After years of abuse, Roxi is an expert at deceiving the people around her. Everyone believes she has a picture perfect family, with a loving husband and a sweet little boy. They think she resides in a beautiful house and has a luxurious lifestyle, although, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Underneath the facade is a tormented soul, poised on the brink of giving up hope of ever finding a better tomorrow.
Luke’s past haunts him every single day. Not a second goes by without deep sorrow plaguing him. He will never forget what he’s done, he doesn’t want to. No one is more deserving of guilt eating away at them than he is… or so he believes. He spends his time, forever trying to make up for the one mistake that ruined the lives of his loved ones, as well as his own.
From the first time they meet, cracks begin to form in the mask Roxi wears and Luke sees right through them. The only question is, will he realize he’s worthy of love and step in to save her before it’s too late, or continue to think he’s undeserving of true happiness?
10 years ago…
Smoke spreads throughout my body, slightly burning down my throat, reaching out to my fingertips, and unfurling right down to my toes. On the way back up, it navigates a path through my brain and causes tingles all over my scalp.
I puff little white clouds out my open window and cough violently. Through squinted eyes, I watch the orange embers at the end of the joint as I flick it out away from the house. Time goes by in slow motion, as the glow of the ash falls two stories down in the dark of night, before finally extinguishing on the ground below.
Rum sits open and half-finished on my desk. Images from earlier that day flicker behind my eyes momentarily, and I lift the bottle to my lips; drowning the memories away. Sitting down on my bed, I let the haze take over.
Millions of thoughts go through my brain, but I can’t grasp a hold of any of them for too long. Perfect, just what I need, to escape the horror I am faced with on a daily basis. I can’t forget, but at least I’m unable to concentrate on it.
The munchies hit and I tiptoe to my door and creak it open, peeking down the hall. All is quiet, safe, or so it appears. I creep down the stairs, hoping any unseen danger isn’t lurking around the corner. My heart races along with my mind. Every sensation heightened. When I make it to the kitchen, I breathe out a sigh of relief.
I pull a large pot out of the cupboard and tip in half a bottle of oil. Rumbles sound from my stomach as I turn the gas stovetop on high. After everything that happened after school, I went straight to my room. Didn’t care much for dinner at the time, I only wanted to take my focus off what I’d witnessed.
Cold air hits my face as I open the freezer door in search of a bag of fries. It’s practically empty. I groan. Where’s all the fucking food? I move over a bag of frozen peas to see if my muddled brain is deceiving me, but there’s nothing there.
“Damn it,” I curse as I slam the door shut. I run my hand over my pockets to check if I have money and my cell phone on me, and then I head out the door in search of fast food.
After walking about a block, my buzz starts to wear off. The nightmare becomes clear again. Fuck. Maybe I should go to Becca’s party after all. It was the last thing I felt like a few hours ago, but going somewhere to get fucked up and force all this shit out of my head sounds damn good now. I walk a little further down the street. She doesn’t live too far away. When I get to the front walkway, I hear the music pumping. It’s some type of Techno crap. I shudder in disgust.
As I meander up the path to the entrance, I see one or two familiar faces already half passed out in the front yard. When I reach the door I don’t knock, I just walk in and discover a small group of people in the living room. I see Craig, a guy I know a little from school. He is drinking from the largest cup of beer I’ve ever seen. Everyone around him is chanting, “Chug, chug, chug.”
I stroll over to the coffee table that they surround and pick up two beers at once. I tip them both into the beer bong lying nearby. My head whirls, as I tilt it back to guide the golden liquid down my throat and I think maybe I’m not as clear headed as I originally assumed. Then the images assault me again and I’m not nearly wasted enough.
Grabbing two more beers, I repeat the process and then flop back onto the couch. I close my eyes briefly, enjoying the numb foggy feeling that comes over me. I feel a hand pat me on the shoulder and roll my head to the side to see Craig grinning and then lighting up a joint. As he’s passing it to me, I give him a nod of thanks, glad I came.
After a few tokes, I pass it back and stare at the wall. Patterns form in my mind as I study the way the bricks are laid out. I could have been sitting here for five minutes or five hours when I finally decide to leave. I have no idea. Time seems to jump in the blink of an eye when I am this stoned.
I leave the party without really talking to anyone, heading for home. Shadows dance along the pavement and behind trees. I shiver. I’ve smoked so much weed tonight that I’ve become paranoid. I quicken my pace so I can make it home safely.
The smell of smoke hits my nose, an instant before I see the flashing red lights of the three fire trucks that border my house. I immediately start to run as fast as my feet will take me, coughing and spluttering through the thick black haze.
Just before I reach my front yard, strong arms pull me back and I can’t fight them off. “My family!” I try to yell, but the noise of the fire hoses and the men yelling around me drown out my plea.
“Shit,” the firefighter who has a firm hold of me, mutters under his breath. I barely hear him over all the commotion and the snap and crackle of the fire.
The stench of burning bodies surrounds me. It’s strong, like the smell of burning tyres, but more rotten. It’s absolutely putrid. This foul scent will stay with me forever. It presses into me from all sides and I realise no one made it out of the house alive. My stomach churns and I start to dry retch.
I’m being pulled backwards, as my body starts to shake uncontrollably. My chest heaves and it feels like my pounding heart might come up through my throat.When we finally come to a stop, I’m released and I fall to my knees and puke all over myself. The firefighter, who refused to let me closer to what was left of the house, is bending down beside me with his hand on my back, but I’m more aware of the conversation going on behind us. “It looks like it started from the kitchen, Boss. Maybe from a stove top that was left on.”
My mind shifts back to the pot of oil I got out earlier, causing my insides to twist in horror. I empty the remaining contents of my stomach all over the grass of my front yard. I want so badly for this to be a nightmare, but I’m in so much pain; I know it’s real.
I killed my entire family.
Evie Rose resides with her family in sunny Queensland, Australia.
She would take a coffee and a good book over going out and partying any day of the week. On occasion she likes to mix it up with a glass of wine instead of a caffeine fix, but more often than not gets annoyed when she ends up falling asleep with her kindle on her face.
Evie can’t cook, hates to do the housework, and likes to think she is a professional shopper. However, when she writes she can create a character that is everything she’s not and live through them – who needs perfection when you can live vicariously through a wonderful book!