Crossroads: Book 1

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Chapter 78


The reflection in the tall mirror of my bedroom is mocking me. My hands are just too big to tie this stupid thin piece of fabric around my neck. Why do I even have to wear a tie? The last time I wore a tie, it was Easter, and I was eleven years old.

My mom worked her tail off to make sure that I could wear something nice for Easter. I was proud of it. I felt like a hundred bucks, and my mom said that I looked like a gentleman. She looked very pretty too, in a floral sundress; she had a good paycheck that week.

There was a potluck after church, and my grandpa made sure that I didn’t get a chance to eat, so I made myself scarce and hid away from my mom so she couldn’t raise questions about why I wasn’t eating. I couldn’t chance her getting into trouble too, so I hid behind the church building beneath a ditch.

I had one friend in that church -Erin. Erin was a little younger than me, but she had a heart of gold. She was the only kid who would take the time to get to know me. If it wasn’t for her warm smile, I don’t know what I would’ve done.

Erin found me hidden away in our private hide-out and gave me a dinner roll with mac n’ cheese inside it – a mac n’ cheese sandwich. She knew that I didn’t have a good home life; she didn’t know what was happening to me, but she knew it wasn’t good and knew that I was hungry.

A while later, we wanted to play, so we snuck into one of the kids’ classrooms in the church’s basement to play with some of the toys. That’s where my grandpa found me. He dragged me out of the room by my hair; as I was dragged down the hall, I could still hear Erin’s cries for me. She was scared, so was I. As soon as the door slammed shut from the boy’s bathroom, the echoes of Erin’s sobs were cut off. He started by making fun of the outfit my mom worked so hard for. It was nothing special, just slacks, a dress shirt, a blazer, and a tie.

No matter how much you cover yourself up, boy, with these fancy clothes – you will always just be a little maggot—a good for nothing piece of white trash. Your father thinks that I think that, and your mother is too stupid to figure it out yet! She will, though, in time.

He took my tie with his hand tight at the knot; the other hand held the underbelly of it, he slid it tighter and tighter until I turned blue.

I swore that Easter would be the last time I’d wear one of these things.

Until now.

“I can’t believe you’re making me do this,” I groan to Paul, who is on the other side of the phone line.

“Trust me. Ladies love a sharp dressed man. Besides, it’s a nice club, and Elena’s wearing a matching dress. It’ll be like Prom, you know. Everyone will know she’s with you.” I hear him chuckle over the speaker of the phone on my bed.

Prom. I’ve never been. I was too busy with the club and trying to work my way up to the president patch. I wanted Scott to know that I’d be a good candidate for VP and then accept the president patch when he was ready to give it.

When Scott found me, I was homeless and involved with a bunch of miscreants. We were stealing, running from the law, getting into all sorts of trouble, and just thinking we were badasses. Scott came along and switched that thinking for me real fast. He was like a father to me and demanded that I don’t drop out of high school. If I did, then he’d kick me out of the place that had hot water, a bed, and food. I only knew him for two years, but it felt like a lifetime after the hell I’ve been through from years prior.

Yeah, the lifestyle didn’t change much, but he taught me to be smart about it. To help and protect the community and not steal from it. He taught me the meaning of loyalty and family; how to be a leader. At home, I didn’t feel like I had a family. There was my mom, who was blind about what she saw, and grandpa Chuck, my tormentor.

I like to think that I’ve done Scott proud. At being twenty-four years old, I’m able to make sure the club is running smooth operations; the guys are happy and have plenty of money. The auto shop is raking in steady business, and we’re all like a family. I’m not sure he’d be keen on the fact that we deal guns, produce and deliver moonshine... not to mention the dirty drug deal that one time - one time too many. Times were getting a little hard - we did what we had to do.

It’s been a while since I’ve visited his grave. I should do that soon.

“Hey, you there, Red?” Paul’s voice draws me back through the crackly phone. He must be driving somewhere; the reception is giving out.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m here,” I retort, throwing the stupid-ass tie on the bed behind me; the decision to unbutton the top two buttons of the dress-shirt prevails.

“So, tonight is Rachel’s last night. If you see me walking out of the club with her, please don’t follow. I’d like to spend some alone time with her -if ya know what I mean.”

My lips crack a smile. “Ditto.”

After hanging up the phone, I take a minute to try and fix my hair. I need a haircut. Bad. Unfortunately, there is no time for that right now. I would have gone for a haircut earlier today, but some club business needed to be taken care of.

There’s got to be some gel around here somewhere. Leaving the bedroom, I walk into the bathroom and open the medicine cabinet. Ah hah! Hair gel. Using my thumb, I pop open the top and turn it over, then squeeze a dollop in the palm of my other hand. Mushing it together, the gel is cold and slimy in my hands. When was the last time I wore gel?

I rake it through my hair in efforts to tame some of the curls I inherited from my absentee father.

Once satisfied, I walk in the kitchen to get a glass of water. Why am I so nervous? Since when do I care so much about my appearance?

The feet stop halfway to the kitchen because the sight before me told them so. Elena and Rachel are sitting at the kitchen table, strapping their heels on. Paul was right; the tie does match her champagne sequence dress. Her dress hits mid-thigh. It’s tight -not too tight – but tight enough to reveal those curves that I can’t wait to hold. It’s a sleeveless scoop neck, but not skimpy. As she sways around the kitchen, putting various things away, I see that the back of the dress is completely closed off to the world.

She is absolutely stunning. My hand twitches with the need to touch her. To hold her. To run my fingers through the long silky, curly blond hair.

I drop my head to look at my plain black shirt with no tie. She deserves a man that wears a tie. A tie says sophistication, respectable job, and knows how to knot the collar... A gentleman. The two buttons drop says, no college degree, loser, and can’t tie a fucking tie.

Screw the glass of water; I need to fucking YouTube this tie thing. Maybe I can pretend that I am everything a tie represents for one night. For her.

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