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Ace Bad Things

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Chapter 1. Goodbyes

“You fucking bitch!” I shrieked and lunged at Amara. I have had it with the endless harassment and embarrassment! My fist balled up and collided with Amara’s nose. The exhilaration that I felt when her nose crunched beneath my fist was indescribable.

Blood gushed from Amara’s nose. She cried out and collapsed to the linoleum floor.

People gathered around us to see what was happening.

I hovered above Amara and pulled her hair with one hand as my fist struck her right eye.

Amara reached up and pulled my hair.

Pain shot through my scalp, and I hissed in pain. My hand swung forward. The blow across Amara’s face made her head snap to the side.

The crowd chanted my name.

Hands grabbed my arms to restrain me. The person pulled me to my feet.

“Let go of me,” I demanded. I struggled against the person that restrained me. I’m so not done with her! My gaze fell on the person that had ahold of me.

“Aria, that is enough!” Mr. Hemmsworth scolded me. He was my science teacher–a middle-aged man. “We are going to the office now.” He removed his hands from my arms and looked around at the crowd of kids. “Get back to class,” he warned.

The students descended but continued to whisper and laugh.

I followed after Hemmsworth.

The large office was warm with blue carpet and white walls. I sat down in one of the many waiting chairs that lined the wall.

The two office receptionists looked at me, confused and surprised.

I scowled in their direction and looked away. I had no reason to be upset with them, but I was angry at everyone. How could nobody notice or not care about all the suffering I endured?

The clock on the wall ticked slowly. Time hated me. Whenever I awaited misery, time passed slower and louder.

Mr. Hemmsworth leaned over the counter. “I need to speak with Principal Hawkins.”

The younger receptionist of the two motioned for him to proceed. “He’s not busy,” she said.

The office was not a place that I was used to being. I didn’t even know the name of the women who were at the front desk.

The older woman had been here for years. She was at least in her sixties. Her hair was snow white. Her eyes were a bright green color. She was thin, and her skin was wrinkled. Her skin was tight against the bones of her arms and fingers. I imagined her younger with red hair.

The other receptionist was young and hadn’t been here for long. She appeared to be in her late twenties or early thirties. Her blond hair was wrapped up in a tight bun, and she had on glasses. Part of me wondered if she needed them or if she thought they made her look more sophisticated. Her eyes were dark blue. She was stunning–I imagined at one time she was a cheerleader.

It was easier to focus on my surroundings if I wasn’t thinking about why I was here. Maybe they will ship me off to boarding school–I thought hopefully. I was sure to be in real trouble. The principal here didn’t like me–though I couldn’t imagine why I was always a behaved student. Well, until now. Maybe, he foresaw something coming that I didn’t. Perhaps, he knew one day that I would snap. I tossed the likeliness of my theory around in my head.

“Aria Davis,” the principal called my name. Principal Hawkins was older than Mr. Hemmsworth. Hawkins’ bald head shined beneath the fluorescent lights. He looked too tired to be angry, but the irritation was there in his features.

My legs shook as I stood. I followed Hawkins to his office. My heart thumped unsteadily from my nerves.

Mr. Hawkins gestured for me to sit down. I took a seat in one of the matching purple chairs across from his large mahogany desk. Hawkins strolled past me and sat down in his large desk chair.

“Aria, what possessed you to hit Amara? She is one of our finest students here. Do you realize that she could press charges for assault?” Hawkins raised his gray eyebrows. “I know her parents pretty well, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they did. We have a no fighting policy.”

I snorted. “Oh, yeah? Well, you also have a no-bullying policy, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from picking on me. How is it that Amara can get away with bullying me for years, yet when I stand up for myself, I’m the one in trouble?”

“I have a hard time believing Amara did any such thing. If she did, I can assure you nobody was aware of it. Do you have anyone who would agree to your accusations?” Hawkins asked.

“I doubt it,” I muttered.

“Well,” Hawkins said thoughtfully. “I called your mother. She is on her way to get you. As I said, we have a no fighting policy. It’s automatic expulsion. If someone vouches about Amara’s bullying, she will be punished. You’re excused.” Hawkins waved me away as if I were an irritating fly.

My teeth clenched. I stormed out of his office and back to the waiting room. My bookbag was in the seat that I had been sitting in. I wondered who had packed my things.

It wasn’t as if there was much left of the school year anyway. I was at the end of my junior year. If I can’t go to school here, where will I go? I’ve spent my entire life in Carson City, Nevada. I always had dreams of getting away from here. Would that dream finally come true?

I was so wrapped up in my thoughts that I didn’t hear the office door open.

“Aria,” my mother, Tammy, said in a stiff tone.

I turned to look at her.

Mom was emotionless as she always was. My mom was one of the most uptight people that I knew. I didn’t receive much of her looks–apart from her light blue eyes.

As we strolled out of the office, I took one last look around and smiled. I’m glad I don’t have to come back to this treacherous place. Most kids would hate to change schools if they had gone to the same school all of their life. Not me, there was nothing at this school for me—no friends or family. My brother and sister were still in middle school. The middle school was a separate building.

The sky was a cloudless blue. The sun sat high in the sky. The wind blew my long black hair around my face. It was warm out today, but not too hot.

We climbed into Mom’s black Chevy Blazer. We didn’t speak or look at each other as she pulled away from the school.

“I don’t know what to do with you, Aria,” Mom said. “Your father is at home, and he is very angry with you. Why were you fighting? Ariel and AJ are never in trouble.”

“Ariel and AJ don’t get bullied every day!” I snapped.

Mom sighed. “I called your aunt Tina. You are going to live in California.”

“Fine, better than this shit hole anyway,” I growled.

“Watch your mouth Aria. You are in enough trouble as it is,” Mom snapped.

The rest of the ride was silent. The Blazer stopped in the small driveway. Tears formed in my eyes. I clenched my jaw to fight them back. I knew what was coming.

“We’re leaving first thing tomorrow,” Mom said. If she was emotional at the thought of me leaving at all, she did a great job of hiding it. “Make sure you pack everything.”

The small yellow two-story house held more sins than the entire city. I shuddered at the thought of what was waiting inside for me.

Outside it looked like an ordinary house. It was three bedrooms, a bathroom and a half. The kitchen was small, but there was a formal dining room. The living room wasn’t very big, either.

Mom opened the door and walked inside.

I followed after her and turned to close the door. As soon as I spun around, my father, Jim, was in front of me.

Dad’s fist barreled toward my face.

I didn’t even have time to duck or react before his fist smashed into the side of my face. I crumbled to the floor. The metallic taste in my mouth told me I was bleeding.

“Stupid little bitch!” Dad roared. He stormed out of the living room and back to the kitchen.

Instinctively, I raised my hand to my mouth as if holding it would make the pain subside. Tears accumulated in my eyes. I rose to my feet and dashed upstairs. Don’t show fear or pain; it makes you weak. If I showed signs of weakness, he would be sure to hit me again.

My family was dysfunctional. My mother was emotionless as if she was made of stone. My father was an abusive alcoholic. My mom’s parents were very religious, as were both my parents. My grandparents were crazy, and I didn’t like them much more than I did my parents. I didn’t share the same beliefs as them. It was hard to believe God would put me through this if he were such a great man. He might as well have put me in hell. Even hell was better than this place. I’m sure California would be heaven on earth compared to here.

Packing didn’t take me long. I never had much of anything.

The door opened, and my fourteen-year-old sister, Ariel, came in. Ariel and I shared a bedroom. My brother had his own.

“Hey, mom told me what happened,” Ariel murmured. “Are you okay?”

“Fine,” I murmured.

“Did Dad...” Ariel trailed off. She didn’t have to finish; I knew what she was wondering.

“Yes, but I’m okay.” I showed her the side of my face that started to bruise. It would look worse tomorrow.

Ariel sighed. “It’s about damn time you get out of here anyway. He’s much worse to you.”

“Yeah, but guess who is stuck with him when I leave?”

“I’ll try to stay on his good side.” Ariel sat down on her bed.

“Be safe,” I said. “Don’t give him a reason.”

There were a few raps on the door.

“Come in,” Ariel and I called simultaneously.

Our brother Adam came into our bedroom. His middle name was James, so we called him AJ. AJ was twelve.

“Hey,” AJ said softly. He sat beside me.

I hugged AJ tightly.

“Dad is in a pretty bad mood,” AJ said.

“That would be my fault,” I said. “It’s probably safer if I stay up here for the night. If they ask, I’m not hungry.”

“Sure,” Ariel said. Ariel came and sat on my other side.

They both hugged me tightly, and we whispered our goodbyes.

Ariel and AJ went downstairs.

I sat in my bedroom and gazed around. Even though this house held horrible memories, I would miss my sister and brother. My sister and I would sit in this bedroom and talk for hours. We usually talked about getting away from our parents.

The bedroom held two twin size beds. Ariel’s blanket was pink, and mine was red. The floor was dark hardwood. It had one large closet and two dressers. It was the second biggest room in the house and the only bedroom with no carpet. I always had this bedroom. Ariel and AJ shared a room until a few years ago.

I figured I better shower now while everyone was downstairs eating. The last thing I wanted was to run into my father again.

The heat of the shower relaxed my rigid muscles, but it didn’t do much for my bruised jaw. There was a medicine cabinet above the sink. I grabbed some Tylenol.

After I blow-dried my hair, I tiptoed back to my bedroom. I crawled into my bed and threw the covers over my head. I didn’t want to stay up. Tomorrow needed to get here fast, so I could get the hell out of Nevada.


“Aria, wake up,” Mom said. Mom stood in the doorframe of my bedroom.

“I’m awake.” My voice was thick with sleep.

Mom closed the door behind her.

The sun shone through the pink curtains that hung in our bedroom. I looked over at Ariel, who was sound asleep. I contemplated waking her to say goodbye one last time, but she was sleeping peacefully. I rose from my bed and stretched. My muscles were stiff from sleeping for so long.

It was a seven-hour drive to Los Angeles from Carson City. I got dressed in a pair of overalls and a t-shirt. My clothes were nothing special. It took me a long time to talk my parents into letting me wear jeans or overalls. Overalls were hideous but better than poodle type skirts. The skirts my parents used to make me wear all the time belonged in the fifties. They used to tell me girls belonged in skirts and dresses, but nothing revealing.

I pulled my long black hair back into a ponytail and put a little bit of makeup around my face and neck to cover the bruises. The bruises on my neck from a few days earlier were fading. If it weren’t for the fact that my dad beat me senseless, I wouldn’t be allowed to have makeup at all. Mom had bought it for me to cover up the damage Dad to my face.

I took one last look around the house. Dad was in his recliner, still passed out with cans of beer around the chair.

Mom was already in the Blazer. She had a cigarette lit and was thrumming her fingers against the steering wheel impatiently.

I tossed my bags into the backseat and climbed into the front next to her. I opened up my book up. It was an Ellen Hopkins book; she was my favorite author. I connected with her books on a personal level.

Mom turned the radio up too loud for any communication–not that I minded.

The sun rose higher in the sky as the hours passed by. I hadn’t seen California since I was thirteen. I was surprised that my mother wanted to send me to California to live with her sister, Tina. Tina was kind, from what I remembered. Tina and Mom had a falling out a few years ago, and I hadn’t seen her since. I wasn’t sure what their feud was about. I was never brave enough to ask.

We only stopped once on the way to California. My mother was surprisingly nice enough to get me something to eat and drink from a gas station. Mom sped a little bit, so we made good time.

When we were close, Mom turned the radio down.

I closed my book and looked at her, knowing she wanted to speak to me.

Mom’s gaze met mine. For the first time in years, I saw a flicker of some kind of emotion in her eyes. Was it sadness?

“I hope that things go better for you here,” Mom said. “Please refrain from telling Tina about your dad, though. I don’t want any more problems with her than I have already had over the years.” Mom gritted her teeth and looked away.

“Oh, I wasn’t planning on it,” I muttered. I paused to see if Mom would say anything else, but she didn’t. “So, is that it? You’re not even going to miss me a little?”

Mom rolled her eyes. “That is ridiculous, Aria. Of course, I will miss you,” Mom muttered.

“Seems like it,” I retorted.

Mom sighed. “I just think it’s better this way for everyone. Maybe your dad won’t be so hard to deal with if you aren’t there to set him off.”

“Or maybe he will just beat the crap out of you, Ariel, and AJ,” I suggested.

Mom ran her fingers through her hair, but she didn’t answer. “Just behave, okay? I can’t take you back.”

“Sure.” It wasn’t like I wanted her to take me back. I would rather live in a box than go back to Nevada.

Mom pulled into Tina’s driveway.

Tina’s house was the same as I remembered. It was at least twice the size of mine. It was a tan color with a flat brown roof. The front porch had a porch swing.

Tina bustled out of the house with a smile on her face.

Well, at least she is happy to see me. The smile on her face made my nervousness vanish. I grabbed my things from the Blazer.

Mom stepped out of the vehicle, but Tina didn’t look at her.

Tina wrapped me up in a hug. Tina kept her hands on my shoulders and took a step back as if to get a better look at me. “Wow, baby, you are all grown up! It’s so good to see you. Kimmy is excited to see you too. She didn’t even want to go to school today.” Tina chuckled.

“It’s good to see you too, Tina,” I said and smiled.

“Go on inside and get comfortable. Your room is upstairs. It’s the third door on the right,” Tina said.

“Thanks,” I said. I turned to my mother. “Bye, Mom. Take care.”

“You too. Stay safe,” Mom said. Mom gave me a small smile, but it didn’t touch her eyes.

As I walked away, I heard Tina and Mom talking. They didn’t sound angry, but they didn’t sound like sisters that hadn’t seen each other in nearly four years either.

The nice thing about Tina was that she didn’t go to church, which meant I no longer needed to. That was part of the reason that my grandparents disowned Tina. Tina didn’t share the same beliefs. She believed in free will, and love is love. My grandparents tried to force Tina away from her boyfriend, Jose, when they were teenagers. However, that didn’t work.

Tina married Jose, and they had Luis then Kimmy. Luis was about a year or so older than me. Kimmy was only older than me by a month. Unfortunately, Jose died when Kimmy and I were about five years old, and I didn’t remember Jose too well. I recalled wishing that my father was as nice as Jose. To my knowledge, Tina had been alone since Jose died.

The front door led into the living room. The stairs were off to the right. It was very open and bright. Down the hall to the right was an opening for a formal dining room, and to the left was a guest bathroom. At the end of the hall was the kitchen. It didn’t look much different, if at all.

The bedroom was larger than mine back home. I smiled appreciatively when I realized I had my own bathroom. The bed was off to the left of the door. The bathroom was on the other side of the bed. I walked over to the dresser–which was in front of a large window that faced out over the front yard.

When I turned around, I noticed a closet door around the corner from my bathroom door.

There was a large red comforter on the bed. Did Tina really know my favorite color is red? The shag carpet was so white that I wondered if I should be wearing my shoes.

I unzipped my duffel bag and took out my clothes to put them away. There was so much room between the dresser and closet that my clothes didn’t take up even half the space.

After I finished putting my clothes away, I debated on going back downstairs. I didn’t have to debate long.

My bedroom door opened.

Tina smiled from the doorframe. “Hey, honey. You got everything put away already?”

I shrugged. “I don’t have a lot.”

“It’s probably easier. You can travel lighter,” Tina said and laughed.

“Yeah, I guess,” I said and chuckled. “I like my room. Thanks for letting me stay, Tina. I’ll try not to be a bother.”

“It’s no bother at all. I’m glad you came to stay with us, Aria. Kimmy and Luis should be home soon. Today is Luis’s last day. His graduation is Saturday. Kimmy still has a week left,” Tina explained.

“Oh, okay.”

We went downstairs and sat on the couch.

“I got you something,” Tina said. Tina handed me a cell phone.

I looked it over in surprise. “A phone?”

“It already has Kimmy, Luis, and my number in it,” Tina said.

“Wow, thanks, Tina. You didn’t have to do that,” I said. I tried hard not to get choked up about it. My parents never bought me extra things. Mom and Dad said clothes were plenty. I was lucky if Mom snuck me a book once in a while. Mom knew I loved to read.

“No problem. It’s easier to keep in touch this way,” Tina said.

The front door opened. Tina and I turned to see who it was.

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