The Derelict Chronicles: Gen 2, Chapter 3

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My father’s visit was awkward and full of tears (from both of us) and a lot of weird hugging.  He was old.  He had gotten old while I was away, and my ‘tragic disappearance,’ as the news called it, caused even more aging.

He asked me if I was safe, if I was happy, if I wanted to come home.

“I do want to come home,” I whispered softly.  “I just… I don’t want to bring any more trouble onto the family.  The kids’ dad, he’s… he’s getting out of jail tomorrow and he already thinks I-“

“You’re still my little girl, Ella.  Your mother I want you to come home to us and we promise we’ll do all we can to protect you.  Whoever this man is… if he has a rap sheet, his word is nothing compared to mine.”

I nodded and murmured, “Are you sure?  I can come home?”

More tears erupted and he held me close.  “I love you, Ella Bella.  You never really left in our eyes.”

He had always called me that and it always made me roll my eyes.  Now it made my heart squeeze painfully.  “I love you too, Daddy.”

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My dad took me into town first so I could get my hair dyed back to its natural color and trimmed up, and also to get some fresh clothing. My mother met me outside of the house and enveloped me in her still-strong arms.  I snuggled into her and breathed in her scent, whispering, “I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t apologize, Sweetpea,” she murmured.  “You’re home and you’re safe now.  Now, let me see those grandbabies.”

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My days on the farm were full of milking and egg collecting and weeding.  I was too busy to worry that Beau was out of jail now and might be looking for me.

I gave my dad enough information so that he knew Beau might be looking for me.  He promised me he would tell the police to keep a detail on him, but he also assured that his shotgun was still above the mantle and in as good of condition as always.

“I’d love the little fucker to try something,” he added ominously before looking at me apologetically.  “Sorry, Ella.”

I shrugged.  “I’d like nothing more than for my Dad to kick his ass, so, no harm done.”

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I tried to spend every night bonding with my kids and showing them that I was still their mom, that I still cared, I just wasn’t with them all the time anymore.  Not to mention that their daddy was dangerous and if they saw him, to call the police.

Fennec was the easiest one to adjust – he loved Grandma and cooking with her, so he didn’t mind Mom being out of the house so much.  Even so, we spent every night, come rain or shine, fishing.

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Becca (my mom had helped me with names and we picked Rebecca for my youngest) and I worked on her skills – mostly language, as she seemed to be a bit slow in understanding and retaining. I was hoping she was just absent minded and there wasn’t something more damaging going on.

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And then my father made an announcement – he had retired and was being honored at the City Hall.  He asked that we all attend with him.  I was thrilled for him – he had been with the force for thirty-five years and had served them loyally.

We all went out to dinner the next night to celebrate – and someone I didn’t expect to ever see again showed up.

“Mr. Quezada, Mrs. Quezada… Ella.”

I turned and my eyes widened.  It was the firefighter who had delivered Rebecca so long ago.  “Hi!” I exclaimed, shocked.  I got to my feet and shook his hand, Becca on my hip.

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“So this is the little one?” he said with a grin, reaching out to Becca.  To my shock, she didn’t shy away, like she usually did with men – she reached right out to him and willingly went into his arms.  She was running her hands through his hair and he was laughing, swaying her back and forth.   “The name is Julian.  Julian Mayberry.  I don’t think we ever exchanged real pleasantries.”

I grinned.  “Ella Quezada, but you evidently knew that.”

“I hope you weren’t too mad,” he added gently.

“For what?”

“For me telling your dad that I saw you,” he said softly.  “Your dad and my dad were friends and, well, I heard a lot about you.  Once you went missing…” he shrugged.  “I couldn’t just let it go when I saw you.”

“I’m glad you told,” I said with a smile.

“You look much better,” he smiled, seeming a little shy.  “You know, now that you’re not skin and bones.”

We talked for a bit more before dinner came and I had to excuse myself.  Before he left, though, he handed me a card with his number on it.   I smiled and slipped the card into my purse, sitting down to dinner.

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It took me a week to scrounge up the courage to call Julian.  “Want to grab a coffee in town or something?” I asked breathlessly when he answered.

He was quiet for a moment before asking groggily, “Who is this?”

I could have kicked myself.  “Sorry, um, this is Ella.  Ella Quezada?  Sergio’s daughter?”

He chuckled.  “Ah, of course. Sorry, I was asleep – bad night last night, a few fires and cats stuck in trees. You know. Big important firefighter stuff.  Coffee sounds good, but how about we do something a little more exciting?”

I balked. Exciting?  Wasn’t that how Beau always phrased things before his fist started slamming into me?

“The fair is in town,” he offered.

I swallowed, forcing my heartbeat to slow.  He only meant a fair.  Not breaking into a house or robbing a convenience store.  “Sure.  That sounds… good.”

“Tomorrow around noon work?  Bring the kids,” he added sweetly.  “I think they’d like it.”

“Sure,” I repeated before hanging up.  I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this, but what was the worst that could happen?

Now to go shopping for some normal clothes that didn’t look like a drug dealer bought them for his broken family.

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When we got to the fair, I didn’t see Julian anywhere. It was fine, though, since we showed up early.  Fennec was quick to run off and grab a free snocone, leaving me standing idly on the sidewalk, bouncing Becca on my hip.

“Ella?”

I knew the voice before I turned.  My heart was in my throat as I turned.

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My brother.  I hadn’t seen him in so long.  He looked good – older and dressed in a suit.  He took me into his arms in a swift motion, hugging me close.  He even got a little teary.

He kept apologizing for the way he treated me as kids.  “I always loved you,” he said sincerely, taking my free hand in his. “When you left…”

“I know, I’m the one who’s sorry,” I said softly. “I was stupid.”

He shrugged.  “We all do dumb stuff.  If… if you’re willing-“

My phone began shrilling right then.  “Sorry, Bray,” I said quickly, grabbing my phone.  “Hello?”

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“Ella, thank God, it’s Julian!  Sorry, I’m going to be a bit late – something came up at work and I need to go in and help find a rabbit – long story, tell you more when I see you.”

“Ok, no problem,” I said with a grin.  A rabbit?  “See you soon.”

When I hung up, Brayden looked sheepish.  “Sorry, I didn’t know you were meeting someone.  Mom just said you were coming with the kids…” he trailed off and reached out to stroke Becca’s cheek.  She hid her face in the crook of my neck, but giggled.  She was playing coy.  What a flirt.

“No, no, it’s fine.  He’s late, so no big deal.  What were you saying earlier?”

Brayden looked uncomfortable.  “Ariana’s here, too.  She’d love to see you. She really beat herself up a lot when you left, and she… well, if you’re willing… she’d like to talk with you.”

I nodded, my throat sealing up.  I wasn’t sure what all of these lightheaded, emotional feelings were, but it felt good. It felt like healing.

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Ari was just how I remembered her – slender, effortlessly beautiful – and now she had a wedding band.  We talked a bit over some iced coffees and she dished on her new husband.

“He’s a boat captain,” she said with a faint smile.  “He got me into diving.  I do it for a living now. I’m more accustomed to the water than dry land,” she laughed, flicking her blond hair over one shoulder.

“We missed you,” she added, the change of topic making her smile disappear.  “I’m so sorry if I was the reason.  I’m sorry if I…” she trailed off and looked away.

“It was my fault,” I replied, patting her hand.  “I left because of me.  Not you.”

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“Ella!” I turned to see Julian jogging my way, seeing breathless.  “God, I am so sorry, I-” he broke off, eyes landing on Ariana.

Oh great, I thought with an internal sigh.  I never stand a chance against the golden goddess.

“Hey Ariana,” he greeted before turning his attention back to me.  “Do you and the kids want something to eat or drink?  My treat. Then we can throw ourselves onto the dance floor and embarrass everyone.”

I grinned.  “Sure, thanks.  Anything is fine.”

When he went to he concession stand, Ariana bumped my hip with hers.  “You and Julian, huh?” she said with a sneaky grin.  “Good choice, sis.  I’ll leave you to it.  Don’t be a stranger, okay?  Come visit me sometime?” She kissed my cheek and Becca’s head.

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We spent hours at the fair, eating too much, drinking too much (coffee – I saw the effects of alcohol on Beau and was not interested in any of it), and making fools of ourselves.  Julian and I danced for hours, sometimes with Becca and sometimes without.

Becca and Fennec bonded over ice cream and peek-a-boo.

And then Julian did his best to teach me how to skate.

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It’s still a work in progress.

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We sat and watched the stars come out while Becca played with her stuffed toy Grandma had given her.  Fennec was off getting another snocone (I let it go – let the kid have fun).

“I really like you, Ella Quezada,” Julian murmured softly.

I smiled faintly.  “I’m damaged goods, Julian Mayberry.”

“We all are,” he bumped my shoulder with his.  “It’s just finding the damage that works with ours, you know?”

I was about to turn and make sure his eyes seemed as truthful as his voice did when Fennec ran up to me, throwing himself into my arms.  “Mom, Dad’s here,” he whispered, his face wet with tears.  “He tried to get me to come with him.”

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I was up in an instant, trying to disentangle Fennec’s arms from my neck so that I could grab his hand and his sister. Julian heard, too, and picked up Becca and took my hand.  “Come on, I’ll get you all back home,” he said soothingly, but I saw a vein in his neck pulsing as his eyes swept over the darkened fairground.

 We made it to Julian’s car, and then home, without incident.  I could help but feel as though Beau’s eyes were on me the whole time, though.

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Julian took me up to the door and spoke with my father while I got Becca put to bed.  When I came down, Julian took me aside, his face soft.

“I’m sorry about that.”

I wanted to laugh.  He was sorry?  “You didn’t do anything.”

“I might have put you in danger by taking you somewhere public.  I should have thought…”

I kissed his cheek.  “It’s not your fault.  Thank you for the great night.  The kids had a lot of fun… and so did I.”

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The Derelict Chronicles: Gen 2, Chapter 2

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He wouldn’t change, and I knew that.  I forced myself to allow his kisses and hugs and apologies that I didn’t trust or believe.  But I force myself to play the part because I don’t want to make him angry anymore.  I don’t want to have his fury unleashed like it had been last night.

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I secretly loved when his other women would come over.  I would put myself in the kitchen and cook all day and night, eating as much as I, and the new baby, wanted.  And best of all, I didn’t have to worry about Beau – that was the other poor girl’s issue.

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One night while brushing my teeth, the baby kicked out high against my ribs.  I doubled over and felt my water break in the same instant.  Torn between the pain and anxiety, I did the only thing I thought I could – I ran outside, hailed a taxi, and sped toward the hospital.

They asked me questions I didn’t want to answer. My name, date of birth, social security number. I wanted to tell them the truth so that they could call my parents, but at the same time… I didn’t want Beau to wake up from his cocaine stupor and realize I was gone, then come here and start shit.

And he would start shit.  He had many guns and many friends with even more.  I didn’t want to chance anything.  I pretended to not speak and labored through childbirth without comfort from friends or family.

The baby was born, though, and was shockingly healthy.  I think it was mostly due to my healthy eating and pouring the beers Beau pushed at me down the sink when he wasn’t looking.

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When I got home, it didn’t take long for Beau to get back into the routine of beating and raping me whenever he could – claiming it was better now that I wasn’t so fat.  I took the abuse so that my son wouldn’t have to.

He named my son – not ours, because he did nothing for the boy other than naming him – Fennec.

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Fennec was my world and I did everything I could to stand between him and the abuse I faced daily.  I knew it wouldn’t last long, though – soon he would see the bruises or the busted lips and know I was being hurt.

Soon he would grow up and be another target for Beau.

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Years passed and I was pregnant six more times before I turned 20.  The next four after Fennec were all miscarriages – they were beaten out of me.  I never made it to the hospital for any of them – I was laid up on the floor of the bathroom, blood sticky and cold beneath me, and praying to die.

But then I would think of Fennec.  Of how he couldn’t protect himself if I left.  And so I always got up and forced myself to be alive for him.  To not give up – for him.

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My sixth pregnancy was a successful one – mainly because Beau had been caught with possession and was in jail.  I spent quality time with Fennec, teaching him to walk and talk and potty-training.  I always wanted to run back to my parents, but too much time had passed. I never saw them on tv anymore – they had given up on me.

Who was I to just show back up and expect them to take me back?

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And then a fire broke out in our poorly wired kitchen.  I called the firefighters immediately and did my best to keep the flames reduced while they were on their way.

A young firefighter, still green around the gills, turned up immediately, saying he had been in the area.  He got to work right away and finished killing the flames.

Right about then, I went into labor for the second time in my life.

“My w-water broke!” I exclaimed.

“Shit,” he whispered, tossing down the expended exstinguisher and grabbing my hands.  “Come on, I’ll get you to the hos-“

“It’s coming now!” I yelled, tears in my eyes.  I heard Fennec start sobbing in the background.

“Shit,” the firefighter repeated before lifting me up onto the table and spreading my legs.  “Push down, honey. We’ll get this baby out in no time.”

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True to his word, he delivered the baby quickly and efficiently.  The baby girl was pale and small, but she wailed with the best of them.

“Is there anything else I can help you with?” the firefighter, who didn’t even look flustered, asked gently.

I put the girl down on the sofa and wrapped my arms around him.  Tears sprang to my eyes and I whispered, “Thank you so much.  I can’t thank you enough for saving us.”

He held me and even stroked my hair for a few moments. When he pulled away, he murmured, “I’d like to know the name of the lady I just helped out.”

“Ella,” I answered without thinking.  I froze for a moment when I saw a flare of recognition in his eyes.

“Ella,” he repeated then nodded.  “Beautiful name for a beautiful new mommy.  Take care of these little ones,” he added, glancing around the dingy room.

“Thank you,” I repeated and watched him leave.

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I spent the next few days cleaning up the damage from the fire.  Four days after the birth of his daughter, Beau called me in a rage, claiming that I had ratted him out.  He threatened me, said he would come and slit my throat when he got out tomorrow.

I hung up on him, which was a colossal mistake, but… I was tired of it.  Living without him had been the most amazing experience of my life.  The most freeing.

And then the doorbell rang.

I picked up my daughter, still not sure what to name her, and went to the door.  I looked out the peephole to some old man in a sweater.  Weird, I thought, but opened up the door.

Once I saw his eyes, so much like my own, I realized who it was.

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My father had found me.

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The Derelict Chronicles: Gen 2 Chapter 1

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The second I knew, I ran to Beau.  It wasn’t exactly the best option, of course, in hind sight.  But I was sixteen. What sixteen year old has the ability to realize a good option from a bad one?

“I’m pregnant,” I blurted, hands shaky.

I could see in his face that he didn’t believe me.  “You’re just trying to get me to pay your way, that it?” he asked harshly.

I scoffed.  “You work at a convenience store.  My parents have enough money to own that convenience store.  How about you use your brain before you start talking shit.”

We’d never fought.  Mainly because he was terrifying and I didn’t want to upset him.  I took a deep breath when I saw the anger growing in his eyes.  “I’m sorry,” I began softly, reaching out to him.  He pulled back.

“What do you want from me?” He asked, annoyed.  “Too scared to tell Mommy and Daddy so you need abortion money from me?”

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“I just want you to man up and help take care of this!” I exclaimed.

“Oh, I’ll take care of this.”  His fists clenched and he began moving toward me in that violent, angry stride that used to turn me on.  I backed away, begging him not to do anything stupid.

It was then that I heard a quick blip of a police siren and my dad’s lieutenant, Morgan, jumped out of her patrol car.  “There you are! Jesus, Ella, you’ve had us all worried sick!  Your school called your Dad.  He’s not too thrilled right now.  Lets get you home.”

I glanced at Beau, then at Morgan, and turned around and ran.

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I don’t know how I avoided the police for the entire day.  I hid out in an orange grove and the migrant workers there didn’t pay me any mind.  I chucked my cellphone into the ocean, too.  I was completely alone with no money, no food… and a baby in my stomach.

I went to the only place I could think of.  I went to Beau’s.  It was disgusting and dirty and smelled like the wrong end of an unwashed baboon.  But I was thankful for a place to lay low, and Beau seemed in a better mood.  He even picked up some hair dye for me and told me to ‘pick a name.’

“I can’t hide forever,” I whispered, looking at the unnaturally red hair dye.

“Sure you can,” he shrugged.  “No one knows about me, right?”

I nodded.

“Good.  Go get yourself looking sexy and get into bed, yeah?”

I shuddered and moved to the bathroom, clutching the dye.

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Months dragged on and Beau was right – I could disappear.  No one ever noticed me when I went places.  I could be standing right next to my former self’s picture on the missing flyers and no one would bat an eye.

At first I was really amused when I saw my mother and father sobbing on the television, begging for me to come home, promising to not be mad, promising that they would try harder.

As time wore on and as my pregnancy got farther, it began to bother me to see them like that.  To see the gleam in their eyes die.  To see how they thought I was already dead but refused to give up the hopes I might return.  They spent thousands of dollars all on the hopes that any of the leads given were accurate.

I wished I could tell them it had never been their fault.  I was just an angsty teen and I was jealous of my good-looking, perfect siblings. I was jealous of my parents’ happiness.

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The more time I spent in the squalor and filth that was my new home, the more I longed for the my old bed’s fresh sheets and my mom’s attempts at hugs and kisses, as if I was a little kid again.  I hated the fact that I had to sleep in a flea-infested bed next to a man who smelled like burnt chemicals and cigarettes.

And then, one night, I made a mistake.

Typically I thought things out before I said them.  Beau was always on meth or cocaine, sometimes a combination, and so it was pretty imperative I not piss him off.

But like I said, I made a mistake.

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“I think I want to go home,” I murmured.

His breath smelled like the cheap beer he always drank.  “Oh yeah?  Run home to mommy and daddy?  So that’s what you want now?  The home I made for you ain’t good enough?”

“That’s not-” I sputtered, realizing my blunder.

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He was on me in an instant.  My head smacked the floor and everything went dull.  I heard ringing in my ears and felt his body pushing down on my belly.  I tried to call out, to tell him he was hurting the baby.  But then he was hurting me, his fists raining down.

Somewhere along the way, we wound up on the bed and he was brutishly pinning me down while he forced himself on me.  I blocked most of it out – it might have been a coping mechanism or the concussion, I’m not sure.  I was just glad when he was finally done and left me sobbing quietly on the bed.

Author’s Note:

The actions depicted in this chapter are NOT condoned.  I work with battered and abused women and men on a daily basis and this is not, I repeat, NOT a healthy relationship.  If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please seek help or advice from a trained professional.

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The Derelict Chronicles: Choosing A New Heir

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Entry 1.

I don’t know why the hell they’re making me write this shit down.  Journals are for girls and pansies.  But what the fuck ever. If the parents want me to write a bunch of useless shit for a few months and then they’ll buy me a new car, then who am I to bitch?  At least I’ll get a new car.

You know what I hate about school?  One, the learning thing. It’s dumb. I can learn just as easily on my damn computer at home. Least then I could be eating Cheetos and chatting with the ladies.  In my boxers. Because, really, there is no other way to eat Cheetos or chat with the ladies.

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Entry 2.

Oookay… so now what the hell do I say? Something about my family?  Well hell.  There’s Ella.  She’s a total ass but she’s fun to scare the shit out of. It’s pretty easy to do, too.

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Ariana is cool.  Well, as cool as a little sister can be.  We get each other. That might be because of our penchant for prank wars, usually with Ella getting caught in the crosshairs… but whatever.  Ella can handle some water spraying all over the place when she goes to wash her hands.

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Mom is Mom.  She works in the garden a lot and she’s annoying all the time. She’s either pissed that I stayed out too late, pissed my homework isn’t done, or pissed I still have my dirty socks all over my floor.  Or, she gets annoyingly lovey and tries to hug me.  Jesus, Mom, I’m not eight. I hope you really do read this, too, Mom!

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Dad is slowing down.  He’s cut back on his days in the force and spend a lot of time puttering around.  Look at all those grays.  According to mom, they’re my fault. I think she’s just trying to take the blame off of herself. If she nags him the way she does me – God.

Entry 1.

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I have been sprayed in the face for the last time.

I swear to God, someday, these urchins they call my siblings will pay.  I am sick of getting caught between them.  I am sick of hearing Brayden and his stupid, pathetic voice while he talks to his millions of floosies.

I am sick of watching Ariana gloss her lips a million times on the school bus.  I am sick of seeing her perfect, pretty blonde hair.

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And I’m sick of my parents always taking their side.  ‘It was a harmless joke, Ella.’ Or ‘Dish it right back to them, Ella.’  How about you guys be real parents and discipline them?!

I doubt the people who call me their daughter will ever read this. They tell us to keep a diary for a few weeks and, if we do, they’ll buy all of us new cars. Pathetic.  I don’t care about a new car.  I just hope they do read this and see what hell they put me through.

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My only real friend is Annabelle.  She’s so old now.  I’m worried she’ll die soon.  She still seems spry and young.  But you never know with cats.  One day they’ll be fine and the next…

Whatever. It’s not like there’s anything I can do about it.

Entry 2.

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It didn’t take long for me to track down my grandmother.  My mother and father had never spoken about them, insisted they moved far away, even.  Well, I found Angelina quite by accident in the supermarket I work at part time.  She was shopping and I remembered her glowing skin, even though I was tiny the last time I saw her.

She didn’t ask if mom knew I was coming over instead of going to school.  I didn’t supply information, either.

Grandfather was always quiet and didn’t talk to me much.  I didn’t mind, though. He creeped me out.

Anyway. When I wasn’t in their tiny little boathouse, I was evading school by hanging out at the beach.  That’s where I met him – Beau Wallis.

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He is crazy, controlling, jealous and a manipulative liar.  He’s older than my mom.  He’s trouble.  And that’s what I love about him.  He doesn’t tell me my dreams are stupid or that I’m too young to know what I want.  When I told him I wished my parents were dead, he didn’t judge me. In fact, he smiled like he understood.

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I felt loved for the first time in a long time.

Damn, this diary stuff is pretty nice.  Writing down my thoughts.  Too bad there’s no way in hell I will ever hand this over to the parents.  Fuck them and their car bribe.  Beau can take me anywhere I need to go.

Entry 1.

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Hi Mom and Dad!!!  I really really hope you read all of this so you can see how cool school and things are!!!  So, lets start right away, yeah?  So, I spend a lot of time in my room, as you both know.  Not because I am texting friends but because I study. A lot.  And I like sitting and thinking. I’m pretty into the brooding thing right now.

Also! Also, you should both know that I haven’t skipped school ONCE.  (Just ignore what the office says – they always screw up people’s attendance!)

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Brayden is a lot of fun.  We like hanging out together. Don’t yell at us so much when we mess around – being destructive is a show of creativity, my art teacher says.  So what if it was Aunt Millie’s vase?  That stuffy old thing was ugly anyway.

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School is the greatest! I love my English professor, Mr. Engle.  He’s kinda hot (wink wink mom – dad, ignore this) and he teaches good.  Well. He teaches well.  See?

Entry 2.

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I am so sick of Ella!  Mom, why do you always let her bitch about me all the time? She keeps trying to get me into trouble for stuff I didn’t do.  She’s so moody and such a grump.  I’m sick of living with her.

I really wish she would just leave like she keeps claiming she will.   I mean, she even went to prom and sulked and moaned and made a miserable mood for all of us.

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Brayden thinks she’s a demon in disguise. Don’t tell him I told.

Anyway, right after prom she started throwing up.  It was disgusting. I was in the bathroom, trying to take a shower, and she barrels in and starts spewing. I don’t know what got into her. It’s not like she ever eats, so I’m surprised she somehow got food poisoning.

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Sergio shook his head, closing Ariana’s journal.  “None of them are ready.  Brayden is too full of himself, too reckless.  Plus, he forgets simple commands.”

Layla nodded thoughtfully.  “Ella didn’t even turn in anything to us, but her attitude says enough, in my mind.  She is in the heat of rebellion. She might kill us all if we left her in charge, just to spite us.”

“And who knows about Ariana,” Sergio sighed.  “She says one thing, but I know her. She’s smart and sharp – what she writes is what she wants us to think of her, not who she really is.  Who knows if that is a good thing or a bad thing.”

“What will we do?” Layla murmured softly.

Sergio swallowed.  “We have to choose the lesser of the three evils.”

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Generation 2 is Here! Who will our new Heir be?

For those of you who have followed along with the story, you know that being the Heir isn’t exactly great. Sure, you come into a huge house with tons of money, but… you also have to stay on the land, protect it, and nurture it.  Thanks to a tricky Faerie’s promise a century ago, the Derelict family is tied to their piece of land – forever.

Here are the unfortunate victims… er… candidates!

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Brayden Derelict –  light brown hair – hazel eyes

Brayden was Layla’s first born, bastard-son to Aric Stacy.  Aric died before Brayden was born.  Breyden is like his father – he dresses well, exudes confidence, and is a total ladykiller.  He loves women, especially older, wealthy women.  He is very bright and very crafty, although he does poorly in his classes due to attitude and attendance.

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Ella Quezada – black hair – dark brown eyes

Ella is much like her father; she is aloof and quiet, always studying and trying to better herself.  She secretly hates her siblings because she feels that they get more attention than her – even though she turns away what attention is given.  She secretly hates her parents and their happiness and wishes for nothing more than an accident to befall one of them.  She dreams of running away to Paris and becoming a famous singer.

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Ariana Quezada – blonde hair – brown eyes

Ariana was pampered by her father while growing up and frequently got out of trouble with a few bats of her eyelashes.  She is a complete flirt and trouble maker, but her big doe-eyes get her out of almost anything.  She and Brayden are thick as thieves, but she loves tormenting her older, more conservative sister.  She is exceedingly bright and knows just how to worm her way out of trouble.

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The Derelict Chronicles: Chapter 14

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They had to call my doctor in from home – the second we got into the hospital room, I knew I was going into labor – right then.  The nurses had gone out to get a blood transfusion packet going, but I couldn’t wait for that.

“Get a nurse, get someone!” I yelled at Sergio, who looked on in terror.  I don’t think I’d ever seen him so concerned over anything before in our time together.  He was out the door in search of someone.

I was crying as I let my body do what it wanted to do – I began pushing as hard as I could, ready to catch the kid myself if someone didn’t show up soon.

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From the moment the nurses handed me my new baby, I knew she would be something special.  I had almost lost her – her neck had been caught in the umbilical cord had wrapped around her neck and the placenta had ruptured.

She seemed more alert than either of my other children had been, and much more quizzical.  Sergio and I named her Ariana.

The children grew and grew.

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Brayden, like his father, came close to flunking out of high school.  He didn’t take any of our scolding or groundings seriously – somehow he was completely fine with being restricted to his room without a cell phone.

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Ella, on the other hand, was always studying. She wasn’t especially quick, but she was tenacious – she sat at the table with her notebook for hours most nights, turning away our offers to help her.  She was a lot like Sergio – brooding, silent, aloof.  She became even more so the older she got.  But she loved us, in her own quiet way.  The only thing she loved openly and without reservation was Annabelle.

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Ariana, though, was a mini version of me. She was full of energy and loved to play ‘look at me.’  Her antics only got worse the older she became, and her older brother always seemed to be getting her into trouble.  All she had to do was flutter her eyelashes innocently, though, and Sergio gave in to most anything she wanted.  It could have been that ‘innocent until proven guilty’ look that made him fall in love with me – and now he saw it in our daughter.  It was no secret that she was his favorite, although he loved all of the kids.  She would always be daddy’s little girl.

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These were our kids… and pretty soon, we would have to choose which of them should bear the curse of the farm and take up my role as heir.

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The Derelict Chronicles: Chapter 13

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My brother became a distant memory for all of us. Another quiet three years had passed with Sergio turning down job opportunities in bigger cities so we could stay on our little islet.  We didn’t need the money – our garden was steadily producing and Sergio made more than enough for our small family.

Ella grew up as all children do.  She looked just like her father, from her glossy black hair to her dark, soulful brown eyes.  She was a quick study and a little too smart for her own good.

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Our little family was happy and threat-free.  My mother and Jeremie had even stopped keeping up their nightly vigil, assuming that my brother had finally given up.  I agreed with them, but there was always a nagging fear that entered my heart whenever the darkness descended on our land.

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One morning I was up early, getting ready for one of Brayden’s school trips to the beach.  Mother came in and began making coffee quietly, something brooding about her demeanor.  I never asked about her relationship with Jeremie, but lately something about it had been really bugging me.

“Mom,” I began quietly, “remember that night you came back?  When you were in the family plot?”

She smiled softly, turning my way.  “Of course, dear.  It was my first time seeing you as an adult.  Your first time seeing me.”

I swallowed.  “You told me not to trust anyone.  Not even you.  What did you mean?”

Her face darkened and she shook her head.  “No need for drudging up the past, little one.”

“What?” I laughed in disbelief.  “I think it’s a pretty significant thing!  Don’t you think you should explain yourself?”

She glanced back toward her bedroom, where Jeremie was still sleeping, I supposed.  “Keep your voice down,” she hissed.  Her eyelashes fluttered for a moment before she snapped, “I can’t talk to you about any of that.  It was a warning that seemed like a good thing at the time.  Ignore it.”

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I didn’t let it go, though.  “You can explain it to me or get the hell out of my house,” I replied coldly.  “I can’t have anyone here I can’t trust with my family.”

She shook her head, pale hair fanning around her face for a moment.  “My will is not my own,” she finally murmured – darkly.  “I was raised from the grave by a Puppet Master – I am his poppet.  I am his tool, his toy.  Anything he wants of me, I do.”

I swallowed.  “How so?”

She looked away. “Haven’t you wondered where Damon has been?” she said calmly.

I narrowed my eyes.  I hadn’t seen him in four years at least.

“He angered his Puppet Master.  He is no longer of this mortal coil,” she said gently, her gaze softening. “Jeremie gave us life and he can take it away in an instant.  Anything he wants of me, I will do.  Even if it means raising a hand to my own kin.”

My eyes were wide and I was shocked to find tears in them.  “What?”

“He wants you alive, and your kin alive,” she added.  “You are in no danger from him… as of this moment.”

My mouth fell open.  Was she insinuating that…

“Get out,” I whispered.

“Layla, you’ll only make things worse by-“

“I want you both out by the time I come home,” I whispered.  I turned away from her and headed upstairs to wipe away my tears and get Brayden ready for the field trip.

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We stayed at the beach long after Brayden’s classmates were picked up by their parents. I didn’t want to go home, afraid that mom and Jeremie might still be there. I had called Sergio to tell him what happened and he assured me he would make sure they were gone before I came home.

When my phone began to ring around 7, I answered it instantly.

Sergio said the sweetest words I could hear at that point.  “All clear.  They’re gone and so are their things.  I have a locksmith on the way out the change all the locks and we’ll have security installed tomorrow morning.”

“Thanks, babe,” I murmured before hanging up. To the kids I mustered the biggest smile I could.  “Ice cream on the way home?!”

The excitement was enough to make me push aside my fears for a while.

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When we got home, the kids were worried about ‘Grandma and Grandpa’ not being home. We explained that they moved to their own home so that they could spend more private time together, which was a lie we were too eager to tell.

The kids seemed to forget their upset feelings as soon as ice cream, toys, and X-Box 360 were broken out.  Sergio and I stayed up all night, anxious and concerned about vengeance which never came.

The next morning, our security system was installed.

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A few months had passed with only myself and Sergio to look after the kids. It was getting tough to take care of Ella while still taking care of the land – damn near impossible, in fact.

And that was when it occurred to me – I had missed my period this month.

“Sergio,” I called out.  He poked his head around the corner, an eyebrow cocked.  “I think… I might need to go into town tomorrow. To see a doctor.”  Before he could get concerned, I rubbed a hand over my belly.

He instantly understood and looked just as worried as I felt.  “I… I’ll take Ella into the precinct with me tomorrow.  Just… call me when you know.”

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Another positive.  Our lives were about to get a lot harder.

That night when I got home, I made a few phone calls. It was time to get some professional help around the house just so I could have time to work in the garden.  My life, and my children’s lives, depended on that land.

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The live-in nanny, Frieda, was everything I could have hoped for.  We took out the bathroom that had been built beside Ella’s room and turned it into a small room for the nanny, a newly graduated teen who was in need of a place to stay and money.  She became like the family.

During those nine months of pregnancy, we celebrated three major milestones.

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The first was Sergio turning 35 and becoming officially an ‘adult.’

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Brayden also grew into a self-absorbed teen – very much like his biological dad.  Evidently nature did triumph over nurture.

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Despite his superiority complex, he loved his sister to death.  Ella aged into an even more gorgeous young lady just weeks before my due-date with her future brother or sister.

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That night, I awoke them all with my shouts as the pain started.  I had awoken in a cold sweat in a puddle of blood.  Fear sprang into my throat – the baby was coming, now, and something was wrong.  Very wrong.

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