Authors: Jessica Gibson
© 2014 by Jessica Gibson
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review
Inkstain Interior Book Designing
Cover designed by Belinda Boring
Edits done by Jenny Sims
To Rachel Marks—
my amazing publicist and friend. Thank you for talking me off of more than one ledge, and for letting me dream big. Let the world domination begin. :)
“Becca, I’m scared.” I clutched
at her hand. Daddy was so mad. Frannie wouldn’t wake up.
“It’s going to be
okay Chad, I promise.” She looked down and smiled. She led me back to her room and made me help her push the dresser and bed against the door.
“Can you be really brave for me right now?” The phone was pressed against her ear.
“Becca! You open this door girl.” Daddy banged on the door. He was so angry, always angry.
I squeezed her hand tighter, fear coursing through my veins, rooting me to where I sat.
“It’s going to be okay. You trust me right?” She pulled me against her, and we huddled in the corner. The sirens were blaring all around us, and Daddy was screaming.
“Becca I’m scared.” I hid my face in her chest. I hated all the screaming.
“He’s not going to hurt us again Chad, I promise we’ll be safe from now on,” she murmured softly in my ear as she stroked my hair.
The policemen knocked on the doo
r and told us it was safe now, Daddy was gone. Mama was crying, begging them to bring Daddy back. I hoped so bad that they wouldn’t. I never wanted him to come back. He always did though.
I woke up and threw the covers off. The nightmares were getting worse
, and I had no clue how to make them stop. The sleeping pills that I had been taking since I was fifteen were no longer working. I had to take twice the amount, and I still woke up. Insomnia or nightmares, those were my two choices. I knew Becca and Ruth would be worried if they knew about the dreams, so I didn’t say anything. Ever.
The fear always stayed with me,
even though it all happened so long ago. As I slipped from dreaming into wakefulness, I still felt the terror deep in the pit of my stomach.
I wasn’t really free, I pro
bably never would be. Freedom was for normal people whose fathers weren't in prison for murdering their child. I hated that I looked like him—loathed it. I wondered if the old saying was true, were the sins of the father really passed down to the son?
California, where the sky
blue, and palm trees were the unofficial state tree. I was a week from starting my first year at USC. I didn’t care what college I went to, I just wanted to be far away, and California had fit the bill nicely.
uth and Samuel Klein, my adoptive parents, were helping me get settled in my apartment. They had pushed for the dorms, but that wasn't for me. I didn’t feel like the typical college freshman. For one thing, I was twenty. Taking over a year off after high school had really been a bone of contention with the whole family. Instead of heading straight to college, I had worked for a year in a garage, learning everything I could about motorcycles and fast cars. It had put a strain on my relationship with my older sister Becca. She couldn’t understand why I was waiting, since she was so driven, not stopping until she reached her goals. No one understood.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t be happier in a dorm with everyone else?” Ruth asked anxiously. I knew she wanted me to be happy, but she wasn’t fully pleased with my decision.
“I need my own space.” This wasn’t a new conversation, we’d been having it for a month. As much as I loved them, I was ready for them to go. I needed to be on my own. No one had been totally happy about my decision to go to school across the country, but for once they kept their mouths shut. Becca was just happy I was going at all.
“We’ll get out of your hair now. Call us if you need anything at all, we’re here for another day.” Ruth hugged me tight, her dark hair brushing against my cheek. Samuel shook my hand, he was always a man of few words.
Sometimes I felt ungrateful, like I was pissing on everything Becca and the Kleins had done for me. They loved me, unconditionally, with all of my screw ups. Yet, here I was across the country from all of them. I needed to be on my own, to be myself and not the person who I had to be for them. I was always angry,
my temper on a hair trigger. Therapy was a joke; I learned early on that for me it wasn’t going to work. I could tell them what they wanted to hear just to get a passing grade or whatever the hell it was that they gave you.
Becca didn’t get me
—no one did. She was happy and well adjusted, but maybe that was because she wanted to be happy. I didn’t really care if I was happy anymore. Life is shit, and then you die. I just had to last that long without exploding. The last conversation we had, she was yelling at me to make something of my life—told me that spending all of my time working on motorcycles wasn’t going to secure my future. She was very driven, I always understood that, but we didn’t see things the same way. I wanted more out of life than a career. The conversation ended with both of us saying things we didn't mean.
The silence was welcome for a change. I didn’t worry about the anxious feelings creeping in, I was too tired for it. I walked to the first of my boxe
s and dove in to start unpacking.
Memories from my previous life assaulted me with each item I took out. I secretly wished I could just start over with new things and not bother with all of this.
I gave up after two boxes, leaving the rest stacked in the corner. What I needed was space, something more than what was in this apartment. I grabbed my leather jacket from the sofa and headed out to my motorcycle.
The water was calling to me,
and I was drawn to it. The sun was just starting to set, painting the sky a soft pink color. I parked the bike and kicked my boots off so I could walk out onto the sand.
I sat close to the water, watching the waves crash onto the shore. There was a young couple off to my left,
and I could tell they were in a fight by the expression on the girl’s face. I turned back to the water and tried to let my mind clear. That was always my problem, thinking too much.
“Max, stop it!”
“Scarlet, get back here!”
“Not until you calm down.”
I looked over to see a petite blond girl walking quickly in my direction followed by her very angry boyfriend. On instinct, I got to my feet as soon as she got close.
“I’m fine,” s
he answered softly.
’t fine, I knew the look she was wearing. She had fading bruises on her arms and wrist, and a haunted expression in her eyes.
“Hey man, she’s fine. Y
ou can go back to whatever you were doing.” The boyfriend had reached us. He was an inch taller than me, but I knew I could take him.
“She doesn’t look fine to me.” My voic
e was low, and I took a step between her and him.
“You don’t want to do that bro.” He raised his chin a fraction and clenched his fists at his sides.
“I think I do. It’s time for you to go unless you want to start something. But let me tell you, I’ll be the one to finish it.”
“Max, just go home. Please.” I could hear the tremor in her voice.
“Come on baby, you know I love you. Let’s just go home, and we can talk about it.” His tone was gentle, but I could feel the menace rolling off of him. He meant to do someone harm, and I refused to let it be her.
“Look, just go. I’m not going to let her
leave with you.”
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” He shoved me.
I centered my stance and punched him square in the nose, knocking his head back. Blood poured down his face, but he smiled.
“It’s like that is it?” I clenched my fists and waited for him to make his move. He swung wildly and missed. I followed up with a series of punches to his kidney and an uppercut
to his jaw. He fell back into the sand panting.
“Are you ready to walk away yet?”
“Scarlet, this isn’t over.” He got up slowly and walked away.
I turned to the girl, really looking at her for the first time. She was beautifu
l; bright blue eyes, long blond hair, and tan skin. The perfect California girl.
“Thank you,” s
he whispered, shivering slightly.
I took my jacket off and handed it to her. “I’m Chad.”
“Scarlet.” She looked down at her feet.
okay. I get it. I've been there myself. You don’t have to make excuses or explain anything.”
..I really don't know what to say. Do you have a phone I can use? My purse is in Max’s car, and I need to call my uncle to pick me up.”
I wanted to tell her I would give her a ride home, but
I was riding my bike and only had one helmet with me. “Sure, here.” I slipped my iPhone out of my pocket and unlocked it before handing it to her.
She smiled weakly and walked a few paces away, turning her back to me
as she placed the call.
uldn’t hear what she was saying. The wind carried her words away from me, but the slump of her shoulders brought out something in me I had thought was long dead. This was someone who needed help—to be cared for and loved. I saw in her the same thing I saw in myself when I looked in the mirror.
“Thanks, my uncle is on his way.” She shuffled her feet in the sand.
“No worries.” I took my phone back from her. “Where is he meeting you?”
“Just up there.” She gestured to the street. “You don’t have to wait with me.”
“If it’s all the same to you, I’m going to wait.”
ay.” Her voice was soft and breathy. I could tell she was holding back tears.
I wanted to tell her it was
okay to cry, that I wouldn't think less of her. But she seemed so fragile, I was afraid to break the shell she had erected around herself.
She walked ahead of me toward the street, her steps slow and steady. She stopped by my bike. “Is this yours?”
“How did you guess?”
“Leather jacket.” She held out the sides of
my jacket that she was wearing. “Have you been riding long?”
“A few years.” I knelt down to grab my boots,
thankful that they were still sitting next to my bike.
She walked around, looking at it. I was proud of my bike, it was a completely rebuilt 1946 Indian Chief. I had found it at a salvage yard in upstate New York and rebuilt it myself over
the course of a year.
solid bike, beautiful lines.” She touched the front fender.
“Thanks, I did a lot of the work on it myself.”
We sat on a low brick wall in silence for a while until a big truck pulled up, and she stood.
“Thanks for the jacket and for…”
“I guess I’ll see you around.” She waved and hopped into the truck.
I watched the truck until I couldn’t see it anymore, kicking myself for not getting her number.
Ruth showed up
apartment well before a reasonable hour the next morning to pester me into going to breakfast.
“Come on Chad, up and at ‘em
,” she announced as she banged on the front door.
“Ruth?” I opened the door to find her smiling at me
. “Seriously? It’s not even seven am yet.”
“Sam and I are leaving early, and we want to spend the morning with you.”
“You could have called.”
“I did, twice. But you didn’t answer.”
“Did you think maybe it was because it’s way too early to be up?” I was irritated.
“Drop the attitude please
,” she requested, giving me her best mom look.
“Sorry, I’m just tired. I didn’t sleep well. Come in so we don't wake everyone
else up.” I sighed and stood aside so she could walk past me.
“I didn’t really unpack yesterday, sorry about the mess.” It looked identical to when she left the previous day.
“This is your place, you don't have to worry about what I think,” she said with a smile.
“So, what do you have planned for today?” I yawned and plopped onto the couch.
“Breakfast and then one of those silly movie star tours. You know the ones where you ride around on one of those buses?”
That sounded like hell to me, but I put a smile on my face and told her it sounded great. Ruth Klein was a saint to me. She was the mom I had needed and always would need. Selfless and loving and always put all of us kids ahead of her own needs. I’m not sure
that I’ve ever heard her complain. “I’ll just go and get showered. Should I meet you at your hotel?”
“Sure, I’ll see you in an hour?”
“I’ll be there.” I kissed her cheek and let her out.
A little under an hour later I was on my bike in the early morning sunlight, on my way to meet with the only parents who had ever loved me.
Samuel looked about as tired as I was, but we both humored Ruth and let her drag us around Hollywood for breakfast and to The Walk of Fame before the tour.
“Isn’t this fabulous? Look Sammy, Marilyn Monroe has a star!”
she exclaimed as she knelt down.
crouched down next to her. I was looking around at all of the craziness. Hollywood was something else. It kind of reminded me of the hustle and bustle of New York, but not quite.
Even I had to admit, t
he bus ride was kind of fun. The tour guide was hilarious and pointed out all the weird things we just had to see—which included some movie star homes and all of the studios. Ruth tried to talk us into going to Universal Studios, but it wasn’t happening.
“What am I going to do without you?” She leaned her head on my shoulder as we walked back to the car.
“I’m going to miss you too. But you can bug Levi and Becca about grandkids—that should keep you busy, right?”
I felt her cheek lift
. “It’s not going to be the same without you around. You’re my own, you know that right? I couldn’t love you more if I birthed you myself.”
“I do know.” I felt like such an ass for moving across the country from her. She loved me so much. There were plenty of schools in New York
that I could have chosen to attend.