Read Nobody but Us Online

Authors: Kristin Halbrook

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Love & Romance, #Social Issues, #Runaways, #Law & Crime

Nobody but Us

BOOK: Nobody but Us
5.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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DEDICATION

To Mom, who always thought I should
,

And Dad, who always knew I could
,

With love
.

CONTENTS

Dedication

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Will

Zoe

Zoe

Zoe

Zoe

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Praise for Nobody But Us

Credits

Copyright

Back Ad

About the Publisher

ZOE

HE COMES DOWN THE ROAD IN HIS CAMARO SLIDING left to right on the freshly oiled gravel and skidding to a stop in front of my house. He’s driving so fast that I’m sure my dad is going to rouse from his drunken stupor and catch me before I can get out of the house.

“Geez, Will, you want to wake him up?” I hiss as he gets out of the car and slams the door shut.

Will looks up to my window and crunches across the gravel toward me, twirling the keys on his finger.

“Hell, he’s more plastered than the house,” he jokes with a dopey grin.

I roll my eyes and push myself away from the window ledge.

The zipper on my duffel bag and the clasp on my makeup case are securely closed. The window screen gives me more trouble than usual, but I fiddle with it for a minute. Finally, it comes out of its guide and falls to the ground with a clatter that rends the still night.

“Yeah, I’m the noisy one,” Will mutters.

“Shh!”

I toss the duffel down to him, followed by the case. He makes a quick run to his car and stashes the items on the backseat, then returns to his spot under the window.

“Ready?” I whisper. My heart races and my head swims as I take in the space between us. Relax, Zoe, it’s the same drop you’ve done before.

“Drop, baby,” Will says, holding his hands out to me.

I take a slow breath. Climb into the window frame. He waits there, below me, that same eager look in his eyes he always has. Maybe they’re brighter this time. Or maybe it’s me, seeing something brighter to come.

“Come on, Zoe. I’ll never drop you.”

“I know.”

I close my eyes. The swirling in my vision stops, but my stomach buckles. I sway. Then I push off. The one-second fall feels like an eternity of stomach-in-my-throat weightlessness, but Will catches me. I throw my arms around him and seek his mouth, kissing him.

“I have to get my chimes.”

“I already told you, they’re too big to hang from the mirror.”

“I know. But I’m not leaving them here for him.”

Will sets me on my feet, and I dash up the three steps to the front porch. The chimes are in the corner. They were my mom’s and now they’re mine. I drag a chair over and push it against the railing, climb up, and balance precariously on the edge of the chair. The chimes tinkle a greeting at me as I reach for them, the dolphins brushing up against the steel rods in the center.

I lift the chimes off their hook with one hand and coddle the metal pieces with the other. They make too much noise, but I have them. I step down and peer into the living room window. My dad, who had fallen asleep in his recliner, like he does most nights of the week, stinking of whiskey and rot, is no longer in his chair.

I freeze. The chimes crash to the ground.

“Crap,” I whisper.

“Zoe?” Will calls from the yard. He comes forward and leaps the three porch steps in one stride. “You okay?”

My blood rushes in and out of my chest with painful speed. I kneel down and scoop the chimes into my hands, methodically untangling the thin wire that holds the dolphins and rods in place.

“I’m okay. Just, he’s not in the living room.”

This knot won’t unravel under my shaking fingers. Come on.
Please
release.

Will passes by me and looks in the window. “Probably in the bathroom.” He puts his hand on my elbow and tugs. “Let’s get out of here.”

Before I am able to straighten up, the porch light goes on, bathing us in yellow. We stand still as statues, as though that would make the light go back off, make my dad go back to sleep.

The door opens. He shuffles onto the deck, a nearly empty bottle dangling at his side.

“What’re you doin’, Zoe?” he slurs, squinting at me. My breath comes too fast for me to be able to answer. My heart pumps in my chest in short, staggered movements. “What th’ hell’s he doing here?”

My dad points his bottle at Will. I close my eyes, willing my dad back to sleep. Will’s grip on my elbow tightens.

“Git off my property, boy, or I’ll call th’ cops,” my dad says through gritted teeth and phlegm-filled throat.

“Yeah, we’re leaving.”

I stumble forward because Will is tugging on my arm, but it’s hard to move past my dad without flinching.

“She ain’t going nowhere with you,” my dad says. He reaches for my other arm, his fingers burning tentacles wrapping around and around my wrist.

“Let go.” My voice is weaker than I want it to be. That is always the case around my dad.

“Let go of her.” Will tugs again.

“Hell I won’t,” my dad hollers into the night.

I snatch my arm from his grasp, tumbling backward from the strength of my movement. Will and I push forward, hopping off the porch and into the overgrown lawn of weeds and grass. We’re halfway across the yard when the bottle hits me square in the side of the head. I can hardly believe he could have such great aim in his state, but there is no doubting his determination to bring me down. The glass doesn’t break but makes a sickening thud that I hear twice, once outside my head and once inside.

I fall to my knees with a surprised cry and put my hand to my face. I can’t see. There is blackness, then there are flashes of red and yellow. I blink, hard. Move my jaw round and round. Will says something to me, I feel his hands on my chin, but I can’t see him through my blurred and flashing vision. My wrist trembles, gives out under my weight. I fall, face-first, into the crabgrass.

Will leaves my side, runs for the porch. I can hear them, growling and snarling at each other like bears. When I finally roll over onto my side and take in the scene, I scream for him.

“Don’t, Will, don’t!” He answers me by plowing his fist into my dad’s gut. He connects again, this time his knee with my dad’s forehead. “Stop it, Will!”

I struggle to my feet, trip and coat my knee in grass stains, get up again. He will kill my dad. He can endure the way the old man treats me even less than I can. My dad slams into the wall, and Will balls up his fist again and punches him in the jowls. I see the red glisten of blood on Will’s knuckles, but I don’t know if it’s his or my dad’s.

“Will!” I scream. “Will! Stop!”

I buckle when a sudden wave of nausea hits me. I watch my dinner fly from my mouth and into the grass. I spit, cough, and gag, run for the porch. My hands shake uncontrollably. My legs hardly carry me. Pain sears through me.

My dad waves his arm backward, reaching for the door, a way to escape. A moment later he is on the ground. Will kicks his ribs once, twice. He will kill him. And my dad hardly deserves less.

“Stop, Will,” I rasp. I reach him and grab his hand. He spins on me, his eyes lost to me. I step back, trembling, needing him to return to me.

“Zoe.”

Will pauses to give my dad one last dirty look, then lifts me into his arms and carries me across the grass. I tuck my body into itself and press my palm to the side of my head. He starts to stutter as he suddenly sees himself the way I was seeing him, with familiarity, but the wrong kind.

“Zoe. Zoe. I ain’t never gonna hit you. I ain’t him. Ain’t gonna be like that. Ever, Zoe. God, don’t look at me like that. I’m not the monster. I’ll never do what he did to you. I promise.”

I uncurl myself out of my defensive position and press my forehead against his shoulder, against his salty neck, sweaty from exertion, inhaling the scent of him, which almost drowns out the disgusting flavor in my mouth. When he sets me down next to his car, I lift his hands and press his bloody knuckles to my cheeks, hoping they mark me like war paint.

“Let’s go, Will.”

Will opens the door for me and I slide in. I look to the porch as Will starts the car and turns the headlights on. My dad lies on his side, blood dripping from his nose, the sticky red mixing with whiskey and snot, and watches us go.

WILL

“YOU SMELL KINDA, LIKE, SICK,” I TELL HER.

“That’s because I puked on the lawn.”

“Are you sick?” I squeeze my hand on the steering wheel and twist the leather cover. I need this tsunami of energy gone now, but the anger hangs on like a stray cat you’ve fed once and don’t stop coming around. “Sh—Zoe, that’s a sign of a concussion, ain’t it?” I look over at her once, twice. She seems tired, all leaning against the passenger-side door. “Hey, don’t go to sleep yet, ’kay? Here, drink some water. But don’t sleep. I think you’re supposed to stay up for a while.”

I stop watching the road. She swishes water in her mouth. Rolls down the window and spits. I pull her face toward me. I check out her temple but don’t see too much in the glow of the headlights. Not that I know what I’m supposed to be looking for. I wish I did know. I wish I knew something useful, anything. I rub her jawline with my thumb and swear. The tires hit shoulder gravel. I face back to the road. She moans at the swerving motion.

“I’m sorry. Sorry. Just, don’t go to sleep yet.”

No, she ain’t supposed to sleep. But I want her as comfortable as possible. I jacked a couple of extra pillows and blankets from the supply closet at the home when I left earlier today. Figured I deserved more of a going away present than the boot to my ass I got from the state. Once we’ve sped out of the town limits, I reach into the back of the car and grab a pillow and blanket.

“Here,” I say. “Put the seat back and relax. Give it, maybe, another hour before you go to sleep, though. I’m just gonna drive for a while.”

“No, I want to stay up with you all night,” she says, smiling at me a little. A forgiving Zoe smile. Guilt’s my new best friend. I shouldn’t have attacked her dad. I shoulda held myself back. But I couldn’t help it. I’m so damn tired of seeing him beat the shit outta her. Her face is all fucked with the swollen lip, the nasty bruise under her eye. And she can’t never fight back. She won’t hit him back, never. She needs me.

Zoe studies the pillow I handed to her. “Is this yours?”

BOOK: Nobody but Us
5.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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