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Authors: Suzie Carr

A New Leash on Life

BOOK: A New Leash on Life
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A New Leash on Life

By Suzie Carr

Edited by T.A. Royce

 

 

Copyright © 2012, Suzie Carr. All rights reserved.

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form

without permission from the publisher.

 

Also by Suzie Carr:

The Fiche Room

Tangerine Twist

Two Feet Off The Ground

Inner Secrets

 

Follow Suzie’s Blog:

http://curveswelcomed.blogspot.com

 

Follow Suzie on Twitter:

@girl_novelist

 

Cover Photography courtesy of T.A. Royce

 

 

For Sunshine and Bumblebee

 

 

 

Chapter One

Olivia

 

The first time Chloe slept over she wore a pink tank top with white lace trim. That first night I stared at the back of her neck and admired the way her shiny, black hair hugged her skin and cascaded down past her ivory shoulders. The soft tickle of her bare legs against mine sent my heart into overdrive. I loved how she didn’t seem to mind when I inched up to her. In fact, she cooed when I did, which warranted that I snuggle even closer. She sought me out and pulled me to her. Caught up in the swirl of it all, I cradled an arm around her hips, resting my hand within centimeters of her breast. My breath quickened. My temples pulsed. My skin tingled, connected to the root of ecstasy. She eased into my embrace with a relaxed sigh, placing her hand over mine, acting so cool and collected, like she’d done this a million times before. I pressed my body against her, and she responded with a lovely moan.

This marked the defining moment when I first lost control over my heart to a girl. Well, really, to anyone. Chloe, on the other hand, had already experimented with a soccer player named Devon and a fellow cheerleader, Brianna. She was bisexual and I’d be a bold-faced liar if I didn’t admit that this bothered me and caused me massive anxiety whenever her eyes trailed after a handsome guy. I possessed zero control over satisfying that sort of hunger.

Regardless, Chloe and I spent every possible second together. She showcased me as her new best friend, inviting me into her circle of flirty and fun girls. She teased me with her fun attitude and sweet smile, taking me to football games, cheerleader practices, parties, and even drag races at the empty mill parking lots behind the softball fields where I used to score runs as a lanky kid. Chloe painted the world in rainbow colors, and I craved for some of that vibrancy to splash on me.

When we’d separate at the end of a steamy day, I sometimes ached because I missed her so much. I’d lie in my empty bed and think about her silky, black hair, her dark, hazelnut eyes and those creamy legs that stretched on forever. I imagined those legs wrapped around me like a vine, clinging around my body with a gentle force. Then, I’d tuck into a sound sleep only after reliving the moments of the day when she leaned into me with her sweet breath and sent me fluttering with her lips.

My brother, Josh, teased me often. He’d buzz around the kitchen like an annoying gnat laughing at how I had a crush on Chloe Homestead. I’d hit his arm and tell him to shut up. That only set him up to further fan the fire of his antics with more laughing, pointing, and toying with my secret.

When I told Chloe about Josh’s joking, she stopped my panic with a soft touch to my babbling lips and a perfectly executed blink. This calmed me, and in fact, even pumped me with a confidence so high that I might’ve been able to proclaim to my geeky brother that I was a lesbian and damned proud of it. Who wouldn’t be with a girl like Chloe? If I had polled every straight girl at Collier High School, I’d bet every single one of them would’ve loved to be teased with Chloe’s plump lips. When she passed through the hallways at school, girls and guys took notice. She unfolded into an exotic, fruity cocktail– luminous, cheerful, and confident.

They stopped mid-sentence to stare. They scanned her from the top of her pretty hair down to her manicured toes. When she claimed stake with me by wrapping her arm in the crook of mine, I floated past them all with an air of supremacy, which evaporated the moment she waltzed away to go to class.

My dull life dissolved the moment Chloe and I fell in love, replaced by a life filled with passion, heat, and lots of euphoria.

I loved how Chloe listened to me. She didn’t fiddle with a sink of dirty dishes or tinker with a loose button on her shirt like most of the people in my life. No, not Chloe. She didn’t ever nod without looking at me first. She didn’t ever stare off into a sink full of suds. No, when I spoke, Chloe cued in on me the way an eagle cued in on its prey – with laser focus. She stared deeply into my eyes and asked me to explain in more detail, asked for my opinion, asked how I would handle things. She hinged on my words.

Chloe needed me in a capacity that no one else in her life could fulfill. She had no family in town. She just had an aunt miles away. Her mother was schizophrenic and living in a mental ward, and her father skipped out on her before she entered this world. She lived with her stepfather and spent most of her time cleaning up after his poker games, cooking his meals, and running away from his insults about how she consistently failed to make his bed the proper way or hang his khaki pants with the correct fold. When Chloe would tell me all of this, she talked with a smile as if none of it bothered her. I would listen. I would nod. I would die inside.

I pitied her and wished more than anything that I could protect her from the dread of her life outside school and my home. I became obsessed with keeping that smile on her face, with sharing my clothes with her, with buying her makeup and hair products with my allowance so she could continue to add light to my life.

She started to spend more nights in my bed, long after she dined with my family and me and after my parents turned off the porch light, locked all the deadbolts, and closed their bedroom door. Her stepfather didn’t know I existed, so he never knew enough to come knocking on my front door in search of her. As far as we knew, he never even reported her missing. I wanted to protect Chloe, to be her saving grace, to be that one person she’d always be able to look back on and know I had rescued her.

What her stepfather failed to provide for her in terms of love, support, and a sense of security, I more than offered her. Josh, the conniving clown at our high school, started being nice to her, even attempted to flirt with her whenever she’d turn a blind eye to his charm. Josh needed to be challenged like Chloe needed to be protected. Chloe toyed with him, and he reciprocated by drooling on himself like a lovesick puppy. Even though my blood would boil, Chloe and I would laugh it off later while we cuddled in the glow of moonlight and stars.

For two years, we had a good system. We needed each other in different ways, and this cemented us together through the good and the bad. I dreamt up an entire life together, one where we’d commit to each other on a beach in Hawaii, live out our days in an eclectic city apartment, dance our nights away, and be moms to a set of golden retrievers named Jack and Jill. Our life would be one grand fairy tale.

Then, shortly after waltzing across the stage in our high school auditorium, Chloe met some new friends while working at a dinner theatre. She starred in the play
Oklahoma
. The limelight circled her in love. She snuck me in on opening night. I sat in a folding chair at a table with ten other people. Throughout the acts, I squirmed and shifted several hundred times to see over a monstrous man to see my girl dancing and singing. I strained my neck when the scene called for her to kiss her acting partner, Keith, a blonde guy with handsome features.

I asked her later on if she was attracted to him. She laughed and said, “He’s just a friend, silly.” A few weeks into the performances, her stepfather investigated her whereabouts and showed up at my parents’ house threatening to press charges against her for stealing her mother’s diamond ring from his safe. She denied it, and he told her the police had already been by to dust for her fingerprints. She yelled and tossed her heel at him, chasing him out of my living room. My mother huddled behind my father, who just stood tall with his jaw hung low. I later learned that she had, in fact, taken her mother’s diamond ring when she left her stepfather’s. “My mother wore that ring. Why shouldn’t I get it? My mother has no use for it now, and if she were lucid, she’d certainly give it to me.”

I felt sorry for her that a diamond ring brought her comfort. She took off, rushing past my parents and Josh, leaving me to worry about her for days until she finally came back. “I have nowhere else to go,” she said, her hazelnut eyes tearing up.

I hugged her and promised I’d take care of her, despite the fact that my parents forbade her to sleep at our house anymore out of fear of her dangerous stepfather who, according to them, could come back at any moment with a gun and shoot us all. This prompted me to be straight with her. “You need to return the ring.”

“I’m not stepping foot in his house. Are you crazy?”

“I’ll go with you.”

“He’s too strong for us.”

Josh stepped in at my request and escorted Chloe back to the house where nothing but bad memories remained. A few hours later, they returned unscathed. He retreated to his room like a whisper. She came into mine, and when I asked her if all went down okay, she started to cry. “I just want to forget that whole part of my life ever happened.”

I hugged her and she pulled away. “I’m really tired. I’m just going to go to sleep.”

“Okay,” I said, watching as she climbed into bed fully clothed. I walked over to her and pulled at the blanket to tuck her in. She rolled over, turning her back to me, still sniffling. Somehow, in my attempt to protect her, I lost a part of her.

The next night, she didn’t sleep over. When one night turned into three, and ten unreturned calls turned into twenty, I decided to pay full ticket price at the dinner theatre just to see her. I found her stooped over in the dressing room, tying one of her bootlaces. She wore an ankle length white laced skirt with a blue and white checkered blouse that tightened around her taut waist. She also wore a blonde wig, the front tied back with a blue-checkered bow. She offered me a twisted smile. “I’m just not in a good place right now,” she said with the bootlace wrapped around her slender fingers.

Suddenly, her handsome acting partner, Keith, walked in and danced around her chair in bold Sinatra style, singing in a low baritone tone. He bent down and kissed her cheek, offered his hand and swept her away from her chair. He stared at her way too romantically. Her eyes darted away from his, much too nervously for someone with whom she should’ve been comfortable.

“I’ll let you get to work,” I said, my voice brittle and crumbling.

She didn’t stop me from leaving.

A month and a half had passed after that with only a couple of awkward ice cream dates to catch up. I had taken a job as an animal shelter handler, walking and socializing the dogs who needed a home. So I rambled on about that each time we met up, filling all of the pregnant pauses where Chloe would just stare off to somewhere other than my eyes.

The last time she visited me, she showed up at the shelter just as I introduced a family to a cute little hound. I shuffled them into the adoption meet-and-greet room and stood outside the door, staring at Chloe’s tilted gaze. She told me a great opportunity had come up for her in New York City. A spot opened up in an off-Broadway production of
Fiddler on the Roof
. After embracing her in a congratulatory hug and wishing her a successful life, I watched her walk away. I blocked my tears from pouring out until she cleared the kennel area.

Since that day, I spent my time hibernating alone in my bedroom petting my basset hound, Floppy. She comforted me. This particular day, I sat on my bed consoling myself by petting her and staring into her adoring brownie eyes. She licked the tip of her nose, oblivious to the cause of my tears. I fell against her velvet fur, and she snuggled up, burying her nose in my hair. I hugged her and swayed, lost in her squishy folds, thankful for her loyalty. “Thank God for you, little girl.” I sat up and brushed my hand along the down comforter, the same comforter Chloe and I had slept under a gazillion times.

I looked down at the card she had mailed me from New York City.
I want you to know that I will always be grateful to you and am so sorry for not being the kind of girlfriend you deserve. Your friend always, Chloe.

I reread her card twenty times trying to find a clue that would glue this scene back together in a way that would add up. After all I had helped her through, she offered me nothing more than a generic goodbye on cardstock?

I sat up and stared out of my window at my mother and father mowing the crab grass. My mother, with her sunhat stretching way beyond her shoulders, raked as my father pushed the gas mower. They laughed about something, both craning their necks back in sync. Twenty-two years together under the same sky, breathing the same air, never tiring of each other, never needing a break to pursue greater things than the other could ever offer. They were childhood sweethearts laced together by the gentle tug of fate and neighborly charm. Neither one had ever been crushed by love; they were virgins to hurt, to humility, to greed. They were untarnished, polished like fine silver, glowing with a sickening sheen to the rest of us who weren’t so luckily spared.

BOOK: A New Leash on Life
7.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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