Authors: Ella Fox
Catch My Fall
Ella Fox 2013
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This is a
work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Ella Fox holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
Editing by: Marli King and Jane Haertel
Book Cover Design: Melissa Gill of MG Bookcovers
Publicity: Juliet Fowler
of SMI Promotions
book is dedicated to Stephanie, Michelle, Aileen and Shirley.
Thank you for catching my fall(s) and having my back for all of these years.
True friendship isn’t about geography or what’s convenient, and, with care, it endures. I love you all as much now- if not more- as I did twenty-five+ years ago, and that’s quite a testament to how kick ass you all are. Friends are the family you choose- and I’m lucky enough to have found some really great eggs.
This book is for anyone that started out in less than ideal circumstances and found the strength to thrive. When y
ou’re at your weakest, there can always be an opportunity to grow stronger. You can conquer anything that tries to keep you down.
The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.
The punches flew through the air, almost no time passing between the loud sounds of fist hitting skin again and again. I
screamed for it to stop, for everything to stop, but my screams did nothing, did not even cause a pause in the beating. Wherever he had gone, he couldn’t hear me.
Forcing my sore and broken body up off the tile floor, I stumbled over to where they were
. Lurching forward, I grabbed his arm with both hands as I tried to pull him away. My hands on his skin seemed to bring him back to reality, at least for a moment, but I feared that he would go back to that dark place again if I didn’t ground him somehow.
heard the distant sound of sirens, and although ten minutes ago I had been praying for that sound, now I was terrified. There was no doubt in my mind that the police would arrest him and take him away from me if I didn’t calm him down and get myself together enough to tell the police exactly what happened. Even scared and injured, I knew that I needed to force myself to stay strong for him. I’m more afraid of losing him than I am of anything else.
His eyes… the beautiful eyes that I’ve come to love so much were full of rage and pain, and I
knew he was far away in his head. Letting go of his arm, I lifted both of my hands up and cupped his face, forcing him to look at me.
I could barely croak words
from my sore and swollen throat, my screams having depleted my voice to almost nothing. Still, I managed to force the necessary words out, needing him to listen to me so that the police wouldn’t find him wide-eyed and raging.
“Stan, you have to pull yourself together. I need you.
I. Need. You.
My words broke through whatever fugue state he was in, and my heart broke as he crumbled. He dropped to his knees, wrapped his arms around my waist and buried his face against my stomach before he forced out one word.
Wringing her hands as she looked around my dorm room, my mother was the very picture of someone who was uncertain and unsettled.
sure you want to go to school here? We’ve never been this far apart…I don’t like this.”
The truth is that I’m not looking forward to the distance from my mother at all, but if I had my way I’d be more than five hours away from our hometown. Reaching out, I pulled her to me and hugged her tight.
“I have to do this. You know I can’t live there anymore, and when Macy gets out I want to be here for her.”
shoulders shook gently as she quietly cried in my embrace, and it broke another piece of my heart to know that my mother was suffering.
“I know, baby,” she sniffled. “I just hate being so far away from you. Neil is looking for a new job in Amarillo and the surrounding area. With any luck, we’ll be here by the end of the school year
“Mom, it’s okay. Neil doesn’t have to pick up his entire life and move across the state because of me. I feel awful.”
Stepping out of my embrace, she shook her head emphatically. “Do you think for one second that we
to live in that town anymore? Neither of us wants to be there a second longer than we have to be. I just wish you didn’t have to move before we found a way to get out here, too. You’ll always be my baby, Mia.”
I swallowed hard to hold back my own tears. “I know, Mom.” Setting my hand against her still flat stomach, I rubbed in a circle. “But in six months you and Neil will have this new baby to take care of, which means that you can’t be stressing yourself out about this. It isn’t good for my baby brother or sister.”
Right at that moment Neil came through the door with the last of my suitcases. He set the cases down and put one arm around my mom’s shoulders and one around mine. “Is your Momma giving you grief about the fact that we’re going to be five hours away from you, honey?”
Letting out a little laugh, I shook my head as I wiped under my eyes with my fingers. “She’s not giving me grief, she’s just sad.”
Turning to address my mother he said, “Now darlin’, I promised you that I would get you out here near our girl as soon as possible. We can’t have our baby growing up without his a big sister to spoil them rotten. You just stay calm and we’ll be here before you know it.”
I can’t even count the ways that I’m grateful to have Neil in my life. He’s been amazing with my mother and he had no problem with her “love me, love my child” edict when they began dating a decade ago. My biological father is a sorry-ass disappointment, but my mom nailed it when she chose Neil.
We were interrupted by a firm knock on my door. Stepping out from under Neil’s arm, I walked across the room to answer it. As I had expected it was my father’s brother, my Uncle Jesse. My stomach cramped up in that first second of seeing him and that made me feel horrible because I love him to death. Uncle Jesse has always been my rock, but right at the moment he’s also a reminder of someone and something that I wish I could forget.
, sweetheart,” he said with a smile of his own as he held up two car keys to me. “I parked the new car in the lot. Since I’m the one who came down with the check, I got the color that
wanted instead of the one that John demanded. The car is parked in the B section, fifth space in. I went to the campus office and paid your tuition, room and board and food plan for the year. You’ve got the best plan they had.” Holding out an envelope to me he continued, “He said to tell you that this is your credit card for the year. There’s a twenty thousand dollar limit, but he says if you find that you need more, you should call me to take care of it.”
I could hear my mother and Neil making sounds of disgust from behind me at the same time that I was rolling my eyes at my uncle. “Twenty thousand dollars for a freshman in college is ridiculous! Does he think I’m going clubbing and paying for a family of ten to eat every day? He’s never known me at all. You can go ahead and tell him that I don’t need the extra money to keep silent. I’m not stupid.”
Rubbing the back of his neck, Jesse blew out a breath of frustration. “My brother’s a piece of shit. I’m sorry; you know that I hate this. The only reason I keep speaking to him at all after everything that went on is to make sure that nothing else happens. I’m keeping a close eye on him. I should have known that…”
toward him to cut off the rest of his sentence with a hug. I literally can’t talk about that anymore. I need a break, and Evermore University is my way forward.
“You know it’s not your fault. Nothing that you could have done would have changed anything.” Pulling away, I looked up at him and said, “Is he paying for the
things that he agreed to pay for?”
He looked as if he might be ill as he nodded in the affirmative. “He is, and if there ever comes a day when he won’t, I’ll do it myself… and destroy him in the process.”
“Thanks, Uncle Jesse. I’m sorry that I had to ask. I just feel so… Well, you know how I feel. I know you want to pay for it yourself, but I need to know that at least he’s doing something. I’m a fool for hoping that every time he has to pay a bill or write a check he feels guilty, but I know in my heart he doesn’t. It’s not for you to pay; it’s for them. I don’t have access to the money that Grammy and Grampy left for me until after I graduate from college and I just need to know… I want him to do what he said he would do for Macy. He doesn’t get to take the easy way out. If you take over, he can wash it away like nothing ever happened. When that’s all resolved, you can go ahead and do whatever you want where he’s concerned. I’m done with him.”
“If he tries to contact you in any way, I want you to call me immediately. I
couldn’t stop him talking to you about the car since the fact that he had to buy it was included in the pre-nup he and your mother had, but that’s as much as he gets. Don’t give him an inch, Mia. Promise me.”
He stared at me for a moment and I knew that he could see I was on shaky ground. Reaching out, he squeezed my hand gently before his eyes wandered around my room. He smiled at Neil and my mother and said, “It’s great to see you both. You look wonderful, Michelle. Pregnancy suits you.”
They spent a few minutes talking and laughing with each other, and I smiled as I watched them. My mom actually met Neil because he works with my Uncle Jesse for a software company, and the three of them have always been close.
When they were finished talking he came back and stood next to me. “I knew you would be busy moving and I don’t want to hold you up, so I’ve got the salesman I bought the car from downstairs waiting to take me back to my car at the dealership. I’ll always be here for you Mia, no matter what. I’ll be back in a few weeks to take you to lunch. I love you, baby girl.”
He pulled me to him and hugged me tightly, and it hurt my heart to know he was upset that I’d be living so far away from him. Like my mother and Neil, Uncle Jesse understands the reason, but it doesn’t make it easier for any of them to live with. Jesse never had any children of his own and I know that I fill that spot in his heart—much the same way that he and Neil fill the
void in my own heart that my father created just by being himself.
As my Uncle
took his leave, my roommate arrived. Her name is Darby McKenzie and she’s an absolute riot. Since our roommate assignments came out the two of us have been chatting via email and Skype, and we even coordinated our comforters and décor.
The room filled up fast as her parents and her older brother, Austin, came through the door carrying her gear. We spent a few minutes making the introductions between the families and then Neil helped her father and brother bring the rest of her stuff up. By the time everything was in, both sets of our parents were completely exhausted. We hugged and kissed our parents goodbye. Pulling me aside
, my mom cupped my face in her hands to give me one last thing to hold onto when she left. “You’re the strongest person I know. I’m in awe that I gave birth to you. You’re my hero, Mia Rose.”
I hugged her so tightly that I hoped I wasn’t hurting her. My mother is my rock, and it’s because of her that I won’t give up. After everything came out about what happened to Macy and me, my mother said something that I’ll never forget:
“You’ve always been a fighter. If you get pushed down ninety times, you get up ninety-one. Never underestimate your own strength.”
The funny thing is that all of the strength I do have, I got from my mother. With her in my corner showing me the way, I’ve always come out swinging. If I didn’t have her, I shudder to think of what my life would look like.
Once our families left, Darby and I spent the rest of the day and well on into the evening organizing our room while listening to music and talking. I can tell already that I’m going to love Darby and I’m so glad that I got a good roommate instead of a crazy one. My big fear was that I’d end up with someone like the roommate in “Pitch Perfect.” Luckily I’ve got Darby McKenzie instead. The future looks brighter than it has in forever.
* * *
I woke up like a shot,
sat straight up in my bed and gasped for air. I’d had
again, not that it was a surprise. Every single night for the last six months I’ve woken up like this. I’m on antidepressants and I even tried sleeping pills for a couple of weeks, but nothing works. No matter where I go or what I do, the dream is just waiting to make an appearance.
Clutching at my chest, I looked over at Darby, relieved to see that I di
dn’t wake her up. It would be embarrassing to have her find out on night two of sharing a room with me that I’m such a mess. I’ve been quiet enough that I didn’t wake her last night or tonight, but sadly the chances are better than good that she’s going to hear me at some point.
I would be able to handle it if my dream was just a
dream. But it’s not. It’s a series of memories, nightmares on permanent repeat. One of the worst things about having it night after night is that even though it’s a dream, nothing ever changes the outcome. Being forced to relive the agony of that series of unchangeable events is worse than any other nightmare I can imagine.
My therapist said
that I’m having these dreams every night because I have guilt over what happened, even though she’s pointed out time and again that I am not one of the two people responsible for what took place. I know she’s wrong. Guilt is a very generic word for the way I feel, but I guess it’s the description that fits the best, given the circumstances.
How can I not feel guilty about the fact that my best friend is in a psychiatric facility because of me?