Page 19

Funny how time had changed my hero into my worst villain.

Funny how life had destroyed my father’s soul.

* * *

After I finished at my father’s house, I walked to my cabin and went inside. Every piece of that place held a part of my father before the alcohol had overtaken his soul—the paint on the walls, the hardwood floors, the tiles in the bathroom. Everything about the cabin told the story of the man he once was before his life began to crumble.

I’d helped him fix up the place when I was a kid—before Ma left and before Dad found himself addicted to the bottle.

Each night, I sat there in the dark, looking around the space. In the corner of the living room sat an easel and art supplies, and in the spare bedroom, bookshelves filled to the brim with novels lined the walls. Throughout the whole cabin was framed artwork; no room went without one of Ma’s masterpieces. That was the last part of her I still held onto. The cabin was both a gift and a curse to me, reminding me of the past, contrasting sharply with and the present day. It was now a place filled with hollowness.

I welcomed the emptiness and I allowed loneliness to be almost all I knew, and then when it was all too much, I took on my hobby.

Alex didn’t know I already had something to keep me away from the drugs.

Over the past few years, I’d entertained different women in my bed almost every night. It wasn’t anything I was proud of, but it distracted me from my reality. Some I’d hooked up with before, but I usually didn’t remember that until they informed me. Others acted as if it was an achievement to get in my bed and just giggled like damn teenagers.

Sarah, Michelle, Jamie, Kay, Lisa, Rebecca, Susie…

Sky blue eyes, chocolate eyes, hazel, light brown, green, sable…

Each one helped me forget for a while.

Each one shut off my brain.

Each one became my new kind of drug, and slowly but surely, I became addicted.

No one ever stayed the night. I didn’t want them to stay; I just wanted them for a few hours to help me forget. It was the same thing every time: sex, no talking, leave. Sex, no talking, leave. The night Hazel Eyes was leaving, she told me we’d had sex before, and she liked me better when I was doped up.

“Yeah? Well, I liked you better when your mouth wasn’t running and was wrapped around my cock.”

“You’re such an asshole,” she exclaimed, acting as if she hadn’t been just as rude a moment before. “You’re disgusting.”

“Both sets of your lips didn’t seem to mind fifteen minutes ago,” I replied dryly.

It was her turn to flip me off, and I probably deserved it. I could be a real asshole sometimes. The thing was, it seemed people seemed to like the assholes more than the nice pathetic guys.

Hazel Eyes would probably call me up to fuck again soon enough. It was as if women had a magnetic pull to guys who treated them like trash.

Then when they left, I was alone again.

Well, not completely alone.

Tucker was older than before yet still so loyal. Each night, he’d slowly move in my direction, wagging that tail of his, and then he’d crawl into my lap on the couch. Sometimes, I had to help him into my lap, but he always came close to me.

Even on the nights when I felt as if I deserved to be alone.

But still, no matter what I did or said to him, he stayed. He was my friend. The only one I had, and the only one I needed.

Good boy, Tuck, I thought to myself, holding him closer. Good boy.

* * *


Six Years Old

“Ma? Can I have a new name?” I asked one day, walking onto the front porch where she sat painting the sky again. She always painted the sky, and she was really good at it, too.

She tucked her paintbrush behind her ear and raised an eyebrow at me. “What do you mean can you have a new name?”

“Today at school someone told me my name was stupid, and that’s why they didn’t want to play with me.”

Ma’s mouth dropped open, and her eyes watered over. “Someone said that to you?”

“Yeah. Can I change my name, so I can make friends?”

That’s all I wanted.

I wanted the kids at school to like me. We’d only lived in Chester for a few months now, and I hadn’t made any new friends. Dad told me to give it time, but the more time I gave it, the more people told me why I couldn’t hang out with them. Tim Reeves was having a birthday party and invited everyone in our class except me because I was the weird new kid.