Authors: Jettie Woodruff
TO ALL MY FANS AND FOLLOWERS!
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locations are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used fictitiously. All other characters, dead or alive are a figment of my imagination and all incidents and dialogue, are drawn from the author’s mind's eye and are not to be interpreted as real.
All rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2016 Jettie Woodruff
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author.
And in time, This too shall pass.
Starburst, Co-Star, Stardust, Falling Stars
Underestimated, Underestimated Too, An Underestimated Christmas
All for Maddie
Black Rain, Midnight Rain
Suit, Slut, Solid
I Pick You
Table of Contents
“Why can’t I just stay at the center? I don’t want to do this,” I begged, my eyes focusing on the back of her head and fire red hair.
“You’re not a minor anymore. You know this. You can’t live in a mental hospital forever. What kind of life would that be?”
Mrs. Bacon’s words softened but her pace never slowed, and the calming words tossed over her shoulder did little to still my jumpy nerves. “Let’s go, Jaq. Nothing is going to happen to you. You’re ready for this. The last thing to do is face your fears and just do it.”
I felt it brewing, the most prevalent and persistent symptom I was taught to recognize as an onset warning sign. Long deep breaths of air filled my lungs while I talked myself calm, following her to 119 Dressler Street. First, the tingling in my fingers started and then the lack of air began to choke me. Shallow breathing shadowed the icy water swiftly taking the place of warm blood running through my veins, while the sights in my vision intensified it. The familiarity of the streets and the resemblance of the neighborhood became the trigger that made me want to throw-up.
“Mrs. Bacon,” I called from a few feet behind, sucking in unavailable air while lunging toward a wobbly sign. An arrow warning drivers of the one-way street gave other directions with a red sharpie pen: This way for hot black pussy.
Stupid Mrs. Bacon stopped, cocked her hip, and gave me the stern look she had been using on me for the past six months. The one she became accustomed to while she prepared me for this day, or tried anyway. I wasn’t really looking to learn it, never thinking she would really do it. This time was for real, all bluffing set aside. I wasn’t being silly, though. This was real and she didn’t care. She presumed I was bringing it all on myself. That’s what she said, but I wasn’t. I couldn’t help it. This was real life and she was about to leave me here. For real this time. For real, for real.
“Jaq, you’re bringing this all on yourself.”
taunted the voice in my head.
“No, I told you,” I said, attitude blending with my words.
Mrs. Bacon narrowed her eyes into a frown, talking to me like I was the worst case in the whole world. Her actions and the way she spoke down to me solidified her exasperation with me.
“Told me what, Jaq?”
My arrogance dissipated when I realized I didn’t have a comeback because I had no clue what she was even talking about. I routinely played a habitual role and turned the tables on her. Reverse psychology worked on coldhearted people with fancy degrees, too, not just me.
“Forget it. You don’t care anyway.” It was the truth. If she cared one little, tiny bit, she would have taken me with her, but she wasn’t. She planned to leave me there—alone. Her stupid big eyed, freckle face only cared about herself. She wasn’t going home to a place like this. She would be sleeping in a bed, in a room, in a house, in a yard, secured with a white picket fence and pretty, pink flowers.
“I care, Jaq. Why do you think I got you a place with a code? You know what to do. You have your phone. Hell, I even gave you my old laptop. We’ve done it over and over and over and over. What do you want me to do?”
I desperately pleaded, feeling scared out of my mind as my eyes followed a long, blue car with dark windows. The entire car shook from the loud bass, vibrations felt in the sign that kept me from falling as they slowly passed us by. They had to be looking at me. I just knew it. No doubt they were staring at me. I jumped, startled by a young kid flying by on a bike, remembering my plea to Mrs. Bacon—again.
“But, I’m on disability. I can’t live alone. I shouldn’t. Something bad is going to happen. I can feel it.”
“Come on, Jaq. You’re fine.”
“My chest hurts. I can’t breathe.”
Mrs. Bacon walked toward me, becoming a blur as my life slowly ended for the second time that day. The first anxiety attack came right after breakfast. No warning whatsoever. One-minute I was in my room, staring out the window and the next, I was on the floor, begging to be taken to the hospital. Mrs. Bacon didn’t believe me, and she didn’t take me to the emergency room. Instead of giving me the needed medication, she gave me the keys to my new apartment. A strong hold on my shoulders pulled me away from the sign and her fingers peeled mine from the graffiti painted sign a failed attempt to hold my gaze with her stupidly stern look.
“We’re not doing this again, Jaq. Now stop this nonsense. Your apartment is right in front of the bus stop, nobody can get in unless you let them get in, and the grocery store is right across the street.”
“Yeah, right beside the meth lab.”
Irritation was heard loud and clear in her words. “What do you want me to do, Jaq? Huh? Do you want me to get you a penthouse over on 5th Avenue? Your checks are seven-hundred dollars a month. This was the best I could do.”
It was hopeless. This was my new, short life. I would be the one out of seven statistics, a victim of a violent crime, probably raped and tossed into a dumpster.
“I hope you fry to death and drown in hot grease.”
“I’m going to miss your bacon jokes. Come on.”
Just what I needed; something else to worry about. “Why? Why would you miss them? You still have to see me every week. I’m your case. I’ll make up new ones.”
I had so many bacon comebacks, it wasn’t even funny. Mrs. Bacon had been my caseworker since I was placed in Scarlett’s House, the local looney bin for underage crazies like me, only I stayed. Most of the kids that came were there for drug-related problems and were eventually released to their parents or taken back to juvenile hall. Not me. I was in it for the long haul. Or so I thought…
She opened the door with the five-digit code, giving me a look I couldn’t read. That scared me, too. I could read all of her looks, something I had learned early on, but not this one. All I could do was repeat the numbers over and over in my head. 54956, 54956, 54956. What if I forgot them? I would be locked out. Great, that’s just what I needed, something else to worry about.
“I’m leaving the city in two weeks, going back home to take care of my folks. This is why this is so important, Jaq. You have to get this right now. I’m not going to be here for you to lean on anymore. It’s time to leave the past in the past and focus on the future. You’re a beautiful, talented young lady. Focus on that, not the past.”
My eyes glanced around the dimly lit entrance and up the stairwell, thinking the worst. Anyone could be around that corner. “Where is that? Take me with you.”
“Go,” she ordered with a shove.
In a fog, I climbed the two floors to my new living quarters I didn’t want. 119 with a crooked nine assured me this was about to happen. I was home, and I was nothing more to Mrs. Bacon than a case; a case that was over. Time to move on. My eyes glanced back to her as I stuck the key in the hole, pleading with my sad eyes one last time.
She still didn’t care. “Open the door, Jaq.”
My shoulder had to give it a little jolt, but unfortunately, it opened. It opened to a small living area with donated furnishings, a plaid sofa in blue and white, an old boxy television with a rickety stand, a small table with one chair, and that was it. Even though I picked everything in the apartment out, it didn’t feel like mine, and I didn’t want it. I didn’t want it when Mrs. Bacon made me go to the warehouse to pick it out. It wasn’t mine. It was someone else’s; junk that they no longer wanted.
“Home sweet hell,” I mocked with a smile, my arms waving around the not so welcoming space.
“Stop that. I just ordered us a pizza.”
Mrs. Bacon sidestepped my comment with more of the life lessons I didn’t want to learn. “I want you to go over with me again how you’re going to pay your bills.”
“I’m not paying bills. I’m spending all my money on bacon.”
Her head tilted to the side, and I got a familiar look, a laugh, and then a serious expression. “You can do this, Jaq. All you have to do is want to. This isn’t a bad neighborhood, mostly elders, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a couple lookers out there,” she taunted with a thumb toward the door.
“But I don’t want it, and I’m not like Michelle Conner.”
Michelle Conner had been thrown in my face so many times over the past few months. Just because she could get married and start a family didn’t mean I could. I didn’t even want that. Ever.
Mrs. Bacon touched my arm and pleaded with me once again. “You are, Jaq. You are like her.”
But she was wrong. I wasn’t anything like Michelle or any of the other girls’ I’d met over the past few years. I never would be. I was Jaq, and I was being forced to live a life I couldn’t live, something so effortless for everyone else. Not me. But it didn’t matter. She wouldn’t listen. Not one word.
She stayed long enough for me to show her again how to turn in my metro voucher along with four-hundred-fifty bucks by the fifth of each month. My electric bill had to be mailed out by the nineteenth or paid at the bank by the twenty-third. I would mail it, not about to get on that bus. Nope. No way. By the time I fictitiously paid my bills, I had one-hundred-nine dollars to live on, give or take a few, depending on how much water and electric I used. I was awarded eighty-one dollars a month in food stamps, but I knew as soon as I was required to go there to recertify, I would lose it.
“Look what I did, you’re picking up someone’s internet, Jaq,” Mrs. Bacon excitedly shouted, a rooster taking credit for the sunrise.
“I could have done that.”
“Of course, you could. I’ve got to go. No phone calls unless it’s an emergency.”
Her telling me she had to go was an emergency. I didn’t want her to go. I wanted to go home, back to my own room. Not here. Not this place all by myself. The warning started again, alarm bells, ringing loud in my head, but it didn’t matter. Against all my wills, everything in me, my heart and my pleading soul, Mrs. Bacon left me. She left me and my pounding heart on the other side of the door, scared and uncertain of the future or if I even had one.