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Authors: Virginia Duke

Damage Done

BOOK: Damage Done
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Virginia Duke


Copyright - 2013

Damage Done

Virginia Duke

All Rights Reserved


[email protected]


Shout Outs


Bananza, Lee Anna & Ms.

my e-book whore

Mindy & Heather

Oh For Fuck’s Sake

Mom (my Ginny)

All my ladies from D-town
to G-town,

and Austin to Baton Rouge!


A Romance Novel in 60 Days
or Less.

I did that.

(with two kids and a dog.)


For Wilkie,

my happily ever after.


Table of Contents



















"Dammit," she muttered, frustration beginning to

The beat up SUV idled loudly in the visitor's space. Rachel
rolled down the windows, cursing the south Texas heat and the deafening
humidity it invited in from the Gulf Coast, then closed her eyes and
concentrated on loosening her vice grip on the steering wheel while the air
conditioning to kick in. It was a short distance between the classroom and the
car, but the sweat dripped down her neck. She sought the spare rubber band she
kept handy on her wrist and reached back to pull her mousy brown hair into a
ponytail. A dozen long dry strands broke off, her once thick, attractive locks
had started to thin.

She heard her mother's voice threatening to bring in a
psychiatrist because she'd started letting herself go, "Now dumplin', if
you're not looking good on the outside then something must be wrong on the
inside." Rachel’s mother didn’t believe in mental illness unless it
manifested in dry skin and hairy legs.

She jerked toward a shrill voice that yelled, "Hayeeee
Rachel! How y'all?"

Oh gross. Harriet Whatsherface.

Rachel hated Harriet Whatsherface, and every other
two-faced talks-too-much snot she’d had to deal with since grade school, but
she forced a smile, "Hey Harriet! We're well, thanks!" then rolled up
the window and quietly sang through her teeth, "Not that you really care,
biiiiitch!" The last thing she needed was one of those sanctimonious PTA
rags running off to tell everyone they'd seen her dissolve into tears in the
elementary school parking lot.

"Mommy, we don't say 'bitch,'" Lauren lectured
disapprovingly from the backseat.

"No, ma'am, we do not," Rachel agreed, reaching
into her purse to dig around for the cheap sunglasses that were never where
they were supposed to be. Lauren went back to her little ponies and Rachel
swallowed the rising lump in her throat, the conversation she’d had with
Kenneth the night before was still too fresh.

The evening had gone by uneventfully, she sat in her corner
in the kitchen waiting for him to come in from the den. She let him know the
kids were asleep, she'd be in the kitchen waiting to talk. She doodled in her
notebook until the television clicked off and Kenneth made his way toward the
guest room.



"I asked you to make time to talk to me after the kids
went to bed.”

He came in, a sour look on his face as he opened the fridge
and stood looking over the shelves. Rachel had spent weeks trying to build up
the courage to tell him how she felt, his constant need to keep space between them
hadn’t made it any easier.

"Will you come sit down with me, please?"  she

"I can hear you just fine, Rachel," he’d said,
leaning against the counter with a liter bottle of root beer.

"Fine. I think we need counseling, Kenneth." He
stared straight ahead.

"I’m just really unhappy," she continued,
"And I don’t think you’re happy either, we can’t live like this." He
twisted the lid back onto the bottle and turned to put it up, then shuffled
through a drawer and pulled out an apple.

"Kenneth, say something."

“I’m not going to counseling, Rachel,” he said right before
he turned to leave, “It never seemed to do you any good.” And then he’d gone to
bed and she’d stayed up far too late scratching away at her notebook, banging
out all the ugly things she wanted to say, all the things he’d said that hurt
her feelings, listing all the things she needed that she was too afraid to ask
him for.

Now she sat in the parking lot at the school trying to get
the hell over it and focus on being grateful the morning's meeting with
Hunter’s teacher had ended more quickly than the last. If only he'd stop
leaning back in his chair and bossing other kids around, she might make it
through the week without having to hear about what the principal called his
'powerful personality.'

She'd been mortified to hear those veiled criticisms, but
Kenneth never seemed to be bothered by it. He took an arrogant kind of pride in
hearing things like that about their son, "Well, goddamn, I'd rather he
have a powerful personality than be an insecure little sheep who just bah bah
bah's all the time."

Kenneth hated if she went running when they got reports
about Hunter giving his teacher a hard time. He wasn't from Harrison Township,
Kenneth didn't understand the residual effects a child could face in a small
town when their teacher ran around telling everybody what a pain in the ass
they are.

Rachel worried Hunter would slip through the cracks, maybe
teachers down the road would hear about his powerful personality and they'd
write his history before he'd have a chance to prove what a good kid he was,
maybe they wouldn't care to build up his confidence or push him to excel
because they’d be too busy trying to make sure his personality never colored
outside of the lines.

Rachel's husband disapproved of her perpetual worry when it
came to their kids. He no longer cared to entertain the constant questioning of
whether it was normal for their kids to do this or say that.

"He's a boy, that's what boys do, Rachel," he
would say, and, "Stop babying him," and "When I was a kid, boys
were expected to be hyper and rambunctious. These days a kid has to have some
disability just because he talks too much."

He was right, and Rachel knew she worried too much, but she
didn't know how to stop. She appreciated the price a child could pay if their
parents weren't paying attention, weren't looking out for their best interests.
And she was determined to do whatever it took to make sure her kids were happy,
to keep them safe.

Even if that meant sucking up to cocky teachers who treated
her like some neglectful asshole parent incapable of raising her own kids.

Kenneth never got it, it made him resent her. He'd grown up
in a television sitcom kind of home with two doting parents who lived for their
kids and whose greatest fight was whether to have Chinese take-out or pizza
delivery on Friday nights. Dave and Barb Daniels were the Hallmark Greeting
Card of healthy and well adjusted coupledom, always smiling and kissing and
making the miserable couples around them even more miserable. It was one of the
reasons she'd been attracted to their son in the beginning, Kenneth was safe,
and dependable. And he'd promised he could make her happy.

"Mommy! Let's go!" the little voice demanded.

"Don't tell me what to do, Lauren. I'm the grown-up
here," she said, shooting her a dirty look in the rearview mirror. She
found the elusive sunglasses then, in the mirror, sitting on her face.

Jesus, Rachel.

Lauren wrinkled her nose and threw her curly brown hair
behind her shoulder in quiet indignation. The humidity had given it a gorgeous
Shirley Temple quality, something old ladies loved to discuss whenever they
happened upon her.

 "Oh my goodness gracious," they would coo,
"Just look at those beautiful curls."

They had no idea how hard it was to manage, or how little
it helped in tempering Lauren's three year old ego. She'd give them what Rachel
called, "the burlesque shuffle," shaking her shoulders like a
showgirl, smile coquettishly and then launch into what she wanted for her
fourth birthday. Rachel was shy and reserved as a child, even awkward, but
Lauren was born charming the adoring crowd around her.

She threw the gear shift into reverse and fumbled blindly
to find her cell phone, eager to call Kenneth and let him know how it went, that
she'd once again refused to be bullied into putting their son on Ritalin. At
least that was one thing they'd agreed on lately, not medicating their son just
to make life easier for his teachers.

No answer. She reached down and turned off her cell phone
in case he tried to call back.

Fuck you, too.

He never answered, even if he wasn't out on a call. She
didn't know why she bothered, he hadn't shown any concern over Hunter's school
problems for months, refusing to leave the fire station and come down to the
meeting that morning, he wasn't interested in having the same conversation he'd
already had four times last year.

The truth was, she hadn't even wanted him to go, she'd
worried he would tell the teachers they were lazy or ill-equipped for their
jobs. And Rachel was terrified of confrontation, she'd never been able to
regulate her emotions during conflict and always found herself flustered. Or

So she'd gone alone since she couldn't count on Kenneth to
keep the conversation constructive, diplomacy was never one of his strengths.

Kenneth's strength was playing hero, Captain America meets
the Hulk, an unapologetic superhero who never owed anybody an explanation for
the million dollar building he destroyed while protecting the city. He was
always saving somebody, and not always while he was on the clock. It was like a
code written into his DNA that he couldn't turn off.

A year after they were married, they'd seen a late night
movie, and on the way back to the car Kenneth heard something that made him
pause, alarmed. He'd posted up like a dog sensing danger, his entire body on
full alert. She waited under a light post while he checked it out, and he came
running out of the alley minutes later chasing a man he'd found attacking some

For Christmas that year, Rachel made him a long blue cape
and sewed a large red letter K on the back. She'd thought it was clever and
spent a lot of time on it. He thought she'd been mocking him. Looking back now,
maybe she was.

Stuffing the cell back into her purse, she pushed past
dozens of receipts, toddler toys and half-eaten cereal bars to feel around for
the last piece of chewing gum she knew had to be in there. She was still
searching when she pulled into the parking lot at her office, Jake was pulling
a large black duffle bag from his pickup truck, probably more film equipment.
He smiled and waved, and she rolled her eyes at his freshly shaved head,
designer jeans and the black t-shirt that accented biceps he spent hours
sculpting every day at the gym around the corner. If she didn’t love him so
much, she’d have hated him. Few men could pull off his kind of physical
perfection without being total dicks, but Jake was more benevolent, more
authentic, than any person she'd ever met. And he loved Rachel and her kids

Lauren scrambled out of her booster seat before the engine
was off, and the moment Rachel opened her door she went running up the sidewalk
calling for Jake to wait.

Rachel imagined her flying off in the other direction and
getting hit by an oncoming vehicle, her body flying through the street, having
to explain to Kenneth how it had happened, she envisioned the tear-filled
funeral and felt the pain of having to live without her baby.

Stop it already.

She shook away the dark musing and cursed how her mind
worked, plagued lately by the fear of something terrible happening. She hadn’t
always walked around imagining worst case scenarios, it was a habit that came
and went over the last fifteen years or so, and though she knew she should
examine why she'd started doing it again, it was safer to simply distract
herself. She needed to find that chewing gum.

She dumped her crowded purse onto the passenger seat and
shuffled around until the gum appeared, then popped the soft hot spearmint in
her mouth and reached up to shift the rearview mirror, wiping away bits of
mascara the heat sent running under her eyes.

BOOK: Damage Done
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