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First pages

1. Kay

“Why do you have to be so fucking pretty,” I whispered under my breath as I had many times before. I watched from behind the kitchen door while the neighborhood boys fawned over my mother. Sharp pangs of jealousy ripped through my chest.

My mother’s real name was Anna-Kay, but everyone called her Kay. In my neighborhood, a seedy, run down, post-recession part of Detroit, most people we knew called her Special Kay. Or Mama Kay. Not because she was old—she was young for a mother. I knew this because everybody told her so, especially those boys—the ones who were my age, but couldn’t care less that I also lived in our little run-down apartment. The way they got around her drove me crazy, they were almost jelly-like. I’d sit for hours and listen under the crack of my door to them sweet talk her. Sometimes I wouldn’t even have to leave the room, they looked right through me.

They called her beautiful.

They stroked her hair and kissed her cheek.

They’d try to convince her to go dancing with them.

I think she liked the attention, but never seemed to take them up on their offers. She’d humor them, but as far as I knew, it didn’t go farther than that. Still, it made me outrageously jealous, and afraid to admit to anyone that I longed for that, too.

I had realized long ago that a big part of their love for her was because she loved them. Every single sad and lonely misfit could have been her son, daughter, brother, sister or best friend. Every junkie. Every call-girl. Every abused and misused miscreant. Sometimes I thought—I knew—she loved them more than she loved me. Our door was never closed, the apartment never quiet, someone always unable to resist the mysterious charms of Kay.

It was either that or her reputation as the greatest drug dealer, at least in our neighborhood. I never knew exactly what she sold, as she did her best to keep my fourteen year old nose out of it. I did know that she’d started selling soon after my father—who I assumed had existed at some point—had impregnated her with God’s greatest burden; me. She would go up the hill to the gated community that had almost destroyed my neighborhood when it was built, and sell to filthy-rich housewives so sad and alone they had no qualms about buying low-grade smack from a newly pregnant sixteen-year-old. And she did well. Well enough to afford the nicest top floor apartment she could find in an otherwise rotting community. But then, the recession hit, and the hilltop paradise was abandoned, leaving her no choice but to sell to the desperate and vulnerable of the one neighborhood that had surprisingly remained unscathed; ours. She was pretty and well liked, so she quickly earned a reputation.

I sighed and decided to take the opportunity of Kay being momentarily distracted to try out a new product she had recently introduced to her business; cookies. I had been eyeing them for a while now, curious about why anyone would buy cookies from a drug dealer. I had been determined to find out just exactly what was so money-worthy about them. I wasn’t allowed to eat them. Kay had said, “If you ever so much as touch these, I’ll smack you so goddamn hard you’ll lose your eye.” But I knew from all the other empty threats she spat on the daily (“don’t stay out past midnight or I’ll never let you out of my sight again”, or “touch my makeup and I’ll sell your clothes to a kid who deserves them”), that a threat was just a threat, and that forbidden fruit was the most desirable. She couldn’t stop me if she tried.

I waited outside the kitchen door, and, knowing full well that the boys wouldn’t notice me and that Kay was too busy giggling, made a beeline for the cookie jar, hiding my prize under my shirt and scampering softly back to my room.

I shut the door behind me, covering the fist-sized hole with a towel for privacy. I sat cross-legged on my bed, placing the cookie gently in front of me and taking a deep breath. The thrill of my success ran up my spine and I shivered. I couldn’t take the moment for granted. Instead, I turned on the small radio beside my bed to my favorite pop station, made myself comfortable and stroked the cookie a few times, stuffing half of it in my face.

It tasted good, really good. But not that good. I didn’t understand the big deal. I picked up the cookie and stared at it, turning it over in my hands, confused. I shrugged, ignoring the disappointment that slowly rose in my chest. I wasn’t sure what I expected. I devoured the rest of the cookie and laid back on my bed, listening to the heartbroken crooning on the radio. And then slowly, my head began to grow foggy and the edges of the room began to blur. I looked towards the ceiling, my head struggling to keep up with my eyes. I suddenly felt dizzy, my eyes wobbling in my head.

I tried to cry out but my body felt sluggish and I couldn’t get my mouth to move the way I wanted it to. A sudden panic gripped my chest and I felt certain I was dying. I moved to step off my bed, the floor jumping up to hit me with a thud. I tried to get up but couldn’t find the strength, instead deciding to let myself melt into the carpet.

The door burst open. A blurry and distorted Kay stood there, staring at me, the boys standing behind her, peeking over her shoulder. “What the fuck are you—?”

Kay looked over to my bed and brushed the cookie crumbs onto the floor, near my face. Her eyes widened and her nostrils flared in anger. “You little…”

The boys looked at me and then at each other and cracked up, laughing. I stared at them from where I lay, confused and drooling into the carpet.

“Fucking kid is high!” One of the other boys shouted. The rest burst into hysterics. Kay reluctantly joined in, her face relaxing with humor as I struggled to push myself off the carpet. My foggy brain couldn’t decipher if they were laughing with me or at me. Since I was not laughing, I settled on the former. My stomach tightened with sadness as I realized I was being mocked. I gave up trying to right myself and sunk back into the floor.

They gained control of themselves and watched me lying there. I grinned until my face hurt, despite the ache in my stomach. I seemed to have lost control of my face. Kay wiped her eyes and patted me on the forehead, grabbing the boys and leaving me alone to contemplate my new life as a carpet.

The next morning, Kay asked me if I was sober yet and peered into my eyes.

“Yes, Ma,” I sighed, my mouth thick and my head cloudy. She nodded and slapped me across the face. It wasn’t as hard as I expected, but it still made me stumble back in shock, my ears ringing.

“Don’t even pretend you don’t deserve that,” she said. She gave me a big smile and left the room.

#

Most everyone called me Cookie after that, the older crowd—who I spent most of my time with—warmly congratulated me on finally joining the rest of them. I had no idea what they meant. For the child of a renowned peddler, I knew little about the actual world of substance abuse. Kay had made sure of that.

“My baby’s going to make something of herself, you jackasses,” she scolded the lot of them, during just another drunken gathering in our kitchen. “Don’t be giving her any of your crackpot ideas.”

The rest of the delinquents crowded around the table and sprawled across the floor piped up with a chorus of:

“Dream big, honey!”

“It’s too late for her!”

And, “we’ve caught another one!”

And she would go around the room and give each one a gentle slap on the head.

I wondered if they could be right. Was I one of them now? Was I destined for the same lost and desperate fate as the rest of them? I had never thought about much outside our dirty little community, but suddenly, I was worried that I was going to be missing out on something bigger.

After everyone had left and the sun began to rise and the apartment remained momentarily quiet, I heard Kay whisper for me from her bed, slurring drunkenly.

“Isaaaaa…come.”

“Yes, Mama?” I walked over to her and adjusted the blankets around her.

“Don’t listen to them,” she mumbled, her eyes fluttering between open and closed.

“What?” I glanced towards her bedroom door, hoping no one would burst in and interrupt. Kay never locked the door, just in case someone desperate and in crisis should need her services. It didn’t surprise me anymore to see a face on the couch the next morning that hadn’t been there the night before.

“You’re…good…and…” She snored loudly.

I shook her shoulders. “And?”

“Sleeping,” she mumbled through a smile and fell into a slack-jawed slumber. I pushed myself off her bed in annoyance and plopped down on my own across the hall.

Kay was like that. She’d say I could do anything, that I was better than all of it, but then her actions would say the opposite. She’d insist I stay out of trouble but then not follow through on her threats. She’d try to keep me from drugs, but then parade her endless line of addicts and late night booze-filled gatherings in front of me. She befriended boys my age and then wondered why they weren’t interested in me. It implied that the child of a drug dealer, addict and teenage mom would be doomed for the same fate. I knew she tried her hardest to be a good mother, she just didn’t have a knack for it.

For one, she never seemed to notice that I didn’t go to school. There was one drab and dreary school nearby, a cesspool for fucked up kids. The teachers were exhausted and bullied, trying to teach uninterested students sitting in desks caked in dirty fingerprints. I liked the grit of it, but the teachers made me sad. I couldn’t stand by and watch them try to tell me I could do anything while they sipped cheap bourbon from a small flask they thought no one could see. So, I stopped going; it didn’t seem worth my time. Kay either didn’t notice or didn’t care. She had such blind faith in me, it was disheartening.

I rubbed my eyes and shook my head at the thoughts running through my head. I rummaged under my pillow until I found the worn copy of “Sunsets in Paradise”, the cheesy paperback I’d bought for a quarter off some vendor on the street. The book calmed me, helped me sleep. I opened it to a random page and began reading: ‘As she caressed his rippling biceps his pants bulged with desire…’

#

I woke up late the next morning to find myself alone. The apartment was quiet, except for the usual heavy metal thudding coming through the walls from next door, and the sound of our ancient heater wheezing and choking in the morning light.

It wasn’t unusual for me to be left alone. Kay didn’t have a “job” that required she leave the house, but a couple times a month she would leave for a day or so, and come back as if she’d been there the entire time. I had no idea where she went, but I tried not to let it bother me. It was easier to pretend I existed in my own singular world when she was gone, than worry about what she might be doing. She always came back.

I walked to the kitchen and sat on my designated chair, a worn metal frame with ripped leather covers that I thought made me appear older and more sophisticated when I sat on it. Kay’s chair was wooden and painted purple and would have looked charming in any other apartment. I stared at it across from me, remembering the trip to the thrift store when we had picked them out for fifty cents each, Kay letting me pick my own. That morning a tiny vase of her favorite purple weed flowers and a tiny, sad, lopsided pumpkin from the night before sat on the kitchen table, waiting for me. The side had a hole cut into it with a piece of tin foil sticking out. It smelled strongly of weed.

I stared at the pumpkin while I ate my cereal, realizing that Halloween was around the corner. I’d forgotten that was why someone had brought it over the night before. The people in my neighborhood didn’t really celebrate holidays much because that usually involved spending money which could be otherwise used for the next score or…rent. But this year I had convinced Kay to throw a party and she begrudgingly complied. I was excited, to say the least. I was also a little nervous. This would be my first time co-hosting a party, and I wanted it to be perfect. This was my chance to be the center of attention for once. I’d already picked out what I was going to wear; a tight red dress from Kay’s closet that I had found while looking for a jacket. I’d tried it on and admired myself in Kay’s cracked floor length mirror. It was a little bit loose around the chest, but otherwise fit me perfectly. It made me feel grown up and sophisticated, and kind of sexy. I wanted the night to be one to remember and I felt eager for people to see just how mature and put-together I was.

I sat at the kitchen table, smiling at the pumpkin when the front door burst open.

Dane strode into the room, panting and out of breath. Suddenly a memory of a dream from the night before flashed across my eyes and my face burned. It had been “Sunsets in Paradise”, only it was me rapidly undoing the belt of Dane’s bulging pants…

His crow’s feet crinkled as he smiled. I found it endearing, but of course I couldn’t say that. I looked down at my cereal, trying to deep breathe myself out of the moment. That was not the first time I’d fantasized about Dane. Maybe it was the wrongness that made him so alluring, because he must’ve been in his thirties by then.

I glanced up at him, slightly calmer, and watched as he looked wildly around the room until his eyes finally settled on me. He grinned. “Well, hullo, sweetie! You look radiant!”

I clearly did not—my hair wild and in disarray, my eyes puffy and swollen—but I still blushed. I wanted to tell him he did too, but bit my tongue. Somehow, he always looked tanned, and had a scruffy beard that I imagined would feel good scratching my face. His clothes were casual and dirty, like he’d been working somewhere outside.

“Your mama home?” He sat down at the table and grabbed my cereal bowl, taking a big bite. He didn’t seem to notice the way I ogled him.

I shook my head. “Off again.”

Dane nodded, looking past me.

“Do you know where she went?” I asked him, trying to keep his eyes focused on me.

He smiled at me. “Now, Cookie, you ask me that every time and I almost never know.”

“But you know sometimes?” I glared accusingly.

He handed me back my bowl and put up his hands. “Don’t be jumpin’ to conclusions here.”

“Fine.”

He smiled and I melted. I liked that about Dane; you rarely found him without a smile on his face. “So, you excited about the big party coming up?”

I pretended to be uninterested. “Yeah, I guess.”

“I’m sure excited to see what you’ve got planned.”

I smiled widely at the way he’d said “you” and not “you and Kay”. “Me too!”

Dane chuckled and got up from the table. “Well, I’m sorry I can’t stay longer, but I’ve got to skidaddle.” He put some change on the table and went to grab a cookie from the jar. “Tell Kay I stopped by. Talk to you later, kid.” He smiled and ruffled my hair, and he was gone.

#

Five days later Kay finally came back. She had never been gone that long before, but when I tried to ask her about it, she just ignored me and asked about any transactions that occurred during her absence. I brought her a bowl with the cash I’d been given and the empty cookie jar.

She nodded, as if she’d expected as much, and asked if I wanted to help bake some more. I thought this was especially strange, since she’d never asked me before. I told her this and she just smiled and said it was time I learn. I wondered if, after the cookie incident, she had given up on her efforts to keep me off drugs.

I decided to try and push her, as I sometimes did after she returned from her “outings”. She tended to come back softer and more willing to participate in the mother-daughter charade.

“So, how was your trip, Mama?” I asked, as we readied the baking supplies.

Her face stiffened, and she visibly tried to relax herself. She had said many times that her “outings” were none of my business. She let out a long sigh. “Fine, dear. Should we get started here?”

“Where’d you go?” I pressed.

She didn’t look at me as she responded. “Hey, Isa, I know you’re at the age where you think you have to know everything, but I meant it before when I said it’s none of your fucking business, okay?” She smiled at me through clenched teeth.

Her face was angry and stiff but her eyes were watery and sad. It confused and scared me, and left me without words. I gave her a tiny nod and she took a breath and relaxed, changing the subject and jumping enthusiastically into the task at hand.

We spent the rest of the day baking, Kay showing no acknowledgment of her previously set boundary as she carefully instructed me on the proper way to bake pot. Once the cookies were done and safely in the jar, Kay smiled at me mischievously.

“Do you want one?” she asked.

“Are you joking?”

“Of course not!” She laughed and brought one to the table for each of us.

I took it from her and stared at it for a second, suspicious of her sudden change in thinking. “Is this a trick?”

“Nope.”

“But you do remember what—.”

“That was ages ago.” She took a bite and smiled dreamily, leaning back in her chair.

I took a bite and, within minutes, dove completely under.

I don’t remember a lot after that, except how great I felt; funny and airy and calm, and not at all scared like the first time. After a while, others joined us. I remember Kay’s friend Jimmy was there, and a few of the boys from the other day. It was the most amazing feeling—I opened my mouth and magic came out. Honest words—words that people seemed genuinely interested in hearing. Words that put me at the center of attention. Words, that apparently, were very philosophical. When I was stoned, I felt like a fucking genius, and like I wasn’t a kid anymore.

The next morning Kay stared at me in confusion and made me swear I wouldn’t let her get me high again. I swore, but neither of us really meant it.

#

The time had come for our Halloween party, and I was practically shaking with excitement. I put on my red dress and danced around the apartment until Kay had to beg me to stop.

“Isabelle, get your ass over here and help me set up the food!”

Those people that weren’t already hanging out in our apartment started showing up just after dark. I played the part of hostess perfectly, saying hello, kissing cheeks and offering drinks from our small selection of boxed wine and banged up beers. Most everyone was already wasted by the time they showed up. I turned on some loud music and tried to get people to dance, although there was barely enough room to walk as it was. The music did nothing but force people to scream when they tried to talk to each other.

Paulie, a rumored pimp on my street, grabbed my arm and yelled something at me.

I couldn’t hear him over the music. “What?”

He bent closer to my ear, reeking of sweat and alcohol. “You got a joint?” he shouted.

I told him no, but that I’d ask Kay for him, being the good hostess that I was. He looked me up and down a few times and pushed me away.

I went to find Kay, to see if she’d give me one. I found her in the kitchen, draped across the lap of our landlord, Bobby. He was a creepy guy, but for some reason Kay found him charming.

I shouted her name from across the table. She gave me a blank stare and kept on talking to Bobby. “Kay!” I shouted again.

She slowly turned to look at me, noticeably drunk.

“You got a joint?” I asked loudly.

She rolled her eyes and started whispering in Bobby’s ear. His eyes went wide.

I sighed in exasperation and waved her away, going to tell Paulie the bad news. I found him by the stereo and was about to tell him when I noticed he already had one hanging out of his mouth. He grinned a yellow-toothed smile when he saw me. I crossed my arms in annoyance.

“Hey, baby.” He made a motion for me to come closer and I took a small step. I felt his hand grab my ass and he pulled me right up against him. “You’re looking fine tonight!” he yelled, blowing smoke in my face.

I tried to back away but he held me tightly. “Paulie...”

He smiled wickedly at me, and then something over my head caught his eye and he reluctantly released his grip, backing away.

I turned around to find Dane staring him down. A rush of warmth swept through me at the sight of him, a hush falling over my mind. Once Paulie had stepped out of my immediate space, Dane’s face morphed and he smiled hugely. He said something but I couldn’t hear him over the music.

A ridiculous grin enveloped my face and he took my hand, leading me towards the bathroom. He kicked out the guy lying in the bathtub and closed the door. The room grew quieter. I sat down on the toilet.

“Thanks, Dane. I think you just saved my life!” I exhaled dramatically.

He smiled and leaned against the sink, completely at ease. “You gotta be careful honey, you’re getting older now…”

I looked him over as he talked. He had dressed up somewhat, clean clothes and everything. He seemed more attractive to me than usual.

I nervously met his eyes and realized he was staring at me too. I suddenly felt very warm and directed my eyes back down at the floor.

“You look good though, Cookie. Very…grown up.” My heart beat faster. “I think that’s why he was being so…forward.”

I looked up, confused. “What are you talking about?” I was sure Paulie treated all girls like that. It had nothing to do with me.

He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Nothing, honey. Just be careful…Rumor is he’s a pimp.”

I stared at him for a second and sighed. “I know.”

He paused. “That’s not something you’d be interested in, is it?”

“I don’t know. No.” Silence hung thick in the air. I focused my attention on a crack in the bathtub.

Suddenly, his fingers brushed against my cheek. He stood closer to me.

I gasped involuntarily, looking up at him. My face most definitely bright red.

He laughed, his eyes crinkling at the corners, charming me with his ease. “You know, I’ve known about your little crush on me for a while.”

My mouth dropped open and I put my face in my hands, embarrassed. “Oh.”

Strong hands gently pried mine away to reveal Dane kneeling on the floor in front of me, inches away. He smelled strongly of alcohol. “It’s okay,” he whispered. He paused, his face conflicted. “It’s okay, right?”

Unsure if he was talking to himself or to me, I nodded imperceptivity. And with that he took my face and kissed me, almost hungrily. His lips were warm, and seemed to fit mine perfectly, despite our size difference. I was sweating all over.

I felt his hand moving up my leg. Just then, the door burst open. He jumped away from me and I blinked in surprise. Kay and Bobby stood in the doorway, drunkenly slung on each other, the “we’re gonna fuck” vibe emanating strongly from both of them.

“What the fuck, Isa!” Kay barely glanced at Dane and he scrambled out the door behind her. “What are you doing?” She grabbed my ponytail and threw me into the shower curtain. “Answer me!”

I whimpered. “Mama, I didn’t—.”

“What is your problem! You stupid girl!” She pushed past Bobby and into the hall, muttering unintelligibly.

Bobby glared at me. “Thanks a lot, little girl!” I could hear him begging Kay as he followed her down the hall.

#

Dane hardly spoke to me after that. We saw each other once or twice over the next few weeks, but whenever I tried to talk to him he nodded a curt hello and walked the other way. I couldn’t believe it. Had I imagined it? Was he not just as flustered by the kiss as I was?

I wasn’t sure if Kay remembered what had happened, but she did remember someone telling her they had seen me with Paulie at the party, which convinced her that I had started working for him. She threatened me with house arrest until I fully realized how much of a heartache I was for her. I guessed that would be a very long time.

Late one night, Kay was high and passed out on the couch. I took the opportunity to sneak out, to breathe. I had just rounded the corner from our building when I spotted a group of people walking ahead, one of them unmistakably Dane.

I followed them closely, hiding behind trees and edges of buildings, when he suddenly broke away from the group. I abandoned my cover and picked up the pace.

“Dane!” I called.

He turned as I ran closer, walking away when he recognized me.

“Dane, stop!”

I caught up to him and grabbed for his arm. He slowly turned to face me, pretending to scratch an itch so I’d let go of his arm, avoiding my eyes. “Uh, hi, Isabelle.” I flinched at the lack of the usual pet names. He tried to walk away but I stepped in front of him.

“Please will you talk to me, Dane? You’re supposed to be my friend.” I pouted. He smelled like alcohol and something else.

He sighed. “Look, kid, I’m sorry okay? It was stupid, and you need to stay away from me.”

My lip began to quiver so I bit it, hard. “You’re supposed to be the grownup!” My voice cracked. “You’re being immature!”

He stared blankly at me for a moment, his face melting into a smile and wrapped his arms around me. “Don’t cry, please. Cookie, I’m sorry.”

I hugged him back, burying my face in his rough coat. “Can we be friends again, Dane?” It hurt my heart to ask him that, when I knew I could never see him as just a friend.

He let go of me and sighed, stepping back. “I’m leaving, honey.”

I stared at him in confusion. “What? What do you mean? Where are you going?”

“I have to leave. It’s not ‘cause of you. I’ve been meaning to for a while. I can’t be here anymore. This neighborhood is not good for me.”

I felt tears sting at my eyes.

“I’m going in two days.”

“What…you…you weren’t even going to say goodbye to me?”

“Honey…” He touched my face with his fingertips.

I closed my eyes, thinking we would kiss again, but he backed away. “Look, I have to go okay?”

“Will you say goodbye to me before you leave?”

“Umm...”

“Please?”

“Okay, okay, Cookie. I will. I promise.” His eyes searched my face.

I nodded but it was too dark for him to see. He squeezed my hand for a few seconds and walked away.

#

I hardly slept that night. I replayed fantasies in my mind over and over again where Dane would finally realize that I was the girl for him, that age didn’t matter, that he would take me with him. I wished for the love of Jane and Pablo in “Sunsets in Paradise”, and I was sure only he could give it to me.

Kay was gone when I woke up, so I didn’t have to bother with an excuse or plan my escape. I had to find Dane. The thought of surprising him, at his apartment or at the park, spurred fantasies of true love to run rampant through my mind as I hurriedly ran out of the apartment and down the street to Dane’s.

I had only been to his small apartment once before, a couple years ago when he had offered to babysit for his roommate while he was out chasing girls. He was way over his head and had begged me desperately over the phone to help him out. In actuality, Kay had offered my services when he called asking for her help, but I chose not to remember it that way when I replayed it in my mind afterwards. I didn’t know him too well then, but begrudgingly I went, with the allure of compensation. He was so thankful when I showed up, praising me when I got the baby to sleep and afterwards, as we sat on the couch together, he fell asleep on my shoulder and I felt my heart melt for this man, so caring and gentle and charming. My heart has ached for him ever since.

I smiled at the memory as I climbed the stairs to his apartment and knocked on the door. At first, no one answered, so I knocked again. Finally, footsteps, the door swinging open to reveal his roommate, Carl, dressed in a stained wife-beater and boxer shorts, a crying toddler on his hip.

I frowned. “Dane here?”

Carl looked at me, confused. “Who are you?”

“Carl, it’s me, Isa. Where’s Dane?” I was growing frustrated.

His eyes lit up in recognition. “Oh, yeah.” He looked me up and down. “Holy shit.”

I groaned and pushed past him and into Dane’s room. I opened the door and gasped. The room was empty. My heart sputtered and I suddenly felt cold.

I heard Carl come up behind me, the baby momentarily silent. “Yeah, he, uh, left last night.”

“Where’d he go?” I squeaked, turning to face Carl.

He shrugged. I pushed past him and ran out the door and the building.

How could Dane do this? How could he, after everything? I ran towards the park and slumped down behind a bristly bush. My stomach ached and my throat had that terrible lumpy feeling you get when you swallow without chewing. Like choking to death, but not quite. It was hard to breathe.

He was gone. He wasn’t here. And I felt my dreams evaporate up and out of my body and sizzle above my head in the cold, leaving me empty.

I walked around for a bit, on the verge of crying. I paused by a little antique shop and went inside. Walking down the aisles I stopped when I came to a shelf of vases, picking up the one that looked the most expensive; crystal. The clerk watched me, and I looked right at him and smashed it hard on the floor, the pieces shattering around me.

He screamed for me to stop and I picked up another and another and then another and smashed them all to bits, screaming at the top of my lungs until the very last one was broken.

The walls suddenly flashed blue and red, the sounds of sirens slowly making their way into my buzzing brain. I looked at all the shards around me and sat down in them, letting them cut me. And I cried. I cried not only because of the pain and chaos around me, but because I couldn’t feel any of it.

A squad car with flashing lights had arrived and the cop pulled me out of the glass, shaking his head and calling me pitiful names. He told me to lie on my stomach in the back of his cruiser and he drove me to the hospital. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t make a difference, ‘cause if I didn’t die now, I would as soon as Kay got a hold of me. I tried explaining this to the officer but he wasn’t interested in hearing what I had to say, and I was too disoriented to care.

What happened after that was hazy except I remember that it hurt, and that every person that saw me cooed as if I were a baby bird with a broken wing.

In the room of the hospital where I lay on a bed on my stomach, the officer asked who my parents were, and when I mentioned Kay his eyebrows and mouth arched together, as if both in on the same conspiracy.

He told me he’d let me go if I put in a good word for him with Kay and paid back the shop owner, but he wouldn’t arrest me. I thanked whatever deity had decided to tune in for that moment and waited for him to get a hold of Kay.

Kay was nowhere to be found, however, so I ended up spending the night in the hospital, anyways. I was just glad to live another day.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Hi, I'm C.R. Klassen and I am a first-time author living with my husband in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I am currently employed by the Canadian Navy and have a BA in Psychology from the Royal Military College of Canada. My writing is purely fictional, but I love to delve into the dark and seedy lives of unfortunate people and their struggles, some not unlike my own.

Q. What did you learn while writing this book?
A.
I definitely learned that the most important part of writing is to push yourself to write every day, or as often as you can, and give yourself the time to develop your craft. It might not always be gold, but it's better than nothing, and you can always improve it later. For now, just practice.
Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
I have always been interested in the dark side of life, especially the gritty and seedy paths that many people find themselves going down. I am inspired by the work of fellow Canadian author Heather O' Neill, as well as events and experiences from real life people.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
Whether or not it's a clear message, I want people to know that you are enough, and that you don't need anyone else but you to be happy.