Prologue ©K. Street 2017
I curl up in the middle of my bed, scrunching into a tiny ball. I struggle to make myself as small as possible. I tightly grip the pillow over my ears, hoping it will block out the sound of Mama’s cries. She pleads with my father again and again, but he doesn’t stop. Ugly words spew from his lips. Worthless. Pathetic. Less than nothing. I listen as he repeatedly beats her. I silently will my feet to move…to save her, but I can’t force my limbs to work. I remain still…held in place by unrelenting terror.
With my index finger, I rub across the two-inch diagonal scar on my forehead. The scar is deep, just above my left eyebrow. It serves as a constant reminder of the monster my father is.
I am not sure how long my father has been beating Mama or how long I have been cowering under these covers. My father’s anger keeps growing, his roaring voice carrying through the walls. Wood scrapes loudly across the ceramic floor, followed by the splintering of timber.
“You’re never fucking leaving me!” my father snarls so loudly I hear the words through the barrier covering my ears.
Mama’s constant begging acts like lighter fluid poured on an open flame. Her words make his rage burn hotter. Several sickening, earsplitting cracks are followed by shocking silence. I become dreadfully aware that Mama’s cries have gone mute. For a moment, the only sounds I hear are the very breaths I am breathing and the pounding of my heart.
The stillness is broken by footsteps.
There is no escape.
My door is thrown open with such strength, there is a whoosh of air across the room, the force of it causing the door to bounce off the wall with a bang.
“Ryann. Oh, Ryann,” he singsongs in a horrifying tone.
My covers are stripped away, and he glares at me through crazy eyes. Digging his bloodied callous fingers into my arms, he yanks me from my bed. His shirt is blanketed in red.
I listened to him beat her, and I didn’t try to stop him. I didn’t protect her from his wrath. I’m a coward, and the guilt settles in the pit of my stomach like a boulder.
He twists his fingers in my hair, jerking me toward my bedroom door. My legs are jelly, dropping from beneath me, but it doesn’t stop him. I can feel my hair being ripped from my scalp as he forces me down the stairs and into the kitchen. I tightly squeeze my eyes shut, not wanting to look.
I hate him.
He presses his lips to my ear, and the stench of his beer breath fills my nostrils.
“Look at her, Ryann! Look. At. Her.” His voice is harsh, but his grip has relaxed.
I open my eyes and stare up at him. “No, Daddy…please…no,” I cry. I haven’t called him Daddy in years, but still, it doesn’t work.
His hand tightens in the tangles of my hair. “Look at her. Look. At. What. Your. Mother. Made. Me. Do.”
I swallow down the vomit rising in my throat. Slowly turning my head, I obey my father’s command.
Mama’s motionless, battered body lies on the floor, surrounded in a pool of her own blood. She has been beaten so severely that, if it wasn’t for the loose crimson curls that match my own, I wouldn’t recognize her. Splintered bits of wood litter the ever-growing dark puddle encircling her. Part of her skull has been bashed in, exposing bits of her brain.
I can’t hold back the contents of my stomach any longer. I puke until nothing is left and a sheen of cold sweat covers my skin. When my father deems I have taken in enough of the gruesome sight of Mama, and the memory is burned into the deepest part of my mind, then, and only then, does he make his next move.
He hauls me out the front of our two-story brick house and shoves me into the passenger seat of his old Buick. Out of habit, I immediately buckle my seat belt. The driver’s door groans in protest as my father climbs in the car and fastens his seat belt before slamming the car into reverse. The neighbor’s porch light glows like a beacon of hope through the darkness, and sirens wail somewhere in the distance. My father tears out of the driveway, accelerating down the two-lane rural street. The roadway is still wet from the storm earlier this evening, which causes the car to skid, but my father isn’t fazed. He continues to increase his speed, mashing the gas pedal against the floorboard.
We’re going too fast around the curve in the road.
Suddenly, the car is spinning out of control.
I see the tree. But he must see it two seconds too late.
My eyes squeeze shut in an attempt to brace myself for the impact. My ears are not only filled with the crunch of metal, but also the shattering of glass. Something is wrong with the car horn because it never stops blaring. Fear and pain course through me as I open my eyes.
My father’s body is slumped toward me, straining against his seat belt.
There is blood.
So much blood.
The metallic stench of it is thick in the air.
My father’s gaze is fixed on me, as if in surprise. His mouth gapes open while blood trickles from his nose to his lips. He reminds me of a clown. And I hate clowns.
My right arm sears with pain, and my head hurts. We are both covered in tiny bits of broken glass. It shimmers like glittery sand under the moonlight.
Shakily, I stretch my left hand out, and my fingers hover for a second before I flatten them over my father’s heart. I feel nothing.
The pain in my head grows by the minute. Maybe I am dead, too. But that doesn’t make sense because dead people don’t feel pain.
I’m alive, and Vanessa and Jimmy Sinclair are dead.
My parents are dead, and I’m an orphan.
I’m eleven years old, and I’m an orphan.
It’s my last thought before the blackness swallows me.
***If you’d like to read the book you can purchase it here http://amzn.to/2nZH8CM