"Here, drink this. It's vitamin water. It'll help you regain your strength and electrolytes after all that running we did." Chace handed me a clear bottle. I opened it and took a sip.
The plane had just taken off. "So, what are we going to do for an hour?" I asked while looking out the window at the blue sky. Chace insisted I sit on the inside. I didn't know why.
He stopped an attendant coming around with a cart of sandwiches and bought two. It was turkey. "We eat." After eating, I once again became bored. My mind drifted away to the comfort level of these seats. Since we were in first class, we got all the extra complementaries. First pick of snacks, reclining chairs, and more leg room. "Do you want to talk?"
"I don't know. Your situation at home?" I immediately became shaky and uneasy.
"Instead, let's talk about you. Where's your father?" That seemed to have gotten to him because he looked away. "Chace..."
"Where's your father?" His features became glum.
"He's...you know." I understood what he was saying.
Quietly, I said, "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." We didn't speak to each other for a few minutes and out of nowhere he just started talking, "It was eight years ago when I was nine. I was just discovering my interest in acting and my elementary school was putting on a play. I was last on the audition list and my mom had a photo shoot. Though my dad was able to get off of work early and he said he would be there to watch me. I waited, and waited. Finally, my mom came in just before my audition time and told me why he wasn't there. He was killed on impact by a drunk driver." I felt bad for him. I wanted to set my hand on his shoulder or something so badly, but I didn't want to upset him in the obvious fragile state he was in.
"I don't want to say sorry because I know you don't want me to, but I am. My father has a 15 year to life sentence for attempted murder; I would have done anything to have a dad like yours."
His expression lightened and he released a breath, "You know, Alicia, I could see us becoming good friends." I let out a small laugh and reclined the chair back, signaling the start of my nap.
"Take a right here." The chauffeur turned and I pointed him to the correct building. There it was. The tenement I'd lived in for so long. The place I called home.
"Are you sure you'll be okay?" Chace asked, looking out the window at the run down atmosphere.
"I'll be fine. Friends are supposed to trust each other. So, trust me." I stepped out of the limousine and very quietly closed the door. It was three o'clock and even then, the drug dealers were out. They eyed the limo carefully and went back to their work, selling every type of paraphernalia they could get their claws on. Seeing the graffiti and smelling the cigarette smoke made me shake my head in disapproval.
As I stepped onto the cement steps, I heavily contemplated whether I should knock or just walk in. I decided the latter. I took my first step warily, my heart racing a mile a minute. I smelt the cigar smoke and knew her boyfriend was nearby. "Who is it?" he, Lloyd, grumbled. I couldn't stand him. My mother was only thirty. Lloyd was seventeen years her senior. It disgusted me. I slowly walked into the living area where Lloyd was perched on the sofa, looking at me. "Jackie, get in here. You won't believe who's paid us a visit."
"Damn, Lloyd. I was – " My mother, Jackie Levins, came walking into the room I stood in, looking the same as always. Her hair was the same matted nest of brown I remembered (of course it wouldn't change overnight). I took in her frail figure. She was so skinny and anorexic, I could see her ribcage. Her teeth were rotten and her eyes were foggy. I'd say it was the most grotesque sight I'd ever seen – but that would be an understatement. The meth, marijuana, and heroin were getting to her, as it would do to anybody. "Ali!" She came forward and wrapped her arms around me. I didn't hug her back. "Where have you been, baby?"
"Don't act like you give a shit," I said with malice. She pulled back, keeping her hands on my shoulders. She looked in my eyes. I don't know what she was searching for, but I didn't want her to find it. She shouldn't get that satisfaction. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, "Just do it. I know you want to."
Then she did. She forcefully brought her hand across my cheek, knocking my head to the side. As the sting reverberated throughout my face, tears came to my eyes. I stepped around her and ran down the narrow hallway to my room.
Everything was pretty much normal in there. A single mattress was on the worn linoleum floor. A torn blanket was spread on the top. My belongings and clothes were spread on the floor as usual. The room was cramped, but I had adapted. I grabbed a duffel bag in the corner and frantically started piling random things inside. I packed some clothes (that I didn't need), a few books that I hadn't read in years, and the blanket that I'd slept with for as long as I could remember.
I felt a hand tug at my hair, pulling me down onto the ground. I tried to pull the hand off, but there was no avail. "Look, you little bitch," it was Lloyd, "I don't know who the fuck you think you are, but it ain't anyone important." He dropped my head and by now the tears were flowing non-stop. Frightened wouldn't properly suit my feelings. His foot came in contact with my side, "What do ya gotta say to that?"
Lloyd grabbed my hair again with one hand and the bag with the other. I tried to hobble back to feet, but found myself tripping. "Let go of me!" He didn't listen and we made it back to the foyer with him pulling more forcibly.
My mom was waiting there, faux condescension in her eyes. "I wonder day by day if you will ever be good enough to deserve the love I give you."
I couldn't believe her. "That's bullshit. And I wonder day by day if anybody will show you the same courtesy you've should me. I guess not." Jackie opened the door and Lloyd pushed me out and down the steps, my bag following soon after. They slammed the door.
I fell on the ground and just stayed there, wiping my tears away. It seemed like nothing I did, no matter how I acted, they never seemed to think highly of me; nor did I expect them to. Chace came running out of the limo, pulling me up and into the car along with the bag. I couldn't quite asses his reactions, and I didn't care.
The plane ride back consisted of me trying to relieve my headache from my hair being pulled. Chace and I didn't speak until after dinner that evening.
I had just finished putting my new clothes on hangers in the closet. I was doing everything I could to keep my mind off of the afternoon's events. I was successful for the most part. But of course there were the little spits of idleness being occupied that memory. I had basically been kicked out of my home at 17, and I didn't like the feeling.
I turned the light off in the closet and walked back into the main part of the room, where Chace was sitting on the edge of the bed. "If you haven't figured out, news spreads fast." He showed me his phone where there was an entertainment blog with the headline, "Has Chace Kennedy Wooed Another Girl?" Then there was that picture of him and I standing in the middle of the sidewalk. I didn't say anything, just looked away. "That's relatively mild compared to some of the things they could've said. Do you want to sit outside?"
"Sure." I followed him out to the balcony. I sat in the lounging chair while he propped himself against the railing. I looked up at the sky and started thinking about what happened the night I was found. "Thank you for going through San Francisco last night. I appreciate it. "
"No problem. It wasn't so much me going through that part of the city; it was me deciding to stop. But, if it's not too much to ask, what happened?"
He would poke and prod until I eventually told him, so why was I still holding out. "Fine…"
I walked in the door with the paper bag of groceries in my arms. "I'm home!" I called.
"What did you get?" my mother asked, coming into the small kitchen. Lloyd wasn't there, so that took one more thing off my shoulders.
"Milk, bread, bananas, eggs, and some soda." She looked in the bag and shook her head. What did I do now? This wasn't a good sign.
"You got 1%. I wanted 2%. You got wheat instead of white. We didn't need bananas. I wanted brown eggs, and that's the wrong brand of soda." This was stupid. I actually went out to get all of this and I couldn't even get a simple thanks. I did what any teenager would do and rolled my eyes. "Did you just roll your eyes at me?" She made her way to the closet and slowly pulled out a bat. My breath hitched in my throat. Here we go again… "Answer me!"
I gulped, "Y-Yes."
"You know you're gonna have to be punished. You were in the wrong, honey." I guess I was. I mean I did get the wrong stuff. So, I'd have to take it. She stepped closer and raised the weapon. What was I doing just standing there? At the last minute, I stepped to the side, making her even more furious.
I tried getting around her but unfortunately she blocked me from getting out of the kitchen.
"Don't think you're going to get away so fast!" I ducked as she swung the bat. It was old, tattered, and made of wood. I found myself lying on the floor in the fetal position, helpless. She raised the bat and knocked me on the head once. I whimpered. Twice. I shrieked. Thrice. I screamed bloody murder. As she lifted it again, I was on my knees begging for mercy.
"Please, Mom. I swear, I'll do anything you say. Just don't do it!" She slammed the bat on the kitchen counter and it split easily from being so worn. Taking the sharpest half, she jerked my arm forward and dug the points into my flesh. I started crying even harder as I watched the blood pour from my veins and drip onto the floor. The pain was indescribable.
I was sick of dealing with it. So I worked up the strength to push her away and her light body fell to the ground. I stumbled to my feet and ran, grabbing at my arm in the process to stop the bleeding. I was out the door in no time and I was taking off down the street, just following wherever the sidewalk and streetlights took me.
When I figured I was far enough away, I collapsed against the brick wall of a building, blacking out.
"If only I had listened to what she wanted…" I mused, sitting up.
"…Then I wouldn't have found you." I forgot Chace was even listening.
I nodded my head, "Yeah. But it's fine. I don't want to go back now." I stood up and headed for the door.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"Bed. It's getting late."
"You're right." I slid the door open and we went back inside.