Chapter One of: A TERRIBLE LOVE
A contemporary romance
Coming April 2013!
Coming April 2013!
The solid wooden slats of the closet shake as he pounds them. “I'll hurt her, Jewell,” he grinds out in a voice thickened by his usual rage. Thwack, punch, rattle. “And there's not a fucking thing you can do about it!” he roars.
I clench my eyes, arms wrapped around my knees, if I ignored him he'd go away. He always did.
But it was different this time. Faith had come. She'd known something was wrong and she'd come.
I listen to her wail in the background, sweat beading on the tender part of my upper lip as I roll it in my mouth to keep from crying out. I thought I could hide.
I thought it would end if I ignored it.
I had kept the secret, but now, as my stepbrother assaulted the only friend I've ever had, I squeezed my head between my knees and sob.
It was me he wants to hurt. It's me he'll punish in this horrible moment of suspended time, Faith is merely the vehicle.
Faith was in the wrong place at exactly the wrong time.
Her arguing got Thaddeus to notice her. However, Faith will never submit.
Her pleas go unheeded. I bear witness in a dark locked closet; shamed, terrified and soaking in my own sweat and tears, I hear what he does and I can't stop it.
Faith saves me, and my apathy murdered her.
Black was everywhere: it was in the sky, the ground, the pounding rain that pinged off the casket.
It was on my dress. My shoes. The umbrellas were a sea of it, rolling endlessly on.
But there was one spot that was red. The flare of my mother's dress I could see from just beyond the polished lip of the wood.
My stepbrother met my eyes with the deep gray of his own and I shuddered.
I counted backwards silently, the tears that scalded my face chilled as the rain met them, mingling in a dance of sadness that washed my face. Though it didn't cleanse the guilt. It never would.
He gave me a little smirk and I cast my eyes down so he couldn't see the burning hatred in my gaze.
Thad thought that he was home free. His crime buried beneath the prestige of his standing in the community.
He hadn't counted on how far I would go to secure his future destruction. And my own survival. I'd do it all.
I sucked in a shuddering breath.
My plan firmly in place, my fear as well.
I dropped the single rose on Faith's casket, a deep and abiding cream. It spun, making a soft thump as it connected with the deep mahogany of the wood and I turned to leave, the goodbye caught in my heart for eternity.
The reporters are already here.
I flee, my high heels stabbing the sodden earth beneath my feet. When the limousine driver opens the door for me I slide inside, breathing a sigh of relief when I see I share it with no one. My vacant mother and stepfather will dutifully stay and shore up my best friend's parents from the tragic loss of their daughter. For duty's sake, not empathy.
Thaddeus MacLeod stands watching my limo, the open glass of my window beginning to close him off from me. As the reporters gather around him he has eyes only for me. I shiver, despairing. I gather my resolve like fragile collected blossoms.
“Thaddeus!” I hear a woman reporter yell. “What does Senator MacLeod think of your attempted rescue of your dear family friend?” She heaves her microphone above heads and toward Thad's face, skimming the heads of reporters that block her.
He turns his face away from mine and even in the dim light of the outside I can see his one hundred watt smile come online, dazzling the reporter who'd posed the question. It made me want to hurl. There was no food in my stomach, but the urge was there nonetheless.
I let the glass swallow the view, turning away and sinking into the plush leather, I allow the tears to come.
Our limo driver flicks his eyes to mine in the rearview mirror then discreetly away.
I hit the up button on the window and the glass partition slides up.
It gives me the last moment of grief I will allow myself.
For now I will run.
Toward anonymity, freedom. And maybe someday, absolution.
two years later
“Jess!” Carlie calls, chasing after me. I listen to the rat-tat-tat of her high heeled boots stab the poor hallway behind me.
God, if it was another scheme to get me to go along with some crazy-ass plan... I was going to be pissed.
“Jess!” she stomps and I turn.
It was impossible to stay mad at Carlie, she was too over-the-top ridiculous for words. My eyes take her in, the perfectly coiffed hair, the skinny jeans jammed into second-skin boots that somehow housed thinly knit leg warmers. And don't even get me started on what she put her boobs into. It was surely a Manacle for Tits.
How did she get them to look like that? I shake my head and smile.
“She smiles! Excellent!” Carlie runs and throws her arms around me, saying in an uncharacteristic whisper, “look what I have girlfriend.” She waves a paper around in my face like a flag.
I couldn't make anything out. “Stop that, ya tool!” I false-rage.
Carlie gave me the bird and holds it in front of my face. The words came together in a collision of- no.
“I'm not going,” I say, beginning to walk away.
“You are so going,” Carlie says. Then softly she calls, “Jess.”
I stand with my back to her as other students ram through the hall, jostling and loud, maybe a minute left until class.
“What?” I ask, still not turning.
“It's ballet,” she says.
“I know,” I whisper. I break out in a light sweat. The passion for dance, my privileged former life's only oasis now teasing me with its nearness.
“They're coming here... to our school. You could, like... audition.”
I could. “No, Carlie.”
She takes me at my word, throwing the paper in the trash and slinging an arm around my neck, using me for balance as she totters around on her stilettos. “You have to admit it was a good idea?”
I look up into her face, she was a damn Amazonian. “Yeah,” I admit reluctantly.
“You can't run forever, Jess.”
Her words jolt me, but then I look at her face. Carlie is just using an expression. She wasn't being literal.
It had seemed a little too easy, she was usually a dog with a bone.
Carlie stops hanging off me like a monkey and we part ways for our respective courses.
I listen to the sound of her heels as they echo down the nearly empty hall.
I take a deep breath and pass through the door for English Lit class. Just one of many sophomores in a generic university in the great state of Washington. I like blending in.
My life depended on it.
Ballet had been my life- before. I couldn't give it up, because it wouldn't give me up. The music played in my head night and day. It was a wonder I ever got anything accomplished. Some of the other students might see my subtle bob of the head and wonder. I'd smile at the looks and stare off into space during lectures.
I did a similar internal music routine when I worked at the coffee shop like a good drone, my partial scholarship at the University of Washington needing a little sideline income. I was lucky to have it. I'd had to test out of a bunch of freshman courses, prove proficiency and then cop out as poor. I certainly couldn't use my prestigious grades and former school to get the full ride I'd had. That was from before.
It had all been worth it. The stress, the work.
Carlie had wormed her way inside my defenses against every obstacle I'd thrown up in her way. Declaring herself my friend when it went against every promise I'd made to myself. I broke them all with our friendship. What she saw in me I'd never know.
Carlie knew about the ballet barre I'd installed in a dorm room that didn't have space for it. It was my only décor. A huge metal bar driven into studs behind drywall. Yeah, so beautiful. I moved my bed every day and went to sleep each night looking at it. Trying to forget. Ballet blanked the pain, it was the eraser of my memories.
Each day I executed my barre exercises, just as I had every day when I was another girl. Now I was a woman, with woman-sized desires and dreams. My memories hadn't robbed me of my humanity. No matter what happened there was a stubborn spark that wanted to live.
Carlie had begun something inside me with the whisper of the ballet company visiting the U Dub campus. I ignored that something, beat at it when it appeared, rejected it and finally, it refused to let go and bloomed inside me.
It was Carlie's fault. I'd been just fine when I didn't have any.
Now it was here and there was no hiding from it.
I opened my mouth as I put the blue contact in, blinking once, hoping the damn thing was seated correctly. Having had perfect vision my whole life I'd never take it for granted again. At the end of the day I couldn't wait to tear the suckers out of my eyes, they dried up like popcorn farts and burned like hell.
I stood away from the mirror, applying the barest hint of colored lip gloss, giving my eyeballs time to rest from the abuse of inserting contacts. I brushed my teeth, squirted vanilla body spray and finally, covered my deep ginger lashes with chocolate-colored mascara.
I fluttered them and decided- just right. Next, I plaited my hair into two, thick braids. Even braided my hair was past my breasts, deep gold that wanted to be brown. Its length had been my only concession to my former life. Now it was nondescript, nearly invisible.
Just like I wanted it.
I studied my hairline for roots. Finding none, I stepped away from the mirror then turned around and stuck my tongue out.
It was a glaring blue from the Blow Pop I'd just ruthlessly sucked on.
I needed to grow up.
I sauntered off just as the knock came at my door.
Carlie didn't wait for an invitation, she just burst in. I didn't see her stuff my ballet slippers in her backpack.
“Ready?” she asks innocently.
“Yeah, just...” I collect a few things, throwing them into my oversized Guess purse and swing it over my shoulder.
It was a rare day off and I was really dragging ass. I was so sore from the barre and twirling in the middle of a dorm room with only the walls watching my perfect performance.
“You wore make-up,” Carlie says, eyeballing my pathetic attempt to look cute.
“Does mascara and lip gloss qualify?” I ask.
“Hell, yeah! For you?” she nods vigorously. “Miss au naturale.” She giggles behind her hand.
“Bitch,” I say.
“Sticks and stones and all that happy ho-ho-shit,” she replies, completely unperturbed by my shameless name calling.
“Why did you tell me to wear make-up?” I ask, crossing my arms underneath my breasts, my eyes narrowing. I slam my dorm door, rattling the knob to assure the seat and lock. It never closes right.
We move away from the door and I impatiently wait for her response.
Carlie's brows arch and she pouts at me. “Because: you will look attractive to the Opposite Sex. If it's with my last breath, you will look cute even when we sweat.”
I look down at my yoga pants, the turned band at the top a muted tie dye pattern with a tight deep blue T and my braided hair rounding out the hippie chic.
“I think you'll have to try harder,” I say.
“If you were just sluttier,” Carlie says mournfully, hiding behind her dark curly hair.
I slug her and she yelps, giving me hurt eyes, then she smiles. “I'll wear ya down, you'll see.”
“Never!” I stab the air with my fist as we turn the corner and a wall of noise hits me. Everywhere I look there's students, older adults and an odd assortment of people I've never seen. It's too much to take in, I turn to Carlie. Obviously, we totally can't work out today.
“Hey,” I say, looking into the deep auditorium that stands as gym. “What's going on... what are all these people doing?”
But Carlie's already moving and doesn't hear my question.
An older woman is seated behind a folding desk and Carlie speeds to the desk, her flats making no sound as they whisper across the floor.
She signs into some ledger and I start taking it in.
A totally hot guy comes to me with a paper and a safety pin with a number on it. “Hey,” he says and I stare numbly at him. I can't think of a thing to say.
“Hi!” Carlie bursts beside me, fluttering her sooty eyelashes at La Hunk. “This is my friend, Jess Mackey.”
Hunk smiles at me and I sink into his pale gray eyes. “I'm Mitch,” he says.
Carlie elbows me with a traitorous cackle. God, could she have been more obvious? “I'm Jess,” I stick out my hand and he swallows it in his own.
“I know,” he smirks and a dimple flashes into place, disappearing just as quickly. He swings back long dark hair that refuses to stay out of his eyes.
“Right,” I say, heat flooding my face.
He steps into my private bubble and my flush deepens, my heart starts to speed when he reaches for my thin t-shirt and I shrink away from him.
“It's okay,” he murmurs beside my face, his minty breath tickling the sensitive skin there. “I'm attaching your number.”
I look around and see about fifty girls with their hair slicked back in tight buns, some high, some on the nape because they've been zapped with the unlucky thick hair gene.
Realization slams into me.
The Seattle Pacific Ballet Company has arrived. This was the audition day Carlie had tried to bully me into trying out for a few days ago.
I turn to leave and Mitch puts a staying hand gently on my arm. He jerks his jaw toward where a mock stage has been set up. “It's this way, dancing girl.” He smiles, his teeth very white in his smiling face.
“I can't do it... I'm not signed up,” I say, folding my arms again, the paper with my audition number crinkling underneath the gesture.
His smile widens to a grin, dipping his head down to look at a clipboard that magically appears.
Mitch runs a long tapered finger down it until he reaches midway. He taps it once and I jump slightly.
He lifts his chin, a light dusting of dark stubble sprinkled on the slight cleft that bisects it. “There you are,” he says softly. “Mackey, Jess.”
He sweeps his hand in front of me and I give the death glare to Carlie and my traitor friend winks at me.
I can't not audition without looking like an ass.
My feet are dragging like lead fills my shoes.
Carlie jogs to my side and hands me my ballet slippers. I seethe at her and she smiles and whispers, “Break a leg.”
My stomach clenches and I move behind the girl ahead of me as we watch the girl on stage.
She's perfect, breathtaking.
The music ends softly and they call her off. The judges whisper and I know immediately who they will choose.
It won't be me.
I think of Faith and what she would have wanted. I think of how I love her still.
Then an extraordinary thing happens.
When it is my turn I float up the steps and onto the temporary stage and they put on Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven.
It's from before.
The music robs me of thought, forcing my body to execute moves I'd forgotten I knew. My arms sweep, I pirouette, spinning and snapping my head to find my corner, my soreness of earlier melts away. As I whip my leg up, my foot is parallel to my head for a fraction of time then I land softly, only to immediately rise to the balls of my feet where I approach the judges. The length of the song and its sad ending cause my hands to undulate in a perfectly timed flutter of classic swan arms. I draw nearer still while keeping my elbows straight as I fluttered my arms and the balls of my feet propel me forward as the last piano notes fall.
Then once more their sorrowful notes swell and fill the auditorium.
I stop, dipping into a graceful plié and assume first position.
My hands are cupped slightly and I tilt my head, looking off to the right of my position.
The utter lack of noise causes me to turn and look at the judges.
They have stood and every eye is on me. Including the gray gaze of a certain hunk named Mitch.
When the applause breaks out I don't know whether to cry or run.
In the end, I stay.
My eyes scan the crowd and the one person who does not clap.
A man leans against the back of the cavernous gym auditorium, his black eyes seem to attack me and I take an involuntary step backwards from the burning intensity of his gaze.
Carlie interrupts the moment, throwing herself at me.
“I knew you could,” she whispers, strangling me in an epic hug that cuts off my wind pipe.
I gently push her away and looked for that disconcerting male presence. Hostile.
But he is gone.
Just like he'd never been....
A quote from today's writing 1/16/13:
"I'm trying to protect myself even as I wish for more of the same kind of harm only he can give...."
A quote from today's writing 1/16/13:
"I'm trying to protect myself even as I wish for more of the same kind of harm only he can give...."