Authors: Tiffany King
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Suicide
Sarah, Tim and Trish trailed behind us, providing a united front as we watched my dad climb from his car.
He looked older
, was the first thought that popped in my head as I took in his appearance. Grey hair was sprinkled throughout his dark head giving him a more distinguished look.
"Madison," he said, looking at me uncertainly, stopping just short of the front porch.
"Dad," I said, cautiously descending the stairs slowly, stopping in front of him.
"You're all grown up and beautiful," he said, shooting me a watery smile as I threw myself in his arms. "I'm so sorry," he said, stroking my head as I sobbed against his shoulder. Years of guilt drifted away in an instant as his tears mingled with mine.
"Ready?" Trish asked, zipping up my robe for me.
"Yep, I'm ready to blow this Cracker Jack box," I joked as she placed my graduation cap on my head.
"You look so scholarly," she teased.
, don't say that too loudly, they might take my robe back," I teased.
"Not on your life. It's a huge deal that you ended your senior year on the honor role," she chastised me.
"Too little, too late, but I'll take it," I said, smiling at her.
"You're a twit, but I love you," she said, giving me a long hug.
"I love you too," I said, blowing her kisses as I lined up with the rest of the H's in my graduating class.
Standing on tiptoes, I looked around behind me until my eyes found Dean's. "I love you," he mouthed.
"I love you too," I said out loud, making those around me laugh.
Turning back around, I didn't try to fight the wide grin that spread across my face. The amazing thing about love was that when you didn't have it, the word seemed impossible to use, but when you were surrounded by it, it was as easy to say as breathing. The last six months had been a nonstop initiation into love for me. Dean's family showered me with it, tucking me into the embrace of their family like I belonged there all along. When Donna kicked me out officially, a week after Christmas, his family gave me the option to move in with them, but my dad stepped in, asking if I would give living with him a chance. I went from thinking I had nowhere to go, to suddenly having options. I turned the Jackson family down, not wanting to ruin my relationship with Dean by moving in with him and his family. It still amazed me that they accepted me so unconditionally. By all rights, they should hate me. I had hooked and trapped their son, or maybe it was the other way around. I couldn't help thinking about my petal plucking daisy I had gotten at Mitch's funeral. My world was suddenly filled with people who were the petals of the daisy that would miss me.
The first few weeks of living with my dad were awkward, and I had found myself spending more time at Dean's house than at my dad's, but eventually we started to adjust. I think we both understood that it would come slowly. I credited a big part of it to my weekly counseling sessions with Beth.
Beth was another unexpected petal of my ‘miss me’ daisy. I had balked at the idea of going to counseling, but Sarah had eventually worn me down and I was forever grateful she did. Beth was amazing. She was tough, kind, compassionate, intuitive and the sounding board I never knew I wanted. She listened and questioned and continually reminded me that the past wasn't my fault. Together, we found long forgotten emotions I thought I had buried long ago. We flushed them out, exposing everything until it was raw, so they could heal once and for all. Beth encouraged my dad to join us for a few of my counseling sessions so he could get some insight into everything I had kept hidden for so long. Through our counseling together, I got to see the rage he still felt for what Jim
had done to me, to his anguish for not being able to protect me, and finally, his shame that had kept him from reaching out to me. It was a long agonizing road at times, and we were far from normal, but we were slowly learning how to let the past go. I was slowly learning to forgive him for leaving me behind to clean up the mess.
Donna refused to attend counseling with us, which wasn't a surprise. I had accepted the fact that she would never forgive me.
The line of students slowly began to move as we walked down the middle aisle of the arena where our graduation was being held. Scanning the crowds, I found who I was looking for immediately. Sarah. She waved frantically after spotting me and blew me a kiss. She wasn't my mom, but her easy acceptance and kindness made my heart ache with love for her. Sarah had been my rock over the last six months as I learned to adjust to a life with my dad. She lent an ear when things were uncomfortable between us and gave me insight to helping the adjustment. She was never too busy for me and always found time to spend time with me. She taught me about love and gave me the confidence to share my love with Dean.
Just thinking his name made me feel all gooey and sappy.
If Sarah was my rock, Dean was my foundation. His constant caring and love kept me grounded. With his help, I was able to get into the community college near UCF where he would be attending so we could be close to each other. We'd decided to spend the summer on his grandparents’ property, working together on the house he planned on restoring. Our relationship hadn't taken the intimate step yet, but I foresaw it happening soon. I knew I was ready. He evoked feelings inside me I never thought possible, and made me want more. He made me feel cherished and for that, I gave him my heart.
Glancing back up at the Jackson clan, I smiled when I saw the twins jumping up and down with excitement as Sarah pointed out my and Dean's locations to them. Sweeping my eyes past them, my eyes met my dad's as he smiled proudly at me. His girlfriend, Andrea sat by his side, also smiling at me. I liked Andrea, she was good to my dad, and that's all that mattered to me. Through our joint counseling, I had gotten a glimpse into how miserable my dad's life had been with Donna. Church at the time had been an escape for him. A place where he could ignore the bleakness of being married to a woman he didn't love. Seeing him happy now made me happy.
Mr. Wilson snagged my attention as he began his speech at the podium. My heart pinched when he announced a moment of silence for the two students we had lost that year. A picture of Mitch flashed across the screen behind him. I studied the face of the boy who had started my long journey to recovery. I owed him my life. Tears leaked down my cheeks as a picture of James filled the screen next. Not a day went by that I didn't think about him. Beth was helping me to forgive myself for letting him slip away. She and I talked about suicide a lot. She made me fill out weekly journal entries, reminding myself of everything I had to live for. She warned me that she would not let me become a statistic. I tried to tell her death was the furthest thing from my head now, but she said she'd rather be safe than sorry. For that, I loved her.
Mr. Wilson ended his speech, and before I knew it, the rows in front of me emptied one at a time as the diplomas were handed out. Rising to my feet when my row was signaled, I slowly followed the students to the far side of the stage.
Nervous energy coursed through me as the name of the girl in front of me was called, and then it was my turn.
"Madison Hanson," Mr. Wilson announced, smiling broadly at me. I returned his smile as I accepted my diploma. Maybe he wasn't a douche bag after all.
Walking off the stage, I waited on the side for Dean. My eyes met his moments before his own name was called. He winked at me and flashed a victory sign. If you can believe it, I had made it to graduation. I had survived. Death had nothing on me.
in print and
Meant to Be
(The Saving Angels book 1)
(The Saving Angels book 2)
(The Saving Angels book 3)
Wishing For Someday Soon
When I was younger, I always thought of life like chapters in a book. I never knew what each turn of the page would bring, but always hoped for something better and happier. I regarded my younger brother and myself as characters that were meant to persevere, no matter what obstacles were thrown our way. Of course, our life was far from the paranormal worlds that I loved reading about. Not that you could call our life normal—not in the least, but we definitely didn’t have any cool supernatural powers or anything like that. Still, fantasizing about it helped pass the endless miles down highways that look the same no matter where you are at. If I were a paranormal character, I would be an illusionist. I had made it an art form to never let anyone know how I was really feeling. We never knew what kind of mood my mom would be in from one day to the next, so most days I was the emotional catalyst of the family, always trying to appear happy and cheerful, when inside I was screaming. My brother, on the other hand, would be a special character. Kevin is a unique soul, caring and selfless. He definitely doesn’t deserve this life—neither of us
, but at least we have each other, and I would die to protect him.
We arrived in Four Corners, Montana, in late September, over a full month after the school year had already started, but my little brother and I were used to that by now. The town definitely lived up to its name. Four adjacent corners with lonely looking establishments perched on each one. We observed the Higgins Grocers, which sounded vaguely familiar on the south corner and a small mom and pop restaurant called Sunny-Side Up on the corner directly across from it. Withers, a gas station that had seen better days, sat on the third corner opposite from the restaurant, which left the last corner to the run-down trailer park called Shady Lane that would be our new home.
As Jim, my “step-dork” as we liked to call him, pulled our beat-up car into the dirt-packed path, my brother Kevin and
exchanged horrified looks. We weren’t freaked out we would be living in a trailer, since it was a humongo step-up from some of the dumps we had lived in over the years. Just the idea of having a roof over our heads was an absolute godsend. It was more the size of the town that made Kevin and I exchange uneasy glances. Even at nine, Kevin understood how our mom thought, and we both knew there was absolutely no way Lucinda would make it in a town this size.
Like always though, I kept my face impassive, not letting my disappointment show. It had taken most of the morning for Lucinda to sign all the housing papers the woman at the welfare office in Bozeman handed over. During that time, I’d allowed myself to daydream about the stability our lives would have, for at least a few months anyway, and after two weeks in a shelter, I was ready for a little space.
Living in a shelter was always tough on Kevin and me. The accommodations were always tight with no privacy to speak of with food that you ate just for the sake of eating. If I never drank another glass of powdered milk again, I would die a happy person.
This last shelter had been more bearable than most of the others we had lived in over the years. Instead of separating men and women into different spaces crammed with cots, they had family rooms that were roughly sixteen feet by sixteen feet where entire families could stay. The rooms had two double beds, which meant Kevin and I were forced to share. At seventeen, I should have bucked at the idea of sharing a room, let alone a bed with my brother, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way, he was all I had, and I’ve spent my entire life trying to protect him.
Already knowing that we would most likely only be living in our new home for a short while was always a hard pill to swallow, no matter how many times we’d been through this. It had taken us two weeks in the car to get to Montana from California since we had to make several pit stops to earn money for gas. Kevin and I were both equally sick of the car and didn’t relish another move when Lucinda decided yet again that the grass was greener somewhere else.
Step-dork, Jim slowly drove past a string of mobile homes that varied in size and appearance. We’d stayed in our share of projects, dumpy motels and run-down apartments, but never a trailer park. I was surprised that some of them were actually relatively nice with extra built-on storm rooms and utility rooms. Small bushes and fake flowers bordered the majority of the homes, making it clear that the current owners took pride in the little plot of land they inhabited. I couldn’t help but smile a little at the dozens of god-awful looking garden gnomes peeking out behind several of the bushes surrounding one of the trailers.
It all seemed so very normal, which only further proved our new home was doomed from the get-go. We definitely didn’t exist in the realm of normal.
Jim pulled into a narrow drive and stopped in front of what was to be our new home. The overgrowth of weeds and unkempt bushes surrounding the trailer gave the indication that it had been sitting empty for quite a while. The exterior of the trailer was covered in faded metal paneling, but looked to be in decent enough shape. There were no broken windows as far as I could tell and as long as there were no holes in the floor or roof, it might actually be tolerable. Lucinda and Jim piled out of the vehicle, leaving Kevin and me behind in their typical parental-lacking fashion.