Good
Author:S. Walden

Good by S. Walden

 

 

 

 

I pounded the door. I knew I’d wake the neighbors, but I didn’t care. I waited impatiently, looking over my shoulder constantly, afraid he would appear out of nowhere and snatch me before I had a chance to escape inside.

 

“Let me in, let me in, let me in,” I whispered frantically, and pounded the door once more.

 

It opened. Instant relief.

 

“Cadence?” Mark asked, looking at me through squinted eyes. His voice was thick with sleep.

 

I pushed past him, dragging my luggage behind me.

 

“Close the door,” I ordered.

 

“Cadence, what are you doing here? It’s three in the morning.”

 

“Close the door!”

 

Mark closed the door and locked it.

 

“He’s gonna come for me,” I said to Mark’s back. I shuddered.

 

He turned around and only then noticed the bruise. His entire demeanor changed. Suddenly he was alert and alarmed.

 

“Cadence, what happened to your face?” he asked, hurrying over to me and cupping my cheeks.

 

I shook my head, swallowing the lump in my throat. I wouldn’t cry, even though I wanted to, especially when Mark wrapped me gently in his arms, holding me protectively, whispering encouraging words into my ear.

 

“I didn’t know where else to go,” I said.

 

“It’s okay, Cadence. I’m glad you came here,” Mark replied.

 

And then the anxiety and fear burst in my chest. “I’m scared!”

 

“You don’t have to be scared. You’re with me now,” Mark said. He loosened his hold and gently pulled me away. “Cadence? What happened to your eye?” He reached out tentatively and traced his finger lightly over the bruise.

 

I winced.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said.

 

I shook my head. I hadn’t noticed the aching in my face while I made my escape, but now I did, and it throbbed.

 

“I can’t go home, Mark.”

 

He nodded. “What happened to your eye?”

 

“Will you let me stay?”

 

“Cadence, of course you can stay. What happened to your eye?”

 

“I don’t wanna be a burden . . .”

 

Mark grabbed my hands and clasped them hard.

 

“Cadence? Listen to me. You’re not a burden. And you can stay here as long as you want. Now please answer me. What happened to your eye?”

 

I didn’t want to tell him. It would just be more drama. I thought back to the first day I showed up at his door—the moment I watched my hand curl into a fist and knock. I thought I didn’t have a choice then. That I had turned into compulsion absent of conscious thought. I believed the pull was too strong, and there was nothing I could do but go to him. Now I knew better. I knew I had the choice, and for a moment, my heart filled with regret. Not because I didn’t love him and want to be with him, but because I had complicated his life. I could have walked away then, but I didn’t. And I couldn’t take it back.

 

“Cadence?”

 

I looked him square in the face.

 

“They know.”

 

 

 

 

 

Nine months earlier

 

 

 

They couldn’t pick a busier road? Let’s just broadcast to the world what pathetic criminals we are.

 

I was out on Highway 28 dressed in my juvie garb finest—orange jumpsuit with bright yellow vest—walking along the shoulder picking up garbage tossed out of the car windows of other lawbreakers. I’d been assigned to a community service-based juvenile detention center. I guess I wasn’t hardcore enough to make it into the locked-down facilities. And I should have counted myself lucky: I actually got to leave the building on work assignments.

 

Yeah . . . whatever. I was freaking embarrassed. I was embarrassed every time they dumped me on the side of some road to pick up trash. My long blond hair was pulled up in a required ponytail highlighting flushed cheeks that turned a darker shade of red when a truck passed by slowly, honking obnoxiously, its passengers hanging out of the windows yelling at me.

 

“Cadence!” one shouted. “Nice outfit!”

 

I looked down at my jumpsuit. It was unflattering, clinging to my petite body like a baby onesie, but I could get over that. What I couldn’t get over was the hideous color that washed out my fair skin.

 

“Do not respond,” Officer Clements ordered.

 

“I wasn’t going to,” I mumbled, stabbing a Styrofoam cup with my trash stick.

 

“What was that?” Officer Clements asked, towering over me.

 

“Nothing, ma’am,” I replied, and continued my work. Just one more month, I thought, walking and jabbing, walking and jabbing.

 

I didn’t realize I had walked and jabbed my way down the road next to a car parked on the side, hoisted up on a jack. It was an old black Volkswagen, its owner a young man bent over changing a flat tire. Trash was littered about his work area, and I wasn’t sure if I should pick it up. But he seemed so wholly concentrated on screwing in the bolts that I was positive he’d take no notice of me.