Home > Scarred Regrets : A Dark Mafia Romance

Scarred Regrets : A Dark Mafia Romance
Author: Adelaide Forrest

 


PART I

 

 

SLUMBER

 

 

1

 

 

SCAR

 

 

Twenty-four years ago

“If you were to tell your story in one sentence, what would it be?” My feet raced along the haphazard attempt at a sidewalk as I thought over my teacher’s words. I jumped over one of the broken spots where the ground had split and crumbled over years of repeated abuse. I didn’t even need to watch where I was going as I tried to find the words for my story, but all I could think about was how much I had in common with the broken, jagged concrete beneath my sneakers that were filled with holes.

I didn’t need a sentence to tell my story. I only needed one word.

Suffering.

Pain came in different forms, but the result of all of them lumped together into a puddle of misery was the same—a story no one who didn’t exist as jagged, broken pieces would understand. It was the kind of story that people turned a blind eye to, pretending they didn’t see the bruises or tattered, stained clothing.

Because it was a story that no one wanted to hear.

Just like all those people who pretended they couldn’t see the signs, I raced over that broken concrete like my life depended on it. It was nothing but a symptom of the bigger problem, a reminder of the dangers of my home. Nothing could make me walk in this neighborhood, not if I wanted to keep breathing, to go to school to be ignored the next day.

To walk here was to die. To walk was to risk running into one of my parents’ friends, or someone even worse, who was barely even human anymore.

The chain clutched tightly in my hand pressed against my skin as I ran, the charm dangling and the vivid green of the butterfly sparkling in the light. My sister loved the butterflies on the rare occasion we snuck out of the house in the middle of the day, so she could see more than the bare glimpse of sunshine that streamed in the old, warped window in our bedroom.

When we’d go to the park, where the grass was as green as the charm held tightly in my hand, we’d just watch the other kids play while she enjoyed the sun warming her skin. They seemed so carefree, so light and child-like, that we couldn’t relate.

I’d never been on the swings. No one had ever bothered to teach me how to pump my legs the way they did, so I’d never risked making a fool out of myself in the presence of other kids.

Adults could be cruel. They could hurt and maim and violate, but the laughter of kids who judged me for everything I didn’t know was another kind of torment. I’d save myself from the pain.

I had enough of that in my life as it was.

I rounded the corner to our street, hauling ass like my life depended on it, and in our neighborhood it very well might have. Needles and syringes lined the streets, used condoms littering the openings to alleyways where men took what they wanted from women and boys alike. The thought of walking to school with Cesca every day, knowing she would see the things I did, made my breathing come just a little harder.

I’d done everything I could to protect her, ever since I was old enough to know that most kids didn’t know men paid for sex on street corners. Most of the other boys in second grade didn’t even know what sex was yet, let alone where you stuck your thing.

But kids in this neighborhood grew up fast. We grew up finding our parents passed out on the couch with needles in their arms, or white powder on the table. We walked in on them while they had sex out in the open, everything visible for their friends to see.

And sometimes, we didn’t escape fast enough when we stumbled onto something we shouldn’t have.

The bushes in front of the house were overgrown, half covering the rickety wooden steps that led up to the front door. I rounded the corner and put my hand on the railing that felt like it might topple over any day now. Running up the first three steps, I jumped over the fourth that was rotted out, and my foot barely kissed the fifth before I stood on the platform at the top.

It wasn’t quite what anyone would call a porch or a deck, closer to a stoop than anything, but to sit on it would have been to tempt the agony of falling through.

I hated to think of how I would come and go once it collapsed.

Sucking back a deep breath, I placed my hand on the knob and turned. They never locked it, and the front door creaked as I shoved it open quickly and threw it closed behind me. My feet carried me toward the bedroom I shared with Francesca, hurtling past my parents and their friends with barely a glance.

Their best friend, the person I hated more than anything, called out to me as I ran. “Where you goin', boy?” I knew I was only prolonging the inevitable in not answering, but Cesca deserved to have the pretty butterfly I’d found at school before he could desecrate it with his touch.

Before they could take it away and crush it like they did anything that was even a little beautiful in this house. It was only a matter of time before they got to Cesca. I needed to get her out.

I rapped my hand on the door in our secret knock that she knew meant it was me. It changed every day of the week, something different to keep anyone from figuring it out. My parents’ friends were usually too high to even attempt to learn it.

But I’d rather be safe than sorry with Cesca.

She opened the door, letting me slip inside quickly and lock it behind myself. The bedroom window on the other side of the room called to me, making me wish we could just leave. Go somewhere else and start over, but there was no more hope out there than there was in here.

At least here there was a roof. There was a door with a lock that my parents hadn’t taken away yet, though as Francesca got older, that was sure to change.

They’d see the value in her just as they had with me.

I turned to look back at the door, waiting for Brad’s furious knocking to start when he got impatient waiting for me to come back out on my own. It was no secret that I liked to check on my sister and give her whatever food I’d snuck away from school before going to the living room to deal with…

Them.

Whoever it might be that day. The name and face hardly mattered anymore.

They were all the same.

I dropped my torn backpack on the floor next to Cesca’s feet, unzipping it to reveal the apple and half a sandwich I’d saved for her. She stared at it hungrily, tears pooling in her pretty brown eyes while she waited for permission to eat.

I didn’t make her wait, nodding to her to dig in. She’d not eaten all day, and the food I brought from school was the only thing she’d have for the rest of the night, unless I was brave enough to sneak out after our parents were asleep to find something in the dumpster at the pizza place down the street.

In the fall, she’d go to school with me every day. At least she’d be safe for a few hours a day and she’d have food of her own. We wouldn’t have to share a single lunch for too much longer.

Even if it felt like an eternity.

“Come on, Boyo!” Brad called from the living room, his footsteps shaking the house as he stood and made his way toward the hallway. I smiled at Cesca like always, holding out the necklace for her to see.

“Me?” she asked, touching dirty fingers to the shiny green butterfly that seemed far too pretty for people like us. But every little girl deserved something pretty, even if she lived an ugly life.

“You,” I said, unclasping it and securing it around her neck. She looked down at where the butterfly hung too low on her chest, smiling at it softly where it rested. The knock on the door made her jump, her eyes flying wide as she shook her head no. “If anyone tries to come in, you go out the window,” I said, like I always told her.

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