Saturday, June 27, 2015


RELEASE DATE: July 7, 2015



I glanced back one final time at the place I’d called home for the past thirty days and wondered if it was such a great idea to be leaving it behind. At least the people inside the building knew I existed. 

While making my way out through the wooden gate onto the sidewalk, I lowered my duffle bag down to the ground and took a seat on the small brick wall beside the white picket fence that surrounded the property.

This day was a new beginning so they kept telling me, but I knew different. It wasn’t a new beginning—not by a long shot. Everything would just go back to the way it was before and, sooner or later, I would be headed back inside that same building I’d only seconds ago walked out from and nothing would have changed. My life would still be stuck on a constant repeat, like in that movie when every day started out just the same as the last. 

I sure as hell wasn’t under any illusions and hadn’t been expecting any miracles to happen. Actually, I was surprised when I heard the low rumbling sound of the engine as he parked the car up by the side of the street. He was later than he said he was going to be, but earlier than he usually was.

It was always the same. 

If he’d told me that he was going to be picking me up from some place at five, he would either arrive an hour after that, or call and tell me that I’d have to make my own way back. If I hadn’t needed somewhere to stay then I wouldn’t have minded him not showing up at all. 

Let me tell you something —there was no worse a feeling than knowing that you never really belonged. That you were never accepted as a part of the family you were born into. That you were the loner. The disappointment. The one he blamed for something that was completely out of your control. 

When I heard him cut the engine, I exhaled a breath and reached down to grab hold of my bag, tossing it over my left shoulder again as I took a hesitant step toward the black BMW. I lifted my gaze as soon as the door clicked open, then felt my brow furrow deeper with my confusion when I saw who had climbed out of the driver’s seat.

“What are you doing here?” I questioned at the same time my jaw clenched together tight. I glanced up and down the street a few times, thinking that there must have been some kind of mistake, but there were no other vehicles in sight. “Where’s my father?” I asked, my voice louder the second time, but he didn’t respond or look my way once as he made his way toward the trunk. Figured. It seemed that I was just as invisible to him as I was to practically everybody else.

I stayed where I was standing on the pavement, watching him with narrowing eyes as he eventually walked over to me, closing the distance between us while reaching out to take hold of my bag. 

“You’re looking well, kid,” he finally acknowledged, retreating back a couple of steps when my grip on the strap noticeably tightened some more. I began to shake my head because it didn’t take a genius to figure out what he was trying to do. He was trying to avoid answering my original question. He couldn’t even look me in the eye, though I guess he didn’t need to. I already knew the answer. 

My father wasn’t coming. 

As he rested his hand firmly on my right shoulder, my gaze fell to the ground. 

It had been eight years. I hadn’t seen my uncle in more than eight years, yet he was the one who’d come to collect me. Him—not my father. 

A couple of minutes of silence passed by before I finally backed down and admitted defeat. I realized that if I didn’t leave with him then I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Taking a step away, I threw my bag inside the trunk, then slammed it closed with pure frustration before striding toward the passenger side door that he was already holding open for me. 

My right shoulder bumped against his left as I pushed by him, slumping myself down in the seat as I reached behind me for the belt. I yanked it hard and wrapped it over my body, keeping my gaze firmly fixed on the windshield ahead of me. 

“This is your final chance, kid,” my uncle said as he leaned in closer, his voice much quieter than it had been out on the sidewalk. 

What he’d said made the corners of my mouth instantly twist up at the sides—so much so that I had to fight back the incredible urge I had to laugh out loud as I brought my attention back on him. 

“That’s funny because I don’t remember ever being given a first one.”

He knew just as well as I did that the words I’d spoken were the truth, and I watched on as an apologetic look briefly crossed inside his eyes. After a moment, he broke our eye contact and took a step away, closing the door back up without another word spoken. 

As I watched him walk around the front of the car, my gaze came to rest on the top middle window of the five story house.

She was there, just like she’d promised she was going to be. Her long blonde hair was half covering her face and she remained sitting in the window seat of my old room, watching me. The sad, tight smile she offered as she began to wave goodbye told me that she’d been sitting there long enough to witness mine and my uncle’s exchange and my lips immediately pulled into a frown.

I didn’t rake my gaze away from her blue eyes once as the car began to move forward, pulling out and away from the only person who’d ever been there for me. Understood me. The only person who had ever truly got me.


The car slowed until it reached a complete standstill, but my eyes remained closed. I’d been sitting like this for most of the ride. The conversation during the drive across town had been unsurprising short and very much one-sided. While my uncle did all the talking, I did all the listening. It pretty much reminded me of what my life was like before.

The only time I’d reacted was when he told me that I would be staying with him and his family for the next three years. It was at that point that I’d had no choice but to laugh hard in his face. Truth be told, I had admired his optimism, yet in reality we both knew that I wouldn’t be able to last that long. It was likely that I wouldn’t be in town for longer than three weeks, let alone years. He knew it. I knew it. Everybody who had ever crossed paths with Ashton Preston Walker knew that he—that I—was destined for nothing but failure.

“Are you ready to come inside?” I heard him ask from the seat beside me, and I reluctantly opened my eyes. There was another long, drawn out silence—almost like he was waiting for me to say something back—but I didn’t. I wasn’t a talker. I never had been. If anything, I was a thinker and admittedly at times, an over thinker. He and the rest of them would learn that about me soon enough. “All right. In your own time, kid.” He added through what sounded like a defeated sigh.

From the corner of my eye I saw him nod the one time before turning away and climbing out onto the sidewalk, leaving me alone in the car; alone and drowning in my own thoughts. Those same thoughts that had consumed my mind for as long as I could remember.

I blew a slow breath out through my mouth and kept my head rested back against the seat, staring out at the bright blue skies ahead of me.

One day, I kept telling myself.

One day he would see me and accept me for who I really was. He would see that he was wrong about me. He would understand that what happened that day wasn’t my fault. 

One day, he would show me that he cared—he would love me like a father’s supposed to love his son.

Someday, I told myself.

Someday, I would be happy to be alive.

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