Authors: Leigha Taylor
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #New Adult & College, #Contemporary Fiction
To Hell and Back
by Leigha Taylor
Copyright © 2014 by Leigha Taylor
Cover design by Toski Covey Photography & Custom Design (
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owner.
To my husband and our three beautiful
daughters: You are my everything.
I love you to the moon and back
This and everything else I do is for you.
I hear a glass shatter in the kitchen and I know he’s home. Naptime is officially over. I wait, listening, to hear if it was a simple accident or a part of something bigger. The last thing I want to do right now is pull back these covers and head downstairs for cleanup duty. I’ve had a nasty cold all week and it hasn’t been helped by Hank keeping the thermostat at sixty-two degrees. It’s freezing in here – he skimps on creature comforts so he can fill the cupboards with more whiskey.
The drinking was always bad. Then my mom died and it got worse. When my dad was forced into retirement by a stray bullet during a robbery, things went to a whole new level of Hell.
This time it’s drawers slamming, something else hitting the floor and a long stream of loud curses. Luck isn’t with me today.
Get your ass down here and clean this shit up! I put a roof over your head while your lazy ass is lying in bed all damn day! If I have to come up there…”
Weekends are the worst. I long for Monday morning when I can go to school and get a few hours away from this place.
“I’m here, Dad, I’m right here. I’m sorry you had to wait for me. Do you want anything to eat? Why don’t you go sit down and I’ll make something.”
“Do I look like I want a fucking sandwich to you?” His mouth slurs its way across the words. “Look at this mess, you idiot! Do you think I want glass in my food?”
“No, Dad, of course not…”
“Your mother should be grateful she isn’t here to see the lazy, useless bitch you’ve turned into. She’s damn lucky she died when she did. They called it cancer, but I don’t believe it. She died of a broken heart. Her only daughter is a dirty slut and she couldn’t handle it. That’s what really killed her! Now clean this up and then you can bring the rest of the whiskey in from the car. Mulligan’s had it on special so I made sure to have enough in case this storm hits.”
“Oh, Dad, you were driving? I’d have taken you…”
I don’t even get the words out before it happens. The back of Hank’s hand hits my face with a force that still surprises me. The stash of heavy duty makeup upstairs can attest to how often things like this happen. Hank blames me for everything wrong with his life. I’ve always known deep down that there is no truth to what he says; they’re just words. It’s hard, though, to hear your only remaining parent, the man who is supposed to take care of you, talk like this. I thank God for the good foundation my mother gave me. When Hank is at his worst, I just try to imagine what she would say.
Hank is pretty good at fooling the rest of the world. Every now and then someone notices that things aren’t quite right, but no one wants to look too closely. No one wants to believe that bad things really happen. The school guidance counselor has called me in a few times over the years, but I’ve gotten really good at lying and she’s great at believing me. She mentioned professional counseling once, said maybe I was going through a “major depressive episode”. I just smiled, nodded, and took the pamphlets she handed me. What was I supposed to say?
“Listen, lady, I’m a loner because putting anyone in my dad’s path is a huge mistake.”
No, I don’t think so. Besides, I know Hank would have to sign forms for that any type of counseling and that is not a good idea. Asking Hank for anything does more harm than good. My plan is simple: keep my head down, graduate high school, go to college. Preferably before he kills one of us.
It’s the February of my senior year and there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. My grades are almost perfect – I don’t socialize, so I have plenty of time to study. The evenings are pretty repetitive. I cook dinner, Hank drinks, I do housework until he passes out, and then I do my homework. I applied to a few colleges at the end of last year and even got an early acceptance to the community college across the river. That’s great, but my goal is to get the hell out of here. When I graduate, I want to run as far and as fast as I can. I’ve also applied for federal aid, scholarships and anything else that would help me pay my way out of Hank’s house and into an independent life. I don’t care if I have to work three jobs while carrying a full class load, I just want out of this town and out of Hank’s reach.
I finish cleaning up the mess in the kitchen and bring the whiskey bottles in from the car. Hank gets his pension check on the first of every month and it’s not a lot, but it’s usually enough. That is, as long as we don’t want “extras” like a warmer house or new underwear. The whiskey here, even on special, had to have cost at least half of our food budget for the month. I’d be fine eating ramen noodles every night, but Hank gets grumpy if the fridge is empty. With the steady stream of whiskey constantly filling his belly, he really doesn’t eat all that much, but I’ve learned not to question it. I once had several bruised ribs because there was no steak in the house when Hank got a craving.
I did try to get a job once, but Hank wasn’t having any of that. There is a small, family-owned grocery store here in town called Miller’s Goods. It has been in the Miller family for as long as anyone can remember. Everyone knows Mr. Miller, and he greets pretty much every customer by name. I was in the store to pick up a few things when I saw a “now hiring” sign and thought,
what the hell
I’ve known Mr. Miller my whole life, so there wasn’t really an interview process; he talked to me about the hours I could work and told me to start the next day. I mentioned it to Hank that evening so he wouldn’t expect me home until after dinner and he completely lost it. Apparently, if my lazy ass wants to work so badly, there are things that can be done at home. That bright idea caused me quite a bit of discomfort: Hank knocked me right out of my dinner chair and I ended up with a split lip when my face bounced off the table. I also had to go in to Miller’s Goods the next day, when I was supposed to start work, to let Mr. Miller know that, although I appreciated the job offer very much, I would not be able to take it. I think the worst part was that he didn’t even look surprised; just sad. He raised his eyebrows when he saw the cut on my face, but never said a word.
I have a very long list of humiliating moments and almost every one of them is due to something Hank said or did. It’s pretty sad that I can mark so many events of my teenage years by the bruises and breaks they caused. I just keep reminding myself that Hank has his own demons and I’m just a convenient outlet.
I take a peek in the living room and Hank is out cold on the couch. Thank God for small miracles – my sinuses are on fire and my head is throbbing from both the cold and the now-swollen cheek that took the brunt of Hank’s anger. I took the last couple of cold pills this morning, so I’ll have to pick up more. I take a quick shower and throw some cover up on my face before I head to the store. As bruises go, this one isn’t terrible and I can cover it easily.
It’s even colder outside than I thought it would be, but Miller’s is only a couple of blocks away and Hank doesn’t like me taking the car unless it’s an emergency. Out of whiskey? That’s an emergency. This? Not so much. I found out the hard way that Hank had been writing down the mileage when he was sober enough to think of it. He had it all worked out in his head that I was sneaking out at night. He couldn’t say who or exactly when, but he was sure it was because I was meeting up with a boy. What he can’t comprehend is that I don’t have time for a boyfriend; I have to keep my grades up for college and scholarships at the same time I’m dealing with Hank’s crazy mood swings. I’m not letting anyone else in on that mess.
For all the suspicions and accusations Hank throws my way, I’ve actually only kissed a boy once in my life. It was horribly gross and it happened during a game of Spin the Bottle in seventh grade. I was aiming for Shawn Whitaker, my middle school crush, and I missed by a few inches, ending up with Tommy Harvey instead. I always imagined Shawn would be a fantastic kisser, but Tommy? Yuck. It was horrible. It definitely wasn’t something I wanted to repeat. I didn’t know it then, but I didn’t have to worry about that. Nothing even slightly romantic has happened to me since. All of that seems like a lifetime ago. Things were different before my mom died. I was still allowed to go places, to have fun and hang out with my friends. She sheltered me from a lot of the bad stuff in our lives. Back then, Hank didn’t have the rage inside him that he has now. He saw a lot during his years on the force and turned to alcohol to forget, but he wasn’t nasty and violent. A lot has changed since then.
Over the years I’ve noticed a few guys in school, guys who make you turn your head even when you don’t mean to. I’ve wondered what it would be like to kiss them, to hold their hands. There is no Spin the Bottle anymore, though. When you’re eighteen, things are a lot more complicated. I’m more than ready to be properly kissed, but romance has no place in my life. I go to school, I come home, and I take care of Hank. At this point, I’m sure I’m the least experienced girl in the senior class. Sure, I long for a relationship. I would love to have friends to tell my secrets to. I long for lots of things that are impossible.
The daydreaming makes the cold walk to the store go by quickly. I can feel the warm air wrap me like a cozy blanket when I open the front door. I know that’s thanks to Mrs. Miller, who prefers to be called Edith. She’s Mr. Miller’s mother and, although she’s in her eighties, she still comes in every day to work in the office. I’m not sure what she does in there, but she’s always here. She’s kind of like the town grandmother - everyone just loves her. I heard her say once that Mr. Miller’s heating bill will probably be cut in half when she’s finally too old to come in since it’s the “chill in her old bones” that keeps the thermostat set so high.
It’s tempting to just stay in here and wander around in the warmth for the rest of the afternoon, but I want to be home before Hank wakes up. When I had food poisoning last year, Hank didn’t think it was reason enough for me to baby myself and he refused to let me stay in bed. I spent a couple of truly awful days carrying a bucket around with me and sweating profusely while I did housework. Not one of my better memories. If that didn’t get me some rest, I can be sure he won’t care about a common cold.
I grab a box of Sudafed, some ibuprofen and a magazine. I’m a huge sucker for those trashy tabloids. I always sneak the latest one into the house and devour it. Hank would probably blow his top if he ever found out I was wasting his money on these, but it’s my one vice and my only guilty pleasure. I think I know every celebrity ever mentioned and every make up, break up, marriage, divorce and birth that has happened in the A-List community in the last few years. My best friend in junior high, Cassie, got me hooked on these when we were twelve. We had crushes on different members of the same boy band and we used to stay up super late planning our double wedding. We’d practice kissing on our hands, rate the boys in our class, and do all the other things girls do at sleepovers. I really miss Cassie, but I withdrew from pretty much everyone after my mom died. It’s better than having them see what my life is like these days.
By the time I finish gathering the items I came for, I feel a lot worse than before. I’m lightheaded and I have the chills. Ugh, like I need a fever right now. I head for the register and check out, my head swimming as I hand the cashier a few bills. I’m hoping to get home before the dizziness gets any worse. I’m just reaching for the door to exit the building as it opens in front of me. I briefly see a pair of electric blue eyes looking into my green ones as the room spins and everything goes black.