Dark Hunger

Page 40


“And I tried to ignore her and wait for Trevor and Liam, but then the hand...” His voice broke.

“Whose hand?” My own voice was getting shrill.

“This hand with dried blood on it, and broken, mangled fingers appeared in the window next to the door. Mrs. Hinton slammed the door and I heard her speaking in a low, quiet voice, then a man’s voice saying something back. Then the voice said, ‘Mom.’”

“What?” Sam’s hand? Mangled?

“So I shouted, ‘Sam?’ And all he said was ‘Help.’”

“Oh, my God.” My mouth and eyes filled with tears. “Oh, Joe, what did you do?”

“I called 911 and told them there was a bloody hand in the window at Sam’s address and I suspected assault. And I texted Trevor and Liam again. Fuckers were running late.”

They both laughed a sad, bitter chuckle.

“Mrs. Hinton screamed at me to turn off the phone, but I left the line open and told the 911 operator I needed her to hear everything. She told me not to go into the home, so I waited. Trevor and Liam showed up just as a cop car and an ambulance appeared.”

“What had happened to Sam?”

A voice behind us, from my door, spoke up. “Six broken fingers, a dislocated shoulder, two broken ribs and a liver injury that means I can’t drink like a college student,” Sam answered. We all looked up, and I wondered what we must look like, discussing the man who stood before us with a face that was impassive as a British palace guard. Except he was dressed like a pale imitation of one of Boston’s finest, hat and all.

“Your father did that to you? Because you lost?” I wanted to apologize, to tell him how I had no idea, how if I’d have known I would have...would have what?

“My father beat the shit out of me because he’s an evil, abusive alcoholic, Amy. It was going to happen no matter what.” Sam took the cap off and ran a shaking hand through his sweaty hair, gently placing the hat on my little nightstand.

“Why didn’t your mom take you to the hospital?”

“Because he told her not to.”

“What kind of mother does that?” The words were out before I could stop them. My own mom could be narrow-minded and an asshole sometimes, but not like that.

“A mother who is completely controlled by my dad.”

“Did the police do anything?”

And that’s the point when the entire room changed, yet again.

“Tell her what Reverend Hinton did,” Liam said bitterly.

His shoulders slumping a bit, Sam seemed to need a moment to tell the next part. How much worse could it get? I glanced at his fingers and finally understood them.

“After my dad started to hit me, I punched him back. Once.” He coughed. “And I missed. It was the first time I’d ever tried hitting back—“

“He’d hit you before?”

“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“When I took a swing, he went into this super-charged, psychotic mode. Pinned me to the floor and held my hand. Snapped my index, middle and ring fingers on each hand like he was snapping summer beans from the garden.” I winced, imagining the crack of bone.

“And then the rest of the beating. When he was done, he left me in a pile on the living room floor and took off his shirt. He reached for my broken left ring finger and yanked off my class ring. Then he slowly, systematically, scratched himself all over with it, leaving bloody trails.”

“Why would he—?”

“Because when Joe called the cops and they later interviewed him, he claimed I’d done that to him. That it was all a family affair and he’d prefer to keep it that way.”

“The police believed him?”

“Reverend Hinton would never hit his own child unless it was self defense,” Sam said in a sing-songy voice.

“Oh, God.”

“The fucker planned it,” Trevor said.

“Dad would have made a great debater. Thinking eight steps ahead.”

“That is so evil.”

“No. I’m the evil one. I didn’t honor my father by doing what he commanded.”

Sam’s bitterness made me want to run away with him and just hold him for ten years.

“That asshole,” Joe muttered.

“You!” I whispered. “You saved him.”

“Joe’s my messiah,” Sam said. “I accepted him as my personal savior.”

“Ha ha,” Joe said, looking a bit sick.

I planted a quick kiss on Sam’s cheek and looked into his soulful eyes. “Thank you. I didn’t know any of this.”

“I know you didn’t. And I should have told you a very, very long time ago, Amy,” Sam said.

“Why didn’t any of you tell?”

Uncomfortable silence. Liam avoided my eyes.

“There’s more?”

“After Sam got out of the hospital, my mom offered to have him come live with us. But Sam’s dad convinced most of the town that Sam was this unstable, raging maniac who had abused his entire family and practically held them emotional hostage.”

“Way to project.”

“No kidding,” Trevor agreed. “Once Sam lived with us, Mom figured out damn fast that the problem wasn’t Sam. But she told us that most parents—including your mom—believed the stories.”

Mom hadn’t said a word about it. And no one else had, either.

“I live one town over from your district! Why didn’t I ever hear about this?”

“Sam’s dad did a good job of keeping it quiet.”

“C’mon. Gossip is a fucking art form around here.”

“So is emotional blackmail. Think about the shit my dad knows about a lot of people in town,” Sam answered.

Evan. Did Reverend Hinton know about Evan? Was that why my mom would have kept the secret? “My mom,” Amy groaned.

“What about her?”

“I’ll bet that’s why I never heard. She wanted to keep Evan a secret.”

“About his drinking?” Trevor asked.

I snapped my head up like a puppet on a string being pulled by a master. “You know?”

“I know he was a partier because I was, and he was at every big one.”

All the shame I’d felt was gone. Evan’s and Mom’s choices were theirs. Not mine. Nothing they did reflected on me. Why had I worried so much? “Evan’s been in and out of rehab for years. Mom makes me keep it secret. Hell, I had to bail him out of jail. For drug felonies.” I looked at Darla.

“Is that what happened that night?” Sam asked, looking between us.

Darla was uncharacteristically quiet. “When I said Amy had some business you didn’t need to know about? Yes.”

“Why didn’t you say anything, Liam?” I asked, the words making him flinch.

Every set of eyes was on him, Sam’s unreadable, as Liam struggled for words. “I...I’ve asked myself that a lot over the years. Trust me – it’s not something I just blew off. Charlotte had just – and I thought you already knew because your mom must know – and then....” He sighed and looked at me with a soulful, apologetic look.

“I don’t know.”

I took in half the air in the room with a long inhale, then slowly let it out as I said, “We really hold on to our parents’ secrets, don’t we? We’re trained from early childhood that their lies are some sort of objective reality, and that we have to follow the charade at all costs. And then we grow up and it’s like a demented sort of inheritance. An emotionally fucked up trust fund that just keeps on giving.”

Five pairs of eyes bored into me.

“Carry the secrets around like we invented them, but they aren’t ours. Never were.”

Sam interrupted me and added, “And never will be again.”


“You guys have a lot to talk about,” Trevor said, clearing his throat. The others got the hint and trickled out, though Darla lingered and approached Amy.

“If you need anything, just text me.” Amy nodded, and then Darla caught her eye with great intent. “And tell him, Amy,” she whispered. “Just tell him everything.”

“Everything?” Amy asked, a weird look on her face.

Darla seemed puzzled, then alarmed. “No, not about—” she waved her hands around her hips—“that!”

What the hell were they talking about? Both looked at me, then each other, and shook their heads quickly. Darla shot out of the room like it was contaminated.

“Something I need to know?” I asked.

Amy snickered. “Someday. But it’s not as important as what we need to talk about.”

I nodded. Here it came. Four and a half years of everything. Tired of hiding, tired of not saying what needed to be said, tired of shutting down, I just decided that this was it—this was life. Our emotional reality had to be in sync and if I poured out my soul in the space between us and she didn’t like what she saw, then I would have to deal with that and move on.

Because being true to myself hadn’t been a one-time event four and a half years ago. It was an ongoing, lifelong process that could only come through in daily decisions that added up to a life of being me.

The real me.

“Tell me what happened that day. When you went home,” Amy urged.

“I just did.”

“Not everything.” She reached out for my hand and caught my eyes. “You came in and filled in the blanks after Joe and Trevor told part of the story. I want to know it all. I have all the time in the world. Nothing is more important than this.”

No one had ever asked me that. Not Joe, not Trevor, not their parents. They knew the barest of details and let me keep the rest quiet.

“Joe dropped me off in the driveway. I walked in the front door and felt cold inside. Dead. Like I was preparing myself, for I knew what would happen.” I didn’t need to close my eyes to envision the scene.

It was burned in my brain every second I lived.

“Dad was there and he said, ‘Did you do it?’”

All I could say was, “Fourth.”

Amy winced and squeezed my hand.

A deep breath in, then out, and I continued. “’Fourth?’ He screamed. ‘What happened?”

“It was a runoff and I lost my debate. She won, so—“

“‘SHE?’” I shook my head. “That’s when my mom came running in the room and looked at the two of us. The way she twisted her neck, how her eyes were so disappointed in me, and so afraid at the same time, it—it kicked something off in me. Triggered it. I don’t know...” My heart was slamming in my chest. Amy had to be able to hear it, because it drowned out everything in my ears.

“If it’s too much, you can just tell me later,” she said, a worried look on her face.

“No. I want to tell it all.” My voice came out more like a growl than I’d intended.

She flinched.

I softened. “Because you’re the first person who has ever asked and you’re the only person who really should know.”

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