Today I am sharing how I am spending some of my time. Life is way to short to ever stop reaching for your dreams. Cancer has allowed me to focus on a love I put on the back burner while attending college. God has given me an opportunity to finish my novel.
Please feel free to read Chapter 1 and part of chapter 2. This compilation is in essence also a short story. I am always open to feedback. My chemo brain makes editing even more of a pain than before. I don’t mind having errors pointed out.
I should add a disclaimer here. This novel is intended for young adults (ages 16+). There are some curse words and adult situations do take place. As a writer, I don’t confine myself to pleasantries, and as a parent I know I wouldn’t want my 11-year-old reading this. With all that aside please enjoy. I look forward to reading
With all that aside please enjoy. I look forward to reading your comments.
Fighting for Farrah
The worry of seeing yet another neon eviction notice taped to his door ate at Wes the way time had eaten his neighborhood. His eyes followed the cracks in the sidewalk and watched for the uprooted sections where the pines manipulated the cement creating peaks and valleys. Walking, head down, his hoodie allowed for a fearful solitude. A rusted iron gate blocked the view the apartment courtyard. Wes approached the entrance and spied Mr. Tan, the landlord. The older man was watering his plants. Wes’ curling fists clamped his temples as his lips mouthed a silent “oh shit”.
Wes turned from the gate and stood alongside his apartment building. Leaning on the brick wall, he strained to hear his landlord. The recognizable, staccato twang, of what to Wes seemed out of tune, hummed on from his landlord’s lips. While waiting, the irritating screech of the gate, broke off Tan’s foreign refrain to end. Wes glanced at his hand, he hadn’t realized his fingers had been working on peeling a large patch of paint from the building. Olive green brick peeked out from the dirty white overlayer.
Wes pulled the strings of his hood hiding even more of his face and turned the opposite direction. The clacking of heels, and smell of cheap perfume mingled their way to him. It was Tabitha. Wes turned to see her. The printed dress clinging to her body covered her like tattoos. Wes’ preoccupation with getting passed Tan didn’t allow the dress to fulfill its desired duty of distraction.
“Tabitha, was Mr. Tan still out?” Wes asked.
“Hey sexy, what are you doing?”
“Was Tan out?”
“Yeah, why? You late on rent again? You best stop doing that.”
“Hey, can you, you know, distract him so I can get in without talking to him?”
“I got work, the bar isn’t cool with me being late.”
“Please Tabitha, it won’t take long, I promise.”
“Why are you late again?”
“Farrah got sick this month. Urgent Care and antibiotics are expensive.”
“Jesus, that’s why I don’t want kids.”
“Will you help me?”
Tabitha moved her body into Wes bringing her mouth centimeters away from his ear. “Only because last week was amazing.” She turned back towards the gate.
“Only because last week was amazing.” She turned back towards the gate.
“Thank you,” Wes said.
Tabitha pulled the gate open, and Wes listened. “Mr. Tan I almost forgot to tell you, I think my apartment has roaches,” said Tabitha.
“Roaches? There no roaches here. We keep clean apartments. No roaches! Too cold for roaches. Maybe you see beetle.”
“I saw one, I will show you.”
“Okay, you stay here I’ll be right back. I’ll bring camera. We take picture and we find out.” The graying man scuttled into his apartment.
Tabitha opened the gate for Wes and ushered him in with a nod.
“God, thank you,” Wes said.
“Save all your gods for later, I get off at midnight,” Tabitha responded.
Wes ran up the metal stairs that led to his apartment. He turned to wave at Tabitha. The creaking gate was already sounding her departure. Wes continued running until he met his knob with a fumbling hand. The brown door was free of neon decoration; Wes’ shoulders relaxed with a sigh.
Farrah stared at Wes. “Why are you out of breath?”
“Had to get past Tan, Tabitha helped me.”
“Of course she did.” Farrah rolled her eyes. “Do we have enough money this month?”
“Farrah, I told you, you don’t get to worry about this. You’re a kid.”
“Oh, like 5 years is so much older. Seventeen doesn’t make you an adult; legally it’s eighteen you know.”
“No, taking care of my little sister and this crap apartment makes me an adult. Which reminds me it’s your turn to do the floors.”
“Wes” Farrah began looking around the room “it’s clean,”.
“Uh, no it’s not. Come on, just turn on some music.”
Farrah walked to the window and plugged in the stereo that sat on the sill. “Dubstep?” Wes shrugged. “Okay then, Dubstep it is.” She clicked the button for the CD player.
Wes walked to his room. He watched Farrah grab the broom and look around before sweeping. Looking around his room, he could breath. Things were clean, in their place, controlled. Wes lifted his shirt and inspected his stomach. He turned in the light, making the blocks of muscles stand out in the light. Wes spied Farrah through the crack in his door, staring at him broom in hand. She tucked her lips behind her teeth and struggled to keep in a giggle. The small sound of a baby elephant escaped her lips and Wes glared at her. Farrah turned her head and laughed.
“You know, I have been thinking, you should do commercials for Iron Abs. Will you teach me, I want Iron Abs too.” She popped her head in the door.
Wes grabbed the pillow from his bed and threw it at her. Farrah ducked the pillow smacked the hallway wall behind her.
“Hey, hasn’t anyone ever told you, mockery is like flattery or something,” Farrah said.
“Hasn’t anyone told you to never make fun of your older brother because he will always be bigger and…” Wesley lunged for Farrah. She darted for the bathroom, the only room in the apartment with a lock. Farrah grabbed for the door, closing herself in the door stopped before she turned the lock.
“Owe,” Wesley yelled.
Farrah looked down to see Wes’ well worn, sock covered foot, lodged into the doorway. “Oh Wes, I am so sorry.”
“No you’re not, but you will be.”
“Hey not fair! Not fair! Faker!” She screamed.
Wes erupted in, put her on the ground and tickled her sides.
“Wes, Wes stop,” wheezed out between laughing and trying to breath. “I need to pee, you will make me pee my pants.”
“Nasty.” Wes got up and left the bathroom.
Farrah turned the lock, “See, I can fake too,” she called from behind the door.
“Don’t forget who feeds you.” The fallout from his own words struck with unease. Farrah needed to eat tonight. He knew not to look in the fridge, the cavernous hollow would echo back at him. He opened the cupboard and saw two cans of stewed tomatoes older than Farrah, a bag of oriental noodles, and random baking ingredients.
“Why are you looking in there? It’s Thursday, Maggie’s making dinner for us,” Farrah said.
Relief soothed Wes’s worried complexion. “Oh I know,” he lied “I was just seeing what I needed to get tomorrow from the store.”
“Okay, well I’m gunna do my homework. You want me to remind you when it’s time to go? Maggie is the queen of punctuality.”
“Yeah and wear something nice, last week she asked if you ever wore anything besides my old sweatshirts.”
“Oh, okay, not sure how I can do that.”
“I forgot to ask, why are you home so early again?”
“Half day,” her voice cracked.
“I don’t remember ever getting this many.”
She is lying. Wes didn’t understand why she needed to ditch. School always came easy to Farrah. Her grades were good, but she never wanted to go. Wes rubbed his temple; she could get them caught. Her truancy, the scars, and cuts on her arms, if anyone found out the state would take her.
Wes was grateful the local Urgent Care helped Farrah without a parent present. Lying to them by saying their mother was sick at home on antibiotics saved them. It also helped to be a cash paying patient. The fever got the prescription. “It’s a viral infection,” the doctor said. The faded sweatshirt hid the infected cuts on her upper arms. Wes wondered what the doctor would do if they were discovered. Where are your parents would be the first question. Our Dad died. Our mom is a druggy prostitute. You might try Fourth Street in Reno or in a ditch. Wes’ head fell into his hands. He didn’t understand Farrah’s need to cut. Bringing up the cutting with her never happened. He conceded by throwing away the blades and sharp objects he found stashed in the apartment.
Wes sat down at the round wooden table, grabbed a pen, and printed his name under the large words reading Application for Employment. He toiled over each box using perfect penmanship.
“Wes, it’s time to go,” Farrah shouted from her room.
“I just finished my application, for that new job. I really think I can get it. Dinner at Moe Moe’s if I do.”
“Yeah sounds good,” Farrah answered, her eyes were downcast, and her words distant.
“Nothing, we should go.”
Wes stood blocking the door as Farrah tried to leave the house. “I said nothing. Come on let’s go.” Wes arched an eyebrow. He didn’t move.
“Fine. It’s just Moe Moe’s. It was where we went with Dad and Mom. Can we go now?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t even think of it. We can go somewhere else.”
“No, no, I want to go. I just wish they could be with us.”
Wes nodded. “Okay Moe Moe’s it is, now we need to watch for Tan. Check comes in any day now so we won’t have to hide for long.”
Farrah peeked through the door and ushered Wes to follow. Their fast feet carried them downstairs to Maggie’s open door. She urged them in, her hand waving them forward. She closed the door with a pleased smile. Maggie scanned Farrah a simultaneous sigh and eye roll followed. Farrah saw Maggie’s eyes, looked at Wes and whispered “sorry.” Wes gave a reassuring wink. He didn’t like her feeling bad about her clothing. She’d grown out of everything. She even needed a bra. Her period wouldn’t be far away. Thank God for Maggie.
Moth balls and litter box filled the room and Wes’ nostrils. Piles of newspapers, shelves of gewgaws, and walls covered in family photos cluttered the living room. Maggie saved everything, especially if it was blue. Everything seemed to be in shades of blue, even her cat Mr. Bibbles was a shade of pale blue-gray.
“Thank you for being on time. It’s good to see you both. Farrah can you feed Mr. Bibbles for me?” Farrah smiled and headed to the kitchen. “Wesley Mr. Tan came asking about your mom. He said he saw her but wouldn’t talk to him. She been around?”
Wes’ eyes widened, “saw her?”
“That’s what he said.”
“No, she hasn’t been around.” Wes wondered if it was his moth; not seeing her in almost a year made the news hard to fathom.
“Well, we should eat. I made stuffed cabbages.” Wes walked into the kitchen. He watched Farrah pet Mr. Bibbles.
“How’d your test go today Farrah?” Maggie asked.
“I think I did well, all the dates we went over were on the test. I don’t know about the written part because my teacher doesn’t always understand my answers; well that’s what she says.”
“Let’s work on it then.” Maggie began serving their plates, from a steaming blue casserole dish centered on the table. “Wesley, how is the search for the second job going?”
“Well I just filled out an application for a travel agency in town.”
“Oh that would be exciting; I wonder if you would get free trips?”
“Yeah I think it would, plus the pay is pretty good.”
“Well we should eat,” Maggie said.
Wes figured dinner would make most kids gag, but being half hungry most days enhanced the flavor of every bite. Farrah and Wes ate 4 rolls each and Maggie filled a container with leftovers for them. Maggie moved them all to the living room for tea. Wes’ eyes grazed the wall; he recognized everyone without ever meeting them. Maggie’s scratched record story telling introduced each of her kids and her life. “You can eat cheap, live cheap” she would say, “I raised 10 children by myself after Samuel died, just got to be smart with your money. Squirrel away as much as you can.”
As they began to leave, Maggie stopped Wes in the doorway. “You run along Miss Farrah,” Maggie waited for Farrah to be all the way up the stairs.
“Now, Wesley Milton Marsh, you have got to get that girl dressed in girl clothes.”
“I know Maggie, I just don’t make enough, and my mom’s clothes are still too big for her, I am trying. My check and the social security check barely cover rent. I am trying Maggie.”
Her face grew weary. “Wesley you take this then,” she handed him a hundred dollar bill. “You get her new clothes and a backpack that aint covered in safety pins. Social Services will be at your door if she keeps dressing the way she is. I don’t want to see you two split.”
“I can’t take that Maggie, I know you don’t have a lot and you already feed us once a week, I can’t take it.”
“Boy, you don’t know what I have. I squirreled my whole life. I thought you might say that, so you can do something for me. You see this?” She walked back into the house, Wes followed with curiosity. She went to her bedroom, and pulled out a water colored canvas, the kind you could get at a swap meet for $2.00, “Re-paint it.” “I see how good you are, I want a beach picture, where the blue water meets the blue sky. You see this money is not being given to you. You must earn it and I expect something real good now.”
“Maggie you really want me to paint you something? I will take the money, but you have to really want it. Don’t say you want it just because you want to give us money.”
“Boy, I have wanted a painting by you since I saw the portrait you did of Farrah. I was hoping you would just give me one. Why do you think I have been feeding you all this time? I know you are going to be famous and I want in on the ground floor. I guess my food wasn’t good enough, but maybe my money is.” Her eyes disappeared into the countless wrinkles of skin as she smiled at him. This made Wesley feel proud, even though he rejected the compliment, and believed she was still just trying to give them money.
“Okay Maggie you got a deal.” He held his hand out. She took it as if to shake it but instead pulled him in close for a hug.
“I am giving you 2 weeks. Is that long enough?”
“Yeah that is long enough. I do have a favor to ask you though.”
“What is it.”
“Can you come with us to get clothes, Farrah needs a bra and I don’t…”
“Say no more, Saturday okay?”
“Yes, thank you, I don’t go into Burger Hut until 4p.m. so that would be good.”
“See you at my door, and 9 sharp then Mr. Marsh.”
The hundred dollar bill curled in his sock and full stomach left Wes comforted and gassy. His body rested deeply amongst the piled blankets he had crawled under, so deep a sleep that the banging did not wake him.
Bang! Bang! The front door rattled with the force. “Open up now,” said an unfamiliar male voice. “Open the mutha fuckin’ door.”
“Wes, who is that?” Wes blinked and rubbed his eyes. He looked at Farrah and thought of how silly she looked in her pajamas. The flannel pants were high waters, and the tank top showed her outie belly button.
“Hawnees hopen di door. It’s Mommy.” The accent, the sluggish tone, and purr of the words, it was their mother, and she was high. Wes’ eyes opened in alert.
“What the hell?” Wes snatched a bat from under his bed. “Farrah hide under here, don’t come out.”
“But it’s Mom,” and she ran for the door.
It was too late, her hands scrambled to maneuver the locks, and she flung the door open. “Farrah,” her mother said in her native way, sounding more like Far-Rah than Fair-Uh. A tall man pushed Sabeen into the living room, followed behind, and closed the door.
“Where is it Bean,” he said.
Sabeen kissed every inch of Farrah’s face before she looked up to answer the large dark man.
“Where is Wes honey.”
“I’m right here,” he said lowering his voice. He gripped the thick bat over his shoulder.
“Wesley, I’ve meessed you. I’ve been beesy so…”
“Busy? Busy is working late, busy is forgetting an appointment, or to pack a lunch. Being gone for a year is not busy. Busy is not leaving your kids to fend for themselves. Busy is not stealing everything valuable we own, even Dad’s medals and pawning them to get high. That is a lot of things, but busy is not the right word.”
“Wes, my friend needs mawney. I owe heem, so I need to pay now. I need my checks that come, the secor-reety checks.”
“What? Mom how do you think we live? What do we eat? How do we stay in this apartment? Really you think you can just walk in and take the only money we have?”
“The mawney is mine, it comes to my name. Not yours. That’s my mawney.” All the sweetness left her voice a demanding tone grew. Farrah stepped back. Wes’ eyes moved from the man to Farrah and back again, he watched as Farrah wiped Sabeen’s kisses from her face as if they were sour milk.
“Mom, you just want money?” Farrah said, words choking in her throat and tears emerging from her almond eyes.
“No Farrah, I want to see you, but I need to pay my friend.”
The man stepped in closer. Wes stepped in between Farrah and Sabeen. Pushing Farrah back he gripped the bat, ready to swing.
The man’s eyes rolled and he sighed “you said there would be money here Bean, there aint no money.” His hand raised and then swung so fast Wes almost missed it. The back of his hand struck with a force that left Sabeen lying on the floor. “You’re a lying whore.” Wes, sure Sabeen never heard the words, watched as she lay motionless from the blow. “When the bitch wakes up, you tell her she still owes.”
“Get the hell out of my house!” Wes said in the most intimidating voice he could muster.
“Kid I’m done with that whore, you aint got shit I need.” The man, pretending to lunge, caused Wes to step back. A snicker came from the man as he turned to leave.
Wes ran to the door and shut and locked it behind the man.
“Farrah, why did you open the door?” Farrah looked up at Wes, her eyes flickered as light danced across the tear filled gloss. He didn’t make her answer. “Let’s get her on the couch.”
Farrah cried herself to sleep. He listened for his mom to stir. The full stomach that was comforting just hours before was now contorting in anger. Why did you come back? We’re making it without you. We don’t need you. She would just hurt Farrah and remind him of what he was missing. He missed his mother, not this spun out heroin addict on the couch. He missed the woman who would make traditional falafel and Guass and sing while she cleaned the house. The women she was before his father died in the accident. Dad. He had to stop himself now. He shook his head like an etch a sketch to clear the image of his dad.
A knock at the door woke him from a shallow sleep. He got out bed grabbing the bat laid by his side. Walking to the window, he pulled the curtain aside to look out. Tabitha stood there, shivering in her heals, and rubbing her bare arms with her hands. Wes, opened the door a crack.
“Hey,” she said, her breath a mixture a mix of hard liquor and redbull, “come up, I want you.”
“I can’t. Shit just went down, my mom is here, I don’t know what the hell to do.”
“You come up and have fun with me. I have some shit that will make you forget about it.”
“No, I need to make sure Farrah is safe tonight, I can’t.”
“Wessy, come on it’s cold, come warm me up.” She leaned in to kiss him through the door.
He pushed her through the frame and walked out with her. “I really can’t, don’t get me wrong I want to. I can’t leave anymore at night.”
“You’re kidding right? Come on.”
“It’s not gunna happen.”
“Whatever, you’re not that good anyway.” She walked unbalanced towards her apartment leaning along the brick hallway.
Thinking of his mother passed out inside, part of him hoped she could stay and be a mom again. You’ll never stop using, I should throw you out. He contemplated listening to the tempting voice in his head that insisted on throwing his mother into the frigid morning. He wrestled the voice, and paranoia won. The wrong person finding her passed out could lead to cops. Wes walked in and stared at the couch. She’s gone. When did she leave? Wes sat on the couch, as he sank in, so did the events of the night. Eyes watering, he tried pushing the tears back with anger, disgust, and hatred, it did not work. The overwhelming knot in his throat let loose streams of tears. He hadn’t cried since his Dad’s funeral. My Dad deserves these tears, not you. The sound of a clanking handle and flush of the toilet startled him. He wasn’t ready to talk to Farrah; he wiped his eyes and pretended to be asleep.
Wes walked in and stared at the couch. She’s gone. When did she leave? Wes sat and sank into the sofa. Eyes watering, he tried pushing the tears back with anger, disgust, and hatred, it did not work. The overwhelming knot in his throat let loose streams of tears. He hadn’t cried since his Dad’s funeral. My Dad deserves these tears, not you. The sound of a clanking handle and flush of the toilet startled him. He wasn’t ready to talk to Farrah; he wiped his eyes and pretended to be asleep.
When the door opened, he exposed an eye no more that the width of a knife blade. His long lashes and the dark room made it hard to focus on Farrah’s shadow. It took a second to see it wasn’t Farrah. Even with her poor diet Farrah’s frame didn’t resemble this skeletal figure. It was Sabeen. He sat up and clicked the lamp near him, light flooded the room. A frail, sick looking creature stood leaning half her body against the door jamb. Her big jacket had camouflaged her earlier. This was not his mother. How was this women even alive? Her mouth had traces of blood. “Why haven’t you left yet?” The frosty words shot out from Wes’ lips before he even thought to say them.
“Who was that girl at the door?”
“It isn’t your business. You need to go now.”
“Wes, I’m still your mother. If you use my checks then I stay here.”
“No you left it, you left us. You don’t get to come back. You wanna bring people around like that, get Farrah hurt, or raped? Oh wait, as long as you got paid it would be okay. No you don’t get to stay, I will call the police, you will go to jail.”
“You’re not going to call the police. I know you.”
“If you don’t want me to call the cops then stay the hell away from us. I know that money is because of dad, not you. And you don’t get to come here and get Farrah’s hopes up.” His last sentence came out like a threat.
“You won’t call,” she said. “I know you well.”
“Maybe you did, but not anymore, so try me.”
“You’ll push me into the streets?”
“You chose to live there, remember?”
“I can get clean, you know.”
“Good! Leave and go do it!”
“I can get clean here, I just need a check. Get me a little to start.”
“There are no checks! They get deposited and then the rent is taken out. I use my check to pay the power bill and food. There is no money. I have nothing for you. You took everything worth anything.”
“Ungrateful son. You’re alive from me.”
“Well I guess we’re even because Farrah is alive because of me. So get the hell out.”
“You have no idea what eet is like. Your father was everything. Now hees gone…”
Wes interrupted, “you lost a husband. Farrah lost a Dad, a mom and a brother and got a 17 year old trying to keep her life together. You know I worked hard to graduate early, so I could work more. Not go to college, not hang out with friends, no, I it up. At least Farrah knows someone loves her.”
“She knows I love her and you. I know you theenk I do not. I do.”
His mother slumped to the floor. Her head which looked too big for her body hung between her knees. She sobbed. Her arms shook as they clung around her legs.
Wes wanted to go and hold her, tell her everything was okay, and let her stay. He had to stop himself from embracing her. He made himself picture one of the last times he saw his mother. The day he realized she was dangerous. The scene played in his head like a television re-run. Two men sat at their dining room table. One graying ginger, and another man younger, with a large beak of a nose. They were new, not her usual clients. Wes knew what she did and hated it. He hadn’t been paying attention until her heard, “I’ll pay $100.00 for the girl, 30 minutes.”
“No, no, you don’t want her, you pay for me.”
“Look I saw her, I want her, how much?” The conversation went silent for several long seconds.
“I cannot. Woman know theengs, girls do not. What you want with her?”
The other voice spoke up, “I know a man who would pay $1000.00 for an hour and video. Just give me 30 minutes free. I’ll get him on the phone.”
Sabeen sat silent. Wes came out of his room and stood in clear view. “Go to your room Wes, I am beesy.” She turned back to the man, “You get him on the phone and then here. All at once, one time only, okay? Let us finish quickly, but only for $1,000.00,” she insisted. Wes left the room and went to Farrah “don’t you go out there Farrah. You hide, you are not here. Those men will hurt you. Do you understand?” Farrah nodded in reply.
Wes left the room and went to Farrah “don’t you go out there Farrah. You hide, you are not here. Those men will hurt you. Do you understand?” Farrah nodded in reply.
“Yeah sure, one time only. If she is a virgin he might pay more.”
“Yes, she is virgeen. Farrah, you come here to mommy for a minute.”
“Farrah left mom, and these guys need to leave too,” Wes said.
A little giggle crept out of her mouth. “My son, so funny. Get Farrah.”
“She is gone. Unless you want me to start yelling to all the neighbors that you’re about to pimp out my 11 year old sister, you better get these guys out of here.”
The two men rose from the table, “we don’t want problems” said the ginger. They left.
“From now on, you need to be a whore somewhere else.”
“You don’t call your mother thees word.”
“What do you think a whore is? You fucking let those guys fuck you for money mom, that is what a whore does. You’re a whore.”
Sabeen stood up and slapped Wes’ face. “I might be, but I am still your mother.”
“Don’t you need drugs? Go chase after those assholes before they spend their money on another whore.”
Sabeen’s voice interrupted the exhausting memory. “Farrah, she is well? Shcool?”
“She is okay, She is safe.”
“You are your father. He was like you, always the one to protect.”
“Don’t talk about him.”
Sabeen broke the long silence. “I will go. I should go.”
He looked at her shocked. Sabeen’s face resembled a human again. Is she sobering up?
“Without me, you’re better. God should not allow me to see you. My curse. I won’t come back unless you want me. You call Salvation Station, ask for Debbie, she can find me most times.”
She stood and grabbed the large plump jacket from the floor. She went to Wes as if to hug him, he turned away. As if understanding, she nodded.
“Ahibbek” she said on her way out the door.
Wes trembled hearing those words. “Love you too,” he whispered so low he wasn’t sure if the words passed through his throat.