Authors: Charlene Zapata
Tags: #Mental Health, #love, #abuse, #Life Choices, #New adult, #friendship, #Tragedy
a novel by:
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, or events are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
No part of this book can be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed form or by electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. All characters and storylines are the property of the author and your support and respect is appreciated.
Copyright © 2014 by Charlene Zapata
All rights reserved.
First Edition: July 2014
Cover Design by Scott King
To My Father:
I lost you at such a young age. I wish more than anything I could have shared my life with you. But I also know I couldn’t be the person I am today without losing you. So thank you for always living in my heart and giving me the strength to become the person I was meant to be.
Riding in my Daddy's jade green 1969 Mustang is the best feeling in the world. The smell of his cologne tickles my nose as I snuggle up next to him. We have the windows down as the breeze floats through the car and rustles our hair gently. It's coming close to the end of the summer. I can smell the green grass and flowers mixed in with the scent of leather from the seats. This has been the best three weeks of my life. I rest against my Daddy's strong arm and drift off to sleep.
The next event is horrifying. The sound of the crowd wakes me. I look around for an explanation from my father but I see him slumped over the steering wheel with blood dripping down his face. Confusion starts to form as I look between my father and the crowd of strangers surrounding the car. What happened? Where am I? Who are all these people? I put my hand next to me on the seat trying to sit up but immediately pull it away. Glass is everywhere. Where did it come from? I feel so lost. The people start shouting "She's alive, the little girl is alive! Help her! Get her out!" All I can think is no, no, no. I can't leave my Daddy. Daddy please wake up. You have to wake up. Please, please, please be alright. I shake his arm trying to wake him but get no response. Why isn't anyone helping him? Daddy, why aren't you moving? What happened, oh no, what happened? Panic sets in and I feel like I can't breathe. Someone help him please! I'm shouting and screaming in my head but no words are leaving my mouth. He is hunched over the steering wheel and he isn't moving. Someone is pulling me out of the car window. No wait! I cling to his arm where just moments ago I was sleeping peacefully, oblivious to what had happened. What about my Daddy? Don't leave my Daddy! Please, please, don't leave him! I can't live without my Daddy! I grasp for something, anything, as I beg to be left with my father. Tears are streaming down my face as I quietly whisper...please. Please don't take me from him.
This is the part where I always wake up covered in sweat. I'm panting like I just ran a marathon and my heart is beating so hard I think it's going to fly out of my chest. I rub my sweaty palms on the sheets trying to wipe away the memory of that day. I hate dreams that are so vivid you feel every emotion like it's happening for the first time. I just can't seem to get away from reliving that devastating day that changed my entire life.
I look over at my clock that reads 1:30 am. Great. Just great. How am I supposed to get back to sleep now? I decide to get up and get a cool glass of water to calm me down. I open my door quietly and peek out and around the corner of the hallway. My mother's television flickers from down the hall projecting little flashes of light onto the wall. Relief washes over me when I realize she's asleep. I really hate running into her after one of my dreams. She isn't very understanding when it comes to my father. I found out years ago that is was easier to tell her my nightmares were about monsters or someone trying to kill me than to mention I was reliving the accident. I walk over to our tiny kitchen to get a drink. As I lean against the sink the memories of my father come back to me like lightning. Flashes of his smile, his laughter and his voice begin to haunt me. I know that I have to get out of this house before I really lose it.
I head back into my small bedroom, put my hair in a ponytail, throw my running shoes on and pull a simple white t-shirt over my head. I always sleep in shorts and a sports bra since I never know when I will have this nightmare. It's been eleven years since the accident. Eleven years and I can still recall every last detail from the moment my eyes opened until I was pulled from the car.
The good thing about having a mother that doesn't care about you is that she never notices when I sneak out at this time of night. The warm summer air hits my face as I crawl through my window. We live in a very tiny one story house which makes it very convenient to escape when necessary. Lately, that seems to be happening more and more often. My feet hit the ground and I'm into a full run by the time I hit the end of my street. I can see my father's face flashing behind my eyes. His crinkled up smile and his deep brown eyes. He had the kindest eyes I have ever seen. I could get lost in them with just one look. When he looked at me I felt so much love and adoration. God, I miss those eyes. I run harder and faster as the memories come slamming back into my mind.
This is the only time I allow myself to re-live his memories. It just hurts too much to think of him all of the time. So I reserve the time when I run to get lost. Lost in him, lost in our memories together. I'm about 4-years-old and we're having a picnic. It's one of my earliest memories of my father. It was a beautiful fall day with changing leaves all around, my absolute favorite time of year. The smell in the air was so fresh and crisp with a hint of coolness that warned of the changing temperatures right around the corner. The colors that fall brings warm me to my very core. I find the mixture of color, texture, and perfume in the air to have a very calming, peaceful effect on my body, mind and spirit. To this day I still love getting a blanket out and laying down in the grass allowing the breeze to brush over my face. It was such a perfect day with my father.
He put a blanket down on the ground and set out the food. He brought all of my favorites. He never forgot any of the small details. Always making sure to bring everything we could possibly need on an outing to the park. Once we were finished enjoying every last treat in the basket we would play my favorite game. Daddy would clear the blanket and we would lay down looking up to the clouds.
"Can you guess what that cloud is Princess?" My father's big brown eyes looked down at me in such a tender way. I loved it when he called me Princess. It made me feel so treasured.
"Oh yes Daddy. That's a unicorn. I love unicorns. Someday I want to be a unicorn." Daddy laughed and then stood up hovering over me. He leaned over and whispered in my ear "I love you Princess" then he picked me up in his big, strong arms and twirled me around while I giggled. God, I loved that man so much, he was my entire world.
When I finally stop running, I realize I have soft tears falling down my face. I need to catch my breath so I bend over putting my hands on my knees letting the tears fall to the ground. After my breathing returns to normal I take off my t-shirt and wipe away the sweat and tears. It's been a long time since I wept uncontrollably over the loss of my father. Every time I cry for him now I don't even realize it's happening. Little drops of moisture slip out of my eyes without my permission or even awareness. I don't know if the pain of losing a parent ever eases but I know I will never forget the pain it brings.
It's pretty late now and I still have to run back to the house. I figure I ran about 3 miles given where I ended up. I seem to end up by the railroad tracks more often than not. I take a minute to look around the nearby neighborhood. This area has several street lights to keep the railroad crossing brightly lit. At first everything looks the same as it does every other night. Two story houses with wood siding that have half the paint peeling off line both sides of several streets. Tucked in between some of the larger homes rest little one story houses that are probably the same size as my house. Cars are parked along the curb and trash cans appear sporadically along the sidewalk. I didn't notice the shadow lingering beside the house closest to the tracks until just now. I live in a small town in the Midwest where the worst that happens are drug deals, houses getting broken into and the typical teenage rebellion of smashed mail boxes and broken car windows. I have never really feared being out this late alone because I rarely see another human being. My small town gets tucked into bed by 11:00 pm. Every store in town closes by 10 pm except for one gas station but that's all the way on the other side of town. The side of town I live on is the poor, run down part, so most criminals rob the better half of Milford. So it's very rare to see someone else out at this hour. I take a deep breath, put my shirt back on, turn in the opposite direction of the shadow and start running hard and fast. I didn't get that sinking feeling that I was in danger. It was probably just some other teenager sneaking out or back into their house. It was just time to head back and hope for some sleep.
I make it home close to 3 am. I climb back through the window and collapse onto my bed not even bothering to remove my shoes. Tomorrow I have to get up for the first day of my senior year of high school. As soon as this year ends I will be free. Free from the mother that never loved me. Free from the woman who hates my father to her very core. Free to finally be myself. As I drift off to sleep another unwarranted memory of my father creeps into my subconscious.
My parents got married when my mother was 5 months pregnant with me and were divorced within a year. My father was a police officer and lived a couple of towns over from my mother's place in Milford. He would come pick me up every chance he got. I loved being close to my Daddy. He exuded confidence, affection and love. I felt adored by him. My mother did not share my affection for this wonderful man and they often ended up arguing. Those are the memories I try so hard to push away but fail miserably.
"What are you doing here? You're late." My mother Patricia screamed into my father's face. I was older at this point, maybe closer to 6-years-old. I despise the fact that I have more memories of my mother screaming at my father than of the sweet, blissful time we shared together.
"I had to finish up an arrest and it took longer than I anticipated. I'm sorry but can I please take Maggie now?" My father had the kindest way about him. It was his essence, being gentle and warm.
"Why should I let you take her now you worthless piece of shit. My lawyer said I don't have to let her go with you if you are over an hour late. Just like when we were married, I swear nothing ever changes with you. You disgust me. I shouldn't even let you have visitation with the little brat."
"Please Patricia. Don't do this. You know how much it means to me to spend time with Maggie. I can give you some extra money this week for child support if that will help the situation."
"I don't know why I even bother with you. Take her and get the hell out of my house. You can leave the money on the kitchen table. Maggie get your bag and don't come back with an attitude or else." I might have been young but I knew exactly what she meant when she said or else.
"Come on Princess, let's go have some fun." My dad was the best. He always knew what to say to calm my mother down and get her to reason with him. Of course money was always a sure fire way to settle things with that woman. I remember talking to my dad about my mom, asking why she was so grumpy all the time. He would just answer back that she had some issues of her own she was trying hard to work through and that I shouldn't let it bother me. He would tell me not to listen to the negative things my mother shouted out in anger because ultimately she had a good heart and he knew she loved me. He also told me if things ever got too hard living with my mother I could always come live with him. My answer never changed. I could never leave my mother. I loved her. No matter what horrible things she said to my father or what names she called me, I absolutely and unconditionally loved her.