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Somebody Else's Sky (Something in the Way #2)(9)

By:Jessica Hawkins

I closed my eyes. She was going to camp. Getting back on the horse. Running for herself. She was better, stronger, growing up, and if I were still in the picture, that wouldn't've been the case. The evidence was clear-in a matter of weeks, I'd turned her perfect life upside down. She was getting it right-side up again, like I'd always known she would. That didn't mean it didn't hurt, knowing she was moving on, but as long as she was happy, being away from her was the right thing.

I must've drifted. When I came to, the lights in the cells and hallway had dimmed. The jail was still, quiet, and that only happened at the dead of night. I gathered up the letters to put them away when I noticed the other one I'd been avoiding. It wasn't from Lake, but it'd be easier to read since I didn't really give a shit what it said.

I ripped open the envelope, probably taking off some of the letter itself, and held it out to the bit of light coming into the cell.

Did you get my last few letters, Son?

I've been calling, but they say I'm still not approved to visit. Your mom, either.

I was planning to drive out there. I didn't want to go into all this over a letter, but what else can I do? It's like a parasite inside me, and I can't move on with my life until I get it out.

Weak, pathetic piece of shit. My dad's chicken-scratch filled up three whole goddamn pages, front and back. I'd read his first letter with my eyebrows drawn, certain it'd gotten to the wrong "son."

Apparently, he'd been released from Pelican Bay and had been looking for me ever since. If he'd reached out to Henry or my aunt, they hadn't mentioned it, because we all had an understanding-we didn't talk about my dad. It wasn't until I'd been locked up that Dad had been able to find me. His letters were so fucking pitiful, sometimes they even made for a good laugh. 

I skimmed the words so I could trash it as fast as possible.

Rehabilitate myself . . .

In a program . . .

Bad things.

Your sister.


My attention snagged on Madison's name. I held the letter closer to my face, squinting to read.

Your sister lived in her own world. Madison could occupy herself for hours. Sometimes I just couldn't stand not knowing what was in her head. It drew me to her . . . and it infuriated me. My counselor says her innocence and simplicity "defied" the chaos in my head. I would ask her what she was thinking, but she kept me out on purpose to torture me. To tempt me. She matured too fast. One minute she was my innocent little girl, and overnight she started to change. You don't know what it's like to watch a girl become a woman.

The priest says I can be forgiven, but I have to ask for it, so here I am, asking. First, I should explain.

My father, your grandpa, started molesting me when I was seven or eight. The first time I touched your sister, it was an accident.

The floor bottomed out. I sucked in a breath as I shot up to a sitting position, knocking my head on the top bunk. No no no. This wasn't happening.

I made confession to the Lord. It's not enough. I want your forgiveness, too.

My teeth ground together to the point of pain.

Your mother took it hard, but she's decided to stand by me . . .

The dankness of the cell began to close in, suffocating me. I put my head between my knees, holding my ears as the room spun. My quiet, thoughtful sister who'd once cried herself to sleep because we'd caught a mouse in a trap. Who wouldn't harm an insect. It had to be wrong. A sick joke by a sick motherfucker. My dad had always been off, had demons.

I got up and paced the cell. I hadn't known any of this, but I had known he was fucked in the head. That he'd beaten each of us up at some point. And I hadn't stopped him.

My brain pounded, swelling in my head. My eyes burned. My heart blistered, setting fire to my chest, face, and scalp. That fuck. That stupid fuck. It wasn't enough to kill Madison, he'd had to ruin her, too. Steal her innocence from right under my nose. Maddy's and my bedrooms had shared a wall. How could I not have known? I wanted to scream, howl, feel the cold, steel bars of my cell breaking apart by my hands. I want to get loose so I could wring his neck and drain the life from his body.

I leaned my back against a wall and pinched the inside corners of my eyes. Like a sponge, hot water came out. I hadn't shed a tear since Madison's death nine years ago, not even during her funeral.

Because I didn't cry. I didn't breakdown. I got stronger. I made sure it didn't happen to anyone else I loved. I protected.

This, though, this was different. I'd lived under the same roof as a monster. Madison had never said a thing to me. She'd been a shy kid, and now I knew-she must've been a scared one. She'd never try to spite or manipulate my dad. That wasn't her. His belief that she had, that she'd tempted him, was one of a coward. Fuck forgiveness. He hadn't changed a bit.