Authors: Marquita Valentine
My mom. Crystal
A woman who is no longer nameless
or faceless to me. I’ve stared at her picture for hours, seeing
myself in her. In my brother. It’s like we’re light and dark, only
I’m the dark one, not him.
Cole doesn’t strike me as
the type of guy to keep lies. He doesn’t strike me as the type of
guy to ask many questions either. But that’s him, and this is
I might not be that kind of
a badass, but I’ve grown up with a father that liked to use me as a
sparring partner as soon as I got up in age.
He was always careful of my
hands, couldn’t break those. Careful not to hit my face, can’t have
me on television with my a puffy lip.
Only one time did he ever
lose his temper enough to hit me in the face and that he’d blamed
on a hunting trip. Kickback from a rifle. My dad’s never been
hunting in his life, much less camping.
I stare right back at the
man, firming my jaw and casually crossing my arms over my
I do my best,” he says
and salutes me with his drink. “Why are you even here? Shouldn’t
you be chasing after Violet, like some pussy-whipped little
It dawns on me, right in
that second, why he has this intense love/hate relationship
regarding Violet. “She turned you down, didn’t she? The great
Everett Morgan actually had some girl say no, and because her
parents were actually around, you had to respect that.”
Only, I don’t get the
reaction I was hoping for. His face doesn’t pale; his eyes don’t
even widen. All he does is calmly take another drink, set it down,
and walk to me.
For the first time since
Violet’s accident, fear courses through me, setting my body on high
alert. Everett hasn’t put his hands on me since that night, but I
have a feel that he’s been itching to do just that.
He grabs me by the neck and
shoves me against the wall, his thumb pressing into my trachea. I
grab and claw at his hands, but nothing’s working. The familiar
pain makes me go limp. I hate this, hate this hold he has over me.
Everett’s been beating up on me for so long, that the only way I
know how to survive is to be meek and humble. To let him have his
way, and then it’ll be over.
Listen to me, shit for
brains. Violet was my present to you. I wrapped her up all nice,
and made sure she stayed tight and pure, just for you. If I had
wanted her, I would have fucked her and she would have thanked me
for it. But I thought you deserved a little something for finally
hitting big. Had I known what would have happened, I would have
given the little bitch to Kyle.”
Black spots dance in front
of my eyes. I gasp for breath, fury rising in me.
Still time for that
though. I could always let Kyle take over the tour. I think he’d
love a taste of Bliss Davenport, maybe even more than Violet. Sure
as hell loved it when we shared Callie, before she lost all that
Nausea makes my stomach
turn. “Fuck you.” I spit at him and it lands on his
He backhands me, sending a
shockwave of pain that makes my right ear ring. Hetightens his
grip. “Little prick.”
, my brain screams at me. I bring up my
knee, as hard as I can, and hit his junk with it. He lets go of my
neck long enough for me to shove him back and land a punch in his
side. It’s a weak spot for him, and he stumbles, grabbing on to a
nearby table to stay upright.
Keep your hands off me,”
I say, panting as he looks at me, respect and fear in his eyes.
“I’m not your punching bag anymore.”
I bend over, placing my
hands on my thighs as I try to steady my heart. “Keep Kyle off this
tour and away from Violet, Bliss, and any other female. He’s a
fucking monster, just like you.”
Everett doesn’t say a word,
just holds his side and gives a small nod. This isn’t over, not by
a long shot. Right now, I’ve shocked the hell out of him for
hitting back. For standing up to him.
But he’ll get over it and
all hell will break loose.
Hopefully, I won’t be
around when it happens.
Without a backward glance,
I leave the room, disgusted with him, with myself, and my life in
Whatever I have to do to
break free of him, I will. Checking my pocket for the flash drive,
I head back to the buses.
*** *** ***
Today is the first Saturday
I’ve had off in weeks, mostly because I’ve been working myself to
death so I won’t think about Rae.
Hard to do when everywhere
I go, I see something that reminds me of her. Hell, I can’t even go
to Lacey’s roller derby matches without thinking about the time Rae
Higher,” my little sister
squeals, pulling me from my thoughts.
As a surprise, I’ve taken
Kelly to the park to play with a bunch of her friends from school.
All of their mothers are there. I think this is what’s called a
group play date but I’m not sure and I’m sure as hell not going to
sit with them to find out.
Lunch,” one of the moms
Kelly’s head turns. “Did we
bring something, Cole?”
Her question is whispered,
but I know why. She doesn’t want to be embarrassed. “Yeah, bug. You
packed it last night.”
She scrapes her shoes on
the ground to stop the momentum of the swing. “That’s right. I
forgot. Silly me.”
Silly you,” I say,
following her as she skips to the large picnic table where
everyone’s unpacking. As I get to our cooler, I notice lots of
fancy name brands and colorful containers—mostly pink and purple,
because God forbid little girls like any other colors.
Oh God, I’m with the uber
For a moment, old
embarrassments and humiliations threatened to bubble up, but then I
start pulling out containers—all pink, purple, and fancy name
an uber playdate
Where did you get that
lavender thermos, Cole?” one of the moms says.
Um, the store,” I say and
they all give me this look. Strike one.
Kelly bounces in her seat.
“We got it from Sweet Monkey’s.”
Suddenly, all of their
expressions change. “I love that store.”
It’s so environmentally
And the clothes are to
Do you get all of Kelly’s
things from there?”
I look at Kelly. She smiles
at me and takes a bite out of her sandwich. I turn my attention
back to the group. “Um, yes?” Actually, it was Rae who’d bought all
of this, for Kelly to use.
Cole, would it be
possible for Kelly to come over this evening for an impromptu
Who has impromptu
sleepovers? Then I get it, they’d planned one while they were
sitting and hadn’t invited Kelly. In the past, I’d probably told
them to shove it up their tail or at least walked away with
But for once, I think that
maybe we weren’t included because I’d chosen to exclude us. I’d
fallen back on old habits of not thinking I’m good enough and
assumed the worse.
Sometimes all people want
is a way in, and if you’re too busy always looking for a way to
keep them out, then you’ll never know it.
I grin. “If Kelly wants to,
it’s fine with me. Might be nice to have a night to
Tell me about
I swear, if I hear what’s
for dinner one more time before I even get through the
The rest of the afternoon
flies by and I drop Kelly off with the spare change of clothes that
I always keep in my Jeep. She hugs me tight and whispers thank
My heart feels lighter than
it has in months on the way home. But then I get home, and Ford’s
car is in the drive. The lights are on in my house.
Just what I need,” I
mutter, parking the jeep and getting out. I take my time walking
inside, but it’s not long enough.
Where’s Kelly?” Crystal
immediately asks and Ford squeezes her hand. “I mean, hi,
Hi.” I flop down in the
chair across from the two of them and wait.
I’m ready to come back
home now,” Crystal says, her leg starting to shake.
I narrow my eyes. Had I
gotten that from her of all people?
But she’s not moving back
in—at least not right away,” Ford says, keeping his tone light.
“We’d like to take Kelly and you to dinner. Parker said he couldn’t
come because of work.”
No,” I say, and then
stare at Crystal. I’m waiting for her reaction.
Then at least let us take
Kelly,” she says, her jaw firming. “Please.”
I cross my arms and tip my
head back. “No.”
Crystal looks at Ford for
help. She’s about to lose it, I know it. “Why are you telling us
Oh Jesus. Now Ford sounds
like my therapist. “Because she’s at a sleepover.”
That’s good,” Crystal
says and I pull off my beanie.
I need a drink.” I start
to rise from the chair.
I refused to sell
Crystal looks down at her
lap. “Everett wanted you, not your brother, but I said no. I wanted
him to be reminded of me every time he looked at that boy. I kept
the one that looked like him, so he’d keep coming back.”
Grimacing, I take a breath.
“How in the hell would you know what either of us looked like? I
was like a toddler, and he was an infant.”
Tears dripping, Crystal
lifts her head. “He was three years old, and you were eighteen
months. Trust me... you looked exactly like Everett Morgan, even
Exhaling, I curse softly.
“Why are you telling me this?”
This time, Ford speaks up,
“Because if she keeps lying to herself, to you… to me, to anyone,
then I’ll leave her.”
Just like every other man
Ford’s lips flatten. “I’d
leave her but not you guys. Have I ever left you guys?”
I snort. “No, you liked to
keep me extra close.”
Don’t turn this on me,
Cole. I didn’t break the law.”
Whatever.” I stand up.
“Look, I’m glad all this is making y’all feel better, but I still
feel like shit. So if you don’t mind?” I point at the door. “I have
things to do.”
Can we come back
tomorrow, after church, and go to dinner, then?” Crystal
Oh goody, she’s found
religion again. But there’s a pleading look in her eyes and she
hasn’t shown her tail, yet. So maybe…
Lunch but that’s it. And
you can’t stay here.” I adjust my stance. “But Kelly stays
Whatever you want,”
Crystals says and moves past me. I notice she doesn’t try to hug
me, which is a good thing. One hug from her and I would have called
bullshit on the entire thing.
A couple months of rehab
for her and therapy for me can’t fix years of our screwed-up
relationship. But holding onto my anger, that’s only hurting me.
And there are too many things, too many people trying to hurt me as
They say their goodbyes and
leave. Grabbing a beer, I head to the back porch for a smoke and
pull out my phone. Rae’s image is my screensaver.
It’s a picture I took of
her right before Christmas. There’s nothing but a sheet around her
and in her eyes, there is nothing but love and
Something I’ll never have
again because of the bastard who made me give her up.
For once in my life, I’d
like to see the bad guy actually get his.
It’s day two of our
week-long stay in North Carolina, and I’m sitting on my bus,
playing Candy Crush on my iPad, while we bump along Highway 40. Or
was it 95? I have no idea what our driver’s name is, mostly because
we have a different one every couple of days.
We’re hitting four cities
while we’re here: Greenville, Raleigh, Wilmington, and Charlotte. I
know Violet’s dying to get to Charlotte. She’s dying to be close to
Cole and sing that damn song she’s been practicing when she thinks
no one’s around, then he’ll hear it and magically show up out of
nowhere with a spotlight on him. He’ll join her on stage and they
kiss, bringing down the house.
Yeah, I’m not completely
clueless when it comes to women’s fantasies. Hell, that’s
fantasy… minus my
brother, of course.
Only the face of the singer
on stage… it’s me and it’s not Violet I’m waiting for.