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?

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