Unspoken Vows, Book 1 of the Heartbeat Series

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Chapter 39. Closing the Book for Good

I had to do this. Alex was right; it was time to quit working over the past and start living my present and expecting the future to be better. This book contained my pain. What had made me happy, I had already pulled out of here. Now all that’s left is the pain. I thought of the nights I had clutched this book in my hands with the Walkman. Both were my saving grace back then, what brought me through the toughest times, even if it was only by a thread. I opened the journal once more. The cloth cover with teddy bears on it was dirty from age and had specks of black all over it from mildew. This would be my final time through it. I’d read what I needed to just once more and then I’d get up and toss it into the fire.

“Let it cleanse you,” Alex said. He loved me although I never expected him to love me. I expected him to reject me, but he didn’t. When I loathed myself for what I let Randy do to me, Alex loved me more. Letting go of this was the least I could do for him—no, for me. I had to—for the first time in my life—do this for me. Just one more time I needed to read that which I should never forget.

May 3, 1985

I’m hiding out today. Howie had his way again last night and this time he has a new pleasure. He wraps his hands around my throat while he finishes off. I felt it for sure, but I was gasping for air when he was finished. I work up this morning and had bruises all over my throat. I couldn’t go to school like this today, so I ditched it for a pack of Kools, a bag of chips and a Coke to hide out in my cave. I guess I could have hidden it with a turtleneck, but it's in the high seventies here and who would wear a turtleneck in May? I’d have the kid police sicc’ed on me for sure. Got a new article about Heartbeat yesterday. Sarah gave it to me. I’m going to read it over and over today, cherishing every word that Alex Corwynn said. MB.

October 23, 1986

Our house burned down last week. It was bad. Ethel caught Howie and me together, and Howie beat her up pretty good when she was done with me. I hid in the closet, wishing that I hadn’t left my diary in the cave, because I really needed to tell someone about it. Social Services finally took me. I’m in a group home now and I hate it. I had to sneak home to get my diary and other things out of the cave since I don’t know when I’ll be back again. If ever. They’re talking about sending me to a family here in town. I hope it’s better than this, that’s for sure. I got my tapes and my diary now. I better have a smoke before I leave since there’s a no smoking policy there at the house. MB

November 13, 1986

They took me to the police station today to question me. The officer in charge started to ask me questions in a room with a huge mirror on the one wall. I answered his questions about Ethel assaulting me and I heard her as if she were in the next fucking room, calling me a liar. I told the social worker that I wanted to leave right then and there, and the bitch said that we couldn’t until they had a statement from me. Finally, they took her away with charging her with assault upon a minor, child abuse and child endangerment.

Then they started asking me questions about Howie. I asked them if he was there behind the glass. The officer assured me that Howie was not there. Later that afternoon, they arrested him for incest and rape. It’s about time. They wanted me to testify about it in court but I told them I’d rather not if they’d just keep me in foster care and them away from me. I’d be happy enough with that. It’s bad enough I got a rep because of my parents, I really don’t want anyone else knowing any more of my business.

I heard Ethel scream at the officers that I should be locked up for the incest, not Howie because I seduced him. Yeah right, I really wanted his hairy smelly body on me every night. No thanks. Before I left the cave and the property where our house used to stand I searched through the rubble for some things. I found my Heartbeat scrapbook damaged from water, but not totally destroyed and under it was the picture of Billy and me together. I was the last one taken of us before he left home. I wonder if I’ll ever see him again. I took those two things and left for the group home, hiding all my stuff in my backpack. MB.

July 7, 1988

Nicky died today! I can’t believe he’s gone! On MTV Alex and Andy looked terrible but Mitch looked worse. Someone’s got to do something about AIDS before Billy gets it. I wonder about him and wish he were home some days, but wherever he’s at, I’m sure he’s better off than living here. Anywhere but here. MB.

I flipped through pages until I got to the last page and read it. As I thought of each funeral: first Billy, then Howie, and last, Ethel, one by one they left me more scarred than before. Each time I got braver, hoping I could leave it all behind, but I didn’t. This time, I would, and the funeral pyre would be the pain that I wrote in this book almost twenty years ago. I tore out the last page and handed it to Alex. While he read it, I opened the fireplace doors and chucked the book inside, shutting the doors as it took aflame and stared at the bright orange flames, trying to be brave about this, as the fire grew brighter and hotter and dissolved what was left in that book.

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