Things to do in Freehold

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Chapter Thirty-eight:

Joey Grace (Late night of September 10, 1983)

I could not believe what I was hearing. After all this time, the truth was finally revealed: Ma was even worse than I remembered.

“I never wanted to leave like that, leave us like that,” Amy explained. “But then your mom just got to me. She got inside my head and I was young. I didn’t know what else to do, besides take her money and go.”

I sighed and put my hands on my hips, pacing around the room. “I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that she actually paid you to go home that night. Then, she led me to believe that you were still off having the time of your life. I knew she was cruel, but that’s low, even for her. I mean, shit, that would’ve made all the difference.”

“What do you mean?”

Looking at Amy, sitting in that chair with the light of the candles casting a glow across the side of her face, I wondered how our lives would differ had she found me in our clubhouse that night, instead of Liv. Would that have made all the difference or would Liv and I still have gotten closer, just at another time? I had to know for sure and there was only one way to find out.

“Joe?” Amy asked, still waiting on my response. At last, she stood up and slowly made her way towards me.

I saw my opportunity present itself. It was now or never. I tossed back the last bit of whiskey I had left and then wrapped my arm around her waist to pull her in closer. My lips pressed against hers as our tongues caressed one another’s. I could feel her throw her arms around my neck as I reeled her in even closer with mine.

It was funny, though. After long-awaited such a kiss, for so many years, one would think I’d be the happiest man alive afterwards. However, the moment I came up for air, I saw Liv’s face in hers. I guess that answers that question. Feeling ashamed and guilty, I instantly backed away from her, up into the table, knocking over the Jack Daniels.

“I’m so sorry,” I told her, picking the bottle back up. “I can’t do this.”

“Yeah, that’s okay,” she lied. I could see the abundance of tears building up in her eyes. “I understand.”

“It’s just that—”

“Liv. Yeah, I got it. There’s no need to explain yourself.”

“Some other night, maybe?”

“Some other night,” she voiced, happily. Her smile quickly faded away though as she looked down at the wooden floorboards. “Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

Apparently, the spilled whiskey had seeped through the floor’s cracks and dripped down into the basement neither of us even knew existed. Now, how in the world do we get down there? I instantly thought.

“There’s got to be like a trap door around here, somewhere,” Amy noted, scavenging for said door on the ground. I was pleased to find out she was thinking the same thing as me.

I stomped around the room to see which floorboard would creak the loudest. When I saw that it was right underneath the table, I looked over at Amy to signal for her to come help me move it. We both picked up one end of the table and then set it down on the other side of the room. Amy then pointed out the door hinges sticking out of the floor. Grabbing one the lanterns, I inspected the door a little closer and on the count of three, opened it up.

It was almost pitch black down there, but as I was shining the light, I noticed there was a flight of stairs we could walk down. “Here goes nothing,” I said, hoisting myself down, onto the first step.

“Wait,” Amy grabbed me by the forearm. Her grip grew tight, then loosened. “I have a bad feeling about this. We don’t even know what could be down there.”

“That’s the fun part, ain’t it?” I held out my hand for her to take and hold onto as we investigated what secrets this basement held. “C’mon, now. Don’t be chicken.”

Although hesitant at first, Amy gave in and down the stairs we went. I ran into more than a few spider webs, attempting to find a lightswitch. So far, there wasn’t anything too jurassic in there, as far as the lantern could see. There was a smell, however, of something rotten.

“What is that?” Amy asked, letting go of my hand to cover her nose.

“I don’t know; it smells as if something died. Small rodent, maybe?” I suggested, moments before finally finding the switch. I flipped it upwards, then downwards. Neither of which seemed to work. “That’s just fucking lovely.”

“Whoa, did you see that?”

“See what?”

“I could’ve sworn I just saw something move. Quick, shine your light over there.”

As I illuminated the area in which she’d been pointing at, I immediately heard her scream behind me. Apparently, the heinous stench was coming from none other than a decomposing corpse. It was no rodent, but in fact, a human. Also, that thing Amy saw moving was a colony of maggots, squirming around the person’s face. I vomited a bit in my mouth, while Amy ran back up the stairs, not caring if she couldn’t see the steps in front of her. Scanning the room some more, I realized that there was way more than just one body down there, some more fresh than others.

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