This section contains references to mature subject matters, up to and including issues of child abuse and abortion. If this is an upsetting subject for you, skip over this one, okay?
The garage looked empty, but I didn't know where else he could be.
He was under a car, so I went over to hunch down beside it. "Remember how I asked for an advance before? Can - can I have one now? You know I'm good for it."
He didn't say anything for a minute, and then he slid out from under the car and looked at me.
He looked at me. Hard. "Use the money you've been socking away."
Of course he knew about that, he knew exactly how much money I had, but it was still a surprise to hear him say it. Especially since I really was keeping it in a sock, although I figured he couldn't possibly know where I really hid it. Most people would think to look inside the case, not too many looked inside the pillow.
"It's not enough."
"Gambling debt?" He was mocking me, I knew, but he was kind of serious too.
"Kinda. I just gotta take care of something, and I need to do it soon. Oh," I added, because I'd forgotten, "I need a day off, too. Thursday."
He shook his head, like he couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Come on, you won't even miss me."
He looked kind of mad then. "Don't say shit like that."
"Whatever. Can I have it?"
He looked away, like he was thinking hard.
"Okay. Tell you what. I'll advance you three and a day off, on one condition."
I practically jumped out of my skin, I was so grateful. Three hundred! That would more than cover everything. "What?"
"Don't go alone."
Fuck, there had to be some way around this. I'd think of something later. "Deal."
It only took me a few hours online to find what I needed.
I started working out a plan.
He had the money for me the next day, and I made sure I was alone when I added it to my roll.
I stared at it for a long time, amazed at how guilty I felt. But I knew what I had to do, and I could live with it. No one was going to stop me.
I almost didn't hear Mia coming up the stairs. But I did, and I had the money hidden and a book open by the time she walked in and threw herself down on her bed.
"You don't have classes on Thursdays, do you?"
"Dom said I could have the day off to go see this student fair thing downtown, but he says I can't go alone. Would you take me?" I grinned. "My treat."
She laughed and threw a pillow at me. "Don't be silly. It'll be my treat."
"Sure, I'll go. Sounds like fun."
I gave her a disbelieving look, but she seemed sincere enough. Feeling really, really bad for what I was planning to do, I went over and hugged her.
"What's that for?" I couldn't blame her for being a little surprised. Since I'd been here, I hadn't once initiated any kind of contact.
"Nothing. I just -" I took a deep breath and decided to be honest. About one thing, anyway. "Before I came here, I hated you."
She looked stunned.
"I mean, I didn't hate you. Bri talked about you all the time and you sounded really nice."
She relaxed, even smiled a little. She still missed him, I knew, and I was glad I could be straight with her about this.
"But after what happened, I started thinking it was all your fault, that if it wasn't for you, I'd still have a family. But I don't think that anymore, and I'm not sure I ever really did. I I just wanted to say I was sorry for you know. I wasn't that nice to you," I finished lamely.
Shit, she was crying again, and I wasn't sure what to do. I hadn't cried since that first night I came here, and I felt kind of uncomfortable. But she hugged me and told me it was okay, and we were good.
More than ever, I felt like crud, because I was still lying to her, and I still had every intention of ditching her the first chance I got.
I had an appointment to keep.
"Check this out, Darry."
I grinned; Mia didn't look much older than a lot of the kids here, and she was really enjoying herself, especially with the interactive exhibits. I almost blew the plan right then and there, so I could stay here and spend the day with her looking at all the exhibits.
No. I couldn't think like that.
She got into one about engines, and she was deep in discussion about something or another she'd heard about in the garage when I took a deep breath and walked away.
No one stopped me. And I didn't get lost; I'd gone over the route in my head a thousand times, and I knew exactly where to catch the bus, where I was going, and when to transfer. I got to the clinic with twenty minutes to spare.
But I didn't go in right away.
I sat on a bench across the street, head down, staring at my hand where it rested on my stomach. I was starting to show now, and I'd been using safety pins to keep my pants up because I couldn't close the zipper. I'd even picked up some long shirts that came down past my ass to cover the pins.
But it was definitely there. I could see it, I could feel it, and I knew I had to make it go away. I had to; the only reason I was able to make it this far was because I knew this was my only real option. But I was scared.
Understatement. I was terrified, and suddenly I wished I hadn't ditched Mia at the fair. I knew she didn't believe in this, at least, I was pretty sure she didn't, but she was a good person. She would have waited for me anyway.
I never felt so alone in my entire life.
My family was gone. Both my parents were only children, and I never knew my grandparents. I lived in a different world now, and without bothering to question it I knew that I could never be with my old friends again. I'd been through too much, and they were still kids.
I was a kid once. In most ways I still was. But I felt old, too.
I sighed. It was now or never, and I couldn't live with 'never'.
Taking a deep breath, I looked up.
And almost choked on my own spit. I wasn't alone anymore. Dominic Toretto was standing in front of me, and he didn't look happy.
"What are you doing here?"
He sat down next to me on the bench. "Funny, that was going to be my question."
"You obviously know why I'm here. And you can't stop me."
He shook his head, and suddenly I realised that he didn't look angry, he looked sad. "I'm not gonna stop you, kid. I just wanna know why you didn't tell anyone."
I lost the defiant act. "I couldn't. I was afraid you wouldn't give me the money. Or - or that you'd all look at me like you know. I was pretty sure none of you, you know, believe in it."
He conceded the point. "You talk to Letty at least?"
"You should. She'd understand more than you'd think."
"What do you mean?"
But he wouldn't say any more. "It's not my story to tell."
I just nodded. I could respect that.
"It was a Tran?" He just said it, didn't make a big deal out of it, but I still cringed.
"I don't need details, kid, but what happened?"
"He r- hurt me in front of Bri. Bri Bri lost it. Went totally nuts. He ripped up his hand real bad getting it out of his cuffs, then he pulled this little gun out of his boot and shot him. Tried to come with me but he was hurt real bad and he couldn't get his other hand out of the cuffs. I think he lost too much blood, he got kind of, you know, he wasn't making sense."
I took a deep breath. I knew this story by heart. I dreamed about it almost every night.
"He made me go without him, said I had a better chance of getting away if I didn't wait for him. Told me he didn't know who did it, but to stay away from cops. Told me to find you instead, that you would help me out. And that was it. That was the last time I saw him."
It really was like telling a story. It didn't seem real. It sure as hell didn't sound like something that could happen to me.
"After I do this, it's over. I'm never talking about it again."
He didn't answer right away. "It's okay, kid. I get it."
"Do you think it's my fault Bri is dead?"
I let a long breath out then, not really realising that I'd been holding it in. I felt like a huge burden had been lifted off me, because Dom never lied. Never. If you didn't want an honest answer, you didn't ask him. I still blushed whenever I remembered what he said about this one shirt Letty got me, and I haven't worn it since.
"Still think it's my fault?"
I looked at him, blinking in surprise. Oh yeah, when I'd first come here "I was just saying that, you know. I wanted to hate you, so I told myself that, over and over. That's all."
He nodded like what I said made sense, although I'm pretty sure it didn't. "Why'd you want to hate me?"
"So I could take your money. I was going to steal a bunch."
"Ah. Still gonna?"
We just sat there for a minute, and then I thought to check my watch. "I have to go now."
He nodded again, his jaw tensing.
"Would - would you tell Mia that I'm okay?" I asked, suddenly ashamed. "I kinda ditched her back at the fair."
"I know. Don't worry about it."
I blinked. He knew? How? "Were you following me?"
He nodded. "Knew you were up to something. You mad?" He didn't sound guilty, just interested.
I shrugged. "Nah. It's my own fault for not covering my tracks better."
He grinned, but it faded fast as I stood up. "You want me to come in with you?"
I thought about it and shook my head. "I'll be okay."
"Okay. When you do want me to pick you up?"
I didn't bother to argue. I didn't want to. "They said I'd be done sometime after four."
He nodded, and I looked at him one more time before turning away.
"It's okay, kid."
I didn't cry once that day. I've always been kinda proud of that.
The doctor got all the health information I could give her and then insisted on sitting down with me one more time, worried about my age and that I was alone. She wasn't pushy, but she asked if I was sure I didn't want to call my parents.
She asked if I had any family I could call.
"My brother died a couple hours after my parents did. I'm living with some good people now, but they're Catholic, I won't shove this in their faces."
She asked about the father.
She raised her eyebrows.
"He's dead. My brother killed him before he died. And even if he wasn't dead, he still wouldn't be the father."
She looked kinda doubtful then, like she didn't believe me.
"Listen, I tell you something, you gonna tell on me?"
She thought about it. "If you're not going to commit a crime or hurt yourself, no."
"Good enough. My brother was an undercover cop. He got some people upset who came after him and his family, which was me and my parents. I was the only one who got out, but they didn't get all the people who did it. I can give you some names if you don't believe me, but I'd rather not, just like I don't wanna give you my real name. It probably wouldn't be a good idea to go poking into anything, and I think I'm right that you don't want a lot of cops coming in here bugging you guys and the people who come in here?"
She just stared at me, her mouth open. She kinda looked like a goldfish I used to have, but I didn't really care. Suddenly I wanted to tell someone, just to say it out loud, and the best part was that I never had to see her again.
"Like I said, I'm staying with some real nice people now, but they're religious, and they wouldn't like this. So here's the thing: I appreciate how nice you're being, but I've thought about this a lot. No way I'm ready to have a baby, 'specially not the way my life is right now. And I worked real hard for the money to do this, and I'm running out of time. So can we do this now?"
She looked at me for a long time after that. I just looked back at her, trapped in a haze that was so bright, everything seemed too sharp. It hurt my eyes. But I knew exactly what I was doing, and I'd deal. That's why I'd picked here in the first place, because they'd gotten a good reputation in a couple chatrooms I'd visited, a reputation for being expensive but good, not to mention confidential, and I didn't get a creepy feeling from them, like I was going to wake up and find myself on the way to a foster home or something.
Finally she nodded, handed me a hospital gown, and showed me where I could change.
I had a lot of time to think while I was there.
I missed Mom and Dad and Bri; I missed them a lot. I dreamed about them almost every night.
But sometimes I think I died that day too. The old Darry did, anyway. I'm tougher now. I knew this because I do things that the old Darry would never have done before. I didn't drink or do drugs or anything like that, but when I was on my own for a month, I stole stuff. Food, mostly, but sometimes clothes and once, a sleeping bag, tent, and a duffle. That was before I figured out Bri's PIN (I tried the last four numbers listed next to the name Penny Inch-North in his wallet, laughing at Bri the whole time), cleaned out his checking account, and maxed out his credit card. I was kind of surprised that they hadn't closed them yet, but maybe it took a while with no one to take charge of things.
It never occurred to me to call any of my friends. I think I was scared to tell anyone what had happened. I thought about calling Bri's old partner, an older guy who'd seemed nice enough when Bri gave me a tour of the police station he worked out of, but I couldn't remember his name and I was scared that I'd talk to the wrong cop, one of the ones that had helped the Trans find my family.
For three weeks I walked around Seattle carrying thousands of dollars in a duffle bag, taking a bus out of town each night and camping in a field behind an old barn. It seemed safer than staying in the city, and I could scream and cry when I got scared without anyone bothering me. At least it wasn't that cold yet. I tried not to think about what I was going to do come winter. Maybe I'd just go south, where it was warmer.
And then I realised that I hadn't had my period yet. I'd only been getting it for a year, but it had gotten regular. I wasn't an idiot; I'd paid attention in health class, and I'd seen the after-school movies. It was probably just stress. But maybe not. So I went to a mall, bought a couple pregnancy tests, and headed to the bathrooms. When they all came out positive, I freaked. I literally ran out of the bathroom, out of the mall, and then as far away as I could run before I fell down.
I'd been running track for a couple years at that point. I got pretty far.
It'd just hit me.
It hadn't been real up 'til then. Everything that happened to me all got pushed back in my mind because watching my family get killed was so much worse. But pregnant was bad. That made it real. I didn't think of it as a baby. I knew I couldn't think of it as mine. Even as messed up as I was, I knew what I had to do.
By the time I'd fallen down, caught my breath, and started walking back to the mall, it was late. The mall had closed. I had less than four hundred cash on me, and nowhere to go.
I waited until it opened the next morning, but I hadn't really expected to find it. No one had turned in a duffle bag, and I spoke to the guy who'd cleaned the bathrooms last the day before; he didn't act like he was hiding something, and he told me he didn't see any duffle bag in there at closing.
It was gone. I just hoped it went to someone who used it for something good.
At least I'd kept Bri's wallet on me. I liked the feel of it in my pocket, so I'd never left it in the duffle. After thinking about it for a while, I pulled out the piece of paper. The one that said 'Mia,' that had two addresses and phone numbers scrawled on it.
I hadn't bothered calling first. I just got on a bus for LA and headed out.
If they said no, they'd have to say it to my face. I wasn't going to just walk away. They owed me.
Because that was the new Darry: tough as nails and twice as hard. I didn't know if I liked her better than the old Darry. .
I wondered, as I lay there on the soft bed in the clean but pretty clinic, which one I wanted to be. Not that it mattered either way.
True to his word, Dom was waiting for me when I left the clinic late that afternoon.
I felt like I was walking funny, but I think it was more in my imagination than anything else; the doctor said it went perfectly and she didn't expect any complications. She'd handed me a packet of reminders of how to take care of myself before I left.
She also gave me her card, pointing quietly to her private number on the back and telling me to call if I needed anything, or even just to let her know I was all right. I smiled and said thank you, and I meant it. But I didn't think I would; I had already started putting this place out of my mind, and I planned on having it completely gone by the time I got back to Dom and Mia's place.
Dom went to open my door for me but I gave him a 'look'. He shrugged and got behind the wheel. He drove more carefully than I was used to, and that was kind of unnerving, but after a while he let me put on some loud music and we both relaxed.
"Mia okay?" I asked at one point.
He nodded. "It's covered, kid. She ain't mad."
"Do you think I'm a bad person?" I asked.
He didn't even hesitate. "No."
We drove the rest of the way without talking, but that last bit echoed in my head, and all I could think of was that he didn't hesitate. He just said it, like it was a given, like there was no question in his mind that no matter what else happened that day, he believed what he was saying.
And it helped.
Next: New Directions