Authors: Sara Hantz
Tags: #Teen & Young Adult, #Literature & Fiction, #Social & Family Issues, #Physical & Emotional Abuse, #Violence, #teen, #Ember, #Sara Hantz, #entangled publishing
In the Blood
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by
. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
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Cover design by Kelly York
Ebook ISBN 978-1-62266-376-7
Manufactured in the United States of America
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Nickelodeon,
Homer, Xbox, SpongeBob, Buick, Ford, Big Wheel, Band-Aid, Weeble, Google, Armani, Tinker Bell, Nickelodeon, Disney, Wal-Mart, Dollar Store, Jack Daniel’s, Barbies
An adult who is sexually attracted to children.
Not that Benjamin Franklin.
Pedophile and murderer.
Did you even know a bastard like that could lead a regular life?
With a wife and two children. A son and a daughter. No, nor did we. Until it was too late.
Too fucking late.
The numbing shock when he was arrested. The disbelief. The conviction that the police had gotten it wrong. Way wrong. Even in the face of damning evidence, we knew that the truth would come out. That the evidence got switched. That there was a cover up, or something.
Then the police found locks of hair belonging to each of those dead boys, so well hidden in the little trinket box my dad’s mom gave him on her deathbed.
Then we knew.
And that’s when our lives changed.
Walking into the kitchen, I wonder if today’s going to be any different, so I test it by opening the refrigerator, grabbing the OJ, and taking a huge swallow from the carton. Glancing to the side, I wait for a reaction.
Like I’m surprised? It’s just that today, of all days, I hoped something might change. That Mom might acknowledge my existence and actually notice when I do the one thing she really hates. And maybe even offer to make me a special breakfast, the way she used to. What the fuck do I know?
I keep looking at her, but she doesn’t notice, she just sits at the table with her hands wrapped around a mug of steaming coffee, staring into space. It suddenly strikes me how gray her hair is now, making her look way over thirty-nine. It didn’t used to be. In the past, she’d spend hours at the hair salon.
And every day, she wears the same green track pants and shapeless, faded red tee. Before it all happened, she spent so much money on clothes and stuff, it wasn’t funny. Her shopping obsession was a family joke. But it didn’t matter. We could afford it because Dad inherited loads of money when his parents died, just before Amy was born. First his mom and then his dad a few months later. No, money was never a problem. Still isn’t. And she was always buying me and Amy things. Every week, we’d get something new.
And look at the house. Not that it’s dirty; she has a cleaner come in once a week. But it’s nothing like it was. No flowers in all the downstairs rooms. No home baked cookies. It’s like living in a hotel. Cold. And the garden’s all grass now, which
have to mow every couple of weeks because the gardener left after Mom instructed him to pull up the flowers and shrubs to stop people from hiding in there. By “people,” I mean the press.
I get it, though. It’s the same for me. The past nine months have been hell. All I wanted to do was run and hide somewhere I’d never be found. Away from the constant attention of the media. Away from the whispering neighbors. Away from the school corridors and those shits who think that I knew what was going on and could’ve done something about it.
You’d think I’d have my family to fall back on, but it’s like I’m dealing with it all on my own, and there are times when my head feels like it’ll explode.
Realizing that today’s gonna be no different, I start to make my breakfast. First taking out the bread and placing each slice the same way up in the toaster, then taking a plate and knife and lining them up next to each other. It’s just the way I do things. I like order. Nothing ever out of place.
Just like Dad. He was a neat freak, too.
“Jed,” Mom says, the sound of her voice making me start.
“Yes?” My heartbeat quickens as I wait anxiously to see if she’s remembered. I spin around to face her, though she’s still staring ahead.
“I want to you to take Amy to school today,” she says, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Why?” I challenge, the frustration of this whole situation getting to me even more than usual.
She swings her head around and looks in my direction. The listlessness in her eyes wrenches at my gut. She’s like a walking zombie. It’s like on the day Dad got arrested almost a year ago she totally gave up on life. She’s only visited him once in prison, and that was just after the arrest. I’ve no idea what went down. She didn’t say, and I didn’t ask. But she came home, packed all his things in boxes, and called a guy to collect them and put them into storage. She doesn’t talk to me about him at all, hasn’t even mentioned the trial, which, according to the papers, is due to start real soon.
I’ve been working out the best way to tell her I’m going to the trial. I need to go. To try and make sense out of everything that happened. To understand how a regular guy—correction, who we
was a regular guy—like Dad could do something so horrendously despicable that it defies comprehension. He might’ve pleaded
, but that’s crap. The evidence is too damning for him not to be.
Or maybe I shouldn’t say anything to Mom. I’m seventeen, not a kid. And it’s not like she’s gonna care. She never knows where I am or what I’m doing. Never asks about school. Only does my laundry if I bring it downstairs myself, and, when it’s clean, it stays in the basket ’til I put it away. Not that that’s a problem, it’s just so different from how she used to be. In the past, every time she went into my room, she’d empty my laundry basket. I can’t remember the last time she set foot in there.
“I’ve got a headache,” she responds.
She stands, leaves her mug on the table, and heads for the door just as Amy, my five-year-old sister, comes racing in and crashes into her.
“Sorry,” Amy says, untangling herself from Mom and scampering into the kitchen. “Jed, have you seen Rolo?”
Rolo’s her bear. She’s had it since she was born, and it never leaves her side—even more so since Mom’s checked out.
“Try the den, then come back for breakfast. I’m taking you to school today.”
I pull a bowl from the cupboard and pour some cereal in it for her. Looks like she doesn’t remember, either. Though why would she at her age?
Happy Birthday to Me.
Opening my locker, I see a card lying on top of my books. Frowning, I quickly turn my head and scan the corridor but can’t see anyone acting suspiciously. I take it out and stare at this inoffensive looking white envelope. It looks like a birthday card. But who sent it? There’s no one around here who would send a card. Apart from my friend, Summer, and we’re supposed to be getting together later on.
I stare for a while then finally run my finger under the seal and pull out one of those cards with a black and white photo of a young boy from the 1920s on the front, dressed in long shorts and a cap on his head. When I open it, I’m confronted by bright red letters, saying:
Jerk off to this, you perv
I drop the card to the ground and stamp on it, twisting and twisting my foot trying to destroy the disgusting contents. Why? My dad’s the perv. The pedophile. The murderer. I’m not responsible for what he’s done.
Then why do idiots like this act like I am? It’s been nine months but they behave like it was yesterday. Whispering when I walk by. Staring at me in the cafeteria. Ignoring me. That’s high school kids for you. Fucking hardnosed bastards. Why can’t things go back to how they were? When I’d hang out with my friends talking about football, cars and college applications.
“Got a problem, loser?” snarls Darren Foster, as he creeps up behind me.
My heart pounds. Not because I’m scared of him. No way. He’s a pathetic piece of shit. He just caught me off guard, that’s all. I’ve known him since elementary school, was even friends with him then. Not now. Not for a long time. And now I know who put the card in my locker.
“Fuck off,” I say turning and shoving him so hard he has to grab hold of the lockers to stop from falling.
“You’ll be sorry for that,
I’ll be waiting for you. Better watch your back.” He puffs out his chest and lifts his shoulders to try and make himself seem taller. He’s got a real complex about being only five seven and hates that I’m over six foot.
“Yeah right.” I glance to the side as a couple of ninth grade boys walk past.
“You can’t stop yourself, can you? Like father like son.” His eyes narrow and he stares at me with such hatred I want to punch his lights out.
“Shut up, Foster.” I grab him by the neck and hold him against the locker. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He wriggles and waves his fists in my direction but can’t reach. Eventually I let him go, disgusted with myself for stooping to his level, and he falls to the floor. I turn and begin to walk away when he starts again.
“You’re telling me you had no idea what he did? Are you sure he didn’t take you with him, so you could watch him touch those boys and see them squirm and scream for their lives until they were dead? That you weren’t there when Warren’s cousin was killed?”
I feel sick to my stomach. A distant cousin of a guy at school was one of Dad’s victims. I knew about it at the time the body was found. We all did. But the boy lived way down in southern Arizona so it wasn’t something we got sucked into. And it was my dad who did it. My fucking dad. How could Foster even think that I’d want to be there when that was happening?
I retrace my steps and stand in front of him, as he scrambles to his feet.
“I told you. I. Am. Not. My. Father.” I fold my arms tightly across my chest and eyeball him.
“Not yet. But, in the future you will be. See, it’s
in the blood
. Everyone knows that.”
What the fuck? He doesn’t know that. No one does. I can’t listen to what he’s saying or I’ll go crazy. It’s not in the blood. No. Absolutely, definitely not….
“You’re talking garbage. You’ve no proof, you jerk.”
“I don’t need proof, it’s there for everyone to see. Like when we all thought you must be gay for not doing Summer Mackenzie. We just hadn’t realized you’d prefer
The hairs on the back of my neck stand at the mere mention of her name coming from his depraved lips.
Summer lives next door and she’s my best friend. We’ve known each other since kindergarten. And I didn’t
Summer because I
her. She’s never wavered in her support for me, not once. I couldn’t ask more than that. The trouble is my feelings for her are way stronger than you have for a friend. I’ve wanted to ask her out for ages and even planned to ask her to the fall dance last year but backed out at the last minute. I didn’t want to risk our friendship. It doesn’t matter now.
“Leave Summer out of it,” I growl.
I draw my fist back and am just about to lay one on him, when I hear someone running up behind me shouting, “Jed. Stop. Stop.” I turn and see Troy. “He’s not worth it. Do you wanna get charged for assault? Leave him alone.”
Troy’s right, Foster’s
I drop my arm, and stare at Foster.
“Fuck off. Just
,” I holler.
I’m not my dad. I’m never gonna be my dad. I don’t care what Foster says, he knows nothing.
“You fuck off,” Foster says over his shoulder after marching off and he’s far enough away from me so I can’t grab him. Wise move, the way I’m feeling.
“Ignore that asswad,” Troy says shaking his head.
Troy’s in my class and has been a good friend since it all happened. Treated me like he always has and not some weird specimen.
I let out a long sigh then bend over and pick up the card, tear it in to pieces and toss it in the trash. Then I reach into my locker for some books and head down the corridor toward the lab for IT.
At my age I shouldn’t be so pathetic about my birthday, it’s just that they’ve always been such a big thing in our house. For that one day everyone has to do what the birthday person asks them to. It’s tradition. It’s…
“Jed. Happy Birthday.” The sound of Summer’s cheery voice jerks me away from my thoughts.
She’s with her friend Rachel, and is head and shoulders taller than her. I watch as she runs over, her long dark hair hanging loose over her shoulders and swinging from side to side. She flings her arms around me and kisses me on the cheek. I breathe in her scent, a light sort of sweet and fruity smell. It’s just so…
I want to put my arms around her and hug her tightly, to forget everything that’s happened and pretend I’m living in a parallel universe somewhere. Or just back to fall last year, when we’d go for picnics in our special place, Redwood Park, where we’d sit under the trees for hours planning our futures. But I don’t. Instead she drops her arms and steps back. As friends do.
“Thanks,” I mutter, trying to smile but all I end up doing is twitching my lips slightly.
She hands me a card, which I stare at with trepidation, then berate myself for being so stupid. Summer’s not out to screw me over.
“Did your mom get you anything?” she asks.
“What do you think? She didn’t even remember it’s my birthday. Acted like today’s no different from any other day.”
I open the card and have to fight back the emotions when I read her message.
Don’t let them get you down.
You’re the real deal
“She might have something for you when you get home,” she says, sounding hopeful.
I’d love to share her optimism but my guess is Mom’s forgotten. Or if she did remember, didn’t think it worth celebrating.
“Not gonna happen. It’s okay, I don’t mind. She is how she is.”
And nothing’s gonna change it. Life as I used to know it is gone.