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“Jake,” I said. “If I don’t come out of this, shoot that motherfucker in the head.” I stood and started walking toward the houseboat.

“10-4,” Jake answered.

“What the fuck?” Bear shoved my shoulder. “You can’t say that kind of shit to him, man. He’ll take you fucking seriously.”

That was fucked up, Boss Man. Jake wouldn’t know sarcasm if it bit him on his Dexter ass, Preppy chimed in.

“Good. Cause I wasn’t fucking joking,” I said.

“It’s time,” Jake said, checking the clip on his gun.

I visualized Doe in my bed, naked and half covered with a sheet, watching one of the 90’s action movies she loved so much, turning back to look at me to make sure I was paying attention to all the parts she deemed very important.

It’s that visual and the visual of the senator begging for mercy that I carried with me as I went in blind. I cracked my knuckles again and handed Bear my gun. “Fuck, yeah.”

It was finally time to get my girl once and for all.

No matter what, I wouldn’t be leaving without her.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Doe

I knew I was in a dreamlike state and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t wake from it. I couldn’t open my eyes. I tried to move my hands but I couldn’t feel them. I felt like I was floating and I no longer had use for things like limbs. For a moment, I thought I heard my father’s voice. “Ramie, Ramie wake up,” he was saying. But I couldn’t talk to him. I floated further away until I could only hear the echoes of his plea. I drifted off further and further until I was no longer floating.

I’m nine years old. It’s my birthday. My mom just came out and embarrassed me in front of all my friends. She’s drunk again. She just finished telling my friends that no one wants a fat wife so we shouldn’t eat my cake. She goes back into the house and Nadine finishes cutting slices that none of my friends touch. The music we had been playing has turned off and although we’d been taking turns selecting songs, nobody chimes in that it was their turn to pick another one.

My father appears at the back sliding glass door. He’s wearing a suit. It’s the only thing I’ve seen him wear for as long as I can remember. I don’t think he owns anything else. He rarely even takes off his jacket. Once we were at a county fair where he was giving a speech in order to support the Future Farmers of America and his jacket was off. His assistant was holding it folded over her arm as if she were holding the crown of the queen of England. His sleeves were rolled up. The site baffled me so much that when his speech was over I’d asked him if he was sick.

He’d laughed and ruffled my hair until it stuck out in all directions and fell into my face. That morning my mother had insisted on blow drying it perfectly straight, burning my scalp in her quest to make me look every bit the picture-perfect political poster child. “That’s better,” he said, before being whisked off the stage to the awaiting press.

My father slides the door open to the back yard. In his hand, he’s carrying a big bouquet of yellow roses. I think they are for my mother, but most nights they don’t even sleep in the same room. And it’s been months since either one of them has bothered apologizing to the oher after one of their shouting matches. They don’t even really fight anymore.

They ignore.

I preferred the fighting. Because at least then they were communicating on some level, even an angry and bitter one.

My father smiles and walks up to me where I’m sitting on the edge of the pool in silence while Nadine tries to raise the spirits of my classmates and friends. “Happy Birthday, Princess,” my father says, handing me the flowers.

“For me?” I ask, pushing my bangs out of my eyes.

“It’s your birthday isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it is.” I sound as defeated as I feel.

“You’re nine now, and that’s a big birthday. I was thinking of getting you another stuffed animal, but I figured that flowers would be a much more appropriate gift for a young lady like yourself.” My father stuck his nose inside the bouquet and inhaled, only to pull away abruptly to close his eyes and cough. I giggled. “People always say these things smell so good. To me they smell just awful.” My dad laughed when he saw my smile and handed me the bouquet. “But nonetheless they are for you, my sweet girl.” The green tissue paper is melting underneath my wet hand that isn’t big enough to fully circle the stems. The flowers tipped in my hand and my father caught them before they fell into the pool. He held them out to me and I pressed my face into the bouquet and inhaled like he had, but didn’t have the same reaction. I decided right then and there that roses were my new favorite smell.

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