Authors: Tabatha Vargo
Copyright © 2016 by Tabatha Vargo
All Rights Reserved. Printed in the United States of America.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events or real people are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
BLACK SHEEP/TABATHA VARGO
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Tyson Payne, age 12
THE MOTEL WE
were living in let us pay by the week and was the nicest place we’d ever stayed. Sure, there were still bugs and rotting shag carpeting, but at least the towels and sheets were clean-ish, and the place didn’t smell like puke and old cheese.
We’d been there two weeks, which was a record for us, and in all that time, I’d only heard gunshots once. Most nights, I didn’t sleep, but at this motel, I knew I could since the door even had a lock that worked.
“That’s it, Ty, do what Daddy says,” my father muttered through rotting teeth.
I once saw a picture of my father when he was younger. He looked a lot like I did with a bright white smile, a freshly shaven face, and short, dark hair. Now, you could barely see his dirty face since his beard was long and scraggly, and his white smile was definitely a thing of the past.
The needle pierced his aging skin, hitting the target vein, and I pressed on the end of the syringe the way he’d taught me, pushing the drugs into his system.
Once the syringe was empty, I sat back on the rough, plaid loveseat and watched as my father relaxed into the molding cushion with a sigh. The effects were instant, and his eyes slowly closed to dark slits on his dirty face. The side of his mouth lifted as he attempted a smile and failed.
“Good boy,” he slurred. “That’s a good boy.”
I’d done this many times, but this time was different. This time, after I stuck him, I waited until he was roaming in the clouds with a relaxed smile on his face. Then I put another tiny chunk of heroin on the spoon. I added a sprinkle of water before I held the lighter beneath the spoon and watched the powdery chunk melt into the liquid, turning the clear bits of water brown. Picking up the needle, I filled it once again, sucking the liquid out of the spoon.
His eyes were closed, and his skin was flushed from his high. Once he was totally still, I squeezed his arm to make the vein pop once again. I stuck him a second time in the same spot, filling his body to the brink with his favorite poison.
I knew what I was doing. I was aware of what would happen if someone were injected with too much. I’d once seen a man do too much. He lay on the sidewalk outside our old room and foamed at the mouth. An hour after he died, the police came, and a man wrapped him in black plastic.
My father would surely die from the amount I dumped in him, but I didn’t care. I wanted away from him—away from it all.
He was dying a slow death, and I was the one who killed him. At twelve years old, I shouldn’t have the knowledge of how to shoot someone up with heroin, but I did. I knew many things a child my age shouldn’t know—things they didn’t teach me at school on the days when I could make it.
I’d seen the darkest of the dark—the lowest of the low.
The disgust of the world.
I’d lived with those people most of my life.
I’d shot my father up so many times over the last two years of my life. He was always too high—too broken to even try anymore. It was up to me to continue his high, and so I did.
Between his fingers.
Between his toes.
Wherever was convenient.
I’d stick him, and he’d melt away, leaving me at peace for a little while.
All I ever wanted was peace.
I was twelve. I wanted to go outside and play. Maybe go to school every day like I was supposed to instead of only a few times a week. I wanted the normal life of a child, but instead, I was Frank’s punching bag. Frank’s everything. His hands were always on me in one way or another, and when he didn’t have the money for his drugs, he would hand me over to others as payment.
I was dirty and broken—tortured and abused—and if something didn’t change soon, I knew I’d be found dead in a back alley somewhere one day. They were murdering me mentally with every touch of their filthy fingers. So much, in fact, that I’d considered killing myself instead of my father. Not only was I weak, but apparently, I was a coward, as well.
The things they did to me would never be forgotten. The mental and physical scars would always remain—tarnishing my soul and keeping me away from heaven. Because of my father and his ‘friends,’ I’d never know happiness or goodness. It didn’t matter how far away I got from all the terrible things in my life, I knew the memories would continue to haunt my dreams at night, waking me in a panic and leaving me breathless with gripping fear.
I couldn’t survive that way anymore, and if I could, I didn’t want to. It was either him or me.
I stood from the loveseat and stared down at him. His skin turned blue before my eyes, and he began to shiver. Black eyes that matched my own rolled inside his head, and his breathing became slow and labored, melting away with each exhale until his chest stopped rising and the pulse on the side of this neck stopped flickering. Only then did I release the breath I was holding.
I couldn’t find it in myself to be upset that he was gone, and that wasn’t normal. As a matter of fact, I didn’t feel anything but relief when I looked down at his dead, motionless body.
Mentally, I was a sick boy. Even I was smart enough to know that, but my robotic ways were what saved me for most of my life. I couldn’t die from grief if I didn’t feel the things they were doing to me. I wouldn’t crumple with sadness if I couldn’t feel it. It was my only defense against men who were much larger than I was—much stronger.
But now, my father was gone, and maybe, I could come alive again.
It was over.
All of it was over.
An hour later, I called for help. He was long gone by the time help arrived, and I stood to the side as they pulled my father’s body from the dirty loveseat and zipped him inside of a black body bag.
I didn’t blink when they moved my father’s dead body, and I knew I was in shock. Not shock because he was dead, but shock because I’d killed him.
I was a murderer, but only I knew that. I’d keep that secret for the rest of my life.
The police had me pack my meager belongings, and I left with them, leaving behind the disgust that was my life. I didn’t know where I’d end up. With no one to turn to, I’d probably be homeless. Nothing was set in stone, but I didn’t care. All I knew was I’d never get touched again.
Frank Payne, my father, was no more.
No more beatings.
No more being fondled at two in the morning.
No more anything.
I was free.
Regardless of where I landed after the storm, any place was sure to be better than where I was.
Peace was mine for a few weeks as I was tossed from one home to another, all much nicer than any place I’d ever lived. I bounced from school to school, but I didn’t care. At least I was able to go. I’d never been more excited for homework and school assignments.
Finally, after weeks of foster homes, an old friend of my father’s was found, and he agreed to take me in. After weeks of freedom, terror and devastation settled over me. Any friend of my father’s was sure to be just like every other ‘friend’ I’d met. Running away and living on the streets was a very big possibility. I refused to return to the life I was living. I’d kill myself before another person touched me.
I barely took a breath on the entire ride over to my new home, but I watched from the backseat as the dirty city streets became clean neighborhoods. I couldn’t imagine any of my father’s friends living in such a nice place, but I didn’t let that deter me from the caution and fear that roosted in my center.
The car pulled up to a two-story brick ranch, and I swallowed the nerves that threatened to choke me. One thing I’d learned in my life was that looks could be deceiving. Just because a person or a place looked nice didn’t mean they were nice. I refused to let my guard down no matter what.
The lawn was green and rolling like something I’d once seen on TV. A flowerbed filled with happy yellow daisies surrounded the mailbox at the end of the drive. Hanging plants and wind chimes hung from the large porch, sending their sweet music into the air around us.
This place was a home.
Maybe my home.
It all depended on what I found on the inside. The yard was a shell—a show for outsiders—but I knew the kind of evil things that hid behind beauty.
I kept my head down as we entered the house, my shoulders stiff with anxiety and fear. My eyes remained glued to my feet as I took step after step into an unknown territory. My heart drilled inside my chest, and my palms were sweaty. The urge to run and hide was there.
What if whatever was hiding behind the elaborate wooden door was worse than the life I’d murdered?
What if I was trapped and couldn’t run away?
I began to shake, the emotions overcoming me so quickly I was afraid I’d shut down. I was drowning, my air being cut from my lungs and sucking the life out of me.
But once we settled into the center of the entranceway, I was welcomed by a friendly voice—a voice different from any other I’d heard. The soft manly tone with a hint of happiness and joy invoked hope and welcome, and somehow, it shocked the fear and anxiety from me.
“Hello, Tyson. I’m Mr. Palmer. It’s very nice to meet you, buddy.”
The treatment I’d endured over the years had taught me not to trust, and even though I was feeling okay with the sounds around me, I didn’t even trust myself. The uncertainty of the situation was there, even if I was starting to relax.
I didn’t look up at him, but still, the friendly man continued to speak to me.
I nodded and shook my head in response as he told me about my new room and new school—as he told me about how great it was going to be to have me there.
I wasn’t fooled.
If nothing in life was ever good, how could anything in life ever be great?
I didn’t bother to look up as the man introduced his wife and their son, their voices just as kind and welcoming as his. But when I heard
tiny voice for the first time, something inside me sparked and came to life.
It was as if a bolt of electricity had struck me—shaking me so intensely that my insides scrambled, and I no longer knew which way was up and which way was down.
The robotic boy I’d lived as suddenly felt something deep inside that had nothing to do with fear and pain. A light had shined down on me, heating my insides and leaving me breathless in a whole new way. For the first time in my life, I felt real contentment and delight—I felt at ease.
“And my name’s Nicole,” she’d said.
Her voice was soft and sweet … welcoming. It reminded me of the wind chimes on the front porch—sweet music to my ears.
My head rolled back on my neck so I could look at her, and when I did, my entire world shifted. The boy I’d always been changed with that brief encounter. I’d always lived for the second, worrying only about myself and my survival, but looking back at me was an angel—an angel I knew I’d spend the rest of my life trying to protect.
She was small and pale. Her long blond hair was loosely braided and hung over her right shoulder. Blue, sparkling eyes glittered back at me, and she was smiling as if she was happy to see me.
No one had ever looked at me like that before, and a feeling I didn’t understand spread through my body, shocking me and burning differently from any cigarette that had ever touched my skin.
I’d known darkness—I’d touched it with my bare hands. Abuse had been my life for as long as I had memories. I’d been hit, burned, manhandled, and touched in places I was just learning the names to, but once I met Nicole Palmer, I learned a new meaning of the word torture.
I never knew torment could be so sweet.