Authors: tfc Parks
Table of Contents
Published by tfc Parks
An Archilochus Press Book
Copyright April 2010 by tfc Parks
This book is a work of fiction, and all persons appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to events or people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
, co written by Aston Drees and tfc Parks
Cover Design by tfc Parks
Shelby dug her stubby nails into the wet tie of her dress, desperate to untangle the knot. The tips of her fingers burned as she pinched at the thin strip of material, each finger slipping away, only to meet the other once again. It didn’t help that she was in such a rush to change clothes and get out of the house before her mother discovered her home from work. Judy would find some unnecessary chore for Shelby, if only to make sure she never forgot Judy had the ultimate say in her life. Just below her window, her mother made a pathetic attempt to converse in Greek with the neighbor lady.
Shelby gave up and squeezed the knotted dress up over her head to the sound of stretching seams, pulled on a dry one, and hurried out of her room. She crept down the stairs, through the back of the house, and out onto the veranda. She stopped short to listen for her mother’s footsteps, but only the sound of her pounding heart met her ears. With no sign of her mother, she made a dash for the back wall and hefted herself over. A strand of her long hair caught in the branch of a tree. She stifled a yelp and yanked it free.
Once on the other side, she ran down the street. Behind her, Shelby’s mother called her name. She reached down and removed her flip-flops, knowing the sound they made slapping her heels would echo off the houses and give her away. The whitewashed cobblestones, blazing hot from the afternoon sun, stung her feet. When she was around the corner, she paused to shuffle back into her shoes. Raising her head, she met the disapproving glare of an old grandmother dressed in the black of mourning crocheting on her front stoop. The old woman wished her health as Shelby passed, but her tone made it obvious that it was not an actual wish. Respectfully, Shelby returned the greeting.
Working her way through the winding back alleys, Shelby remained vigilant for any trouble possibly lurking around the next corner. She passed under vine-covered archways, past more grandmothers dressed in black – many closing their windows and doors to block the heat – and past the main shopping street where the stores closed for the afternoon.
Her heart leapt at the sound of an approaching, familiar laugh. Its resonance sent chills down her spine. She slipped into the covered archway of a chapel and hid behind a twisted grapevine growing from between the stones until the owner of the laugh and his company passed.
When she was sure they were out of sight, she left her hiding place and continued on her way. Shelby turned onto the narrow alley leading to Erin’s house. Only when she arrived did she feel she had made a clean escape.
“Erin, how old were you the first time you did it?” Shelby asked as she flipped her end of the sheet over the clothesline. Seeing the look on Erin’s face made her regret the question. The look signified an painful memory.
“Too young,” Erin answered. After a moment of silence, she asked, “Why? You’re not thinking of doing something stupid are you?”
“Nooo,” Shelby exaggerated the word as she caught the bag of clothespins Erin tossed. “I just like to know people’s stories.”
Erin laughed. “Trust me – you don’t want to base anything you do on my past.” She pulled the last sheet out of the basket and moved down the line.
“Why? Do you wish you had waited longer?” Shelby rushed to grab her end of the sheet.
Erin didn’t answer, and at first, Shelby wondered if maybe Erin hadn’t heard her, but she didn’t repeat the question. At last, Erin told her, “I didn’t have the choice to wait longer.”
With this, Shelby grasped why the subject made Erin so uncomfortable. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.” She pulled a pillowcase from the basket and removed two clothespins from the bag at Erin’s feet.
“You don’t have to be sorry. There’s no way you could have known and it’s not a crazy question.” Erin hung the bag of pins back on the line and walked to the wall enclosing the rooftop. She leaned against the edge and watched Shelby wring the water from the last pillowcase before hanging it on the line. “My father was a drunk. He wasn’t bad when he was sober, but that was rare.”
Shelby joined Erin at the wall.
“I remember when I was little he used to beat the shit out of my brother all the time, for no reason at all. It made me cry to see him hurt like that, and even though I felt guilty, I was glad it wasn’t me. Afterwards, I’d sneak into Ricky’s bed and lay beside him while he cried. I’d hug him, but I knew it wasn’t enough.”
“How old were you guys when your mom died?” Shelby asked when Erin paused.
“I was just a baby. I don’t remember her at all. Ricky was only four, and he doesn’t remember her much either.” Erin lifted herself up to sit on the wall, and Shelby followed. “One night my dad came home really drunk. He came into our room while we were sleeping, and he just started punching my brother. I remember, Ricky was screaming at him to stop, but that just made it worse. Dad took off his belt and started whipping him with it so hard, and he kept it up until Ricky’s back and legs were bleeding.”
Shelby couldn’t stop the tears rushing to her eyes as she listened in horror. Erin wouldn’t look at her, but Shelby knew she wasn’t the only one with tears.
“Ricky left that night.” Her voice cracked as she spoke. “Once Dad passed out, he packed his bag and left. He hugged me and told me he was sorry, and he left. I remember watching him walk out the door – I could see the blood seeping through the back of his shirt.” Erin paused, but Shelby knew she wasn’t finished. “It was a few months before Dad even
about me. I suppose it was inevitable that he would, though. After that, he was beating
. A couple of months later I guess it occurred to him that I could be useful for something else.”
Shelby wanted to stop her. She didn’t want to hear anymore, but she took a deep breath, and reached for Erin’s hand.
“One night when he came home drunk, he crept into my room and I braced myself for the usual routine. But instead, he crawled into bed with me. He started rubbing my arm and my cheek. I liked it – it was the only tenderness he’d ever shown,” Erin confessed. “But then, he started rubbing other places, places that just didn’t feel right.” Shelby squeezed her hand as Erin took a deep breath. “That went on for a few months, but then he wanted more. I was just twelve the first time. I never knew when he came home drunk if he’d beat me, or rape me. It didn’t matter which, it was all the same.”
Shelby could feel Erin’s pain as she related the events of her past, and couldn’t believe Erin was opening up to her like this.
Then, Erin’s expression changed to one of satisfaction. “Ricky rescued me though. When I was fifteen, he showed up one day while my dad was at work and told me to pack my bag.” She smiled. “He was my hero. I wasn’t even afraid to leave with him, I was just so happy.”
“Did he know what your dad was doing to you?”
“He wouldn’t have, except as we were leaving he saw a box of rubbers by my dad’s bed. He asked me, ‘Who the hell would fuck that son of a bitch?’ I turned really red I guess, and Ricky’s eyes got huge. Then he wanted to go find him and kill him, and he could have – he was a lot bigger than my dad by then, but I begged him to just take me and leave, so he did.”
Releasing Shelby’s hand, Erin stood and picked up the basket, “So, that’s my story. God, I can’t believe it’s been six years.” She shook her head and looked at Shelby, “I was your age then.”
“I’m so sorry Erin. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like. Thank you for telling me.”
Erin set the basket back down. “Here’s what you need to know Shelby – don’t have sex until you’re ready. Make sure it’s with someone you love, and who loves you just as much. As long as you wait for that, you can’t go wrong.”
“Like you and Kostas?” Shelby smiled.
“Yeah, like that.”
Shelby followed Erin to the stairs leading down to the veranda of the house she shared with Kostas. “I can’t wait for you to meet Ricky, you’re gonna love him,” Erin said as she descended the metal, spiral stairs, the excitement obvious in her voice.
“When is he coming?”
“They’ll be here in a couple of weeks.”
“Yeah, the guys are all coming with him, I guess.”
Shelby stopped halfway down the stairs.
“What?” Erin asked when she noticed Shelby had stalled. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. It’s just so cool is all.”
“You’ll like them, they’re all good guys.”
“Why are they coming so long before the wedding?”
Erin laughed. “I think it’s because Ricky wants to have plenty of time to talk me out of it.”
Shelby laughed too and shook her head as they continued down the stairs. She loved spending time with Erin. Shelby knew that Erin was someone from whom she could learn a lot. Anyone with that much strength, who could overcome such an awful past, was someone who made those around them stronger, and it was that kind of strength Shelby wanted to have.