Damaged and the Beast

By: Bijou Hunter

Chapter One


Standing at the bus station, I put on a brave face. As Dad fished around in the back of the car for the suitcase, my younger sister Tawny didn’t even pretend to be brave. Crying her eyes out in the backseat, she had said goodbye to me already and I didn’t think she could do it again. Finally, Dad handed me the suitcase he stole from tourists in Florida.

“Mom is waiting for you,” he said quickly. “She’ll pick you up.”

“I know.”

Glancing around, Dad was nervous about being seen. People with guns were looking for him and only some of them carried badges. He planned to run like always, but this time I wasn’t coming. After five years as his copilot, I was on my own. Tawny wasn’t so lucky.

“Be careful,” Dad said, hugging me. “Be smart and safe. Don’t take risks. Don’t trust people. Just keep your head down and get that education and become a teacher. Be the good kid so I can drop off Tawny with you when she’s eighteen. I want my girls to have everything, but you’ve got to want it too.”

“I do,” I said, nuzzling my face in his jacket, the smell of leather comforting in its familiarity.

“Your grandma says Mom is doing better. Aunt Tess says it too and Aunt Tess lies like crap. If your mom was still messed up, we’d know. You’ll be okay.”

“What if Mom stops doing better?”

Dad released me then took my face in his rough hands. “You ditch the bitch. Take care of you and only you. Get what you need out of that place and don’t worry about anyone else.”

“Okay.”

Stepping back, Dad looked around again, his brown eyes surveying the bus station. Tawny and I got our eye color from Dad. Our brown hair too, though Tawny’s was lighter and nearly blonde in the summer. Just thinking about my sister sobbing behind her hair nearly brought me to tears. Dad gave me a half smile and stepped back again.

“You’re ready for this, Farah. You’ve been ready for a while, but now is the time for you to make a great life for yourself.”

I made no attempt to wax poetic about how great my life had been with him. He wouldn’t buy the lie and I didn’t think I could sell it anyway. Tired after the drive and crying in the backseat with Tawny, I wanted to say goodbye and yank off that Band-Aid.

“I love you, Dad.”

“Right back at you,” he said, heading to the car.

As the urge to cry rushed up inside me, I said nothing. My lips trembled and my eyes felt hot, but I angrily blinked away the tears. In a few minutes, I would be on the bus with strangers. A girl alone crying like a fool, I had victim written all over me. In the past, I’d taken advantage of girls like that and I had no intention of allowing it to happen to me.

Carrying my suitcase and backpack towards the bus, I heard the engine of the compact start. I considered looking back and maybe waving goodbye to my sister and best friend. My dad might give me one last confident grin. Instead, I refused to look as they drove away.

Soon, my suitcase was in the cargo bay and I was in my seat. I gave my “screw you” face to anyone who dared make eye contact. Spotting a few possible threats, I sat against the window with my feet on the second seat, knees in the air, and a blade waiting for anyone who thought to mess with me.

The next few hours moved slowly as I hid under my long hair, allowing me to watch for trouble. I wore a jacket even in the heat because my body had a weird way of looking sexier than it was. With my fat lips and small C-cup sized breasts, I endured a lot of leering from the wrong kind of men. Yet, those few possible criminal-types on the bus got the message that I wasn’t someone to approach. Ignoring me, they eyed a middle-aged woman closer to the front. My mind was so focused on avoiding danger that I never let myself worry over what happened when the bus reached my destination.

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