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By Alexander Latham All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Mystery

Chapter 1: Family Matters

Like every city, Callow Springs Ontario is a place based on love and trust. Everyone knows each other. Every tourist who comes in loves it, some even move here from other larger cities. They say that they feel loved and fall for the folk. They have their own little traditions. Every Friday night they play movies for the teenagers in the park from projectors. There are card leagues for the older generation, and have plenty of bars for those who think about nothing but drinking.

Callow Springs doesn’t have many burglaries or much crime to speak of. There seems to be a lot of injuries but never any real problems. With a small town, many disputes are taken care of quickly and quietly. They never expected that in days to come, their little town would be turned upside down and everyone would end up looking over their shoulders.

“Hi; I’m Alan,” said the ruggedly handsome boy. “Hi; I’m Paula,” replied the beautiful brunette. There was a pause and a few glances at each other. Alan knew she was beautiful, but up close she was breath-taking. He figured she could have any boy she wanted and would never give him a chance. “Did you need something?” asked Paula sweetly. She had been waiting a long time for him to approach her, but guessed he was already dating someone. Yet, here he was standing before her. Please ask me out she was screaming in her head. “I was wondering, if you weren’t busy, maybe we could have dinner sometime.” She’s going to say no Alan thought. “Exams start next week and I really need to study,” she said with hesitation. As Paula was speaking, she saw the sadness in Alan’s eyes. “Ok, no problem. I understand,” he said. “But once they are over I would love to,” she added in quickly. Alan smiled probably the biggest smile he had ever given. He didn’t care if she saw it either. She was going to have dinner with him and that is all that mattered.

“Great; that will give me time to set up the most romantic dinner you’ve ever had” Alan said excitedly. After saying that, he thought oh my god she probably thinks I’m a complete dork now. Paula giggled and said, “I’m looking forward to it.” She then smiled and walked away thinking it’s finally happening. All the way home, Alan was on cloud nine. He couldn’t get Paula out of his head. The way her hair swayed in the gentle wind, the little twinkle that was in her eye and the sweet smell of her perfume.

I am not going to let her go; she is going to be the one I marry he thought happily still smiling like an idiot. Before he knew it, he was home. He quickly looked around and saw his old man’s dirty truck sitting in the driveway. He immediately felt a tinge of fear. His father wasn’t the nicest man around, and his mother wouldn’t dare speak back to him. If she did, well she still has a nasty shiner to prove it. He cringed at the thought, since he was the one who witnessed his father‘s latest tirade. He hit her most, especially after losing his paycheck at the local tavern. Oh hell, he even hit her when he felt like being a big man. He didn’t hate his father; he just didn’t like that this was happening to his mother.

She had ample opportunities to leave him, but never did, for fear he’d unleash his wrath on one of her children. So, in a way he felt sorry for her, but also admiration for her determination in keeping a somewhat happy family together. He heard nothing as he stepped over the threshold and quietly closed the door. He took his shoes off and placed them neatly in the pile by the door. Alan’s family consisted of six, including him. There was Greg, Mitchell, Cliff, Melanie and Stephanie. His two older brothers had left home awhile back. Lucky them, they don’t get to endure fathers wonderful hospitality.

Alan decided to go upstairs, change and wash up before dinner was ready. He knew that when his father was home, dinner was going to be unpleasant. He criticized everything his children did and constantly looked down at his wife as if she was nothing more then a maid. That man will get it one day. Alan believed that for every bad thing you do in your life karma pays you back.

“I really like him mom, I’ve been waiting a long time for him to make a move” Paula stated excitedly. Her mother Gina was happy for her daughter yet a little scared. She knew the Miller family, in Gina’s opinion they were not the cleanliest and job oriented people. Gina liked Sandra a lot, but despised Bill immensely. He was a good for nothing drunk that loved beating his wife. “Paula, you’re a smart girl with a bright future. You can make something of yourself. Plus, I don’t think that being involved with that family would be a wise decision.” Paula started to feel down but thought no I’m happy and not even my mother could ruin it. Yes his family wasn’t the greatest but nobody’s perfect and she hardly believed Alan would turn out to be like his despicable father.

“Mom, I know you care about my well being and all but I really do like him; I’m going to give him a chance. If I see anything I don’t like or something bothers me, I promise to break it off okay?” Gina looked at her daughter and gave a little sigh and said. “You’re a big girl now and can make your own decisions, but please just keep in mind where that boy comes from. Leopards don’t change their spots honey.” Paula rolled her eyes and replied “Mom, he isn’t a leopard. He is a human being, and deserves a chance. Don’t you remember when you first met dad?” “Hey, don’t be going that far ahead. You haven’t even been on your first date yet” Gina replied matter of factly.

Paula helped her mother set the table when they heard the front door closing and her father saying, “Honey, I’m home!” Jim had his own business; he was an Investment Banker. He had long hours and worked almost everyday of the week. It bothered her mother because usually he gets home after they have all gone to bed. Jim walked in with an exasperated look on his face. He pulled out a chair from the table and just fell into it. Gina handed him a glass of brandy. He smiled up at her and said thanks. She leaned in and gave him a gentle kiss. God how he loves her, she is such a great wife. Paula saw the look her parents gave to themselves and smiled as well. She was extremely lucky to have her parents, and the fact that they were still married was nice, since most of her friends had parents who are divorced.

“Okay you two, that’s enough. Or get a room at least,” Paula snickered. They both looked over at her and rolled their eyes, which caused Paula to break out in a giggle. “So, what’s on the menu tonight?” Jim asked. “Well. I had a craving for Italian food so I made spaghetti, homemade meatballs, garlic bread and a Caesar salad.” Gina stated. As Gina was listing off the food she heard their stomachs rumbling. As Gina sauntered off into the kitchen to start bringing in their feast Jim looked over at Paula and smiled.

“Where are your sister and brother?” Jim asked. He was referring to Carrie and Peter. “I believe Carries’ upstairs getting a head start at studying for mid terms and Peter is playing Xbox,” Paula said. Both Paula and Carrie attended the same high school. They are one year apart and Peter is still in middle school. Paula was their oldest child. “So why haven’t you begun studying yet?” asked her father. “I can’t study on an empty stomach.” Paula replied. He gave her a smirk then asked her how her day went. Immediately Paula began smiling. “Well” she said. Paula went on and stated how she collected all the necessary information needed on studying for mid terms, which is starting Monday. She also told her father how she went and got all the forms needed in applying to the Colleges they discussed over a month ago. That brought a big smile to her fathers face. He was very proud of her; she had been on the honor role since grade 9. He also felt sad because in a little while his oldest daughter was moving out and onto campus somewhere. Doing god knows what, with god knows whom. No, he shouldn’t think that way. She was a good girl and she told them she was waiting until she was married to fully become a woman. As a dad he was still worried. Paula went to the bottom of the stairs to call Carrie and Peter to let them know that dinner was ready.

Gina looked around the table, she was happy seeing everybody sitting together having a meal. It had been to long since they all sat in the same room. It might even be the last time for awhile, since Paula will be leaving soon. Gina felt a small pang of sadness wash over her; she was going to miss her daughter. Gina was close to all her children but in different ways; however she was closest to Paula. She wasn’t playing favorites or anything; it was just Paula was the most open with her. She knew Paula would call as often as her studies allowed, but it wouldn’t be the same. Gina looked around her table at her children and loving husband. She had so many good memories with her family. Gina was definitely a lucky woman.

Paula and Carrie helped their mother clear the dishes from the table while her father went into the living room to sit in his favorite chair, while Peter went back upstairs. “That was a fabulous meal mom, thank you.” Carrie said. Carrie looked over and gave Paula a glare. It was a look that said; see you’re not the only one who can suck up to mom. “Thank you Carrie, however you’re still grounded for another 2 weeks. Skipping Math for a week then getting into a fight resulting in suspension will give you no sympathy around here,” Gina stated giving Carrie a very stern look. Carrie sighed and said, “God, you can’t even give compliments around here without it being taken as a hidden agenda.” With that Carrie put the dish on the counter and went upstairs. Paula looked over at her mother and they both rolled their eyes and giggled quietly. Gina came into the kitchen with the last dish, walked over to Paula who had started washing them and told her to stop. “Go on honey, go study. You have a long week ahead of you and a lot of work. I can handle this.” Gina quietly told Paula. Paula smiled, said thank you and made her way upstairs to get a little studying in before bed.

As Paula was reaching the top of the stairs she heard her sister say her name. She tip toed to Carrie’s door and listened in. She didn’t have a habit of doing that but when she heard her name it was only fair. If anything she’ll walk in and set her sister straight. “I can’t believe she agreed to go on a date with that trashy looking guy anyways. Yeah, I know…it will be all over school hahaha. When she catches wind of him going around telling everyone their going on a date she’ll break it off. She’s constantly noted as the “good girl” and I’m tired of it. If I’m unhappy, then she’ll be unhappy. So make sure you start spreading that around okay? Yes I know it’s a low thing to do but like I care.” Paula stepped back and thought why would she do this to me? Is she truly unhappy enough to attempt to bring me down with her? This isn’t fair. No, I’ll handle this. This will take time and lots of thought. I’ll need to get her good and maybe somehow she’ll end this feud with herself. Paula was riled up now, there was no way she could try focusing her attention to studying. She walked into her bedroom opened the closet and grabbed a nightgown. As she changed, her mind was going with some ideas on getting Carrie back

If she went to her parents and got her in trouble, she’ll know and probably attack again. She could try at school. No, not good enough she wouldn’t be surprised nor think it was her. Forget it, I need to get a good night sleep and get ready for the lynch mob to come give her some false, juicy gossip. She’ll need to look startled, surprised, shocked and mad all at the same time. Damn I need to act like them. Paula reached over and turned her bedside lamp off and layed there staring at the ceiling. She rolled her eyes and turned onto her left side and drifted off thinking of Alan.

Alan was propped up on his bed going through his notes for his first exam. It was Math; he had no opinion on it. If I need it I’ll do it. He heard a faint yell come from the main level of the house. He walked over to the door and listened. “I said dinner was ready you rotten bastards. I don’t know why I even talk, you never listen! Get your asses down here right now or I will kick your asses.” Alan rolled his eyes. “I’d like to see you try,” he said quietly to himself. Alan walked down the hall and headed downstairs. The glare his father gave was enough to have your own flesh try escaping your body and have it running in terror.

I never really understood why he was so bitter. At this point he’d rather not know. One by one they all gathered at the table and ate very quietly. Alan looked over at his mom and smiled; she attempted to smile back then just nodded. Look at her, can’t even smile. One day I’ll show her how appreciative I am of her. She deserves that.

As always dinner was incredibly enlightening. Knowing your family won’t even talk to each other. Thank you god, you were very kind. He looked around the table; each one had their heads lowered and eyes focused on one thing. Eating then running. Less time around him the better. Alan couldn’t agree more with the idea. When dinner was done she would clear the table, wash the dishes and finish the remainder of the chores followed by locking herself in her room for the night.

His parents sleep in separate rooms. Probably best for mom anyways. Every once in awhile walking by he’d hear her whispering; at first he thought she was just on the phone but mom didn’t have many actual friends and the ones she had were to afraid to call her in case Bill picked up. Then maybe he thought she might be reading. Either way he wished he could hear what she was saying.

Every two to three minutes one of his siblings would slowly rise from the table; thank their mother and bring their dishes to the kitchen. After that they’d either go out or run upstairs and do their own thing. At the end there was only Alan and his parents. Dad had a voracious appetite and it truly grossed Alan out on how he ate. Never used utensils, said he never used them as a kid so why start?

Maybe because it had something to do with manners? Just a thought perhaps. More often than not, he would eat with his mouth wide open; every once in awhile a piece of food would come flying out and hit the table. It was absolutely disgusting. “I’ll help you with the dishes tonight.” Alan said rising from the table and grabbing dishes to bring to the kitchen. “I swear; he’s either a pansy or he’s sucking up to you for something. Whatever it is, no! Understand?” grumbled his father. “ I don’t want anything I am just helping,” Alan stated.

“I believe the term is gay or homosexual dad, and I’m not. Nor am I sucking up for anything. I’m simply helping; she does enough around here for all of us.” Alan said, giving his father a dirty look. “Whatever” his father replied. Alan grabbed the last dish from the table and walked to the kitchen. He closed the door on his way in with a swoop of his foot. He placed the dish on the counter and walked over to his mother. “Go lay down or relax mom, I can do this for you.” Alan told his mom. He reached over and grabbed the dish from her hand and placed it on the counter. If he didn’t she wouldn’t go. Betty looked up at her son and leaned in to hug him. “Out of all my children I know you’ll be the one who’ll make me the proudest.” She whispered in his ear. Betty kissed her son and left the kitchen and into her bedroom. Alan finished up the dishes and set the coffee pot up so it would start before mom woke up. It’ll brighten her day a bit more.

On his way through the dining room Alan’s father piped up and thought he’d try and pick a fight. “I don’t care; I still think you’re a pansy. You’ll never amount to anything; I hope you know that. You’re my son; if you’re associated with me they will think you’ll end up going nowhere. Try all you want, it won’t work.” He looked at his father with disgust. Was this man for real? “I’ll never end up a sorry good for nothing woman beater.

Don’t you think people see it? Why do you think everyone talks about us? It’s never about us, it’s you. You’re the problem” there, he said it. Before Alan could say anymore Bill was on his feet. “Think you’re a tough man do you? Well let’s just see how tough you are.”

Alan figured the best thing to do was to just walk away go upstairs and stay far away from him. “Since you’ve decided to open that big mouth of yours I’d suggest backing it up. You think you’re better then me? Look around you, I worked hard for it. And I get no respect.” He went on and on. He really needs to get some new material; it was seriously boring to listen to. Alan was grateful for the things his father has done; but never appreciated being belittled and treated like Alan was mentally retarded. “Dad, I have worked very hard at pleasing you. I’m getting good grades, on most of the sports teams and never get in trouble. Isn’t that enough?” Alan asked angrily. “I feel sometimes dad like you just don’t care for me. If you didn’t want me then why did you have me?” Alan asked.

“Oh please.” cried his father. “Don’t pull this poor me bullshit. You kids have had it well. “You may not have had what you wanted, but at least you’re not on the street.” Bill stated. Alan thought that anywhere but with his father would be nice. If it had to be the streets then so be it; at least there would be peace and quiet. “Well answer one thing for me then father; why is it that you’re nicer to my sisters and brothers but when it comes to me you treat me like the dirt,?” Alan was almost ready to snap but didn’t want to give his father more ammunition to use against him at a later date. It didn’t matter anyways; he would use anything, as long as you felt like shit when he was finished. He was doing it now, Alan felt like shit. Alan tried heading out of the room when Bill approached him and gave him a shove. “Whatcha gonna do big man?” his father asked.

Alan gave his father a shove back and said, “I’d be careful; I’m not a little boy anymore. If you even try laying a finger on me I will defend myself.” “Really?” his father asked. “I’ve been waiting for one of you mouth pieces to try talking back. Was not exactly expecting it to be you, however I’m pleased just the same.” Bill brought his arms up and clenched his fists. He looked like he wanted to box. “This is not right dad, please let’s stop this.” Alan tried hard to get his father to calm down enough to get away. “I will not let you get away with this” Bill said. With that he swung at Alan. Alan thought, this has to stop. I will not allow him to touch one more person in this house; he has hurt us in so many ways. Alan moved out of the way and watched as his father struck the air. Alan decided this was his moment to leave the room and go upstairs. As he was leaving he heard his father say, “Think you’re funny do you. Dodge this.” Instinct kicked in and as his father was about to punch him in the face; Alan sucker punched him in his overly grotesque beer gut.

As his father hit the floor Alan looked at the door and saw his mother standing there. “I’m sorry mom, I didn’t mean it.” Alan was leaving the room when his father spoke again. God does he ever give up? “You want to know why I treat you the way I do?” he asked. “Don’t Bill, please.” cried his mother. “Shut the hell up Betty, go back to you room.” yelled his father. Betty just stood there, she knew what was coming and it was going to be bad.

“Well. Tell me; what could possibly be interesting enough to make me stand here listening to anymore crap this flies from your mouth?” Alan asked. “Here’s the thing…” his father started to say. Alan looked over at his mother again. She looked like she was ready to bawl.

What Alan didn’t realize was; this thing his father was about to say would change his life dramatically. “You’re adopted…”

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