Welcome back to Sneak Peek Sunday. Before I get into anything else, I want to wish everyone a happy and safe Canada Day (which is Tuesday) and happy birthday to my baby brother, Jamie. Sure, he’s like, 31, and a dad, but he’ll always be the baby in my eyes.
This week I’d thought I’d share an excerpt of LIES WE TELL, which I hope to publish by the end of this year. It’s a pretty dark scene, and a major turning point for a couple of the main characters. Still needs some editing, but I suppose this is true of any work in progress.
By the way, if any of you would like to share something, the guidelines for Sneak Peek Sunday are HERE.
Okay, so here’s LIES WE TELL:
From his bed, Devon listened to the sounds coming from the living room. When his mom took him to the mall last week to see Santa, Devon had asked him for a new Daddy. Santa looked at him weird, like he had two heads or something, and Devon asked for a fire truck too. But he really wanted a different Daddy. His mom’s cries, as she begged him to stop hurting her, made his belly feel hot and sick. Daddy wasn’t listening. A loud thwack and Devon slipped further under his blankets.
Sometimes he wanted to yell at his dad, to punch him like he punched his mom. Devon wanted to protect her, to save her, but he was afraid. His dad was big. Sometimes he was like an animal, looking for something to eat.
Hayley moved in her crib. Devon sat up. His sister didn’t understand what was going on, she was just a baby. Devon was a big boy, three and a half years. He always took care of Hayley when Mommy couldn’t.
The little girl stood, looking around in the darkness, her brown curls standing straight out, her blue eyes, just like his and Daddy’s were wide, like they might pop right out of her face. Devon usually giggled when she looked like this, but tonight he didn’t. They were supposed to be quiet when Daddy acted like this and Devon had promised Mommy he would be quiet. They didn’t want Daddy coming in here, the last time he did that, he pushed Devon really hard and hit him with his belt. He couldn’t sit down for a long time because his bum hurt so much. Worse than that, Mommy cried so hard. She kept saying sorry like it was her fault. Devon knew it wasn’t. He shouldn’t have fed the crayons to the dog, but it was funny at the time. The dog puked a rainbow and it was cool.
Hayley lifted a chubby leg over the railing
Devon shot out of bed. “No Hay, go back to sleep.”
She paused. Devon thought she might actually listen to him, but then she continued to climb out. She was too heavy for him to put back in, and Devon knew she’d cry if he tried. He helped her out and tiptoed to their door. “Okay Hay,” he whispered. “I’m going to peek out there, see if Daddy is in bed. If he is, we can see Mommy. Okay?”
Hayley smiled. “Mama? Cookie?”
“No, it’s bedtime. No cookies. Now hush.”
Devon opened the door a crack, peering into the living room just beyond their door. His heart thumped in his chest. He felt hot all over. There wasn’t any noise, not enough to hear through the door, but Daddy wasn’t in bed. He was pulling Mommy’s hair and pushing her face into the carpet.
Devon smelled the strange odor that always seemed to be there when Daddy hit Mommy. It was sweet, yet not very nice. Devon didn’t like it.
His mom struggled to be free. “Garrett. I’m sorry.”
Hearing her say that made Devon mad. She shouldn’t have to say that. She didn’t do anything naughty. The darn stove didn’t work right; it always smoked and burned stuff. Mommy told him we needed a new stove, and Daddy knew that, but he’d been out with friends and when he was out with his friends, he came back angry. Mommy always got in trouble for something.
“I’m finished with you.” Daddy kicked her.
Devon flinched. Mommy didn’t even cry. She was so brave. Devon would have screamed and ran if Daddy kicked him.
“You’re not fit to live.”
Daddy walked toward him, Devon backed inside his room quickly.
Hayley pulled his pajama shirt, and he turned. “Cookie?”
“No Hay, go to bed. It’s almost over.” Devon heard his dad’s footsteps heading back to the living room. He never came back from the bedroom. Didn’t he say he was finished?
Devon opened the door again; Daddy had his gun, the one he liked to clean and sometimes pointed at Mommy to scare her. But this time was different. Mommy’s eyes were wide, her face pale. She backed away from Daddy, he held up a bullet. Devon thought they were neat, so small and shiny, but when Mommy caught him looking at them, she got really mad.
“Garrett this is stupid,” Mommy said. Her voice sounded high. “You can’t do this, the kids—”
“Don’t worry about your little bastards.”
He always called them that, especially Devon. Daddy liked Hayley better than him, Devon knew it was true. Mommy said it was just that Hayley was little and couldn’t get into trouble yet. She was wrong though. Daddy never liked him, because Devon was born bad.
“The boy will go with you.”
Mommy gasped, her hand going to her mouth. Where were they going?
Daddy put the bullet into the gun, then moved the round thing and closed it. Devon thought it was cool when they did that on T.V., but tonight it didn’t seem so cool. It scared him.
“Hay, you stay here,” Devon whispered, pushing his sister to his bed. “Don’t come out until I come back. Okay?”
“Kay,” Hayley climbed on Devon’s bed but he shook his head. No, if Daddy got too mad, she had to hide. Hayley didn’t know when she should hide.
“No, we’re gonna play hide and seek.” He pulled her off the bed, smiling when she clapped her hands. This was her favorite game. “Now you hide under the bed and I’ll try to find you.”
Hayley went willingly, giggling as Devon pushed her under and went back to the door.
Daddy pointed the gun at Mommy, who sat on her knees now. She was crying really hard.
“Let’s see what God thinks,” Daddy said to her. “I’ll pull the trigger, and if you’re not fit to breathe, a bullet goes in your brain. Quick and painless.”
Mommy cried and shook her head.
“If God thinks you’re worth keeping around, I’ll get an empty chamber and you’ll live.”
Daddy put the gun to Mommy’s head. Devon held his breath. Daddy started counting, and Devon knew he had to do something. Anyone who knew anything knew that a bullet in your head would kill you. He didn’t want Mommy to die, even if God thought she should.
Devon ran into the hall, his only thought to stop the bullet.
Hayley waited; there was a lot of noise in the other room. Daddy yelled. Mommy screamed. Hayley was scared, and it was dark under Brother’s bed.
Scrambling out, sneezing when something tickled her nose, Hayley ran to the door. Brother told her to hide, but she didn’t like the dark anymore. Not when she was alone.
She peeked through the open door and her body went stiff. She couldn’t move and she felt strange, her tummy hurt.
Brother held on to Mommy, who tried to push him away. They both cried, and Daddy laughed.
“Two of you in one go,” he said.
Mommy cried harder.
Hayley didn’t like it when Daddy laughed at Mommy. It sounded mean.
“Let’s ask God again.”
Daddy clicked the thing in his hand and Mommy screamed. Why was she afraid of that? It only clicked.
“I hate you!” Brother screamed, running at Daddy.
Oh, this wasn’t good. Hayley stuck her thumb in her mouth.
“I wish you were dead.” Brother punched at Daddy, his skinny arms flying.
Daddy picked him up by his hair, ouch. Then he tossed him away, a thud sounding on the opposite wall. Brother didn’t cry. Hayley leaned out to see where he was, and she suddenly didn’t feel good at all. She wanted to cry, but she didn’t. Brother said babies cry and she was a big girl. She stared, unable to look away from Brother’s body on the floor. His nose was red, like he put paint on it or something. It was kind of gross.
Daddy turned, saw her standing in the hall and advanced. Hayley backed away. Mommy screamed and ran at him. Hayley hurried to her room, scrambling back under her bed.
Dana watched in horror as Devon’s tiny body hit the wall, a sickening thud accompanying it. She froze. This was not happening. Garrett was no longer sane, his tenuous hold over his anger had snapped and now they would all die.
She still felt the cold steel of the gun against her head, although it was no longer there. He’d done this before, but she’d known it wasn’t loaded, and he was messing with her. Knowing that one bullet was in there, and he pulled the trigger anyway, forced her to see the reality. He hated them.
At Hayley’s cry, Dana turned away from Devon. The toddler stared wide-eyed at her father, unsure what to do. He’d never attacked Hayley before. He favored the little girl over her brother, but tonight Dana couldn’t be sure.
Dana stood, her legs trembling, her sides aching, the ribs that had only recently healed were surely broken again. Garrett walked toward Hayley, and Dana screamed. He would not do this to her children. She ran at him with everything she had, she would die before she allowed him hurt her babies.
At her voice Garrett spun around, shock and amusement in his bloodshot eyes.
If he thought she wouldn’t fight him he’d underestimated her. She failed to protect her sisters, but she would not fail her kids.
He caught her before she could land a punch, twisting her arm painfully behind her. At least his attention turned from Hayley, who scurried back to her room.
“You want to fight? Fine, I’ll give you a fight, bitch.”
Garrett yanked her arm higher and, after a sickening pop, he shoved her to the floor. Dana held her arm, the pain so intense she was on the brink of passing out. It hung limp at her side. Just above the elbow it bent at an awkward angle and she couldn’t move her fingers.
Garrett advanced and picked her up once more by her injured arm.
Dana whimpered. A cry would only fuel the fire.
He shoved her again, half-throwing her into the wall.
Dana turned her head, lifting herself on her good arm to look over at him.
Devon looked disoriented, eyes glazed, blood trickling from his nose.
“Both of you are pathetic,” Garrett sneered. He kicked her again forcing her back to the floor. “Get out of my fucking house. I don’t want to look at either of you again.”
Dana lay still, hoping that if she could avoid provoking him any more he’d just walk away.
“Do you hear me? Get the fuck out!”
“I’m sorry.” The words were out before she could stop them. He didn’t care, but she’d said it so often. It was pure instinct now.
“Sorry doesn’t cut it anymore.” He knelt beside her.
She stared at his boots, the steel toes showing through the worn tips. Boots that caused so much pain.
“I want you gone when I get back, or I’m loading enough bullets in this gun for both of you.”
“Yes.” Hope sprang in Dana’s chest. He never told her to leave before. Most times, he warned her that leaving would see her dead. Now, for the first time, if she stayed he would kill her.
“Leave Hayley with my mom.”
His hand ripped across her cheek.
Lights danced before her eyes. Dana gasped, and tasted the acrid flavor of blood in her mouth.
He threw her down and stood. “You heard me. I won’t let you ruin my daughter. She’s worth more than the two of you put together.”
Dana laid there, her heart pounding, his words echoing in her head. She imagined Hayley growing up with Garrett, those big blue eyes so full of innocence and life suddenly dim, frightened. No, she wouldn’t leave her daughter with him. She’d already subjected her children to too much. Dana didn’t know if the damage could be undone, but she wouldn’t allow more to ruin their souls. They wouldn’t be like her or their father.
“I’ll be back tomorrow night. You better not be here.” Garrett called from the door.
The door slammed, rattling the walls. Dana eased herself up, her upper arm throbbing, but numb below her elbow. Devon crawled toward her, tears streaming down his pale cheeks. He climbed into her lap, pressing his face into her chest. Dana stroked his hair, whispering her apologies and sobbing with him.
“Mama?” Hayley’s cry from the bedroom brought Dana to reality. They had to leave.
“Come on buddy. Are you hurt?” She gently pushed Devon off her.
“My head,” he whispered and bit his trembling lip.
Dana searched for bumps, finding just one, small and close to his ear. She checked his face, his teeth were intact, his nose had stopped bleeding, and just a small bruise showed under his eye.
Her chest ached at the sight of the battered boy who had tried to be brave for her. She’d let things go too long, hoping Garrett would realize the damage he was doing, but he didn’t and he never would.
Whatever it was that made him so angry, whatever made him want to hurt those that loved him, had taken over his soul. She never saw him sober anymore, not even when he woke in the morning. He rose, still drunk from the previous night, drank a beer for breakfast and continued all day. He was a sick man, and she didn’t know how to make him better. He’d only gotten worse now that he was laid off. Dana couldn’t leave for work without ensuring someone would look after the children.
Dana stood, taking Devon by the hand and limping toward the kids’ room. Hayley wailed now, too frightened to come out, but needing her mother. Dana moved as fast as her battered body would allow, switching on the light after opening the door. Hayley sat in front of her crib, Devon’s tattered teddy bear clutched in her chubby little fist.
“Mama,” Hayley lunged at her, throwing her little body against Dana’s leg. Dana knelt, scooping her up in her good arm, wincing at the stabbing pain in her side. “It’s okay pumpkin, you’re safe.”
A clatter behind them and Dana spun around, her heart pounding. Devon packed favorite toys in his tiny backpack. She sighed in relief and smiled when he picked a few of Hayley’s things too. He was so sweet, always thought of his sister.
“I told her to stay here Mommy, but she never listens,” he said, stuffing toys into the bag.
“It’s okay buddy. You were a big boy, and I’m proud, but never, ever, do that again. Mommy can take care of herself. You’re not big enough to protect me just yet.”
Devon’s eyes widened. “But he was going to put a bullet in your head. That gets people dead, you know.”