Bring Down the Stars (Beautiful Hearts Duet #1)(2)

Dad drove the car off the curb and around the cul-de-sac. He slowed in front of me and waved once from behind his closed window. Guilt had turned his features into someone unrecognizable.

I shook my head no, and kicked the passenger door.

He kept going. I slammed my hand on the trunk. No!

He didn’t stop.

For a second, I stood with my pulse rushing in my ears and my face on fire, watching the car roll away. Then I ran. I ran after him as fast as I could. I shouted at him as loud as I could, hot tears streaking down my burning skin.

Did he see me in his rearview? He must have; a seven-year-old boy screaming for his dad to come back, while running as fast as his legs could carry him. Not fast enough.

He sped up, turned the corner, and was gone.

The ground tilted out from under me. I stumbled to the asphalt, scraping my knees and palms, my breath wheezing through hard sobs.

We later found out he’d quit his job weeks ago and hadn’t paid the mortgage on the house in three months. Instead, he kept the money for his escape.

Did he wonder what we’d do with only Ma’s pay from cutting hair? Did he care that we’d lose our little house in Woburn? In the months to come, did he ever wonder if we cried for him? Did he consider my sisters and I blamed ourselves, because of course we did. If we were good enough, he would’ve stayed.

Or taken us with him.

Instead, he took his clothes and the stuff from his bathroom. Dad scraped out his closet and drawers, taking everything…except for one dress sock. Black with gold-colored thread at the toe.

I looked at that lone sock in the drawer and pictured the other one in his luggage, now traveling with him—wherever he was going. He couldn’t be bothered to grab the other one.

Like us, it wasn’t worth going back for.

His children were left behind, like a sock in a drawer that was almost empty, and that was a million times worse than if there was nothing left at all.

The bank took the house. Ma started drinking a lot of beer at night and had to ask Uncle Phil for money to get us into an apartment in Southie.

I burnt the sock.

I was only seven but the anger in me felt so much bigger. Hotter. Like a fever that would never go away. I had to watch the sock turn to ash. That way, if Dad came back looking for it, I could tell him, “It’s gone. I burnt it. There is nothing left for you here.”

He’d say he was sorry, and I’d say it was too late, and I’d make him go. I’d be in charge, and when his car drove away, I wouldn’t run after it.

But that was five years ago. He isn’t coming back.

“You only got this shirt so keep it clean. You hear me?”

Ma cinched the maroon-and-gold striped tie up to my throat hard enough to make me wince. “You come home messed up, there’s nothing I can do for you. You want to look like a poor bastard from Southie?”

“I am a poor bastard from Southie,” I said, earning another jerk on my tie from Ma.

She wagged her finger in my face, last night’s beers still lingering on her breath. “Watch your language or you’ll get kicked out before you even start.”

Holy irony, Batman.

My language was how I wound up winning a scholarship to the most expensive school in Boston in the first place. My essay beat 3,000 other entries to get me a full ride to the Sinclair Preparatory School for Boys, and the high school Academy. Unfortunately the ride came with no transportation, so I was getting up at five in the morning to catch the 38 bus into the city center.

I looked myself over in the mirror on the back of the door, not recognizing my own reflection. At public school, I’d worn jeans and a T-shirt every day of my life. A long-sleeved shirt on picture day. A jacket in winter. Now I stared at the maroon blazer with gold around the edges, black trousers, and white shirt with the Sinclair logo. I wondered who that guy in the mirror was trying to fool.

“Stop fidgeting,” Ma said, fussing with my hair.

She’d cut it short but left some of the front long. She was a stylist down at Betty’s, and she was good at her job.

“Don’t you look handsome?”

I ducked from under her hand and scowled. “I look like I’ve been sorted into Gryffindor.”

Ma sniffed. “What the hell you talking about? You look great. Just like one of them.”

One of them.

I dropped my gaze to my old, worn out Chucks. They were the only thing that was the same about me, and a dead giveaway that I wasn’t ever going to be ‘one of them.’ The other boys would have dress shoes, but shoes didn’t come with the uniform, and Ma couldn’t afford them this month. Maybe next. Maybe never. I was okay with never. You can’t run in dress shoes.

I ran a lot. When I got mad, I ran around the old, pitted track at my public school as fast as I could, for as long as I could. I don’t know why; I didn’t particularly like running, but I was fast. I still had dreams about chasing Dad’s car, so maybe that’s why. Maybe I’m still trying to catch him. Stupid. Running on a track, you just go in circles. You always come back to where you start.

“No fighting, Weston Jacob Turner,” Ma said that morning, taking my chin in her hand and turning me to face her. The curve of her acrylic nail touched the bridge of my nose where a small break hadn’t healed straight. “You can’t be carrying on at that fancy school like you do around here. One fight and you’re out.”

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