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“You remember Nicole?” my father asked, sounding very surprised.

I nodded. “Just one memory. She’d come to my window, asked me for help. Money.” My eyes welled up with tears, but I fought them back. “I told her no.”

The senator sighed. “I’d forbidden you from seeing her after she went to rehab the first time, but you didn’t listen. You never did when it came to that girl.”

“Apparently one time I did because I remember sending her away from my window.”

“And you should be glad you did,” my mother chimed in, “because she’s.—”

“Margot,” the senator warned.

“She’s what?” I asked. I already knew the answer, but a part of me needed to hear it out loud.

“She’s dead,” my mother finished, with a shrug of her shoulder. “That poison she was shooting into herself finally killed her. They found her in a dirty motel on the side of the highway.” There was no reverence in my mother’s voice; her nose was turned up as if she smelled something foul in the air. “She had a purse full of condoms and drugs. She’d turned to selling herself to support her habit.”

I stood from my chair, almost knocking it backward. “So, just because you buy your shit with a fancy label and pour it into crystal, you think it makes you somehow different?” I pointed to the drink in her hand. “Nikki shot her shit into a vein, you’re mainlining yours down your throat.” I shook my head in disbelief. “You ignorant bitch! She was an addict, just like you’re obviously an addict. The only difference between the two of you is that she didn’t try and make it look pretty.”

“Get. Out,” my mother said, her hand visibly shaking. She threw the glass against the wall and it shattered against a picture of George W. Bush.

“Both of you. Stop. Margot, the car is waiting. Go. I’ll join you shortly.” My mother leered at me as she did what she was told, leaving the room in a huff. The front door slamming shut a few seconds later.

My father didn’t address my mother’s behavior. “We have to leave for an event in Myrtle Beach. In the meantime there is a specialist coming to see you. He’s an expert on brain trauma and memory loss. He works mostly with veterans at the VA, but has agreed to come work with you. Try and behave while we’re gone and…your mother…she’s…fragile these days. Go easy on her.” he stood up and buttoned his jacket. He opened his desk drawer and retrieved a gaudy bright gold watch with red diamonds around the bezel. “We’ll be back Thursday,” he clipped, and left the room.

Suddenly my fear of being alone made no sense at all. Because I’d much rather be alone than spend another minute with my parents.

I vowed right then and there to be the mother to Sammy, that according to my memories, my mother never was to me.

I wanted Sammy to grow up feeling loved and knowing that no matter what I’d always be there for him. The last thing in the world I ever wanted was for him to grow up and hate his own mother.

Like I hated mine.

Chapter Nine


When the debris settled in the room, I crawled on my stomach, stealing a glance out from behind the coffee table where I’d ducked for cover. The couch where Bear had been sitting could no longer be seen in the rubble.

And neither could Bear.

There was a commotion of voices. Commands were barked. It sounded as if the orders were being spoken into a canyon, and all I could make out where the echoes of their voices.

Pain. Dull and pulsing, radiated from my head. Blood dripped into my eyes. My vision blurred, I squinted. Two men carrying AK’s clamored over the remains of the wall and entered the apartment. They were fixated on something hanging from the pile of debris on the couch and that’s when I finally caught a glimpse of Bear.

Or at least, part of Bear.

His leg hung at an awkward angle, dangling over a large piece of concrete. His jeans ripped. His calf dripping blood.

Something moved outside and my attention snapped back to the hole in the wall. There was large truck just beyond the wreckage, it was still running, the headlights on and shining directly into the apartment. Attached to the grill was some sort of ramming device.

Leaning up against the truck, was Eli.

He spotted me and smile, tipping his hat to me like he was greeting an old friend.

A crunching noise sounded from behind me. I turned my head to find one of Eli’s men standing over me, pointing his AK in my face. “You gonna die today,” the man said. Scars covered one side of his jaw, a shitty thin lined prison tat covered his neck. A toothpick hung from his lip, moving up and down when he spoke.

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