Stay Strong

By Adreanna Gibson All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Drama

Blurb

I turned to look at Landon but when I did I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I jumped up and away from the swing right when a hand clamped over Landon’s mouth. Another arm pinned his own arms to his sides. I rush to help him but I am grabbed by someone. I kick and try to scream when a rag is pressed to my mouth and before long I feel my consciousness slip away from me while I felt my panic skyrocket. What the hell was happening?

Prologue

Wreckage by Nikita Gill

There is nothing beautiful
about the wreckage of a human being,
There is nothing pretty
about damage,
about pain,
about heartache.
What is beautiful is
their strength,
their resilience,
their fortitude
as they display an ocean of courage
when they pick through the wreckage of their life
to build something beautiful brand new,
against every odd
that is stacked against them.


A scream woke me up from a deep sleep. I jumped out of bed, slightly confused. Then I slowly made my way out of my room into the dark hallway. I paused at my doorway, looking up and down the tacky wallpapered hall to see if there was anything different, but I saw nothing. Something didn’t feel right though. Something seemed off, but I couldn’t place what was wrong.

I rushed into my younger sister’s room, slightly panicked. I picked up Candice, holding her close to my body as I made my way out of her room and down the hall before slowly walking down the stairs. When I got to the bottom I smelled something metallic and heard heavy breathing coming from the living room. I slowly peeked around the corner into the living room and saw something no child should ever see.

My step-father, Hector, was standing over my mother, a bloody knife in one hand and a half-empty bottle of alcohol in the other. I leaned against the wall, trying to process what was going on. I felt numb. My hands started to shake and I could feel my heart beating in my chest. My stomach turned over as the image of my mother’s dead body flashed in my head, her blood pooling around her, staining the light brown carpet. The wounds that her blood poured out of and her lifeless eyes staring at the ceiling. That was something I would never forget.

I felt tears pricking my eyes, but forced them down when I heard Hector mumbling something before his footsteps grew closer to where I was standing.

I looked around for a place to hide. I found none and plastered myself to the wall, pinning Candice between me and the wall while holding my breath, praying that the little light from the living room cast enough shadows in the hall to hide us.

He walked past us, not even turning in our direction before storming out of the front door that stood opposite of the stairs. I took a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief before rushing into the kitchen and picking up the phone. Candice began to play with my hair, asking, in her childish way, what was going on. I shushed her and dialed 911. When the operator picked up I told the lady on the other end about what had happened.

“Okay, I need you to tell me your address,” she demanded. I quickly answered her while listening for Hector. I hadn’t heard his car start so I knew he was still here. A shudder ran through my body but I shook my head and focused on what the lady was saying.

“Do you have any neighbors that you could get to?”

“Yes...yes I do,” I stumbled over my words.

“I need you to get out now, but stay on the phone with me, alright?”

I nodded my head but realized she couldn’t see me so I told her I would and I began to exit the kitchen when I heard the front door open and then slam shut.

I froze and looked to see Hector storming up the stairs, knife still in hand but no bottle. “Aspen! Get Candice and come down here! Now,” he yelled so loud I was sure the whole neighborhood could hear him.

“What was that?” the lady asked in a worried voice.

“It’s him,” I whispered. Once he realized that we weren’t upstairs he would know that something was up and come after us.

“Get out now,” the lady half yelled.

I began to make my way towards the back door when I heard Hector storming down the stairs yelling my name, “ASPEN! ASPEN COME HERE!”

I looked for a place to hide and saw a small closet space under the stairs. I made a break for it and quietly slipped into the closet before shutting the door softly.

“I have to hide,” I whispered to the lady while tucking Candice into the corner of the closet, putting coats that had fallen off their hangers around her, hoping that maybe if he found me he wouldn’t see her.

I heard him pass by the door and I held my breath, my eyes widening in fear. I noticed then that I was shaking hard enough for my teeth the chatter. I clenched my jaw and waited.

Seconds seemed to drag on as Hector walked through the kitchen. I jumped slightly as I heard him yell, “I know you’re still here Aspen! I know you have called the police!” He could be drunk but he sounded sober to me.

“I’ll find you,” he called out.

“The police are on their way, just wait for a few more minutes,” the lady said, trying to sound reassuring but I was too shaken up for her words to comfort me. I was about to respond when the closet door banged open and Hector stood there, towering over my crouched form with the same bloody knife in hand.

“Found you,” he growled in a gravelly voice. Candice stirred in the corner and Hector’s ice blue eyes cut to her before a sick grin spread over his thin lips.

“I found both of you.” He brought the knife down towards Candice.

I dropped the phone, my body acting on its own. I threw myself in front of Candice, my arm raised to block the knife. I don’t know how it happened, maybe Hector jumped when I move or stumbled on something but the knife didn’t go through my arm as I expected it to. Instead, the knife slid along the outer part of my arm, from the back of my hand to my elbow.

Instantly blood poured out of the gash, running up my arm and making my short sleeved nightshirt wet with blood. I crouched in front of Candice who was wailing at the sight she just witnessed. I hoped she wouldn’t remember this day if we made it through.

Just then the front door burst open, the sound of the lock splintering echoed in my ears. Hector turned and glared at the people who just entered through the door.

“Drop the knife!” someone yelled. I never took my eyes off of Hector as he turned around and raised the knife to stab me. I gasped as the sound of a gun firing echoed through the house. I watched, my brain not fully processing things, as the bullet entered one side of his head. His head jerked to the side before he collapsed to the ground.

I turned to Candice, thinking that she couldn’t see this. She couldn’t see her father’s dead body so I told her to close her eyes and not open them until I said so. She nods her head, closing her eyes. I pull her to me with my good arm and slowly make my way out of the closet. Two officers, one a woman and the other a man, rushed over to us, tucking their guns in their holsters. They looked us over, pity and sadness in their eyes. They ushered us out of the house and I didn’t spare a glance at Hector’s dead body, nor my mother’s as we walked through the front door.

I flinched at the harsh lights of police cars and ambulances. Some paramedics rushed over to us and one tried to take Candice out of my arms. I flinched back and tucked her closer to me.

“It’s alright. I won’t hurt her.” I stared into the woman’s eyes for a minute before letting her take Candice out of my arms.

“You can open your eyes now,” I mumbled in her ear as I passed her over to the woman. She opened her big, dark green eyes and stared at me. She noticed that someone else was holding her and began fighting the woman.

“Candice, calm down. She won’t hurt you. She’s going to make sure you’re alright,” I reassured her. She nodded her head and stopped fighting.

Two other paramedics rushed me over to an ambulance and began looking at my arm. They looked at each other and quickly pushed me into the back of the ambulance, saying that they had to get me to the hospital.

“NO! Not without Candice,” I yelled, trying to shoot out the back of the ambulance before they closed the doors. One of the paramedics grabbed me and tried to force me back into the seat, but I continued to fight them. I heard one of them yell something and a few moments later I felt something prick my unharmed arm. I looked down and saw a needle with some type of fluid in it being injected into me. I tried to pull my arm away but my vision started to go hazy and my limbs began to feel weak. I heard one of the paramedics say something about Candice but I couldn’t understand them.

As they laid me on a stretcher, my head fell to the side and I struggled to keep my eyes open. The lights grew dimmer by the second and before long darkness enveloped me.

I woke with a start, sitting straight up before wincing at the burning pain in my right arm. I heard an alarm going off somewhere but ignored it as I swung my legs to the side of the bed with one thought in my head: Where is Candice?

Some people wearing scrubs came rushing into the room. I stared at them for a moment or two before it hit me like a ton of bricks. My mother, Hector, my arm, everything that has happened rushed through my head, causing a headache to bloom in my head. I kept sitting up even though some of the nurses tried to gently push me back down on the bed.

“Where’s my sister?” I gasped, my throat dry and hurting.

“I’m Doctor Lewis. Your sister is in the next room. She’s awake and waiting with your grandmother,” Doctor Lewis answered, his graying hair slicked back. I stared at him, letting my brain process his words. My grandmother?

“Shit,” I mumbled and laid back down after swatting away the nurse’s hands with my working arm. Everyone in the room gave me disapproving stares but I didn’t care. They didn’t know the history I had with my grandmother.

“My arm?” I asked and stared at my useless right arm that was wrapped up and put in a sling.

“Your wound had to be sewed shut. There was no nerve damage but there was enough damage to some tendons and muscles that you will need physical therapy once you recover,” Doctor Lewis said as he sat down on the end of the hospital bed. I nodded my head and continued to stare at my arm.

“You’ll also have a scar,” he said slowly as if he was worried about how I would react. I simply nodded my head again and look up from my arm.

“Can I see my sister now?” I ask, indifferent to what he said.

“Yes. I’ll go get her and your grandmother,” Doctor Lewis gets up and walks out of the room.

“Do you want anything to drink or eat?” one of the nurses asked.

“Please,” I answer her and stare at my arm again. I noticed then that I was no longer wearing my pajamas but a hospital gown. I look up as the door opens and Candice enters the room. She rushes up to the bed as I sit up, bringing my legs around to dangle over the edge of the bed. She climbs up beside me and I wrap my left arm around her, pulling her close and kissing her head and my grandmother, Lorelai, enters the room.

I fight back my eye roll and release Candice. “Hello, Grandmother,” I say in a cold, monotonous voice.

“Hello, Aspen,” she replies in her calm, always controlled voice.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes with some police officers,” Doctor Lewis says before exiting the room, the other nurse following him out.

“Why are you here?” I asked.

“I am your guardian now. Candice gets to come live with me. Oh, and you too,” she mumbled the last part. That was something she never did. She was too proper and traditional. I shuttered at the thought of living with Lorelai and glanced down at Candice who was tracing the designs on my gown, not paying attention to me or Lorelai.

I looked back up at Lorelai and sighed, “Call your lawyer. I have an answer to your problem. We can talk in private after the police arrive.” Lorelai raised an eyebrow but takes out her phone and orders her lawyer to come to the hospital that instant. After she hung up the door opened and some police officers entered the room.

“Hello, Aspen, Candice,” the officer speaking was the female officer from the house and she slowly approached the bed with the same man following close behind.

I nodded my head in greeting and Candice huddled up close to me, staring at the officers.

“Can we talk to them in private?” the male officer asked, looking to Lorelai for approval. She nodded her head and just then, her lawyer entered the room with Doctor Lewis following him.

“It is about time you arrived,” Lorelai stated and shook her head in disapproval. Her lawyer apologized profusely even though he probably went over the speed limit to get here in the few minutes it took. The police officers watched the exchange before turning back to Candice and me.

“Come with me Candice,” the female officer held out her hand to Candice who held onto my left arm tightly.

“It’s alright. She just has to ask you some questions. I’ll be here when you come back,” I kiss her forehead and put her hand in the officers.

They leave and the male officer asks everyone else to leave the room. They do as he asks and I lean back in the bed.

“My name is Martin Weber. It’s nice to meet you, Aspen,” he said in a soft, caring voice.

“You as well,” I reply with a small nod in his direction.

“To be frank, you don’t seem to be...upset...about what happened,” he said in a questioning tone.

“I am upset, I just don’t...,” I paused, trying to think of the right words. “I feel numb at the moment. It’s like the events that just happened haven’t caught up to me yet.” He nods his head and takes out a notepad and pen.

“Can you walk me through what happened right before we found you?” he asks, glancing up at me. I nod my head and tell him about what happened.

After a few more questions after I finished telling the officer what happened, he left and Lorelai and her lawyer entered the room.

Before she could say anything I spoke. “I have a proposition for you.”

“And what would this proposition be?” she asked, skeptical.

“I will move into my own house, I won’t live with you. However, you will have to pay for the house and all of the bills. Once I turn eighteen, I will pay half of the bills and once I graduate from college, you won’t have to pay for anything at all. I will choose what house I get to live in, within reason, of course. I will become Candice’s legal guardian once I turn eighteen until then she will live with you but I get to spend time with her on the weekends,” I stated, picking at my nails.

Lorelai laughs at what I said and asks, “And what would I get out of this deal?”

I look up at her and give her a cold, humorless smile. “You would get my mother’s business until I graduate college with a bachelor’s degree in business.”

Lorelai thinks for a moment but I wasn’t worried she wouldn’t agree to my deal. If there was one thing that Lorelai loved the most, it was power. My mother was a multi-millionaire. While she may have had money, she didn’t spend it unnecessarily and most of it went to charities. But Lorelai knew how much power and influence my mother’s company could bring her even if she owned it for a few years so when she nodded her head and told her lawyer to draw up a contract, I wasn’t surprised.

“You have yourself a deal. Very clever, Aspen.” I nodded my head in acknowledgment just as the door opens and Candice comes into the room with Doctor Lewis behind her.

Candice bounds over to me, climbing up into the bed beside me and snuggling into my left side. I put my arm around her and look at Doctor Lewis.

“When can we leave?” I ask, already wanting to be out of the hospital.

“Candice has no injuries so she can leave tonight, but you have to stay so we can watch how your healing progresses,” Doctor Lewis says and crosses his arms over his chest.

“I thought as much,” I mumbled and laid my head back on the pillows.

I sigh and let myself relax as much as possible and before long I feel Candice’s breathing even out and then I find myself drifting off to sleep. I welcome it with open arms and think to myself that maybe things would start to look up once I got out of the hospital.

A/N: HELLO!!!

I do not own the picture on the cover, to see the original image go to https://www.pinterest.com/pin/420242208974137487/

I give credit to the original artist(s). I used Canva to make the cover.

So...this is the prologue of Stay Strong. This is how Aspen comes to live by herself while taking care of her sister.

If you have any question feel free to leave comments and I’ll try to answer you guys and not spoil any of the plot.

Also, feel free to point out any mistakes and constructive criticism is good.

So, yeah. That’s about it! I’ll be posting the next chapter soon but I have to work this weekend so it might be around Tuesday before Chapter 1 is posted.

See y’all then! Bye Bye!

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