Authors: Ashley Beale
A novel by Ashley Beale
Hand of Thorns
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events, or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
RK Edits & Designs
Christina Concus, Monica Starr
Cover image © 2016
depositphotos.com, created by Ashley Beale
This book is dedicated to my three littles; B, K, and L.
For if not for you, I wouldn’t know true love.
You’re my inspiration, my heart, and the reason I followed my dreams.
Thank you for your efforts in helping me in all your many ways. I wouldn’t be me if not for you.
Our eyes lock as he passes by.
I'm waiting on his hand to reach for me. Without hesitation I'd grasp for his in return. I'd willingly ignore the shards, the pricks, the thorns. For the pain he causes may hurt, but with it my heart actually beats... and I feel alive.
Traces of warmth will surrender within my veins, pulsating faster with each hurried breath. I'll smile and laugh, and I'll have purpose... even if I have to tortuously grit my teeth. For each painful moment he causes me to endure, I have another moment of equaled exuberance. My happiness with him comes with a price tag I can't afford, but I'm still willing to pay.
Except he doesn't surrender to my need. His hands are not for me. The thorns are gloved beneath his warm skin, holding hers so elegantly. If only for a different yesterday or a more desirable tomorrow, but those days aren't meant for me.
As I'm only the mistress bearing his child... and the rose he holds in his grasp is his queen.
Only three questions stand between me and a four day weekend. I've never been a fan of English Literature, but today I despise it. It has nothing to do with my major, but of course it was one of the required classes to take for my freshman year of college. I want to be a nurse, and I know without a doubt when I'm standing with a patient taking their blood pressure, Shakespeare is not going to be of topic.
The questions are essays, and although I know I should take my time with each of them, I decide to scribble through the answers. My best friend, Sumner, has a beach house near Venice Beach. We are staying there this weekend. She wanted to leave at two this afternoon, which is less than a half hour away.
Passing the test over to Ms. Ross a few moments shy of two o’clock, I head for the doorway. She stops me before I walk out. "Monica, you didn't answer two of the questions on the test. Are you sure you don't want to finish?"
Squeezing my eyes shut, I try to remember which ones I forgot. There were two hard ones near the beginning I said I'd come back to, but glancing over at the clock, I know I'm running short on time. Facing Ms. Ross, I shake my head. "I didn't understand them, I'm sorry. I'm all set."
I watch as one of her perfectly drawn on brows rise into the air, not impressed with my decision. "Enjoy your weekend," she replies coldly. Placing my test on the desk with the others.
Racing out of the room, I pull out my phone to call Sumner, needing her to know I'll be late. Before I can call though, I notice a series of missed calls on my phone, all from Mom. She probably ran out of her Xanax again, but I don't have time to go to the pharmacy now. Dad will have to pick them up tomorrow.
I love my mom, and I love helping her when I can, but she has an unhealthy addiction. I'm not sure when it started, sometime when I was still in grammar school. She found a love greater than Dad and I- her only child- it is the high she gets from taking one small pill, chasing it down with a Cosmopolitan. We tried to get her into rehab once, when I was sixteen. She had taken off in Dad's new car, crashing it into a telephone poll before making it to the store. She cried harder about not being able to have her liquor for three days, than she did about the wreckage or cost of the car.
It pushed me away a little, but the positive aspect of it was that I applied myself at school. I worked hard enough to get accepted into Los Angeles Southwest College, a local community college, for a nursing degree. No, it may not sound like much to some people, but we weren't your typical middle class family in LA. My dad made enough to get us by plus pay for my tuition into college, but we didn't have all the acres of land with our home, or a pool outback, or a shiny new car for my sweet sixteenth.
In fact, our house was a two bedroom, one story home, with a tar driveway to park our one vehicle. I never minded it though, because I learned at a young age to appreciate what you do have rather than whine about what you don't. It didn't stop me from being envious of Sumner though. Her family has a six bedroom home, even though she only has one brother. They have a local beach home, a log cabin in Colorado to go skiing during the winter vacations, and a three bedroom cabin styled home in Hawaii that they rent out when they're not using it. I actually got to visit that one three years ago, when we were fifteen. It was the best time of my life.
Sumner's dad is a famous actor though, which explains their money. He isn't an A-lister by any means, but he has had a few staring roles. It was surreal to me when I saw him on the front of a magazine once, for a scandal that never actually happened. That is Los Angeles for you though, everything is about sex, fame, money, and scandals.
As I type out Sumner's number, my phone vibrates in my hand. Her name showing up on the screen. "I was just about to call you," I answer the phone.
"Where are you?"
"Leaving school. About thirty feet from my car. Where do you want to meet?"
"I am almost to the beach house, Penelope and Rochelle are already there waiting, so I need to get there to unlock the doors. You remember how to get there, right?"
"Yeah," I tell her. "I have my bags all packed and put into the trunk anyways, so I'll see you before too long."
"Okay, drive safely!"
"You too." I hang up the phone, sliding it into my purse. I have a strict no talking or texting while driving policy, so I hide away my phone when I'm behind the wheel. Unlike Sumner who has a car with built-in Bluetooth, so she can talk hands free like nothing. I think I'm lucky enough to have a smart phone, because as of a year ago I did not. It was actually a present from my parents for graduating high school.
The drive is boring, but at least I have some Taylor Swift to listen to on the way there. I'm not a fan of the LA traffic, but that is all I've ever known. Not that I haven't traveled, because I definitely have, but my family has lived here my whole life. I think it boils down to the fact patience isn't a virtue for me.
Both Sumner and Rochelle's vehicles are parked when I arrive. I pop the trunk to pull out my overnight bag, then I head towards the gray two story home with a wraparound porch. The front yard is actually an outstretch of sand and sea, while the backyard, aside from the driveway, is at least two acres of land with beach homes on either side of the property. Three houses down is where Paris Hilton vacationed last year, and we both got to meet her.
We've met a lot of celebrities due to Sumner's father, but I never get used to the ecstatic feeling of getting to talk to anyone famous. My dad is a primary care doctor, so he doesn't have quite the same connections, although he's made hints about a few of his patients to me and Mom.
The three girls are sitting in the kitchen when I come inside. They're all dressed like they're ready to hit the night club, with cute clothes and their hair all perfectly in place, while I'm in jean shorts and a pink camisole, not to mention my frizzy brown hair is piled on top of my head.
"About time you got here!" Sumner shouts over the blender.
Although I've been best friends with Sumner most of my life, in fact I don't even know how long we've officially been friends, the four of us have always been close. We've made it through boyfriends, gossip, and all the cattiness that comes with the territory of being a female. Every three or so months for the last year we find the time to get together, have a few drinks, pig out on food, and talk about life. At some point we usually end up having a dance party, or video game battle, or we play a game of truth and dare that never ends well, but is hilarious just the same.
Sumner is almost six feet tall, supermodel skinny, and naturally blonde. She has gorgeous blue eyes that take your breath away, and it's rare that she piles on the makeup. She has no reason to. Her teeth used to be a little messed up, but her parents made sure they got fixed. Her nose is a little bent from a car accident when she was eleven. Her mom tried to convince her to get a nose job, but she never wanted one. Said it made her who she was. That made me so proud of her to say, sense a lot of girls in their teens get nose jobs, including Penelope.
Rochelle is heavier set, but in a Marilyn Monroe way. She has curves and wears clothes that accentuate them perfectly. Her hair is usually short, and always changing colors. This week it is chocolate brown with purple and blonde highlights all throughout. She and I are both the same height, five foot three inches. She usually wears heels, whereas I would rather wear sandals every day.
Then there is Penelope, who is four inches shorter, has naturally bright red hair, which she dies brown. Her eyes are green, and her face is lined in freckles. She can pull it off though, she really is beautiful. She was anorexic for a long time in junior high, and I believe in high school too, and her weight is always fluctuating. She is one that studies fashion magazines like they're the Bible, and gives into what society believes to be beautiful. I've always wished she could see that she is prettier when she is herself, rather than when she tries to be someone else.
I have brown hair that stays pretty long, matching brown eyes, and I'm super skinny as well, only not by choice. It's a thyroid condition I have. I've actually tried to put on weight for a good part of my life to no avail. At least I have a chest, not much of one, but bigger than Sumner's. I pride myself on it, as sad as that is to admit. I'm pretty average, and I don't go to salons to fix my hair, although I have gotten high lights and done cute hairstyles in the past.
None of us are quite the same, but I think that is why we get along so well. We balance one another out, in both looks and personality.
I toss my bag and purse to the floor before joining Rochelle and Penelope at the bar. Sumner pours the pink frozen liquid into four cups, adding whipped cream before sending the three cups our way. "Strawberry Margaritas for my besties," she says in her sing-song voice.
We all thank her before indulging in the drinks.
"Who wants to go out on the front porch? It's too beautiful to be stuck inside?"
Rochelle stands up first, but then we all join her out front. The porch is huge, probably the size of the kitchen and living room combined. We all take seats around the patio table, making sure to get a little shade from the sun, since there doesn't seem to be a cloud in sight. A perfect early April day, mid-seventies with the slightest breeze making it's way through.
"How was your quiz?" Sumner asks.
"I didn't finish two questions, and it was mostly on Shakespeare, so I probably failed."
"Ouch," Rochelle adds in. "I hate English."
I think it's agreed upon all of us except Penelope who is attending Berkeley. She wants to become a screen writer one day, so she is taking all the English and writing courses she can muster up.
"Should have asked me to quiz you," Penelope suggests.
"I assumed you were busy enough."
"I always have time for you, though."
"I'll remember that," I tell her with an encouraging smile.
"At least you all are going to college," Rochelle states. She skipped out on it to
she proclaimed. Her parents were livid, but they supported her after some time. She has traveled to Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and a few other southern states, all before finding a job in Vegas a few weeks prior to Christmas. Three weeks ago she upped and left it to come back home, where she now works in retail. She has made sure to let us all know how much she hates her decision, but she doesn't regret it- marking it up to be a life lesson.
Sumner on the other hand has spent a majority of her life taking side classes, lessons in acting, music, and dance, as well as did cheering and field hockey. She can multi task like it's no one's business. Before we graduated high school, she had five college credits, and a full acceptance to UCLA. Now she attends there, maintaining a perfect GPA, and majoring in Theater, Film and Television. Against her father's wishes, as he said she needed a formal education, not something he can teach her, but she made it known she worked her ass off most of her life, so she was going for something she was passionate in.
We all have been each other’s backbones most of the last decade or more. If one of us is too scared to stand up to our parents, or a teacher, or anyone for that matter, the rest of us give one another a push. I don't think I'd even be in college if not for these three ladies.
Two drinks in, we've managed to talk about Rochelle's new boyfriend, Derik, as well as Penelope's uncertainty of her engagement to William, whom she's been with for six years now. The fact that Sumner, despite the fact she is breathtakingly beautiful and smart, has never had a boyfriend. My breakup with Dustin last spring, and the idea of having another boyfriend being pointless. We discuss home life a little, Rochelle's job a bit, schooling some more, and a variety of other uselessness.
I used to drink more. Back in high school it wasn't unusual for us all to be getting together, having drinks and attending parties, but since we graduated things have been much different. For me, I haven't had a drink since the last time we had our girls weekend, which was a little over three months ago. After the second drink I can feel a buzz hit me, and I know without question if I have another I'll probably be drunk.
"Do we have snacks?" I ask. "I'm starving. I need food, or I'm going to get shitfaced tonight."
"I'm glad I'm not the only one," Penelope says. "I haven't drank since our last get together."
"Same with me."
"You two are boring," claims Sumner.
Rochelle laughs. "I was thinking the same thing, Sumner. It was part of my job in Vegas to drink. Now I do it because who the fuck wants to work retail in LA."
We all get up and head inside, while Rochelle talks about last weekend when she got drunk and Derik had to hold her hair back as she vomited. He was trying to feed her dry bread, and she screamed at him over the mere thought of it. She laughs while admitting to it being embarrassing that they've only been dating three weeks and that is how she treated him, but apparently he didn't seem too upset by any of it, as he's still around. In fact, she says for April fool’s day yesterday, he bought her a loaf of bread. They seem made for each other by the things she's told us so far.
"So what fun plans did you have for us?" I ask Sumner. She tends to be the one who successfully creates these weekends.