Authors: N.K. Smith
First published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop, 2010
Copyright © N.K. Smith, 2010
The right of N.K. Smith to be identified and the author of this work has been asserted by her under the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000
This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part maybe reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Writer’s Coffee Shop
(Australia) PO Box 2013 Hornsby Westfield NSW 1635
(USA) PO Box 2116 Waxahachie TX 75168
Paperback ISBN- 978-1-61213-004-0
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the US Congress Library.
Cover image by: Konstantin Sutyagin
Cover design by: Jennifer McGuire
N K. Smith has been writing in some fashion since the early age of 10 years old. Her first short story, written in fifth grade, was a summer camp mystery. Now, N.K. is realizing her childhood dreams with her first novel Old Wounds.
Having lived several places throughout the northeast United States, N.K. has returned to her native Indiana where she lives with her husband, two children, and three cats. N.K. has an avid interest in natural, organic, and sustainable living and lives a vegan lifestyle.
First of all I have to thank my family. My strong and passionate husband, Josh, and my two smart, witty, and gorgeous children are wonderful and help me find my way through the world.
I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for my mother. She’s quite honestly one of the best people I know and has helped, encouraged, and guided me during every stage of my life.
I’d like to thank the editors Lea Dimovski, Caryn Stevens, Roberta Curry. Many thanks go to Donna Huber my marketing agent, and Amanda Hayward, the publisher, for giving me this opportunity and extending such consideration and kindness.
This story would not be without the help, love, and support of a few of my favorite women in the world. The following people have left lasting fingerprints on this story: First Brittany Larson guided and championed this endeavor for no other reason than she is my friend. She gave so much of herself and asked questions that helped me flesh out the story. I am forever grateful for her. Jennifer Ebbing, Debbie Matlock, and Amanda Webb provided a massive amount of detailed feedback as well as love and support. Without these four ladies, nothing would be the same. I orbit them.
was exactly what my life needed right now. The stupid hospital bed creaked and groaned and I just knew it was the herald of bad things. As if on cue, some young doctor came in, her hair perfect in that ‘I make more money in a week than you’ll make in a year’ kind of way, and smiled at me.
I looked away.
“Sophie,” I croaked. I always hated it when people addressed me formally like that.
The doctor checked a few things, running her fingers over my bruises. When I looked back up, I saw that smile. Doctors all wore the same one, but this chick made me wonder if she knew more than what the police had told her. Maybe she knew more than just about the accident.
“There are a couple of people outside waiting to talk to you.”
I swallowed hard as if I could push back the dread and panic with the action. Who was outside? I assumed the cops, but had they already called Helen? She was going to be angry. Really,
angry. And I was already in so much pain.
Trying to sit up, I groaned and then gave up.
“You’re pretty beat up, so I told them all they couldn’t see you for a while.”
Even though my ribs felt broken, I’d been told that they were just bruised, but they still hurt like hell when I tried say more than a few words at a time. “Is my mother out there?”
The doctor’s expression remained neutral for the most part, but I thought I saw something flicker across her face. It was hard to interpret. “Is your mother a short little lady with a mouth like a hardened sailor?”
I assumed she was talking about my mother’s eloquent manner of speaking, not that I was much better. If it was a four-letter word, it was used about three times in every spoken sentence. “Yes.”
“Do you want to see her?”
The doctor tapped on one of the machines with her index finger and pursed her lips. “How are you feeling?”
“My head hurts.”
“You have a concussion.”
No wonder the room wouldn’t stay still. “Did I break anything?” Broken bones hurt and more than that, they made it next to impossible to get around. Even a broken arm messed up everything.
I didn’t need my life to suck any more.
“There’s a shadow on the film of your left hand.” I curled my fingers and rotated my wrist. It hurt, but didn’t feel broken. “It could be a hairline fracture, but the radiologist won’t say for sure.”
She didn’t seem overly stressed about my medical condition, so I switched to an equally important topic. “Am I in a shitload of trouble?”
Her expression softened. “I would say you’re in a bit of trouble, yes.”
My sigh said it all. She checked the chart at the end of my bed, replaced it, went to the dry-erase board next to the door and wrote down a few numbers. Then very slowly, she returned to my bed and sat down in the uncomfortable-looking chair next to it.
“There’s going to be a social worker coming in soon, but I want you to know that if you don’t feel comfortable talking to her, you can talk to me.”
My gaze drifted away again. It was always the same. They always said stuff like this, but no one really wanted to listen. No one really wanted to help and I didn’t think they ever could.
I was sure this woman, and the social worker, were fine people with good intentions, but intentions counted for shit in my world, so once again, it was time to protect myself. The cops waiting outside weren’t as scary as some of the other things awaiting me, so there was no reason to cooperate.
I’d botched it all up and made a bigger mess than before.
“What the hell do you want me to talk to you about?” I asked in an intentionally snotty voice.
“Your medical history is not a mystery, Sophie.”
As much as it hurt, I folded my arms over my chest and rolled my eyes. “I’m clumsy.”
The pity never left her eyes, but I could tell she had only a little more patience left. Then she’d give up and let the social worker “do her job,” so I stepped up my game.
“Don’t strain your overworked brain too much over this. I’m sure you have some patient in worse condition to give false hope to.”
“Hope isn’t always false. Take your situation for instance. All you need to do is—”
“Shut the fuck up, will you? My head hurts.”
It wasn’t long after using what most adults thought was “strong” language that she left me alone. I gave the same treatment to the fiftyish woman who came in with her grandmother smile and her out-of-style clothing.
I’d gone that route one time and there was nothing they could say or do to convince me that telling anyone about any of this shit would ever “help.” The cops could come in, intimidate me, process me, and I would take my punishment, because nothing they could do would be any worse than what Helen had planned for me.
I was sitting at the kitchen table, listening as Helen called him.
“She stole a car, Tom. It’s fairly obvious I can’t handle her anymore, isn’t it?” Helen’s voice shrilled at her ex. “Look, it’s your turn. She’s only got a year and a half left until she can…”
I sighed, trying to imagine Tom’s side of the conversation, and wondering if he was really going to let himself get bulldozed by Helen yet again. I wondered how he could even be a firefighter when he lacked enough testicular fortitude to stand up to one miserable woman.
“Her choices are slim. Either she goes to jail, goes to live in some kind of group home for troubled kids, or she lives with you. You can straighten her out, Tom, I know you can.”
Another pause, her eyes flicking to me.
“Don’t you dare pull that bullshit about me just not wanting her anymore!”
The drive from Dulles International airport in Washington, D.C. to the small town of Damascus with my biological father Tom was nearly unbearable. I didn’t speak more than two words, which consisted of “hi” and “fine.”
It wasn’t like he was very good at talking to me either. As usual he had no clue what to say, so after he asked how I was, he was silent too. Not that I minded that shit. It meant I didn’t have to constantly think of ways to avoid ridiculous questions.
Nestled close to the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the heart of Maryland, Damascus was an almost equal distance between Baltimore and Washington. It had a population of around eleven thousand people compared to my old hometown of Tampa that was home to four million at least.
The town was just as I remembered it. Small. Nothing exciting ever really happened here. It was where Tom’s Fire and Rescue Company was based. Most of the houses we passed looked fairly old and I wondered if there were enough kids in this little town to actually supply a high school. I supposed there were worst places to be stuck, but this was…
The car stopped and I looked out of my window and up at the house Tom had always lived in. It was old, but I could tell he cared about it. The paint was chipping, but it’d been repainted within the last five years, and the windows had obviously been replaced recently. His house backed up against a bit of woods which seemed common in this part of Maryland. The trees were just beginning to turn and even though I hated it, there was some part of me that was excited about getting to experience the change in seasons. The weather was always the same in Tampa; hot and muggy. Everything stayed green. I would miss the Gulf, but living someplace colorful where leaves fell and snow drifted would at least be unique.
I stared at the second floor window on the right, and I already knew what my bedroom would look like. I had spent summer after summer in this house. It was one of the few times Helen actually smiled in my presence; when she knew she’d have three whole months without me. I was sure she was happy now, knowing that she was officially free of me and my messed up life. Or rather, me messing up
“Here we go, Sophie,” Tom said, false happiness apparent in his voice. I rolled my eyes, wondering why he allowed himself to be manipulated into taking me. I knew he didn’t want me. Hell, he hadn’t even wanted me years ago during those short summer months. He worked a lot and rarely requested time off when I visited. He was a firefighter and paramedic, so his shifts consisted of entire days. I would watch TV or roam the far-too-safe streets, and in the evenings we’d eat pizza or take-out Chinese without talking about much of anything. If he was working, I had to go to my grandmother’s or whoever else he could pawn me off on. Some days I had to accompany him while he hiked or climbed rocks. When I had potential to be good at both, I had to intentionally make him believe I was bad at it. I would let go of rocks, or trip over small branches; anything to perpetuate the “clumsy” cover. When I grew older, he let me stay home during the day, where I shamelessly went through his things, snickering at the bad porn stashed in his closet.
I got out of the car and waited for him to pop the trunk. As soon as he did, I loaded myself down with my things, leaving only one small bag for him. The look on his face said he thought he should be carrying my things, but I didn’t need him. I was perfectly happy lugging them myself. My bags contained my stuff and I didn’t like other people touching the few things I actually owned.
I also didn’t like people in my room, so I was thankful when Tom acknowledged this and stopped in the doorway as I pushed the old door open and looked upon my new/old room for the first time in years. I dropped the bags on the floor as I looked around, feeling nauseated at the sight. It was a kid’s room, complete with childish crayon drawings of the sun and trees. I hadn’t been here since I was fourteen, but how could I have possibly been happy being in this room during the summers of junior high?
Tom cleared his throat behind me and I turned to see him set my bag down on the floor and run a hand through his hair, while smoothing down his goatee with the other. “I made an appointment with Dr. Dalton for you. It’s tomorrow at ten.”
Great. Just what I needed. “I’m in perfect health, Tom.” I was sure he wanted me to call him “dad” or some shit, but he said nothing.
“You’re enrolled in school, but you can’t start without a complete physical and you know just as well as I do that you’re required to go to the doctor for your diabetes at least twice a year, and I figured you were due.”
Dammit. Helen never took me to the doctor, and I couldn’t have given less of a shit about a physical for school, but I supposed that it was better than a group home or jail. “Fine.”
“I leave at a quarter to seven, but I’ll be back at nine-thirty to pick you up.”