Read Hendrix (Caldwell Brothers #1) Online
Authors: Chelsea Camaron,Mj Fields
“Last time, you told the judge you were a fucking OBGYN apprentice, and that got you a week in county.”
Jagger smirks and looks to me. “Do I have a place to live?”
“Of course you do.” I lean against the bar and cross my arms over my chest.
“I work here, right?” Jagger winks.
“Yeah, man, you do. Call me after your photo shoot and fingerprints. I’ll be down to pick you up.”
With that, I watch them walk out. Only Jag can climb in the back of the squad car like he is getting in a damn taxi. Then, I see the old man and Lola the bar whore walk by with garbage bags from the side alley. They must have taken the back exit. Good riddance.
I feel a weight lift off my shoulders just before the guilt washes over me. I should have booted his ass years ago. Then, maybe Momma would have paid attention to the few symptoms she did have, cramping and shit. She wouldn’t have thought they were just everyday stresses of working too damn hard. The everyday stresses I knew damn well came from dealing with his sorry ass.
I wish I could go back so fucking bad.
You know what the third step to grief is? Bargaining. Right now, that is what I’m doing. If I only had done this… God, if I do this, will you make the loss less?
Yeah, that shit is what I’m doing right now. Does it bother me? Hell yes. But, I also embrace this new stage in life.
Bring. It. On.
After four years at The University of Detroit Mercy, living at Holden Hall with a group of girls I grew to either love or avoid, I am finally free. I look down at the last bag I have to lug out into the hall, down three floors, and across the yard to my car.
I don’t have family waiting; I am doing this on my own. My parents live on separate coasts with separate families. In fact, the only thing they have in common is me—the product of a business trip fling.
My father and I were close until I was eleven. Well, as close as we could be only visiting summers and every other holiday. I only met Victoria once before they married, which is when everything changed. Along with Victoria, came her three boys. It was awful, and I couldn’t wait to get home to my mom and half-brothers. I was forced to go every summer for an entire month. However, my junior year in high school, I stopped going all together.
I couldn’t handle it anymore, and I didn’t have to. I didn’t have to feel judged by his wife. I didn’t have to feel the looks from my stepsiblings. The looks that made me feel like I was odd or an intrusion on their lives from Colton and James. More so, I didn’t have to deal with Bryce, who was once my playmate and eventually became something else entirely. I didn’t have to deal with any of them.
My dad, on the other hand, was supportive, kind, and we had our own unique bond. He was just too wrapped up in Victoria and keeping her happy to see everything going on around him. When I stopped visiting, my dad refused to pay for any of my schooling. I should say Victoria refused to pay for anything involving me.
My mother is a strong woman, but she is also proud, so when he told her he wouldn’t help, she told him to go to hell. Their once friendly, co-parenting relationship was quickly a tolerance of one another’s existence.
I throw my last bag in my car—the one I am sure won’t last longer than another month—then open it to retrieve my keys to give to the RA. Inside, I see the rolled up paper—the symbolism of my degree, my bachelors in social work. I should feel a sense of accomplishment. The single paper holds my future in the ink that is practically still drying on the paper.
Accomplishment is not what I feel, though. No. Instead, I feel the pressure of the student loans looming over me. The loans that are unending as I currently only hold an assisting position at a hospital until I complete my masters, something that isn’t happening anytime soon.
I walk into my little studio apartment that I was so excited about moving into just nine months ago. After four years of sharing half a shoe box to having a place that is practically four shoeboxes, it feels like I am getting somewhere in life. However, the size doesn’t matter. One shoebox or four, it is cold.
Of course it’s cold
, I tell myself,
it’s February in Detroit
I nearly run to the bathroom and then turn on the shower. Knowing the neighbors all seem to come home around six, if I don’t do this now, I will be taking a cold shower. Well, no shower, actually, because the point of this shower is to get warm after my walk home from the hospital. I need to defrost my bones right now and that requires some serious hot water.
My car stopped running on New Year’s Eve, just like I knew it would. If it is under twenty degrees and I have any extra money, I take a cab, the bus, any form of public transportation; otherwise, I am reduced to using my own two feet. Unfortunately, it isn’t often that I have extra money.
New Year’s Eve, an unforgettable night. I have made a couple friends at work. One is a nurse on the pediatric oncology floor, Tabby, and the other is my co-worker and office buddy, Toni. We went to dinner at one of the hotels throwing a New Year’s Eve bash where we danced, drank, danced again, I stopped drinking, we danced some more, and they got snookered.
It was already planned that I would drive. I like knowing I can leave when I want to. I never want to get stuck in a place I can’t escape from if need be. It has happened. I am older now, though. I know better.
We finally left shortly after midnight, but I lied and told them it was after one. They were so messed up it didn’t matter—they would never know. We got to my car, got in, I turned the key over, and … nothing. I tried again, gave it a little gas, still nothing.
They laughed, and I cried. When they tried to assure me it was no big deal, I agreed, knowing full well it was since I couldn’t afford to fix it.
The next morning—the start to my new year—I walked to where my car was parked a mile away while freezing my buns off. The entire way, I said a little prayer.
Please Lord, let my problems disappear just for one day
. I truly wanted to get it back to my place, park it in the lot across from my apartment building—the lot I paid way too much money for the privilege to park in—and let it sit until I could figure out where to scrimp and save.
When I arrived at my destination, I stood there, looking at an empty spot, and glancing up at the sky, I laughed.
“Thank you, Lord, but this isn’t what I meant when I used the word disappear.”
Eventually, I found my car. She had been towed and impounded. I had to come up with three hundred dollars and then more money for a tow just to get her back here to sit in the parking lot across the street.
I walked to work the next couple days, waiting for my paycheck so I could spring my car.
Toni, never one to hold back, asked me why I was walking in the freezing cold. When I told her about the car, she was not happy with me for not asking for a ride.
“It’s not a big deal. I knew it was coming.” I laughed, trying not to show just how stressed I am as I unwrapped the first of three scarves I had on and began to un-thaw from the heat of our office.
“It is a big deal. It’s Detroit in January.” She stood up then stomped out of the office.
I sat in my chair and pulled off my boots slowly. My feet were so cold they actually hurt. I grabbed my bag and pulled out a pair of thick, wool boot socks and pulled them on over my dress socks. Then, I swiveled my chair and stuck my feet on the baseboard heater.
Toni walked in with a big cup of coffee and Tabby right behind her. “Livi, you’re so damn stubborn!”
“Good morning, Tabby.” I smiled as Toni handed me the cup of coffee. “Thanks, Toni.”
“This isn’t funny.” Tabby sat on the edge of my desk in her smiley face scrubs, and I couldn’t help smiling. “Liv—”
“I honestly can’t keep a straight face when I’m looking at those.” And I couldn’t.
“They’re for the kids, just like the mustache ones and the Hello Kitty—”
“Don’t even say the Hello Kitty ones are for the kids.” Toni air quoted when she said kids. “That damn white-ass pussy is for you, Tabby cat.”
“Okay, Toni the tiger.” Tabby rolled her eyes. “Fine, I like the white kitty. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.”
“Look, I’m going to find a part time job, but right now, I can walk.”
“Where you gonna find a job when you’re here all the time?”
“I’m not here all the time,” I said as I pull my thawed feet away from the heater and then swirled around in my chair to face them both. “Look, I don’t have kids, a boyfriend, a—”
“Life,” Tabby reminded me.
“I went out the other night,” I retorted. I wanted to add, “You know, the night my car broke down,” but I didn’t.
“You hadn’t been out in six months before that.” Toni looked up over her leopard-spotted frames, glasses I could almost guarantee were more for the statement than the optical aid.
“I don’t like to go out. It’s a waste of money.” I also don’t like going out because I am far from comfortable in my own skin. How could anyone be after everything I have been through?
No more wallowing allowed. My New Year’s Resolution is about becoming. Becoming comfortable in my own skin, becoming the woman I am meant to be without the past holding me back, and becoming confident in myself.
“I won’t rag on you about the second job if you agree to go with me to a fundraiser event on Valentine’s Day.”
“Valentine’s Day?” I asked. “What about Shawn?”
“He has to work the night shift, so I’ll be all alone.”
We both turned our attention to Toni, who shook her head. “Oh, no. I have a date. No girl’s night thing for me. I gave up getting laid on New Year’s Eve. Valentine’s Day is for lovers, ladies, and I’m gonna get some loving.”
Tabby and I laughed at Toni, although not because we thought she was full of it. In fact, we knew she wasn’t.
Tabby had a smile in her voice. “Maybe Livi and I will—”
“Uh-uh, you march your white pussy-loving, smiley face ass right out of this office. You know I don’t wanna hear that shit,” Toni stopped her.
Tabby winked at me and smirked. I knew how much she loved to get Toni going. “Is it a date?”
“I really can’t afford to right now, Tabby.”
“I have Shawn’s ticket already, so it won’t cost us a thing. Besides, it’s a masquerade ball the White family is putting on. All proceeds go to educate young women on HPV. Remember, they lost their twenty-year-old daughter?”
Of course I remembered. She was my first case. I was with them when they found out she was terminal. When they would leave the hospital to shower and get a fresh change of clothes, I was the one who sat with her and helped her plan for a future she knew she would never have. I was also there the day she died.
Amber was young and full of life when her high school boyfriend cheated on her. His actions and the fact that she was afraid to talk to her parents about sex at sixteen had caused her to avoid getting a pap smear until a year ago. Chemo didn’t help, clinical studies didn’t help, nothing helped. Nothing.
I shiver in the shower as I remember Amber and the upcoming masquerade ball. The shower that thankfully is full of steaming hot water. Count this as my one lucky day so far this year.
I look in the mirror at myself. Toni let me borrow a little, black dress she had worn four years ago and is one hundred percent sure she will fit in again one day.
The sequined dress falls about two inches above my knee and is stunning, but I would never buy something so revealing or flashy. I am sure, if I were to bend over, you would be able to see my panties, and trust me when I say the panties do not match the dress. I have paired the dress with a set of heels that I am sure will land me on my bottom or in the ER tonight, along with a beautiful, glitzy, black and deep red mask.
Tabby has a thing for funky scrubs, while I very much enjoy having my undies make a statement, like literally. Tonight, they say, ‘Consent is fucking required.’ Yes, they actually spell out the word fucking, a word I would never consider using. To know I am wearing them, however, gives me a confidence and strength I would otherwise not have.
How did I let myself get talked into this? Dressing up for fancy parties is not me. Life hasn’t afforded me opportunities to be care free.
Mom worked hard to provide for me, but when it came to college, she didn’t have the money. Therefore, I did what I had to and got the necessary loans. Yeah, how easy the admissions office gets you signed up, but how little they tell you of the monkey on your back after graduation. I couldn’t afford to mess up in college and take longer to graduate. There was no money left for me to afford an additional semester or two like some of my schoolmates. No, I had one shot to succeed.
Even now, I don’t have room to mess up. Failure is not an option. I can’t miss work, because I get paid by the hour. One hour of not working equals a week of peanut butter sandwiches, no jelly. Those cup of noodles are a damn luxury if I miss any of my schedule.
As a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up, get a job, live in the real world, and all that. Yeah, funny how now I wish I was a kid again.