If I’d Known, page 1part #1 of Cursed Series
Also by Rebecca Donovan
The Breathing Series
Reason to Breathe
Out of Breath
Copyright (c) 2017 by Rebecca Donovan All rights reserved.
Visit my website at rebeccadonovan.com
Cover Designer: Ellie McLove Proofreader and Interior Designer: Jovana Shirley, Unforeseen Editing, www.unforeseenediting.com
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Dedicated to the Believers
~Your heart always knows the truth.~
About the Author
We're all cursed--every single one of us.
It's not the compulsions or addictions that will take us down. It's not greed and lust that will bring us to our knees. Our curses are instilled in us as virtues, something we should attain and strive to become. Except it's these traits, the ones we deem to be the most honorable, that cause the most destruction.
I should know. I've been a witness to it my entire life. Belief, Trust, Kindness and Boldness. They sound like the best characteristics to possess. Except they're the reason for just about everything that's ever gone wrong.
My mother is lost to the Belief that love will find her. She still awaits the return of the man who, at the age of seventeen, vowed to always love her.
My grandmother was disappointed each time the Trust she had given was betrayed, causing her to be constantly wary of others' motives and intentions.
My aunt Allison allows the wrong people into her life--unable to understand that her Kindness doesn't mean others will be kind in return. Three kids with three different fathers later, she lives alone in South Carolina, pregnant with her fourth.
And the eldest, my aunt Helen, cannot advance in the world because her Boldness offends more than it inspires.
I wonder if I'm the only one who sees it--the weakness within us. I don't know if we're born cursed or if it's bestowed upon us at some pivotal moment in our lives, but it defines us and ultimately leads to our demise. So we can either accept it or live in denial.
Most live in denial, holding out hope for their "happily ever after."
Well, I hate to say it, but "happily ever after" is bullshit--an illusion concocted to sell books and movie tickets. Yet people want--no, they need to believe it exists. They prefer the lies.
Me? I'd rather know the truth, no matter how brutal.
Which is my curse right there ... Honesty. I can't remember ever telling a lie, even when I was little. My grandmother was intolerant of anything other than the truth, and so that's all I ever spoke. And why would I want to lie? It's exhausting and takes way too much effort to keep the lies straight.
Every day, I see what lying can do. The false hope. Believing in something that was never real to begin with. Convinced of what will never be.
My curse has taught me how to decipher the bullshit. But telling the truth doesn't always work out so well.
Most of the time, I don't care who I offend. I'll say whatever's on my mind. Ask a question, and I'll give you an honest answer. If you don't really want to know, don't ask.
"Do these jeans make me look fat?"
Yes. But you are fat, so the jeans have nothing to do with it.
"Do you think he likes me?"
No. The fact that he had his tongue down another girl's throat last night should have been a clue.
"Can we still be friends?"
No. We were never friends to begin with. You annoy the hell out of me. And I'm totally okay if we never see each other again. Now go away.
I've come to accept that, regardless of how honest or silent I am, the truth is fated to destroy my life.
"Everyone lies, especially boys. You need to keep this"--my grandmother places her wrinkled finger on my small chest and thumps against my heart--"guarded like a fortress. Don't be fooled by sweet words and a handsome smile, no matter what he promises you. If it sounds too good to be true, it is."
"I hate you. I really, really hate you," I tell the dirty clothes I shove into the Army bag.
I was supposed to go to the Laundromat last night, but I was too exhausted after my shift and chose sleep. I convinced myself as I collapsed in bed around midnight that I'd get up early and go before school--which was stupid because I'm not a morning person. So now, I'm exhausted and miserable.
I tuck the small pouch of quarters in the side pocket and set some textbooks on top before pulling the drawstring tight. Dragging the huge tube of clothes behind me, I lock my bedroom door with a click of the padlock and abandon the bag by the front door.
A dark suit is draped over the kitchen chair with a note.
Lana, would you be able to drop this off at the dry cleaners for me? If you can't, it's okay.
I toss the note onto the kitchen table and pick up the suit jacket. The weight of it and the silken threads feel expensive. I hold it in front of me, exposing the satin lining. It has to be tailor-made. I can't even imagine how much he paid for it.
I tell the suit, "You're lucky I like you," but, of course, I mean the man.
Nick met my mother when she was temping as a receptionist at a law firm in Boston about a year ago, but I didn't meet him 'til six months later. He's not the first guy in a suit to be tempted by her fair skin, long blond hair and youthful curves, but he's one of the few worthy of her. Nick's from New York, but he travels between there and Boston regularly. When he's here, he chooses to stay with us, despite the hour and a half commute. He wants to get a place together closer to the city. I think the only reason my mother hasn't given him an answer is because of me.
I've learned not to get involved in my mother's social life. We don't exactly have the same optimistic outlook on love. But it's obvious that Nick is dedicated to taking care of her. And I won't get in the way of my mother's happiness. She deserves to be happy. She deserves him.
I toss the jacket back on the chair. And, just as I begin to walk to the fridge, a clang reverberates against the floorboards. I stop and slowly turn, my stomach already reacting before I see what fell from his suit pocket. I stare at it for a moment, wishing I'd hated him just like the rest of them.
Now I do.
"Oh, you asshole," I say, bending to pick it up.
Nick's exotic spicy scent enters the room. My jaw clenches as I stand, keeping my back to him.
"Good morning," he says cheerily. "You're up early."
I turn to face him. He must have just taken a shower because his dark hair is still wet, combed neatly and slicked away from his face. Everything about him is expensive--from the crisp white shirt to his perfect, charming smile. He looks so out of place in this dilapidated kitchen. He rolls a suitcase next to him, resting it near the doorway.
I don't respond, only stare, wondering how I didn't see it. I have a gift for knowin
The betrayal burns deep, or maybe it's just my pride that's singed. Regardless, now I want to punch him in the throat.
"Everything okay?" Nick asks, his brows furrowed in concern. "If it's about the suit, I can take it with me, ask the hotel to send it out. I just thought--"
"Or you could ask your wife," I say, cutting him off. I raise my middle finger to reveal the dark titanium band embedded with black diamonds. "Isn't she waiting for you in New York?"
"What ... Lana, I--" he stutters.
"Don't." I shut him up before he can lie again. My voice is edged with venom. "Leave. Never come back. If you do, I'll murder you in your sleep. Understand?"
He remains frozen within the doorframe. His eyes flicker in panic. "It's not ... "
"Piece of shit." I shove past him, causing him to stumble back a step.
I walk to the front door and hoist the straps of the Army bag over my shoulders with a grunt. Without looking back, I warn him, "Tell her the truth, or I will."
"Lana?" My mother's voice carries from her bedroom just before I slam the front door.
I look down at the wedding band on my finger, and my jaw flexes with unrelenting anger. This is going to kill her. Releasing a heavy breath, I trudge down the flight of stairs, the Army bag banging against my thighs with each step. It's practically as big as I am, and I fight not to fall face-first down the stairs.
The street is uncharacteristically quiet when I step outside, only because of the insane hour. The sun's rays peek between the neighborhood buildings, barely having risen itself. The cool morning air soothes my heated cheeks as I walk down the sidewalk.
We don't live in the best neighborhood, but there really isn't a good neighborhood in Sherling. At least we don't have gangs tagging every surface. Our street is a small side street, lined with about a dozen multifamily homes. Laundry hangs over porch railings. Broken-down cars take up space in pocked driveways. Most of the time, the sound of arguing or crying kids filters out the open windows, floating along the streets like white noise. I don't really hear it unless it's an overly dramatic fight. So now, with the street vacant of cars and everyone still asleep, the silence makes the anger in my head so much louder.
My mother doesn't belong here any more than he does. I know she's lived here most of her life, but she never quite fit in. She's a dreamer. A believer. A fragile bloom fighting for light in the middle of a landfill. He promised to take her away from all of this. He was supposed to save her from a life that continues to drain the color from her every day.
She sees the good in every person, regardless of who they are or what they've done in life. I always considered this naive. But she genuinely wants to believe every person is worthy. The liars. The cheats. The manipulators. The bastards who use her for their own self-serving needs. Not just the men, but the women too. Those who pretend to be a friend, until jealousy unveils their selfishness and insecurity. They're all the same. But she refuses to give up on them because, when my mother loves, she loves with everything. It's why Belief is her curse. It's that belief that will eventually break her.
My fingers curl into a fist, short nails digging into my palm. Oh, I hate him. Everything about him is a lie. I wish I'd seen through him. But he was so sincere. Maybe that's his curse and the reason I couldn't recognize his deception ... Sincerity.
If Nick's curse is Sincerity, then he's the worst kind of human. Convincing people to believe him, to trust him, only to destroy them when they let him in.
The twenty-four-hour Laundromat at the end of the block is just as deserted as the street, except for the homeless man sleeping under the dryer vent in the alley.
After loading the washer, I sit on the chipped laminate counter and prop my best friend's textbook open on my crossed legs, trying to distract myself from the boiling rage that continues to churn in my stomach.
The distinct ting of a glass bottle rolling along the pavement draws my attention from Tori's algebra assignment. A woman in a leopard print skirt and black bustier stumbles across the street, running a hand through her disheveled dark hair. Smeared liner shadows her eyes, and her lips are smudged with faded red lipstick. I watch her zigzag across the desolate street. She falters when her stiletto heel catches the curb. I wince, expecting her to fall, but she corrects herself with a few stuttering steps.
I try to imagine what she looked like when the night began, confident and sexy. At some point in the night, her curse got the better of her, and this blur of a woman is all who's left.
I finish my English lit assignment just as the dryer rolls to a stop. After placing the folded clothes inside the Army bag, I start back to the house. The neighborhood has slowly begun to stretch its arms during the hour or so I was hidden in the Laundromat. Cars roll up to the intersections, waiting at the lights. Several women in need of their morning coffee stand at the bus stop, tote bags over their shoulders. Voices and music escape out of open windows as I walk past. Peaceful silence has lifted its veil, allowing chaos to resume its reign.
"I don't understand!" Her desperate wails reach me before I can see her. "Why didn't you tell me?"
I stop in front of the neighbor's house to find my distraught mother standing in the middle of our lawn and Nick next to his car with his suitcase in hand.
"I'm so sorry, Faye." His voice cracks in response. "I really am." He turns his back to her and tosses his suitcase in the passenger side of the shiny black BMW.
My mother collapses to her knees when he enters the driver's side without looking back. She covers her face to capture her tears. I can feel her heart breaking from here.
The tires spit out rocks as he tears out of the driveway, leaving a cloud of dust in his wake. Rubber connects with asphalt, and the squeal echoes down the street. I make eye contact with his green eyes and flash him my middle finger, still adorned with his wedding band, meaning every word the gesture signifies. He flinches.
"Asshole," I mutter, wishing I could hang him by his balls.
I turn back to the devastation he left behind--and I don't mean the driveway.
With a heavy sigh, I adjust the straps on my shoulders and approach the frail woman collapsed on the front lawn.
"What are you staring at?" I snap at our neighbor who's standing on her front porch with a coffee mug in her hand, fixated on the spectacle like she's watching a reality show.
She's wrapped in a torn terry robe, her hair a misshapen mass of curls, like she just crawled out of bed--which she probably has. Then again, I know she always looks like this, no matter what time of day. There's no reason to make an effort when she just has to sit at home to collect a paycheck.
"You really shouldn't be allowed out of your house looking like that, Gayle. You'll give the kids nightmares."
A couple of boys laugh as they pass by on their way to the bus stop. The middle-aged woman scowls at me. She glances at the broken heap on the front lawn with a judgmental shake of her head before disappearing inside. The screen door squeaks loudly before it crashes shut behind her.
I can sense others watching too, eyes peering out behind curtains.
I set the bag of clean clothes on the stoop and kneel down beside my mother, my hand on her back. "C'mon, Mom. Let's go inside."
"He ... lied to me," she forces out between broken sobs. She lifts her head from her hands, her big blue eyes bloodshot. "Why ... didn't ... he tell me ... he's still married?"
"Because he's a selfish prick," I tell her, filtering the honesty. If I were truly being honest with her, I would've used a lot more expletives. I wrap my arm around her thin waist and coax her up. "Let's get you inside, so the neighbors don't make money off you on YouTube."
She's not listening to me, but she lets me guide her to her feet. "Why? I don't ... understand. I thought ... he ... loved me. I ... believed him."
"I know you did," I soothe as we slowly move toward
I bend down and pull on a strap of the duffel bag, slinging it over my shoulder. I keep one hand on my mother to keep her from toppling into the pit of despair and guide her up the stairs.
We somehow manage to climb to the second floor where the door was left ajar. I shut the marred door with the long, jagged crack down its center and secure the dead bolt.
"Why didn't I know? I should have known," my mother says in hiccuping gasps.
I don't have an answer for her because I should have known--which only lights up the fiery rage inside my chest.
"I'm so sorry, Lana," she whimpers, her slender shoulders rounding.
She disappears into her room, and I follow.
"You have nothing to apologize for, Mom," I say with a disheartened sigh.
She slowly sits on the edge of her bed, her shimmery eyes focused on the floor. "I loved him," she whispers, a tear glistening on her flushed cheek.
Men with expensive suits and charming smiles have always asked her out when she temps. Understandably. My mother's beautiful and kind--and therefore viewed as an easy target. To them, she's a fling. A disposable hot piece to occupy their time until it hints at becoming serious. Then, they leave. It was a painful lesson. She was forced to learn to be careful with her heart and not fall for every jackass who winks at her.
I'm not the easiest person to get along with. I had to promise I'd back off after threatening too many boyfriends with missing body parts if they hurt her. Let her be the "adult" and make her own decisions. So I refused to acknowledge any of my mother's boyfriends again.
Then came Nick.
Nick was careful with her from the beginning. Asked her out for coffee for their first date and then lunch. Eventually, dinner and a movie. He slowly got close to her. And, in that time, I let him in too.
He was different. Until he wasn't.
I pull back the covers for her to climb in.
It's the same full bed she's slept in since she was a girl. This room is basically the same as when she shared it with her sisters, growing up. Dried flowers hanging from pins along the windowsill memorialize loves lost. Layers of time wallpaper every surface. Photos, art projects, yellowing band posters--constant reminders of the life we'll never escape. It's so ... depressing.
Other author's books:
- Reason to BreatheOut of BreathBarely Breathing
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