Tempting BrookeBy: Kristen Proby
My dad is an asshole. He’s yelled and thrown fits my whole life. Whether he tried to scare me, or was just being a massive jerk, doesn’t matter.
He’s a dick.
But last night, he hit me for the first time. Like, full-out hit me because he said I’m a man now, and I can take it.
And I fucking hate him.
I’m meeting Brooke Henderson, my neighbor, at the end of our block, just like we always do on weekdays. We walk to school together every day, and have since we were in grade school.
She’s been my friend forever. She’s small, with long dark hair and big brown eyes, and she might be the one person in this world that I’d do almost anything for.
“Hey,” she says with a big smile as I wait for her on the sidewalk. Her smile is my favorite. It reaches all the way to her eyes and lights up her whole face. “I’m not ready for Mr. Koch’s math test today. I’m just so bad at it.” She loops her arm through mine and offers me a bite of her breakfast burrito, which I happily accept. “Do you have any finals today?”
“Just English.” I pass her burrito back and cringe when we walk down a curb. It makes my ribs sing in agony.
“Are you okay?” she asks, staring up at me with worried brown eyes, and I want to tell her everything. How he screams at both my mom and me for hours. How he used to smack her around, but now he’s decided to move on to me.
But I can’t because I’m afraid she’ll never look at me the same way again, and I couldn’t stand that.
“I’m fine,” I lie. “Just didn’t sleep a lot.”
“I sleep like the dead,” she says. “I slept until noon on Sunday. Noon! That can’t be normal.”
“It’s probably normal.” I don’t think I’ve ever slept until noon. My dad would never permit it.
“We have to hurry.” She picks up the pace, and I want to moan as my ribs cry out from keeping up with her. “I want to get to class early to get some math help.”
“You know I’ll help you whenever you want.”
“Well, come on. I’ll take you up on it.”
* * * *
Three years, and I’m done.
That motherfucker put his hands on me for the last time yesterday. Just before graduation, he pulled me into his bedroom and kicked me in the ribs until I was sure I’d cough up blood. Trying to defend myself only makes it much worse.
As usual, my mom cried, and begged for him to stop, but it didn’t do any good.
I’m eighteen. I have a car, and about a thousand dollars that I hid away over the past two years from my job. I begged Mom to go with me, to leave him and this good-for-nothing town and make a new start.
I don’t want to leave her, but if I stay, I’ll end up killing him, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in jail. I don’t want to live like this anymore.
I need to leave.
This town never did anything good for me. Aside from Brooke, who I don’t even speak to anymore because my life went into the shitter, and I didn’t have the balls to talk to her about it.
Nothing good has come from being in Cunningham Falls.
I throw my one bag of clothes and personal things behind the seat of my Ford truck and speed off, not looking back.
“I stopped at the post office and got the mail,” my sister, Maisey, announces as she marches into my shop and drops a stack of envelopes and catalogues on my table.
“Thanks.” I reach for the envelopes first and thumb through them. “Lots of bills here.”
“Always,” she says with a smirk. “Who knew that being a business owner would be so expensive?”
I stare at her for a moment and then bust out laughing. “We did.”
“Oh yeah.” She sniffs at some pink hydrangea blooms, fussing over them. Maisey and I are less than a year apart, so we’ve always been close. Opening businesses at the same time, and supporting each other through that process, just seemed natural.
An off-white envelope catches my eye, and I pull it out from the rest, immediately opening it.
“Holy shit,” I mutter.
“Hold on.” I skim the letter, and then shake my head. “No. Absolutely not.”