Chapter 1 FEBRUARY 8, 2020 Football Season Was Over CHAPTER 1 ASA
Lies. My life was a series of lies that had become my norm. I didn’t want to accept it. Waking up daily knowing this could be the day I face my worst fear shouldn’t be the first thing that haunted me when my eyes opened. I would turn eighteen in six days. I wouldn’t be a minor anymore. That protection was gone, but it wouldn’t stop me from doing what had to be done if my father went too far.
Understanding my mom was something I’d given up on years ago. I’d accepted that she loved him and that was the only reason she stayed. How could a woman love a man who emotionally and physically abused her? I couldn’t comprehend it, but she loved him. She had to love him because the son of a bitch had hurt her more times than I could count. The only time I had ever seen her fight back was when I stepped in front of her and his fist landed on my eleven-year-old jaw, knocking me to the ground. That day she’d been beat so badly, it had marked me. Terrified me.
Still, she didn’t leave him.
She did everything she could to make him happy, and when that didn’t work, she took to the sofa to watch Netflix dramas and drink bottles of wine alone while he was at work and I was at school. The cycle was so fucked up in this house, it was a miracle we were both still alive.
Football season was over. My senior year had only a few months left, and I was headed to Ole Miss on a football scholarship. My father had bragged about it to anyone who would listen. The supportive, proud father, family man, successful local businessman, head of the city council, Malcom Griffith. I despised him, and yet I was planning to leave my mother to live alone with this monster.
She could leave him. I was bigger than he was now. I could take the bastard if he tried to stop her from going. I’d told her as much—I’d begged and pleaded with her to leave him. Go live with my abuela in New Mexico. The small town of Taos was full of my mother’s family. Her mother was a force to be reckoned with, and so were her brothers. She’d be safe… she’d be free. I could go to college and live a life without guilt or fear.
Nothing I said could make her go.
Nothing he did was bad enough to send her running.
“Fuck,” I growled, thinking about our argument before I stormed out of the house ten minutes earlier. Standing beside my black Chevy truck with my right hand on the gas pump and my other flat against the side of my truck, I glared at my reflection in the tinted window. I looked like him and I hated it. My eyes were blue like his. My shoulders broad but my height now six three. Two inches taller than him. The only thing about my mother I could see was the dark black color of my hair and the dimples that appeared when I smiled.
“Everything okay?” a female voice asked. I hadn’t realized anyone else was out here. I’d been the only one when I pulled in to fill up. Turning my head only, I recognized the girl. I didn’t know her, but I’d seen her around. Here mostly, when I got gas. She was a Ramos. Her parents owned the service station and grocery store attached to it. She looked to be my age, but she didn’t attend Lawton High School. In fact, she had never attended middle school or elementary school either. None of the Ramos kids did, and I wasn’t sure how many siblings she had, but I knew there were a lot of them. A few years back I remember the oldest one overdosed or something like that. I wasn’t sure exactly how she died.
“It’s fine,” I muttered, embarrassed to have been caught in my current mood. Normally a female that looked like this one would have my charm switch flipped. I liked to flirt. I was fucking good at it. But not now. Attractive females were not at the top of my “give a shit” list.
I expected her to walk away. Leave me to my bad mood, but she wasn’t moving. I wasn’t meeting her gaze, but I could see her long dark hair blowing in the cool breeze from the cold front we had moving in today. Her hair was so dark, it was almost black. The sun, however, showcased the brown highlights in it. The same with her dark brown eyes, which seemed lighter outside the store. I’d only seen her inside the store in the past.
The pump clicked off and I replaced the nozzle, then closed my cap before turning my attention back to her. She blinked when my eyes met hers and held them as if she hadn’t realized she was standing there staring at me. A shy smile tugged at her full lips. It was a shame I’d never taken the time to speak to her in the past. Right now was not only a bad day, but it was also too late. I’d be gone soon and she would never leave this town. She’d be here forever just like her parents. Just like my parents. The idea soured my mood even more.
“Okay, well, uh, I was just checking,” she said, and paused as if I was expected to say something else. There was nothing to say. I’d hit my truck out of anger, and none of that was her business. When I stood there holding her gaze silently, her cheeks slightly flushed, and she ducked her head to focus on the ground. Finally she began to walk back toward the storefront. I watched her go and admired the way she wore a pair of faded jeans. The black combat boots surprised me. The strapless top she was wearing was a pale yellow, and she had small white daisy earrings dangling from her ears. The pink gloss on her lips and delicate scent of her perfume made her appear too feminine for shoes like those. I wondered what her name was, then just as quickly shut that down. I had no time for this. My future and my mother’s safety were my only priorities now.
Jerking my truck door open with more force than necessary, I climbed inside and pulled away from the service station. The last time I’d seen the girl had been months ago when I’d gone into the grocery side of their store to pick up some items for my mom. She’d been the one at the cash register that day. I had been on the phone dealing with Ryker’s drama at the time and not paying much attention to anything else.
My phone began ringing beside me, interrupting my thoughts, and I glanced at the screen in my truck to see who it was before answering. I wasn’t speaking to my father if he decided to call. It was Nash. With relief, I pressed accept on the touch screen of my truck’s control system.
“Yeah,” I said in the way of a greeting.
“Where you at?” he asked over the speakerphone in my truck.
“Just got gas. Why?”
“Thought you’d want to come to the field house. Some of the guys are here working out, then headed to the field later.”
I didn’t want to go back to the house and be forced to hear my mother tell me that I had to respect my father. She needed to be thankful I hadn’t slammed my fist in his jaw after he spoke to her the way he did over breakfast. Glancing in the backseat quickly, I saw my duffel bag and knew there were clean shorts in there I could change into.
“I’ll be there in five,” I replied.
Then we both clicked off and my truck was silent again.