Authors: Jennifer Snyder
Tags: #romance, #young adult, #Love, #mature young adult, #drama, #emotioal
The Unloved copyright © 2012 Jennifer Snyder
Cover art by Stephanie Mooney of Mooney Designs.
This novel is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to peoples either living or deceased is purely coincidental. Names, places, and characters are figments of the author’s imagination. The author holds all rights to this work. It is illegal to reproduce this novel without written expressed consent from the author herself.
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For my husband, Brandon.
There was a place on the lot of the abandoned, dilapidated house that rested across the street from mine, a place I used to hide in when I was little. A white shed with peeling paint and a dented green door. It wasn’t just my place—it was Nick’s place, too.
That white shed was the only place we could run to and never be found. It was the only place where my mother’s alcoholism and groping boyfriend of the week couldn’t reach me. The only place where Nick’s father’s fists couldn’t find him and his mother’s sobs couldn’t touch his ears. It was our escape, our hideout from our horrible home lives.
A secret place for only Nick and me.
Until one day, it just became mine. I was almost fifteen when my best friend, my secret keeper, my protector, moved away, leaving me alone to fend for myself with the things that happened in my house behind closed doors. The things that my oldest brother had moved away from a year and a half ago, leaving me and our younger brother behind to deal with it on our own—the pills, the empty fridge, and worst of all—for me at least—the old men with groping hands and hungry eyes that my mother bought home nightly who made me wish my bedroom door had a lock.
My mom was a sex-crazed stripper and my brothers and I were her little bastard babies. This was what the uppity churchgoers in Harper, North Carolina—where trailer trash and white trash were interchangeable descriptions for my family and me—whispered about. And just like the trailer trash comment, it was true. Charlotte Porter, or as I called her, mom, by all definitions was a sex-crazed stripper who danced seven nights a week from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. at the Luscious Lizard, which was about a forty-five minute drive out of town. And my brothers and me? Well, we were little bastard babies, considering she’d never married any of our fathers and didn’t even know who our dads were.
These little truths about my life bothered me, but not nearly as much as Nick being gone. After a while I’d stopped wondering when or if he’d ever come back and accepted his absence in my life.
I sauntered back to the tan ‘97 Ford Taurus and heaved out another large box. My eyes darted to the house across the street from mine and then shifted to the one beside it—the house with the faded brown siding, falling gutters, and tall grass in the front yard. The house used to be Jules’ back before I’d been shipped off to live with my aunt and uncle in Southern Georgia until my mom and dad could work things out. I frowned at the thought of how long I’d been gone—two years.
It had taken my mom two years to finally kick my S.O.B. father to the curb and tell me I could come home. I was glad she’d finally done it. Shit, who was I kidding, I was freaking ecstatic she’d finally seen the light and realized she deserved better than someone who beat her for letting the fridge run low on beer.
I knew it had only been four days since he’d been gone, but four days was better than none.
“Better hurry up and bring that box in here before it starts raining!” mom shouted from the front door, snapping me from my thoughts. I shifted the box I’d been holding around in my arms and started up the three concrete steps at our front door. “That girl still lives there, you know? The one you used to play with when you were little.”
“I wouldn’t call it playing, Mom.” I scoffed as I squeezed past her through the door and back toward my room down the hall.
“Well then, what
you call it?” she asked, following me.
I sat the box down on my rickety twin bed and turned to face her. The bruises my dad had left in his wake had begun to fade from her face, but the sight of them—past and present, hers and my own—would forever be scars on my soul.
Jules and I had never played together. No. We’d hidden together from the monsters in our lives and prayed they wouldn’t find us. Even as little kids we’d known how cruel the world could be. How hateful some grown-ups were. How sick and perverse.
“Surviving,” I said and turned to unpack my things.
I wasn’t sure why I expected this year to be any better. Maybe it was because I was under the spell of senioritis. That sickness that seemed to take over your mind the summer between junior and senior year, the one that gave you a false sense of freedom, one I was sure wouldn’t let up until after graduation.
Who was I kidding? For me, it wasn’t just that sense of freedom from school, it was a sense of freedom from my home life. By the end of this year I’d be eighteen, a high school graduate, and hopefully, finally able to move out and get my own place.
A tiny pinprick of guilt stabbed me in the heart. Could I really leave Cole behind? Could I really be as selfish as Logan had been when he’d left both of us with that woman we were supposed to call mom to move in with his girlfriend? I wasn’t sure that I could. Granted, Cole would be turning fifteen soon and it wasn’t like things at home were as bad for him as they were for me, but I still felt like I’d let him down somehow if I left.
“Julie! Hey, wait up!” a voice called from behind me, forcing me from my thoughts. I spun around, knowing exactly who I would find—Tiffany.
I paused and waited for her to catch up to me, then smiled when I saw her bright pink stripe of hair in the front that had replaced the lavender I’d seen just the other day.
“Did you get a locker yet?” she asked.
I dangled the combination lock from my index finger. “Sure did.”
“Awesome, I think I would die of boredom waiting in that long ass line.” She sighed dramatically.
“It was gruesome; I’m not gonna lie. So what’s up with the new color? When did you do that?” I smirked.
“Last night, like it?” Tiffany held out the streaked strand of hair so I could get a better look.
I nodded and continued toward locker number 205. “Looks good.”
“Want me to do one for you? I have some stuff left.” She grinned.
I frowned. On Tiffany a pink streak of color looked cute, fun, and non-scanky. On me, I was positive it would look none of those things. In fact I was sure it would make me look like a strawberry tart or something in contrast with my auburn hair. Besides, I wasn’t as attention hungry as Tiffany. I preferred not to draw too much attention to myself, and colored streaks in my hair were too attention drawing for me.
“I don’t think so,” I said, stopping in front of locker number 205 and opening it to toss in my backpack. I got out one notepad and one pen before stepping to the side to let Tiffany do her thing.