Fighting to be free, p.15
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       Fighting to Be Free, p.15
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         Part #1 of Fighting to Be Free series by Kirsty Moseley

  really; the look my mother was giving him was probably enough to draw his balls back up into his body.

  “How’d the apartment hunting go? Any luck?” Dad asked.

  Jamie nodded. “Yeah, it was good. I found a nice one. I get the keys on Monday.”

  “That’s great. You know, I have some boxes in the garage. If you need any, I can dig them out for you,” Dad offered.

  Jamie was smiling now, his shoulders loosening a little. “I think I’m good. I don’t have that much stuff to move. But thanks.”

  “Does anyone want a drink, coffee or anything like that?” I interjected before throwing Kels a quick wink because her wide eyes were firmly latched onto my boyfriend.

  “No, thanks,” Dad answered, turning his attention back to the TV.

  “I’ll take a coffee, thank you, Ellison,” Mom answered.

  From the corner of my eye I saw Jamie’s mouth twitch at my full name but, luckily for him, he chose not to remark on it.

  * * *

  Jamie stayed a little over an hour. It had been so nice just to spend time with him in normal surroundings and with my family. He’d chatted easily with my dad about sports and cars, ignoring snide comments my mother made about Miles and his family. After complimenting Kelsey on her drawings and making her blush, he’d won her over too, and she sat at his feet casting sly glances up at him. Even she was a Jamie Cole fan, not that I blamed her in the slightest. Everything was so different with him, I felt so at ease, our relationship was very uncomplicated and effortless.

  As I was seeing him out the front door, he leaned down and pressed his lips against mine, kissing me forcefully, his arm slipping around me and clamping me against his sculpted body. I sagged against him as the kiss deepened, my hormones going wild as his mouth claimed mine in a scorching-hot kiss that ignited a spark of passion inside me so ferocious in its intensity that I was surprised it didn’t burn us both. I’d had my way with him only last night, after the usual postgame party, but it felt like ages ago, and my body was craving his. As he looked down at me with those dark, brooding, lust-filled eyes, I knew he was thinking the same thing.

  “I can’t wait until I get my place and we can have some real alone time without having to rush things or be quiet,” he whispered, his eyes wandering over my body as his hand slid to my ass.

  My muscles clenched all over and I briefly wondered what my chances were of sneaking him up to my room for a little alone time right now without my parents noticing. Pretty slim, I would bet.

  “Me too,” I replied breathily.

  He pulled back, looking like it hurt him to do so, and smiled. “I’d better go. Hey, want to come help me decorate my new place on Monday after school? I can pick you up and we can order takeout for dinner,” he offered hopefully.

  “Sure!”

  “Okay, it’s a date then. I guess that’ll be our first official date as a couple, huh?” he mused.

  “Guess it will. I get to choose the takeout, seeing as you’re just using me for my decorating skills,” I bargained.

  “Oh, I’ll be using you for a lot more than that.” He dipped his head and bit the side of my neck playfully.

  I squealed and squirmed away from him, setting my hand on his chest and giving him a little push. “Get out of here, flirt, I have stuff to do.” I laughed, kind of wishing he’d never leave.

  “Whatever. I’ll call you later.” He grinned and shot me a cocky wink before turning and strutting back to his truck.

  Sighing happily, I watched him climb in and drive off before I closed the door and looked back into the living room, seeing my family still sitting around. My smile faded. I didn’t want to go back in there and face the barrage of questions or disapproval from my mother at my choice of boyfriend. I wouldn’t allow her to kill my euphoric mood. So instead, I headed upstairs and firmly closed my bedroom door. Putting on my music to play softly in the background, I walked to the bed and flopped back onto it, my thoughts already returning to Jamie and our new official status.

  A wave of contentment washed over me and I let my eyes close, just thinking about our moment in the truck and how sweet he’d been when he stumbled over his words and asked me to be exclusive. He might not have liked it and thought it sucked, but to me it was perfection. And now we were going to prom together! I hadn’t really been looking forward to it before; I probably would’ve preferred to skip the whole thing, but Stacey would never have allowed me to. I’d been building up to asking Jamie for the last couple of weeks, knowing that if he was there the dance would be more bearable, but I hadn’t quite worked up the nerve in case he told me no.

  My breathing hitched when my brain wandered to Jamie in a tux and how hot he would look. At the thought of it, excitement bubbled in my veins and my teeth sank into my bottom lip. Now I just needed to figure out my dress …

  Sitting up quickly, I leaned over and pulled my sketch pad from my bedside table, flicking it open and thumbing through the pages until I got to the one I wanted. My design for my prom dress. I’d been working on it for weeks, changing little bits until I finally got the perfect design. I traced my fingers over the sketch, imagining the feel of the silky material between my fingers and how it would sit against my body. Making clothes was a passion of mine, something I loved to do but which I had always been told by my mother and Miles would never amount to anything more than a hobby. Looking at the dress, I worried my lip with my teeth. I’d never made anything so extravagant and was a little concerned about how it would turn out. Until now, I hadn’t felt like making a start on it because there was still six weeks or so to go, but with Jamie’s agreement to accompany me swirling in my brain, I couldn’t think of anything I would rather do.

  Grinning, I jumped up and headed to my desk, unlocking my sewing machine and plugging it in and then digging in my closet for my stash of fabric samples, deciding a trial run was in order before I attempted to make the real thing. I wanted to get it right and make it absolutely perfect. I wanted Jamie to be wowed by me on the night and unable to take his eyes off me, because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to pry my eyes from him all night.

  CHAPTER 14

  JAMIE

  EVERYTHING WAS JUST about perfect. I’d moved into my new place that Monday, and Ellie had come over in her little denim booty shorts and a T-shirt that she’d tied up in the back, exposing her flat stomach, and we’d painted the walls. That day was a lot of fun; though I was pretty sure we ended up with more paint on us than on the walls. I was actually having the time of my life. Not that it was hard to top anything that had ever happened to me before, but my girlfriend just made life a whole lot more interesting.

  Ellie was beautiful, smart, kind, and caring, not to mention thoughtful. I’d never had anyone treat me the way that she treated me all the time. It was little things that she did—like sneaking out of bed early in the morning when she stayed over so that she could make me a sandwich to take to work with me. Or she would randomly buy me my favorite candy, or rent movies that I’d said I wanted to watch, or show up with a car magazine or an article she’d clipped from a newspaper just because she saw it and thought I’d like it.

  We’d now been officially dating for a month. That month had passed in a blur of laughing, flirting, and talking about everything—well, everything apart from my past. I tried to keep that as far away from Ellie as possible, because I couldn’t take the risk of her not wanting to be with me if she knew the real me. I couldn’t risk losing that look that she had for me all the time, that soft, tender look. I needed that look; I loved that look; that one look from her made my life worth living.

  Just as things were working out for me and I thought that I might have a chance at a happy life, just as I started to believe that, maybe, somewhere up there, someone had decided to give me a break … karma had to come and knock me on my ass again.

  I woke up on Sunday morning to my cell phone ringing. I winced and quickly grabbed it before it woke up the beautiful girl who was usin
g my stomach for a pillow as she snored lightly.

  Blinking a couple of times to try to clear the sleepy fog that clouded my brain, I pressed the phone to my ear. “Hello?” I croaked, subtly covering Ellie’s exposed ear so that she wouldn’t wake up. Luckily for me she was an extremely deep sleeper.

  I was greeted by Ray’s voice. “Hey, Kid.”

  “Hey. What’s up?” I asked, yawning and trying to move so I could get out of the bed—but Ellie had other ideas about that. She groaned in her sleep, throwing her other arm over my chest, her hand slapping the side of my face by accident. I laughed quietly to myself; she was such a freaking menace when she was unconscious. She talked in her sleep sometimes too; it was extremely cute. We’d had whole conversations about baking cookies and Rollerblading that she had no recollection of in the morning. I loved it when she stayed over. Her parents didn’t know, of course; they wouldn’t allow it according to Ellie. Instead, she usually lied and told them she was staying with Stacey. Either way worked with me—as long as I got to wake up with her on occasion I was happy.

  Ray cleared his throat. “Look, Kid, I’ll get straight to the point because there’s no use in beating around the bush with this. Your mom’s in a bad way. I bumped into her just now at the store. She’s banged up. Her arm is broken, and her face is pretty bruised. I asked her what happened, and she just shrugged it off and tried to tell me she fell down the stairs.”

  I gulped, clenching my fist at the thought of her being hurt and what that could possibly mean. Unconsciously, my body tensed up. I didn’t have a relationship with my mother at all—in fact, the last time she saw me she told me that I had ruined her life and she wished I was dead—but she was the only family I had, I didn’t want anyone hurting her. “She fell down the stairs?” I repeated sarcastically.

  “That’s what I was thinking. Anyway, I know you don’t see her, but I just thought you should know,” Ray said almost apologetically.

  I closed my eyes and nodded. “Thanks, Ray.” I disconnected the call and pressed the phone against my forehead.

  If she was getting battered again, did that mean she was back to her usual habits? I’d sacrificed so much to get her out of it, and she was back in trouble again? It almost made me wonder why I even bothered in the first place. But I knew why: She was my mother. She was a sorry excuse for one, definitely, but the woman had given birth to me; I owed her.

  Sighing heavily, I set my phone on the bedside table and looked down at Ellie’s flawless face, trying not to let my anger consume me. She moved slightly, snuggling against me, pressing her face into my stomach, so I froze, hoping she’d sleep a little while longer just so I could marvel over her some more. She sighed deeply in her sleep.

  “Jamie, will you buy me some ice cream? Not the mint one, though, I don’t want to have to clear up the chocolate chips,” she muttered, frowning.

  I grinned and tried not to laugh. “Sure, Ellie. What flavor should I get?” I asked, playing along with her in a bid to keep her sleep-talking.

  She sighed again. “Whatever you want, I only want to throw it at the cats anyway.”

  I burst out laughing at her randomness and she jerked up, looking around with wide, frightened eyes. “What?” she asked. Her voice was husky and thick with sleep as she put her hand over her heart, sporting a bewildered expression.

  I smiled and rolled to my side, pulling her close to me again. “You’re so cute sometimes.”

  She rolled her eyes and snuggled into the crook of my arm.

  “Hey, you know, before we go to the movie later, you think maybe we could stop and get some ice cream? There’re some cats down the road that piss me off to high heaven,” I joked, laughing again as she looked at me like I was crazy.

  “What? Are you on something I don’t know about?” she asked, her nose scrunching up in confusion.

  I grinned and maneuvered on top of her, pinning her down to the bed. “Yeah, I’m on you.”

  She immediately blushed, as usual, a smile blooming on her lips. “Well, while you’re there …” She trailed off suggestively, hooking one leg around my waist. My whole body rejoiced as I pressed my mouth against hers.

  * * *

  Three hours later I was sitting in McDonald’s with Ellie, Stacey, and Stacey’s currently on boyfriend, Paul. I couldn’t stop thinking about my mom. I could tell Ellie was getting worried, and probably slightly annoyed with me, because she kept having to repeat herself when I wasn’t really listening to her. My mind just kept wandering off, wondering what sort of trouble Mom had gotten herself into this time. I tried my best not to care, but I couldn’t help it.

  When Ellie’s foot collided with mine, I jerked out of my worry again to look up at her. She was sitting across the table, a concerned look on her face. Glancing around, I smiled apologetically at Stacey and Paul, who were also both looking at me, waiting for something. Clearly they’d been talking to me and were expecting an answer.

  “Sorry,” I muttered sheepishly.

  Ellie’s hand stretched across the table and covered mine, squeezing gently. “Is everything okay? You’ve been distant all morning. What’s up?” Her gray eyes bored into mine as if she were trying to pull the answer she wanted from them.

  I smiled apologetically. “Yeah, I just …” I trailed off, not really wanting to elaborate, especially not in front of her friends. It was then that I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get this out of my mind until I saw for myself what was going on with my mother. “Actually, I have a couple of things I need to sort out. I don’t think I’m going to be able to make the movie.” I winced, waiting for her reaction to my just canceling our plans without so much as a proper explanation.

  She nodded, her expression nothing but concerned. “Okay. Want me to help you with whatever it is?”

  I was struck by another wave of love for her. Just the way that she looked at me made me feel different. I loved the Jamie Cole that she saw. I wanted to be the guy she thought I was, the one she saw in me.

  I smiled gratefully. “No, thanks, though. Sorry I have to skip out on the movie.”

  Ellie waved her hand dismissively. “No worries, I’ll let you make it up to me another time.” She smirked at me, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the suggestion on her face. I knew exactly how I’d be making it up to her, and I would imagine it involved me and her … watching Pitch Perfect again.

  I got up out of the booth and pushed my tray in Paul’s direction, motioning for him to finish off my untouched fries. Stepping to Ellie’s side, I bent down and kissed her fiercely, showing her how grateful I was that she was such an amazing girlfriend. I pulled away after a few more seconds and kissed her forehead lightly, letting my lips linger on her skin, hoping that her taste and her smell would overpower the bitterness that I would feel from the visit to my mother.

  “I’ll call you later,” I said before winking at her and walking away.

  When I slid into my truck I took a deep breath, trying to calm down the turmoil of anger, hurt, and misery that was churning in my stomach. I really didn’t want to go and do this. I didn’t want my mother to drag me back into the life that I fought so hard against every day. I was finally free of it all, and I desperately wanted to stay that way. I was no longer Jamie Cole, expert car thief and all-around badass. I was Jamie Cole, guy who worked his butt off at a junkyard every day just to earn the money to treat his sweet little girlfriend to things she’d like. But it was more than that: I also wanted to build a normal, stable life for myself. I’d never had that before and I was getting so close to it, I could almost taste it.

  The drive seemed to take forever, and my heart sank with each passing second. When I pulled up outside the familiar house, I couldn’t get out of the car. I tried to force myself to get out and walk up the broken path and knock on the door, but I just couldn’t move. I could barely even breathe through the emotions that this one brick building was stirring in me.

  I raked my eyes over the place that I should have kn
own as “home,” but I’d never seen it that way. This two-story house looked more like a prison to me. Everything about it screamed unloved, abandoned, and abused, which summed up my whole life.

  Dragging my eyes over the cracked bricks, I noticed that the gray slate roof was missing a couple of tiles, causing a black patch on the wall where the water was just running down the side of the house instead of going down the broken guttering. All of these things seemed to make this place even more daunting to me, even scarier, and I felt like a kid again. The memories that I knew were inside were taunting me, laughing at me even. I had no idea how my mother still lived in this house after everything that had happened here.

  I tried my hardest not to remember that day. It was the worst day of my life, the day that the one thing that was important to me was lost. That was the day that I ceased to matter. The day that made my whole existence no longer necessary. That was the day that my little sister died.

  I looked down at my hands and was a little shocked to see that they weren’t still covered in blood, that my knuckles weren’t still raw and bleeding. It felt so real coming back here. All the loss and grief seemed to be flooding back, and I wasn’t sure if I could cope with it.

  It was worse than when I went to her grave; this place was where she died, this was her home. It was the place where she would kiss me good night, and jump on me in the morning because she wanted me to make her breakfast.

  What hurt me the most was that this shitty, derelict little place was the last thing she’d seen before she died. She never got the chance to experience life, she never got to travel or have her first kiss, never got to go to a party or fall in love. She missed out on so much, and it was entirely my fault.

  CHAPTER 15

  MY HAND CLOSED over my cell phone. I really needed to speak to Ellie right now, just to hear her voice for a second. It scared me how much I was starting to need her. I didn’t like to need anyone; that way I’d never have to be disappointed. Huffing out a deep breath, I pushed the phone back into my pocket and looked at the house. I needed to face my demons instead of pretending that all that bad stuff had never happened.

 
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