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Savage Love – Ash And Innocence
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I held the broomstick like a sword, inching closer to the pantry while making as little noise as I could.
Deep breaths. You can do this.
With a war cry, I yanked the door open and jumped back a step. My eyes darted around every darkened corner of the pantry until I spotted it. The mouse was about the size of my foot, and it was just sitting there… staring.
“If you just walk out of here, nobody has to get hurt!” I meant to speak in a calm, reassuring voice, but it all came out in a high-pitched squeal.
The mouse stared back at me with its little black eyes.
I took a steadying breath, then took off my shoe. I tossed it into the center of the pantry. The sound seemed to spook the mouse, who took off at a run toward me.
I screeched but had the presence of mind to still use my broom to guide it. I planted it down, creating a wall the mouse swerved to avoid. Except it ran the wrong way—toward my bedroom and deeper into the house.
In a burst of panic, my brain turned the broom into a hockey stick and the mouse into a puck. I flicked my wrists and sent it cartwheeling through the air and into the trashcan. The lid made two comical spins before settling closed. I stared in wide-eyed disbelief.
Hurrying, I picked up the can, which was vibrating from the mouse’s attempts to escape and hurled it—along with half a bag worth of trash—into the backyard.
I had time to dust my hands and breathe a sigh of relief before I saw the mouse head back toward the house and slip in through a hole in the siding. A few moments later, I heard the sound of its little feet scurrying across the floor inside.
I went back inside to finish unpacking. The mouse, I decided, had won. I’d just have to hope it wasn’t going to creep around and crawl on me in my sleep.
I had my first day at Parker High tomorrow, and to make matters worse, I was starting in the middle of the year. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d transferred to a new school, and it was never easy. People already had circles of friends and routines. It also didn’t help that my scar had a way of making me a hot topic of gossip everywhere I went.
Kids loved making up stories about how I’d got it. I’d heard everything, from a motorcycle accident to being tortured by a crazy kidnapper. It was all ridiculous, and if they’d get their heads out of their asses for even a minute, they’d probably be able to recognize burn scars.
My hand reflexively went to be sure my hair was laying properly over the side of my forehead that was scarred. But dad had made me cut my hair before we moved, and he’d made me cut it short. He’d purposely made the stylist take enough away that I wouldn’t be able to cover the scar.
The memory made my face burn hot.
I made a very un-girly grunting noise as I hefted a box full of metallic stuff that clanged and clattered. I brought it to the kitchen counter and set it down with a thud. Our countertop was… interesting. Fancy houses got granite, quartz, or maybe even marble. Then a step down and you had stuff like wood or linoleum style surfaces. But our house? We had particle board with glossy paper glued to it. The worst part was they hadn’t even bothered to put a high-resolution picture on the paper, so the picture of stone was blurred. It was also peeling up at the corners.
I noticed the box, then. On the side, “Kitchen” was written in neat, feminine handwriting. Then my dad had drawn a red line of marker through it and scribbled “X-MAS SHIT” below.
I ran my fingertip over the letters my mom had written, wondering when she’d written them. But the exercise started bringing up the scary kinds of sadness I’d learned to run from, so I shut it down. Instead, I started unpacking. Better to keep my body busy enough that my mind wasn’t able to start running off again.
I had a solid sheen of sweat going by the time my dad came home.
He had this way of shoving the door open, almost violently. It slammed into the wall and bounced back as he loomed in the doorway. He locked eyes with me, then saw me look down at the bottle he still held in his hand.
My features went tight, and I didn’t look away.
With a grunt of annoyance, he slung it over his shoulder where it collided with a tree outside and shattered, from the sounds of it. He spread his hands mockingly. “May I come in, now?”