Page 23

I return to my swing and wait out the night.

Just before sunrise I hear it—my father's voice. He wails, and something smashes to the floor inside the house. I sit there unable to think. Shock washes over me again and again. My senses deactivate and die within me. Somehow I move from the swing out back to the staircase where I see my father weeping. I sit next to him. Neither of us speaks. After a few minutes he takes a deep breath and wipes the tears away. He grips my shoulder firmly and pulls me against him.

Sam is standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at us with his shiny face ghostly white. For a minute, Sam forgets everything else and climbs the stairs to sit with us.


I thought I mourned my mother, but I didn't, not like this. I've spent most of the day on the back swing staring at nothing. Aunt Beth tried to move me and shoved several plates of food in my hands. I didn't eat any of them. When I put them on the ground, my turkey wandered over and found me. He ate all the food and tried to eat the plate, too.

I grab the plate quickly and put it out of his reach. "I need to get you to a vet so you can fly again. Walking must suck. Once we get you fixed up, I bet you'll head over to the Turnpike to hang with the other vultures." Not that I've ever seen any over there.

Aunt Beth calls me from the back of the house. I make the bird scat. Aunt Beth already threatened to stuff him once today. She's been crying and cooking nonstop along with the other women in my family—well, all of them except me. For the most part, they've left me alone.

"Sidney, we're out of flour," she explains, dusting off her hands on the apron my mother wore so many times. I glance at her shoes. They're white like she dropped the bag. Flour clings to her pants. She nearly falls to pieces when she tries to explain what happened.

I smile at her to stop the tears, "I'm happy to get more, Aunt Beth. Do you want anything else while I'm there?"

"No, hon, just the bag of flour. We're trying to finish everything up for tomorrow." She wipes her hands on the apron and then pulls me into a hug. "I'm glad you're back."

I smile and nod. It's what I do when people say that, partly because I don't know what else to say, but also because I'm not staying. I never intended to stay here. I came home to bury my mother. After that, I'm heading back to Texas. I haven't told anyone yet. I think it'll kill my father, but I can't stay here. Regret is strangling me, and the longer I stay, the worse it gets.

Aunt Beth walks me into the kitchen. "Oh, take my van. I'm blocking you in." She tosses me her keys. I catch them and head out.

Aunt Beth has three little girls and a minivan that smells like SweeTarts. I drive to the grocery store a few blocks away, hoping that I won't run into anyone I know. I park her van off by itself, because she'll go batshit crazy if someone dings the doors, before heading into the store. I find what she wanted and grab a few other items before heading out. As I'm loading the last bag into the back of the van, the hairs on my neck prickle. I turn abruptly, expecting to see someone watching me, but no one is there.

Spooked, I climb into the van and drive home thinking there's an ax murderer hiding under the row of seats. I keep glancing back, but no one is there. Still the feeling of being watched doesn't fade.

When I arrive at the house, Aunt Beth runs out to grab the bags and disappears inside. I close the tailgate and turn around. Dean is standing right in front of me. Our bodies brush together, and when I go to step out of the way, Dean holds on to my wrist.

"Wait up. I've been trying to talk to you."

"I have nothing to say to you." I yank my hand back and turn away, ready to go inside.

"I'm sorry about your mom."

I hate him. I hate that he says it, that he thinks has the right to be here. Turning slowly I glare with every malicious thought in my head clearly visible on my face. They start to twist inside my mind. "Go to hell."

Dean smiles, like it's funny. "I love this new you. The backbone is very becoming, Sidney. It makes your breasts seem larger than they are. Did your new boyfriend teach you to stand like that?"

Anger has been building inside of me, and when he mentions Peter, I can barely hold on to my temper. I don't answer. Instead, I listen to the pacifist side of my brain that tells me to walk away.

"Seriously? I come over to give you my condolences and you don't invite me in? What the fuck, Sid?"

"My mother threatened to bury you in the garden. You are not welcome in this house."

He has the audacity to laugh. "Yeah, I remember that. Apparently she believed you just a little too late. Life's cruel, isn't it? You didn't come home for all that time because she didn't believe you, but it turns out she really did. Such a waste." He tuts like the entire situation was menial, like it didn't matter at all. Fury races through my veins so fast that I want to crush him. I want to make him stop talking and hurt him as much as he's hurt me. I can't let the thought slip away. It builds bigger and brighter inside of me as Dean stands there like I'm pathetic.

Dean notices the change, but he doesn't know how deep the thread of insanity goes. He comes up behind me and slips his hand around my waist gently, like we're lovers. "How about we do things the way we used to. I have the same knife in my pocket. You feel it, don't you baby?" He presses himself to my leg so that I feel how aroused he is along with the knife in his pocket.

A twisted thought forms in my mind and I can't let go of it. It pulls me along, building quickly, becoming darker as it grows. I say no and try to turn away, but I know what he wants. He likes the fight, he likes me afraid. I play the part and Dean holds me tight. I let him drag me to his van this time. He pushes me against the side door and presses his body to mine. "You know you want it."

"Then let's go." I stare into his face without batting an eye. I mean every word I say. I want him alone. Now.

Dean's expression changes. Lust fills his eyes as he grinds his hips into mine. The movement makes me want to vomit and crawl back inside myself, but I don't. I remember the flashes of silver. I remember the pain, but most of all I still feel the remorse of losing my mother with vivid intensity and it's all his fault. Dean did this to me, to her. He stole everything from me.

The back of my neck is still prickled like someone is watching. I glance around quickly, but see no one. The street is empty and dark save for a telephone pole across the street and its yellow bulb. I suppose that it's my reaction to Dean; after all, being alone with him last time ruined me. My body remembers every last detail, but instead of feeling it rushing back, I feel nothing. It's like something inside my head stopped working. That rational part of my mind broke loose and rolled away. The only thing left is this thought that continues to grow darker and darker.

I slip into his van and Dean takes off. As he drives, he reaches over and places his hand between my thighs. All the blood obviously left his head because he doesn't notice the way I stare, the way I respond to his touch like it isn't even there. The void fills me, consuming my thoughts and pushing back any semblance of logic that tries to break forth. My mother is dead and the man sitting next to me destroyed any relationship I had with her. I could have come home. I would have come back had I known. The silent rage boils inside of me. Fragmented thoughts fly through my mind like a witch caught in cyclone. They're there and then gone in a flash. Consequences don't matter; nothing matters now. I've lost everything. My soul crawled up inside my body and died.

Dean pulls off the road and into a dark parking lot. At the very back is an old playground that's abandoned for the most part, and it looks exactly the way I remember. The night air is sticky and practically clings to me as I walk to our spot with Dean trailing behind me. It's the place he first kissed me before his kisses turned into something else. There's a concrete wall blocking the view from the parking lot. We're alone, surrounded by tall, dark trees and inky shadows.

As we duck behind the wall, Dean gropes me, pressing his hand under my shirt, and squeezing my breasts hard. He's greedy and I don't want him touching me, but I can't reach it—not yet. My heart pounds harder. I'm fighting to stay alert, but my mind is shutting down, falling into the terror of the memories that are burned into my brain. The memories rise up like corpses and demand my attention, but I don't give in to them.

Dean made me the way I am, what I am. I steel my reaction and cage my mind. I brought him here this time, not the other way around. I'll make sure he never forgets me the same way I'll never forget him, except this time I won't be a conquest. I stare blankly as Dean presses me against the wall. The concrete bites my elbows. Dean's hands are everywhere—on my waist, under my shirt, on my neck. The tip of his finger traces the scar below my necklace, flaring the scene to life in my mind. The old emotions splash over my mind, dousing me, and roll right off. I'm uncharacteristically still and utterly quiet, but he doesn't notice. He's saying things to me that are repulsive. Breathing hard, Dean presses me hard against the wall and grinds his hips against me, thrusting at me from behind his jeans. "I know how much you want my cock, Sid, and I'm going to give it to you—over and over again—until you beg me to stop. You like it this way; I know you do. Tell me, baby. Tell me how bad you want to suck it."

Dean's so strong. I can barely move as it is and once his pants come off, he'll do everything he said and then some. I can't wait anymore. I press my chest into his hands and reach down and slip my hand into his pocket. Dean makes a surprised sound, like he never thought I'd grab him like that. Touching his junk was an accident, and it masked what I was really after—his knife. My fingers wrap around the hilt and I take it from his pocket.

I step back and open the blade. "Remember this?" I flick it close to his face.

Dean's eyes widen and he tries to step back and comes up against the wall. There's nowhere to go. "Yeah, you want me to use it on you?"