Copyright © 2017 by K. Larsen
Cover by: Cover Me Darling Editing: Indie Edit Guy Formatting: Integrity Formatting
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Six Months Ago
I saw the headline first. The Tutor Captive Speaks Out For First Time Exclusive!
I admit I was curious. I’d heard the news reports. Seen the reporters trying to get the meek redhead to talk to them last year. I was waiting in line at the grocery store- a task normally done by my assistant- when I picked up the rag and flipped it open to the article. Immediately nostalgia sucker punched me. One of the featured pictures showed the redhead, a young girl and…my brother. I slammed the magazine shut and slapped it on the conveyor belt with my groceries. Fucking Holden.
When I slip into my car, I yank the magazine out and read the article. Held captive. Cuts. Love. Emotional abuse. Scars. Moving on. Single. Raise awareness about abuse and PTSD. Blah blah.
“Dammit,” I mutter. Although I don’t recall an awful lot from my childhood I do remember my mother and her specific brand of abuse and my brother’s. I pull my cell phone from my back pocket and dial my father.
“Liam,” he answers.
“Burn through the money already?” His voice is tight.
I groan. “No. Have you seen the latest edition of,” I flip the magazine over, “People Weekly?”
“Why would I have son? You in it?” His voice grates my nerves. He has two tones of voice, condescending and stern.
“No, but your other son is,” I say. I run a hand through my hair. It’s just long enough to consider scheduling a hair cut. My father would prefer it cropped close to the scalp, but I’ve always kept it longer.
“Excuse me?” He barks into my ear.
“Holden Douglas Lockwood, remember him? He’s featured in the magazine.” I wait for his retort. His slew of curses but only silence greets me. “Dad?”
“I’m here. Come to the house now.”
“Yes, Sir,” I say.
I end the call and toss the magazine on the passenger seat. I start the car while pulling up Carol’s contact to send her a quick text that I won’t need her tonight. She texts me back immediately to let me know she left dinner in the fridge for me.
The drive to my father’s house isn’t long but it gives me too much time to focus on my the short movie clips that play in my mind from my former life. Mountain life. Memories of Holden screaming and my father shouting. Holden coming into our room with blood dripping down his torso as I cowered in the corner. Holden covering my mouth in the middle of the night and drawing thin slices along my scalp. What Ma did to him, he did to me, but less so. And hidden. When I told Dad what was happening he snapped. Without warning, he threw me in his truck and drove us away. He told me to never speak of our cabin. To never speak of Holden or baby Laura or Ma again. Nightmares kept me up most nights until Dad started to beat them out of me of with his belt.
We started fresh four hours south of that damned mountain. He created an empire for us. Sent me to the best schools and now I run the business he started. We have wanted for nothing. I have no idea how Holden or Ma or Laura faired. Except now- I do. I know they are all dead from that damned article.
I pull into Dad’s gated driveway and leave the car running at the front door. His valet takes my keys as I pass by him. I don’t bother knocking on my way inside. Dad sits behind his oak desk. He hand carved it. Sanded it for days. Stained it and had his security detail move the enormous hunk of wood into his office. Two fingers of whiskey reside in a glass to his left.
“Sit,” he says. I do. He does not offer me a drink.
“Show me this article.” I lean forward and toss the magazine on his desk. He flips to the article and reads silently. When he finishes, he grunts and slaps the magazine closed.
“We don’t have anything to worry about. They got his last name wrong.”
“But Dad, what about the cabin? There could be things there that lead back to us. Pictures or, I don’t know?”
“There’s nothing Liam. Holden’s dead. Laura’s dead and your mother is dead. Good riddance. It sounds like Holden took up her ‘art’. He was destined to get caught.”
“That’s all you have to say? Laura and Holden were your children too.”
“I let them go a long time ago and you should have too.”
“Don’t you care at all?”
“No. Your Mother was bat shit crazy. Love made me do stupid things for that woman. Move that damned mountain to commune with nature. Live off grid to aid her art. I gave her enough years. I have nothing left for her-not even curiosity.”
“But Holden, Laura?” I say. “I couldn’t care for an infant on my own and Holden was too far gone by then. I could however, save you. Are you not grateful for that?” Save me. The words sound sincere rolling off his tongue but saving me from Ma and my siblings didn’t spare me his abuse. I cannot say this however.
“Of course I am. I just…”
“Don’t over think it Liam and don’t tell anyone about this article. Understood?”
“Yes Sir,” I answer.
“Good,” he says while lifting his glass to his mouth. I watch the amber liquid slosh back and forth and yearn for a glass of my own. The first time I’ve heard of, or seen my brother since we left was in a magazine for being a psychopath and my father wants to simply sweep it under the rug with no explanation. It baffles me and irritates me simultaneously. I say nothing to my father because is not the kind of man you push.
There are days I wish I’d never been born at all. What is the point? The second we enter the world-we’re dying. No matter how much money you have; you can’t buy another moment when your ticket is up.
Bit by bit.
Year by year.
Joints. Brains. Muscles.
All give up.
They all give in.
Everything we experience is a lead in to death. If the goal of a life well lived is death-what is the point? These are macabre thoughts even for me but my mind wanders as I watch people standing in front of me waiting for their prescriptions. I cross my arms over my chest. I fail at life-at real life. My anxiety starts, the doubts, the pressures and worries that every person on the planet deals with yet somehow, I cannot handle. Nothing changes instantaneously, it is gradual and likewise my anxiety problem arrived. I felt safer when Holden was out there. Alive. Knowing he is dead has jumbled my brain. Anxiety riddles me more now than before. What a queer turn of events but my truth nonetheless. I step up to the counter and give the clerk my name and date of birth. I watch as she rifles through the bags to find mine. There has to be something more than this to life.
I carry the small white RiteAid bag, receipt stapled over the top, and start to wonder how many people will notice and try to figure out what medicine I’m on when they take in the tell-tale prescription bag. It is bizarre really, that I want to shield my purchase from the public-though most people take something these days. I am about to tuck the bag beneath my arm when my right shoelace snaps. I stop and glare at my traitorous foot. I set the RiteAid bag down and kneel. I try to figure out how to fix the lace so my sneaker will stay on. From the corner of my eye I see people staring at me as they pass by. Does it have something to do with the prescription bag? Am I hunched over because I need help? I have a moment of anxiety, unfounded and irrational and think screw my sneaker. Standing, as white hot heat spreads across my chest, I race across the parking lot to the path that cuts through the park. I should have driven.
It takes ten minutes to settle again. To catch my breath and feel at ease. Calm.
Tilting my head to the sky, thick with fluffy white clouds I inhale, hold it, then let it out slowly. The river rushes over stone and clay to my right. The sound is soothing. Vines grow up and around the trees, the leaves fat and wide like elephant ears. White bits of dandelions float in the air. They settle atop pine needles littered across the ground, forming cotton-like batting. It reminds me of the mountain. Of Holden. The river runs wild from the rain recently. It slides over rocks, a ruddy brown color from the clay riverbed. The path forks and I stay left. Sun filters through the canopy of trees that arch over the smooth path along the water. I inhale deeply.
The name plaque is nailed to a tree next to a rock that juts out over the roaring water. The perfect place to sit and just be. I wonder if Daisy ever felt the way I do. If she battled demons. If she went through the push and pull of therapy. Probably not. I bet Daisy was the happiest girl in town. She was probably raised in a house that smelled like blueberry cake with parents who nurtured her and doled out hugs frequently.
I follow the path and remind myself to breathe. I remind myself the world doesn’t revolve around me.
I breathe in another lungful of crisp air and recap my pathetic life silently. About the way I wasted two hours reading a women’s magazine earlier because, apparently, I like to punish myself. I was overwhelmed by all the dieting gimmicks. Juicing, smoothies, pills, calorie cycling. Who has time for that? Who wants to crap red for a week simply because they are on an all beet juice cleanse to lose a measly ten pounds? Instead of learning any useful information, I sat with Burt spread across my lap, stuffing my hand into a bag of salt and vinegar chips wondering why I have an extra ten pounds on me since being home.
Since leaving the cabin.
Since leaving Holden.