Fearless Page 56

I sighed and shifted for the umpteenth time. I was beginning to think we should live in our car. We didn’t reach the housing development until late afternoon, so I was grateful we decided to stay overnight. The houses were in various stages of completion, but most of them were fully completed and functional judging by the kids that played up and down the street.

We pulled into the third driveway belonging to a quaint college style house. Keiran had told me all about the mother and two little girls as well as their abusive father, so I instantly recognized the girl with dark bangs and curly ponytail sitting on the steps and clutching a book.

She looked up as we parked and released a bright smile. “Keiran!” She hugged his waist when he stepped out of the car.

“Hey, Cassie. Where are your mom and sister?”

“Maddie’s asleep and mom went to the store.” She retook her seat on the steps. Keiran followed her and pulled me down to sit on his lap.

“You’re here alone?” I recognized the dangerous edge in Keiran’s tone, though to untrained ears, he appeared calm and merely curious. From what Keiran had told me, they were a little young to be left alone. “How long has she been gone?”

Cassie seemed to pick up on his change of mood. She looked from Keiran to me uncertainly. “An hour. Who is she?”

“She’s my girlfriend, and she’s here for you.”

“Hi, Cassie. I’m Lake.”

“Wow, you’re really pretty.” She reached out and touched my bangs. “And you have bangs.”

“So you like bangs, huh?”

“I don’t know. My mom had to cut them because a boy at school cut my hair.”

“I’m going to go check on Maddie,” Keiran interrupted. He tapped my hip so I could stand up, and once he was inside, I sat back down.

“Why do you think he did that?”

“Cause he hates me.”

“Why does he hate you?” Unlike me, maybe this little girl would know why she was a target. It took ten years for me to start demanding answers.

“My dad does bad stuff to his mom.”

“Like what?” I started to feel as if this could go on all day.

“He hits her, but I don’t know why. Do you think my dad is married to his mom, too?”

“No, sweetie. Sometimes adults don’t always do the right thing. Let’s talk about this boy.”

“What about him?”

“Let’s start with his name.”

“His name is Ryan.”

“And are you afraid of this Ryan?” She nodded and in her eyes reflected a girl I hadn’t known for a long time. “It feels as if it’s very hard to not be afraid, doesn’t it?”

“He’s bigger than me, and he said if I ever told anyone, I’d be sorry.” Her frustration was apparent. The anger in her eyes burned bright, and I knew she hated that he was in control.

“He might be right, but do you know what will make you feel worse?”


“Not telling anyone. He’s only as powerful as you allow him to be and underneath his tough shell is a scared little boy who probably feels as helpless as you do.”

“So what do I do?”

Do I tell her to run like I did or fight back? Neither was a sure thing. “You do what your instincts tell you to do.”

“He makes me want to punch him in the nose,” she grumbled. “Can I do that?”

“Do you think physical violence will solve your problem?”

She shrugged in that way ten-year-olds do when they know the answer but don’t want to admit it.

“It will make me feel better. I’ll embarrass him in front of all his friends like he does me.”

“Can I ask you something? I want you to think hard about this.”


“Has he ever threatened to hurt you?”

Her face twisted hard as she tried to remember. “Do you mean like pull my hair and stuff?”

I took a deep breath and told myself it was necessary. “I mean has he threatened to kill you?”

Her eyes widened as if the prospect of dying never entered her mind. I was relieved, to say the least. At her age, I had already expected to die.

“No. Never. Do you think he will?”

“No, sweetie, I don’t, but make a promise, okay?” She nodded her permission to enter the pact. “If he ever does, I want you to tell an adult right away.”

“Like my mom?”

Something told me her mother wouldn’t come to her daughter’s rescue. “Don’t wait. Tell a teacher, your principal—and yes, your mom, too.”

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