, bubba,” she sobbed.
He grabbed me, jerking me up. "Come on, Rox. I got to get that blood off your face."
Still holding onto my hand, he squatted and scooped Layla up in his free arm. Trying his best to shush her, he jostled her on his hip. "It's okay, Layla-bug. It's okay. Shhh. Bubba’s not angry at you. Just at that mean old Mr. Bill."
He dragged me into the kitchen and sat Layla in the floor so he could turn the stove off. He moved the steaming pot away from the eye, grabbed a box of Cheerios and started to hand them to Layla, but stopped.
"Shit. It's all over her too. Fuck." He glanced around and pulled one of the worn, wooden chairs up to the sink. "Sit down," he said, and pushed me down in the chair.
Sean leaned over and grabbed Layla, then set her in my lap.
"I want Cheerios!" Layla demanded. Just like that, she’d forgotten about the gory mess in our living room.
"I know, bug. But I got to clean that nasty stuff off of you first. Don't put your hands in your mouth. Okay?"
Layla looked down and inspected the red splotches on her hands and her clothes. "Bubba gonna get the blood off Layla-bug?"
"Yeah," Sean sighed. "Yeah. Bubba’s gonna get the blood off you."
His jaw was clenched, his forehead scrunched. He looked worried, and I didn’t like it when he looked worried.
He turned the sink on and grabbed a dish towel. After the water heated up, he held the tattered cloth under the faucet.
"Shit. I hope he didn't have AIDS or something," he whispered over and over as he wiped the blood from our cheeks.
He'd just murdered a drug dealer, and all he was worried about was whether the blood we were covered in carried HIV.
Growing up in the “bad part of town,” cooking meth for your drugged-out father to sell—that had hardened us. Even at the ages of thirteen, ten, and five, sometimes you learn that being hard is the only way you’ll ever survive.
As he cleaned me up, I stared at him. Tiny splatters of blood were all over his face, his neck, his Ren and Stimpy t-shirt.
He was my brother. He was my hero. He always had been and always would be. He kept me safe. He took care of me. And he was the only person that loved me, and the only person I'd ever let myself love—because I knew he'd never, ever hurt me.
CPS should have taken us away after that incident, but our father, being the entrepreneur that he was, couldn’t let something as insignificant as one of his kids killing a drug dealer for abusing one of his other kids put him out of business. He needed us to help him make the drugs; we were the only way he could ever be a high-functioning drug addict. We were his paycheck from the government, we were his employees, and we were the only insurance he had.
He didn’t seem the least bit shocked or concerned when he came to and saw Bill’s dead body five feet away from him in the floor. All he did was tell Sean to put on some shoes and get some garbage bags, then yell at me and Layla to go lock ourselves in our bedroom and not to come out until he came to get us.
I grabbed Layla and ran to my room, shutting us both in the closet. And there we sat, clinging to one another in silence for hours until Sean came and retrieved us.
Sean never told me what he and my father did with Bill’s body, and I never asked.
I shook my head to get that memory out of my head. I stared out my windshield for a few minutes, praying, hoping, begging God that Sean was just asleep, or drunk.
The longer I sat there, the more scared I became.
I meant to just shut the door to my car, but the adrenaline jolting through me caused me to slam it shut instead. I tried to walk to his door, but with each step, my pace picked up until I was running.
My heart hammered in my chest, skipping in uneven, terrified beats. I didn't bother banging on the door; I couldn’t take the torture of waiting.
When I put my key in the lock, that click echoed through my ears. From that moment on, everything was in slow motion. Every time the memory is dredged to the surface it plays out slowly as if to make the memory of it that much more unbearable and torturous. I feel like it's a movie about someone else's life, but unfortunately this is very much my past.
I pushed the door open to silence. There wasn't any music blaring on the stereo like usual and no lights were on. I swallowed and managed to squeak out his name.
The silence that answered me was agonizing.
"Sean? You here?"
I closed the door behind me, the rusted hinges creaking as it shut. I locked the deadbolt because in that part of town, I couldn't afford not to.
My feet didn't want to move. I tried to force them to do something, but they remained planted firmly in place. Fear does funny things to your body sometimes, almost like it knows when you aren’t going to be able to handle something.
I knew he was dead. I just didn't want to see.
My entire chest tingled from the adrenaline and fear pumping through my body, and I could already feel the tears stinging my eyes.
"Hey, Sean. You missed practice..." I slowly made my way behind the couch and to the doorway of his room.
"Sean?" I needed to say his name one more time, with the hope that maybe this time he’d answer.
I grabbed onto the doorframe and craned my neck inside his room to find him lying in the center of his bed, completely still.
"Sean?" My voice shook, my hands were trembling, and sweat had collected in my palms. Swallowing again, I managed to pull in a ragged breath.
I took slow steps toward him. My fingers skirted along the edge of the bed.
"Sean?" I whimpered when I saw the tourniquet still wrapped tightly around his arm. Moving my foot, I heard a crunch and looked down to see the syringe now shattered beneath my shoe. His lips were blue, his eyes fixed on the ceiling in a glassy stare, and his jaw hung open. I couldn’t look at him any longer. I covered my face with my hands to separate myself from that image, and my legs gave out. My knees slammed onto the carpeted floor hard and I let out a loud cry of utter remorse.
He had been clean for three fucking years.
He had promised me he'd never leave me. He'd promised me he'd stay clean—for me. But drugs, that's a love that, once it gets a hold of you, never releases its claim, and there's not a person in this world that can compete for the place that high holds.
Unlike heroin, I couldn’t take the pain away. I couldn’t numb Sean or erase his past. He'd protected me for as long as he'd been alive, and as hard as I had tried, I failed at protecting him from himself.
Drugs had ruined everything in my life. They had destroyed anything I loved. They took everything from me.
Every. Single. Thing.