Angel Tears by Valmore Daniels by Valmore Daniels - Read Online

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Angel Tears - Valmore Daniels

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Table of Contents

Angel Tears

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Epilogue

Newsletter

About The Author

Chapter One

Ecce ego adducam aquas diluvii super terram, ut interficiam omnem carnem, in qua spiritus vitæ est subter cælum. Universa quæ in terra sunt, consumentur.

(For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.) – Genesis 6:17

I sat in the back seat of the police car, the handcuffs around my wrists pulling my arms tight behind me, and tried to hold back tears of anger and desperation.

My stomach tightened when I saw a familiar face approaching the car, shooting me a look of deep concern. Mr. Ulrich spoke to the police officer who’d taken me into custody. I couldn’t make out what he said.

We were parked in front of the Portland Youth Development Center for Girls—a bland name for a hateful place. Why couldn’t they just be honest about it? It was a juvenile detention hall.

The politicians had decided to portray the Center as an institution of hope and rehabilitation to the public, though the only real lesson we learned was the oldest one in the book: either you learned how to fight, or you learned how to run.

I’d been running since I was a kid, and I wasn’t going to stop now.

Even the staff didn’t suspect half of what went on in the dark corners of the halls when they weren’t looking, or after the lights went out. I had the bruises to prove it—many girls had it much worse—but none of the staff ever wanted to hear about it. If there wasn’t a broken bone, then it wasn’t worth reporting.

The only one who seemed to have a clue was Mr. Ulrich. He was still a jailer, as far as I was concerned. Despite his efforts to help, I knew better than to trust adults of any kind.

Ever.

Still speaking to the police officer, but looking at me through the back seat window, he gestured to the door. The officer unlocked it and took a step back.

Mr. Ulrich opened the door and hunched over toward me. He didn’t say anything right away.

He was old. Probably thirty or forty. His short brown hair was thinning into a widow’s peak, and he’d started to grow a goatee. If he thought he was being stylish, he was fooling himself.

Though he was far from fat, a potbelly stretched the fabric of the cardigan sweater he wore.

When he first arrived at the Center a month ago from somewhere out west, a few of the other girls had tried flirting with him to get special treatment, but he acted as if he had no idea what they were doing. He wasn’t married, and no one ever saw him socialize with any of the female staff.

It wasn’t until one of the girls waiting in his office came across a personal letter in his desk that we partly figured out what the deal was. Mr. Ulrich used to be Father Aaron Ulrich, but he was no longer a priest. No one knew why, but it was great sport coming up with scenarios.

I’m very disappointed in you, Serena, he said to me.

Though I could hear the honesty in his voice, I hardened myself to it, and lifted my head in defiance.

Join the club.

And what have you done to yourself? he asked, lifting his hand toward me.

I’d dyed my hair green, to match my eyes, just like I used to have it before juvie. I’d painted both my top and bottom eyelids with black liner—only partially to hide the shiner Trudy Hartman gave me two nights ago. I’d also used the liner as lipstick.

Did you think you were trying to disguise yourself? he asked.

I tried not to flinch at the comment. I wasn’t trying to hide who I was; I was just trying to be me.

The hair salon where I’d stolen the electric shaver, makeup, and dye yesterday after I’d escaped from the Center had reported exactly what products I took. The police had pictures of me from when I was arrested, so it was easy to guess what I looked like. When I’d gone into a discount store in a strip mall to lift some new clothes earlier, a patrol officer spotted me. He’d been waiting outside for me with handcuffs ready.

Don’t you have anything to say for yourself? Mr. Ulrich asked.

Yeah, I said. What kind of crap are they serving for supper tonight?

He frowned and stood up. To the officer, he said, All right. Take her inside.

* * *

Going through processing again was humiliating. I had to shower in front of the nurse and one of the female prison guards, both to make sure I was clean, and that I wasn’t concealing any contraband.

With all the makeup washed off my face, the only color left was from the black eye.

The nurse made me scrub my hair twice, as if that would get the green dye out—it didn’t, which gave me a sense of satisfaction when the old prune made a sour face. She threatened to shave the rest of the hair off, but I knew the rules.

Not unless the warden says. I glared at her in defiance.

Then she did a cavity search, and I was sure she was extra rough out of spite.

By the time I slipped into the orange scrubs and flip-flops, I was back to feeling just as much of a loser as every other girl in the Center.

I hadn’t eaten anything besides scraps I found in a dumpster since I escaped.

My stomach was starting to rumble again, and though I wasn’t looking forward to eating the slop in the cafeteria, I knew I couldn’t go another day without some food … especially if I had to keep one eye open all night in case Trudy—one of the three others sharing my room—decided she wanted to blacken my other eye.

I thought the guards were going to escort me back to the block for the evening meal, but I quickly realized we were heading for Mr. Ulrich’s office.

As much as I loathed returning to the population and dealing with my roommates, I hated having to sit through lectures from Mr. Ulrich even more. He always droned on for what seemed like hours, repeating the same crap over and over again.

I sighed, and my head hung a little lower as I let the guard lead me to the counselor’s office.

* * *

I don’t think you fully realize the impact your behavior has on your future.

It was everything I could do not to roll my eyes.

I know, I know, Mr. Ulrich said, trying to give me an understanding look, you’re only fourteen. You think you’re going to be a teenager forever.

I didn’t think that, but I wasn’t going to correct him.

Are you even sorry about what got you in here in the first place?

I said the same thing I’d always been saying. The bastard deserved it.

Stealing a truck and driving it into the Atlantic is a serious matter. It’s only because you’re a youth that you got a three-month sentence. As an adult, the judge would’ve been much harder on you. We’re talking years, Serena.

I shrugged.

He sighed. Now, you pull this stunt.

Whatever, I said, and he looked at me in that patronizing way I hated.

Unfortunately, he said, the warden is furious. He’s contacted the judge, and he’s agreed to extend your stay here for six more months.

Fine with me, I said, my voice harsh. At the same time, I felt my throat close up. Six more months? The moment they dropped their guard, I would break out again. This time I wouldn’t stop for anything.

I fidgeted in my seat and avoided his eyes.

Finally, he said, You might think being in here has been hard on you, but it’s nothing like adult prison.

Curling my lip, I said, I can take it.

That’s a terrible attitude. He sighed. You’ve got a lot of potential. The staff always mention that in their reports. If you just applied yourself, you could do something meaningful with your life.

Potential? I scoffed. I’ve got potential?

Yes, he said. But you have to stop this self-destructive behavior.

Shaking his head, he sat forward and leaned his elbows on the desk. I don’t understand why you decided to run—you were due to be released tomorrow! Are you still having problems with Trudy Hartman? I could have moved you to another room until you got out.

I kept my mouth closed. He wouldn’t understand, even if I told him. Yeah, I hated this place, and Trudy had made a career out of beating on me, but at least here when they kicked the crap out of you, they didn’t lie about loving you.

Going home would have been a lot worse.

Are we done? I asked, glaring at him.

I hoped he was going to lose patience with me and send me back to the block, but it seemed Mr. Ulrich had more to say.

Serena, you know you can talk to me about what’s going on.

"Thanks, Aaron, I said with a sarcastic tone. He didn’t react to my using his first name, though. What do you care, anyway?"

Not only is it my job, but I’ve taken an interest in your case.

I narrowed my eyes at him, but I knew he wasn’t a perv. Why? There’s nothing special about me.

Not true. I know you’re smart, even though you try to hide it when you’re in class. You see the world differently than others; that kind of perspective can be valuable.

He seemed to hesitate about saying anything more, but then did. The place I worked before here has a special program for those like you—troubled people with potential. If you’re interested, maybe I could pull some strings. You could serve the remainder of your time there.

Frowning, I asked, What kind of special program?

It’s nothing like the Center. It’s a very progressive organization with some impressive results.

What, like one of those youth camps you see on documentaries?

He nodded. Something like that. It’s a ranch called Anak Acres. He smiled at having caught my interest.

Does it have horses? I asked. I’d never seen one in real life.

I think so. He raised a finger when he added, But first we need to figure out your current situation. We’d have to get the warden to agree to it.

I held back a curse. Mr. Ulrich had offered me the one thing I thought I would never have: a glimmer of hope. I’d dropped my guard too soon.

And, he added, because the program is located out of state—

What does that mean?

It’s in Utah, he said, frowning at my interruption.

I wasn’t sure where that was, exactly—somewhere out west. I hadn’t paid enough attention in geography class. I wondered how far Utah was from Maine.

Because it’s out of state, he continued, we would have to get your mother’s permission.

My hopes fell completely.

Yeah, I said, that’ll never happen. I glared at Mr. Ulrich, instantly angry that he’d dangled a carrot I could never have.

He smiled knowingly. I’ve been in touch with her, and explained the basics of the program. She said she’d have to think about it, he said, giving me an expectant look.

I felt a tugging sensation in my chest. I loved my mother; I couldn’t deny it. At the same time, I pitied her—sometimes I even hated her.

She was the meekest person I knew, and she was terrified of everything and everyone. She hadn’t left the trailer where we lived for as long as I could remember. It was her whole life. The only contact she had with anyone in the outside world was the women who came in to get their hair styled for half the price salons charged.

She’d never yelled at me for anything I did as a kid, no matter how bad. If anything, I always felt she was just as frightened of me as anyone else.

Mr. Ulrich could have bullied her into agreeing to anything, if he knew what she was like. She was a pushover. I couldn’t count how many times she’d fallen for telemarketers and door-to-door sales pitches.

It wasn’t her agreement that was the problem, though.

When Mr. Ulrich said, I’ve set up a meeting for tonight with your stepfather, he looked puzzled by my reaction.

I shot to my feet.

That bastard is coming here?

Chapter Two

I didn’t have a real, biological father; at least if you went by my birth certificate. In the spot where his name should be, there was nothing. Just a blank space, as if he never existed.

Pressing my mother on his identity was maddening. Anytime I brought it up, no matter whether I tried to act innocent about it, or if I demanded the answer at the top of my lungs, she reacted the same way. She ran away from the topic—literally—and would barricade herself in her room. Sometimes I flew into a rage and banged on her door, screaming for an answer. Other times, I ran out, and wouldn’t come back for days, just to show her.

Over the past few years, I’d learned to stop asking.

Instead of a dad, I had Dwight Channing: a sorry excuse for a stepfather if ever there was one. My mother and I had lived with him since I was a baby. It was a mystery to me why she’d decided to take up with him. He was a fat, drunken slob with long, greasy hair. Always smelling of fish and saltwater—since he worked at the docks—it was rare that he was in any mood other than angry and bitter.

Though I’d become immune to it—being around him every day—all of my classmates were horrified by his appearance. He would never have been considered handsome by any stretch of the imagination, but no one ever saw past his disfigurement.

I had no idea what had happened to him, but it looked like he’d fallen face-first into a meat grinder. Dozens of ugly scars streaked across his cheeks and forehead. That was one of the reasons he kept his hair long: to hide his face.

If he hadn’t been such an ass to me all his life, I might have felt pity for him.

Sometimes, I thought he and my mother were together only because no one else wanted either of them. He was horrific looking, and she was a basket case.

I daydreamed about my real father all the time, making up reasons for why he wasn’t in the picture. Maybe he was a foreign dignitary who had only visited the States once, and now my mother was heartbroken without him. Maybe he was a brave soldier who’d died in combat, and my mother couldn’t bear to talk about it.

Other times, when I was angry, I imagined he was some kind of criminal, who’d been locked away in a maximum security prison, and my mother was ashamed of her relationship with him.

Once in a while, I woke up with the nightmare that Dwight was really my biological father. Maybe he’d taken advantage of my mother at a party once when she was passed out from too much booze, and she had no idea what he’d done. I could believe him to be the type, though I had no clue why he’d want to insert himself in our family afterward. Certainly not because of any guilt or sense of honor—I didn’t think he knew the meaning of the words.

I resented it when he tried to discipline me. I mean, my mother let me do whatever I wanted; why should he care? The last time he’d laid down the law, things got out of hand.

I’ll be the first to admit I never really cared about school. I never believed I had a future—like I could ever afford college. A high school diploma and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee these days. Instead of going to class, I usually went to the mall and panhandled. I made pretty good coin, too, until Dwight found out I’d been skipping school and tracked me down.

He ragged on me nonstop all the way home, and even when we went inside, he wasn’t close to finishing.

My mother had always left my discipline to him, and retreated to her room at the back of the trailer while he continued his rant.

After what I thought was more than enough of his shouting, I shot back at him. It’s not like you never bent the rules when you thought you could get away with it. I was thinking about the time he bragged about short-counting a load of lobsters from a recent job, and pawning the extras to some of our neighbors for a tidy profit.

That’s none of your damned business, he roared.

Smiling as I made the threat, I said, "Maybe your foreman might think it’s his business."

You wouldn’t dare!

Try me.

For a split-second, he stood there staring at me, his mouth hanging open. Then he grew furious. I told you before not to give me lip, you mouthy little twit.

It wasn’t the first time he’d backhanded me, but it was the first I didn’t flinch away. His meaty hand caught me square on the side of my head and knocked me to the floor.

My brain scrambled from the blow, I couldn’t even remember my own name for a few moments.

Normally, once Dwight got physical, I would run away, and stay away for a few days until things cooled down.

This time, I got back to my feet and kicked him between the legs as hard as I could.

Unfortunately for me, I missed the target, and only struck the inside of his leg.

I knew he would beat me senseless after that, so I finally followed my basest instinct and ran out of the trailer.

He ran after me, screaming curses, promising me how much I would be sorry once he got his hands on me. It scared the crap out of me. I’d never seen him so angry before.

My head was still ringing from the backhanded slap, and I thought I might not be able to outrun him this time.

He always kept his keys in the ignition of his truck—who’d be stupid enough to steal that hunk of junk?

I raced to the vehicle and jumped in. I only had a vague idea how to drive. Somehow, I managed to start the engine, put it in drive, and stomp on the gas just as he reached me.

He slapped a huge hand against the side of the window, and I thought the glass would shatter.

The tires spun, kicking up gravel and spraying it at Dwight, who threw both of his hands up to shield himself. I swerved out of the driveway, hands in a death grip on the steering wheel as I desperately tried to avoid running into any of the other cars or trucks in the trailer park.

I