10 Days of Giveaways and Chapter One of River James


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Chapter One

“Grab me that Thermos?” I ask the girl we call Yaya, pointing to the floor of my new ride. I haven’t needed a vehicle in years. I’m too fucked up to drive most of the time, anyway, so why bother?

Finn, my best friend of over six years, is fucking shit up, not that it should surprise me. He has done it before. Now, because he doesn’t want to be around Yaya, I have to leave the party celebrating the end of our first headline tour to get her back to Taelyn and Xavier’s Steels’. X is the owner of our band’s management and production label, and his mom, or Momma Joe as we all call her, is watching their kid and Sonya’s—Yaya—four-year-old boy Noah.

We come to a stoplight, and I pour a cup into the Thermos cap and offer it to her. Her hand comes up and hits the cup.

“Fuck!” I yell as the hot liquid soaks through my shirt and hits my skin.

“Oh, River, I am so, so sorry,” she tells me.

“No big deal,” I lie. It fucking hurts! “Take the cup?”

I hand it to her then pull my shirt over my head, dab up as much of the spill on me as I can, and then reach in the back to grab a sweatshirt and pull it on over my head.

“See? All better.” I wink and look up as the light turns green.

When we get to the next light and stop, I look over. “It’s no big—” I stop when I see her looking at me strangely, waiting for her to say whatever it is she has going on in her mind.

“Was that tattoo a Joker?” she asks.

“Yeah.” I smile and nod, then look back at the light.

“How old is it?”

“Fucked up question, Yaya. Most people ask, ‘did it hurt?’ ‘What does it mean?’ ‘Why the fuck would you do that?’ “ I chuckle.

Did it hurt?”

“It didn’t tickle.” I smirk as the light turns green.

“What does it mean?” she starts in on the same damn questions I fed her as I pull forward.

“It’s someone I knew a long time ago,” I answer truthfully. “She never smiled, so I gave a nickname that made no fucking sense, because she didn’t make any sense.”

She is quiet and then asks, “Did you love her?”

I laugh out loud. “Sixteen-year-old boys who get a blow job for the first time think they love whoever’s mouth is involved, Yaya.”

“You were sixteen?”

“Yep. First blow job one night and fucking her the next.” I should stop, but why? It feels good to talk about her, and it’s not like anyone would have a fucking clue who it’s about, anyway. She is dead, so is the baby, and no one is any the wiser. I have to live with that all by myself. Well, me and weed, pills, or whatever I need to use take my mind off it.

I stop at another stoplight and look over, and she is looking at me like she is in shock.

“You okay?” I almost laugh, but she is in a state, Finn just having sent her away and all.

She shakes her head back and forth for a few seconds then asks, “Does Finn know about you and Jesse?”

As a car beeps its horn behind me, I look away from her and hit the gas. My breath is immediately lost as I accelerate. The wind has just been knocked out of me.

Her hands come up and grab the dashboard. “Please slow down. You are making me nervous.”

The light turns from yellow to red, and I hit the brakes hard while throwing my hand out in front of her to stop her from hitting the dash.

“River,” she voices quietly.

I still can’t talk, can’t say shit.

“He would understand if he—”

“Like hell he would!” And with that admission, years of undiluted, suppressed anger and emotion boil over. “He’s sending you away because you know about her. Can you fucking imagine—”

“He’s sending me away because—” she begins, but I cut her off.

I don’t care. I don’t fucking care.

“I hated him,” I seethe. “For six fucking months, I hated him and didn’t even know who the fuck he was.”

The way she looks at me … The fucking look on her face is one of confusion, of pain, then of understanding.

Bright lights hit my peripheral, and then her look changes to horror.

“River, look out!” she screams.

The sound of the collision is deafening; the unbelievable pain from the steel crushing me is agonizing. Glass rains in on me while metal tears at my flesh. The smell of burning rubber and smoking brakes causes immediate nausea. The copper taste of my own blood intensifies the sickness in my stomach.

I look at her face while I close in on her, terrified I will crush her. She scrunches her eyes shut. Then I feel her hand grasp mine tightly. She screams something, but I can’t hear a damn thing.

“You’re gonna be okay,” I repeat over and over, wanting to believe it, needing it to be true.

I can’t lose her…

I can’t lose Jesse…

Blackness consumes me.

*****

“Get the fuck out of here! I’m fucking done! Did you hear the fucking surgeon, man? I’m fucked, totally fucked. I can’t feel my goddamned hand! Just get the fuck out!” I scream at Billy and Memphis to leave me alone. However, they don’t, so I grab the bedpan with my right hand and chuck it at them. “Piss off, fuckers! I fucking quit!”

They leave.

I lie in bed, hitting the button in hopes the automatic drip on the morphine isn’t shut off. I want more. I want to sleep. I want it all to go away.

Then I hear them.

“Man, don’t go in there,” Memphis warns. “He’s wrecked.”

Finn comes back with, “Didn’t plan on it.”

Fuck him. Fuck him!

“I fucking hear you, Beckett! Stop being a bitch and face me like a man!” I scream in hopes of egging him on. I want him to feel the hate I suppressed for years. I want him to hurt like I do.

“Changed my mind,” he states before walking through the door.

I lift my arm to him. “You fucking did this! You are the reason this happened! ‘Take care of the girl.’ Isn’t that what I do for you? Isn’t that what I have always fucking done for you?!”

“If you’re referring to Jesse, you didn’t take care of shit. She OD’d. She was pregnant with my kid and she died,” he yells, his fists balled at his sides.

“You sure it was your kid? My dick was in her, too, Beckett. My kid could have been growing inside her. Whoever’s it was fucked her up. She was—”

“You’re all sorts of willing to share that you were fucking my girlfriend now. Why the fuck did you wait six fucking years?”

Contempt covers his face, the same contempt I buried deep inside of me for him. Contempt once overshadowed by recognition and pain is now unearthed and raw again.

“You wouldn’t let her get rid of it. I begged her to. She wasn’t ready for a kid any more than you or I were. She deserved to live her life, but you had to fucking preach to her. Do the right thing? The right thing for who, you or Jesse?!”

“Six years, River. Six fucking years of lies, you son of a bitch. Six years, I trusted you like a brother, and for six years, you felt this way toward me?”

“No, motherfucker, I loved you. I felt the same burn inside as you did after losing her. I didn’t know who you were mourning over a pile of coke. I just knew you lost something. When I figured it out, there wasn’t shit I could do about it. But you stand there, judging me—”

“I intend on doing just that. I wish you the best, but you and I, we are nothing.”

His words fuck my feelings … hard. Not a good mix: narcotics, emotions, and pain.

“Fuck you and fuck the bitch you’re putting it in!” I scream.

He takes a step toward me, wanting to strike, and I want him to. Something comes over him, though, and as quick as he was to step, he turns and walks out the door.

“Find a replacement or I’m done,” I hear him say.

“You shitting me? Find a replacement? Motherfucker has a year of therapy and surgeries ahead of him; don’t walk now. He needs you—not me, not Billy. He needs you to tell him you understand, that you—”

“No. Find a replacement or I’m out.” Finn’s voice drifts off, and so do I.

Feels like Propofol.

I’m five when I wake up because they are fighting. Mom and Dad always do. This time, he doesn’t fight back, and she is screaming for him to leave.

I stand at the top of the stairs, looking down as the last of the party guests leave. When the last one is out the door, he walks past her. I can’t see him under the stairs. I just see her. She stumbles a bit in her heels, the ones she bought this morning when she dragged me to the shoe store again.

They were high, and she smiled at herself as she turned in the mirror. “Do you think he’ll like them, River? Do you think Daddy will think I look pretty in these?”

I smiled and nodded. “You’re beautiful, Mommy.”

As she kicks off the red heels and throws them against the wall, he reappears with his suitcase—no, there are two. He isn’t going on a business trip this time. I know it, and so does she.

Her fists hit his shoulders as she sobs. “Why am I not enough? Why?!”

He brushes her hands away easily. “Get yourself together, Gloria. You’re a mess. No man wants a messy woman.”

“Whores!” she cries. “They’re all whores, Robert.”

He walks past her, shaking his head.

“Please don’t go. We can work this out.”

His pace doesn’t slow.

“What about River? Do you want his life to fall apart?” comes out with obvious desperation.

“He’ll be fine. He is half James,” he replies as his hand hits the door knob.

“Don’t go. Please don’t go.”

“Don’t worry, Gloria; I will still feed your … shoe addiction.”

Before he closes the door behind him, she hurls one of the red heels and just misses him.

“Pathetic,” I hear him murmur.

With that, she crumbles to the floor in a pool of silky black material, sobbing.

I wait until I can no longer see the lights of his car as he pulls out of the driveway before running down the stairs to her.

“Mommy,” I whisper as I throw myself into her arms.

“I’m so sorry, River. I am so sorry I couldn’t make him stay,” she says against my cheek.

I wake in the morning to music playing through the surround sound. When I walk downstairs, I see two boxes by the door full of shoes, her beautiful high-heeled shoes. I walk toward the source of the music—Dad’s home gym—where she is on her TreadClimber.

She looks at me as I enter the room and smiles. “Good morning, handsome,” she greets without breaking her stride.

“Morning, Mommy. Who is this?” I point up so she knows I am asking about the music.

“Nirvana,” she answers, wiping the sweat from her brow.

“His name is Nirvana?” I ask.

“No, his name is Kurt Cobain.”

“Is he your friend?”

“No, he’s a rock star—well, was.”

“Did he quit?”

“No, he died three years ago yesterday—April 5th, 1994.”

“That’s sad, Mommy.”

She smiles. “Sometimes, things happen that we can’t change.” She increases her speed. “Sometimes, change is bad, and sometimes, change is good.” I recognize the sadness through her smile.

“Your shoes are in boxes.”

“I don’t need them anymore. The shoes don’t make the girl, River. The girl makes the shoes. Mommy is going to change herself, get herself back. Mommy is going to be beautiful again.”

“You don’t need to change. You are beautiful.”

“Thank you, baby, but the mirror doesn’t lie, and I don’t like what it’s telling me. Why don’t you go and see what Ms. Nancy has for you for breakfast?”

“Aren’t you gonna eat with me?” I ask because she always does.

“No, baby, not today.”

I wait a few moments until I realize that, this time she means it.

*****

I wake to see Taelyn Steel sitting beside my hospital room bed, typing on her iPad. Usually, seeing her makes me happy. Today, I want to send her away.

“You don’t need to be here.” My throat hurts when I say it.

She looks at me with sadness in her eyes, so I close mine. I don’t want to see it.

“The specialist will be here soon.”

I clear my throat. “That doesn’t mean you need to be.” I hope I don’t have to be a complete dick to make her leave.

“You’re not gonna be alone, so stop trying to push me. Your mother will be here in a few—”

“My, what?” My eyes pop open, fixing a glare on her.

“She’s your moth—”

“You shouldn’t have called her,” I growl, hitting the call button.

“You need people, River. You are gonna get through this and—”

People. Fuck people. People mean pain, the kind that hurts inside. I hate it almost as much as I hate my mother.

“I need fucking drugs!” I shout as the nurse walks in.

I turn to the nurse. “What can you give me? On a scale of one to ten, my pain is at a twenty,” I answer the question I know is coming. They ask every time.

I hear a message alert and look at Taelyn. Her eyes leave the screen and shift to me.

I shake my head, knowing damn well Gloria has arrived.

The nurse removes the blood pressure cuff she strapped on when she came in, directing my attention back to her.

“Hit me with whatever you have, and hit me hard.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” she promises. She’s new. I haven’t seen her yet in the past three days I have been here, which means she hasn’t been exposed to my outbursts.

When I look her up and down, she blushes.

Then I look to see Taelyn standing by the door and leaning toward the nurse.

“I want a sponge bath with special attention paid to my cock.”

The nurse’s eyes widen, but she doesn’t look pissed.

“See what you can do.” I tell her.

“Um, maybe later?”

“Make it happen.” I lean back and close my eyes. “I really need it.”

“I’ll be back,” she says in a naughty kind of way.

“I’ll make sure you get yours, too,” I promise.

When the nurse leaves, I clear my voice, getting Taelyn’s attention. “Get rid of her,” I demand, talking about my mother.

“Let’s just see—”

“Taelyn, I have mad respect for you, but I am telling you that I am in no shape to deal with her.” I close my eyes and hit the call button again.

“You have done so well, River—”

“Taelyn—”

The nurse comes in again and interrupts. She doesn’t say anything, just shoots something in the IV. “This should help.”

I feel the sting of the narcotic as it enters my vein. Then the burn blazes through me until nothing else matters.

My eyes grow heavy, and I smile. She smiles back and winks.

“Better?” Taelyn asks.

“Yeah,” I respond then ask the nurse, “How long will this stay in my system? The other shit wears off too damn fast.”

“It should last four hours, Mr. James.”

“Good.” I won’t have to deal with Gloria. “Thanks.”

I hear her heels click across the tiles on the hospital floor. I smell her musky perfume, and I hear her full of shit voice.

“My boy.”

I keep my eyes closed, hoping she gets bored, thinking I am asleep, but then I flinch when she touches my face. I despise her.

I know she’s wearing fur because I feel it against my cheek as she draws her hand back.

“Thank you, Mrs. Steel, for calling me. I’m sorry it took so long to get back to you. I was out of the country, and reception is horrible in Guadalupe. Thank God Herbert has his help run into town and check our calls when we are otherwise disposed.”

Herbert, husband number five, is on year seven. He has lasted longer than the rest of them. Coincidence? I think not. Fucker is rich as hell.

Husband two, Juan, was the fucking neighbor’s pool boy until dear old Mom realized his business didn’t make bank like Fathers always did. He was actually the easiest to live with. Husband three, Skipper, was a fucking fat bastard who came from money and slept all day. When he wasn’t asleep, he was yelling for me to get him a drink or food or the remote. Lazy fuck. The fucking slob would have stuck around, too, if dear old Mom hadn’t found Henry, who was a fucking scumbag police officer, living off a healthy-ass trust fund. I’m certain she sucked him off to get out of a ticket, because I once heard her tell Skipper she got a ticket and needed two grand for fees and fines. Then she came home with the lips of a Kardashian.

None of her men let her go without. She was treated like the queen she thought she was while she looked the other way when shit was not right.

Henry, her fourth husband, was the worst. He was a monster—worse than a monster because monsters aren’t real.

“You’re here now, and that’s all that matters.”

“If it wasn’t for my boy, I would have found it very hard to leave my husband, but River is worth it,” Gloria bullshits.

“He has a long road to recovery, but I am sure he’ll pull out of it just fine.”

“How long exactly?”

God, I hate that woman. I don’t give a fuck if she pushed me out of her vag. I hope that shit hurt. I hope it still does.

“The nurse said possibly four months,” Taelyn answers, “which is much better than the year they originally told us.”

“Oh.” Her response hangs in the air.

No way is Gloria going to leave if I don’t say something. Therefore, I clear my throat and open my eyes.

“Oh, honey,” Gloria cries, bending down for a kiss, but I move my head, and she gets my cheek. Her eyes shift from me to Taelyn and back. “Tell me what I can do for you.”

“Nothing,” I answer, looking at Taelyn who seems perplexed. “I’ll be fine.”

“Of course you will.” Gloria again reaches out to touch my cheek, and I flinch.

She glances at Taelyn. “My son is too old for—”

“I’m going to sleep. I’ll call you if I need anything,” I say as I let the drugs take hold.

“I should get a hotel,” she says in her show voice.

“No, I’ll call if I need anything,” I grumble.

I fall asleep, listening to her spew bullshit to Taelyn about how she wished I would let her stay, but boys will be boys. I allow it because I just want her to go the fuck away. Besides, it wouldn’t matter if I told her that shit. The one time I told her what I knew she could already see, she didn’t listen. I told her I wanted to go and live with my father, and she wouldn’t even call him.

Never again.

Feels like morphine.

I’m fifteen years old with full access to the world. It is literally at my fingertips.

The Internet, every adolescent boy’s filthy dream and dirty, little secret. A boy who comes from a “privileged” lifestyle has that shit tenfold. Cell phone with unlimited data, a laptop with the same, mix that up with the smarts to erase my browser history and disable cookies to boot, and you have a kid whose hormones are on steroids.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Henry, Mom’s fourth husband grumbles as he walks in my room.

I jump and adjust myself through my sweatpants. Then I quickly minimize the screen so he can’t see what it is I am actually doing.

“Goddamned kid doesn’t even have hair on his balls yet and he’s jerking off.” He stumbles over to me. Obviously, the smoke has worn off, and he turned to the bottle.

“Fuck you,” I mumble under my breath as I stand as tall as my five-foot-six ass can.

“What did you just say to me?” He grabs me by the back of my neck and pushes me down across my desk. “Someone oughta teach you a lesson.”

“Fuck you,” I hiss as I try to stand up, but he’s too fucking big, too damn strong.

“Stay down and take what is coming to you.”

I continue to struggle while he pushes harder, his body leaning over mine. I hear the clank of his belt buckle, and then he grips the back of my neck hard, mashing my face into the keyboard on my desk.

My pants get yanked down, and then the leather belt hits my back when I try to escape. Then it hits my ass.

I cry out in pain as his malicious laugh grows deeper.

I yell for my mother, scream for her.

One hand covers my mouth, and then …

“No! No! Please no!” My scream is in vain.

I plead to God for my end.

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