f o u r.

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Nero POV

„You need help with what ? Are you in trouble, Hailey ?”, I looked worriedly at my daughter. It still felt so unrealistic to see her again, to hold her in my arms as in the past when she was still my little girl. But I was just happy to know that she was fine, that she was still alive. Anything could've happened to her.

„No, I have to pay some debts to my landlord, I don't want to lose my apartment”, she explained, yet she couldn't look me in the eye - so I knew immediately that she was lying to me. But I didn't want to discuss that here, but in a quiet place and not in front of Lucius.

„You'll come home with me later, but first you should spend some time with your brother. He really missed you, kid”, I nodded, hugging her tightly again and walking back to Lucius, who immediately started telling his sister all he had done in the last two years.

Seeing my children reunited gave me a warm feeling that I hadn't felt for ages. It seemed like everything could get better now, but I wasn't naive - I knew that there would still be many problems, but I also knew that I wouldn't let my daughter leave again.

. . .

I closed the door behind us and led Hailey into the living room, where she put dow her bag next to the sofa and took off her denim jacket. I watched as her eyes wandered around the room and shortly afterwards her lower lip began to tremble. It looked like she had missed being at home.

For a moment I studied my daughter inconspicuously and saw punctures in her crook and now I really knew why she needed money. Maybe she really had debts, but if she was a drug addict, that wasn't the only reason she needed money. Thats shit's expensive.

For now, I didn't show how worried I really was, I wanted to hear the truth from her, not because I forced her to tell me. I wanted to know if she was still as familiar as she used to be, or if I was now just a stranger to her whom she only wanted to see when she was on the edge and needed help.

I had always hoped that my children would never touch drugs. Hailey had been battling with herself for a long time, with her fears, I knew that. But I never thought it was so bad that she would become a junkie. And it broke my heart to see my child so desperate and insecure.

„Sit down”, I offered her, sat in the chair and waited for Hailey to sink onto the sofa. With her fingertips she stroked the dark fabric and swallowed audibly. „How much money are we talking about here ? What exactly do you need it for ?”, I asked and started the conversation myself, because I wasn't sure if Hailey would've said a word otherwise.

„Five thousand dollars. I need it for the rent, I haven't been able to pay it for months, and if I don't pay now and pay off my debts, I'll be back on the street and probably have to go to court”, she said calmly, looking at me and the nervousness in her eyes was clear.

Thoughtfully I ran my fingers trough my beard and leaned back. „Don't lie to me, you know that I always notice when you're lying. Why don't you trust me anymore, sweetheart ? Did I ever do anything to you ?”, I asked almost disappointed, but remained calm.

„I-I trust you, Dad..it's the truth”, she whispered in a shaky voice, running her hand through her brown wavy hair.

„Another lie. Damn, you think I'm stupid ? Or blind ? I see the punctures on your arm, the bruises around it. And maybe you haven't taken anything today, but I can see it in your eyes!” I hated yelling at my own child, but I was desperate and didn't know how to help.

„I was there once, Hailey, I know how dangerous this stuff is. Your mom..you see what happened to Lucius just because of drugs. I know you have problems, the constant anxiety - but that, the drugs, they should scare you”, I added, after that I tried to calm down a bit, to be quieter again when I heard Hailey sobbing and sniffing.

„I know, Dad! I know how dangerous that is, but it does help me not to be scared for a few hours, it helps me not to constantly think about what might could happen. You don't know what it feels like to be constantly afraid, it eats you up inside and you can't do anything. Besides, I was alone, I missed you and wanted to go home, but I didn't dare!” Her voice became louder, in the end she was the one who desperately yelled at me before her voice cracked.

„I know how it feels! I'm scared every day to get a call because of Lucius, I've been worried sick for two years because I had no idea what happened to my daughter. Don't tell me that I don't know what it feels like to be scared”, I growled, getting up and pacing up and down, looking at Hailey, who was staring at me with slightly parted lips.

Sighing, I sat down again, rested my elbows on my knees and put my face in my hands. „I won't give you the money, not for drugs. But that doesn't mean that I won't help you.”

„You can't help me otherwise, but I also won't beg for the money”, she murmured disappointed, but I wasn't angry. I was a junkie myself ages ago and I knew how important it was to have money. Once you were really dependent on that stuff you would do anything to avoid having to live without it.

„Yes, I can. I want you to stay here with me.” I looked at her urgently and wouldn't accept a no. She wasn't twenty-one yet, which meant that I still way responsible for her - and I wouldn't  wait until the cops call me in a few years and tell me that my daughter had died of an overdose.

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