“Despite what you boys may think of her, your mother was a good woman who was corrupted by men who didn’t deserve her. We ruined her. We ruined you.”
“Trust me. It takes more than bad parenting to cause my type of ruin.”
“Nevertheless, if we hadn’t,” he paused to take a deep breath, “if I hadn’t let you go, you would be okay.”
“You don’t think I’m okay?” My lips curled in a humorless grin as I watched him from the other side of the desk.
“Cut the shit,” he said in a hard tone. “Don’t hide behind sarcasm. It isn’t cute. I don’t care what those little girls think.”
“I’m sensing this conversation is over. Good talk.” I turned to leave, but when my hand gripped the door handle, another hand gripped my shoulder. I didn’t even hear him cross the room.
“You need to hear this.”
“No, I don’t. It’s done. This is what I am, and I don’t plan to change.”
“That makes for a pretty bleak future, son. Do you plan to drag that girl of yours into it?”
“And if I am?”
“I won’t let you hurt her anymore.”
“How do you plan to stop me?”
Why did he care anyway? From the tale he had just spun, he pretty much just confirmed that he was a selfish bastard. Now he was determined to protect a total stranger. He didn’t need to know I had no intentions of hurting Monroe unless she gave me no choice. My desires have long since morphed into a different kind of need. The need to own.
“Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.” He continued to stare at me with a curious expression, and I could tell he wanted to say more. “Why her?”
“Why not?” I countered without missing a beat.
“She doesn’t seem like your type.”
She’s exactly my type. “You don’t know what my type is.”
“But you do have a type?”
“Fuck.” My patience was nonexistent. “Is this conversation going somewhere? I have somewhere to be.”
“Look,” he released a harsh breath. “Before you go… there’s something I meant to give you.” He walked back over to his desk, unlocked one of his desk drawers and pulled out a small stack of aged envelopes. He pushed them across his desk and nodded for me to take them.
“What is that?”
“Letters your mother wrote. None of them are addressed. I think it was how she kept a journal.”
“They aren’t meant for me. Take them,” he urged. “Get to know your mother, son.”
“I’ve been without her for eighteen years. I don’t need to know her.”
“Will you ever let go?”
I gritted my teeth to keep from spewing the hateful words I felt from my gut and the black hole some called a heart. “No. Keeping my hatred reminds me of what you’ve done. That’s something I never want to forget.”
* * *
She’s crying again. She was always crying.
If she didn’t stop, they would punish her, and when they grew tired of punishing her, they would make me kill her. That was the way it had been for the last two years. I was in charge of killing the prospects as they called us. It was my ‘reward’ for doing such a great job.
I hated my reward.
I hated killing.
But I could never let them see what it did to me. The hardest part of doing everything they told me was pretending to like it. Every day was colder than the last. At least that’s the way I felt inside.
I swung my legs over my dirty, hard cot, and when my feet hit the concrete, I used my toes to grip the cold ground for balance. It was late, and I was barely fed because the trainers decided to leave a little less for us to eat that night. Even though I was treated better than many of the other underperforming prospects, sometimes I still starved like the rest.
I made my way over to her cot. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I could see her cradling her arm to her chest.
I knew something bad happened to her. She’d only been here less than a week and had more beatings than I’ve had for the last eight years.
“You need to stop crying… now,” I ordered harshly when she continued to vocally shed her pain.
She flinched at the sound of my voice and scrambled up from her prone position to face me. Her cries only increased in volume as I approached, so I stopped and watched her watch me. She stared at me with fear apparent in her eyes, and even though I felt the same, I couldn’t share her feelings.
“P—please don’t hurt me.”
“If I wanted to hurt you, I would have waited and put the pillow over your head in your sleep.” Her eyes widened at my threat. “I will still hurt you though if you don’t stop crying.”
“I’m sorry. It just h—hurts so bad.”
I peered down at the dirty and bruised arm she held that was swollen and red. “What happened to your arm?”
“The big man with the red hair yanked it, and now I think I broke it.”
“Well, you’ve got to stop crying anyway.”
“I can’t. It hurts.”
“They’ll do much worse to you,” I whispered harshly. I knew why I was angry, but I didn’t know why I cared.
“Why are you so mean?” She pouted.
“Because I have to be.”