Hell Bound

Start by pulling him out of the fire and
hoping that he will forget the smell.
He was supposed to be an angel but they took him
from that light and turned him into something hungry,
something that forgets what his hands are for when they
aren’t shaking.

When is a monster not a monster?
Oh, when you love it.

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14. Chapter Fourteen

Since everyone was cool with my pizza idea, I called in the order and emptied out the meeting box while we waited for it to arrive. I told Graham to stay in the living room with Bucky, but that lasted a total of two minutes before he followed me into the kitchen and looked around for things to help with. There wasn’t much for either of us to do. And after I swatted him away a few times, he relented and took a seat at the kitchen table.

“You’re not going to make us sit at the table like a real family, are you?” he asked as he picked at the napkin holder that had never actually held napkins. I was busy folding towels but I smiled at him.

“I wasn’t,” I said. “But now I am. Thanks for the idea.” He groaned loudly, going back to that petulant teenager look.

“You’re just like my mom.”

One of my biggest pet peeves was being compared to people’s mothers. And if it weren’t for the fact that his mother was dead I would have thrown a towel at him. Bucky once told me I reminded him of Steve’s mom. I hated hearing that too even though I was sure she was a nice woman. The idea just brought me right back to my adolescence when my mother claimed I was destined for motherhood just because I kept bringing home injured animals. I’d been shelling out money to the birth control industry since I was old enough to get it without my parents finding out. Maternal wasn’t exactly my forte.

And it wasn’t that I hated children. I just didn’t want to dedicate my life to them.

“Why don’t you have any pets?” Graham asked me. “Like a service dog or something? Maybe even just a cat. A cat would like this place. Or even just a goldfish. I find it weird that you have your own house but you don’t have a pet. You have a perfect yard for a little dog. Like a—Chihuahua or a poodle.”

“There’s a raccoon that nests in the attic. I haven’t seen him since I got back from Malibu, though.”

“I’m pretty sure having a rodent nest in your walls doesn’t count as a pet.”

“I gave him a name and everything.”

“What’s his name?”

“Rocket. Because he used to shoot out of the hole in the roof like a rocket and shake the whole tree.”

“That’s a good name for a raccoon. Hopefully he comes back. I’d like to see him. Maybe he’s hibernating. Do raccoons hibernate?”

“I have absolutely no idea. I’m afraid I don’t know a whole lot about animals.”

“What do you know about then? Like everyone has a thing, right? Everyone has one weird interest or skill. What’s your thing?”

“Knives,” I told him without even having to think about it. “I used to be really good with knives. I could hit a moving target on the mark every time. I even used to do tricks. I still have some upstairs too. Black titanium throwing knives. As sharp as razor blades.”

“Why don’t you do it anymore?” I paused and turned to face him. I was wearing a zippered hoodie, but I had a tank top on underneath. So I pulled the zipper down and slid the hoodie off of my shoulders to show him the scars. He hissed through his teeth. “Yeah, I guess that would do it. Need upper arm strength.” I pulled the hoodie back up over my right shoulder when he squinted. “What happened to that one?” he asked, pointing to the scars on my left.

“I got shot,” I reminded him. He shook his head.

“No, that one looks like you got shot. I could see the entry mark and the scars from surgery. That one.” He pointed to the left one again. “That doesn’t look like a bullet wound.” I looked down at the scars on my left shoulder. Then I lifted the hoodie and looked at the right. The right had a clean entry wound and a single line where they’d cut me open to fix the shattered bone inside. The other one was a spiderweb of raised pink skin.

“Bullets have the tendency to explode on impact,” I told him. He shook his head slowly and then met my confused expression.

“We’ve both seen some shit, Jo. I know what it looks like.”

I ran my fingers over the scars. He said it in an almost accusatory way. As if he thought I’d be lying about it. I never paid much attention to them anymore. The shoulder still ached on occasion, but not nearly at the same level of pain as the other one. So I didn’t think about it as much, let alone how I’d gotten them in the first place.

“I can tell you what it looks like,” Bucky’s voice said. I looked up at where he was standing behind Graham again. Only this time he wasn’t holding a knife to the kid. But Graham jumped anyway.

“Shit,” he whispered. I kept my eyes on Bucky.

“What does it look like to you?” I asked him. He moved his eyes over my right shoulder, where the scars he’d left on me were now hidden behind the sleeve of my hoodie. Then he moved to the left.

“It looks like you were shredded,” he said. I shook my head.

“I was shot,” I repeated.

“And whoever dug the bullet out either didn’t know what the hell they were doing or they were trying to make you suffer.” I pulled the sleeve back up and zipped the hoodie.

“I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation,” I insisted. Then I left the kitchen to put the towels away.

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