I awaken to the sound of the front door slamming shut and voices carrying across the hall. The door is closed and the voices aren't as loud as they usually are, so I'm about to fall back asleep with Luke when I bolt upright, scrambling out of the bed. I haven't made any breakfast and they're back.
I fell asleep in my clothes last night, so I don't need to change. I look out the window and see the caravan. I can't go into their room without food and she won't care that there is no food in the house. I should've made do with what's there, she would not-so-nicely tell me. Yeah, because you can definitely make a good breakfast with an apple and banana, I think to myself bitterly.
The door's out of the question, so that only leaves the window. It's times like this that I'm glad we don't live in a two-storey house.
I rush over to the window and slide it up, hoping not to wake Luke. He's a light sleeper and the littlest of noises usually wake him up.
The window won't stay open on its own, so I reach out, holding onto the frame, and grab one of the bricks piled up beside the front door. I fit it so it keeps the window open, hoping it will stay that way until I'm out.
I'm not a very graceful person in general, but luckily I've done this before and can do it without making too much noise, thus alerting everyone's attention. Unfortunately, I land on a rock and go over on my ankle, scraping my arm on the bricks as I fall down.
Wincing, I rub my foot, trying to get some feeling back into it before I've to get up to go to the caravan. The window shuts and the brick holding it open falls out, hitting me on the back of my head. My head jerks forward and my forehead hits my knee, causing my swollen ankle to kick into the air from reflex.
I usually take pride in myself for my reflexes, but I wish I didn't have such good ones now.
A searing pain flashes through my ankle and I can tell I won't be walking properly for a while. I push myself up off the ground and force myself to walk to the van, ignoring the shooting pain in both my head and foot.
Karen never locks it. She thinks if someone takes it, insurance will cover it and she'll get a new and better one. For that to work, she'd actually have to pay for insurance, but she doesn't think she has to, and I'm not telling her she's wrong and risking a beating or a shouting match.
I go inside and as quickly as I can on a swollen ankle, rush to the refrigerator in hope that the pancake mix I made several days ago is still there. It is. I grab the bowl and a pan, quickly heating them up and flipping them as fast as I can without them being undercooked. I grab two plates and the second I see them solidifying, toss them onto the plates and throw the pan into the sink, quickly filling it with water.
I rush to the door and down the steps, limping on my foot, but carry on until I reach their room and knock on the door. Always knock unless you want to see certain parts of a body you don't need to see.
"Come in!" Karen screeches and I open the door, balancing the pancakes on one hand while I do. "Took you long enough to show up," she sneers at me.
I don't make eye contact as I hand her the plate.
"When I come in, I expect you to have my food on the table and ready. Is that too hard to ask?"
"Then why wasn't it?!" she shouts, throwing a pointed shoe at me. I know better than to duck, so I let it hit my already bruised head.
She throws another, but it goes the complete opposite direction and hits a confused Tom in the naked chest. "What the hell?"
"Oh, there you are. Just come back from some other girl's house, have you?"
"What're you talking about? I came back with you."
"Sure you did. You're just as pathetic as her," she snaps, jerking her head my way, sitting up against the battered headboard. The covers slip off her chest and I'm glad she's wearing her robe.
"I wasn't the one who went off with another guy right in front of my face," he shouts back, her temper rising as he glares at her in a way I could never, without getting a beating or berating.
This is usually when I'd take Luke out of the house, but I'm now stuck here in the middle of it until she dismisses me.
"At least I wasn't practically drooling over another girl's ass while dancing with someone else!"
"Well, that girl seemed to be interested in me unlike the one I was dancing with, who was visually undressing the guy behind us!"
"At least he wasn't staring at another girl- what're you looking at!?" she screams at me, seeing me still here.
She's getting riled up and I want to leave, but I can't until she tells me to. I don't get a chance to say anything before she's throwing another shoe at me, which hits my ankle, causing me to buckle from the impact.
"Go!" she shrieks. "Get out of my sight!"
I quickly get up and run down the hall to mine and Luke's room, hoping he's still asleep. He's not. Instead, he's staring at the ceiling with unshed tears in his eyes.
"Hey, sleepy head," I say in a false cheery voice.
He doesn't answer me and turns on his side, away from me.
I sit on the edge of the bed and rub his arm. "It's okay, bud."
He sniffles and I can tell he's crying. Seeing Luke cry breaks my heart, piece by piece. I hate Karen. I know I told him he doesn't hate her, but I do. I hate her for making Luke cry. I hate her for making us move and making it harder for Luke to make friends. I hate her for not getting Luke the right food he needs. I hate her, I just hate her.
"She hurt you again," he whispers, still not looking at me.
"You aren't," he says, turning around and facing me. He looks at my face and dissolves in tears again. I pick him up, hugging him as he cries into my shoulder, returning the embrace.
"I'm fine," I repeat into his ear, desperate to make him happy, even if it means lying to him, something I hate doing.
He shakes his head and lifts his tear streaked face off my shoulder. "Your arm," he croaks, lightly running a finger down my scratched arm.
"It was the wall."
"Your head." Touching a finger to my forehead, he pulls it back a few seconds later, only for it to be covered in blood. I reach up. I didn't think I was bleeding or I would've cleaned up before coming in to Luke.
"It was the wall," I say, but I am not sure if it was that or the shoe she threw. "I was getting out the window and a brick hit my head."
He rests his head on my shoulder again. "I hate her," he whispers in my ear. I don't say anything, but hug him tight to me. We sit there for a few minutes, just wrapped in the other's arms.
"Come on," I announce, getting up off the bed. "Let's go and get you that towel."
As we rush into the caravan to get a change of clothes, I grab my bag and take out the $45 I saved from my last job, shoving it into the pocket of my ripped sweatpants. I make sure the bag is put away safely under the couch before I wait for Luke to get ready.
He comes out of the bathroom, wearing his superman t-shirt that Josh got him for his birthday and a pair of ripped, worn out jeans. They weren't styled that way though, but have become like that over the years he has owned and wore them.
"Ready?" I ask him. I have already cleaned up, having washed the blood from my forehead and am now ready to go.
He shakes his head and rushes to the window. "Sunny," he guesses, looking out at the blue, clear sky. Smiling, I walk over to the window and look out.
He looks at me, eye brows raised and head tilted like he thinks I'm either an idiot or I'm letting him win. "It could happen," I shrug, not wanting him to think the latter.
Shaking his head and pursing his lips in an adorable way, he takes my hand and ushers me to the door. I hop down the steps and take his hands, swinging him down the way he likes.
"Race you," I challenge and he takes off in a flash, leaving me and my still sore ankle to chase after him.
"Slow coach!" he calls out to me when he stops to catch his breath and looks for me, finding me far behind him.
"Maybe you're just getting faster."
"Or maybe you're getting slower."
"Probably," I agree, finally catching up with him.
I look around the land and see the outlines of some buildings in the near distance. The forest is on our right hand side and carries on for miles; I'm hoping to stay away from it.
"Do you see anything?" Luke asks, squinting around for any sign of life.
"I think so." I point straight ahead of us.
"Well, let's go then," he declares, grabbing my hand and marching towards the direction I pointed in.
After fifteen minutes of walking, we arrive at a square. There's a statue in the centre and a few buildings around it, most of them old and slightly run down. The ground has the look of old cobblestone and there's a statue of a man wearing a cowboy hat. I can't see what the carved words say, as someone has had the bright idea to graffiti over them, but I'd guess it's of an important person from this town.
"Cool," Luke says, looking around the place and pausing on the statue for a moment longer.
I look around at the few stores and decide on the one called Mick's. "Let's go."
We walk around the graffiti statue, with Luke playing his usual game of trying not to step on the cracks, and to the doors of Mick's, walking through them when they open automatically.
It's a small store with, as far as I can see, lots in it. There's a fruit and vegetable aisle straight ahead of us, a refrigerated aisle next to it, a tins and boxed food aisle after and though I can't see the sign above it, a toy aisle at the end. Judging by the smell, there's a bakery somewhere and a candy counter at the cash register, where an elderly woman is working.
I take a shopping cart and give it to Luke, knowing he likes pushing it. "Don't break anything," I warn, but I'm joking; he'd never break anything as he's always careful.
"I won't," he grins mischievously and rushes down the first aisle at top speed, careful to keep away from the shelves.
I can't spend all the money until I get a job, but I can spend up to $30. Most of the step dads get a job, mostly because I don't make enough to get them booze as well as Karen, and I'm hoping Tom will get one. He seems a decent enough person and I haven't had any trouble with him yet.
I go to the fruit and vegetable aisle where Luke took off to. It's only when I see the apples and bananas that I remember I didn't give Luke the ones I found this morning. Karen has most likely found them and has either thrown them out or is using them as a weapon against Tom.
After bagging various fruits, I follow Luke to the refrigerated aisle and look through the shelves. I find a store brand of mince that will last for a few dinners and get some spaghetti.
"Spaghetti?" Luke asks, seeing me put it in the cart.
"Yep, with mince."
"Yes!" he exclaims, grinning at me. I smile back at him and we go to the next aisle. Again, I find the store brand soup and rice and get them, putting them into the grinning Luke's cart.
The toy aisle is split into two sections; 'toys and clothes' is the first part, and 'soft-furnishings' is the next. Scented candles and cushions line the shelves, but we ignore them, as does Luke ignores the toys. He goes straight to the bundles of towels that we came for.
I stop by the clothes section, debating in my mind on whether or not to buy him some. Luke needs new clothes and they're having a sale… I grab a shirt and pants I see in his size and put them in the cart before I can convince myself otherwise.
I find Luke at the furnishing section, looking longingly at a Spiderman towel, but he grabs a plain cream one and turns back to me.
"Get it," I tell him, taking the cream towel from his hand and placing it back on the shelf. The cost so far is less than what I thought it would be, and the towel Spiderman towel would make him happy. I've been adding it up in my mind and am surprised that it's not as much as I thought it would be; it's usually a lot more than this.
He looks from the towel to me. "Can I?"
"Yep." Taking the towel from his hand, I put it in the cart by his side. "I think that's it. Let's go pay."
I walk up to the cash register with Luke, who's beaming so bright it's infectious, and we place the items on the revolving belt. The woman at the register, Mauve as it reads on her tag, smiles at us. "Are you new here?"
I nod my head, not particularly liking talking to people I don't know, much less adults.
She smiles vaguely. "I knew I didn't recognise you. Everyone knows everyone in this town." Mauve scans the items and places them in several bags. "$23.60," she tells me.
$23.60? I added it up to be $28. I take the money out of my back pocket and count out a twenty and five, handing them to her.
She gives me back my change and I glance down at Luke to tell him we're going, but see him eyeing some candy for $1. I spent less than I thought I would, so I give him a dollar for them.
He looks at the dollar and then at me. "What's that for?"
"The candy," I say, taking it off the rack and placing it onto the belt.
He starts to shake his head, but his eyes betray him when he glances at it longingly. I cut him short. "Buy it, or I will."
He bites his lip, but takes the dollar. Mauve's smiling at us as she scans the candy and hands it back to him.
"Thank you," he says.
"You're very welcome," she tells him and looks back to me. "Come back soon."
I nod, not saying I will or won't. It seems to be the only store around here as far as I can see, so I most likely will be back. Thankfully it wasn't a question, so it doesn't really need an answer. Taking Luke's hand, we walk away from the register.
We're almost out the door of the store when something crashes into me and wraps its arms around my waist. "Thank you, Joey," Luke whispers, hugging me tightly.
"No need to thank me, Luke. You deserve it."
He looks up at me and says, "You deserve it, too."
"I don't need anything as long as I have you." I don't; as long as he's happy, I'm happy.
"I love you."
"I love you more and don't you forget it," I tease, nudging him with my hip. "Come on. We've got breakfast to eat."
"Have a good day," Mauve calls after us, her voice slightly dreamy and causing me to look back at her. I smile uncertainly when I see her, eyes shiny and a distant expression on her face, like she's lost in her thoughts, but whether good or bad, I'm not too sure.
"You, too," I wish lowly, so she's most likely not able to hear me, but at least I said something. We leave the store, the bag in one of my hands, Luke's hand in the other.