Beauty in the Broken Part 2
Beauty in the
Sample from Chapter 3
Her relentless staring throughout dinner tested my patience. Abandoning her company for a moment’s solace in the shower became my only life’s mission once my plate was clean.
* * *
Our final moments in the elevator turned my mind back to Giovanni. I sent a message with my plan to meet up with him and stepped under the shower’s spray, imagining the emotional obstacle course set before him when my phone reverberated against the shelf it was set on. I reached for it, desperate to hear Giovanni’s voice tell me he was safe.
His voice sounded so relaxed and familiar, but it didn’t belong to Giovanni.
I straightened up and played hot potato with my phone to keep from dropping it.
“Who is this?”
“Has it been so long you don’t recognize my voice?”
Only one person I knew answered questions with riddles and more questions like that.
“Hey. How are you?” His casual conversation frightened me. He was in jail for a stabbing, not to mention that a few weeks ago he had murdered my dog.
I scoffed. “How am I? Like you care! Why are you calling me?”
“I do care,” he corrected. “I’ve got a lot to tell you, and I need you to listen up.” He paused momentarily before resuming his speech. “You and your mom are in danger. You need to get out of Queens ASAP. Do you understand?”
He called my name.
“Are you still there? Joy…”
Since the time on the call was still running the clock, he made the following seconds count.
“I‒I miss you…and your mom. I know I haven’t been a good father to you. I know it, and I’m sorry. I tried to reach out to you before, but Theo said you freaked out. I shouldn’t have sent a stranger to tell you, but you and your mom are in trouble. You’re in trouble because of me,” he declared slowly, his voice breaking with his admission. “Dearheart, talk to me, please.”
How could I? With so many words and thoughts and feelings reserved exclusively for this man, why couldn’t I pull a single one out of the mangled mess whirling through my brain?
Hearing his voice and that he had actually given me and my mom more than a second thought after surrounding us with terror for so long made my stomach ache.
“I don’t wanna’ talk to you.”
“I know. I know you hate me. I hate myself for all I’ve done. I know it’s hard, but I need you to forget about the past right now and think about your future.”
“You killed my dog. You ransacked our apartment, and you stabbed someone, Dad! Why should I believe anything you say? No. I don’t wanna’ hear your answer. All I want is my dog back. The day you can bring her back to me and undo all that you’ve done, then maybe we can talk about ‘forgetting the past and thinking about the future’!”
I hung up on him and stared at my most recent betrayer for letting his call through. Launching it into the wall would achieve nothing good, despite the temporary release it would afford me. I set it down on the towel rack carefully and finished my shower. My fury scolded my insides while my outside froze from the lack of hot water, in effect encouraging the dinner in my tummy to make a swift return to the light.
His warning chimed in my skull like a meditation bell, the same warning
communicated to us on his behalf not long ago.
What had he gotten himself into? Why would we be in danger because of him when that phone call was the first acknowledgement of our existence in years?
Unable to uncover any answers, I drummed up one of my crazy memories of him from four years ago.
The crossing-guard waddled to the center of the street, holding his sign to stop traffic when I noticed a man staring at me with a package in his hand. In an agitated stride, he made his way to me. His dark, curly hair was full of debris and dead broken leaves‒one of the few indications that it had been many days since he had showered last and slept in a clean environment, his filthy, torn and holey clothes the second. His feet were bare and blackened from walking the streets while his beard had grown-in in patchy, uneven clusters.
Shoving through the students in his path, he rushed to me, a smile plastered on his face, and a wild glint in his eyes‒ a combination of tweaking and mania. I glanced around at the faces of my peers, their repulsion at the sight of him making me sweat with embarrassment. There was no escape for me.
“Oh, Joy, baby!”
He grabbed and hugged me so tightly I could barely breathe, crushing his present between us. When he released me and I inhaled, the stench from his body odor and dirty clothes overwhelmed me. In search of fresh air, I turned away when he dropped the package from his clutches, dug his long, grimy fingernails into my arms, lifted me off the ground, and shook me violently.
“What’s wrong with you? Huh? I come here… I bring you a present, and you act like you don’t even know me. I’M YOUR FATHER!” he shouted inches from my face, complete with a misting of saliva spray.
I didn’t realize I had closed my eyes as a reflex until I opened them and saw a bubble of spit hanging on his bottom lip, the tormented scowl contorting his face forever engraved on my mind.
He shook me again to force a reply, but shock and terror strangled me. The agony radiating through my arms proved a far more distracting issue along with finding a way to end my misery.
The crossing guard did nothing in my defense except usher the smaller children away while the ones my age recorded the incident on their phones. Thankfully, two officers came to my rescue. One of them distracted my dad to get him to release me. The other directed me to distance myself from him before he and his partner tackled him to the ground.
As they forced his hands behind his back to restrain him, his teary eyes darted to mine. He implored me to help him. A massive weight fell from the sky and obliterated my soul. His pleas were always the same throughout even the worst of his delusions‒ I, the powerless child, expected to be his champion in the face of all his fears. The guilt I harbored for failing him plagued me eternally, and yet I shunned him every time.
Taking a step away, I hugged myself and witnessed his expression set into one of contempt while he cursed and spat at me.
“I’ll teach you for letting them take me,” he threatened, charging at me like a wild beast, gnashing his teeth and growling. I jumped back reflexively, cowering before him.
The officers forced him toward their squad car and deposited him inside.
Dad’s gift lay crushed on the ground where he and the officers had wrestled on top of it. It was a rectangular box sloppily wrapped in trashy brown paper with a blue-eyed doll peeking out at me through a vacant stare. I never played with dolls, not even when I was younger. He used to know that.
Glaring at it angrily, I kicked it into the street. One of the officers returned to my side and watched with me as my dad threw a fit in the back seat of the squad car before it drove away.
The wounds he left took two weeks to heal. As if the memory of that day wasn’t more than enough on its own, I had to get tests done to ensure he hadn’t transmitted any diseases or bacteria to me.
My mom spent the remainder of the week trying to make it up to me with treats and special treatment, as if she was the one responsible for his antics. It was the first and only time she put forth real effort to comfort me. No matter what she did to try to make things better, the damage had been done, triggering the worst round of bullying I had ever experienced.
Shaking the memory from my mind, I pondered Dad’s latest schemes. I could tell from the way he spoke that he was fully coherent, although my memory of him being chemically balanced and drug free was almost nonexistent. Perhaps in jail he had found sobriety and medical treatment to keep him stabilized. Then again, perhaps he wasn’t stable after all. What if his notions of danger were proof of that? It wouldn’t have been the first time.
Excerpt from Chapter 3- Shook, Beauty in the Broken, Book 2 from the Bitter Sensations Series will be available on Amazon.com on December 20, 2020.