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Table of Contents

About the Author

Copyright Page

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PROLOGUE

Exhaustion threatens to take over my tired, aching body as I walk carefully down the stairs. My eyes are burning from the lack of sleep in the past few days and my feet are hating me for every painful step I take. My house is dark, but I know he’s down there because I can hear him retching. Frustration seizes my chest, a savage twist to my heart, as my feet slowly take me closer to a scene I’m so tired of acting out.

“Quinn?” he cries between retching. “Quinn!”

Swallowing down the anger threatening to rise and explode from my chest, I walk with numb legs towards the bathroom. I step over an empty bottle of whiskey on my way there, the remainder of its contents soaked into the carpet for me to clean up once again. I put my hand to the slightly ajar bathroom door and push it open, stepping inside. My father is on the ground, curled in a ball, covered in vomit.

Pain rises up and flashes through my body as I walk towards him and stare down at his pitiful form. He wasn’t always like this. Before my mother died he was happy, fun loving and clean. Now he’s a drunk and he has been since the day she was taken from us. I’m the only person in the world who cares enough to stand by his side, no matter how hard that is at times.

“Dad, you need to get up and into the shower. I have to clean this mess up.”

He groans and rolls to his back, his shirt soaked with stale sweat. My shoulders slump and I know there’s just no way I’ll get him into the shower. He’s too drunk, too far gone. Instead I go to the sink and fill it up, and then I take a washcloth and start the daunting task of dabbing him clean. When his shirt is vomit free and his face is wiped clean, I get to work helping him out of the bathroom so I can clean up in there, too.

We make it to the couch before he vomits again. Swallowing down my tears for a third time, I start cleaning up that mess. When I’m done, I force him to drink some water then I go about hiding the remaining alcohol in the house because I know he’ll look for it. He’s too drunk to bother to try too hard. If he can’t find it he will, as always, just pass out.

Once the bathroom is cleaned and sanitized, I cover my passed-out father with a blanket and then disappear down the hall to my bedroom, closing the door gently. I gather my clothes, take a shower and then slide into bed. It’s late, probably past 1 a.m., and I have an entire garage to run tomorrow. The dull ache in my chest, the one that never leaves, is heavier tonight. It’s heavy with the burdens of our lives. How the hell am I supposed to fix it all?

I’m twenty-five years old. I should be out with friends, falling in love and have no care in the world except what I’m going to wear for the day and what sort of coffee I’m going to order. Instead, I have the responsibilities of a business, because it’s the only thing that keeps me sane. I have to keep this two-bedroom shack tidy because it’s the only home I have.

I have no friends, except the guys that work at the garage with me. I have very few family members, and only one of them actually gives a shit about my dad and me. That’s my uncle, who visits as much as he can, but mostly, he is too busy. I have never been in love. In fact, the only boyfriend I’ve had time for was when I was sixteen. He left me when he saw the state of my house and my father, oh, and when he got into my pants. Since then, there have been only a few random dates that didn’t go anywhere.

I want happiness, truly I do, but there are far too many obstacles in my way to ever begin to imagine where to start. The business is struggling. The expansion we did two years ago didn’t pay off the way we originally thought it would and our debts have doubled. The mortgage is overdue and utility bills are piling high. My dad gets worse by the day, in fact, it’s been over two weeks since he’s dragged himself off the couch and came in to check on his own garage.

So it’s just me. I’m all I have and right now, I’m okay with that.

Aren’t I?

As I close my eyes and drift off into a fitful sleep, I wonder just how much longer I can take all of this before I eventually end up exactly like my father. When the pain becomes too much, where will I go from there?

CHAPTER ONE

“Good morning, Dad,” I say, heading into the kitchen the next morning.

My father is sitting on the couch still, his head bowed, a cup of joe in his hands. He looks up when I come in and I wince. Once, a long time ago, my dad was an exceptionally handsome man with his golden hair and bright blue eyes. He had a big frame and was all muscle. Now he’s frail and weak, his hair is dull and his eyes … they’re empty.

“Morning, sugar,” he rasps. “I’m, ah, sorry ’bout last night.”

He says this every time that happens.

“No biggie,” I say in my best chipper voice, pouring a coffee. “Are you coming into the garage today?”

He frowns. “I would, but my stomach … it’s not so good. Maybe tomorrow.”

He says that every time, too.

“Okay, Dad.”

I gather my keys and carry my coffee to the front door. As I pass him, my dad reaches out and curls his hand around my wrist. “I’m sorry, Quinnie … I’ll try to be better.”

I look down into his empty blue eyes and I wish I could believe that, I really do. There’s a pain etched deep in my chest, and it’s one I live with on a daily basis. There is pain for the loss of my mom. There is pain because my dad is so broken. And there is a deep pain knowing that my family is no longer beautiful like it once was. I don’t resent my dad for being this way, but I can’t accept it either. I’ve tried to understand, but I guess since I’ve never had a love like theirs, it is beyond me.

I pat his shoulder and pull my wrist from his. “Okay, Dad. Later.”

I rush out the front door and get into my old, restored, baby blue Mustang with white leather interior. It’s the only thing I cherish in my life. It is important to me because when my dad was sober, and my mom was alive, we fixed this car up together. It’s the only piece of the old him I have left, so I hang onto it with both hands, cherishing the memories it holds for me. My dad taught me everything I know about cars and how to restore them. I’ve never loved anything as much as I love being under the hood of a car. Strange, I know, but it takes me back to a place where happiness was like a bubble surrounding me.

It was hard growing up being a tomboy. I had the looks to be a girly girl, but I never used them. I loved being around the guys, and I loved being with my dad. During my high school years, I got a good deal of taunts thrown my way, because I was different from the rest. I still recall the memory when I told Dad I wanted to be a mechanic—the very thought makes me smile.

“You want to be what?” he asks, his eyes wide.

“I want to be a mechanic,” I say proudly. “Like you, Daddy.”

He blinks. “Baby, you’re a girl.”

     

 

2011 - 2018