chapter eleven

5 in the morning and AJ was wide awake. Insomnia had attacked him like a madman last night, along with his thoughts and never ending questions. When the rare moment of sleep finally came, his childhood played back vividly in his mind, jolting him awake. He had always remembered those he tormented, Cassie in particular. Yet he pushed those memories aside as the years passed, telling himself that kids will be kids. Now, though, the memories were as present as ever, holding new meaning to him, and this time he refused to push them aside. The guilt and remorse he should have felt back then came to him now in strong, violent doses.

‘Today,’ he thought. ‘Today I get my one chance to make amends.’


“I didn’t exactly get any sleep last night.” I mumbled groggily, answering my sister’s question. She had come downstairs at seven in the morning and was shocked to find me at the kitchen table.

“No sleep at all?” she asked, wide eyed.

“Nope. None. Nada.” And I wasn’t kidding. It was a little after two in the morning when my sister had come home, and nearly three when I ended up going to bed, and that precious sleep so dear to my heart would not come. I tossed and turned in bed, thinking, letting my mind go back in time.

I saw myself, almost six years old, watching as my father and older sister pulled out of our driveway, all their belongings in tow, heading toward their new life in California.

I next saw myself, not soon after that incident, watching a moving van pull up two houses down from my own. I recalled watching a raven-haired little boy playing with his toy truck in the front of his new yard.

I remembered him smiling at me.

Suddenly I was seven, eight and nine again. Walking home after school, feeling the fear. The fear of being followed, the fear of torture, the fear of the wrath of a boy no more than a year older than me.

Ten years old, watching my mother enter the dating circle again. Seeing her happy made me happy. She was young, beautiful, the latter something I never dreamed I’d be.

Twelve years old, being pushed fiercely into the street. I heard the laughter, the taunting; felt the pain, both physical and emotional, like it was only yesterday, and not even an hour later headed on a one way trip of my own to California. The hope of a peaceful life clinging to my tired, pre-adolescent heart.

I remembered thanking God as I watched my house from the backseat of my mother’s car getting farther and farther away from view.

I remembered not crying as my mother hugged and kissed me goodbye at the airport.

I remembered peace in my soul from then on...until last night.

It was nearly five-thirty in the morning when I went downstairs into the kitchen and got a pot of coffee brewing. Standing alone in that kitchen sent me down memory lane yet again.

I spent the first twelve years of my life here in this very house. My mother and this house were the two most dearest things to me here in Florida, and were the only that I regretted leaving behind when I went to live with my father and Keri.

My mom. The Thought of her brought a smile to my face. Mom had remarried two years ago, and, in the midst of starting her new life, left this house to both my sister and I. She lived in Tampa now, with my step dad, Jeff, my 19 year old step sister, Charlene, and my one year old half brother, Sammy; and she still managed to keep in touch with my sister and I by impromptu visits throughout the week. We went to see her often as well; Jeff had welcomed us warmly into his family, and Charlene and I had become really close, despite that during the first year of knowing eachother we only communicated through mail and telephone.

I was thinking precisely of them when my sister had come into the kitchen.

“So you got NO sleep?” she asked again, bewildered.

“None whatsoever, sis.”

“How are you gonna get through the party at Howie’s today?”

I shot up straight from my slouched position in my chair. “Howie’s party?”

“Yeah, remember? Howie told me you had agreed to go.”

Howie’s phone call came to me like a long lost memory. “So I did,” I smiled at my sister. “I’ll survive, don’t worry.” I put my cup in the sink and walked, no, stumbled, out of the kitchen.

“If you say so.” I heard my sister laugh as I stumbled sleepily up the stairs. ‘I wish this caffeine would kick in soon,’ I thought. ‘Otherwise I’ll be forced to attack the chocolate.’

[chapter 10 | chapter index | chapter 12]