The City Girl

And it all Comes Crashing Down

Riley's POV

All I could think about is how much a monster Mr. Friar is. How could be beat up his own son? I never understand those types of parents. How could Lucas never say anything? Every time he comes to school with black eye, every time he stares at the floor when someone mentions his dad, how could he say nothing about it? Isn't there someone else who can take care of him? Aren't there people who help abused children? How can Lucas just let his dad do this to him?

I couldn't sleep tonight. Every time I close my eyes, I think about Lucas and his dad. Lucas means something to me and I can't stand it when something hurts him. I wish I could say something. I wish I could do something. But if I even think about getting my mother, something just tells me no. It's not cowardice, not selfishness; it's more like this feeling is telling me that Lucas may want to keep this a secret. But guilt seeps into my brain every time I picture Lucas.

Instead of being in bed like I was supposed to, I was sitting on my balcony, clutching my lucky clover pin. I want this thing to work. I want this thing to magically make Lucas's father stop abusing his son. If it can't, I just want this thing to give me answers. Why does Mr. Friar do all this? Why doesn't Lucas trust anyone with his secret?

"Riley," a whisper pierces my ear. I look down and see Lucas standing beneath my balcony, smiling.

I want to tell him I saw. But won't it make Lucas angry though?

As he scales the tree to my window, all I could see is his scars, lining his arms and neck. How could I not piece together the mystery sooner? How could Maya, Zay, and Brandon not notice either?

"What's wrong?" Lucas asks. I realize that he was already standing next to me, expecting me to say something.

"Nothing's wrong," I mutter.

"Is it your dad?" he asks. "I swear I'm not angry at him for kicking me out."

"It's not my dad," I say firmly.

"I want you to see this," he says and he hands me a crumpled-up sheet of paper.

When I un-crumple it, I saw that it was a letter written in swirly handwriting. I read it to myself.

Dear Lucas,

I know it has been seven years. I know you might hate me for what I've done to you. But I want to see you again, to see what I have missed after all that time.

You hate me for leaving so long ago. But I was desperate, you see. I couldn't stand living under your father's thumb for so long. I'd hate to admit it, but I have been seeing someone behind your father's back and I know it's wrong, even if your father deserved it. The man I was with (we're no longer together) offered to take me away to Alabama, to live with him so your father wouldn't hurt me anymore. I wanted to take you with me but he told me that it had to be just me. It was a terribly selfish thing to do, but I took the offer. I packed up my things and left you behind.

Please Lucas, you have to forgive me for what I've done. I was impulsive and selfish seven years ago. Once I was in Alabama, I couldn't spend a waking moment without thinking about you. I missed so many things: your first day of middle school, your first date, the first time you drove a car. I wondered what happened to you, what people you've met, if you're still the boy I love. I'm moving to Smithville, Texas, to start my new life without my lover. I want you to come see me or maybe send another letter. I understand if you can't forgive me. But all I want to do is see my son again.

Love, Mom

I felt like crying. Finally, Lucas can see his mom after all those years. Maybe he can even live with her. Anything would be better than living with his dad.

"Can you believe her?" Lucas asks.

"Huh?" I say. I'm confused; didn't he want to show me this because he's excited about seeing his mom?

"It's just that, after wondering what happened to my mom for seven years, this is the best thing she can do. Instead of meeting me here in person, she's just giving me a letter, seven years late. She's just giving me a fake promise so she won't have the guilt of abandoning her son. This is just making me hate her more," Lucas rants.

While he had a pretty good argument, I still got angry. His mom is trying to reach out again to him after seven years of guilt and fear, and he won't even try to respond to her? Why would she write all that stuff and send it to him if she didn't mean it? If she didn't want him back, she wouldn't give him that offer.

"But isn't she better than your dad? I would rather forgive the woman who left but still loves me than the man who beats me every day and still hates me," I retort.

Lucas's face turned a familiar shade of pink. "You saw? You were that shadow in the backyard?"

"I saw," I argue, not regretting my words. "And I think that you're being childish by holding this grudge against your mother. It doesn't matter what happened in the past, all that matters is that you're getting a chance to finally get away from your father and your stupid grudge is getting in the way of that."

Lucas's face twisted into a horrible scowl, one that made him look just like his dad. "You don't understand, Riley," he snarls. "That's the thing about you; you never understand. You try your best to empathetic but in reality, you don't even care. All you care about is yourself because you have the perfect life and still whine about it."

I got even angrier. "My life is not perfect and if it was, it's not my fault. I can't control if my parents are happily married or if I have a nice house to live in. Just because I never experienced what you go through doesn't mean I don't care about it. I thought you were different, Lucas. I love you because you didn't care about how I look or how I act in public, but all you want is someone who's exactly like you. I'm sorry if I don't agree with you but I think you're making a big mistake. You should forgive your mom because it's what's best."

"You're just like her," Lucas retorts.

"Who," I say, "Am I acting like your mom?"

"No," he says. "You're acting just like Missy. It doesn't matter what my opinion because you're the only one that's right."

"I'm not saying this because I think I'm right!" I scream. "I'm saying this because I care about you! I want you to live somewhere safe, where no one can hurt you! Why do you think I'm still that superficial girl from New York? I've changed, Lucas, and so has your mother."

"Bye Riley," Lucas says coldly and he jumps off the balcony with the letter.

I didn't know what Lucas meant by saying goodbye. Does it mean we're over? I wish I could go back and not say all those mean things but at the same time, I'm glad I did.

Lucas's POV

It's three thirty in the morning and I'm on the road, driving my dad's car. I stole his keys and took some extra food because it was going to be a long drive. I knew where I was going and I didn't care about how reckless it was. I just needed to go there.

It was shocking that I could come up with the plan so quickly. Stealing my dad's car for a drive to a secret destination may seem like an impulse but in reality, I had calculated the plan in less than twenty minutes. I'll call my friends when I get there.

Trees whirred pass me and I started thinking about something I never thought of before: why did my father beat me and my mother so much? Before, I always blamed the alcohol and the crack but was my father once an average man with no evil intentions? It sounded so hard to believe since he's such a monster but every villain has its reasons, don't they?

My dad didn't tell me his backstory, I read about it in his brother's—my uncle's—letters from prison, which I began reading three years ago when I questioned the box of letters in my dad's closet. He and my uncle Pete had a rough family. No, my dad wasn't abused, just neglected to the extreme.

My grandfather—my dad's dad—was thrown in jail for drug dealing. His sentence was fifteen years. My dad was only six when his father was arrested. But my granddad only served ten of those fifteen years because he died in the prison yard when his cell mates ganged up on him. My grandmother was ashamed of her husband's crimes and never visited him once. Granddad never got to see his two sons grow up. My grandma was never there for her sons because I think she was ashamed of them as well. She spent all her time at work and never bothered to pay attention to them. All of her money was spent on her and her only. She never even paid attention long enough to realize that my dad started drinking and smoking at the age of fourteen. She only cared about herself and her new husband, who also neglected his stepsons.

Dad never got help for his drinking problems when he was a teenager and that's why his problems never stopped. He never had many friends, except for his drinking buddies, and mostly relied on his whiskey to make himself happy. My dad and my uncle used to be close but they grew apart once high school started. Dad was one of those stoners that spent all their time alone and my uncle Pete was a part of those cool kids. Uncle Pete went to college while my dad didn't even attempt to look at the application. My grandmother got sick of her son constantly ruining her chances of having a clean house so she kicked him out. My mom pitied my father and she let him stay at her apartment. My parents went to high school together but never shared a passing glance until that time. I think that's when they decided to get married, because my mother knew my father needed help. They were in love of course but I think their relationship was entirely built on pity.

Would my parents have gotten married if Dad never got kicked out of his house? My mom would probably be really happy since my dad ruined her life but she wouldn't have given birth to me. I think about how my dad's childhood was terrible because his parents were never there for him. My uncle Pete is in prison, just like his own father (my uncle also became a drug dealer, even though he went to college). My parents' marriage was built on pity, so am I made of pity? Am I nothing but a mistake because my parents never really loved each other? I kept thinking about that as I clutched the steering wheel.

It started to rain as I reached a desolate road. I had to keep going, despite being lost. Maybe I can stop by a gas station and get directions? I was deep in thought about my entire existence when I heard a horn honk. I looked out at the road and saw a huge red truck barreling my way. It skidded on the slippery road and the driver didn't even seem to notice me. Out of fear, I swerved off the road to avoid hitting the truck and my car tumbled into a muddy ditch nearby. Everything went dark as I saw myself collapsing in the wreckage.

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