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12:30 AM—entering china town, NJ



MY WINDOW IS OPEN. I don't remember opening it.

I watch the thin, tattered curtains blow wildly like a storm is brewing in my sea of 'good enough' solitude. Everything is dark and the abandoned traintracks in the distance have weeds growing with the strength of the powerful air. They bend and break and it reminds me of human biology. Strong weeds last. Weak ones don't see next week.

Almost completely unaware, I strangle the neck of the Jack Daniels I stupidly took from the fridge, lifting the rim to my cracking lips. My eyes stay glued to the open window, wondering if this is how Fia feels every day.

I hear my dad's clumpy boots stomp their way through the hall, the sound of the party outside resonating in my head once more.

"Get up," he mutters, disappointment oozing through his testosterone-packed tone.

The branches on every tree in Jersey, dead-of-winter, look like veins trying to crawl up from the roots to gasp for real air. Their branches wave like everything else tonight, acting like human limbs begging for mercy.

After pacing like a rabid animal and rubbing his forehead to ease the pain of his year long hangover, he repeats himself. "Get up," he says, yelling as loudly as the wind outside.

I finally peel my eyes away from the window and let them land on his cold figure. If he could think straight and remember anything I ever say, I would tell him what I really think of him. But, he hasn't been able to remember for the past decade—so I don't bother.

Biting the inside of my cheek as hard as I can, I get to my feet, the brush of quick air circulating the brewery living  in his mouth. I toss the empty bottle onto my bed, a reminder for tomorrow morning when I'm really regretting it.

I let out a deep breath and grab the pistol that's right where I left it. My hand snakes around it, the nerves in my body contorting at the foreign feeling. As if they know it doesn't belong in my possession.

"You think that's loaded?" he asks, his ballistic eyes slowing down enough to linger on mine for a moment.

"It'd be kind of shitty if it wasn't," I respond, talking through my gritted teeth.

He lets out a closed-mouth laugh, lifting a hand to rub his eye aggressively, "then I guess I'm shitty."

My hand quickly unravels its grip from the marble handle. I watch him walk out of the room, his large boots caked in mud staggering back through the hall.

"You said it," I whisper, shoving my hands into my pockets and lagging after him.

I walk a few feet behind, passing by some new faces as well as some old ones I wish I could forget. My eyes choose to see them as blurs and my ears protect me from hearing the slander escaping their lips. At a certain point I'm positive I'm just floating through the masses hoarded in my house.

I think about the things I've been hiding for the past couple of days—the things I've felt and tried to rip out from beneath my skin. Secrets are satan's strongest power and if the past few hours alone haven't proven that, then I don't know what does.

My father thrives on secrets.

It takes a while for me to realize that I've followed him outside. He pushes my back closer to my truck, giving me a 'you better not screw this up look.'

"You know where we're goin'?" he asks, digging in his pocket for his key.

I nod my head and watch him head toward the back of the building with a few of the disciples he's dragged along on the way.

It's not until they're completely out of sight that I start kicking the passenger door of my beatdown Chevy. It's the only thing I can do to keep myself from screaming at the top of my lungs. My body starts to take over and I don't stop until the door is almost completely damaged. I press my forearms against the window, letting my head hang down as sweat runs down my forehead.

Still shaking, I rush over to the other side and jump in the drivers seat, starting the piece of shit up before my ass even hits the seat.

I pull out of the side of the road and speed into the street, my hands gripping the wheel as a last attempt at having a grip on any aspect of my life.

The traffic lights flash before my eyes and I ignore them every time, running more red lights in one minute than the past two years. The skin on my knuckles begin to turn white as I take a sharp left, cutting through town.

My left leg bounces up-and-down as I near the rear end of my father's car, watching him jack on the breaks every other second. I can hear banter like laughter swimming out of the open windows and I try my best to follow his choppy driving.

It's now that I decide to compose myself as best I can, learning to quickly accept my fate.

His tires screech as he turns right, passing through a wire gate with ivy wrapped around the entirety of it. I slowly enter, parking a few hundred feet away from him before getting out. I blink up at the familiar neon lights, letting them burn into my retinas and leave spots.

My father jumps out after the other men do, slamming the door with a drunken smile on his face.

"Haul ass, son," my father shouts through a lit cigar.

I don't move right away. My eyes move up to a broken window, landing on the figure standing in it.

Bai Li.

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