I am so excited that a date has officially been set and as I head into these last two weeks before publishing, I am furiously trying to finalize the last of the changes and edits I have received from my very diligent and VERY appreciated team! Everyone has been working so hard to help make this book what it is and I cannot thank you all enough.
I drove by my father’s house several times; looking for his truck, before deciding it was safe to go inside. I pulled into the long driveway, cutting the engine. I was already nervous about going in alone. I knew nothing would ever change that now.
I got out of my car, creeping slowly toward the back door. The house was dark. My father was most likely still at work.
I stepped into the open kitchen. It looked no different than it had a few weeks ago, but the stench of rotting garbage was gone. My stomach knotted at the thought of him here, in this house, since that night. Did he think about it the way I did? Was he sorry at all, I wondered? I remembered the smug look on his face in the courtroom last week, how celebratory he had looked as the judge imposed sentencing. Was he ever going to feel remorse the way I desperately wanted him too? I would forgive him, without hesitation, if he were sorry – if he promised it would never happen again. I rolled my eyes, feeling stupid for even having such a ridiculous thought. When would I learn he would never change? What would it take for me to finally get it?
I ran up the steps, two at a time. When I got to my room, I grabbed a bag from my closet, haphazardly throwing more clothes into it. I walked to the bed, knelt down and reached my hand between the mattress and box spring. I felt the file touch the tips of my fingers, pulling it out from under the mattress. I held it in my hands, staring at it like it was buried treasure, before shoving it into the bag, making sure to hide it between layers of clothes. I tossed the bag over my shoulder and made my way toward the door.
I took one final look back at the room. I scanned it into memory, praying it would never fade, knowing somehow this was the last time I’d see it. I closed the door to Angela’s room. My heart felt heavier. I sensed the hole growing wider. What filled the empty space now? How could it feel both heavy and hollow at the same time? When would I be able to heal? This room had been my closest source of a connection to Angela and now I was being forced to walk away. I hated him for taking her from me, then and now.
I turned away from the emotions I was feeling, heading back down the stairs, intending to leave the same way I came. As I rounded the railing toward the hallway, the door to the basement opened, freezing me where I stood.
My mouth fell open, as my father stepped around the doorway, instantly making eye contact with me. I gasped, my eyelids fluttered. What was I feeling; surprise? Fear? Or both? Images of that night in October, only a couple of months ago, crept sinisterly into my unwilling mind and I flinched away from the memories. I closed my eyes tight, hoping when I opened them, he would be gone – just a figment of my overactive imagination. But he was still there; eyes wide with an expression I could not read.
He stood motionless without speaking, waiting- for what, me to say something?
I took a deep breath, trying to let my heart slow before I spoke. “Oh…ahh…I…um…I didn’t see your truck.” I forced myself to say. Every time I was around him, I fell apart. Words become tongue twisters, my thoughts jumbling together.
He frowned. “It’s in the shop.” He said calmly. “Someone trashed it the other night.”
“I’m sorry.” I told him. Had it been trashed because of me – because of what I had said in court, or was it some random act of vandalism. I didn’t believe it was vandalism, not in York. It was too coincidental. Someone had maliciously sought him out and tried to punish him. A vigilantly?
“What are you doing here Lexie?” He said, his voice growing stern. He was sober, but I still saw the hatred in his eyes.
My knees trembled. “I needed a few things.” I admitted. I held my distance, not moving from where I stood. My flight reflex told me to keep me eyes on the exit. Be ready to flee if the need arises, I thought to myself.
“You shouldn’t be here.” He said, his voice growing sterner as he met my eyes once again. I searched fervently, hoping to see an ounce of remorse, compassion…something to let me know there was a decent man deep inside. There had to be a part of him that felt sorry for the choices he had made, especially with how he’s treated me…I needed there to be. But the more I searched, the darker his eyes seemed to become, until all I saw was blackness. I remembered all the hurtful things he’d said to me, reminding me how that night in October, I knew without a doubt he hated me. I was simply searching for something I would never find.
I looked away from his gaze and started to make my way past him. I imagined how I must look to him, desperately trying to stay in control while inside I was shaking with fear. From my peripheral vision, I saw his hand stretch outward toward me. He grabbed my arm – jolting me to a stop.
“You ruined my life.” He said angrily.
I said nothing. I was frozen. No thoughts came to the surface of my comprehension. My mind as well as my body, was stunned and useless. I felt a wave of nausea wash over me and I wondered if I had it in me to fight. I wasn’t sure my mind or body had anything left. I certainly didn’t want to give up – cower like the coward I feared I might be. I needed to find the strength within myself to stand up to him – to make him see he could no longer bully me.
He squeezed tighter. His free hand balled into a fist at his side.
“I lost everything because of you. Now I have nothing, not even my job. Twenty years flushed down the drain and this time, it is your fault.”
I met his eyes now, fearing what was coming. Maybe he didn’t care about going to prison. He believed his life was ruined, because of me, what was stopping him from finishing what he started weeks ago? I cringed at the thought of his hands – his fists, violently against my face, my arms, and my body. I remembered the ringing in my ears as he kicked me over and over. My stomach turned as the memory of blood – my blood, thick and metallic, flooded my mind.
This was his chance for revenge. No one knew I had come here. But he didn’t know that. Or maybe he did. Was he smart enough to know no one would allow me to come here alone? Of course he was. He would have known immediately that I was alone, that no one knew I had come here. I tried not to think of how easily he could kill me and get rid of the evidence before anyone knew I was missing.
If there was one thing I was sure of, this was it. If I couldn’t find the strength inside of me to stand up to him he could and he would kill me – If not today, then eventually. I could see it in his eyes and suddenly a memory from my dream washed over me. The darkness of the tunnel all around me as my father encroached upon me. How he constantly lurked, so close, but still just out of his reach…