Gabby had heard hitting water from a high speed made the normally flexible liquid feel like cement. She was relatively certain falling a mere fifteen feet wouldn’t allow her to gain that sort of velocity, but there was a good chance it wasn’t going to feel all that refreshing either.
As the water quickly approached she was unsure if she was hitting the shallow end or the deep, so she flattened her body, as if attempting an epic belly flop, hoping the same physics that failed her on the screen wouldn’t fail her when she hit the water.
A moment later the cool liquid enveloped her with a smack.
The sting shuddered across her as if she had jumped into freezing water, but was quickly replaced with the throb of her head striking the bottom of the pool. Her vision momentarily turned white as she floated to the surface, gripping her forehead, feeling the knot emerging under her fingers. So much for a concussion-free school year.
As her head pierced the top of the water, she heard a grumble from the bottom floor.
“What the hell was that?” the voice muttered.
Gabby panicked and swam to the edge of the pool, her wet hands dripping onto the textured cement border. She lifted herself out to her waist, but stopped mid-escape.
“My phone,” she said as she looked over her shoulder, unable to spot it in the unlit water. “Where is my phone? My dad is going to kill me!”
“Are you okay?” Missy asked, trying to yell quietly.
Gabby looked above her to see the pool screen structure dangling as if a sophomore-sized meteor had just crashed through it.
“Yeah,” Gabby said. “Did you see where my phone went?”
“No. But Logan’s is right there,” she said, pointing to the cement deck near the sliding glass door leading into the house. “Get it and I’ll meet you downstairs.”
Gabby remained in the pool, taking one last look.
I have to get my phone. My dad will never forgive me. Not again.
As she squinted, the back yard suddenly glowed. The water around her blazed with five hundred watts of water proofed filamented light and she spotted her phone near the drain in the deep end.
She glanced toward the house and saw a beer bellied shadow moving toward the sliding glass windows. She had seconds, maybe less.
She took a quick breath and swam below the surface, the chlorine burning her eyes, and followed the slow curvature of the pool floor to the circular drain. Her fingers clawed at her waterlogged phone, using her fingernails to scratch across its surface until it rolled into her palm.
It didn’t take long for flashbacks of her experiences with Hurricane Alexander to flood into her mind like a storm surge. She expected as much. It was one of the annoying ways her mind tried to cope with the emotional baggage she’d been collecting this past year. She hoped to anticipate the trauma before it had a chance to surprise her.
Her mind was inundated with images of a dead Emma and an irate Kali, of angry tornados and deadly pythons. But those disturbing memories quickly dissipated with one thought.
She rushed to the surface, expecting Logan’s father to be standing over her, shaking his fist with one hand while calling the sheriff with the other, but, to her surprise, her noisy descent into the pool hadn’t drawn him there. Instead, Gabby spotted him near the kitchen, staring at his phone, heading up to Logan’s bedroom.
“Logan!” he said. “What is this message I received? Is that really you?”
Gabby smiled, enjoying one of her infrequent victories. Inflicting a little justice was a great elixir, dulling the failures that often accompanied her. She climbed out of the pool, snagged Logan’s phone, and sloshed her way out of the side gate, her jeans rubbing with each step, sounding like a zipper sliding open and closed.
She rounded the corner of the house and jogged through the front yard toward her bike stashed behind Logan’s garbage cans, where it belonged, her path interrupted by a breathless Missy.
“That was completely insane!” Missy said. “I snuck down the stairs after Logan’s pop ran into his room. Looked like his head was about to boil over. Do you have his phone?”
“I have three,” Gabby said, holding out Logan’s, Abigail’s and her own. “His is the dry one with the shattered screen.”
“So, how do I get rid of the pictures?”
Gabby slid off the back cover and pried out the SIM card, placing it in Missy’s waiting hand.
“Thanks,” Missy said. “For everything. Will I see you at school?”
“If my dad doesn’t kill me.”
“Mine, too,” Missy said with a laugh.
It wasn’t a joke to Gabby. Ever since the hurricane, Gabby had been a model daughter. Perfect attendance at school. She volunteered to help out at the store. She made her dad dinner every night. It was going great. He was starting to trust her for the first time in over a year and now this.
“Stay out of trouble!” Missy said as she left.
“That’d be a first,” Gabby mumbled as she ran toward the garbage cans. Her instincts caused her to duck before she could see her bike fly past her face, nearly causing a matching lump on the other side of her forehead.
“Whoa!” Gabby said.
The bike crashed onto the driveway and Logan appeared from the darkness, walking gingerly toward her.
“You bitch,” he said.
Gabby rolled her eyes. “Still using that word? You have no imagination.”
His cheeks clenched and his lips spasmed.
“You…” he started, “…suck.”
“See! I knew you had it in you.”
Infuriated and wounded, he turned around and limped back inside.
Okay, by bike I can be home in ten minutes. Still time to sneak in through my bedroom window, change into pajamas, come out like I had fallen asleep, make my dad’s dinner and bake him a cake.
She bounced with confident urgency to the driveway, but her certainty vanished at the sight of her bike, her only mode of transportation damaged by Logan’s wrath. Both rims were bent. Spokes were snapped. The forks were warped and the handle bars, twisted.
Gabby wasn’t going to be home soon. As a matter of fact, on foot, in wet shoes, dripping clothes and pulling her piece of crap ride, she’d be lucky to get there in thirty minutes.
She’d blown it.
Her mind sifted through a thousand combinations of excuses and explanations she could say to her dad, but as Father Peters liked to say, knowledge doesn’t equal faith, and knowing Gabby was trying to help someone wouldn’t replace another seed of doubt she had just planted in her dad’s heart.
Her dad didn’t ask for much. Just a daughter who respected the rules of the house. After all that had happened to her, the kidnappings and killers, he wanted the last remnants of his little girl to be the one thing she had never been. Predictable.
As hard as she tried, her failure was inevitable. A daughter driven by impulse and instinct was never the same girl from day to day, hour to hour.
In their last session, Father Peters tried to help Gabby repair her relationship with her dad, speaking about the fourth commandment, to honor her parents. He explained how her dad was the domestic priest, the one responsible for raising her in the faith at home, and how hard that can be with a girl like her. The most obvious expression of that commandment was not to break curfew. Or bones. Or phones. Or laws.
She left her weekly session with Father Peters determined to be more disciplined and respectful for all that her dad had done for her. It’s not like she ever intended to be disrespectful. She loved her dad. She thought he was the most awesome guy on the planet. Well, him and Hamilton. Her dad worked hard and sacrificed, figuring out how to raise Gabby without a wife, while Gabby figured out how to grow up without a mother. They were in this together. In all the ways that mattered, he was her hero.
She had been quashing her natural gifts to make peace with him, but, as she dragged her rusty embarrassment with wheels into her front yard she knew she couldn’t hide who she was, even from him.
It was impossible.
She let the bike drop onto the grass and approached the door, knowing what awaited her on the other side. Disappointment. Disgruntled sighs. Wounded eyes. A father’s dissatisfaction.
She’d have to have a talk with him. Not tonight. She wouldn’t know what to say and he wouldn’t listen to her anyway. But, they’d have to come to an understanding, or else Gabby’s very existence would eventually tear them apart. And Gabby would rather strand herself on a desert island than let that happen. She just had to figure out if she needed to pack for a one-way trip or if she and her dad could figure out how to coexist without generating exponential sadness.
When she opened the front door she had a smirk on her face. After all, how could she possibly explain her disheveled, dripping appearance. She looked like a disaster. Drenched, her beret soggy and floopy, with a newly formed welt on her forehead. Her father peeked his head out from the kitchen and caught her mid-smile, but was not amused.
“You’re late,” he said.
Gabby lowered her head and entered the kitchen.
“I have a good reason,” she said.
“Yup. I’m sure you do.” He was cold, refusing to look her in the eye. “You’re on your own for dinner. Good night.”
“But dad,” she said, her voice stopping him at his bedroom door. She pulled out his birthday gift from her back pocket, the water having frozen its gears. His back remained to her. “Dad, it’s your birthday.”
His head tilted and he paused a moment. Like the second hands on the old watch, time stopped as Gabby held her breath. Maybe she could salvage the day and stop the emotional bleeding.
“I know,” he said, disappearing into his bedroom, closing the door without another look.
Gabby looked at the broken watch in her hands, sat on the kitchen floor, and started to cry.
Tomorrow – Chapter Five
This novel follows up almost immediately after the events which unfolded in Kneel & Prey and Lost & Found. If you haven’t read the first novel, download it for free. I hope you’ve enjoyed this free sample and let me know what you think in the comments.