Once in the car, she doubled over in pain, breaking out in a cold sweat as her father got behind the wheel.
Turning the air conditioner on high, he then pointed all the vents in her direction before rubbing her back as she choked the nausea down.
Nodding, she managed to straighten in her seat and glance at her father. “I don’t want to move again.”
School just started a few months ago. Her father hated to move during the winter months.
Even his frown didn’t mar his perfect features. “We’re not moving. I promised you the last time we moved that it was the last time.”
She sniffed back her tears, knowing he was lying. He always lied. Her father couldn’t tell the truth if his life depended on it.
“I want to go live with Mom.”
“Sorry, kiddo. She doesn’t want you; never did, never will. You don’t fit in where she likes to hang. Bikers don’t want their women tied down with a kid. I’m all you have. Remember that.”
“I don’t want you hurting Ms. Reed and Mrs. Shepherd. They’re nice to me—”
“Jesus, kid. You have an overactive imagination. I was just being nice. Are you feeling better? I’m starving. How about I swing by Dairy Queen on the way home and grab me a burger and you an ice cream cone?”
Zoey turned her head to stare out the window. There wasn’t enough ice cream in the world that would settle her stomach, a stomach that hurt because her father was lying to her.
“Don’t look so serious. You need to be more like me and have some fun. How about I invite some of your friends over for a sleepover?”
“Really?” Her stomach stopped cramping at the promise.
“Why not? We can stop at the store after we eat, and you can pick out the invitations.”
Excitement bloomed as she planned on who to invite.
“You can invite Celia.”
“Celia Shephard. You know her. She’s your principal’s daughter. You met her during the open house.”
Zoey went back to staring out the side window. “She’s only in the second grade. It doesn’t matter anyway. I don’t have time for a sleepover. I need to catch up on my math homework.” Back to feeling sick to her stomach, she nixed any plans she’d had for the sleepover.
“You’re that behind? I’ll get you a tutor.”
“I don’t want a tutor.” Her stomach had started cramping at his words. “Dad—”
“I can’t have my daughter failing,” he interrupted her. “Leave it to me. You’ll be at the top of your class in no time… Dammit, Zoey! I just cleaned the car…. Did you eat the cafertia for lunch?” Disgusted, he rolled the windows down. “If you didn’t have to eat like a pig everytime you saw food, you wouldn’t be sick all the damn time.”
Zoey couldn’t hear her father’s recriminations. He was going to do it again.
The ache in her stomach extended to her heart. When she grew up, she was going to find a town to call home and never ever leave. Unlike her father’s promises, she was determined to keep hers.
She woke up, jerking up in bed to see her father standing over her in the darkened bedroom.
“Shh… go back to sleep,” he murmured, scooping her into his arms as she reflexively reached back for the stuffed rabbit that she had slept with since her first birthday.
“What are you doing?” She tried to struggle out of his arms, unable to make out where they were going as he carried her through the darkened house.
“Be quiet. You’ll wake up Sue!” he whispered angrily as she heard him opening a door. When the door shut, a blinding light had her scrunching her eyes closed.
Carefully opening them, she saw they were in the garage.
Her father jostled her as he opened the back door to his car and shoved her inside with her rabbit. “Go back to sleep,” he muttered, shutting the door before going around the front of the car to get behind the steering wheel.
“Where are we going?” Using her rabbit to sniff back the tears that were beginning to fall, she raised onto her knees to see the garage door opening as he began to back the car out.
“Sorry, kiddo. I found a job I couldn’t pass up.”
“What about my clothes?”
“I put some in your backpack. It’s in the car. I’ll buy you some more when we’re situated. You needed new ones anyway.”
“I’m going to be sick.”
“Go for it. I’m leaving the car at the bus station. The dealership was coming to repossess it in the morning anyway.”
“Please can’t we stay? I like it here—”
“Zoey, it’s too complicated to explain, and you’re too young to understand.”
“What about school—”
“There’s only a week left before summer break, anyway.”
“Can’t we stay until Monday? I want to tell my friends goodbye. Please, Daddy?”
“We can’t. I have to start my job immediately. You’ll make new friends, and next year, I’ll have a big party for you….”