By: Ginger Scott

Prologue: I Just Got to Know You…

People are thoughtless. Half of the stupid rituals they do are just by rote—rehearsed feigned attempts at human kindness done with their own best interests in mind.

They show up to weddings to make sure they get credit for being there with the boss or with the rich-ass relative—or perhaps for the time when they invite the bride to their wedding. They donate their clothes to the needy just to write them off on their taxes. They write the big fat check just so they can see their name embossed in gold on the ornate charity gala program. And they volunteer at the soup kitchen so they can talk about how they really understand the poor, like they have any clue what it feels like to not be able to feed your family.

My house is filled with thoughtless people.

They won’t talk to me, but I can sense their fake sympathy by the half-smiles they shoot my way from across the living room. They hug me, even though my arms stay limp, dangling at my sides. Grown men and women—who I don’t even know—wipe tears from their own eyes and offer me tissues, expecting me to mirror their expressions. I don’t. I just stare them in the face, and recite my own rehearsed and feigned attempt at human kindness.

“Thank you for coming,” I say. “It would mean a lot to him to know you came.”

I say these words even though it wouldn’t. My father, Mac Hudson, didn’t like people. He didn’t trust them, and for good reason. Most of the humans he dealt with were the lowest form—drug dealers, gun smugglers, thieves, gang leaders—if I pulled together a slideshow of the people in my father’s life over the last 20 years, it would be filled with colorful characters, most of them doing hard time at the federal prison thanks to their connection with Mac Hudson.

I was seven years old the first time I met my father. He didn’t really know I existed until then. Mom was a bit of a mess. Sabrina Ferris was bipolar, and when life was good, she liked to supplement it with a lot of meth. Problem was, her lows were just the opposite. I don’t remember much, just the constant scratching at her skin and pulling at her hair. She had these tics, where her entire body would jerk. I’m sure it wasn’t always that way—I know now her addiction ruined her mind and body. But as a small child, that was all I knew—all I ever saw.

It was normal.

She was never cruel or physically abusive, quite the opposite, actually. When she was on a high, she’d spend thousands of dollars buying me toys and candy, and anything else I wanted. Of course, she charged it all to credit cards and built mountains of debt, or committed identity theft. But I didn’t know about all that; I just enjoyed my toys, and played until midnight, my mom often encouraging me to stay up until morning.

When she crashed, she would just disappear for days, either locking herself in her room, or leaving me with the neighbor while she ran away…somewhere. Those times left less of an impression. They were filled with emptiness. And my new toys didn’t feel the same when mom wasn’t there. Instead, they felt dirty.

The day she pulled up in front of Mac Hudson’s house was one of her lowest. I can close my eyes and still see the sores on her arms and face. I hid behind her leg, clinging to the bottom of her T-shirt with both hands. Mac opened the door. I remember them talking, she told him I was his daughter, and they argued. Then I remember watching her run from the porch, sprinting to her car, and tossing my small backpack of clothing from her window while she sped away.

Mac and I sat on that porch, several feet apart, while I cried for hours. He had no clue what to do with a seven-year-old girl, let alone one who had just experienced her first broken heart. When he finally stood up, he asked me if I wanted to come inside for a sandwich. I was alone in the world, so I did. And somewhere along the way, while I sat at the banged-up oak table in the middle of Mac’s kitchen, I stopped crying. And I never cried another tear for Sabrina Ferris.

Life with Mac went on much like this for years. He fumbled his way through parenting, often calling on friends to watch me while he went to work. I knew most of the beat cops in Louisville by the time I was ten; they’d all taken turns babysitting me. When I got my period, Mac called on his partner, Missy, to teach me about tampons and take me shopping for pads and panty liners.

By the time I started high school, Mac had become a detective, which meant his time at home was even less. We were more acquaintances than we were father and daughter. I did most of the grocery shopping, calling him once a week just to find out what he wanted me to put in the fridge. I ate my dinners at the table alone, then I would sit up in my room to finish my homework, until I heard Mac’s keys slide across the counter letting me know he was home. I’d pop my head out to say goodnight, and he’d promise not to make too much noise with the TV.

I was in the art club, and we sometimes had gallery shows. Mac usually sent one of his colleagues while he was busy working a case. I can picture every face belonging to a badge sitting in the front row for one of my orchestra performances. I wasn’t on a sports team that really called for fans—I golfed—so I usually played my tournaments and just let Mac know how I did the next morning. He’d usually nod, and say something gruff, or simple, like “Good job.”

Looking back, I suppose I missed out on a lot of father-daughter bonding. But I didn’t know that at the time. It was just life, the life I knew. And I existed, happily.

But things changed when I turned 17. I had a boyfriend, my first, really. My few friends at school all had boyfriends, and I wanted one too. His name was Wes. I didn’t really go on dates with him—honestly the thought of asking Mac if I could, of acknowledging to Mac any interest I had in boys, made my stomach sink. Wes would drive me home after school and make out with me in his car or in the halls after classes let out. I loved him. Or whatever-I-thought-love-was-ed him. Wes was cute and popular, and he made me feel beautiful. I liked the attention I got when I kissed him at school, the jealous stares from other girls. I liked the way my insides felt when he held my hand. And I liked kissing him. I liked kissing him a lot.

Until I didn’t.

The afternoon after it happened, I was propped up on my elbows, scribbling on my math worksheet, and wincing from the pain on my right cheek. My door was shut, my lamp was on, and I was powering through. It was just like a fight with my girlfriends when I was little. I worked through things on my own, here in my room, and then eventually we were friends again. I figured I’d just wait, and eventually I’d be Wes’s girlfriend again—or I wouldn’t. I was okay either way.