Debt

By: Nina G. Jones

14 Years Earlier

The Smashing Pumpkins – To Forgive

Pressure. Unrelenting pressure. That is the first sensation I am aware of as I regain consciousness. My head feels like it might explode. As I try to open my eyes the fluorescent light sears my pupils. I pinch them shut again so they can adjust.

I try and lift my arm to shield my eyes from the glare, and that’s when I feel the throbbing. Like some sort of domino effect, everything else begins to hurt. My entire body aches.

“Sil? Sil? You up?” It’s my father’s voice. Shit.

I open my mouth to respond, but choke on the dryness in my throat.

“Hold on. Have some water,” he says kindly. Shit must be really bad if he’s being nice.

I feel a straw poke at my lips and I suck. The lukewarm water coating my mouth might be the best thing I have ever tasted.

Through blurry eyes, I look at him, trying to recall what got me here, and then I remember: the letter, the forest, and Jude...Jude!

“Where’s Jude?” I ask, panicked. I try to sit up but collapse, wincing.

“Calm down, Silvio,” he says sternly. My eyes focus on his swollen cheek and the stitches under his left eye. “She’s fine. Now just keep your mouth shut for a second and listen.” I knew he couldn’t keep up the sympathetic act for long.

I fall back onto the pillow, exhausted and woozy from the sedation.

“Do you remember what happened?”

I hesitate. I have never felt like he has had my best interests in mind, and even here, lying in a hospital bed, I still don’t.

“Yeah. Well, most of it.”

“Well, now you don’t.”

“What?” I ask, trying to focus my cloudy thoughts. “What are you talking about?”

“Don’t fucking question me.”

This doesn’t make any sense. Yeah, he’s a piece of shit, but why wouldn’t he care? We’re still his kids.

“I don’t understand—“

He grips my throat and squeezes forcefully. “You don’t remember a fucking thing, you little shit,” he hisses. “Neither does Jude. Case closed. After what you pulled the other night, you’re lucky I don’t kill you myself. Some things just need to be forgotten.”

When he lets go, I cough and gasp for air. With every inhale and exhale it feels like a bat is being taken to my ribcage. I must have some broken ribs. And then I realize it: Tripp’s father must have paid mine off to cover up what happened.

“Did they pay you?”

“That’s none of your goddamn business. It’s about time I got paid. Having to raise you and your sister ain’t cheap.”

This fucking town. This piece of shit town and everyone in it. I swear I’ll burn it to the ground one day.

“Now, I’m going to tell Sheriff Tibbett you’re up. And he’s gonna to ask you what happened. You’re going to say you don’t remember. And we are all gonna move on. And if you don’t, you are gonna have more broken bones than you do already. And your sister, everyone will know what happened to her. She’ll be damaged goods. Understand?”





“Any plans this weekend?” Laney asks from the adjacent cubicle.

“Uhhh, not really. I might catch up with a friend. Other than that, I think I’ll loaf. How about you?”

“Well...Luke is taking me out to a fancy restaurant on Saturday,” she says, popping her head over the wall. “I don’t know, I have a feeling...this is it!”

I pull off my headphones, which are supposed to be a universal signal that I don’t want to chat, but she’s got my attention. “You mean, you think he’s going to propose?”

“Yup!” She says gleefully.

“Well that’s great!” I say. I really mean that, but there’s a little knot that forms in my stomach. Laney is sweet, don’t get me wrong, but she’s one of those girls whose life revolves around the end game of marriage. It’s always, Luke this and Luke that. A year and a half ago, it was Matt this and Matt that until they broke up. And if I get too deep into this chat with her, it’ll turn around to me, and she’ll start asking if I am seeing anyone, and then she’ll try to set me up. Laney seems to be absolutely terrified that I will be alone. Me, I am okay with that. Well, maybe not okay, but I am tired of defending my quiet love life to her. “Good luck!” I say, telegraphing my hands to my earphones so that she sees I am ending the conversation.

“Tonight though...” damn, she’s pulling me in, “me and Luke are going to hang out with some of his old college friends. And guess what? A few of them are siiiiiingle!”

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