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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Life can be cruel. People can be ruthless and evil. The world can be cold and uninviting. No one knows these things better than Josephine Geroux. By her own definition, she is a twenty-five year old “nobody with nothing,” and she is content to stay that way. Growing up an orphan has made her tough and indifferent to the people around her until she meets a strangely familiar man with a face that haunts her for reasons she can’t understand.
Despite the pain that will inevitably ensue, she makes it her mission to discover what parts of her tragic puzzle she is missing. On her journey to discovering why the she feels an alarming connection to an absolute stranger, her greatest fear is reawakening the demons and darkness from the past that will surely overtake her if she lets her guard down.
Little does Josephine know that the past should be the least of her worries. She is toying with a man who has already broken her heart once. She just doesn’t realize it.
Although she makes it a point to avoid interactions with others, Josephine’s life becomes entangled with the enigmatic stranger. Before she realizes it, she has given herself over to the one person who is close enough to wreck her.
Alright ladies. Here is the COMPLETE prologue and a hefty chunk from chapter one. Enjoy and keep in mind that content is subject to change (sometimes A LOT!) prior to publication but you all know this ;) -J.L. Mac
Saturday, June 8th, 1996.
I love this car. It smells so good. Papa just got it for us and Maman won’t let me eat or drink anything in it like I did in the other one. Maman says it’s cause’ it’s our first nouvelle voiture. She always tells me that it’s our first new car in French and she makes her words sound all fancy. I think she does it to make me laugh. I like it when Maman uses French instead of English because she always uses her fancy voice. Papa scolds her when she does that. He says “Collette, you hinder our darling girl only speaking French. English, mon amour. English.” He only pretends to fuss at Maman. I know this because after he scolds her he always does this winky thing with his eyes and Maman smiles at him. I can hardly wait for the carnival. It’s only here for two days and my best friend, Michelle is going. Her mommy and daddy are taking her today too. I hope I will get to see her there. “How much longer, Maman?” I know I asked only a minute ago but I am too excited to wait much longer. ‘Josephine, de quelques minutes.” I know I should not whine. Papa says I am too old now to whine like a little kid. He says a nine year old girl has no business acting like a baby. But I can’t help it. I want to be there already. The rides have long lines and it will take forever to take a turn on all of them. “Maman, how many minutes is a few?” Papa is looking at me in the mirror and I know he is telling me to stop whining. I smile at him. It always makes him happy when I smile. He does the winky thing with his eyes and I know I am not in any trouble. Papa is talking to Maman about grown up stuff. I am not listening. It’s too boring. Papa said a swear word and I know something is wrong.
“Papa!” He isn’t answering me. Ouch! I hurt all over. “Maman!” I’m crying now. This hurts so bad and I’m scared. Maman and Papa aren’t saying anything. Are they hurt? “Help! Someone help us!” I hope someone hears me screaming. I am stuck in the backseat. I am trying to get free but my leg hurts so bad I am scared to move it again. “Help!” I still don’t hear anything from Maman and Papa in the front seat. I feel something warm on my leg. I look down. “Please!” I am really scared now. There is blood all over the car. I just looked up and there is blood coming from Maman’s head. Papa is slumped in front of me and I still can’t see him. I am stuck behind his seat. Our new car is ruined. It is all crumpled like one of the empty soda cans I always smash. I hear something. I try to stop crying so I can hear better. “Oh God. Oh God. I’m so sorry. Oh, God.” It’s a man. No he is a boy. Maybe he is just a big boy. High school. Yeah, definitely a high school boy. “Please, help me!” I cry to him. I hope he gets me out of here without hurting me too much. Maman needs help. Her head is bleeding a lot. I don’t think it’s okay for her to bleed that much. “I’ve got you. C’mon. Dad get them out of the front. GO!” This boy is crazy. He just screamed at his dad. I would never talk to my mom and dad like that. I’d be grounded for a month. Ouch!! The big boy tugged open my door and dragged me out of the back seat. It stinks in the street. It smells like something burning and gas. Gross. “This is my fault. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’ll make sure you are okay.” I am confused by the big boy. I don’t know what to say. It’s just a car. Maman and Papa will get another one. I just look at him. Michelle would make fun of me if she saw me staring. This boy has pretty eyes. The ambulance people are messing with me. They have me laying on one of those rolling bed things. “What about my mom and dad? Where are they?” I sit up to look around for Papa and Maman but I don’t see them. The man in a uniform that is taping wires to me won’t answer me. I look over and see four people with matching uniforms on. They are not cops or the firemen. They have rolling bed thingies like what I am on. Here they come. They are bringing Maman and Papa. I don’t feel so scared when I see the rolling beds go over to our crumpled car. There are two men to each bed and I know they are getting Maman and Papa out of the wrecked car. Wait. That isn’t right. “Wait!” Why are they taking those beds on wheels to another car. Why can’t I see them? My maman and papa are not moving or saying anything and I can’t see their faces. I’m really scared. Something isn’t right. “Maman! Papa! Come back!” I am so scared. I want my maman. I need to run to them but the men that are helping me aren’t letting me go. They have put these straps over me. I can’t budge. I feel something warm inside my arm where they put that needle thing. My arm feels warm and now I’m really sleepy. I feel like I am moving and I want to ask where we are going but my mouth won’t work. I need to sleep. I close my eyes. I can ask questions later.
Friday, June 8th, 2012. Sixteen years later.
I lead a decent life. I work. I pay my taxes. My bills are on time. What little credit I do have is good credit. I may not have the most desirable job and I absolutely loathe my apartment but all in all, my life is comfortable. God knows I have endured far worse. Now, I am not trying to wear it around like some badge of honor or anything. I am simply stating facts. I don't brag about my hardships like some do. In fact, no one knows my story. I keep it like that purely for convenience. I don’t expect pity from others nor do I want a hand out. I’ve had enough pity and condolences to last me two lifetimes. I work hard to keep things organized and simple. My life has not always been so agreeable though. I am not proud of my past but I can say with complete confidence that I did what I had to do out of necessity. I may have stolen a bottle of water or food from a gas station a time or two but I make no apologies for that. Did I pay for those items? No. I couldn’t. I rarely had two pennies to rub together. I stole those things out of basic, fundamental human need to survive. The alternative was to starve and what human chooses morals and values over life? No one. That’s who. Morals and values won’t fill my stomach and hydrate my body but stolen food and drink certainly will. I used the resources available to me on most days but homeless kids are treated similarly to criminals. If I went to a shelter or a homeless kitchen for food or a bed for the night I was usually tricked into staying put long enough so some lousy volunteer could call social services. Those schmucks would show up and I’d get crammed into the back of some government car and hauled off to a homeless kid prison. That’s what I called it anyway. The orphanage was usually far better than foster care. Well, in my experience, that was the case. The folks at the orphanage were simply doing a job. They were earning their pay. They didn’t care about us one way or another. If they didn’t care enough to be kind and compassionate to us they damn sure didn’t care enough to waste time and energy on abusing or raping us unfortunate kiddies. I preferred the people at the orphanage to all others. They did their job. They left us alone minus what they had to do and that was that. The orphanage was a short lived home though. They shuffled kids in and out of those doors just as quickly as they could. After the orphanage you were placed with some foster family who, usually, could care less. All of this is done out of charity. It’s done out of obligation to do ‘the right thing’. Is it really that damn difficult for people to see some kid on the street? Even if that kid is better off fending for themselves on the street than in the crap place they came from? I suppose it messes with people's heads and makes them all uncomfortable so they’d rather those kids be placed somewhere out of sight and out of mind. How convenient for those good Samaritans. That makes things easier for everyone right? Wrong. Back then I preferred being on the streets than to be in one of the many foster homes I went through fighting off sexual abuse and neglect. I wish people would stop being so goddamned charitable. What these volunteers don’t get is that their damn charity causes more damage than people like me could afford to bare. All for what? So that Suzy-Q the once a month soup kitchen volunteer can sleep better at night because she dished out crappy free soup to people like me who’s sentiments are that they would rather be dead than trudging through our shit lives every day? The least people like Suzy-Q can do is be honest about things. Don’t stand in front of some kid who is exactly like I was with pity written on your face and tell them life will work out. That things will start to look up for them. That one day their luck will change. That kind of bullshit does nothing but give false hope. If my twenty-five year old self had met the sixteen year old me back then, I would have looked me in the face with not one ounce of sadness and said “Look girl, you have a choice, you can stay like this and hope for all that bogus crap that people tell you about or you can work your butt off and turn things around for yourself. No one is going to fix things for you. So get to it.”
I refused to be a victim ever again so I made my way through my teen years on the streets. Kids like me don’t usually last long. We end up as junkies, prostitutes, behind bars, or dead. A few of us luck out and make it but for the most part life simply is not that damn wonderful. Maybe I get my determination and perseverance from my parents. They came to this country essentially with nothing. My dad was a French chef and he and my mom managed to move here from Paris. They came here to Las Vegas while my mom was still pregnant with me. My dad was a fantastic chef and he got a job at one of the five star restaurants in town. I was only nine when they died so I have limited memories but I do remember that they were pretty driven people. I like to think that my ability to push forward with my life comes from them not from the years I spent avoiding being raped on the streets, or having to locate food so I wouldn’t die. I like to think that I come by my ambition honestly. In truth, no one will know for sure. They are dead and my limited memories fade more with each passing day.
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