Authors: A.M. Madden
Published by A.M. Madden
Copyright ©2015 A.M. Madden
First Edition, ebook-published 2015
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To my three kings, you rule my world.
There are very few days in one’s life when you remember every single detail of every moment. Some would say that a few days within the span of twenty-eight years shouldn’t change a person. I could argue that point with the best therapists around. My days produced a domino effect on the rest of my life. Day one ultimately caused day two to occur. Day two, inevitably, caused day three to occur, and so on. The days linking them all laid out in my mind like little dominos. If I were to lift one day, the rest wouldn’t fall the same way.
It’s not DNA that makes up a person. It’s not their background, or their beliefs, or even their upbringing. It’s events and experiences we are forced to endure that create the people we eventually become. I say forced because I never signed up for what happened on those fateful days. They weren’t part of the blueprints I had envisioned for my life. They occurred, and they altered me as a person.
I often wonder who I would have become if my life altering days had never happened. It’s an exercise made in vain. There’s no way to know who I would have been if my life had taken a different path than it has. Speculation is a waste of time. Looking back now, ten years later, I finally understand why they happened. I now believe that things do happen for a reason.
I am exactly where I’m supposed to be at this moment.
Holy shit, I want to kill him.
Rob Withers is my best friend, my partner on the force, and my constant nemesis.
He sits across from me with a look of disbelief. I sit, across from him, wanting to take out all my issues on his fucking face. The kicker? I love this guy. He has my back. He is always there for me, and yet, I want to punch him in the face.
When I woke up this morning, all I wanted for this day was to do my job, go home, get hammered, and go to sleep. Getting drunk and passing out is my yearly tradition. I don’t drink normally except for a few here and there. Every year on my birthday, I purposely set out to become completely inebriated. I have two goals…to suppress the memories that take hold every year around this time, and to pay homage to the reckless youth of which I was robbed. It may be a juvenile thing to do, but so fucking what?
“Come on, Ben. Would it fucking kill you to do something different this year?”
“Don’t be an ass.”
“I’m an ass because I don’t want to go to this damn club tonight?”
“Yes. It’s your birthday, man.”
“I’d rather drink alone. You know how I feel about my birthday.”
“All the more reason to go out and try to forget.” Rob groans audibly. “I didn’t want to tell you this, but Andrea is bringing a friend.”
And there it is,
By admitting his girlfriend is bringing a friend, he knows I won’t say no. Andrea has this insane obsession to set me up. Except for that one annoying quality, I love the girl.
Rob and Andrea have been together for a few years now, and she’s a great person. He’s lucky to have her. I often admit to Rob that the only reason we are still friends is his better half. I’m kidding, of course. It’s not like I have any romantic feelings toward her. She’s like a cousin, albeit an annoying one. Andrea’s sole mission in life is to set me up with the woman of
dreams. To do so, means getting rid of Natalia. Andrea can’t stand Nat.
Nat is a dispatcher that Rob and I have known for a few years. After I had ignored her advances, Nat decided to flirt with Rob to get my attention. It was harmless, but to “the girlfriend” there’s no such thing as harmless flirting. Nat eventually wore me down. Against Andrea’s wishes, I’ve been in a very casual arrangement with Nat for almost a year.
When I first started fucking Nat, Andrea asked if we were exclusive. I said that we weren’t. I’ve always been honest with Nat, completely transparent that I wasn’t interested in a committed relationship. Honesty is key. She can never claim I used her. With Nat, it’s been easy, comfortable. Lately, she’s not happy with me and thinks it’s time we move things along or end it. I completely agree. It’s time to end it.
“So?” Rob asks.
“Rob, I’m tired of this shit,” I counter. “I’m not in the mood for another night of matchmaking. You can tell Andrea I said no.” Relationships are exhausting. I’m not interested.
“This girl is perfect for you.”
Unlike his girlfriend, Rob feels I need that perfect person to complete me. I don’t believe she exists. I’m too cynical to believe in true love. People change, events occur, and before you know it, your true love stabs you in the heart. I have no idea if that’s even true, never having been in love, but I’ve seen first hand what happens when love goes wrong. Fuck that shit. I have enough to deal with in my life.
It’s safer to be alone. It’s also smarter. I account for no one but myself. I don’t expect anyone to account for me, either. I can barely stand myself, why would anyone else take my endless issues and love them?
In all the years I’ve known Rob, I never had a serious girlfriend. That fucker had the nerve to ask me if I was gay.
We were fresh out of the academy. He sat next to me in our squad car and said, “Hey, man, I don’t care. Whatever floats your boat, but I’d like to know if we should be considering the men we know instead of the women.”
I have enough on my plate. Being a New York City cop keeps me plenty busy. My job is my mistress. The moment I graduated from the academy, I quickly became addicted to that rush that can only come from danger. I took risks, and I was extremely reckless in my approach toward my job responsibilities. Always the first to volunteer, first one in no matter how dangerous the situation was. It got me far on the force, as well as Rob.
“Dude, I’m not gonna stop until you agree. So, just get it over with and promise you’ll meet us later.”
I come, you need to promise not to give me a hard time when I’m ready to leave, because I will hurt you if you do.” I reluctantly agree, hoping it will supply a distraction. Maybe with luck, I’ll get into a brawl and be able to release my pent up hostility.
“Promise.” He crosses his heart like a fucking Boy Scout.
“Let’s get out of here,” I announce before heading out of the break room. We are closing in on a case, and today would be a good day to find that fucker.
A home should be a sanctuary. Mine is nothing more than a shelter. I rarely spend time here. It’s not a home. I pretty much live at the police station, at the gym, or at Rob and Andrea’s place. It’s right on the beach and the perfect distraction. When my lease is up, I may be heading to the same building. I hate this place. It’s a decent apartment in Manhattan, but I still hate it. When I’m here, my memories flood my mind. Maybe it’s because this is the only time during my day that I’m left with my thoughts? During work or even play, I’m preoccupied. Standing here in my shower gives my brain that perfect opportunity to slide into my past. Without control, it forces me back to the night of my eighteenth birthday, ten years ago. That was the night that started a long list of events, forever changing the rest of my life.
“Benjamin, you can see your friends tomorrow,” she voiced over the annoying whirring of the hand mixer she refused to shut off during our discussion. “It’s your birthday and you are spending it with us.”
“Mom, for God’s sake I’m eighteen. I don’t need a stupid birthday party with a homemade cake.”
“End. Of. Discussion.” She glanced at me briefly, quirking an eyebrow before refocusing on the cake batter she was taking out her frustrations on so obviously.
I reacted as I always did. I stormed off to my room to brood.
Carol Stone was a tough cookie…loving, caring, fair, but tough. She was also fiercely protective of my brother and me. Jonathan was six years younger. As overprotective as she was when I was a kid, poor Jonathan got it even worse. In spite of our age difference, we were close. I was his mediator, bodyguard, and best friend. My friends all loved him, and it made him a very cocky and very self-confident twelve-year-old.
I’d always wish I had an older brother when growing up to show me the ropes. Having me made Jonathan very comfortable in his skin. I never had that confidence. While growing up, I was extremely shy and quiet.
We lived in a tiny town in rural Pennsylvania, an hour from Cleveland. We were poor, but we didn’t know any better. We were just like everyone who surrounded us. My mom was a bank teller, and Dad was in construction. Mom was content and happy with what we had. Dad was not. He was constantly trying to find ways to improve the quality of our lives. My parents both worked hard and had little to show for it. His dissatisfaction caused my long list of issues.
Minutes after I retreated to my room, my brother barged in, as he always did, without knocking or asking permission.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, before jumping on my bed.
“Dude, can you give me some privacy, please?”
“Did you piss Mom off again?” Ignoring my plea, he bounced the ball he was holding off my wall, oblivious to my irritation.
I released a heavy sigh, debating on picking him up and physically removing him from my room. As annoying as he was, I loved that kid. The one and only reason I decided to go to the community college, a few miles away was because of Jonathan.
My dad wasn’t the same man that he was years ago when I was younger. When I was growing up, he was a great dad. He and I had the best relationship. My sports and my interests were the centers of his world. Jonathan was just a baby, and Mom had her hands full. Dad was my partner in crime. Even though he craved a better life, he was still happy, and it showed.
Everything changed the day he lost his job. I could see the panic on his face when he walked through the door. I could see the desperation hanging in the air around my parents as they agonized over their new predicament. That day changed my father. That event changed the dynamics of our family. We never recovered.
Mom felt we were blessed and we would find a way to survive. Dad felt we were cursed, stuck in a mediocre existence, and sentenced to a mundane life. He and my mom argued relentlessly in their difference of opinions. He made her feel that she wasn’t good enough, that we all weren’t good enough. The older I got, the more I understood it had to do with his insecurities and shortcomings.
He tried finding work, but nothing became available. He became a very unhappy person. He felt that he was a failure, and he took it out on us. In the meantime, Mom increased her hours at the bank and took a second job as a cashier at the local supermarket. Dad was never home, claiming he was out searching for work. I was left to tend to Jonathon. The arguments increased night after night when they thought we were asleep. My mom would accuse him of everything except looking for work.
My mom deserved better than what her life became. The only joy she received in her life was from her kids. So on those rare occasions when she demanded something of me, even if it were something as small as allowing her to bake me a cake for my birthday, I couldn’t hurt her. I refused to disappoint her in any way. She deserved better than what her life became.