Shades of Black

November 20, 2011
By BonitaG PLATINUM, Bainbridge, Pennsylvania
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BonitaG PLATINUM, Bainbridge, Pennsylvania
22 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”


Author's note: I like to try to expand my writing by making myself try and write about different lifestyles. I hope you enjoy this piece. It's not done yet.

The LSD was playing tricks with her mind, but somehow she didn’t care anymore. At first, she had preferred to use depression drugs; the ones with the scientific names that could be bought over-the-counter, because she didn’t need a prescription. Her mother had bought them to combat her “nervousness,” and “mood swings,” as a way to cope with her problems.

Her mother had always been a disgrace. She had cheated on her husband with a guy she had met at the local pub, and when she was caught she feigned innocence. Two weeks later, at divorce court, she was literally on her knees in front of her husband begging for forgiveness, but he said he couldn’t deal with her anymore as a woman…as a wife, and he was gone.

Numbly rolling a joint in her hand, she balanced the joint in her hand and set it ablaze. With lifeless eyes she watched it smolder and raised it to her lips and puffed. Her father had wanted custody of her, had promised her a “new start,” a “bright new beginning.” He had painted her pictures of a new life full of possibilities and new beginnings. But she didn’t want new friends and a new house. She wanted everything to be familiar, because familiar had always been comfortable.

Staring into the distance, she closed her eyes and listened to the rush of the waves on the shore. Growing up, her family had always lived in the beach house for the summer. Everyone lived close together and everyone knew everyone’s business. However, since the split, the number of neighbors talking to them had dwindled to a hardly sizeable number.

The only thing the neighbors were interested in was information. She hated them and their gossip, festering lips.

“Hello?” Turning, she half expected to see her mother, still tucked in her bedclothes with a bottle of alcohol in hand, or even the dude from the pub. He visited sometimes, but she hated him. She didn’t trust him or the way he leered at her, his meaty fingers always trying to grab her as he stared. But no matter how many times he came around, she always made sure she was there with her mother. She felt a moral obligation to watch out for her mother, and she had good reason to…Her mother was hardly an adult. She acted on impulse instead of on regulated information. Her mother was too much of a child to be left alone.

She didn’t recognize him; although, she didn’t expect to be able to distinguish him. He stood watching her, his dark eyes staring perceptively at her.

“Can I help you?” She asked her voice hard. She didn’t understand why some guy she didn’t even know was standing in a cove watching her smoke a blunt.

Shifting her weight tentatively, she stared back at him. He was good-looking in an eclectic way. His dark eyes danced and streaks of purple swirled through his auburn hair. Moving forward, he kept his eyes on his sandal clad feet as he watched the sand shift underneath him.

“I’m new here,” he stated, his voice oddly alluring, “and you’re the first person my age that I’ve met. What’s your name?”

“Aria,” she mumbled Unsure of what else to do, she did the first thing she thought of and offered him a joint.

“No thanks, I don’t smoke,” he murmured, a slight accent lilting over the words.

“Oh, so you are one of those good kids, huh? Like my boyfriend,” she mocked, her voice slightly taunting.

“No, I just don’t smoke,” he retorted. Turning her back on him, she stared back out at the beach. Frothy waves crashed on the golden sand, and seagulls swooped in perfect circles overhead. Couples strolled languorously on the shore, and kids shrieked as they kicked blissfully in the cold water. Sighing, she took another puff and closed her eyes. She didn’t know why she had brought him up. She didn’t want to think about it, in fact, but he had popped out of her mouth anyways. Shaking her hair out of her face, she tilted her head towards the beach and the waves. Why had she brought him up, dammit?

“So, what is there to do around here anyways?”

His voice startled her from her trance, and scowling, she turned and glared at him. “Whatever you want to do,” she retorted, annoyed that he was still hanging around.

“Can you show me around?” His voice was gentle, and yet, she couldn’t help but roll her eyes.

“I’m not your freakin’ babysitter.”

“But you’re the only person I know, plus I think we could be friends.”

She stifled a laugh, and stared at him. “I don’t need friends,” she mumbled.

“Most people who say that need one.”

“I just met you, and you are already trying to counsel me?”

“I’m just trying to help.”

“I don’t need your help; I can take care of myself thank you.” Angrily, she took a few steps further into the cove and cursed. Turning around, she added, “And get out of my cove!”

That was the first time she met Jake.

“Aria, have you seen the new boy?” Lana asked, as she stared longingly in the mirror. Smearing on bright red lipstick, she pressed her lips together and listened to the pop.


“Which one?”

“Jake, of course. The senior.” Giggling, Lana fluffed her hair with her fingers. Her outfit was scandalous, and very nearly broke all the rules in the dress code. A thin halter-top exposed an eyeful of cleavage as well as her midriff, and her tiny jean shorts left barely anything to the imagination.

“Um, I don’t think so, but is he the one everybody is talking about?”

“Of course. He is like, so, hot,” Lana mused.

“Oh.”

Usually he was brought up in a whisper and a fit of giggles would ensue, sometimes from naïve freshman girls who said that he was gorgeous; that he could be a rock star, an actor, or a model, but more often than not he was also the subject of the senior girls’ conversations who knew that if anyone had a chance with him, it was one of them since he was a senior too.

“Don’t sound so dull Aria; a new boyfriend is just what you need.”

Sighing, Aria wrinkled her nose and lit up a joint.

“You are so going to get busted one of these times,” Lana warned.

“You sound just like my mother.”

“I’m just trying to help; I know that losing Tommy was really hard…”

“Just shut up, will you? You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“…But he’s dead Aria. You need to accept that, and smoking your disgusting weed is not going to help…”

“SHUT UP!”

“Just trying to help.”




“Well then, stop trying to help. I am absolutely fine by myself, thank you, geez!” The door slammed behind Lana as she exited the bathroom, and Aria sighed, and tried to lose herself to the freedom that smoking brought her. She had been having the nightmares again. The ones in which Tommy was still alive…the one before he had gone off and committed suicide…she should have known he had a problem, but he had been so good at hiding things from her. Or maybe, she had just been really good at not noticing that things were wrong. She blinked back tears, and turned on the water faucet.

Sometimes Lana was so annoying. And what did she know anyways? How dare she bring up Tommy? After the funeral, Aria had gone crazy. Instead of staying indoors and dressing in black like a usual mourner, she would find herself revisiting all of their usual haunts. She couldn’t seem to stop wandering to the places where they had hung out at: the narrow path between the trees killed by too much salt by the beach; the meadow where they had first kissed; the local bar, “Alosange” and of course the cove.

The water was on high now, and the drain filled and overflowed over the narrow, porcelain sink. Water gushed onto Aria’s shirt, completely soaking her as she daydreamed.


How could she have missed the signs? But Tommy had never been depressed, he didn’t even smoke, and he barely ever drank. He said he didn’t need too…said he could have just as much fun without being wasted, and for some reason, he always managed to make drugs and alcohol seem stupid to her.

Not anymore.

After she had found out he was dead, the first thing she had done was opened her mothers liquor cabinet and downed a bottle. Later, she had thrown up everywhere. Heaving out her stomach contents onto the rug, she had spewed the bathroom with her vomit. The liquor hadn’t tasted good, but she was hooked on its effect: Absolute bliss for a second. Every time she drank, she could forget who she was. It was like she was invisible for a while.

“Aria, are you okay?” It was Lana’s voice again.

“I thought you had left.”

“I had, but the teacher wanted me to come find you…. you’ve been in here for 15 minutes.”

“Oh.”

Lana turned off the water faucet and looked into Aria’s eyes. “Are you sure everything is okay? I mean, we can talk about it…”

“Everything is fine Lana, just get out of my face for a while.”

Hurt crowded across Lana’s face for a second before she pretended that she didn’t care. “Fine. I just was worried.”
“I told you. I’m a big girl. Tell Strickler, I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Whatever.” The door slammed again, and Aria absently ran a hand through her hair. For a while after Tommy had died she had contemplated committing suicide too. Apparently the school had thought she might commit suicide as well, because they had an intervention meeting, and told her that they would be watching her.

Somebody always seemed to be watching her.

They hadn’t told her they had planned to replace him. But, of course, she should have known. Football season had been right around the corner when had died, and they would need a new quarterback. Sometimes she hated him for dying and for leaving her so absolutely alone.

She hated being alone.

The school was buzzing with excitement after the news leaked out that Jake was trying out for quarterback. And, of course, the cheerleaders were none to enthusiastic about showing him their routines and offering to show him around. Everyone wanted to touch him. He was like a brand new toy: A brand new, achingly gorgeous toy. She didn’t need him though. All she wanted to do was mourn by drowning out her sorrow with beer: Lots and lots of beer.
When Jake had been alive, everything had been different. He had helped her coast through the days by steadying her whenever she fell. He had helped her forget how miserable her life was by understanding where she was coming from. He was the only one who had ever understood her. Even before her parents had split, life had been miserable, but at least it had been bearable. Her mother had only done pot on the weekends, and her father would only cheat once a year. The only thing solid about her childhood had been Tommy. When her parents were fighting, she would sneak out from the trailer and into Tommy’s. Together, they would invent stories until they fell asleep.
She hadn’t been able to sleep since he died.

She thought that perhaps she could remedy the situation by moving in with her father. But her father wouldn’t answer the phone, and the more she thought about it, the more she knew she couldn’t leave her mother alone in the world. And so, now she was the sole provider for the family.

They hadn’t told her they had planned to replace him. But, of course, she should have known. Football season had been right around the corner when had died, and they would need a new quarterback. Sometimes she hated him for dying and for leaving her so absolutely alone.

She hated being alone.

The school was buzzing with excitement after the news leaked out that Jake was trying out for quarterback. And, of course, the cheerleaders were none to enthusiastic about showing him their routines and offering to show him around. Everyone wanted to touch him. He was like a brand new toy: A brand new, achingly gorgeous toy. She didn’t need him though. All she wanted to do was mourn by drowning out her sorrow with beer: Lots and lots of beer.
When Jake had been alive, everything had been different. He had helped her coast through the days by steadying her whenever she fell. He had helped her forget how miserable her life was by understanding where she was coming from. He was the only one who had ever understood her. Even before her parents had split, life had been miserable, but at least it had been bearable. Her mother had only done pot on the weekends, and her father would only cheat once a year. The only thing solid about her childhood had been Tommy. When her parents were fighting, she would sneak out from the trailer and into Tommy’s. Together, they would invent stories until they fell asleep.
She hadn’t been able to sleep since he died.

She thought that perhaps she could remedy the situation by moving in with her father. But her father wouldn’t answer the phone, and the more she thought about it, the more she knew she couldn’t leave her mother alone in the world. And so, now she was the sole provider for the family.

The trailer was always dirty. No matter how many times she cleaned it, her mother would always find new ways to wreck it. At first, Aria had thought that allowing her mother to throw the china plates against the wall was just her mother’s way of coping with the divorce.

Her mother hadn’t stopped throwing things for the past 6 months, and they couldn’t afford a therapist on Aria’s wages or even the monthly government regulated stipend and food stamps. So, the throwing continued, along with the alcoholic binges and stream of strange men that wanted nothing better than to spend a day with her mother.


When she was younger, her father had told her that she looked exactly like her mother. And, for the most part she did. She had the pouty lips, round, smooth face and dark hair, but that was as far as the resemblances went. While her mother was sloppy, Aria was organized; while her mother was addicted to drugs, Aria was more into beer and wine, and while her mother would fervently swear to heaven and back that she wanted nothing more than the best for her child, Aria was all too familiar with the punches and screamed curses when there was not enough money to keep her mother high.


The rest of the day passed in a blur of classes. Lana had ignored her for the rest of the day, and as far as Aria was concerned, that was just fine. She could always make amends later, and that was only if she even wanted to. Lana was one of those girls who were so desperate to have friends that she would always forgive Aria: Always

There is something always reassuring about a seashore walk. Perhaps it is the way the frothy waves displace the golden sand, or the way the seashells glisten. Whatever it is, Aria loved it. Although, the shore was close to home which was anything but desirable, it was at the shore where she could think and get away from everything. It was at the shore where Tommy would always meet her.


She hadn’t cried when they told her he had committed suicide. It wasn’t out of lack of respect that she didn’t cry but lack of feelings. It was like every single emotion she had ever had was suddenly shut out. Like, she had always been living in full color and somebody had finally told her the world was actually just different shades of black. Tommy had always been the color.


The first time he had held her hand she had been crying in the cove. The girls at school had been particularly harsh that day and her parents had been fighting, so she had escaped. Tommy had found her and sat down quietly beside her. A perfect statue. Instead of trying to fix her myriad of problems he had unclasped her hands and slowly tucked her small hand into his and squeezed it until she could feel his pulse.


His pulse.


Growing up, she had always prided herself on not being a crier. She had always been able to endure more pain than anyone else without flinching, and she had been proud of that. Her father had always cautioned her to, “never let her guard down” and she had always listened to that. She wasn’t listening now. She hadn’t meant to cry, hadn’t meant to allow the stares to get to her today, but they had, and all she could think was that she was entirely alone.


“Aria.” The husky voice pulled her from her daydreaming and into an instant state of concern. He hadn’t been supposed to find her here: He was supposed to be at the house with her mother having a “conversation.” Although, she knew that not very much conversation was ever exchanged.


“Your mother owes me some money.”


His voice was closer to her now, and she turned to glare at him while her hands hung lifelessly at her side. “How much?” She didn’t doubt that her mother owed him money. Her mother seemed to owe everybody money.

“Three grand.” He sneered. He was a scrawny, snake of a man and patches of black streaky hair barely covered his shiny pate.


Aria hid a gasp at the sum. She didn’t know they owed that much.
“I will get you the money,” she promised. “I just need some time.”

“Some time?” His voice was icy now and he slowly reached out to touch her arm. His fingers slid up and down her arm to her shoulder and then to her face. “I think you’ve had enough time, don’t you? Instead, your momma decided that you are going to work for me until her debt is paid off.” The pads of his fingers caressed her face and he leaned in and sniffed her hair. “Delectable. You better be careful when you work at the bar my little beauty. Not all the guys are as self-controlled as I am.”

Kissing her forehead, he slowly tipped her face towards his and slowly grabbed her throat. “And if you ever think of running or calling the cops, I, my beauty, will personally kill you.”

“You did what?” Aria demanded. Clare, Aria’s mother, sat lifelessly on a grey couch in the living room. Beer bottles lay littered at her feet, and she stared at Aria with bloodshot eyes.


Claire was silent.


“You did WHAT?” Aria demanded again, furious.


Again, Claire was silent.



Aria knew Claire didn’t care. She could see that now. Somehow, she had always been oblivious enough to think that Claire had cared to, at least, some degree. Nobody who cares about their child sells them in order to pay off a debt.

Nobody.



All these years, Aria had stuck with her mom because she had known her mom wouldn’t make it on her own, and even though her mom never returned any of it, Aria had loved her. She hated herself for it, but she still loved Claire. Claire was her mother, and that couldn’t be changed, no matter how much Claire would have liked it to.


Finally, as if regaining some sanity, her mother’s mouth began to move.
“Where’s my medicine?” Claire slurred, and then, in almost an afterthought, she added, “you start at 6. Wear something nice.” Claire had never been able to call the heroin and marijuana by their real names; instead it was always “medicine.” Aria stalked into the kitchen and pretended she hadn’t heard. She could hear her mother get up and begin to frantically pull cushions off the couch while looking for the stash.


“How do you owe him three thousand dollars?” Aria seethed while opening a cupboard. Earlier that morning, she had hidden the stash inside of an empty vitamin bottle and she wanted to check that it was still there. She was determined not to let her mother have any until she could get some answers. The kitchen was a mess. Dirty dishes overflowed the small sink and onto the counters. The floor hadn’t been swept in days and the trash needed to be taken out.


“Shut up and hand it over, that’s none of your f-ing business” Claire snarled.



“While you were sleeping off your hangover, Dalton found me on the beach. You SOLD me to him. I think that makes this my business Claire!”


Claire sat down and stared while letting her drug-addled brain process the information. “Dalton? I don’t owe Dalton nothin’.”


“No? So you just sold me to him for nothing?”


“Sold? Why would I sell you honey? I love you, now run along and get your mommy her medicine. I’m not feeling so well.” Claire’s usually pale face was starting to sweat, and Aria wondered how many minutes s she had left before her mother became abusive. Her mother’s cycles were always the same. First was the pleading and begging and then came the abuse. There was always the abuse.


“No Claire. I need answers. I’ve hidden your stash until I get it.”


Aria could see Claire’s face begin to darken until she was red with rage. “Dammit!” At this, Claire launched herself off the smelling and sagging couch and towards Aria. “Dammit!” Claire began to blow-the drugs making her already small amount of self-control almost non-existent, “Why the hell would you do that? ! That’s mine and if you touch it again, I will f-ing kill you!”


Her mother’s death threats were usually pretty frequent. However, no matter how many times her mother threatened her, Aria always found herself shuddering in fear. The first death threats had begun the day after her father announced that he wanted a divorce. Aria, in an effort to protect herself, had started sleeping with a knife under her pillow and one in the top drawer of her bedside stand.



She hoped she would never have to use it.


A long time ago, Dalton and her mother had used to be lovers. Her mother had related the story one time during a particularly arduous drunken stupor. It was before she was married, Claire had assured Aria. “We were just kids.” Claire had slurred. Aria wanted to tell her that she was still a kid but she had held her tongue. Instead, Aria had listened to Claire tell stories about long walks in the park and poker games in dark, foul-smelling taverns. “He was such a nice young lad,” her mother had mused, “such a nice gentleman.”

Nice gentlemen don’t buy kids, Aria thought. Nice gentlemen don’t run bars and strip clubs and, nice gentlemen certainly would not associate with her mother. Her mother had gone into hysterics after the story and Aria had had to carry her to bed and tuck her in. She remembered pulling the brown, raggedy blanket up to her mother’s chin only to be shocked to hear her mother murmur something about a secret. But then she was gone-asleep in her drug-induced coma: Dead to the world.

Filling a cup with water, Aria walked back to her mother only to find Claire asleep again. Stench emanated from Claire’s skin and Aria tried not to guess how long it had been since Claire had bathed. Sighing, she slumped into a wooden chair-the only other piece of furniture in the living room-and put her head into her hands. She had twenty minutes before she was supposed to be at work.

He wasn’t going to be happy. Ever since the Mexico job, Barns had been breathing down his back. It hadn’t even been Dalton’s fault that things had gone awry. It had only been partially his fault, but Barn’s wasn’t going to believe that, and Dalton knew that.


It had been supposed to be simple: A mere drug exchange. No one was supposed to die and no one was supposed to get arrested. He had been assured that the cops had been paid off and that the whole thing would take less than ten minutes. Nobody had accounted for Marcus to go rogue. In all actuality, Dalton should’ve been happy to be alive. But being alive and knowing what Barns would do to him was anything but pleasant. In fact, Dalton was quite sure he would’ve been better off left for dead.



Dalton drummed his hands anxiously on his steering wheel and stared out at the dimly lit bar. Music blared from the half-open windows, and he could make out throngs of people dancing. The smell of smoke and sweaty bodies was heavy in the air. Beads of sweat formed on the crown of his head as Dalton opened the door of his truck and headed towards the door.


Inside people swayed back and forth to the newest pop songs. Dalton weaved effortlessly between tables and couples until he came to a small wooden door at the back of the bar. A small golden plaque read, “Private” and Dalton could feel his pulse quicken. He was not anticipating this meeting at all. His footsteps slowed as he walked down the slight hallway. Dim, florescent lights hummed above him and he couldn’t help but notice that everything smelled like bleach and ammonia: As if someone was trying to be particularly careful to clean up after a mess. The lights made his skin appear a sickly yellow color and he fervently prayed that this hallway would not be the last thing he saw before he died.


He had heard stories about the things Dalton did to those who “frustrated” him. He just hoped that Dalton would have the patience to hear him out first.


The hallway turned abruptly to the right and stopped at another door. No plaque hung on the door, and hesitantly Dalton stood in front of it. Should he knock? Before he could say or do anything, the door swung open and Dalton stood face to face with Barns.


Barns was tall, at least six feet five, possibly six foot six, but that wasn’t what made him intimidating. Barns was daunting because he absolutely had no fear about anything. He knew how to make even the biggest person in the room feel inferior because he was so good at picking up on minute cues.

He was too good at picking up on other’s flaws.

He called people by their full first name because he knew that intimidated them. He used a quiet voice and maintained an impassive face because he knew it kept them guessing about what he was thinking. Although he was heavy set, he knew how to use his weight: hours of intense martial arts, boxing and rounds at a gun range had seen to that.


“You’re late. Sit down.” Barns pointed quickly to a small table with two seats, and shut the door. It clicked into place, and Dalton noticed, to his severe apprehension, that two men stood in the corners of the room. Dalton sat down in the appointed chair and tried not to shift his weight or show his terror.


“Jeremiah, how was Mexico?” Barns questioned his voice low and terrifying. “I’m sure it is nice this time of year.”


Dalton took a deep breath and tried to steady himself while one of the gentlemen from the corners came forward and began to pat him down. He hated that Barns called him by his first name. It unnerved him.

“Just freaking fantastic,” he muttered. He wished that Barns would quit the bullshit and just ask him straight out how the deal went. He knew that Barns didn’t care about his actual well-being.


“Jeremiah, you were due back 4 days ago. I don’t like waiting, and so I get the feeling that someone made a mistake.” Barns finally looked up from his papers and folded his hands neatly on his desk. “Leo, his gun is probably in his back pocket,” Barns offered. “But don’t worry about it. Dalton wouldn’t be nearly so stupid as to try to shoot me.”


Dalton knew not to respond to Barns until signaled. Although, Barns’ voice was gentle right now, he knew that in an instant it could change to fury. Sometimes, Dalton imagined that the Devil had Barns’ voice.


“So tell me Jeremiah, what exactly happened in Mexico?” Barns unfolded his hands and gestured at Dalton to speak.


“There was a problem with the Cartel. They stated that we only made half the amount-50 kilos, but I know we paid for the full amount. They said they wouldn’t give us the full amount until they got the rest of their money, but I, like I stated, knew that we had already paid them. So, I told them it was going to be on their heads. As we were heading back to our cars, they started shooting with a couple AK47’s. Apparently, they also hijack weapons and sell them too. Both the other guys you sent got shot.” Dalton took a deep breath and then continued. “I was able to drop to the ground faster than them, but I still got hit.” Slowly, Dalton pulled up his shirt to reveal a nasty bullet abrasion. Blood had soaked through a makeshift bandage around his middle, and Barns could see bits of dirt and debris stuck to minor scratches and cuts on Dalton’s middle. “I couldn’t go very fast because I got hit, but I managed to track down the correspondent. He claimed he had no idea that they were going to say that they didn’t get enough money.”


“Since you obviously didn’t go to the hospital, I expect the four days you were missing was spent interrogating the rat correspondent?” Barns’ voice was chilling and Dalton fought to maintain his composure. “I assume you killed him?”


“No sir, I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.” Dalton managed. He tried to speak again, but his saliva seemed suddenly thick in his mouth and so he remained mute.



Barns seemed to think for a moment and then he nodded. At first, Dalton assumed that him nodding was a good sign; however, once he heard the rustling behind him he knew it was at the two men behind him.


One pair of meaty hands seized his arms and placed his hands on the desk, while the other pinned him to his chair. Struggling, Dalton tried to speak, but found himself fighting back sobs instead.


“You screwed up, Jeremiah.”


Dalton tried to beg, to plea, but nothing came out. Instead he stared, wide-eyed into Barns’ cold, green eyes.


“A lot of my success was riding on that one deal, but you couldn’t handle that.”


Dalton began to plead, words stumbled awkwardly out of his mouth, “Barns please, I did the best I..”


“The best you could’ve done was to kill the correspondent. You always have your gun. It would’ve been simple. Just one shot. You could’ve made it look like an accident.” Barns stretched out and smacked Dalton hard across the face.


“I can’t afford any more mistakes. You,” he paused and seemed to smile to himself, “definitely can’t afford any more mistakes.” Barns took a breath and continued. “And don’t talk when I’m speaking, you’re worthless and you’ve already proved to me that you can’t handle a job, don’t piss me off as well. However, because I’m a gracious man, say that.”


The fingers tightened around Dalton’s shaking frame as he softly repeated the words, “you’re gracious.”


“What am I?” Barns’ voice was quiet again, and Dalton squelched his impulse to curse.

“You’re more than gracious with me, Mr. Barns,” he replied.


“Yes I am, aren’t I?” mused Barns. “And because I am gracious, I will not kill you. I am going to give you one more chance Jeremiah. But first, we are going to teach you a lesson in order to ensure that you won’t ever mess up again. Think of it, as for your benefit.”


Dalton’s mouth fell open in a surprised ‘O’ and tears began to glisten in his eyes for a moment, until he saw the knife.


Leo gripped Dalton’s hand and began to fan his fingers. Dalton began to mutter, “No, please no,” but nobody paid him any attention.


“Why my dear Jeremiah, how would you learn if not by something that you see every day?”



Moments later, deafening, bone-chilling screams rang throughout the room and echoed into the halls, but were lost in the blaring music and noise of the bar.

From the lackluster siding to the sloppy roofing job, Petey’s Tavern had obviously never been a tourist attraction in Gallington. Known for its sleazy music and undesirable crowds, Petey’s Tavern; however, remained crowded most weekend evenings. Of course, it also helped that Petey’s Tavern was also known to give out beer to underage teenagers who were willing to help do the side jobs: boosting cars, dealing drugs or helping the men who ran the tavern relieve their sexual preferences.

Sighing, Aria quickly brushed her fingers through her hair and stalked to her car. Petey’s Tavern was where her mother expected her to work. Petey’s Tavern was a place of absolute hell to a girl like her.


She thought about telling Claire that she was going to work, but she figured that Claire wouldn’t even care. The last time Aria had looked at her, Claire had been knocked out on the couch, an empty wine bottle still clasped in a pale hand.



She would sell me, seethed Aria. What kind of mother uses their only daughter to pay off a debt? Furious, Aria climbed into her car and drove the three short miles to the Tavern. The bar looked even more pathetic when it was daytime. Paint peeled from the siding and the sun revealed squatty windows that hadn’t been cleaned in months; and even from the safety of her car, Aria could still hear the pounding music that emanated from the bar.


Sighing, she locked her car and headed into the dingy building. Even before she reached the door, cigarette smoke and the smell of sweaty bodies permeated the air. Coughing slightly, she opened the door and stood awkwardly inside the door with her hands tucked safely inside of her pockets. She had no idea who she was supposed to talk to or what she was supposed to do.


“Aria, right?” A slightly familiar baritone voice called from across the bar. Turning, Aria glanced across the dimly lit room to recognize a guy she had seen before. She thought he was the bartender, but she wasn’t quite sure. When she had come here after Tommy had died, he had been the guy waiting on her, the one whom had taken her home when she had fallen unconscious. Embarrassed, she began to scuff her shoes on the cheap, wooden floor. “I’m Detroit,” he laughed and offered her his hand. She couldn’t help but notice the way his dark hair curled slightly around his face or the way his dark eyes danced when he smiled. “So you’re the new help?” He questioned.


“Yeah,” Aria tried to smile but found herself grimacing instead.


“It’s not all bad,” Detroit comforted, “you get free drinks when you’re off, and I mean, you already made friends with the coolest person here,” he chuckled. Aria smiled and glanced at him. He was very cute. “Well, I may as well as give you the grand tour.” Grabbing her hand, Detroit led her slowly to the kitchen.



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