The Peace River Chronicles
Book III Chapter One
by Aleta Kay
I live along the Peace River in Arcadia, Florida. Television and real estate ads make river front property sound like paradise. Let me tell you about Paradise.
The dark caramel colored water is infested with gators, catfish, and floating debris from dead plant life and rubbish that morons throw into the water. The banks are dotted with campgrounds and canoe rentals. And get this: my folks named our place “A Peace of Paradise.” Get it? Yeah, right!
My name is Kayla. I’m fourteen and the oldest of three kids. My two brothers, Kyle and Kevin (my mom likes names that start with K) are ten and seven respectively. My brothers are okay as far as little boys go, but Kevin can be a brat. Mom and Sabello think he’s adorable–when they aren’t drinking and fighting. Then all kids are brats.
Like most people on the river, we have canoes, two to be exact. Our property is posted. One sign bears the name of the property; the second says it’s posted; the last one says we have a big mean dog named Grinder and warns trespassers to be careful. Grinder is actually a runt-of-the-litter Jack Russell who hates us more than any stranger he ever saw. On my part the feeling is mutual.
One of these days I’m going to get in one of those canoes and never look back.
It was a balmy summer day. The gnats and mosquitoes were biting more than the fish. The bug repellent my mom gave us wasn’t doing anything. Dad and I had been lazily moving along the river, looking for places where the fish were biting. We were sitting in our rented canoe in the fourth or fifth place we stopped. This was a good spot. The fish were definitely hungry.
I had just reeled in my fish when I heard yelling on the opposite bank. To my surprise, when I looked over there, a young girl about my age was sitting on a wooden glider swing in a yard about ten feet above the water level. There was no sign of the dog mentioned on the sign, or of the people who were apparently near to murdering each other. But there were two canoes moored beneath the bank where the girl sat.
My attention was riveted on the girl. She wasn’t especially beautiful, just an average pretty, but her facial expression was that of a frightened, wounded puppy. She sat on the glider with her face cupped in her hands, elbows propped on her knees. I guessed it was the brawling of her parents I heard in the background.
She glanced up at me, then quickly looked away. The pain in her eyes stunned me. I knew kids at school who were always in trouble. They always looked angry and defiant, even the girls. Never before had I seen such stark wretchedness. I began to silently pray for her.
My dad pulled in another fish and declared we had enough for supper. That last catch gave us a dozen cat which Mom would cook to perfection along with home fries and a required vegetable salad (yuck).
I tried to forget about that girl but I couldn’t get that lost look out of my mind. As we were sitting around the campfire later Dad must have said something to me I didn’t hear. My sixteen-year-old brother, Marty, started laughing at me.
“Okay, Jimmy, give,” he said. “How’d you manage to meet a girl while you were fishing?”
“Whatever you say, bro.”
Dad cut in, ‘Don’t go chasing any local girls, son. We won’t be here that long.”
How did parents just seem to know what was going on in a guy’s head? I went to bed but I still kept seeing her face. Sleep didn’t come easy that night.
Kayla, ten days later
Mom and Sabello were at it again. Kyle and Kevin ran into the woods to hide. Our dog, Grinder must have lunged at Sabello and grabbed the hand that held the knife. I heard the thud as he hit the floor and heard the subsequent whimpering.
I ran from my room when I heard the mutt hit the floor and raced into the kitchen in time to see Mom pick him up. At the same instant Sabello shoved Mom against the back door, sending her down the cement steps. The force of the fall released Grinder from Mom’s grip and sent him flying through the air. He hit a tree and died instantly. Blood was oozing from the back of Mom’s head.
I tackled Sabello like a linebacker, knocking the wind out of him. He lay in the floor, momentarily stunned. I grabbed the cell phone, dialing 9-1-1 as I ran for the door to help Mom.
Sabello got up and shook his black shaggy head as if to clear it. Running after me, he grabbed my hair from behind and jerked me back. I grabbed a knife from the butcher block on the table. Swinging my arm up and behind me, not being able to see where the knife would go, it sliced Sabello’s left cheek. He released his grip, toppling both of us backward. I landed on Sabello’s chest, jumped up and ran to my mom.
Her breathing was labored. How long before the ambulance gets here? I wondered. Fear gripped me. My chest was being battered by my heart. The arteries in my neck pounded. Was Sabello dead? Probably not; I dismissed the thought. He was too mean to die. What would happen to me and my brothers if Mom died? What would happen to all of us if Sabello went to jail where he belonged?
Panic set in as the sirens approached. They were coming to take my Mom away, and maybe Sabello too. I saw the ambulance round the corner with two police cars following close behind.
Jimmy was at his school’s third baseball practice of the season. The best hitter on their team, Matt, was up to bat. The pitcher was eyeing Matt, trying to decide which pitch to throw when Jimmy bowed his head. The urgency to pray for the nameless girl on the Peace River was great. He didn’t know what was happening but he knew the Holy Spirit was pressing on him to pray fervently right now. Dear God, thank you that you are such a great and mighty God. Thank you for being an all-knowing, loving God, who has a plan for each life you’ve created. Father, I know you have plans for that girl and her family, too. Please help them through whatever crisis is at hand, and Father, please draw them into a relationship with you. Lead them and guide them to that place where they can find you. Thank you for listening, Lord. In Jesus’s name, amen.
I wanted to ride in the ambulance with Mom but not knowing where my brothers were, I couldn’t leave them alone. I gave the paramedics all of Mom’s medical history as far as I knew. Then I gave them the cell phone number.
Meanwhile the police were questioning Sabello. First he said it was just a little misunderstanding. The police weren’t buying that judging by the condition of Mom and the house. I heard the exchange between Sabello and the cops and broke in.
“I’ll tell you what happened. Mom and Sabello were drinking. They always fight when they drink. This fight was much worse than normal. Sabello…”
“Who is Sabello,” the officer asked.
“Our new ‘dad,’ I said. “Anyway, he was accusing Mom of cheating on him and Mom was accusing him of doing the same. Sabello got madder. I was in my room so I didn’t see everything that happened but I can tell you that our dog attacked him and he stabbed the dog. I heard the dog hit the floor and came out of my room. My mom was picking him up and that jerk threw her out the door. That’s when she hit her head. I attacked the creep for hurting my mom. I really didn’t care much about that mean old dog. Sabello grabbed me by the back of my hair. I grabbed a knife to protect myself and managed to cut his face. That’s it.”
“Looks like he might need stitches,” Officer Davis said as he wrote it all down. He shrugged his shoulders and handcuffed Sabello, then put him in the police cruiser. I said I had two younger brothers and needed to stay home. When the officer asked where they were I said they were probably hiding in the woods. He said something about sending Family Services out to take us until Mom got out of the hospital. No way was I going to let that happen! I could take care of us that long. It couldn’t be more than a couple of days, right?
As the ambulance and police left the boys came out of hiding. Kyle was bravely saying he’d be the man of the house until dad got back. Kevin sniffed and said, “You’re only ten; you can’t be a man yet.”
They ran to the back door where I sat on the stoop. Kevin’s face was streaked with dirty tears and smudges where he had wiped them away. He was still sniffing and hiccupping when he spoke. “Kayla, where are they taking Mom? When will she be back? Is Dad coming back tonight?”
I hugged my youngest brother and rubbed his back. “I don’t know, honey. Mom is going to the hospital. Dad is going to jail. I hope they keep him there a long time. I don’t think I ever want him to come home.”
“Don’t say that!” Kyle yelled at her. “He isn’t always mean. He just needs to stop drinking. Anyway, where’s Grinder?”
I swallowed hard and set my jaw, looking at the ground. I knew Kyle loved that hateful old dog. “Better go get the shovel out of the shed. Grinder’s over by that tree at the edge of the yard.”
Both boys looked and broke into a run. Kyle began to sob. “He was my dog! My dog! Who did this to him? Kayla, what did you do? I know you didn’t …”
I interrupted him. “I didn’t do anything to that dog. I’m guessing he lunged at your dad to protect Mom and Sabello cut him. I heard Grinder hit the floor and came out in time to see Mom pick him up. That’s when Dad went after Mom and threw her out the door. I hope he never gets out of jail! If he does, I’m leaving.”
“No! Kayla, you can’t leave me here,” Kevin wailed.
“Don’t be a baby, Kevin,” Kyle said. But he was choking back sobs himself as he headed toward the shed to get the shovel. I heard him mumble something about killing that old man the same way his dad had killed the dog.
Family Services did come out and I was desperate to convince them that I could take care of my brothers. I figured they’d come so I cleaned the house real good, especially the kitchen where the fight had taken place. I made the boys wash their hands and faces and put on decent clothes. (They whined the whole time and called me a bossy old big sister.) I didn’t care what they called me; I didn’t want those people thinking we were useless trailer trash, and I sure didn’t want us split up into foster homes. I knew what those places were like from some of the kids at school. Besides, I had my own previous experience with foster care. Mom’s second husband was no prize either.
©2012 by Aleta Kay. All rights reserved. No portion of this manuscript may be copied in any form for any reason, without express written permission from the author