Authors: H.J. Lawson,Jane Lawson
Ebook Edition 1
Copyright © 2016 by HJLawson. All rights reserved.
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“Parker… come down. Parkerrrr,” mom yells from the bottom of the stairs.
“What?” I yell back, my eyes fixed on the screen. She’s going to kill me if she carries on shouting at me.
“Come downstairs,” she yells.
“No… no,” I yell at the screen as I fire frantically at this game. “No… this game is stupid,” I say, throwing the control down, glad I’m getting the new game tomorrow for my birthday. It's meant to be way better than this one.
“Parker,” mom screams.
Great, she sounds mad. Hope she doesn’t threaten to take my game back.
“What?” I yell from the top of the stairs.
“I need some milk from the store; can you catch up with dad?” she asks as I head down the stairs toward her.
“Can’t you call him?”
“He left his phone,” she says with his phone in her hand.
“Do I have to?”
“Please,” she sighs. Even with the dim light in the hallway I can see the shadows under her eyes. The flower satin bandana only makes her skin look grayer. Guilt seeps in, Mom is always so positive it’s easy to forget how sick she is.
“Sorry Mom, of course I can,” I say.
“Thanks, Parker. Grab yourself some candy as well.” She smiles as she ruffles my hair. “You need a haircut before your birthday party next week.
“And grab your coat, Parker. There's a chill in the air,” mom says, wrapping her nightgown over herself as she stands with the door open, revealing the dark street lit with streetlights.
“Are you sure I should go by myself?”
“You are eleven tomorrow, and dad’s just left. I will watch from the step.” I've walked to the store on my own before, but this is the first time at night. I grab my coat and head out onto the street. She's right—there is a chill. I pull my coat together, letting the velcro connect and hold it in place.
Gentle drops bounce off my head.
It's frigging raining.
I lookback to mom, who, as she said, is on the steps in front of our house with her hands folded.
She waves me on. I run quicker so I can get back quicker.
My sneakers pound on the sidewalk. I miss step and land in a puddle.
Streams of light from car headlights beam along the rain, igniting the drops.
The light rain begins pouring in earnest at the sight of me running, as if it's trying to drown me. At this rate my feet are going to be soaked.
“Dad, wait up,” I yell as his shadow turns into the store, but there's no way he can hear me over the hammering rain.
The sound of a gun going off rips through my ears as if I were standing next to fireworks. I flinch back, away from the sound.
A man darts out of the store and runs straight toward me, with a gun pointing at me.
His eyes flick toward me as he passes me, and he doesn't stop running, as if he's barely seen me.
I release the breath I was holding.
“Parker?” mom screams as she runs barefooted down our front step, toward me. “Edward?” she calls out to my dad.
I run toward the store. Rain pounds down on my head as my coat flies open.
Dad staggers out of the store with his hand clutching his chest. Other people from the store gather around him.
“Dad... Dad, are you okay?”
“Edward,” mom yells as she gets closer.
Dad’s legs buckle beneath him, and he falls to the ground before anyone can catch him.
I run, dropping to my knees beside him.
The color drains from his face, dripping away with each raindrop.
“Call for an ambulance,” mom yells as she crumbles to the ground beside me.
“Angela,” dad says as he opens up his hand for mom’s. His hand is covered in blood. His other hand clutches tightly around a card that shrinks as it becomes more water than card.
A bloody red stain seeps through his white shirt, just below his heart. The rain doesn’t wash it away quickly enough.
He will live, he has to.
“Parker, look after your mom for me,” dad says, passing me the card and resting his hand on top of mine.
“Look after each other,” he says as his eyes close.
“Dad… Dad!” I scream out, trying not to sob, but as always, tears soak my cheeks, and my bed sheets are wet from sweat.
I try to compose myself, to remember that it was just a dream—well, a dream that really happened. I look over to the red glowing numbers on my alarm clock. I’ve got just enough time for a shower before class.
I’ve run through all the different things I could have done to change the past: I could have stopped my dad from going to the store; or left the house when mom told me to; or maybe stopped Ethan Hastings, the shooter, before he could get to my dad.
Hastings never got sent to prison. He’s out there right now living his life as if nothing ever happened.
His parents are very powerful people, and were able to have their son get away with murder—literally get away with murder.
Right up until the last moments of his life, my dad was a hero, not that that helps much. I lost him forever, after all. The bullet was meant for the storekeeper, but my dad stepped in front, pushing the storekeeper to safety.
Why can’t I have nice dreams about my dad, or more of Clara? Why am I always haunted by that night that changed my life forever?
I would do anything to have my dad back.
Clara is the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen; she belongs on a screen, not in the school hallway. I can’t just glance at her and go on. My eyes lock onto her, studying her body as a whole, and then review each and every little nuance that makes her a work of art.
Her blonde hair is more than yellow; as she laughs her hair shimmers golden. Her green eyes have little specks of blue, gold, and brown that make them look almost like a kaleidoscope of perfection. Her jaw has a soft angle to it, and her nose is thin and straight. And her body… well, I’ll leave a few things to the imagination. She fills out her cheerleading uniform quite well.
“Why do you do that?” Douglas, my best friend, asks.
I try to ignore him, savoring the moments I have to stare at Clara.
My body begins to heat up, not from looking at Clara and imagining that she’s my girl, but from Douglas. His body gets too close to mine for my liking; he has no sense of personal space.
“I’ve got the new Call Of Duty game, you want to come over tonight to play?” Kimi announces as she walks up to us. She’s the only girl that speaks to Douglas and me. She’s Asian, and the only girl I know that enjoys computers.
Talk about stereotypes
Let me check my schedule… yep, empty
. “Sure.” I’m always either at her house or Douglas’s.
“I hear the graphics are meant to be way better than the last game’s.”
“Oh yeah,” I nod.
“It’s pointless trying to get any sense out of him, you know he’s in Clara daydream world. That’s harder to break into than any computer game.”
“You’re too good for her,” Kimi says as she stands next to me.
Me, too good for her? Guess Kimi skipped her meds this morning.
“More like she’s way out of his league,” Douglas reminds me. “Besides, she’s with Travis now.”
“I know,” I say, not breaking my gaze. I know that they had their first date three weeks ago. They text each other constantly, even when they’re sitting in the same classroom together. I have the pleasure of sitting at a desk right between them in history, and can hear the vibrations of their phones and the soft giggles from Clara. It makes me wish that she were reading texts from me instead of Travis.
“And she’s mean.” I can feel the hot breath of Douglas as he says that right into my ear.
“I heard she refused to invite one of the cheerleaders to her birthday party because the girl wore the wrong color of ribbon in her hair to a football game,” Kimi adds.
“There’s a dress code the cheerleaders have to follow,” I say. “It’s not fair for one of them to go rogue. You should get that,” I say to Kimi. Kimi knows that deep down she wants to be a cheerleader
“Cause you’re a girl.” As soon as I say it I wish I hadn’t. “I didn’t mean that.”
Why are they both trying to spoil the best moment of the day?
“Jesus, Parker. I heard she wore the wrong color because Clara changed the color at the last minute and purposely didn’t call the girl.”
I shrug. “I didn’t know you followed gossip.” I’m not into rumors and really don’t care about a hair-bow color. I doubt that Clara would do something like that. Or perhaps it was simply a misunderstanding.
I mean, look at her.
She’s standing against a bank of lockers with her friends, laughing at something one of them said. And when she laughs, her eyes light up like stars on a clear winter’s night.
She catches sight of me and turns to her closest friend, Britany, and whispers something in her ear. Then the two of them begin to laugh again like they’ve just heard the funniest joke in the world, all while staring at Douglas, Kimi, and me.
“See?” Douglas hisses next to my ear. “She thinks we’re a joke.”
I refuse to acknowledge him.
How does he know that she and Britany are laughing at us? They might be talking about something else. Just because they’re looking at us… actually, it’s kind of cool that they’re looking at us. That means they know we exist.
I start to explain that to Douglas when my locker door is suddenly slammed shut, narrowly missing my fingers. I turn, ready to tell Douglas just what I think of his attitude.
But it’s not Douglas standing behind me anymore.
“Quit staring at my girlfriend!” Travis snarls as he leans close to me, spittle flying out of his mouth. Quarterback of the football team, star of the basketball team, and record holder on the track team—you name it, he’s good at it.
“I catch you staring at her again, I will kick your ass.” I feel my shoulders caving in, what little confidence staring at Clara gave me disappearing, as Travis confronts me.
He’s not just blowing hot air; Travis will kick my ass.
“Answer me,” Travis says, moving even closer.
“I wasn’t staring,” I tell Travis.
Travis comes closer. “What’s wrong with you, why aren’t you staring at her? Look at her.” Either way I can’t win this. I choose not to answer.
Travis flicks my glasses off my face, knocking them to the floor.
Kids in the hallway snigger.
I can feel the blood rising in my cheeks, making them prickle with heat. I don’t need a mirror to know that my face is turning bright red, highlighting my pale face.
“Quit it Travis,” I say, before I can say anything else, Douglas does.
“Which is it?” Douglas asks.
“What?” Travis replies.
“Is Parker meant to look at her or not? Which is it?” he asks, like he’s asking if someone wants chocolate or strawberry ice cream.
Travis slams Douglas’s head against the metal locker with a thud.
“What’s in your hair?”
Travis and Douglas both speak at the same time.
“Gel. Looks good, doesn’t it?” Douglas says, rubbing his head.
“Gel? Good?” Travis looks at his hand in disgust, then wipes it down Douglas’s tropical shirt. Travis shakes his head.
“Mr. Conrad's coming,” one of Travis’s goons says.
“Keep your mouth shut if you know what’s good for you,” Travis threatens, pushing me into my locker before leaving me humiliated as always.
I bend down to get my glasses. Kimi goes down at the same time. “I’ve got them.”.