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1973742128 (ISBN13: 9781973742128)
He taught me to kill. Murder is in my blood now. It runs through my veins and though I hide the monster I see in the mirror with ink, it doesn’t keep him from coming out.
My street name is Mercy, but I never show any. Except for her. I watch Becca, though she doesn’t know. She saved me a long time ago; the day my father killed my mother. Her bravery turned her into a target.
My father holds a grudge and knife with the same proficiency, and Becca is the focus of his hatred. And I’m the only monster who can save her.
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“Hold these eggs.”
My father handed me the white carton in the grocery store. The aisle was cold. I was cold. My hands were shaking.
“Don’t you drop those eggs, son.” His voice was menacing. But everything about him was menacing.
He’d finally done it. He’d killed my mother. Last night. This morning.
We were in the grocery store because we needed food. My sister was at my aunt’s house, which was good.
Because Mom was dead.
My hands shook more. I stared at them and willed them to stop shaking. I begged them to stop shaking.
Mom was shaking before she died. Seeing her like that was all there was. In this grocery store. In my head. My hands were clean now, but Dad had scrubbed them before he’d put me in the truck.
To come here. To get groceries.
I felt sick to my stomach.
Mom had been trying to make dinner. In the end all the food from the fridge had been tossed around the kitchen.
The squeaky Styrofoam container the eggs were in was giving me away. He was watching. He was getting even angrier.
Mom wasn’t here anymore. To step in. To stop him when he got this way.
“Stop shaking, Fenix Churchkey.”
It was a whisper from the scariest man on the planet. I tensed my muscles. There was no difference. Maybe it was making it worse.
“You’re the best boy, Nix. I love you so much. Just remember that.”
Mom. She was gone.
I watched in horror as the carton tumbled from my hands and hit the floor. The eggs made a sickening noise inside.
Mom was shaking before she died.
Before he murdered her.
I looked at his face, knowing he would kill me too. Not here. Most likely not here.
He liked private. He liked closed doors.
I knew not to make a sound when his hand grasped my arm so hard. He would squeeze right through the bones maybe someday.
I started to count my matchbox cars in my head. It was how I kept quiet. In a box under my bed there was three cars. The red car. The blue van. And the Hummer, my favorite. It was purple and…
“What did I tell you?”
His mouth was next to my ear. His breath smelled bad. His sweat smelled bad.
Mom was gone now.
At least my sister was at my aunt’s house. She was just a baby.
Dad grabbed my other arm, a little lower than the edge of my T-shirt sleeve. I watched as my skin came up between his fingers.
I felt the tears.
Crying always made it worse.
He was going to break my arms. Both my arms.
“Hey! Mister! Leave that boy alone.”
I felt chills up my spine. We were private. We liked closed doors. No one was allowed to know.
“I said let go! You’re bigger than he is. And let him go. He’s good.”
She was a kid. Like me. She put her hands on his forearm and pushed. I was stunned quiet. I was stunned stupid.
She wasn’t wearing matching socks and her hair was a giant halo of curls. She had a shiny purse with a stuffed dog sticking out of it and a fistful of coupons. There was a spiral pad with a cat doodled on it popping out of a pocket.
Dad took one hand off of me and lifted it. He was going to backhand this little girl. I put my hand up to block him.
I saw my death in his eyes then. You don’t stand up to him.
Mom was gone.
The little girl didn’t flinch.
It would occur to me years later that she’d never been hit a day in her life. But not now. Now she was a superhero.
“You don’t hurt kids. That’s wrong.” She looked from his face to his hand that was still squeezing me.
“Go on, girl. ’Fore I change your mind.” Dad wiped his mouth with the back of his threatening hand.
He had it for her. For this little girl.
She frowned at my father and then put her lips to the side like she was fed up with him.
I felt my mouth drop open.
Then she was looking at me. Her clear blue eyes saw me. Saw through me. “Are you okay?”
To see this wild disrespect of what my father could do, what he demanded from Mom, from me was like getting hit with a wave in the center of my chest.
I felt my father’s warning hiss to me. This girl was the sun on the darkest horizon. She made dark turn to light.
I nodded. I was fine. We were always fine.
Mom was gone.
“Mister, you need to let go of his arm.”
The girl pointed at me. I knew what she saw. His fingers biting into me like teeth on a tiger. I had so many bruises all over my body that were in the outline of my father’s hand. This new one on my arm would only be unique because it didn’t feel entirely in the safe zone of how my shirts lay. I would wear a long sleeve if I could find it tomorrow. If I made it to tomorrow.