Things to do in Freehold

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Chapter Eighty-three:

Joey Grace (Afternoon of September 14, 1992)

On my lunch break, I went home to grab a few things out of the shed as well as search around Addie’s room for anything that might help me figure out who this stalker may be. However, before I could even make it the porch, I stopped in my tracks at the sight of Amy sitting on the top step. She did not once look up at me since pulling into the driveway. It wasn’t until I actually started walking towards did she even acknowledge my presence. Even then, it was only for a few seconds. She seemed to be more focused on the manilla folder she clutched ever so tightly in her hands.

“I went to the courthouse today,” she blurted as I was about to walk past her. I was still angry with her, after all. Yet, I decided to stay and hear her out. “The divorce has been filed. All I need now is Ivan’s signature. How I am going to accomplish that is yet to be determined, but I have the papers and that’s a start, right?”

I didn’t respond or even looked her in the eye. Instead, I just stared at the wooden step below me, thinking. I’m not sure what she expects me to do with that information. This doesn’t change anything between us.

“Anyway, I’m sure you’re still pissed at me for what happened this morning. You have every right to be,” she continued, voice now quivering. “But, if by some chance your offer still stands, I would very much like to move in with you.”

I scratched my head and sighed. In that moment, I wasn’t sure what to feel. “You hit Addie,” I finally spoke, making eye contact with her.

“I did,” she said, shamefully bowing her head.

“That can’t ever happen again.”

“I know.”

“My kid comes first.”

She sniffled as I noticed a tear rolling down her cheek. “I know.”

“That being said, I would like for us to try again.”

Her eyes twinkled as they gleamed up at me. “Really?”

I nodded and before I could get another word out, she jumped to her feet and hugged me tightly, nearly knocking me over in the process. “Alright, don’t get too excited now,” I smiled, briefly. “We’ll need to talk to Addie about you moving in first. She kind of the deciding vote now.”

She instantly pulled away and looked down at the ground again. “Oh.”

“What? Does that sound unreasonable to you.”

“No, no,” she said, tucking her hair behind her ears. “That sounds fair. I mean, I am going to be staying with her too. She should get a vote.”

“Don’t worry; I’m sure she’ll forgive you once you two have talked things out,” I told her, placing a hand on her shoulder. She nodded in agreement, but I could tell she was still bothered by the situation, so I went in for another hug. “Come here.”

We shared a moment of silence until hearing a car drive by. Amy turned away instantly and even stepped back. Her eyes filled with dread and her body shook with fear. “I should go.”

“Amy, wait, what just happened?” I called to her as she scurried over to her car. “Amy, he can’t hurt you anymore!”

“I’ll see you later,” she responded, opening the driver’s side’s door. She speeded out of the cul de sac without another word. So much for being courageous today, but baby steps, I guess.

Nevertheless, I brushed the whole thing off and continued on with what I came home for in the first place. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become this kind of parent; the kind that snoops around his teenage daughter’s room instead of going to her directly. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but if it meant that I could keep her safe by putting her stalker away, I was more than content with losing her trust for awhile. As I entered room, I soon realized just how organized everything was and if I was going to do this right, I was going to have to put everything back exactly how I found it. She’s just like her mother: always knows when something’s been misplaced, even if it was only by a couple of inches.

I searched everywhere, in every drawer and in every notebook. Nothing gave me the slightest clue as to who this mystery guy was. That, she got from me: keeping her private life strictly private. When I realized it was hopeless, I began to leave. This was wrong anyway; I should’ve never come up here. She’ll tell me when she’s ready.

On my way out, however, I stumbled on a kink in the rug near her bedside. As I went to fix it, I noticed something etched into hardwood, peeking out from underneath. A+P? I crouched down to inspect the letters more closely. They look as though they’ve been there for awhile. There was a moment where I touched them and the entire floorboard shifted. I used what was left of my clipped fingernails to lift it and set it aside, only to reveal the disturbing scene below. Countless bottles of pills were being stored there and all of them with an “A.G.” written on the side of them. At first, I was in shock and a bit confused, but the longer I stared at each of them, the more furious I became. What has Adriene gotten my daughter into?

Without a second thought, I grabbed all that my hands could carry and then some, not one bottle left. I then rushed over to my room and placed them in an old shoe box I found in Liv’s side of the closet for the time being. Whether it’d confronting Addie about her stash or flushing it and pretending it never happened, I wasn’t entirely sure what my game plan was. All I knew was that I had to put an end to it. As I was putting the shoe box away, I caught a glimpse of all of Liv’s old clothes. She’s been gone for nearly a decade and yet, I still can’t bring myself to get rid of any of her things. Instead, I just leave the closet door shut on that side and hope that one day they’ll magically vanish out of thin air. No wonder Amy doesn’t like staying over. Here I thought Ivan was the only one holding her back.

Looking at the time, I realized this was going to have to be put off once again. After closing the closet door, I made my way out into the hall and down the stairs. I didn’t even have time to actually eat lunch. Instead, I got myself a protein bar to go and headed out to the driveway right when I found Laura walking up to the house. She seemed to have a stack of unopened envelopes in her hands.

“Oh, you are home?” She sounded surprised.

“Yeah, well, not for much longer; I was just about to head back to work,” I responded, walking over the driver’s side of my car. “What’s up?”

“I think our mail got mixed up again,” she explained, handing me the envelopes. “I was just gonna leave it on the bench, but since you’re here—”

“Thank you, Laura; I appreciate that,” I replied, taking them from her, then opening the car door to put them in the glove compartment. “I’d give you yours, but I’m kinda running late. It should still be in the mailbox, though, if want to get it yourself.”

“Sure, I’ll do that, thanks,” she said as I started engine. “So was that Amy I saw sitting out here earlier?”

“Uh, yeah,” I hesitated. Are we telling people about our encounters? “She just needed to speak with me about something.”

“Oh, so you’ve heard about the Tommy thing then?”

“The Tommy thing? What about Tommy?”

For a moment, she just stared at me, wide-eyed and suspiciously silent. “Adeline didn’t tell you?”

“Tell me about what?”

“Um, we should probably talk about this later. You have to get to work.”

I pulled the keys out of the ignition. “Work can wait. What’s going on with my daughter, Laura?”

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