CHAPTER SEVEN

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    "Ian, I need to tell you something." My mom's voice comes out sweet, but I had learned the hard way that that only meant that whatever she was doing, she doing just to make him happy. So I don't answer. I'm not going to entertain it. I refuse. Even if it gets my ass beat. "Honey, your mommy's pregnant."

    I look up at her. Is she serious? She's going to bring another kid into this world knowing damn well the suffering that she'll be putting them through? The same suffering she's letting me be put through?

    "What? Mom, please, no. You can't. Please. You cant save me from him. You can't even save yourself from him. Don't put another child's life at risk at the hands of him."

    "Honey, it's okay." Is all she says as I realize that I had just made the biggest mistake of my life. Because my dad was listening the whole time. He storms into my room, grabbing me by my hair and pulling me up from my bed. I already know where he's taking me because he's taken me there countless times before.

    When we enter the bathroom, he slams it shut behind him. "Bad children deserve equally as bad punishment."

    "Dad, please," I beg even though I know it's of no use. He shakes his head at me.

    "You will respect me, boy." And then he grabs me by the back of the head, dunking my head into the toilet until my face is completely submerged. I start gasping for air, reaching around me for anything that I can use to get him to let go. But just like every time before, there's nothing. And just like every time before, he pulls me up just before my vision begins to go black. I gulp for air, but before I can even catch my breath, he dunks me again.

    I sit up quick, gasping for air as if I had been drowning. I could've possibly been drowning in sweat with how much was covering my body. I quickly get up, going over to the bathroom. I turn on the sink, splashing water on my face to try and wash away the memory I just had to relive.

    I should be used to the nightmares. I'd been having them since Mandy left three years ago and I hadn't slept a peaceful night since. But they were getting worse. At first, it was small ones, and I'd wake up right away, ending it. But now it was all of my worst memories in that house. And since my mind was used to the nightmares, I was staying in them for much longer and having to endure it every time I went to sleep. Sometimes I would avoid sleeping because I knew I would have a nightmare and thinking back, I'm surprised I didn't become an insomniac.

    I guess Max was what made it better. She was the only constant in my life right now and since she had the nightmares too, in a weird way it helped me feel less alone, less scared of the nightmares. We constantly reminded each other that they were just nightmares. And that the bad guy was away and behind bars. It helped most nights. But tonight it wouldn't.

    I knew just by the way my heart wouldn't calm down or my breathing wouldn't slow down that I would be up for the rest of the night. I leave the bathroom to check the time and see that it's 4:48 AM. Great.

    I guess I'll go on my phone for the next few hours.

———

    I ended up falling asleep. Which has never happened before and I'm not entirely sure how it happened. But I woke up in the hotel chair with my phone in my lap while Max was shaking me awake. I immediately got up and took a shower in attempt to shake away whatever feeling had prompted the nightmare.

    After, Max got ready also and we both made sure to wear jeans and our toughest pair of shoes since we were going to Ashley's house today and she had mentioned her neighbor's ranch. After we are both ready, we head downstairs to get in the car. We go straight to it, each getting in our respective sides of the car. I start the car while I pull up my messages with Ashley so I can put in her address. After I put it into the car's GPS, we're off. As I drive, Max is oddly silent. She's a talkative little brat so silence is suspicious.

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