Read Verita Online

Authors: Tracy Rozzlynn

Tags: #Verita


BOOK: Verita
2.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub





Copyright © 2011 by Tracy


This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental


All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.


* * * * *




Chapter 1


I cringe as the girl behind me incessantly cracks her knuckles in nervous anticipation. It’s a noise I can’t stand, and it’s taking all my restraint not to scream at her. Instead, I look around for a distraction. The girl to my left relentlessly nibbles her nails. The girl on my right just looks down at her feet while twirling and un-twirling her hair around her finger. I’m surrounded by other teenage girls. Usually this would mean an uproar of endless chatter and babble, but today the raw fear and dread of the unknown keeps us all silent. We’re all deeply wrapped in our thoughts. I imagine that each girl is thinking the same thing:
How the hell did my life get so screwed up that I decided to come here?


I had never been ultra rich or anything like that, but I certainly never had to go without. I was loved, and I had friends. Overall, my life was good. My family and I lived in a modest colonial. Well, it was modest compared to the rest of the houses on our street, at least. We lived in one of those planned neighborhoods that had a minimum square footage requirement and our house just met it. Unfortunately, the neighborhood included Mrs. Platt, the head of the neighborhood committee, also known as the ‘Tree Tyrant.’ She actually went around with a ruler in her purse. Anyone whose grass was too tall, she’d threaten with a fine. She was the reason all the parents, including mine, had to tear down the tree houses when I was ten. Hence, the nickname. It was also why no one would ever identify who toilet-papered her house every Halloween.

I did well in school, and this year I was the girl to beat in the butterfly stroke. My best friend Jenna and I dated two of the cutest guys in the school, Brad and Jeff, who also happened to be best friends. We couldn’t have planned it better, especially considering how different our tastes in guys ran. Jeff was a total jock. When he didn’t
sports, he
talked about
sports. Jenna didn’t mind because, as she put it, “They don’t need words to express their love.”
Ugh. Please
. Brad ran cross-country and track, but I knew that there was more to him than just sports. He was sweet and caring, funny and smart – everything I could have wanted in a guy.

Things had started to get serious between us, as well as between Jeff and Jenna. It was partially because of the extra freedom best friends dating best friends gave us. Our parents never questioned Jenna and me about going over each other’s houses, to the mall, or even to a midnight movie together on a Friday night. We just conveniently left out the ‘with our boyfriends’ part, and questions were never asked.

It was that way the night my life changed. My parents finally took the second honeymoon they had always dreamed of. They went on a cruise to the Caribbean. Initially, they considered getting someone to stay and housesit with me but after some persistence on my part, they relented. After all, I was almost seventeen. They knew I was responsible, and they didn’t want to mortify me with a babysitter. So I was left alone in the house for the week. As expected, Jenna’s parents never questioned it when we arranged a sleepover the weekend after my parents left.

Jenna commandeered the upstairs. Jeff didn’t know it yet, but she had decided it would be ‘the night’, and she wanted complete privacy. I had promised her that Brad and I would stay downstairs on the side of the house farthest from the guest bedroom. I didn’t mind. Things were getting serious for me, but I wasn’t ready to go that far. Not yet.

So instead, Brad and I cuddled up in front of the TV, ignoring some romantic comedy we rented on pay-per-view. Then, the doorbell rang. Figuring it was the ever nosey Mrs. Platt checking up on me, I had Brad hide while I answered the door.

Oh, I wish it had been Mrs. Platt.

“Are you Ms. Brett Bradbury?” one of two uniformed police officers asked.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” I blurted. It was a knee-jerk reaction, but their being at the door made me feel guilty. I racked my brain, but couldn't figure out what I could have possibly done to bring them there. Had I run a stop sign without realizing it? Or maybe I had an unpaid parking ticket I was unaware of. No, that didn’t make sense. They wouldn’t be there just for that.

Then, a crazy thought hit me. Could they be strippers? It could be Jenna’s weird idea of a ‘thank you’ for loaning her my upstairs. I felt burning heat rush to my cheeks; leave it Jenna to think that something so mortifying would be considered an expression of gratitude. The thought was ludicrous. Jenna wouldn’t risk having her night interrupted, no matter how much enjoyment my humiliation might bring her.

“No, ma’am, you’re not in trouble. Are you Ms. Brett Bradbury?” the officer repeated. I nodded. “Is there anyone here with you, or anyone you can call to come over?”

Then I noticed that it wasn’t anger or a tough-guy look that I saw on their faces, but somber expressions. Simultaneously, I realized the tone of his voice was apologetic.

Suddenly, I was panicked. “Yes, why? What’s happened? What’s going on?” I demanded. I must have been shouting because I heard the footsteps of Brad, Jenna and Jeff all running toward me. “Tell me! Tell me now!” Now I knew that I was shouting.

“Brett, what’s wrong? What’s going on?” Brad asked, looking from me to the officers as he reached the front door. I felt his arms wrap protectively around me, as he shifted himself between me and the officers.

The officer glanced from me to Brad and back again. He let out a long, drawn-out breath and began to speak. “I’m sorry to have to tell you, ma’am, but there’s been an accident. Your parents were involved a plane crash—”

I cut the officer off with a half-choked cry of relief. Shaking my head, I quickly pointed out, “No, that can’t be; they left on Wednesday. They already called me from the boat. Unless you’re telling me a plane crashed into their cruise ship, you’re wrong. Right now, they’re both enjoying themselves, tipsy and soaking in the sun,” I explained. Anger began to rise in me. I was furious that they could make such a mistake.

“Yes, ma’am, you’re right. Your parents did make it to the ship. But they chartered a small engine plane—” The officer continued to explain what happened, but his voice was drowned out by a combination of sobs and hysterical laughter. I eventually realized the sounds were coming from me. Jenna reached me and joined Brad in wrapping her arms around me, but I just crumpled to the floor as my world went black.


“Brett Bradbury.” I swallow hard at the sound of my name and make myself step forward to the folding table being used as a make-shift desk. I’m greeted by a plump woman with a nasal voice. She gives me a bored look and simply says, “Personal items.” She’s gesturing to a shoebox-sized white box next to her. I already know the routine – I’ve been watching the previous girls called up – and quickly dump the contents of my plastic bag into the box. After a moment, the bored woman glances up and asks, “Anything else?” I wordlessly shake my head. She seals the box, scribbles my name and a number on the side of it, and places it in the stack beside her. Then she hands me my paper-thin gown and booties and gestures to a privacy curtain at the back of the room.


My parents were dead. While on their wonderful cruise, they decided to take a plane tour of the islands. It was one of those small two-engine planes, the kind that periodically made its way onto the news because of landing or crashing in some strange area due to some kind of trouble. Well, that’s what happened to my parents. One minute they were having the time of their lives, taking pictures out the plane’s windows. The next minute they were screaming in horror as they watched the ground get closer and closer until they crashed. I’d played the scene over and over in my head, imagining the fears and thoughts that would have flashed through their minds during their final moments.

I stayed with Jenna’s family for the first week, through all the funeral stuff. They had been kind enough to take care of all that for me. I was in no state to do anything that required clear thinking, or any thinking at all, actually. The grief and pain was too much for me to bear: instead it numbed me. All of my emotions simply shut down The only thing I felt was dread – dread of the pain returning and overwhelming me.

My stay at Jenna’s house was only temporary. Her family couldn’t (or maybe wouldn’t) keep me. I had no brothers or sisters and both my parents were only children, so there were no aunts or uncles to turn to. My parents were older when they had me, so only one grandparent remained – in a nursing home, too senile to even recognize me anymore. The warm, squishy hugs I got from her were meant for Anna, her childhood best friend.

Being a minor, my only choice was to enter foster care. At first I thought it wouldn’t be so bad. I’d continue to go to my old school, get myself emancipated as soon as possible, and then live on the money from my parents’ life insurance and from selling the house to get myself through college.

Then Mr. Thompson, Jenna’s dad, explained my parents’ dire financial state to me. My parents, like so many, had been living beyond their means. They had let their life insurance lapse and had taken a second mortgage out on the house. In the current housing market, it meant they owed more than the house was worth. Bottom line: I was now broke and alone, with no hope of escaping foster care.


Once I’m dressed, a white haired nurse commands me to follow her. Begrudgingly, I force myself forward, and follow her down an empty metal corridor. It’s a long, lonely walk toward uncertainty. Behind me, trying to break the oppressive tension, I hear someone exclaim, “Dead man walking.” But their humor is lost; it’s just too close to what we fear. I futilely look around for something to distract me: a poster, some peeling paint, anything. But all I see are blank gray-metal doors lining the left side of the hallway. I try counting the doors, like a sleepless person does sheep, but I can’t focus and I keep losing count. My mind wanders. I can’t help thinking that I should be shopping at the mall right now, gossiping with my friends about boys, or even struggling to stay awake during a long and boring class lecture. Anywhere but here.

But as grim and gloomy as my surroundings are, they offer hope. That hope gives me the courage I need to continue down the corridor, instead of fleeing the other way – not that fleeing is really an option. There’s no going back, because I know there is nothing left for me to flee to. The wonderful life I once had, that I long for, that calls me back, is just a memory.


I had been in foster care for just under two weeks, at St. Augustine’s home for girls. I was just waiting and hoping for the impossible to happen. I was waiting for a foster parent to become available, be willing, and be able to take on a sixteen-year-old girl. Like
was ever going to happen. No one in their right mind would take on less than two years of income, plus a teenager likely to have more than their share of issues. Most foster parents wanted a cute little baby or toddler, and I, clearly, was neither.

BOOK: Verita
2.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Tyranny by William W. Johnstone
Baby Mine by Tressie Lockwood
A Killer's Agenda by Anita M. Whiting
Online Ménage by Sara Kingston
The Moment by Douglas Kennedy
Castle Perilous by John Dechancie
Hunted by Beverly Long