Dismissing Dakota (book 2)

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Chapter 21

{a/n: if it’s italicized, it’s a flashback}

Dakota’s P.O.V.

The weekend I planned to meet my father was pushed back more often than I wanted. There was nothing to say. I wanted to speak to my father, but my mind went blank when it came time to aligning what my questions for him would be. How was I supposed to look him in the face - look that monster in the face - and ask him why he hurt my mother? Why did he hurt me? I didn’t think he set that fire, but that didn’t mean I thought he was a good man. I’d seen him raise his hand to my mother, terrorizing each of us in the Ridgewood household.

I was seven years old when I almost died. The first time.

These scars under my tattoos weren’t self-inflicted, like many of the rumors in this dumb town would like to make you believe. I had those senseless lies follow me all throughout school, making me feel almost obligated to get them covered up with ink. But deep down, I knew my classmates knew the truth. They created those fabricated stories to entertain their own boring lives.

Everyone remembered what almost took my life. I hadn’t told Silvia about it - more so because it never felt needed to be told. The past was the past and I didn’t want to bring that story out from the dark.

After the incident, I didn’t speak for an entire year. School appointed therapists said I should express myself through art. That summer, I picked up a brush for the first time drew my nightmares and dreams on to paper, leaving my imagination and entering the real world.

To this day, I can’t talk about that day without wanting to crumble back into that defenseless little kid I was all those years ago.


At the prepubescent age of seven years old, I had accomplished only a small fraction of the things I thought I would’ve done before dying. Granted, most of the things on my bucket list consisted of meeting G.I. Joe or buy a mega-phone so I could piss off my little sister, Diana.

If I’d known that this fateful night could’ve been my last, then maybe I wouldn’t have gotten into that car with my father. Maybe I should’ve stopped myself when I got a whiff of stale booze on his lips. Or the way he wobbled in front of me, racing for the car.

I had gone with him to the liquor store so I could buy myself a snack. I entered the store, trailing behind my father. Something was whispered in his direction, followed by short snippets of laughter. I was still tired of this reaction my family caused in public. It was like this town had nothing better to do but gossip.

A tall man, about two feet taller than my, walked up to where I was standing. He through me a small smile, quite retrained. As if he had a secret he wanted to tell me, but couldn’t. He was dressed in a well-pressed suit, crisp and fitted to his body. “Hello, what’s your name?”

“D...d...d..” I stammered.

“His name’s Dakota.” My father hissed, throwing my bag of chips, a six-pack, and the money to the cashier . I frowned at the floor, disappointed that I hadn’t said it myself. I knew he was embarrassed of me when it came to my stutter. Dion was the only one that tried to help by having me read out loud when I come back from school. My father, on the other hand, took a more physical approach.

“That’s an interesting name,” the man mused, grinning down at me. He stretched his hand to me. “I’m Jonah. I actually went to school with your dad here.”

I nodded, a bit in amazement. “Wow, t...t...t...that’s cool.”

“He lies for a living,” Dad grumbled. “Which is quite fitting considering what you used to do back in school.”

The space between Jonah’s brows crinkled. “There’s no need to bring up old history like that, Ethan. It’s been years. You should be over that already.”

My father squinted at Jonah with red-rimmed eyes and perching gaze that could cause anyone to shriek. I knew that expression all to well. It was times like these that made me run up to my room and lock the door. If that wasn’t possible, I’d hid somewhere I knew he couldn’t reach me.

Dad didn’t open his mouth though or raise his fist. Instead, he cleared his throat and collected the remaining change the cashier gave him. Flinging the bag of chips in my direction, I completely missed it and had to pick it up off the floor. I did my best to keep up with him, but he was already in the car by the time I opened the liquor store’s door. I through myself in the back seat of his pick-up truck and buckled myself in. We’d only gotten on to the main road for four minutes when came across a problem.

The impact.

It was all I could feel as the metallic taste of blood seeped into my mouth. Hastily, I clung to any and all forms of calmness as my body hurtled forward.

Fear quaked through my body, not letting me feel anything else. My mind scattered to find a way out, but time was slipping....I was slipping; crashing with surface; colliding with the earth; pressed against metal, as the horrifying dread of silence crept deeper into my skin.

I was dying.

I was sure of that now.

A sleek thin ray of silver light seeped through, reaching out from the heap I laid in and kissed my broken skin with a gentle invisible sensation. I attempted to prop myself up, but the more I struggled, the more the concave metal dug into my flesh, making new wounds and deepening the ones that I already had.

The strange desire for water trickled into my mind. I touched my mouth with the tips of my nail. My fingers outlined the chapped and cracked lips. A shrill of terror bubbled inside of me, scratching at my throat, and craving to let a scream escape from my parted lips.

But nothing came out.

The only sound that rang in my ears was not the noise of my cracking voice, but of bits and pieces of words sliced through the night air as sirens picked up in the far off distance.

The once silent streets were now filled with life. Strained life.

Loneliness found a home in my soul. Though I knew help was on its way, I still questioned the will to hold on. All of my wishes to grasp on a little bit longer had departed and abandoned me with a foreign pang that had clawed up my spine...something I dreaded more than the pain itself.

It was hopelessness.


"Dakota!” I heard a small voice yell for me in the distance. ”Dakota. Wake up!”

The voice, melodic and sweet, sounded even closer now. Shadows transformed into shapes, melting out of the darkness. My eyes cracked open as a flash of light skirted across my vision and a jolt came crashing down on to my arm.

I sighed, realizing that it was Silvia at my side, screaming my name. When that became clear to me, I rushed up to her and hugged her - probably tighter than she expected. Silvia giggled, wrapping her arms and legs around me in the process.

“Are you okay?” she whispered, running her fingers through my hair.

“I am now.” I cleared my throat. “When...when did I get here?”

“You came over after school and took a nap in my room. Don’t you remember? I was going to get you some food but you knocked out by the time I got up here.” She squinted at me, dazed. I checked my surrounds and noticed the sun was still up. It couldn’t possibly be six yet. It dawned on me that I had came in through her first floor window and she had snuck me in from around back. Evelyn was home, home from her hospital appointment about her baby, laying in the living room. The twins and her father weren’t home, or at least they weren’t when I got here. I didn’t know if they came since I arrived.

“How long was I out?” I yawned.

“Only an hour or so.” She picked an untouched sandwich on her nightstand. “I didn’t eat the snack I brought up for you. I made two turkey roast sandwiches and left you one.”

“Aw, you made me a sammich,” I beamed, taking her plate and exchanging it for a kiss on the cheek. Silvia’s eyes gleamed with joy. I was so happy I was starting to be the cause of something positive in her life and not a reason to make her cry. It was far more rewarding to witness. “Thank you, dear.”

“No problem.” She smiled, placing her hand on my leg and rubbing it. “So, what was it you were dreaming about? I didn’t hear much. You were tossing in your sleep and muttering something really loud but I couldn’t make out the words.”

“It was about my dad.” I took a single bite of my sandwich, chewing slowly. “It made me realize that I can’t avoid this anymore and that going to see him may lead to some closure.”

Silvia swiped her cold hands over my sweaty forehead, wiping away the moisture and kissing the space between my brows. “I said I’ll be there for you,” she pulled back, looking at me with tenderness trapped in her irises, “And that’s still true to this day. I’ll accompany you through the entire journey.”

I smiled, lightly pecking up her neck and finally to her mouth, putting pressure to the lip lock. Despite my raging hunger, I put the sandwich aside and grip her thighs, yanking her on to my lap. Her mouth parted open, giving me access to slid my tongue in alongside hers. We remained intertwined to each other, kissing ravenously until my head started to get fuzzy from the lack of air. I retracted from her, grinning at how beautiful she appeared in the soft afternoon light streaming into her bedroom. And to my relief, she was grinning like crazy, too.

“Tomorrow is his visitation day,” she reminded me, stroking back my hair. “Are you ready or do you want to try it for his next visitation day?”

“I said that last week,” I sighed. “I can’t keep pushing this off.”

“You don’t have to rush yourself into doing this either, Dakota. Closure is important, but it won’t work unless you’re ready for it. You have to know what you want to ask him. What you need to say to him.”

“I know. I have to get this straighten out before I see him.” I brushed my fingertips down the side of her arm, causing goosebumps with the path of my gentle hand. “I have to say everything while I have the chance.”

She scoffed. “It’s not like he’s going anywhere. He’s incarcerated in one of the most highly guarded Californian prisons.”

I playfully pinched her. “Yeah, I’m aware he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. But I don’t plan on visiting him more than once. I want to lay all of my cards out, then and there. I want this to be the last time I see him.”

“You hate him that much?”

“No,” I whispered, shocking even myself at how fast I answered Silvia. “I don’t hate him. But I wouldn’t want to bring him back into my life. Not after what he did to my family. I love and care for my mother too much to let him waltz back in like that.”

“Diana let him back in...I wonder why.”

“I wonder the same thing, Silvia. The same damn thing.” I let out a slow deep exhale, bringing her body closer to mine. “Soon, though, we will find out.”


My father was held up in a large prison in central California. The driving was another key reason I dreaded visiting him. Thankfully, Silvia helped with the driving to the penitentiary. She lied to her father and said she was spending the day with Ronnie, getting their nails done at the local mall. I gave a false story to my mother, too. If she’d known I was driving three hours to see her ex husband, she’d take my car keys from me.

“I was reading blogs last night about prison visitations--”

“Silvia,” I cut her off, shaking my head.

“I was intrigued as to what goes into the process,” she explained, “Besides, I’m not going to be able to go in with you. I hear you have to communicate with the inmate before the in contact meeting and make sure you’re on their visitation list. Are you on his?”

“I’ve been on my dad’s visitation list since the beginning,” I said, putting the car on cruise mode, coasting past the miles of flat land in Bakersfield. Cows populated most plots of land, munching on the discolored pastures. “And still, I haven’t visited him once.”

I hoped that he did have knowledge on Diana, or this entire trip was an utter waste of our time.


By the afternoon, we made it to bum-fuck nowhere California where the land was dry and the neighborhoods looked as if they were frozen in time, trapped in a dismal portion of American history. When we stopped for our last time, grabbing snacks at a near by grocery store, I caught eyes staring holes into us when we walked in, holding Silvia’s hand. There were more whispers in the store than the hallways of Crescent High School.

“Stay near me,” I ordered, gritting my teeth as I tossed a bag of chips into my small carrier basket. A stocky man with a trucker’s hat turned into our aisle and pivoted out once he saw us, hacking up a storm at the sight.


I dropped the basket to my feet. “What the fuck did you say? Say it louder.”

Silvia grabbed the basket and hooks her arm around me, pulling me backwards. “Don’t, Dakota. It’s not worth it.”

“You’re lucky she’s here or I would’ve had you bleeding all over th--”

“Dakota, stop.” She yanked at me harder, squeezing my hand. I snapped out of enragement, floating back to reality as we moved to the checkout lane.

“You didn’t hear what he said Silvia.”

“I don’t care what he said. It doesn’t matter. We’re here to go visit your dad. Not for you to start a fight and have the cops arrest you for assault. Think of the bigger picture.”

I gripped her fingers as if my happiness depended on it. “You’re the bigger picture, Silvia. Anyone who has some shit to say about you isn’t going to get away with it. What kind of boyfriend would I be if I let that stuff slide?”

I twirled my finger into her hair, brushing it slightly back so I could kiss her cheek. Her stern expression melted away with each peck. “I don’t think anyone’s loved me that much.”

“Good. I want to be the first.” I replied and began unloading our snacks on to the conveyor belt.


I signed in by two o’clock. Silvia remained in the seating area; the section before visitors are forced to walk through a metal detector. My stomach ached, rumbling with every corner I turned, nearing the visitation room. The center of my palm was soaked in sweat. I repeatedly wiped them off on the back of my jeans, but it was no use. They clammed up almost instantly.

“Ethan Ridgewood is seated at table number five,” the guard informed me, pointing at a bald man in an orange jumpsuit with his back to me. “That’s at the far corner of the room. You’re allowed to hug in the beginning once and at the end once. No touching besides that. That includes hand holding.”

“You don’t have to worry about that.” I noted, glued in my spot on the tiled floor. I was finally here, standing before the man who helped give me life and almost took my life. “How much time do I get?”

“You came a bit late. Usually we give up to an hour of visitation time, but you’ve only got thirty-five minutes.” He retorted, nodding his head toward the table my father was at. “Enjoy all the time you can get.”

Jamming my hands into my tight jean pockets, I strolled to the table with my head low. Once I was close enough, Ethan stood, spun around and gazed at me with the most empty blue eyes I’d ever seen. The light was drained out them. Prison could do that to you, I supposed. Whatever happened to him in this place, I knew he deserved it.

“You really came.” He took a step forward, trying to hug me, but I retracted back. “We’re allowed one hug at the start of this.”

“I don’t want to hug you, Ethan.” I murmured. “I’m here to talk.”

He coughed. “Well, then, let’s get to talking.” Ethan shifted in his shoes, making way for me to the table. I crashed into the chair. It was a circular wooden table with smaller circular seats, painted in blue, all around the perimeter. I sat across from him, not wanting to get any closer.

“Why are you reopening your case?” I blurted.

“Most would start with a greeting.” He chuckled. “But I guess, you aren’t like most. I didn’t recognize you for a second with all those tattoos.”

“That’s not answering my question.”

“I haven’t seen you in years, Dakota. Let me just look at for a second.” He said, extending his hand forward and ruffling my bangs.

“No touching!” the guard yelled.

“Sorry,” he apologized, letting his hand drop. “You never come around.”

“Maybe because I don’t want to drive three hours each time to see my convict of a dad.”

“Hey now. I’m still your father.”

Disregarding what he said, I continued on. “A convict who’s in here for setting my aunt’s home on fire, killing her and almost killing my mother, too.”

Drawing in a long breath, he told me the one thing that I didn’t expect him to say. “I wasn’t the one who set that fire, boy. Your mother did. It was a set up. I’m going to have Dion set the record straight, once and for all. I hope that’s a good enough answer for your question.”

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