Preppy the life amp deat.., p.2
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       Preppy: The Life & Death of Samuel Clearwater, Part One, p.2
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         Part #5 of King series by T. M. Frazier

  Blood caked underneath my fingernails.

  Bruises between my legs.

  I was so over being me that I needed a new word for over. I needed a new fucking life. I patted my bra over my shirt, feeling for my bus ticket for the hundredth time. I breathed a sigh of relief when the paper crinkled against my skin, my reminder that a fresh start was only a bus ride away.

  I righted my shirt and took in my surroundings. The small house was once very familiar to me, in what seemed like another lifetime, but in reality was only a few years ago. I used to feel at home there.

  Oh, how things have changed.

  I nervously crossed and uncrossed my legs, as Mirna shuffled around the kitchen. I felt everything and anything but at home. This had nothing to do with Mirna (I’d always called her by her first name) and everything to do with me.

  I pulled down on the hem of my shorts as if I could somehow make them longer, suddenly all too aware of the hole in the pocket exposing the skin on my upper thigh. After uselessly yanking at the worn denim, I switched to my sleeves, stretching the fabric over the palms of my hands and folding my fingers over it to keep it in place. Sunlight beamed through the large window of the living room. The last light of the day rendered the thin material of my shirt completely see through, and I hoped with everything I had that Mirna wouldn’t see my arms.

  My stomach twisted. The H I’d had over the past week wasn’t nearly enough to get me high, only enough to keep me from plowing head first into major withdrawals. My head throbbed and my body ached like I had the flu. The major hangover that never really went away.

  My stomach could have also been twisting because the second I’d entered my grandmother’s house, I’d officially become the worst fucking human being on the planet.

  Unofficially, I’d already held that title for quite some time.

  I rocked forward to quell the nausea, but there was little that could help me that didn’t come in the form of a syringe, or a less used and abused body.

  I wondered what was taking Mirna so long because I was’t sure how much longer I could sit there without vomiting into the planter next to the front door. Another wave of nausea washed over me and without thinking I bit down hard on my bottom lip to keep the contents of my stomach down. I licked the blood from my lip, the taste of copper adding to the already disgusting taste of bile on my tongue.

  Mirna came back into the living room with a big smile on her face. She set down a silver tray on the coffee table, the one she only used when company came around.

  My grandmother, seemingly unaware of my discomfort, poured tea into two mismatched cups. One was light blue with a chip on the rim, and I recognized it immediately. The chip had been a result of me running my big wheel into her coffee table as a kid. I’d sent her entire tea set, a wedding gift from my late grandfather, crashing to the floor. Mirna had sat with me on her lap on the kitchen floor, stroking my hair and comforting me for hours, even though it was me who ruined her entire tea set beyond repair. All had been lost, except for one cup.

  The one cup I now took from Mirna as she passed it across the coffee table.

  My hands shook, rattling the teacup against the saucer. I smiled as politely as I could, setting it carefully back on the table without so much as taking a sip. My grandmother returned my smile and watched me curiously over the rim of her teacup, and just like when I’d first knocked on her front door several minutes earlier, I waited.

  Nothing.

  The last time I visited, Mirna was having trouble remembering things. Where she’d put the keys. What time her friend Hilda was picking her up for Bingo.

  It seemed things weren’t only different for me, but Mirna as well, because I never expected the woman I spent every summer with during my childhood since I was four years old to not recognize her one and only grandchild.

  When had things gotten so bad?

  “Do you know who I am?” I asked softly, in one last attempt to stir up some kind of recognition. I stared unblinking at her and tried to will the recognition into her eyes. Eyes that matched mine. Eyes that used to hold so much life but were now dulled like they’d been frosted over.

  Maybe, there wasn’t anything wrong at all. Maybe, she was totally with it and just didn’t recognize me. After all, last time she saw me I was all glossy black hair and tanned skin, and now I wasn’t even a shadow of my former self. Gaunt, with sharp collarbones and pointed elbows. Deep dark yellowy circles under my eyes. Pale grayish skin.

  I didn’t need to look in a mirror to know I wouldn’t be able to recognize myself.

  “I’m Andrea,” I said. Nothing still. “Dre?” I asked, switching to my nickname, just in case it could ignite a spark.

  “Oh!” Mirna exclaimed, holding up her index finger. I sat on the edge of the cushion, leaning over the table, waiting for her to confirm that I’d broken through. “You’re from the church, right? They keep sending people by to keep me company while Rick’s overseas, but I’m just fine. My nurse training keeps me busy, and in my free time I’m learning how to be a better cook, although, I need to work on perfecting Mama’s meatloaf or she’ll never come over for Sunday dinner.”

  My heart dropped into my stomach when Mirna referred to my grandfather as if he was still alive and overseas fighting in the war.

  Guilt, sickening guilt, twisting guilt, washed over me and clung to my rotten insides. In the grand scheme of things, it was probably better she didn’t know who I was.

  Or why I was there.

  I was reminded of that reason when a crash sounded from the back of the house. I cringed while Mirna seemed unaffected by the commotion. She was sipping tea with a polite pinky raised in the air like the proper southern debutant she once was.

  Just as I told myself that she hadn’t heard the noise, she tilted her head and pointed down the hallway. “How much longer do you think they’ll be, dear?” she asked, as I’d been wondering the same exact thing.

  My pulse spiked. “Uh, I don’t know what you’re…um…who?” I again pulled down on my sleeves.

  She smiled and leaned forward, crooking her index finger for me to do the same, so I did. “There are two men in the back room,” she whispered. “They broke my window and they are stealing from me.” She slapped her knee and a burst of laughter shot through her mouth as if she’d just told me the punchline to a joke. “Can you believe it? Isn’t it all so very exciting?”

  “I’ll…I’ll just go tell them to leave for you,” I announced, keeping my voice as steady as possible and ignoring the head rush I got when I stood abruptly from the couch. Then, as calmly as I could, I made my way down the hallway.

  “Thank you so much, dear,” Mirna called out. “But you don’t have to do that, someone is already on the way. He’ll be here shortly.”

  “Who?” I asked, turning around.

  “Samuel,” she offered, like it was a name I should know. She picked up her cup and crossed her legs, settling back into the sofa and turning to stare out the front window into the yard.

  Pinkie back in the air.

  I turned and raced down the hall, pushing open the back bedroom door. I almost fell over at the sight before me. What used to be a guest bedroom and doubled as Mirna’s scrapbooking room, was now filled with rows of green plants. And not just any plants.

  Weed.

  Mirna was growing weed out of her guest bedroom.

  Green leaves jutted out in every direction over a complicated web of clear tubes and glass planters hanging from the ceiling, and the walls creating several aisles of stacked plants.

  Stumbling around the room, shoving as much of it into garbage bags, and sending the glass planters and tubing crashing to the floor as they went, were the two men the bus ticket in my bra was going to get me far, far away from.

  “What the fuck is all this?” I asked, my mouth gaping as I took it all in. “And why is it here?” Eric and Conner both looked as if they’d won the weed lottery, yellow toothed grins plastered on their gaunt faces. Er
ic’s ripped t-shirt hung like an old potato sack off of his thin frame. His cheeks were sunken in. His sneakers were mismatched, both in color, one black and one white, and in condition, one had a hole with his toes poking out the top and the other had the sole coming loose on the side. Conner didn’t look any better, although his shoes were the same color. “Tell me what the fuck is going on?” I demanded, wishing that sober didn’t feel so god damned awful.

  “You’re a dumb bitch, you know that?” Eric snapped. “This…” he said, holding up one of the plants, shaking it in the air, “…is exactly the reason why we came here. Did you really think we came all the way down to this shit town to lift shitty cheap jewelry from your Granny?” He shook his head in disbelief and continued to fill his bag. “Dumb, fucking bitch,” he muttered.

  Conner chimed in. “When we heard what was here we thought it was just a rumor, but we hit the mother load. You know how much this shit is worth on the street?” He crossed the room and shoved a bag into my hand. Just him being near me made me more disgusted than any withdrawal ever could. “Help load this up. That shit you like to shoot up with isn’t fucking free, you know.”

  I know, because I’ve paid the price.

  No more.

  “You knew all this was here?” I asked, dropping the bag and taking a step back.

  “Fuck yeah, we did,” Eric said, holding up his hand for Conner to high-five him. Conner shot him the bird instead and continued his destruction of the room, knocking over equipment and pulling tubes from the wall. Water from those tubes sprayed around the room like a sprinkler, soaking everything within, including Conner and Eric, who either didn’t notice or didn’t care. “We were watching when your Granny opened the door. That bitch has no clue who you fucking are, does she?” Eric asked. “Maybe I should go see if she can take a pounding as good as her granddaughter can,” he said, grabbing the crotch of his sagging sweatpants.

  Conner, someone who used to be the first to come to my defense, was now laughing at my humiliation. At the sick joke Eric had made about something not even remotely fucking funny.

  “Who knew that an old lady could do all this?” Conner said, kicking over some sort of machine by the window, splitting it open to reveal it’s red and blue wirey guts.

  Which was when it hit me.

  Conner was actually right. Mirna couldn’t have done all this. Not even at her best. Mirna was the kind of person who refused to take aspirin when she had a headache so drugs of any kind weren’t exactly on her radar. And as far as botanical skills went, hers didn’t go any further than the small flower box under the front window.

  “Look around you, you fucking idiots!” My words came slower than my mouth could move, and with my head throbbing like I’d been clubbed, it was a wonder I could speak at all. “This is high-tech shit. Whoever you’re really stealing from, it’s not my grandmother, and I’m pretty sure that you’ve seen enough movies to know that stealing drugs from someone who deals it never ends well, so chances are that they aren’t going to forget this. They’ll be coming for you.”

  Conner laughed and pointed between the three of us. “Yeah, when he finds out what WE did. The three of us. As much as you like to think you’re better than us you’re not. This is as much you as it is us.”

  “He? So you know whose stuff this is?”

  Conner rolled his eyes at me. Eyes that used to contain kindness and sympathy had grown to hold nothing but hatred and contempt. “Stop asking so many fucking questions and help us carry this shit out.” His smirk twisted into a sick, knowing smile. “Or don’t. But then I can’t promise that we’re going to be as gentle with you tonight as we were last night.”

  I’d never liked guns. Even my dad’s hunting gun that he kept on display in his office made me uncomfortable.

  But then Conner said something that reminded me that if I had a gun, I could never pull the trigger. “Or maybe I’ll call Mellie and she can ride my cock for a while,” Conner said, stepping up into my space, glaring down at me with all the hatred in his soul. “Oh, that’s right. I can’t. Because she’s dead.”

  The familiar guilt bubbled in my gut and exploded in my heart. The heavy, never ending, too much for one soul to bare, guilt. It was what the bars of my imaginary cell were made out of, the one Conner built around me with his words, the one he’d just pushed me back inside and slammed the door shut.

  “I don’t mean to interrupt,” Mirna sang, coming to stand beside me at the door. Her hand on my shoulder. Conner backed down and went back to work, stuffing his bag. “But would any of you like some cookies?” she asked, holding up a plate of her famous double chocolate chip cookies. Eric and Conner ignored her, continuing to loot the room of its plants and damage and destroy everything else.

  “I’m so sorry,” I said, turning around to Mirna. Without caring if she remembered me or not I wrapped my arms around her, selfishly needing the comfort of my grandma. The same way I’d needed it when I’d broken her tea set.

  She gently patted me on the back, “It’s all right, dear,” she said, pulling back and holding up the plate again. “Don’t be upset. Whatever’s bothering you will be okay, there’s always tomorrow and that’s another day.” She took a bite of a cookie and spoke with her mouth full. “My Rick always says that when I’m having a bad day. Here, have a cookie. I just made them. They’re Samuel’s favorite.”

  There was that name again.

  “Who’s Samuel?” I asked, expecting to hear about someone from her past, or someone long dead, but then out of the corner of my eye I noticed that both Conner and Eric had froze. My guess was that they knew who Samuel was, and if I had any money at all, I’d bet that this was his shit.

  “Where is he now?” Eric asked, the cocky smile nowhere to be seen.

  Mirna took another a bite of her cookie, slowly chewing. A car door slammed. She waited until she was done swallowing to say, “He’s here.”

  Conner and Eric darted through the back door faster than I’d ever seen them move. My first instinct wasn’t to run. I didn’t want to leave Mirna in her state, and on top of that I hadn’t done any of the actual stealing. Chances were that this Samuel guy wouldn’t see it that way. I hesitated only long enough to wrap Mirna in another hug. “Again, I’m so sorry,” I said, placing a kiss on her forehead before running through the living room and out the back door.

  “Come on!” Conner called out, waving to me from the field behind the house that lead to the train tracks. But then I stopped.

  It could be my only chance, and if I wanted to be on that bus tomorrow I didn’t have a choice. I had to take it.

  With one last glance at Conner I shook off the voice of the guilt, the voice that told me I owed him for what I’d done, and I took off in the complete opposite direction, crossing the yard into the woods. I heard him calling my name over and over again as I ran deeper into the trees, down the overgrown foot path.

  The bark of a nearby tree suddenly exploded, sharp pieces of bark lodged into my thighs, warm blood trickled down my calves. My heart pumped faster and faster. My body, who wanted nothing more than to give up on me, warred with my mind which was fueled only by adrenaline, keeping me moving, one foot in front of the other.

  A whistling sounded past my ear. Another tree exploded. This time, right in front of me. I stopped and turned around, catching a brief glimpse of the man standing in Mirna’s back yard. I started right back again in the other direction. I hadn’t been able to see much of the man, but I knew right then what I had seen would be burned into my brain and haunt me forever.

  A wicked smile, a bow tie…and a gun.

  CHAPTER THREE

  DRE

  What the fuck have I done?

  It was the thought racing through my head, over and over again, as I watched the world go on without me from my perch high up on the water tower. Over the tops of the bending pines, just beyond the leaves, was the small town of Logan’s Beach, a place I’d once loved.

  Despite the way I was cir
cling the drain, and much to my surprise, there were signs of life everywhere. Cars drove up and down the two lane road below. Lights flickered on and off. The faint smell of BBQ wafted through the air. Echoing bass from music playing somewhere in the distance vibrated off the cold metal platform, thudding softly underneath me in rhythmic succession. The ground below appeared flattened, much like I imagined the earth would look from space.

  It was all so far, far away.

  Somewhere down there, eating the food and dancing to that music, were people. Happy people. I remembered the last day I was happy. A slow running silent movie, except in vivid technicolor. I could recall every single smile, every laugh, every exaggerated hand gesture as stories and jokes were exchanged.

  It was how it ended that haunted me. A scene that never drifted far from the screen playing it on a loop over and over again in my nightmares.

  With the back of a shaky hand I wiped the tears from my cheek, smudging my heavy black eye-makeup across my face.

  My stomach suddenly wretched. However, no amount of purging could expel the kind of decaying impurities keeping me trapped in a life I hated. I breathed in and out slowly, in an attempt to gather my thoughts and quell the nausea, but despite my efforts to hold my shit together, the world spun. A violent pain slashed behind my eyes like someone was trying to hack their way out of my skull.

 
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