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Bear shook his head. “After all the fucking shit that went down with Preppy dying, then the club, then the shit with Eli, and then that crazy fucking kid…” He took another long drag on his cigarette. “I just gotta get away, man. Clear my fucking head. Get some fucking air. Figure out what the fuck my next move is.”

I shielded my eyes from the son. “You planning on coming back?”

Bear shrugged. “Don’t know that answer just yet.” He stubbed out his cigarette and straddled his bike. He started up the engine and it roared to life.

With a single sad salute, Bear took off down the driveway. A cloud of loose sand billowed up behind his bike, following him down the road.

“Bye bye!” Sammy shouted, jumping up and down, waving frantically long after Bear had disappeared.

“I hope he finds what he’s looking for,” Pup said as she came to stand beside me.

“Me too,” I said. Bear’s shit with his dad and the MC still hadn’t been resolved. I hoped that wherever he was going, the time away would help him get his head on straight so he’d be ready to deal with the shit storm that was undoubtedly coming his way when he returned.

*     *     *


“Look!” Samuel said, pointing to where a beige Lexus with dark tinted windows was coming up the drive.

“Who the fuck is that?” King asked.

I picked up Samuel and shrugged. “No clue.” But then I remembered that it looked very much like my mother’s Lexus, the one I’d tried to take the night I ran to the MC.

The car pulled to a stop and King protectively stepped out in front of me and Sammy, his body instantly going tight. When the door opened and the driver stepped, out I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

It was my father.

“I thought you were still in the hospital,” I said, taking a step forward. My father didn’t come any closer. He stayed by the car, with the door still open, the car still running, leaning against the frame of the window.

“I signed myself out a few days ago. Tired of nurses trying to wipe my ass when I’m perfectly capable of doing it on my own,” he said with a short laugh that made him cough and then wince in pain.

It was the first time in years I’d seen my dad wearing anything other than a suit. He looked older without having it to hide behind. His plain white collared shirt and light denim jeans made him look like any other dad.

“I wanted to come here and say I’m sorry,” My dad said, his words directed above my head to King who was standing close behind me. King folded his arms over his chest. After my father tried to rescue me from Tanner, I knew that King wasn’t gunning for him like before. He wasn’t ever going to like him or trust him, but in time, I think he could work his way up to tolerating him. “To both of you,” he said, tears glistening in his eyes. “I let a job I love come before the job I love most, which was being a father.”

I reflected back on my childhood to a time when my father was just a computer programmer who was happy volunteering for the mayor’s office, stuffing envelopes on the weekends in our living room. My mother had always been withdrawn, unhappy with the life she chose for herself.

Most of the time it was just dad and me. He folded the flyers and I licked the envelopes. We were an amazing team.

We were happy for a time.

It was only when he started in politics when he started to withdraw from me too, throwing himself into it heart and soul. I made due with being a family of one with the help of my best friends.

Tanner and Nikki.

Looking back on my childhood I still couldn’t pinpoint when the switch had been flipped, and the Tanner I knew turned into the monster he became.

Though his poor parents, with the help of a counselor, seem to think it started after his initial leukemia diagnosis. It was common for patients who had come so close to death themselves to develop a sort of morbid curiosity about death. It was also common to develop mood disorders, violent tendencies, and compulsive obsessions.

Tanner developed all those thing. To the extreme.

The shock of it all came from how good he was at hiding it.

The leukemia might have been the tipping point, the fork in the road to the land of no return for Tanner, but I knew he’d started abusing Nikki as early as age ten. In hindsight there were signs. Signs no kid would have ever picked up on.

But that fact didn’t change that I did have guilt. So much it felt like I was carrying a ton of bricks on my back.

Nikki had always been happy and outgoing. She was bossy, confidant, and a bit of a tattle-tale. It all changed very slowly. Over the course of eight years the Nikki I knew slowly slipped away and was replaced by the Nikki who needed drugs to cope with the abuse.

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