Yeah, I don’t trust them.
Who are they? The family who takes me in after they catch me making a rare mistake. They offer me a deal that allows me to make amends while staying with them and working. I’ve never had a permanent home and I’d long since run away from the foster care system after my last “home” had someone using my back for a cigarette tray. My means of supporting myself? Whatever necessary. That includes anything and everything I needed to do to survive. That’s all my life has been about anyway: survival. And you know what? I’ve done just that. Survived. And thrived while doing so.

Then this strange family decides to rescue me. Though not for a moment do I need rescuing. I’ve made my life something interesting and important while remaining independent. I’m neither homeless, nor a criminal. I’ll do my penance in this small town of Silver Springs, but nothing will make me lose sight of the life waiting for me on the road.

I don’t trust their motives for a second and I’m ready at any moment for it to go wrong. Nothing is going to make me believe in them. Even as I meet Dani Dawson, who is a waitress in the café where I work and is dating the son of the family I’m staying with. She tries to show me a softer side to life. Still, I know that nothing lasts: not food, shelter, parents, friends, brothers, families, and certainly not love. Especially if you’re relying on others for it. I rely on no one but myself. Always have and always will. No matter what. So, I’m ready for it all to go to crap, but until then? Joke’s on all of them and I’ll take advantage of it until the very last moment.


I caught my first glimpse of his back.
I am horrified by the deep cigarette burns I see seared into his smooth skin. They are unmistakable. Some are round, puckered circles, and some looked like they were far deeper than others. There are a lot of them. Clustered between his shoulder blades, his neck and midway down his back. I gasp. I don’t mean to. But it’s appalling. I shudder as the cool water soothes my skin, but I instantly tear up imagining the unbearable torture that resulted in those scars. Oh, my God! I mean, you think you understand someone when they say they had a tough childhood or were abused, and even if Wesley never said so, I knew it. But this? Physical proof?
Burnt evidence.
On his back.
I reach out without thinking to touch them. I want to rub them away, soothe the pain, and the mental anguish that had to accompany such an experience. It must be etched into his soul as surely as his skin is scarred. He stiffens at my touch and sighs. He doesn’t look at me. His jaw clamps and juts outward. “It happened a long time ago.”
“That makes it worse, not better,” I sniff and shake my head. My eyes feel so big, they almost pop out. I want to grab him. I would reach out to comfort anyone with those kinds of scars from childhood abuse on their skin.

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