Half a chapter?… Sure! Why not?
“You have got to be freaking kidding me.”
Looking around my new room, I tried to imagine what kind of wretched creature could be responsible for the hideous abominations spanning the length of my walls. Whoever it was, they sure liked rainbows. From corner to corner, baseboard to baseboard, floor to ceiling, it was a unicorn’s wet dream. Hot pink sky, fluffy yellow clouds, and high-arching rainbows jumping from one cumulonimbus to another. Every cloud had a face. Every rainbow wore a smile.
I think I’m going to throw up…
“Hey, Munchkin, did you find your-”
My father’s words died on his tongue as soon as he stopped behind me and caught sight of the atrocity I was being forced to live in.
Turning to face my father, I leveled him with my best glare.
“The walls are mocking me.”
He chuckled softly before stepping inside and running a hand over one particularly happy looking rainbow.
“It’s not that bad, Haley.”
“Not that bad?” I dropped my bags to the floor, and twirled around in a circle, taking in a three-sixty view of my own little slice of hell. “Dad, this is where unicorns go to be sodomized.”
“Sodomized?” He scratched the top of his head before a coy smile spread across his lips. “Molested, maybe. But sodomized? I think that’s overkill, don’t you?”
I stared blankly while he tried not to laugh.
“No, dad,” I said humorlessly. “I really don’t.”
If it was at all possible, I think the room looked worse after I unpacked my meager belongings. Since my dad ordered furniture on Amazon and it wouldn’t be there for a few days, everything was merely sitting around on boxes or in semi-neat piles. He must have been just as depressed as I was by the sight because my penny-pinching father patted his wallet in his back pocket and told me to get in the car.
At a knock-off big box store right outside city limits, we roamed the aisles aimlessly, picking out things here or there that I might need to make the room feel a little less like a drafty daycare center. “You sure you don’t want pink curtains?” He asked, barely smothering a grin. “I think it would really accent the ambiance of the room.”
“The ambiance can bite me,” I laughed.
It dawned on me as we were pushing the cart through the store and making light conversation that I was having more fun there with him than I’d ever had while shopping with my mother. Even before her ‘transformation’. Looking up at his dark hair, his brown eyes, his every feature that was the complete opposite of mine, I wondered if I’d ever been more thankful for a human to walk this earth.
I wasn’t an idiot. What had gone down in that courtroom wasn’t a mystery. Neither was the fact that I was there with him instead of back in Indiana with the person with whom I once shared a blood supply.
Knowing I couldn’t possibly convey what I was actually feeling, I cleared my throat and tried anyway.
“Thank you, dad.”
He stopped in the aisle and laid a hand on my shoulder before smiling down at the maroon drapes he tossed in the cart. “No need to get emotional, Haley. They’re just curtains.”
“No. I mean, thank you for fighting for me.”
He dropped his hand but his eyes never left mine as he stepped around to face me head on, his shoulders stiff, his eyes resolute.
“Munchkin, I’ll always fight for you. No matter what.”
Of course he would. I knew that. I knew it just as I knew gravity kept me tethered to earth.
Smiling tightly, I nodded.
“That’s why I said thank you.”
My heart swelled as tears of his own shimmered below his lashes, but he looked away. Of course, he didn’t want me to catch sight of his less-than-manly tears.
“Uh, why don’t you go over and pick out some paint? I’ll get the curtain rods we need.”
Elated at the prospect of painting over those disgusting rainbows, I quickly hugged my dad’s shoulders and took off toward the paint section while he wiped at his eyes. This move was going to be good for us. I could tell. In a town as small as Jaded Falls, it would be difficult at first, but it was just the kind of place people sought out to make a fresh start. And that’s definitely what we needed after the months of hell we’d been through.
Skidding to a stop in front of the paint swatches, I perused the colors, trying to imagine what would look good in the room and how to color code with the things I’d picked out so far. In our old home, I’d never been able to paint over the floral wallpaper, and that had driven me mad, especially when I was old enough to realize I hated floral print.
When I finally narrowed it down to mossy green or high tide blue, the sounds of muffled snickering met my ears and I turned to see where it was coming from.
A few yards away, three boys hunkered down behind a fish tank display, pointing their meaty fingers my way, as if I couldn’t see them through the glass.
I’m albino, I thought, not blind.
With annoyance tingling to life in my veins, I marched to where they were huddled together and mashed both fists to my hips.
Two guys stayed hunkered down, but one stood to his full height and looked down at me, threading a confident hand through his carefully tousled hair.
“Haven’t quite decided yet.”
His eyes searched my face, my arms, my legs; anything not covered with clothing. For a normal girl, that might have been flattering. For me, it reeked of insult.
“What’s your problem?” I spat, hating the way I could feel him judging me.
“My problem?” He laughed while slapping a hand to his chest. “Have you looked in a mirror lately, sweetheart?”
“Actually, yeah, dick. I have.”
“And it didn’t break? That’s miraculous.”
“Go to hell.”
“See you there, freak.”
That word… Freak. It bounced around inside my skull, setting fire to every surface it touched until I was boiling inside. I wanted nothing more than to wipe the smug, one-sided grin off his face. Which is why one fist was lifting into the air when my father laid a firm hand on my shoulder and pushed me out into the main aisle.
“Don’t you boys have anything better to do?”
His authoritative voice boomed through the store, but they didn’t answer. Instead, the trio just turned on their heels and walked toward the back of the store without a single parting word.
With lungs heavily saturated in anger that had no means of escape, I looked up at my father, perturbed that he’d stepped in like I couldn’t take care of myself. I opened my mouth to tell him just that, but he silenced me with one stern, fatherly glare.
“Don’t you think that was a little uncalled for?”
My jaw dropped. He was defending them?
“Are you kidding me right now?” His face didn’t waver, so I pressed on. “They were the ones being prejudiced assholes, yet I’m the one who was in the wrong?”
“There are a million different ways you can handle confrontations like that, Haley, and prodding them with insults is one of the last things you should do.”
I threw up my hands and began power walking to the closest exit.
My skin was tough, my heart was hard, and it was close to impossible to really, truly hurt me.
But my father, the man who I’d been so grateful for just minutes prior, had managed to do just that.