Stay Strong

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Chapter 6


This chapter has some...dark things in it. I am NOT trying to offend anyone, this is simply apart of Aspen’s struggles.

My shift ended around eleven that night and it was an honest to God, shity work shift. I had little tables and that gave me plenty of time to think about Gavin Graves. That name had sounded extremely familiar but I couldn’t remember where from. But there was no way he was my father. My mother never even talked about him except from the one time she told me why their relationship never worked out.

I got into my car as the memory from years ago sprang into my mind.

“Your father...,” my mother’s clear, lovely voice, was soft and tentative. “Your father was married to his work. We were both young when we met and I was for sure that we were in love. But I suppose even somethings destroy the love some people have for one another.”

She had looked so sad that I was about to tell her that she didn’t have to continue but before I could say anything she said, “When I told him that I was pregnant I was sure that he was going to be so, so happy. He had, after all, said that he wanted to raise a family with me one day. But...he panicked. He told me that we were still too young to have a baby and that I needed to get rid of it. I had told him I wouldn’t and he looked so upset, angry even. He told me that if I wouldn’t get rid of you then he was going to leave.”

She had smiled down at my five-year-old self, pulling me into her lap. “I realized then that he wasn’t ever going to stay if I never got rid of you. He didn’t feel the love already felt for you. I loved you so much even before you were born. So I helped him pack and when he was ready to go I told him to get his ass out of my damn apartment and never speak to me again. He had looked so devastated that I thought he was for sure going to come back the next night. But he never did. I was devastated and your grandmother told me that I had a child to think about now and that I couldn’t waste time on things like the man who had broken my heart.”

I lean back in the seat, realizing that I had tears running down my face and a deep, aching pain in my chest. I missed her so much sometimes that it physically hurt. I tried not to think about her or about what happened but sometimes the mental lock I had on that box of memories from before just broke and those memories flooded my mind. Making me a sobbing mess.

After I was finished with my emotional breakdown I pulled out of the diners parking lot and headed towards Sonia’s to pick up Candice.

As I pulled into the driveway of her house I realized that there was more than just the normal three cars sitting on the pavement. I glanced at the black Dodge Challenger, not being able to help but admire the car. Whoever owned that had good taste. I walked up the steps of her house to keep myself from drooling over the car.

I knocked on the door and had to wait a few moments before the door open. I either looked as bad as I felt or Sonia was just that unhappy to see me because when she opened the door she winced.

“You look like hell,” she stated. Guess that answered my question. I shrugged, stopping myself from saying that I felt like hell too.

“Thanks for the concern.” I grin. She shakes her head and she looked kind of sad as she met my eyes. She opened her mouth to say something when there was a thump and then crying started shortly after. I knew that cry. I pushed past Sonia and rushed into the room where the crying was coming from.

Candice was sitting next to the glass coffee table, holding her head with tears streaming down her face. I scooped her up into my arms and sat down on the leather couch.

“What happened sweetheart?” I asked and she snuggled into my chest.

“I,” she hiccuped, “hit my head.”

“Let me see,” I gently said as I pulled her hand away from her forehead. I looked at the small cut and then looked at Sonia who was standing next to us, looking down at Candice with a worried look. “Can you go get me a wet paper towel and a band-aid, please?” I ask her softly. She nods her head and walks out of the room.

Once she comes back she hands the two items to me and I gently press the paper towel to the cut before putting the band-aid on it. I pressed a soft kiss to the band-aid and helped Candice off of my lap. “Better?” I asked. She nodded her head and I scooped up her bookbag from the floor.

“Thank you for watching her,” I said as I handed Sonia the money.

“No problem.” She smiled at me as she pocketed the money. For once, everything seemed like it was normal until someone’s shadow passed through the doorway and a dark brown haired, gray eyed boy entered the room, looking kind of angry until he saw Candice clutching at my leg, face buried in my pants leg. I rubbed her head as I told Landon hello.

“Hey, Aspen. I never realized how much you and Candice look alike. Aside from the hair that is.” He smiled and leaned against the door frame. I looked at Sonia to tell her goodbye but she seemed to be brooding. I picked up Candice and told the bye before making my way out of the house quickly.

I put Candice into her car seat. As I pulled back she grabbed my hand. “I like him.”

“Who?” I asked, confused.

“Landon. He is going to be my boyfriend when I get older.” She smiled sleepily. I kissed the top of her head and shut the car door before heading around to get into the driver’s seat. But someone leaned against the car beside me before I could do anything.

“Yes?” I ask, turning towards Landon.

“So...,” he mumbled, rubbing at the back of his neck. I raised an eyebrow at him and saw Sonia staring at us from the front door.

“Why...why didn’t your parents come to pick up Candice? Are they working late or something?”

I froze at his words, hand on the door handle of my car. I stared at him as images of blood, a knife and two bodies flitted through my head. “That’s...,” I struggled to say past the lump in my throat. “It’s not something you need to worry about. Candice is used to me picking her up this late at night,” my voice sounded dead even to my ears.

“Okay. Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you,” he whispered, putting his large hand on my much smaller one that was clutching the door handle like it was a lifeline.

“I’ve got to go. I’ll see you at school tomorrow,” I mumbled before opening the door and starting the car. Landon stepped away and waved as I pulled out of the driveway and headed towards my house.

When I got home I tucked Candice into her bed and took a shower.

As the hot water rolled over my shoulders and down my body I couldn’t help but think of what had happened three years ago.

My mother’s lifeless eyes, the blood pooling around her. The knife. Hector’s anger. The scream that came out of my mother’s mouth when she had been stabbed. Soon my thoughts slid over to thoughts of my grandmother.

“Hector never wanted a step-child!” she had yelled at me after I had tucked Candice in for a nap one day. “You’re the reason my daughter died. You’re the reason she was ripped away from us all! But you don’t care do you?” I had stared at her blankly the whole time. I had seemed to have lost any feeling because I hadn’t felt sad or depressed until about a month after my mother had died. It was almost like I was numb. Even when Lorelai had raised her pale hand and struck me across the face so hard that I fell to the ground.

“You are a heartless little bastard!” she hissed as she spits on me. I had waited until she had left before picking myself up off of the floor and wiping the spit from my cheek before making my way back to Candice’s room, sitting beside her crib before I fell asleep myself.

My thoughts shifted again and I had no control over them as I thought about the story my mother had told me about my father.

“He said I needed to get rid of it. I had told him I wouldn’t and he looked so upset, angry even. He told me that if I wouldn’t get rid of you then he was going to leave. I realized then that he wasn’t ever going to stay if I never got rid of you. He didn’t feel the love already felt for you.”

She had seemed so sad when she told me that. And for a second after she had died I contemplated ending my life. But I had someone who depended on me and I couldn’t do that. If it wasn’t for Candice I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep functioning, to be honest.

As I silently cried on the bottom of the bathtub I saw the razor that I used to shave. I reached a hand towards it. Just as my fingers brushed it, I pulled back like it had burned me. “No,” I hissed.

“No. No, no, no.” I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t be able to explain to Candice or to anyone if they ever saw the marks. I gripped my hair and pulled as if to get the thoughts out of my head. Normally I never felt like this until it was the anniversary. But it was coming up soon and I was stressed so maybe that was it.

I quickly finished my shower before walking to my bedroom. I pulled out the drawing pad from a drawer in my desk and took out a pencil. I began sketching something, not really paying attention to what was happening and just let the pencil glide over the paper. Redirecting my feelings from those thoughts to something more...productive? Is that the word I was looking for? Maybe. Like hell I knew. But drawing usually helped. And if it didn’t then I would simply think about Candice until the feelings subsided.

I stared at the paper, taking in what I drew. It was a tree and behind the tree was the sky but the sky was split in half and so was the tree. One half of the page was white and the limbs of the trees were healthy and had leaves on the branches. The other half was dark and the branches looked dead and sad. I signed my name at the bottom of the page and closed the book, tossing it to the foot of my bed before rolling over and trying to sleep.


Here’s the second one.

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