Authors: Lauren Nicolle Taylor
BY LAUREN NICOLLE TAYLOR
Clean Teen Publishing
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by: Lauren Nicolle Taylor
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information address:
Clean Teen Publishing
PO Box 561326
The Colony, TX 75056
For my sister Kristen, your strength and courage were the inspiration.
From His Eyes
Beginning & Ending
Before the Storm
You tell yourself,
I won’t survive this
If one more bad thing happens, I will shrivel up and die
. But there’s always something more you can take. Because what’s the alternative? Death? Death would be easy. Death would be boring too. I have too much to do, too many things to complete. Death clips my wings, leaving me stunted. An unfinished person with her legs half-buried in the ground. Yes, death would be easier. But living is what I have to do.
I was waiting for something to happen. Anything at all. Bad or good. But time continued on, soundless and dull. After everything we had been through, all the walking, and then the running. Dying. I was stuck in the mud—the more I wriggled, the deeper it pulled me in. I didn’t want to be this person, this pathetic wretch, so I fought it, my feet making sucking noises as I managed to pry one foot out, only to have the other foot sink deeper.
We sat like rounded pebbles at the bottom of the stream
, uncomprehending. Not hearing because of the rabbling water overhead and only seeing a distorted, blurry version of the world above. We didn’t know where we were and why we were here.
People came in and people
went out, and Joseph stayed the same like an epitaph to what could have been.
After a two-week break,
Deshi returned on most days to lecture me. We argued. A lot. It didn’t take much to set me off. I was throttling for a fight. I needed somewhere for my frustration to go. Otherwise, I may have leaned over Joseph, lying in the bed next to me, and shaken him senseless.
brought Hessa to me, swinging him in the crook of one arm. He was a real child now. Aware. Sitting up with the aid of a pillow, blinking and grasping at things. And he smiled, a smile that broke my heart and rejuvenated it at the same time, because it was his mother’s.
As I watched them, so comfortable, so natural,
I wondered what Clara would think of me now. I wanted to believe if things were different, if she were here, somehow, I would be different too. I could be the mother my baby deserved. But I was never like her and I never wanted this. I was drowning. I struggled with everything. Without her slender hand to hold onto, I was lost.
How’s it all going?” Deshi observed me over the tip of his nose, disapprovingly. His dark face was perfect and thin, self-righteousness emitting from his dark eyes. He knew exactly how it was going.
It’s hard,” I complained.
You’re making it much harder than it needs to be.” He shook his head in disappointment. I peered into Deshi’s face. Joseph already had a light beard. Deshi’s face was smooth.
He was a boy
, I thought, unkindly.
Being a mother doesn’t come as easily to me as it did to you,” I snapped, trying to upset him.
He raised his eyebrows and pushed his lips together in a fake pout.
“If you’re trying to insinuate that I’m a woman, then I think you need to come up with something a bit more clever than that.”
I poked my tongue out at him.
The corner of his mouth twisted up, just a little.
This was our relationship now. We bickered like an unhappy, married couple. But no matter how rude I was, he kept coming back. His love for Jose
ph, and his dissatisfaction in me, was motivation enough. He had the wrong idea. Forcing me was the wrong tactic. Making me feel guilty was superfluous. I already felt awful about it, all the time.
I leaned my cheek towards him,
“Why don’t you just do it?”
Deshi raised his eyebrows in surprise,
“Do what? I’m not going to be your surrogate Joseph!”
I blushed. He thought I was asking him to kiss me
, which would fit with the married part of our scenario. “No. Slap me. I know you’ve wanted to since the day you met me.” I lowered my eyes. “Maybe even before that.”
eriousness created pinched ridges along the top of his thin nose. Slowly, he brought back his arm, sweeping it through the air. I squeezed shut the eye closest to him, imagining it would feel like being slapped with a wet towel. It would sting, but wouldn’t have much force behind it. I felt a breeze, but when I looked up, his hand was hovering millimeters from my face, and then he dropped it into his lap.
Don’t be stupid. I don’t want to slap you. I just want you to realize you can do this. With or without Joe, you will be able to do this. You don’t really have a choice.” He patted my arm awkwardly and stared longingly at the beautiful, sleeping man behind me. He missed him almost as much as I did.