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Elias(West Bend Saints #1)(10) by Sabrina Paige

10
 
The tick-tick-tick of the antique clock on the bedside table was starting to get under my skin.  I rolled over on my side to look at the clock.  Shit.  It was only 7:30.  I had a whole night ahead of me in an empty house.  June and her little boy had gone back over to the ranch house on the opposite side of the meadow, leaving me to entertain myself.
 
I should be happy with this, I told myself.
 
Quiet was something I should like.  It was something I never got enough of.  For the longest time, it was something I craved, surrounded by the noise of Hollywood and all of the craziness of my life.  Now, though, stuck here in this house alone with my memories, it was positively suffocating.
 
That’s the thing about running from the past- when you stop, even for just a moment, trying to catch your breath, that’s when you’re the most vulnerable.  It’s when the past rears its ugly head and lets you know you’re foolish to think you can ever get away from it.  Instead, you’re forever tethered to it.
 
I stepped out of the car.  The limo driver averted his eyes, quickly returning to his post and speeding away, leaving me to walk into the lobby of the apartment building alone.
 
The doorman took me by the elbow as I stumbled through the door.  “Ms. Andrews, are you okay?”
 
I shook my head, mumbled a barely coherent response.  “I’m fine.”
 
I wasn’t fine.  I was fifteen, returning from my twenty-four year old costar’s house at four in the morning, barely able to walk.
 
The doorman gestured to one of the bellman to take me up to my apartment.  He was silent, looking straight ahead during the elevator ride.  Maintaining an air of professionalism.
 
But I knew he really wanted to take my picture, sell it to the tabloids.
 
At the door to our apartment - my apartment, the one I paid for, where I housed my sisters and my shitty excuse for a mother - he paused.  “Is your mother home?” he asked, trying the doorknob.
 
I laughed, but there was no mirth in it.  “Who the f**k knows?”
 
Then I leaned over and vomited into the decorative urn near the doorway.  At some point, my mother opened the front door and shooed the bellman away, hissing a threat to have him fired if he were to tell anyone what he saw.
 
She looked me over, her eyes trailing up the length of my body, taking in my torn shirt, my smeared makeup and my mussed hair.  Her eyes narrowed.  “What the hell happened to you?”
 
“I was at Jason’s.”  I pushed past her into the hallway, kicking off my heels.  I just wanted to go to bed.  I was going to be sick again, I knew it.  And I was going to break down.  I didn’t want to do it in front of her.  I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of seeing me cry.
 
But she followed me, back toward my bedroom, her barrage of accusations masquerading as questions ringing through the air between us.  “Masterson?  Your co-star?”
 
“Is there any other?”  There wasn’t.  He was it.  That movie would end up being my big break.  It was one of those roles that you take, excitement in your belly even as a teenager, because you understand the significance of what you're about to do.  What I’d done up until then was nothing.  This was it.  It was my big chance.  Jason Masterson was the man of the hour.  He was hot - not just physically, but in the industry.  And I’d gotten this role, despite my age and the fact that, even a couple years after being discovered, I was still a new actress when it came down to it.
 
So when my co-star asked me to a party at his house, turning him down would have been a huge mistake.
 
Even when it turned out that the only person he’d invited to our little party was me.  And after I’d drank a couple of beers to take the edge off, taken a few tokes, he’d given me something else.  Said it was ecstasy.  I’d never taken ecstasy, but I knew it was important to be friendly with Jason.  And I wanted to belong.  He belonged here in Hollywood, and I was the new girl on the block.
 
I didn’t want to go back to living in that trailer park.
 
So I took what he offered.
 
It wasn’t ecstasy.
 
“What the hell did you do?” my mother asked.
 
I whirled around.  "What did I do?"  I practically spit the words at her.  "I went to Jason's house, mom.  What the hell did you think I did?"
 
She turned, walking toward the living room.  "You smell like shit," she said.  I watched her light a cigarette, and blow the smoke through the room, and I felt my face flush hot, my blood boiling.  Walking over to her, I took it from her fingers and put it out on the side of her brand new Chanel bag.
 
The one I'd paid for.
 
"I keep telling you," I said.  "Stop f**king smoking in the apartment.  I don't care if you kill yourself, but Brenna?  She doesn't need to breathe it in secondhand."
 
She looked at me, eyes filled with hatred.
 
I thought she was going to slap me for ruining her purse, but she didn't.
 
One of my first memories was of my mother's face, inches away from mine, screwed up into this mask of rage.  I remember thinking, even then, that she hated me.
 
Now that I was older, I knew it was true.  She hated Brenna and I.  She was never meant to be a mother.
 
"I hope you made it worth his while," she said, "Although I don't know why a man that hot would be interested in someone like you.  He's the next Brad Pitt.  And you're River Gilstead, remember that- you might have a new last name, but you'll always be a Gilstead.  You'd spread your legs for any white trash piece of shit that asked you to."
 
"Worth his while?" I said, the heat in my face almost unbearable.  "He gave me something and screwed me while I was passed out.  I woke up with my pants off on the floor of his living room.  Then he had his driver send me home.  So if that's what you mean by worth his while, then I guess it probably was."
 
She stared at me, silent, and for a moment I almost expected her to express some tenderness for me, to reach out and draw me in tight to her chest, to speak to me the way a mother would, to tell me everything was going to be all right.  She would know what to do.  She would take me out of this, away from the unrelenting pressure and the overwhelming responsibilities.  Away from the men who looked at me like I was an adult.
 
Then she grabbed my wrist, brought her face close to mine, and looked at me the same way she'd looked at me when I was a child.  With a mixture of contempt and envy.  "You don't ruin everything for us," she hissed.  "You hear me, River Gilstead?  You'd best not have any bright ideas about what you're going to do about this."
 
I wrenched my arm from her grasp.  “Ruin everything for us?”  I asked.  “You mean ruin everything for you.  There is no us.  There never has been."
 
She stepped back, looked me up and down.  "You look drunk to me," she said, her gaze meaningful.  "Nothing happened tonight.  You hear me?  Nothing.  You go in your room and sleep it off, and then you wake up on Monday and you get to the set and do your damn job."
 
I didn't know what I expected.  Had I really been so naive to think that she'd react to me the way a normal mother would?  That she'd comfort me?
 
"Don't worry," I said.  "Your paycheck's safe."
 
And I walked back to my room and did exactly what she said.  Shut my mouth, the way I'd always done before.
 
And on Monday morning, I went back to work with my co-star.  I looked him in the eye every day for the next month, swallowing the feeling of revulsion at his sight, and played the role I was meant to play.
 
It was the role that would make me a star.
 
And it was forever after tainted by that night.  Everything that would come after would be tinged a dirty grey.
 
I was a big star.  But I was no different than before.  I never would be.
 
Inside, I'd always be River Gilstead, the girl with dirty bare feet and a runny nose, still hanging around outside the trailer, waiting for someone to rescue her from hell.
 
My hands trembled as I unzipped the leather case, opening it and looking at the implements inside.  My heart raced, and I felt the kind of nervousness that I hadn't felt in a long time, the sense of being overwhelmed, mixed with a feeling of anticipation.  My breath caught in my throat, my chest rising and falling quickly as I tried to steady my breath, to steady my thoughts.  They swirled around me, faster and faster, and I felt like I was sinking.
 
I couldn't breathe.
 
I couldn't breathe, and I couldn't handle the memories of my past.
 
I had come far, but it wasn't far enough.  It wasn't far enough to take me away from that girl I once was.
 
Some things never changed.  That was true of this.
 
I pinched the cold steel of the blade between my fingers, and almost immediately began to feel my heart rate slow.  I needed this.  It was the only thing I could do to manage the pain.
 
I found a place on my inner thigh, between the faint lines that crisscrossed my flesh, the lines that served as markers, a timeline of my life, of all of the bad things that had happened.  They were faint now, barely visible to the na**d eye and only if you knew what you were looking for, their fading a result of work with the plastic surgeon who specialized in fading away scars.  But I could still run my fingers over the place they once were, the place were the lines just barely existed, and remember each scar.
 
Some people memorialized the good things of life, the things they wanted to remember, the way they wanted their lives to be.  I memorialized the things I couldn't forget.
 
I drew the blade across my flesh, feeling strangely detached from the whole thing, like I was watching it happen to someone else.  The sharp sting of pain threatened to bring me back to the present, promised to bring me back to the present, but just barely.
 
I watched as the dark red blood beaded to the surface along the line of the cut, little droplets that clung to it.  I sat there, my mind suddenly focused on the pain, the stinging sensation that I could count on to distract me from everything else.
 
People think that cutting is about enjoying pain.  Viper thought it made me a masochist, someone who liked being hurt, not just physically but emotionally.  He liked hurting me, got off on it.  I think that why he chose my sister.
 
But cutting wasn't about that, at least it wasn't for me.  For me it was about memories, about distancing myself from the past and focusing on the present.
 
Sometimes the only way I could do that, the only way that I could snap myself out of the past, from being pulled down, sucked inside and drowned by the intensity, was to jolt myself out of it by feeling pain in the present.
 
I had been deluding myself to think that I could stop doing this.  I was who I was.  There was no changing that.  Anyway, I'd made progress, no longer the teenage girl who'd tried to overdose when she was sixteen.  At least I wasn't suicidal, even if I wasn't sure quite what I was living for.
 
But just as quickly as I had felt overwhelmed, the feeling dissipated, and a sense of calmness washed over me, this wave of stillness and peace.