Chapter 11: Trenton, North Carolina - August 30, 2003
“Hi, Mr. Green. Is Abby home?” I heard Cory asked a few seconds after my Dad answered the front door.
“Cory, isn’t she always here?” He replied, moving aside to let Cory in. I looked up from my spot on the floor and smiled at my best friend. He was wearing a white t-shirt and a pair of khaki shorts, his oversized blue sneakers on his feet.
“Hey. What’s up?” I asked, closing my notebook that was sprawled out in front of me. Dad disappeared up the hallway towards the kitchen where Momma was baking a cake.
“Nothing. Figured I would see if you wanna go out to the creek with me.” He said, playing with his pocket nervously.
“Sure. Let me tell my parents where I’m going first, okay?” He nodded as I hopped off the floor. Walking up the hallway, I entered the kitchen. Momma was mixing something in a large bowl while Dad was stealing batter off of a spoon. “Can I go down to the creek with Cory for a little while?”
“Sure, dear. Be home in time for dinner though. And tell Cory he is more than welcome to join us as usual.” Mom said, smiling at me. She had been sick all last week, leaving her stuck in bed. Today was the first day she looked like something other than a zombie.
“I will!” I called, running back down the hall towards where Cory was waiting. I slid my sneakers on and he followed me out the front door. “My parents said you can stay for dinner if you’d like. Dad’s making bacon cheeseburgers and homemade French fries.”
“Awesome. Your dad makes the best fries.” Cory replied, leading the way across the street. We walked down the path towards the creek. The hot and sticky August air hung around us, making sweat appear on our skin as we made our way towards the water. Cory stopped about halfway to the school, sitting under the big tree was always sit under. I sat next to him, looking up at the sky. Big white and puffy clouds slowly made their way by. “I gotta show you something.” He said, breaking the silence between us.
“What?” I replied. Reaching into the pocket of his shorts, he pulled out a piece of white printer paper. He held it out for me to take which I did. Unfolding it, I was met with a picture of a man. He had short, dark hair and light eyes. Everything seemed grey in the black and white picture. Above the picture, it read INMATE TRACKER. Under the picture, the name Carl Forester was typed along with his height, weight and his age. On the bottom of the page, it said RELEASE DATE: September 2, 2003.
“That’s my dad, Abby. I went to the library and found him using the computer. He’s getting released from prison next week. I was thinking if I found him, maybe I could go live with him instead of Vicky and Jake.” He looked excited and hopeful, a smile on his face.
“Cory, you don’t even know where he is or why he’s in jail. Did it say what he did?” Shaking his head, he took the paper back.
“No. It said something about a drug charge I guess. Every time I tried to see, it wanted me to pay money with a credit card. It doesn’t matter though. If I find him, I can go live with him.”
“How are you going to find him?”
“I called the prison he’s in. They said he was being released on Tuesday and he takes a shuttle to Newburg after. I figured I could bike there and catch him at the bus station.”
“You’re going by yourself? Cory, that’s dangerous!” I exclaimed.
“Well, what else am I supposed to do? Here’s no way Vicky is going to drive me there. It’s only two miles down the road. I’ll be fine.”
“I’m going with you then. There’s no way I’m letting you go alone.”
“Abz, your parents aren’t going to let you go to Newburg without one of them.”
“That’s why we aren’t telling them. I have some money saved up from babysitting Mrs. Anderson’s son over the summer. We can take the bus there and wait for him.”
“Are you sure about this?” He asked. I grabbed his hand and gave it a squeeze.
“You go, I go.”
Tuesday morning came. I told my parents I was going with Cory to swim at his aunt’s house for the day. They believed me since I had done that several times throughout the summer. I rode my bike down to the bus stop where he was waiting. Taking my bike, he locked both of ours up with his bike lock somewhere no one would be able to see them. I handed the bus driver $2.38 when it pulled up, the dark blue bus looking shiny in the sunlight. Cory and I made our way to the back seats, ducking down to make sure no one who knew us saw us. The bus lurched forward, heading in the direction for Newburg.
Newburg was slightly bigger than Trenton. It’s considered more of a city than Trenton was and that was only because they had a hospital and their own police force. Trenton shared theirs with the sheriff’s office, not having enough in the budget for our own. The bus pulled up at the bus stop in front of Miller’s Diner. Everyone hopped off including us, some heading for the diner and others up the street towards the recycling center. It was a large factory that a lot of people worked at around the area, including Cory’s foster father. The good thing for us was that he worked nights, meaning there was no way he was accidently see us. Not that he knew who I was. I had never met his foster parents, a decision Cory made from the beginning of our friendship.
“I guess we’ll just sit here until the shuttle comes.” Cory said. I nodded, looking around. There was a nice size maple tree a few feet away, the leaves giving off a nice bit of shade.
“We can sit there. I brought some cookies and juice if you’re hungry.”
“That sounds good.” We walked over and sat under the tree. Cory looked nervous, glancing up and down the street in hopes the bus was coming. I was nervous as well. No one knew we were here to meet a stranger who had just been released from prison. Who knew what this man was like? What if he saw Cory and decided he wanted to be a part of his life? Would he take Cory and move far, far away? The whole situation was making me nervous as we nibbled on our cookies.
“What if he doesn’t like me?” Cory asked, picking at a blade of grass by his shoe.
“Why wouldn’t he like you?”
“I don’t know. Cause I’m stupid and ugly.”
“You are not ugly and you are definitely not stupid. Cory, he’s going to love you. That’s what Dads are supposed to do.”
“I hope so.” The sound of air brakes made us both look up. A white bus with green lettering drove slowly up the road. RAMMSTEIN CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTE was painted on the side of it with light blue paint. Cory and I both stood as I watched dark figures rise from the seats. The doors opened and men began to file out. None of them looked like the man in the picture so far, most having darker skin or lighter hair. Finally, at the end of the line, a man who had Cory’s eyes hopped of the bus. He turned back and said something to the driver, waving as the door shuts. Cory glanced at me.
“That has to be him. He looks like you.” I said.
“Yeah. Here goes nothing.” Stepping towards Mr. Forester, Cory stopped a few feet away. His father pulled out a pack of cigarettes, popping one in his mouth. “Carl Forester?”
“Yeah?” The man answered, lighting his cigarette with a metal lighter. He slammed the top of it shut, killing the flame on it. His eyes landed on Cory, waiting for him to say something. “What’s up, kid? I ain’t got all day.”
“My name is Cory Forester. Jennifer Garber is my birth mother. I believe that makes you my father.” Cory stated. I noticed as he nervously clenched his fists at his side, the paper with Carl’s picture in his left-hand crumbling slightly.
“Jesus Christ.” Carl muttered under his breath, looking Cory up and down. “Well, I suppose you are. You do have my Daddy’s chin. And your mother’s face. Those eyes though. They are all mine. I heard she had a kid after I got locked up. What do you want?” He asked, taking a drag off his cigarette.
“N-N-Nothing.” Cory said, fumbling over his words. “I just wanted to meet you in person. See, right now I’m living in foster care-.” Carl let out a loud laugh, tossing his head back.
“Go figure. That little back stabbing whore snitch couldn’t even raise you. No loss there, kid. She is a terrible excuse for a woman. Only reason they can call her that is the fact she has a nice pair of tits and a pussy.” He glanced at Cory, noticing me standing behind him. “Oh, who is your friend? Pardon my French, dear.”
“This is Abby. She came with me to find you.” Carl grinned at Cory, winking.
“That’s how I know you’re my real kid. Already a lady’s man. She looks like she’ll grow up to be a pretty little thing too.” Anger flashed across Cory’s face but he held it in.
“I came to find you to see if there was any chance I could come to stay with you. My foster care family isn’t the greatest-.” Carl held a hand up, interrupting Cory.
“Let me stop you right there, Cor. I just got my ass out of prison. I haven’t see the light of day outside of a cell in about 13 years. All I want to do now if find myself a nice beer, a nice meal and maybe a nice little honey to spend the night with. Maybe in a few years, we could be roommates or something. Right now, just ain’t the best for me, you know?”
“But you’re my Dad.”
“No. I was just a guy looking for a good time with the wrong bitch. Believe me. I am not Daddy material. Sorry you came all this way looking for a picture-perfect reunion but I’m not that guy.” My heart sank as I watched Cory’s face harden as his father shrugged him off. “Shit. I gotta get going. I’ve gotta sign in with my PO before noon or they’ll have my ass back in the slammer. Listen, kid. If you’re ever in town after you turn 18, look me up. We can get wasted, find ourselves a few good ladies and paint the town red. Well, that is if you two ain’t hooking up at that point yet. If that’s the case, maybe we’ll have to share.” Carl shot me a wink that made my skin crawl.
“Don’t talk to her like that.” Cory said, his voice low and scary sounding. It was the voice he used at school right before he got into fights.
“Let’s go, Cory.” I said, grabbing his shoulder. “He’s not worth it. C’mon.”
“Ya might wanna listen to your little girlfriend, son. You don’t wanna tangle with your old man.” Carl called, turning away from us. Cory started following him but I pulled him back. He was so mad that he was shaking, tears forming in his eyes as he looked at me. I watched as Carl disappeared up the street, not bothering to look back at his son.
“I’m gonna fucking kill him.” Cory whispered, closing his eyes.
“No, you’re not. We are going to go for a walk in the other direction until the bus comes back for Trenton.” He shoulders slumped as a tear slid down his cheek. “I’m so sorry, Cory. You’re better off without him.” I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, pulling him into a hug. He buried his face into my shoulder, a sob escaping as he cried.
“Thank you.” He whispered in my ear a short time later as he calmed down.
“For being the only real family, I have.” He pulled out of the hug enough to look me in the eye. “You’ve been the one person I’ve been able to count on. I don’t know what I would do without you.” I gave him a small smile.
“That’s what I’m here for.” Our eyes locked for minute and I noticed his face was moving closer to mine.
“Abigail Oliver and Cory Forester, you get your asses in this truck right now.” An angry version of my father’s voice said behind me. Cory and I both whipped around, seeing my father’s truck in the parking lot of the diner. He was standing next to the driver’s side door, his face a deep shade of red. A shade I haven’t seen since him and Momma got into a fight about him losing his job last year. Cory and I glanced at each other, wondering if we still had a chance to run. “Now.” Dad repeated, answering our non-verbal question. Cory scooped up my bag and handed it to me as we slowly crossed the street. Dad opened the truck door as we stopped in front of him.
“Don’t. I don’t want to hear it, Abby. We will discuss this when we get home. Cory, get in the back seat.” Cory nodded as he climbed over the seat to the small one in the back. I sat in the passenger seat as Dad stormed over to the driver’s side. He angrily turned the engine on and pulled out of the parking lot. “Do you two have any idea how dangerous this is? You were somewhere that you weren’t supposed to be and no one knew where you were. What if someone snatched you up? Or what if something happened? No one would have been able to find you then.”
“Mr. Green, it’s my fault. I asked Abby to come with me.” Cory said. I saw Dad cast Cory a glare in the rear-view mirror.
“Oh, don’t think for a second I’m not upset about the fact I caught you two kissing, Cory. I put a lot of trust into you when you’re with my daughter. I shouldn’t have to worry what you two are doing when you’re hanging out.”
“We weren’t kissing!” I exclaimed, glaring at him. “Dad, you don’t understand.”
“I saw what I saw, Abz!” He yelled back, pulling into Trenton. “Cory, where do you live? I’m taking you home first. I want to talk to your parents about the stunt you two pulled.”
“You can’t do that, Dad.” I said, turning in my seat to face him. “Punish me all you want. You can’t tell his parents about what happened.”
“The hell I can’t. You are getting punished when we get home. Address, Cory.”
“34 Sycamore.” Cory replied. Glancing back at him, I saw sweat beginning to form on his brow. If Vicky knew we were in Newburg today, she would hurt him. She would figure out why and all Hell would break loose. I was sure of it.
“Dad, you can’t. Please. Just trust me, okay?” I felt tears prick at my eyes as Dad neared Cory’s street.
“How exactly do you expect me to do that after all the lying you did today? You are skating on some thin ice today.”
“We went to Newburg to meet Cory’s real father. He was getting released from prison today and Cory wanted to meet him.” I blurted out, unsure of what else to do. Dad hit the break slightly, slowing down. He pulled over on the side of the road, a corner away from Cory’s house. He turned to look at the both of us.
“Cory, you don’t live with your parents?” He asked. Cory shook his head.
“No, sir. I live with a foster family.” He replied. Dad sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. He glanced at me.
“Abby, you should have told us. Your Mom and I would have taken you two if you had just asked. You guys could have gotten hurt or worse. Especially waiting for the inmate trolley.” Dad looked up the street for a minute before turning back to us. “Listen, I won’t tell your foster folks what happened today, Cory. But you two need to promise me you won’t sneak off to Newburg anymore. No more lying. And no more kissing. I don’t need to know if you were or not. I just don’t want to not trust you when you’re alone. You’re getting to that age where I know that feelings might get complicated and I don’t want you to grow up too fast.”
“It’s not like that, Dad. Cory and I are just friends. Can we go home now?” I asked. Dad nodded, turning back to face the road. Cory let out a sigh of relief as Dad drove away from his house. As we neared our house, I noticed a dark grey mini-van parked across the street in the parking lot of the empty building. Dad pulled into the driveway and climbed out. I slid out of the seat and let Cory out. His eyes landed on the mini-van and his face paled slightly.
“I gotta go.” He whispered.
“What’s the matter?” Turning, I noticed a woman getting out of the minivan. She was a very round woman wearing black pants and a bright purple t-shirt. Her hair was a wild mess of black and blonde and glasses framed her eyes. Momma came out on the porch to greet us as the woman bee-lined it for Cory and me. I realized this must be Vicky.
“Cory! Where the hell have you been?” The woman shouted, catching my parents’ attention. She stopped on the sidewalk, glaring at us.
“Hello. Can I help you?” Momma asked, stepping down to the bottom step of the porch stairs. Vicky’s eyes flashed to her.
“I’m here for my son. I heard he’s been running around town with some little tramp. I take it she’s yours!” She exclaimed. My mother’s expression hardened as the woman insulted me.
“Excuse me but I don’t think we’ve met. My name’s Amelia Oliver. My daughter Abby is the one you are insulting. I don’t know how you were raised but calling children horrible names like that is frowned upon around here. Cory and Abby are friends. Are you his mother?”
“No.” I answered before Vicky could. She glared at me, huffing. I stepped in front of Cory, blocking her view of him.
“I’m the only mother he’s got. I don’t appreciate him running around with some girl causing trouble. He hasn’t been coming home all summer and tells me he’s hanging out with his friends. I should have known better.”
“The two of them are best friends. They are good for each other. There is nothing wrong with that.” My Dad said, standing next to Momma.
“Get in the van, Cory.” Vicky said, pointing behind her. “We are going home to discuss your punishment. You aren’t allowed to see this little tramp anymore. No son of mine will act this way. You’re too young to be this close to a girl. Especially one like her.”
“You don’t even know me.” I said, stepping forward. “And he isn’t your son.” My statement made her angrier. Cory gently brushed passed me towards her. “Cory, don’t!”
“It’s fine. I’ll be fine, Abz.” He flashed a smile and a wink at me before turning back to her. She grabbed him by the collar when he was close enough and started dragging him towards her van.
“Stay away from him.” She warned, pointing her finger at me. With that, she shoved him into the van and sped away.