Unbeautiful, p.1Part #1 of Unbeautiful series by Jessica Sorensen
Unbeautiful (Unbeautiful, #1)
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Copyright © 2014 by Jessica Sorensen
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
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Cover Design and Photo by Mae I Design
By Jessica Sorensen
Table of Contents
About the Author
The Escape Plan
Madness is my life, the only aspect of living I’ve ever known. During the day, my life is perfectly structured: school, cheerleading practice, time with my boyfriend, studying at the library. But the simplicity of my schedule nearly drives me to insanity. Too perfect. Too much order. Too much structure.
Once I’m at home, that structure silences as insanity swirls around me: pills, crying, screaming, my mother instructing me on what to do, my father dictating and nit-picking my every move. This has been my life for the last eighteen years. Every second of every hour of every day belongs to someone else.
Then nighttime comes.
Every evening when the moon and starlight kiss my eyelids goodnight, after my family and my house rise from the dead, waking up from the peaceful slumber it settled into during daybreak, I dream of chaos and serenity. Some might call what I dream a nightmare, a madness of the mind. Me, I think of it as a foreshadowing of what’s to come in my future, of what I hope to achieve one day.
Despite the terror the beginning of the dream brings, I willingly surrender to my drowsiness. My eyelids drift shut, and my mind sinks into darkness as the noises and cries from somewhere in the house flood the walls of my room and ghost across my bed, spilling madness over me like a heavy blanket.
In the center of the narrow street, I walk the long line stretching down the asphalt, near where the forest welcomes the dirt. There’s no one in front of me, no one behind. No wind. No noise except the flow of a river. I don’t know where the river is, have never been able to find it. But I try. Oh, do I try.
Calculated measures, step by step, with the moonlight as my guide, just like I was taught to do in real life.
Under my own free will.
To only exist on the line of the road, the map of my life my parents created for me.
But where does the road even go? To the river?
That’s what I’ve started to wonder. Started to question.
Unlike in real life, I violate the rules and allow my feet to break free from the slow footsteps they take. A slow jog at first, but then I move quicker, running down the street.
I start to lose sight of the moon as darkness encompasses me, the orb fading along with the stars.
“No, come back!” I always cry with my hand stretched out to them. “I can’t do this without you!”
Before I know it, my voice gets lost in the distance, echoing away into the trees and following the moon. All I have is the line on the road, begging me to follow it. Don’t break the rules. Follow the line to the end of the road, the end of your life.
I run down that line, past the woods, the trees. But the perfect line is guiding me away from the river to the end. A perfect journey straight to the end of life.
Perfect, so perfect, like everything else I’ve ever known.
I abruptly stop in the middle of the road, beside the silhouettes of trees.
What do I do? Keep going? Keep letting the line lead me? Stray?
Stray. Such a foreign, forbidden word, one I desperately want to taste. Live my own life that I structure. God, what I would give to have that.
Even though my muscles scream, I turn around and stare at the opposing end of the road. I can hear the flowing water beckoning me to find the river. To discover another route of life, one that twists and curves and creates its own path.
Before I can stop myself, I lift my feet off the line, off the road, off the only path I’ve ever known, and drift into the darkness of the trees.
That’s when I wake up, never making it to the river, never quite reaching the unknown path. God, do I want to make it there, though.
When I open my eyes, I’m surrounded by my bedroom walls. The cries I fell asleep to have shifted to incoherent chanting, a warning of what’s next. Soon, my room will be visited by the tall figure.
Most nights, I wonder if the visitor is my mother or father checking up on me to make sure I stayed in my bed, that I haven’t somehow escaped my restraints. There are other occasions, though, when the air doesn’t feel right, making me question if it’s someone else, like one of my father’s friends.
I usually call out from my bed, “Who are you? Tell me this time.”
In ritual, the person simply stares back. All I can do is lie helplessly in my bed until morning brinks and they vanish with the sunlight. Then the madness of my life starts again as my mother strolls into the bedroom to wake me.
“Time to wake up, Emery.” She strides for the window to unfasten the bars from the glass and sets them aside. Then she turns for my bed, leans over me, and unfastens the padded cuffs on my wrists. She leans back, and I sit up in bed, rubbing my wrists and breathing in the temporary freedom.
“You know, if you behave well, your father might allow you to sleep without the cuffs,” she says, stepping away from my bed.
I swing my legs over the edge and plant my bare feet onto the cool tile floor. “I’ve been trying to do the best that I can.”
“I know you have.” She flips strands of her black hair off her shoulder. “And I think, just as long as there isn’t another incident, you’ll be fine. You just need to prove your sanity and trustworthiness to him again.”
Is that what I had before my eyes were opened?
Pressing my lips together, I glance out the window at the homes and the bare land stretching around the lowly populated town of Ralingford, Wyoming. The small area is out in the middle of nowhere, away from civilization. The citizens abide by their own unique rules: such as a town curfew of seven o’clock, morning meetings about town laws only adults are allowed to attend, and my absolute least favorite, a split society. People rarely leave, and if they do decide to escape the solitude, they never return. I’ve always envied those people and have my own escape plan, which will hopefully lead to the dismemberment of this town.
“Emery, did you hear anything I just said?” My mother’s clipped tone draws my attention back to the room.
“No, ma’am. Sorry.” I swallow hard as she reaches for my face.
Cupping my chin with her manicured hand, she forces me to look at her. “Emery, we need to work on your focus. You’ve been drifting off lately, and you’re really starting to remind me of... Ellis.” She whis
“I’m sorry. I’ll work on it, ma’am,” I answer robotically, like I was trained.
“Good girl.” She meticulously examines my face. “You’re such a pretty girl. If you use it to your advantage, you could go far in life. But you need to stop misbehaving.”
Like that’s all I am.
“You’ll make a beautiful wife for Evan one day.” She sighs as she squeezes my cheeks. “And Evan will take care of you, which is one of the most important things in this world.”
Evan Moleney, my boyfriend of three years who I’ve been told I’m supposed to love because we look pretty together, the perfect couple. Everyone talks as if we’re already engaged, but we’re not. I fear, though, if I don’t get out of Ralingford soon, it’ll only be a matter of time before I have a ring on my finger proclaiming I belong to the son of the town’s richest lawyer and one of my father’s closest acquaintances.
She releases my chin then sticks her hand into the pocket of her apron to retrieve a pink pill and a red one. “Now take your medication then hurry up and get dressed. Breakfast is in ten minutes. If you’re late again, your father’s going to put the cuffs back on your ankles at night.” She waits for me to pop the pills into my mouth before exiting the room, shutting the door behind her.
I instantly spit the pills into my hand. For years I’ve taken them without an explanation of what they do or what they even are. I’ve never questioned their purpose, just like I’ve never questioned the purpose of curfew, until three months ago when I snuck out of the house in the middle of the night.
The idea sprouted when I overheard my brother Ellis whispering of exile and a controlled environment; words I didn’t understand at the time.
“There’s so much more to the world than what’s inside the walls of our home and what little we see during the day,” he said when I’d asked what he’d meant. We were sitting in the kitchen, waiting for my father’s return from his day job. “Our mother and father... They’re not like most parents, Emery.”
“What are you talking about?” I was nervous, too, mostly because Ellis seemed so nervous. “I mean, I know they do strange stuff sometimes, but what are other parents like? Because they act like my friends’ and Evan’s parents.”
“I’m talking about different in comparison to parents outside of Ralingford.” He nodded his head at the window where the sky was pink with the sunset. “Once the sun goes down, sneak out and find out for yourself. See what happens when the sun goes down.”
I’m not even sure why I considered doing it. I’d never been one for rebellion. He looked so terrified, though, more than when he had one of his episodes. So I broke the rules for the very first time that night. It was before my dad started strapping me to the bed, so it was pretty easy to slip out of the house unnoticed. Just a duck out the window and the scaling of a nearby tree.
In Ralingford, there are two sides of the town, what locals refer to as the Golden side and the Shadows. The Golden area is where the wealthy live—the doctors, the lawyers, and the town mayor—the big men who make the rules. The Shadow area is the poverty-stricken side of town near the railroad tracks where crime is heavy. Once the sun goes down behind the shallow mountains, that heavy crime seeps over into Golden area. At least, that was the rumor.
I’ve heard some of the horror stories of what happens after the sun sets: robbery, assault, once I heard about a murder. But the stories couldn’t prepare me for what I saw that night—sickening things that made me question everything, including my own existence.
They said we were free,
but who are they
to deem what freedom is.
Because what I saw was the exact opposite—
And I was part of it,
part of the darkness
that swept over the town.
I shudder as the images creep into my mind and remind me of who I am. Fear pulsates through my veins. Without the pills in my system, the terror is less diluted and more overwhelming.
My fingers brush across the scar on my back, the leftovers of my punishment for sneaking out that night along with nighttime restraints, something my brother has endured off and on since he was eight. His punishment was a lot more severe than mine, though, and he still suffers every night.
For the next few minutes, I sit on the bed, holding the pills, too afraid to move. The time gives my mother a chance to come wandering back into my bedroom, which she occasionally does to make sure I’m getting ready. When she doesn’t reenter, I rise from the bed and tiptoe over to the window.
The town has come alive. The sidewalks are busy with children, teens, and adults heading to school, to work, or to the town hall. Some of the neighbors are mowing their lawns, others watering the grass. The sun is bright and cheery, just like everyone’s smiles—cheery, something I’m positive I’ve never felt.
Even though I’m on the second floor and no one can see into my room, I still draw the curtains before padding over to my dresser. Giving one last check around my room, I lower myself to the floor and reach under the piece of furniture. I feel around the bottom until my fingers brush paper. I peel back the envelope and drop the pills into it with the rest of my three-month collection.
After I return the envelope to its hiding place, I extend my hand back farther until I feel another envelope. I don’t take that one out. I just need to know that my stash of money still exists, that my possibility of freedom still exists.
For the last two years, I’ve worked at my mother’s pharmacy. A firm believer in teaching me how our society works, she pays me a somewhat decent wage while teaching me work ethic. I save practically every dollar I make. Now all the cash is going to my escape plan, my ticket out of this maddening hellhole.
I’ve already set the plan in motion, to change who I am so I won’t become a part of my family’s madness. I’ve applied to colleges other than Ralingford Community College, something my parents aren’t aware of. Now that the medication is out of my system, my head is clearer. I’ve started reading about the world outside of Ralingford when I’m at school, the only time I’m allowed to be on the internet, so I know what I’m getting into. And I’ve found a few apartments I think will work for me.
As long as I stay on track with my plan, in six months, I’ll be free for the first time in my life.
I’m fucked. More than fucked. I’m going to get my ass killed. I wish I could say it’s my own fault, that I made bad choices on my own free will that led me to where I am right now—hiding behind a garbage can while a group of questionable mobsters search for me. But nope, I ended up here because I acted like a puppet and allowed Cole Price, my father, to push me into gambling again, into cheating Elderman and his men, who just happens to be some of the worst people to screw over.
“Can you see him anywhere?” one of the men chasing me says from the other side of the dumpster.
I hear a stampede of footsteps in the alleyway then the clicking of guns being cocked.
“I could have sworn he ran back here,” a different guy answers, panting for air.
Running is the one thing I’m good at. Ever since I got out of juvie, it’s all I’ve done. I’ve tried more than once to get out of the pointless cycle I seem to constantly find myself in—getting into trouble then trying to start on a straight-and-narrow path, only to get into trouble again. But it’s difficult to stay on track when I have a record. Even getting my own place is complicated.
“Ryler, you little shit!” one of the men calls out. “Come out now, you fucking coward! After what Elderman’s done for you, giving you so many opportunities, this is how you repay him?”
I don’t move. Don’t breathe.
“Did you check behind there?” one of the men asks.
My back goes rigid as the footsteps grow nearer. Shit. I’m so screwed.
I smash my lips together as I delve farther into the shadows. It’s late, the stars and moon are shining, and the only light source is coming from behind a nearby club I’d been at when the men showed up. Music is cranked up from within the walls and flows outside, aiding my silence.
After four years of being mute, being quiet has become easy for me. Although, I don’t think it’s going to save me this time.
Unbeautiful by Jessica Sorensen / Romance & Love have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on25 votes