Authors: Kassandra Kush
Tags: #YA Romance
The Things We
This one goes out to all those hardworking
baristas and behind-the-counter people at
my local Starbucks and Panera.
Thank you for your smiles,
your warm environment for writing,
and only looking at me a little oddly when
I come up for my
fourth cup of coffee in as many hours.
Kassandra M. Kush
Copyright © 2013
All rights reserved.
Smashwords Edition 2015
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review.
The information in this book is distributed on an “as is” basis, without warranty. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this work, neither the author nor the publisher shall have any liability to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the information contained in this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design © Regina Wamba
Mae I Design
Models: Kelly Kush & Kate Luzni
ALSO BY KASSANDRA KUSH
The Fallen Chronicles
The Things We Can’t Change Series
The Love Story
The Lightwood Legacy
The Summer I Gave Up Boys
The Summer I Gave Up Boys: Isaiah’s Story
The Fallen Chronicles Book Four:
The Summer I Got Back with Cooper Grace
The Things We Can’t Change
Staring at the Stars
The office is cozy; brightly lit with cheerful lamps, chintzy armchairs with brightly colored suede, lime green and teal walls and white furniture. It’s different from other therapist’s offices, no calm leather, no rosewood desks and shelves stuffed with big psycho-babble books.
In fact, from where I sit in a rose-orange chair, I can see a collection of Clifford, Nancy Drew, and Redwall books on Dr. Gottlieb’s shelves, which she told me were great for both therapy and her own moments of boredom. Those words, from our first visit together, were what made me decide she was the therapist for me. Though now, a month later, I’m not so sure there is anyone who can truly fix me.
“Well, we’ve got about ten minutes left for the day, Evie. Any questions, concerns?” Dr. Gottlieb looks at me over the tops of her reading glasses. Though she’s dressed just as brightly as her office, in white capris and a vibrantly patterned top, the stereotypical notepad is perched on her knees, and her pen is poised overtop to write.
I have to pause and gather my scattered thoughts, because I’ve been feeling all over the place today. Dr. Gottlieb and I have barely talked about Tony and my relationship, instead focusing on the fact I seem to have trouble just
“Something did occur to me yesterday, when I went and got my nails done,” I finally say.
Dr. Gottlieb nods encouragingly. “Which was?”
“I’ve read books before about girls, women, whatever, that have been abused. A lot of them say that after they escape and stuff, they have trouble making any decisions. They waffle around a lot, don’t have much self-confidence in themselves.” I stare at my toes, each one of which is painted a different shade of neon; blinding teal, electric purple, lime green, eye-popping orange and pink. Finally, I look up at Dr. Gottlieb. “I don’t have that problem. I know what I want, and that’s to do all the things Tony never let me do, break all the rules he tried to have in place for me. Is that weird? Or normal, I guess?”
“Rebellion is a very natural human emotion,” Dr. Gottlieb replies, smiling gently at me. “A natural reaction to escaping any oppressive situation. Teens finally escaping their parents’ household tend to break all the old rules at first, though eventually, thank goodness, they generally rein themselves in and see the wisdom of their parents’ ways. That isn’t exactly what you’re experiencing, but it’s similar. The difference is, you’re smart enough to see that Tony’s ‘rules’ weren’t actually smart rules. They were
rules, and no one else’s. Therefore, you don’t need to follow them anymore. Eventually his memory will fade, and you’ll do what you want for
, not with the thought of defying him. Because he won’t be important to you anymore. But just because you’re not experiencing what other abused women feel doesn’t mean you’re not normal, Evie. Every situation and person is different, and handles things differently.”
I shrug, wondering how long it will take before I stop having Tony’s shadow hanging over me. It feels like that day will be a long, long time in coming. “I’d rather have those feelings get here sooner over later,” I say frankly, and Dr. Gottlieb laughs.
“If it were that easy to flip the switch, I’d have been out of work long ago,” she tells me. “You’re an incredibly self-confident girl, even in the face of Tony’s abuse and dictates. Not having your confidence totally crushed gives you an edge, a sort of leap ahead of other women who have to spend time repairing that before they move on to dealing with their feelings toward the person who hurt them.”
Dr. Gottlieb leans forward, and I see her quell the urge to pat my knee. She knows how I’ll recoil. “Some parts will come easily, naturally, and others will be slow and painful, battles you’ll struggle to win. Just like life. It’s healing. But we’ll get you there, Evie. I promise.”
I summon a smile from somewhere and then I leave the office, climbing into my car. I stick my key into the ignition, and just like every time I’ve sat behind the wheel, I have to close my eyes and gather the nerve to start the car. Today is the first time I actually drove myself to therapy, the first time I started the car and felt I could handle it. Though in my defense, I’ve only been able to sit upright without feeling I’m going to pass out for about two weeks now.
Today, when my eyelids fall, I’m immediately assaulted by all the pain I have caused, memories of the past month; my own body, still bruised and broken, the new deep lines etched in my dad’s face, Tony and little Cindy Quain. My body begins to feel light and airy, as though I’m floating, as though my soul is escaping and separating.
I feel a tear squeeze out from one eye, and quickly wipe it away. “Stop it,” I tell myself firmly, angrily. “Not here, not now, not ever again.” I know it’s a lie, and the sensation doesn’t go away.
I clench my fists, but even that doesn’t work, and so I grab my legs and feel my nails dig into the tender skin there. Deeper and deeper, until the sharp sting of pain ties me down, and I open my eyes to be blinded by the bright June sunshine. I’m panting, short of breath even though I’m sitting down and it’s only been a few moments. I ease the tension out of my hands and look down, and see five small crescents on each thigh, shiny and red with blood.
I look down at my feet, at the bright nails, and guilt makes my stomach feel heavy and sick. Tony would have hated them. I tried to do it in defiance of him, saw all the bright colors and impulsively said to paint my toes in a rainbow, but now looking at it makes me feel sick inside. I shouldn’t have done it.
What he wants doesn’t matter anymore!
I try to believe that thought, but my head is still feeling spacey, threatening to leave and escape the feelings of guilt, and my lungs feel tight and I can’t seem to breathe.
In a rage, I reach down and begin to scrape blindly at the polish on my big toe. My fingernail finally locates a bubble near the cuticle and I scratch and claw for almost five minutes, panting with my chest heaving with the effort. When I’m done, my feet are stinging along with my legs from the assault, and the polish is a wreck but I can finally catch my breath and I feel calm. I know I’ll take the leftover flakes off when I get home, and I know without a doubt that I’ll repaint my nails to something dark, a plum or navy or perhaps a deep blood-red.
Something Tony would have approved of.
I look at my legs once again, what I’ve done to my own body, and my hands tremble again, this time in fury at myself.
“Stop it!” I tell myself angrily, aloud because then it seems more likely I’ll actually do it. “Stop it, or you’re going to tell Dr. Gottlieb about it!”
Still furious with myself, I start the car without hesitation, throwing back the uncertain fear that tries to rise up. I pull the Lexus out into traffic, and even though I’m disgusted with myself, deep down I’m grateful for the stinging pain in my legs, because it keeps me grounded to the world, unable to float away where I see and feel nothing at all. A place so easy to get lost in and never return.
I park in the driveway and grimace at the bright red Mercedes coupe that’s parked next to my dad’s car. Just what I need to make the prospect of my summer even grimmer than it already appears. I exit the car and pull discreetly on my khaki shorts so they cover the nail marks before walking into the house, calling for my dad. He isn’t the person who answers me.
“Ah, Evangeline. It’s been a while. I was wondering where you’d gotten off to.”
“Hello, Hunter,” I say politely, and try to skirt past him around the kitchen island.
My stepbrother is lounging against the counter, grinning wickedly. I’m pretty sure it’s just to show off his perfect white teeth, which stand out brightly against his perfect golden tan skin. He’s even arranged himself to rest strategically against the counter, to emphasize his perfectly toned body. That’s the word for Hunter: perfect. On the surface, at least. He’s every mother’s perfect son, one bright flame against the dimly lit torches of humanity.
All it does is make me want to punch him every time he opens those perfect lips.
“Where have you been?” He cuts me off neatly, and I have to stop abruptly before I run into him. The unexpected movement and jerk to the side sends a ripple of pain through my middle and I gasp before I can help it. I reach out for the counter to steady myself, and Hunter watches me through cool blue eyes that are the exact same color as Clarissa’s.
“You okay?” he asks, and it’s clear from his tone that he doesn’t truly care.
“Fine,” I grit out, and after a few deep breaths the pain subsides and I can stand straight once again. “I was at therapy, thanks for asking.”
“Ah, that’s right, you see a shrink now.” His eyes are glinting now, because he’s on the hunt, has figured out where the wound is and exactly how to drive the knife deeper. “So, tell me. How’s Tony doing? Been to visit him lately?”