Scarlet North

Nine Years Old

* * *

June 1, 2007

I know he’s not my father. I don’t have one. His being gone all the time is because he wants away from her. I do too. We have that in common. I wish he’d just take me with him.

Scarlet ?

* * *

December 3 2008

I punched the new one. Right in the balls. He screamed and hit me across the face. Called me a little bitch. But I didn’t care. Not even when mom started hitting me with the belt she got out of father’s closet. Still didn’t care. Because it was all worth it. He left. He didn’t touch me anywhere but my thigh this time. I stopped him.

Scarlet ?

* * *

October 2009

It happened. Father came home unexpected. Mother’s new friend hadn’t come in my room yet. I knew he would. He would hold me down while she tied my hands together. I’d started closing my eyes and thinking about other things. If I try really hard I can completely zone out. Leave the room almost.

I don’t know how he knew but he did. My father that is. He called me out of my room. I heard loud voices and yelling. I didn’t want to go out there but I went. He was never home. Maybe this time he was taking me away. Even if he wasn’t my real father.

He asked me if that man had ever been in my room. I didn’t even look at my mom. I knew her threats. That I’d go to jail. But I was older now. I’d looked it up online and I knew that wasn’t true. When I had told her as much she’d pulled a gun out of a drawer and asked me if I wanted to be shot. Sometimes I thought being shot might not be so bad. Then I’d be dead.

I told him yes and that he touched me and I hadn’t been able to say more. Admitting it made me feel as if the dirty was all over me. That it was there on me so he could see it.

The man started to run for the door when father stepped in his way. He told him that he didn’t want this out. That if the man promised to never come back he’d let him go. But returning would be a one way ticket to prison. I didn’t know you need tickets for prison. But I guess you do.

When it was just the three of us he told me to go back to my room. I don’t know what they talked about. Or for how long. But it’s been two weeks now and he’s not been here but neither has any of the men.

Scarlet

* * *

August 23, 2010

Today I started junior high. Mom didn’t come out of her room to see me off to school but if she had I’d have thought she was taking some kind of drug again. Her brief stint with happy pills father put her on last year only lasted two months. She packed my lunches those days and did the laundry. A couple nights she cooked dinner. But she also gained twenty pounds and refused to take them anymore. Within a week she was back to drinking too much, sleeping with men who never came near my door anymore. I even had a new lock installed. The men were young now though. Like they could be in college.

The best thing was I think I made a new friend. She’s quiet and sweet. I’ve seen her around before but she doesn’t talk much. When that bitch Emily James took her lunch tray and dumped it in the garbage I walked over and shoved Emily into the garbage cans too. I told her she threw the wrong trash away. Then I sat beside Dixie, that’s my new friend’s name, and offered to share my lunch tray.

This year just might not be so bad after all.

Scarlet

Bray

I COULDN’T SIT down. Standing at the window looking out over the hospital parking lot I pressed Scarlet’s number again. The tenth time since six this morning and still no answer.

“Fuck!” I growled as I stuffed the phone back in my pocket with more force than necessary. Why wouldn’t she answer? I had left a note on my pillow. When she woke up and turned to look for me she’d see it there. I’d called to make sure she woke up in time for work. Then I tried again before she should have arrived at work. No answer.

Pulling out my phone I searched for the diner’s number. Pressing it on Google the shit service I had in here stalled and I waited before it finally went through. I should have just woken her up when I got the call. But when you get a call at five in the morning telling you your baby brother has taken a fall from a motherfucking wild mustang he had no business getting on, and he’s got internal bleeding, possible spinal cord injury, fractured skull, had to be revived three times in the ambulance and is going into emergency surgery . . . you don’t think. You react. I grabbed clothes, put them on, quickly scribbled “Dallas is hurt. Bad. Call me” left it on my pillow, then ran for my truck. No time to wake her and explain anything. I had to get to Moulton.

“Bright Eyes Diner,” a woman answered with little enthusiasm.

“Can I speak with Scarlet North please?” I asked, anxious to hear her voice. I needed to explain why she had woken up to just a note.

“She ain’t in today. Taking a day off,” the lady said, then the call ended. No explanation. Not even a goodbye. I held the phone in front of my face and stared at it. A day off? She’d called in? Was she sick? Fuck!

I dialed the number again.

“Bright Eyes Diner,” the same woman said.

“This is Bray Sutton. I just called asking for Scarlet.”

“And I told ya she wasn’t here—“

“I know! Don’t hang up. I have a question. Is she sick?” I asked.

“No she ain’t sick. Just tired I reckon.”

I opened my mouth to ask if she’d called in and who she had spoken to, but the woman hung up on me again. What the hell? Was this a joke? Who did that?

I tried calling Scarlet’s cell phone again and got no answer.

“Still in surgery, but the assisting doctor came out to let us know there is no internal bleeding,” Asher said as he came to stand beside me.

I wanted to be relieved but how the fuck could I? They had revived him. Brought him back to life, three times. One was bad enough. The fact he may be in a coma or paralyzed terrified me, but what if it’s worse? What if he doesn’t make it?

I glanced back in the waiting room. “How’s Momma?” I asked. In all my years, I had never seen my momma cry like I’d seen today.

“He’s her baby, Bray,” was all Asher said. He didn’t have to say more. That was enough. She wasn’t handling it. She was falling apart every minute they had him in surgery.

“Do you know if Dixie had any luck getting Scarlet on the phone?” I asked him.

He shook his head, frowning. “No. She’s still not answered you? Did you try her work?”

“Twice and the damn old woman answering the phone gives me one word answers and hangs up. She’s not at work today. Taking a day off. I’m about to call again and ask when they spoke with her. Maybe she’s headed here. But why won’t he answer?”

Asher was stoic as he stared straight ahead. “I’m sure she’s okay. Probably phone issues.”

I dialed the diner again.

“Bright Eye’s Diner,” the woman said. Jesus! Could no one else answer the motherfucking phone?

“At what time did Scarlet call into work and who did she speak with?” I asked firmly.

The woman sighed like I was the annoying one. “Can someone please answer all these damn questions! I got cornbread to make!” she yelled loudly and the phone sounded as if she’d dropped it on the bar or a table.

I waited, hoping someone with some fucking sense picked up.

“Can I help you?” Ethel asked. Thank God.

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