Month: September 2015

In Your Keeping – Chapter One


  1. Chapter One – The Danger Zone

Scene One

Alex Parker was sitting at the top of the world.

Or at that’s what it looked like.

She leaned forward in her black leather chair, pressing her forehead against the cold glass window, her gaze falling far down amongst the busy streets of New York City. It seemed like millions of specks of people roamed past her building day in and day out, and she sat atop of them, forced to take a back seat to that kind of life.

Not that she didn’t love her own life. At twenty six years old and a top graduate at Bolelyn University, Lex was now a three-time best-selling author; her latest book entitled The Long Road Home was currently rising the charts of New York’s Best Seller List. She lived in a gorgeous high rise in the middle of Manhattan that presented her the most amazing view of the city. Her job as Assistant Editor to the one and only Victor Archibald was a complete dream. She had an incredible circle of friends that still included Meg Smythe and Jackson Friar. Not to mention, that Clark Lavery, the boy she’d grown up beside her whole life, had in the middle of a very expensive restaurant dropped to one knee the very night before last and informed her that she’d make him the happiest man alive if she agreed to marry him.

Yes, Alex Parker was living the life shed only ever imagined it to be.

She only wished that…..

There was no use in wishing, she realized. Life was wonderful, perfect, everything she’d ever wanted was at the tips of her fingers, and old self-doubt and panic would not deter her from achieving what she was meant to.

The phone sitting against the top of her mahogany desk buzzed vibrantly, causing her to jump back slightly. She rolled away from the window, back to her desk and the work she could no longer put off with a daydream. She picked up her favorite blue point pen as with the other hand she quickly picked up the receiver and cradled it to her ear.

Her voice sounded foreign as it escaped her lips, “Alexandra Parker.”

“Alex, darling?”

Immediately recognizing the voice, she instinctively straightened in her seat as though her boss was watching from afar, “Yes, Mr. Archibald?”

“Is that new manuscript ready for me to see … and all too possibly destroy?”

Alex chuckled lightly, jotting down a separate note for herself, “On your desk as we speak. Ready for destruction.”

“What would I do without you?”

She hesitated, the weight of the words taking effect, “Oh. I’m sure you’d manage just fine, Mr. Archibald. But let’s not put that theory to test.”

“Get back to work. You got another novel to make money off of.”

A warm smile graced her lips, “From your lips.”

“Goodbye.”

She silently hung up the phone, placing it back on its receiver. She sighed heavily, placing her palms flat against her desk, feeling the breath deep within the pit of her stomach. Days like this she wished for a break, just a moment that she could sit back and enjoy the view instead of living out the hustle and bustle of the city life.

But she had chosen this.

Just a small town girl from McKinley. A motherless daughter and deadbeat father. A broken-hearted girl. She’d left that whole life behind when she went to Paris her sophomore year summer at Bolelyn; she mapped out her life then. She spent nearly six weeks there, finding herself in that solitude. And when she came back, she didn’t come home. She delved into her school work at Bolelyn, finishing her bachelors in nearly a year in a half. After that, she’d casually informed her elder sister Ruthie that she was leaving Boston and heading out to New York City. She’d found a small little studio in the basement of some apartment building in not the safest part of the Big Apple. She took on small jobs as a waitress and hostess, gathering up her money. In the late hours of the night, when insomnia had hit her, she’d write. The story of a young girl named Pamela Darling who’d lost her mother young and tragically and escaped to the city of Paris to find herself. She spent a year working on that book and then all too proudly stormed into the Archibald Editing Firm and slammed her manuscript on Mr. Archibald’s desk and demanded that he give her a chance.

She walked out of that office with a career and she’d never looked back.

“Ma’am?”

Alex peered up from her desk to meet the eyes of her new, very young secretary. Reginald Adams was a sweet boy, with a lot to learn. He wore thick rimmed glasses that stood out against his caramel complexion. He’d started less than two weeks ago and he’d managed to nearly botch every single task Alex had given him. But he had such incredible heart, an inexplicable love for literature, that Alex couldn’t turn him away.

Her eyes softened as he stepped toward her desk, “Reggie. How many times have I told you? Please call me Alex.”

He nodded, his hands visibly shaking as he extended a pile of folders to her, “Yes, maam. Coffee?”

She smiled genuinely, retrieving the folders from his hands, “Black.”

He backed out of the room slowly, glancing up only once, “Oh. Line one for you.”

“Who is it?”

He hesitated, his eyes faltering in shame, “I, I forgot to ask their name.”

She bit back her response, waving him off, “That’s fine, Reggie. Just.” He faded out of the room as quickly as he appeared, leaving Alex nearly slamming her head against the desk. She so often wondered how she got herself into the predicaments she always did.

She scooped up the phone again, nearly sighing out her name, “Alexandra Parker.”

Dead silence on the other end.

She pressed the phone closer to her ear, “Hello?”

Miss Park’r.

The man’s southern drawl sounded eerily familiar, sending an odd chill down her spine, “Yes, can I help you?”

Well, I jus’ happ’n to be your biggest fan.

Alex dropped the other work she was trying to accomplish and focused solely on the call, turning her chair back around to the view, “Is that so?”

Why, yes. I do so love the way you write.

Alex nodded into the phone, “Thank you. I, uh, greatly appreciate all my fans and their, uh, dedication. I can send you an autograph copy of one of my books if you’d like.”

Well, if you don’t mind the intrusion, Miss Park’r, I was thinkin’ somethin’ of a more personal nature.

She swallowed hard, her eyes moving slowly back over the crowd below her, “I have umm… some book signings coming up that you’d be more than welcome to attend.”

I’d much prefer one-on-one interaction.

Alex opened her lips to speak, but no words came out. She felt like she was choking on her own air, unable to find steady breath or the will to say anything. The man on the other end of the phone must have sensed Alex’s hesitation as she swore she felt his smug smile pressing against the receiver.

Are you flustered, Miss Park’r? Just how far does that blush go? Page 27. Line 24. Pamela Darling blushes all the way to her collar bone. I wonder, do you?

Without thinking, she shakily slammed the phone down, realizing that as beautiful as the view was from the top, the fall from it was a long, long way down.

Scene Two

Clark Lavery positively hated New York City.

He hated the swarms of people pushing in and out of buildings and taxis, making no real connections with the others around them. He hated the incredible amounts of traffic and cars that felt like they were going around in circles instead of ever really getting anywhere. He hated that not a single soul stopped to observe the view and the beauty, too busy and too self-absorbed to see anything outside of themselves. He hated the noise and the smells and the food and garbage truck at 4 a.m. and the construction and littering and everything.

He just happened, though, to love one Alex Parker more than all of that. He loved her since they were kids. Her heart was always wrapped up in another, but he knew eventually, down the long road, she’d always find a way back to him. And though he had feared he’d completely lost her for a time during their formidable high school and college years, he let his faith in their love steer his course.

In fact, loving her was the he only reason he stayed in this godforsaken hellhole, he’d decided. He stumbled into the luxury suite that he lived in with Alex, exhausted from a long hard’s day work of following around a second-class director on the set of a movie about killer vampires invading the big city.

He’d managed to plaster on an all too fake smile as he saw Alex resting comfortably on their luscious coffee-colored sofa.

Distracted out of her thoughts with the opening of the door, Alex similarly forced herself to smile as he approached her, “Hey.”

When he was close enough, he leaned down over the sofa, placing a chaste kiss against the corner of her mouth, “Hello to you.”

“How was work?”

He flopped down onto the couch beside her, tire wearing in, “Oh, it pretty much sucked, but that is the nature of the beast. Thank the Good Lord its only temporary.”

Deciding then and there to not tell Clark about the phone call earlier today, she focused solely on him and his news, allowing her eyes to light up, straightening herself further up on the couch, “You found something?”

A playful glint gleamed in his eyes, as he spoke all too matter-of-fact, “Well, Chase did call me.”

Alex dropped the magazine from her lap, “Chase? Chase Howard?”

An impeccable smile graced his lips suddenly, as he turned instantly into a fifteen year old boy again about to tell his very best friend about his dream job. He leaned in forward, talking nearly too fast for her to understand, “The one and only. He personally called me on Monday morning to inform me that he needs an assistant on his new coming-of-age teen flick. He sent me the script and I’ve been reading it for the past three days on the edge of my seat. It’s so perfect for me, Alex.”

A look of confusion passed over her eyes, “You’ve been reading it for three days? Clark, why didn’t you tell me about this?”

He threw his arm over the back of the sofa as she tucked one leg under her, facing him directly. He squirmed in his seat as his eyes somehow couldn’t meet hers, “Well, I wanted to …”

“But?”

“But I know how you feel about California.”

Her jaw nearly hit the ground, “California?”

He turned back to her then, seeing how conflicted she suddenly was. He reached out, grabbing her hand in his, gently rubbing his thumb over the back of her hand, “Chase is filming in L.A. And I know we’ve discussed this, and you know that L.A. …. It’s still it for me. It’s where I want to be.”

She nodded, her eyes stuck on their joined hands, “Then, you also know that it’s not where I want to be.”

There comes the point in any relationship where the couple has to decide to push through the obstacles and hard times not knowing where it may lead or walk away to spare themselves the pain and anguish of quite possibly the inevitable.

This seemed to be the exact point that they were stuck at.

Unfortunately though, Alex knew Clark well enough to know that he would never accept either outcome. He was a dreamer, a big thinker; he hadn’t changed a wink in ten years. He continually thought their love could conquer all, overcome whatever was thrown their way; he believed in a fairy tale kind of love that Alex had given up on a long time ago. She told him that she feared they were drifting in different directions and the following week hed asked her to marry him. He didn’t see problems or difficulties; he tended to reject reality as a whole while keeping that flair from the dramatic going strong.

Her instinctual reaction told her to say goodbye to him. That despite the fact that a part of her would forever love him, her better judgment knew that they couldn’t make this work.

She looked at him, deep within his darkening eyes, challenging him to see the same, “So where do we go from there? Cause I don’t have any answers, Clark. I don’t know. This thing between us is still really new and I don’t want to push it. I just.”

She paused; he interjected.

“I would want you to come with me.”

And there he went again, good ol’ Clark Lavery rejecting reality, forging through with the fantasy.

She felt her insides twist, a nervous twitch shaking her hands in a ridiculous manner. Though she’d worked a poker face quiet well, she couldn’t hide the magnitude of what he was asking.

She spoke slowly, almost purposefully, as if she was trying to still wrap her mind around the whole thing, “You want me to move to Los Angeles? Permanently?”

He nodded without thought, “That’s the plan.”

The plan. It didn’t feel like a part of her plan. It certainly wasn’t in the plan she mapped out for herself five years ago. It was his plan. And his plan for them.

She hadn’t made a plan for them.

“That’s a huge step, Clark.”

“It feels like the next step to me.”

Suddenly, she was standing to her feet, needing distance and space, unable to catch an even breath. She tried to rationalize it all in my mind, making sense of the senseless it seemed. She spoke in a quick manner, trying to reason how to reason with herself. “My entire life is here. In New York. I took me a really long time to get here and I’m happy with the life and the career I’ve built for myself. I can’t just pick up and move across country to follow you and your dream. What about my dream? It’s here. I..”

He quickly interrupted, “What? You can’t write a book in a different state?”

She stood still in front of him, his eyes squinted and clouded with an emotion she couldn’t pinpoint.

He moved further off the couch, his head tilted back to look her directly in the eye. She was suddenly taken back at how familiar it all seemed; how nearly two nights ago he’d proposed on that knee, her hand in his, looking at her like he did now.

She still hadn’t given him an answer.

He glanced down, grasping her hand in his yet again. Then, he slowly lifted his gaze back to meet hers, “Just think it over. Please.”

She sighed, seeing before her the man she was planning her future with and the least she owed him was to think it over. So, she only nodded at his request, and pondered if she was okay with the fact that path she’d so carefully planned for her life was on a detour to the West Coast.

Scene Three

She hadn’t slept a wink for the past three nights.

It could have had something to do with the new manuscript Victor was asking her to work on that she positively loathed, or the complete writers block she was facing in the middle of the book she was trying herself to work on, or that one Miss Megan Smythe had not answered a single one of her phone calls in the past week, or how her grasp on life had suddenly slipped from hand.

But, no.

Clark Lavery was the sole reason. For he thought it was perfectly normal to keep her up till odd hours in the morning pressing this new California matter too hard and too deep for her liking. He kept trying to convince her that this was the right move for them, and the more he tried, the less she wanted to listen.

The pressure was far too great to handle and that precious plan shed held onto so dearly felt suddenly impossible. She wondered if she could have the future she wanted and have her future with Clark. Because interestingly and scary enough, those two concepts weren’t synonymous.

Reggie appeared out of the corner of her eye, placing a cup of light-colored coffee on her desk, “Morning, Ma’am.”

Reggie!

He winced, as almost in physical pain as she shouted his name. Dropping a few pieces of white paper on her desk, he lowered his head like a puppy getting hollered out for chewing on his owner’s shoe, “Sorry. Here’s your mail and your messages.”

And without another word, he turned on his heel and practically sprinted from the room. Alex felt like the biggest bully ever, nearly making her assistant cry for his politeness. She was merely on edge and she couldn’t bring her personal problems into her business. She needed to draw the line between the two.

She heard a phone ring, a distant ring though. Peering outside her open office door, she recognized it to be her assistant’s phone ringing. It continued to vibrate, wearing thin on Alex’s patience, “Reggie? Can you answer that?”

When silence responded, Alex aggravatingly stood from her seat, straightening her plush red blouse against her stomach, and stormed out of her office door, preparing to see what on earth was taking so long for him to answer.

“Reggie?”

The poor boy was nowhere in sight. And the phone continued to ring. She picked it up in a frenzy, wondering how shed become her own secretary, “Alexandra Parker’s office.”

We speak again.

Ignoring the ridiculously large vase of white roses that sat atop his desk while still gazing out into the adjacent hallway to find a missing Reggie, she hardly heard the voice of the man who spoke, “I’m sorry?”

You haven’t forgotten about your biggest fan now, have you, Miss Park’r?

The way her named rolled off his tongue sent a chill down her spine; the familiarity of his voice startled her speechless.

I do apologize for my candor the other day. I just admire you so greatly.

She searched for Reggie now in a blind panic, anyone at this point. She so badly wanted to scream and somehow had lost the ability to use her voice. Her eyes darted around the room, her knuckles turning white as she gripped onto the receiver of the phone.

I do hope you like white roses. Candice Halburn, page 164, thought they were the perfect symbol of graciousness.

Too large to ignore now, the white roses before her invaded her senses.

Have I frightened you, Miss Parker?

Her voice was a mere child’s whisper, “You broke into my office?”

I merely wanted to revel in the same space as your greatness. And my dear, Miss Parker, you are gorgeous. Pictures do not do you justice. And red is definitely your color.

As she felt her knees give out from under her, the phone slipped from her grasp and crashed against the newly tiled floor, echoing down the long corridor.

Scene Four

“Jesus Christ, Alex.”

With a beer in hand, Detective Dexter Monroe charged toward his door, hearing the sounds of a very frustrated Alex Parker slamming her fists against it. Pulling the door open in a frenzy, he hardly had a moment to step out of the way as she stormed past him without a word, carrying a rather large bouquet of flowers, and square into the middle of his nearly empty living room.

She was breathing heavy, her chest rising and falling with each shallow breath, her gorgeous face stained red with flush and worry. She casually dropped the roses against his chestnut countertop along with a stack of small envelopes, turning back around to face him.

“He broke into my office, Dex. The flowers, the letters, the phone calls. And now, he’s obviously been watching me.”

Slamming the door behind him, he sighed as he began to move toward her, “Are you satisfied now, Alex? This isn’t just some prank, I’ve told you that before. And we’ve kept this quiet long enough. We have to get the department involved now. It’s the only way to stop this freak.”

She shook her head emphatically, tucking her hair behind her ears, “No. No, if this gets out, I’ll have to cancel all my book signings, the novel will tank. I can’t. I just….he knows where I work, what I look like. The police can’t help me.”

He stood before her now, his dark brown eyes pleading with her, “I can’t do this alone. Okay? The guys at the station are my friends. I can explain the situation. They can help me survey the area, trace your calls, maybe they’ll even place a guard on you. We’ll find the best private investigator out there. Somebody who can find this guy. Privately, if that’s what you need. But this has gotta stop. You can’t live like this.”

Her sad eyes lifted to his, recognizing the fear deep within them. She’d met Dexter Monroe over three years ago. He’d kindly pulled her over for a speeding ticket and shed managed to land a date instead. He was sweet, and funny, not to mention devilishly handsome. His charm was too hard to deny, the chemistry so obviously there. But in her Alex Parker fashion, she broke up with him six months into the relationship, telling him that they were moving way too fast, and that she wanted to focus on her career. He’d only looked back at her kindly and told her that she’d be worth the wait. Over the next year, she encouraged him to start dating again, afraid that sh’ed hold him back, and Clark had then swooped back into her life. They’d remained close friends somehow, and she so often turned to him when life was too much to handle. Sometimes she worried that he might still hope for more, but she’d convinced herself that friends was all they’d ever been meant to be.

“I’m really lucky to have you someone like you as a friend, aren’t I?”

He reached out, unhooking the hair from behind her ear, loving the way it feathered over her cheekbones, “You most certainly are.”

She tore her eyes away, backing away from his touch as though it burned her skin, “So, what do I do now?”

Pushing back whatever he felt in the pit of his stomach and heart around her, he placed his hands flat against his bar, “Well, first, Ill call down station as see if we can get you your own private investigator. And since I can’t be with you 24/7, though you know I’d love to, Ill have to get you a permanent guard.”

She nearly collapsed into his leather sofa, “That’s good. I just….the less people that know, the better. Okay?”

He ran a hand over his stubbled chin, pausing briefly, “You’re gonna have to tell Clark, Alex.”

Throwing her hand back against the cushions, she shut her eyes tightly, “I know. But he has no idea, Dex. I never told him about this guy. He’s gonna hate that I didn’t tell him. God. He’s just been so excited about this new movie and this…this’ll distract him, and hell be so worried about me. And….”

Suddenly, he was at her side, his hand gently pressing against her knee, “If he loves you as much as you say he does, he wont have a problem putting away his pride to keep you safe.”

She lifted her eyes to his, “You think so?”

He only met her gaze with an all too familiar look, “Trust me. I know so.”

Scene Five

Luke Walker was completely and utterly hungover. He’d spent much of last night, and early this morning as well, dancing and drinking in some local town bar with a bunch of buddies and a few quite attractive girls who had all the right moves and assets. He didn’t have to play his cards to hard to win the hand.

But now, he sat his at desk, hand slumped against it, trying to convince the room to not spin quite so fast for him, his tongue feeling like it had swelled to three times its normal size. He hadn’t combed his mop of curls, or shaven the scruff on his chin, or ironed the uniform he wore. His wrongly-and-half-buttoned shirt hung half out of his pants and half exposing his chest, his eyes were red with tire and alcohol consumption.

And all of this was the perfect opportunity for Erick Bronson to take complete advantage.

He tip-toed next to his buddy, leaning down ever so quietly, before using every bit of air in his breath to blow into the whistle lingering between his lips, directly into Luke’s ear.

At the loud shrill of the whistle, Luke jumped in his seat, and was so off his game that he leaned back against his chair, covering his ear in pain, and falling directly over the arm rest onto the floor underneath his desk.

Bronson laughed all-too-hysterically, his sides pinching and hurting him. He slammed his hand against the top of Luke’s desk, leaning his weight against it, “God, ya look like hell, Walker.”

Luke smashed his face against the cold concrete floor, finding that only then did the room stop spinning and his ear stop ringing, “When I’m in my full capacity, Bronson, beware the ass-kicking off a lifetime.”

Bronson bravely smiled down at him, “Aren’t ya an angry little thing this morning? Didja have a long night? What was her name, huh? Or did you even bother to ask?”

“What the hell are you doing on the floor, Luke?!”

As the Captain made his presence known, Bronson only scoffed underneath his breath as he scooped the daily newspaper off the top of the desk, and reported back to his desk.

Luke rolled over onto his back, staring up at the drop ceiling and a pair of angry eyes, “Morning, Cap.”

Decked out in an impeccable navy blue uniform, the Captain held a large cup of coffee in one hand, a newspaper tucked underneath his arm, and a stern look across his face, “Would you like to step in my office, Officer Walker? Or crawl if necessary?”

Luke nodded, as he slowly stumbled to his feet, pausing slightly once on them as the room once again began to turn. The Captain was already seated, with hands folded atop his desk, by the time Luke bumped against the doorframe, knocking down one of the many golden plaques resting on the azure walls.

“Close the door behind you, Luke.”

Luke did just that, his demeanor slightly lifting as he begrudgingly flopped into the seat at the opposite end of the desk, “Isn’t it kinda early to be getting into trouble already, Pauly?”

Captain Paul Walker merely smirked as he looked back at his brother, “Actually, Luke, this is some good news.”

Luke couldnt hide the shock in his voice, “For me? Really? Spill it, big brother.”

Paul leaned forward in his chair, enjoying this far too much he realized, “I got a call early this morning from a Detective down in New York City and I think I may have found a case that’s absolutely perfect for you.”

END OF CHAPTER ONE

 

The Aftermath ~ 1/1

The Aftermath

1/1

The light had never felt so bright as it did the morning after she’d left.

Denise stood quietly outside the door of her apartment, key clenched in her palm for over fifteen minutes now, continually weighing the options on whether to face reality or live in denial. Denial had been working perfectly for her in the past few months, but perhaps she could also admit that it had led to the shambles her life was in now. While reality was a scary, unknown place to delve into, Denise Williams exhaled once deeply before placing the key into her door, turning the knob, and entering the rest of her life.

Part of her wanted to find Eddie sprawled out on the couch with Kim in his arms, stoned and breathless from lovemaking with another woman. She wanted to see the worst of him, the bottom of the barrel…..For she knew it was the only way that she could convince herself to run as fast and as far as she could from this life.

And what she found was everything she wanted and nothing at all.

The man who had once taught her to love was sprawled out on the couch. Pills were scattered on the floor. His mistress was nowhere in sight, but she wouldn’t have noticed anyway. Her eyes were glued to the shell of the man she saw. He was at rock bottom. Disheveled, broken, sad. It was the saddest she ever saw him.

He wore the same clothes she had left him in the night before, only now they were wrinkled and torn. He sat crouched over, his elbows resting hard against his upper thighs. His eyes were bloodshot and weary, his face tearstained and puffy. His left hand, that still held their shining symbol of honor, sat underneath his chin, holding up his head which begged to fall. In the other hand, he held a portrait.

It was a snapshot in time of the happy Williams family. A rather candid shot actually of lil Teddy making snow angels as Eddie held onto Denise in the far corner, laughing, still, happy.

It was a little moment……and what should have been every day.

And at his feet, next to a puddle of tears and pills, lay Eddie’s gun.

“We haven’t done the family thing in a while. Have we?”

His small voice sent shivers down Denise’s spine as she closed the door behind her and never attempted to move any further toward him.

“No, we haven’t.”

He nodded knowingly, hearing the mixture of anger and pity in her voice. But his eyes never left the small picture in his grasp. “The three of us…..it used to be so perfect.”

Her shoulders tensed, her eyes blurred with sparkling tears as the overwhelming feeling to run out the door or into his arms began to churn inside.

“Things change.”

And her voice had become small too.

For the first time since she arrived, he lifted his eyes, not directly at her, but in her direction. She could only tell then that he was no longer high off the pills and that knowledge gave her immediate relief. He dropped the picture to the sofa and swiped at his misty eyes.

“I never stopped loving you. Not even for a minute.”

More than anything else he might have said, she believed those words.

“Doesn’t that.…mean something?”

But she wasn’t sure if she could ever believe in him again.

She hesistantly took one small step forward. “I don’t know what it means anymore. Not after….”

As he began to stand from the sofa, the words she wanted to say never found her lips. For it was his turn to speak. “I’ve made mistakes. I know I have. A ton of them. And I…..I have given you every reason in the world to leave me.”

Though his words sounded like a way out, his actions betrayed them as he crossed the invisible boundary that had been separating them since she had arrived. He didn’t hesitate, didn’t move slowly, he came at her, pained and aching. His hands cupped her face, his forehead rested lightly against hers. Trying to keep her strength and sanity intact, she did her best to ignore the rapid beating of his heart against hers. Promising herself to keep a cool head and not fall back onto easy denial street, Denise shut her eyes tightly and couldn’t move a muscle.

Yet, he couldn’t see the anguish she felt inside. He poured out his heart to her, knowing that this was his only chance to salvage what he had wrecked.

“But I still want our marriage…more than ever, Denise. Do you?”

And the agony of the past few months hit her hard, too hard. She roughly pushed his hands away from her, brushing past him, and across the living room. She needed space, she wanted time, she was asking for room to breathe. And his declarations, his touch, it was only sending her over the edge. She blew out a breath, her cheeks flushed with a cupful of emotions overtaking her. “You……” She turned to face him, letting her anger finally become her predominant feeling. “YOU accused me of cheating on you every chance you got. You lied to my face about taking these pills. You…..you’re sleeping with a…. I….”

“Do you still love me?”

For to him, that was all the mattered now.

She sighed, not knowing what else to do. “Love….Love is not all the matters in a marriage, Eddie. There’s trust, honesty, loyalty, faith. You abandoned me and you never even left the house. You couldn’t confide in me about what you were feeling with the pain and your job. You turned to another woman repeatedly. Love doesn’t erase all of that. Loving you isn’t the problem, Eddie. But that doesn’t mean there are no problems.”

“It’s the pills.”

Her eyes snapped up and met his for the first time that night. And she knew it would prove to be her undoing.

“The pills…..they changed me. I’m not this man. I’m not the guy who makes you cry. You know that. I was in so much pain and they…..they numbed me. But I’m done with them. I am. I swear it this time. I’ll get into a program. Whatever you want. Whatever it takes.”

An undescribable emotion overcame her then. All along she had wanted to for him to be able to admit that he had a problem with the pills. She knew admitting would be the first step to recovery. Now, here they were, he was admitting, he was asking for help, he was broken and desperate like she had been many, many times before. This was the start to save their marriage and she couldn’t somehow find the will to want it.

“And Kim?”

Eddie shook his head at her, lowering his eyes in shame. “That’s over. That was a huge mistake. But You….God, you are the only woman I want. And I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for what I’ve put you through and how you made you for. I have the world to make up to you, but I promise I will. I’m willing to try here, really try. Will you try with me, Denise? Will you give our marriage, our love…….will you give me one more chance?”

For an instant, she was a teenager again, on her knees silent in a locked closet as the screams of her father, the cries of her mother, and slamming of a door echoed against stone cold walls, when hours later…. a young boy opened the door, reached out his hand to her, and told her it was okay to cry.

So long ago, Eddie had saved her that night in every way that mattered and now the tables were turned.

And when she reached out her hand to him on this bright morning, offering herself one more time to him, she hoped she could lead him out of the darkness and into the light.

The Ties That Bind – Prologue

Prologue
“I gave up on that dream a long time ago.”

Present Day

The plexiglass does not reflect Leah’s face back to her. It is dirty, a thick layer of smudge and sweat and waste, separating a stone cold world from everything else. Her behind hurts from the neon orange chair that offers no back support. Her eyes dart at the black receiver she dares not to touch, stained with germs and disappointment, to her right with her bare hand. She peers over at the man in the booth beside her, who speaks so quietly to his friend? Brother? Son? She decides it doesn’t matter.

Leah, like always, just waits for something.

The room had aged, chipped since the last time she’d been here. God, how long had it been? Somehow, it feels like somewhere between the blink of an eye or a completely different lifetime. Leah settles somehow on four, five years, perhaps. She is snapped out of her disjointed thoughts when a loud buzzer rings, and the metal door on that side of life swings open. She sighs heavily, once, twice before lifting her eyes to face the man she came four hundred miles to see.

And just like that, Philip York appears through the doorway.

But he doesn’t look like her father anymore.

Whispers of salt and pepper cover the majority of his head and chin, large, old-man wrinkles circle his sunken eyes; he even somehow seems shorter to her, slouched with defeat, in his bright orange garb. He approaches her slowly, his hazel eyes locking in to her matching ones, before sitting down in front of her, grabbing the dirty receiver quickly into his grasp and bringing it to his ear.

Hesitantly, Leah shuffles her long black sleeve around her hand and picks up her phone.

His voice is muffled by age-old technology, but achingly familiar, “I’m… surprised to see ya.”

After all this time, he still sounds like the man who raised her, though her eyes tell her different. It damn near breaks her, but she swallows the lump in her throat, keeping her tone steady, “Your lawyer asked me to come. Said that maybe if I said something, it could help.”

His eyes soften, a hope that he thought had long died filling him, “Still trying to save your old man?”

Leah immediately freezes, wincing as if she’d touched a hot stove, memories of a life she walked away from overcoming her senses. But she’s strong, and refuses to let him see her affected by any of this, especially by him. She shakes her head emphatically, “I gave up on that dream a long time ago.”

And just like that, as fleeting as a candle’s flame in the wind, his hope dies.

His eyes falter, “Then why are you here?”

Her hand grips the receiver tightly, “For Rachel.” His eyes snap back quickly at the sound of Rachel’s name, a deep heaviness sits in his chest. Leah just continues on, unfazed, “I don’t think she’d ever forgive me if I told her I didn’t try. At least one last time.”

He sounds like a child, in a small, meek voice, “Is, is she here?”
Aggravated, his sad demeanor upsets her more than it should, “No. I wouldn’t let her come here. She’ll be at court. It doesn’t matter …. I didn’t come here to….” She pauses, regaining whatever composure she still has left. She runs her hand through her hair, resting her elbow on the small slab of gray concrete in front of her, “Is there something you want me to say up there?”
It’s been so long since he’s seen her, but he can sense she isn’t the same girl he’d left behind, “What do you wanna say?”
She shakes her head like a defiant child, “I don’t have anything to say to you.” She sighs, sarcasm dripping from her tongue, “But if your lawyer wants me to play the sad, sad daughter who thinks our lives were better with you in it, then I can do that too. I can get up on that stand and pretend like we miss our father and we don’t want him to spend his life behind bars. Is that what you want? Just…tell me. What exactly would help?”
He doesn’t care about any of it, not anymore.

He’s been in prison for close to seven years and he can hardly recognize his baby girl.

His hand reaches out, pressing flat against the glass in front of him, “Tell me about you. And Rachel. Tell me how the last 7 years of your life have been. Tell me anything, Leah.”

Leah feels herself coming undone at the seams. She squints her eyes at him, her knuckles turning white from grabbing the receiver so tightly in her first, words spitting between clenched teeth, “You really think I came all this way to sit here and reminisce about the good ol’ times? I’m not that little girl anymore who hangs on your every word. I had to grow….”

He interrupts her, “You have no idea what it is like in here, baby. I’m not the same man.”

But Leah can no longer hold it in, slamming her hand against the concrete in front of her, “You think you have it hard? I live in cell too, Phillip. I may have moved a few states away, but don’t think for one second that your shadow hasn’t followed every move I make!”

His hand never falls, “Leah.”

A tear escapes the corner of her eye and she hates herself, screaming, “I don’t care anymore if you’re guilty or not; you destroyed our lives with this!”

“GODDAMMIT, Leah.”

Somehow, everything just freezes. As if, she was seven years old again and Daddy didn’t want her jumping from bed to bed. His screams echo against slabs of concrete, piercing whatever is left of her broken heart.

Another tear falls and then another.

He finds her eyes again, “Now, you listen to me, Leah Ann. I am still your father. I will always be your father. And I’m telling you right now that you do not get to punish yourself for the rest of your life for my mistakes. You get to live.”

But what he didn’t understand, what he could never understand, then or now, was when you’re known as the daughter of the Clearview Rapist …… what kind of life could you live?