The Death of Lila Jane(8)

By: Teresa Mummert



Her lips quirked up into a weak smile. “I won’t lie to you, Kaden. We promised that we’d never lie.” Honesty was Taylor’s one condition. We didn’t have time to play games. With all of the adults in her life sugar-coating what was to come, this was all I could give her. Still, it was too much at times.

“Taylor, I need it,” I pleaded, but she shook her head, pressing her eyes closed as her own tears slid from under her long, thick lashes, her breath faltering under the heavy weight of our pain. “Please.”

When her eyes opened, they were red-rimmed and glossed with sadness. Her lips trembled as she told me what I needed to hear in a rushed whisper. “I’m going to marry you, Kaden Harken, down by Willow’s Bend when all of the flowers are in bloom.” Her smile was genuine as she fell into her own fairytale of our future. “I’m gonna wear that church dress you told me made me look like an angel.”

“Marry me now. Here.”

“What? Kaden, we aren’t even old enough.” The corners of her mouth pulled down in a frown. I was irrational, but love did that to people. Taylor understood and she was patient as I struggled to work through the reality of our nonexistent future.

“Just tell me you love me and want to be with me for the rest of my life.”

“Kaden,” the way she said my name burned a hole through my chest that would never heal. “I can only promise you the rest of my own life. But love doesn’t die, even if we do.”





***

August 5, 2015

“Kaden,” A deep voice repeated my name, jolting me from my sleep. My eyes focused on my Uncle Daven, who was standing in the doorway, his brow furrowed in concerns that he wouldn’t voice.

“What?” I groaned, throwing my arm over my eyes and readjusting myself on the bed hoping I could bring Taylor’s vision back to the forefront of my mind.

“Time to get up, ya’. It’s late and I need you to do me a favor.”

“Favor? That doesn’t sound like me.”

“The neighbor needs a ride to ‘da mall in Alexandria.”

“So give him a lift.”

“Her. The pischouette[24] across da’ road.”

“That freak who stares out her window at me like she is contemplating skinning me alive and making me into a suit?” I moved my arm and opened one eye to look at him, trying to determine if this was some sort of setup. “What are you doin’?”

He shrugged, raising a steaming mug to his mouth as he took a drink, attempting to conceal his smirk. “She’s a good kid with a good head on her shoulders. She’d be a good influence on you.”

“Way to sell it. All I heard from that is she’s a gap-toothed donkey with no friends. I’m not interested.”

“I’m not asking you to take her to prom. Just drive her around and show her a good time. They keep her locked up over ‘der like a chaoui[25] in a cage. Pauve ti bete[26].”

I sat up, hanging my head in my hands as the pictures of Taylor faded in my memory, replaced by a pulsing headache as I tried to understand the incoherent ramblings of Daven. “No.”

“Co faire? [27]What’s the harm in –”

“No,” I snapped as I glared up at him. He eyed me for a moment before nodding once. “And is it so damn hard for you to speak English? This is America last time I checked.”

“This country was built on the back of immigrants, especially Louisiana. Don’t forget where you came from. Come eat.” His expression was unreadable as he slowly pulled the bedroom door closed, leaving me to wallow in my own self-loathing. How could I forget where I came from? My entire childhood was pure hell.

I could see exactly what he was doing, but it wouldn’t help anything. All I heard was my father’s angry voice in the echoes of his accent and I wasn’t going to forget about Taylor. Not ever. I’d made her a promise of forever and I wasn’t going to break it.

Slipping on my shoes, I wandered out of the bedroom into the main living area. Daven stood over the stove as hazy smoke rose around him, the smell of bacon thick in the air. My hand went to my stomach as it panged with need.

“You shaved,” I pointed out the obvious as I twisted my back, stretching my tight muscles. He hadn’t shaved in at least a few weeks before today, giving him a disheveled, almost homeless quality and the odor of booze mingled with sweat wafting off him didn’t help. If it weren’t for his muscular build, I might have thought he was just squatting in this house like a now stray dog waiting for his owners who’d abandoned him to return.

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