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Crimson blood dribbled from my left nostril down to my upper lip. “I love her, Dad.” I choked on the tangy copper that swam in my throat and gagged.
Dad’s thick fingers crushed my windpipe harder. “You’re seventeen, boy. You have no fucking clue what love is.”
I tried to suck in air, but sounded like a beached whale instead. There was so much pressure in my skull I wished it would just explode.
“What will your girlfriend say when I tell her?” Dad spat. “Cassie Sullivan, right? Or is it some other slut this week?” He loosened his grip and I sank to the ground, knees crunching. I wished a sinkhole could just open up beneath me and swallow everything: me, Dad, our house, and all the nightmares that came with it. “We—we’re not just s-screwing around, I s-s-swear. It’s not some f-f-fling.” I was dizzy from oxygen deprivation, and the stuttering resurfaced like an old friend. “Cas-s-s-sie and I b-broke up two weeks ago,” I added, as if that would make me a better man somehow.
“And when exactly did you start fucking Veronica?” Dad’s features were twisted like a mangled slinky. Every pock mark, scar and wrinkle on his face lit up like a battlefield. He wanted war.
We didn’t fuck, we made love, I wanted to say. Instead, I murmured, “We were planning to tell you next week.”
“Tell me what, exactly?” Dad scoffed. “That my whore of a wife is cheating on me with my son?” He yanked on a fistful of my black hair, twisting it so hard tears stung my lash-line. After the last time he beat me, I’d promised myself I’d never cry in front of him again. I refused to shed tears for this monster. I was worth so much more than the sunken, lost, motherless child he ridiculed and destroyed piece by piece, day by day. I was so much stronger now. Because of her.
“We’re moving out. I’ll be eighteen next month.” I knew exactly what he would say next: that we were making a huge mistake. That I was an ungrateful teenage asshole. A ‘retarded son of a bitch’. That the two of us would burn in hell for eternity.
We would never have his blessing; I knew that from the start.
“Like fucking hell you are!” he roared, his spit flecking my face like paint.
“We already put down a deposit.”
“No,” Dad growled. “What the fuck—How the fuck did you think this would pan out? That you two filthy cheaters would elope and I’d just crumple like a house of cards?”
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