I’m lying in bed with my head clouded from alcohol, and my body still jacked with adrenaline from the fight I got into earlier tonight. That’s the last time I’m going to let Sawyer drag me to a fucking preppy jock party. I told him this would happen, but the guy is always in the mood to party, and for some reason he doesn’t feel he can do that without me.
I clench and unclench my hand, my tender knuckles aching from busting them open on Clay Rogers’ face. That asshole is lucky all he got was a broken nose and a busted mouth. Maybe next time he will think twice about opening his fucking trap about my family. Doesn’t he think I know my dad was an abusive alcoholic and that my mom is a pathetic junkie? I was at the receiving end of my old man’s fists almost daily. He did not need to fucking remind me.
I hate when people bring up my father, because then I’m reminded of who I am and where I come from. Sometimes when I’m out with Evans I let myself forget, or at least pretend to be someone different, someone I’m not. But then, on nights like tonight, I get a fucking wake-up call. Not only reminding me of who I come from, but that I also have the same darkness inside of me that he did. There are times I can feel it fester in me, waiting to be unleashed, always there but never surfacing. I bury it deep; hoping one day it will eventually go away if I ignore it long enough.
The last thing I ever want is to become like him, or hell, even my mother for that matter. No, not Mother… Maria. She doesn’t deserve to be called Mom. There are times when I think she’s worse than my old man. He would fucking beat me so bad, to the point of being bed-ridden for days from it, and she never gave a shit. She was never strong enough to stand up to him.
One of the best things that ever happened to me was when my asshole father drank himself stupid one night and wrapped his truck around a tree. I thought she would straighten out after that, and start being the mother she was always supposed to be, but nope. Up until recently, she rarely worked since she was always too busy latching herself to whatever fucking loser would provide her with her next fix.
The sweet, small voice breaks me from my pathetic thoughts and has me glancing at the clock to see it’s one am. I swing my gaze over to the door and make out the tiny figure in the dark. Mia. The only good thing that ever came from my fucked-up parents and the only reason I’m still in this hellhole. If it weren’t for my little sister I would have left here long ago.
“Hey, squirt. What are you still doing awake?”
“I can’t sleep. Can I sleep with you again?” She’s already moving toward me before she even finishes the question, knowing I won’t say no. I’d never say no to her for anything.
This is the fourth night in two weeks that she’s slept with me. Normally I don’t even hear her come in; I just wake up with her plastered against my chest or back. It’s obvious something is bothering her.
I move over as she crawls her tiny body up beside my big one. For a fifteen-year-old I’m bigger than most kids my age; it’s the only thing I’m grateful that I inherited from my old man. Mia is the complete opposite of me. For a seven-year-old she is smaller than most. She’s also sweet, innocent and untainted. There isn’t an ounce of darkness in her.
Guilt begins to plague me, for not being able to do more to get us both the fuck out of here and away from Maria. She says things are going to be better because of this new guy she’s seeing, the one who’s going to help her get on a new path… God’s path.
Yeah right, the guy is a fucking kook, and Maria is even crazier if she thinks we are going to live anywhere with him. I overheard him trying to convince her to have us come live out at his place, which is in some compound that’s way out in the fucking boonies. I went and looked it up as soon as I heard them talking about it. The place is isolated and seems completely messed-up. I thought the guy was Amish or something, from the way it looked, but Maria said he isn’t. I don’t know what the hell it is; all I know is my sister is not living out there.
Mia curls in next to me with her stuffed pink rabbit that she carries with her all the time, the one I won for her at the fair two years ago. Glancing down at her, I see the thick, white ribbon tied in her hair that she has worn to bed every night for as long as I can remember. Her soft, innocent, little face is turned up at me, and her chocolate brown eyes are filled with sadness.
“Talk to me, kid. What’s wrong?”
She looks down at my chest and shrugs. “Just couldn’t sleep.”
“You sure that’s it? You have been coming in here a lot lately.”
She nods in response, and I decide to let it go because I know she would tell me if something was wrong. We are pretty tight.
Things are quiet for a few minutes and I think she’s fallen asleep until she whispers, “Cade, do you believe in God?”
What the fuck? The alcohol that was fogging my brain moments ago starts to clear. Her question catches me off guard and has me wondering how I should respond. I decide to go with the truth.
“I don’t know. I really haven’t thought about it much. There are times when I think maybe there is one and times when I think not.” I mean, what kind of God lets my sweet, little sister get stuck in a hellhole like this? It’s one thing to throw me into it, but Mia doesn’t deserve it.
When she doesn’t say anything, I glance back down to see her still staring at my chest. “Why are you asking?” I have a fucking feeling I know why.
“Mr. Charles says he’s special and that God speaks to him. He said we must follow God’s orders or we don’t get to go to heaven.”
See, I knew it. A crazy, fucking head case. “He’s full of shit, Mia, okay? The guy is a nut job.” Something I should have known, since Maria is shacked up with him.
“Mom’s making me go to church out there tomorrow morning. Will you come with me?” I blow out a heavy breath and think of a way to let her down gently. Before I can say anything, she speaks again. “Please, Cade. I- I really don’t like him very much.”
Something in her small voice has me tensing. “Mia? Is something wrong? Did that guy say or do something to make you upset?” For his sake he better not have, or I will fuck him up beyond repair.
It takes her a minute to answer. “No. Like I said, I just don’t like him, and Mom is making me go to church there tomorrow by myself, since she has to work. I don’t want to go by myself.”
I think it’s time I have a chat with Maria about having Mia go anywhere with her crazy-ass hook ups. I look down at my sister’s wide, hopeful eyes and let out a resigned breath. “Yeah, Mia, I’ll come.”
And I’m going to have a little talk with fucking crazy about all the shit he’s been spewing to my sister. I’ll also be notifying him that we will never be a part of his messed-up life. Ours is screwed up enough.
“Thanks, Cade. I knew I could count on you.” She throws her tiny arm around my waist and buries her head in my bare chest. Another minute passes before she says, “Do you think I’m a good enough girl to go to heaven when I die?”
The doubt in her voice has my chest pulling tight. Jesus, that guy is going to get a serious beating from me. Turning on my side, I wrap my arm around my sister and pull her in close. “Yeah, Mia, if there’s one thing I’m sure about, if anyone gets to go to heaven, it’s you.”
She snuggles even deeper into me. “I love you, Cade.”
“I love you too, kid. Don’t worry about tomorrow. I’ll be there and everything will be fine.”
She nods against my chest. Her small warmth and the alcohol that I had earlier tonight has my body starting to go lax and sleep tugging at me. Just before I slip into a deep slumber I was sure I heard her whisper, “I’m sorry, Cade.”
The next morning I wake up with a dry, nasty taste in my mouth and a serious pounding behind my eyes. Groaning, I begin to turn over but stop when I remember Mia was next to me last night. Opening my eyes, I see the bed empty beside me. I glance at the clock that reads ten am. Shit! Shooting up, panic starts to flood me before I hear movement in the kitchen. I let out a sigh of relief and my heart rate slows to normal again. Maybe Maria isn’t making her go after all.
Heading into the kitchen, I see my mother dressed for work and looking worse than I feel. Clearly she hit something hard last night. If my mother wasn’t a junkie she would be beautiful. I’ve seen pictures of her when she first got together with my father. She was a young, beautiful, Mexican girl with the same innocent, chocolate brown eyes as my sister. But after years of drug abuse and many screwed-up relationships, she looks worn, and much older than her thirty-five years.
She ignores my question and dumps the contents of her purse all over the counter until she finds what she’s looking for. Grabbing a bottle, she shakes out some aspirin and throws a bunch into her mouth before taking a drink of water.
“I said: where the fuck is Mia?”
She winces then turns and glares at me. “Stop shouting. Charles picked her up about an hour ago, to take her to church with him back at the compound.”
My earlier panic comes flooding back. “I told her I would go with her. What the hell are you thinking, letting that fucking psycho take her anywhere?”