I walk in and kiss both of my younger brothers, smiling when Joshua sighs happily in his sleep. In that moment, I start questioning all the possibilities. If I don"t find the money, Mom will be broke and homeless within a week. The bank will repossess the house. Her wages will be garnished to pay the hospital bills she can"t afford. And the twins could end up in foster care if she loses the ability to care for them.
Even with welfare, she won"t be able to dig out of this hole, thanks to my stupid, selfish, piece of shit, suicidal father. How could he take the easy way out and leave all of his secret burdens on my mother"
Mom"s still recovering from the car accident they were in over two years ago. She"s had to have numerous surgeries over the course of those two years on the leg that was shattered, only driving up the hospital bills that much more. Her leg is healing slowly from the most recent one, and she"s still limping.
"They took the car today"" I ask, frowning as I walk into the kitchen. I"ve kept quiet in front of the boys. They"re too young to hear this stuff.
"Yeah," she says sadly, her strength wavering in front of my eyes.
She"s tried so hard to be strong since Dad ended his troubles with a bottle of pills, but someone can only take so much before breaking.
"I"m sorry, sweetie," she says, covering her face in shame when she can"t hold back her tears.
I quickly go to sit down beside her, wishing I could come up with anything to offer her peace. Wrapping my arms around her, I pull her close, feeling the knot in my throat double in size.
"What about my tuition money" Did the school call back yet""
We can get that money back and use it toward bills instead of school. It won"t be nearly enough, but it could buy us some more time. Maybe. If the bank and hospital would work with us"
Her bitter laughter that cuts through my thoughts doesn"t hold much promise, and I frown before she even has to confirm my dread.
"Your dad never paid the new year"s tuition. I… I can"t believe he did this."
Watching my mother fall apart at our dining room table while the dishes lay spread out in front of me, depleted of food we can"t afford because she has three children that need her, I decide what I have to do. This will save their lives even if it destroys mine.
Mom doesn"t have to know where the money is from. She doesn"t have to learn about the sacrifice I"m making. I"ll see her when I can, and lie to her the rest of the time.
Walking away from her, I pull out my phone. Ben has tried calling at least a hundred times, but I"m finally ready to talk.
"Don"t do this," Ben whisper-scolds, pleading with me as he follows close behind.
He spent the night trying to talk me out of this, even refused to call his father. That put the burden of talking to the devil on my shoulders, but I did it. I called hell, Satan answered, and I sold my soul for my family"s security in less than ten minutes.
My steps don"t even slow as I make my way toward a smiling Benny. Ignoring the protest of my roiling stomach, I silently accept my fate. Then I turn to look at the sad eyes on the boy who doesn"t want to see me turn myself over to the hands of Hell"s king.
I have no idea when"or if"I"ll get to see my family, or how often.
"It"s okay, Ben," I say to comfort him.
"Please, Eve. Don"t."
I smile grimly as I turn away from him, ignoring the bite of anger in his tone. The only boy to ever have had me in his bed is being forced to turn me over to his twisted father to do things that will destroy me. Obviously he"s mad at me for my decision, but it is my decision.
Taking a shaky breath, I face Benny, bringing myself as close as my feet will allow. Standing at least two feet away, Benny nods, smiling as though I"m the prey that just came willingly into his jaws.
"Very nice, Eve. Although I wish you had worn something… sexier."
He throws a leg over his massive black beast of a bike, and tosses me a helmet that falls to my feet when my arms refuse to move. I stare down my jean-clad legs to my sandaled feet where the helmet rests beside.
"Put it on. Drex is waiting."
Ben gasps behind me, and I turn to see his ashen face. With his mouth hanging that way and pure horror in his eyes, I"m assuming this is even worse than I thought.
"You"re taking her to the Death Dealers"" Ben asks in a hushed whisper reserved for blasphemy. "You know you can"t do that. Her fath""