The Diary of Dakota Hammell

Dakota Hammell was an ordinary teenager until he ran away from home at the age of sixteen, but after being brutally beaten, raped and left for dead, there seems to be little hope in his life—that is, until a man claiming to be a psychologist walks into the alleyway he’s lying near-dead in and offers him a second chance at life. John tells Dakota he can stay with him as long as he wants, but there’s a catch: For each day he stays, he has to write a journal entry about his life, his problems, and his potential future. With little choice, Dakota agrees, but is wary of the situation, as past experience with strangers has shown to have negative effects. But when things with John begin to work out and life becomes nothing out of the ordinary, his heart finally begins to open and his journey can finally be told. A story of hope, of healing, and ultimately, of friendship, The Diary of Dakota Hammell offers a brief glimpse into a life of fractured teenager who has lost everything but his abili


4. Days 34 - 45

Day 34

The tests came back.

I have absolutely nothing wrong with me.

When John came home from work earlier, he walked into the kitchen with a smile on his face and a torn envelope in his hand. At the time, I couldn’t help but feel a little anxious and worried. He’s never as manic as he was at that moment, with his face seemingly ready to rip apart at the cheeks and cheeks so red from what was probably laughter he could have beaten a cherry tomato in a ripeness contest. At first, I wasn’t sure if I should ask what was wrong (or if anything was wrong for that matter,) but before I could, he slapped the envelope down in front of me and grabbed both my shoulders in a death grip.

“Look at it!” he cried. “Look at it!”

Him crying with joy at the top of his lungs didn’t help much either. I didn’t mention that the shaking kind of hurt my ribs, though it doesn’t really matter because it was only a dull pain and it lasted for a brief five seconds.

Anyhow, back to the point—after John had let go of me and began to prance about the kitchen, pulling pots and pans out of the cupboards and throwing random spice and ingredients from the displays, I pulled the letter out of the envelope and started to read over the information laid out in the graphs. In one row were my levels, while the other held the standards that a healthy nineteen-year-old like me should have. A few of my levels seemed off—iron, protein, and a few others I can’t remember—but a note in the margin said that the ‘improvement in my diet’ was standardizing my body and that was why they were partially off (though thinking back on it, they were barely off in the first place.) After reading that, I quickly flipped the page, read a few brief typed sentences on different variations, then let my eyes scramble down the page, toward the rows of initially-blank lines that held both doctor Anderson’s and the blood analyzers notes.

Results do not indicate abnormalities of any kind, said the analyzer’s notes.

No mental disorders associated with answers, Anderson’s notes began. Gifted, intelligent, sharp. A brilliant young man whose only troubles are the ones from his past.

Below, written in finely-flushed writing, were the words ‘Counseling recommended.’

I had just finished reading the line when I felt John’s hand touch my back. I jumped so high I could have knocked both of us to the floor.

“You have absolutely nothing wrong with you,” John said, leaning forward to look at the paper over my shoulder. “You’re just as normal as the rest of us.”

‘Normal’ wouldn’t be the word I would use to describe myself, but I guess it doesn’t matter. I’m not sick in any way, shape or form.

In response to John’s words, I folded the papers, slid them into the envelope, then glanced over my shoulder as he started for the sink.

John, I’d said.

“Yeah?” he’d replied.

I said only two words: Thank you.

Those are two of the few words to express the way I feel.

Day 35

John had the day off today, so he asked me if I wanted to do something. At eight o’clock in the morning and still half-asleep, I wasn’t sure what all to do other than to ask what he was doing in my room. He laughed, slashed the blanket halfway down my naked back with the palm of his hand and said that he wanted to make plans if I had any I wanted to make.

Still nearly asleep, I narrowed my eyes, pushed my elbow into the bed and propped my head on the palm of my hand.

Let’s drive, I said.

So we did.

After showering and eating a scant breakfast of blueberry muffins, we hopped in the car and started into town, toward the thrift shops, antique stores and all the other wonders of the big-city world. When we got there, John pulled into a vacant parking lot and asked me where I wanted to go.

I don’t know, I’d said.

“You don’t know?” he’d frowned.

Not really.

“I thought you said you wanted to…” He trailed off there, then smiled before reaching up to run a hand through his hair. He then said, matter-of-factly and as though he’d just been struck with the stupid hammer, “Oh.”

At first, I wasn’t sure how exactly to respond. Thankfully though, he laughed shortly thereafter and continued, “You wanted to drive, not go anywhere.”

I corrected him, saying I moreso wanted to ride along than actually drive.

“Not much of a difference,” he said, switching out of park and making his way out of the parking lot. He took a moment to glance up and down the long stretch of downtown road before flipping his right turn signal on. “You want a ride, we’ve got one.”

Nearly eight hours later, we’re sitting in a hotel room, eating decent but not great hotel food and watching TV.

As I’m writing this, dressed down to a pair of pajama pants John had picked up for me at the souvenir shop (they promptly and tactfully have ‘I stayed at the Roadside Escape!’ written across the ass. That’s sarcasm, for future reference) John has the it-outlived-the-dinosaurs television set to a cooking channel and is picking at the remnants of his burger. He’s reaching for the phone and asking if I want more fries because he’s ordering for more, to which I just replied Sure, but I’m not sure what else is going to go on after I finish writing this. I’ll probably just climb up into bed with him (we got a single) and watch TV until I pass out. It seems like this is going to turn into a weekend excursion—not that that’s a big deal, because I’m having the time of my life, but I didn’t really expect this.

You’ll read this later, John, so I just want to say it now: This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I’m glad you let your hair down and decided to do something like this. It’s nice to see your more relaxed side. You needed a break anyway.

Day 36

We were on the road again today. Like yesterday, we rose around the crack of dawn, crawled in the car and started toward the nearest biggest city, roughly two-hundred-and-fifty miles away. John said it’d take up about three or four hours to get there, given the lengthy stretches of road we’d have to take and the amount of traffic in some of the smaller towns, but we arrived in the city at about eleven-thirty AM, booked into a hotel, then started wandering around the city.

“Where to?” he’d asked.

I didn’t know ‘where’ we could actually ‘go to,’ so I simply shrugged and continued to lead the way, stopping at streets, pushing pedestrian crossing buttons and leading him around corners. At one point I thought we might have to double-around for fear of not being able to walk back to the motel, but John only shrugged and said to keep going.

“Might as well enjoy the walk,” he’d said.

After about a half-hour of wandering the city, we came across the official state aquarium. Almost immediately, John asked if I want to go.

I’ve never been, I’d said.

“All the more reason to go,” he’d replied, patting my shoulder and leading me across the street.

It cost a measly amount to get in, which surprised me, considering most aquarium ads I’d ever seen showcased entry ticket prices of at least twenty dollars. John later said that they were having a public event and had halved the ticket prices, hence the reason for the whole experience only being fourteen dollars.

That’s a lot cheaper than I thought it would be, I had told him.

“Don’t start worrying about money,” he’d said, then added, “I make more than enough to cover myself three-times over.”

I’ve never been one to speculate on how much he made. Then again, John doesn’t exactly live a marvelous lifestyle, so I’ve never been one to wonder how much silver lined his pockets. His house is a one-story, three-bedroom building with three bathrooms (the second of which isn’t held by the other guest bedroom,) an office, a decent-sized living room and a small kitchen. He drives a car that looks to have walked out of the seventies and doesn’t have a significant other, children or even a pet goldfish. It’s just him—

Well, correction: us, now that I’m here. I’ve never asked, but I’m sure he owns it, which cuts out the majority of the house payments, and the electricity is barely on—his living room is practically its own window and at night he lights candles.

I guess it doesn’t particularly matter. I went off on a tangent.

Anyhow, we started into the aquarium and first looked at fish that could have been seen in a pet store—goldfish, snails, angel fish and a variety of other things. There were clown fish in some of the exhibits (or at least fish that looked like clownfish. An exhibit said otherwise, as they were mimickers,) but I’d seen them before. I was starting to get disappointed before we rounded the corner and came to a tunnel that said, ‘The Atlantic Ocean.’

“This’ll be where it gets good,” John had commented at that very moment, then started forward without me.

I stared at the sign for about a minute before I followed suit.

Almost immediately, I saw a shark skirting away from the tunnel. Being underwater was the worst part of it.

What if the tunnel breaks? I’d asked.

“It won’t break,” John laughed. “Besides—if it does, we’ll just run out that way.” Then he pointed to the entrance and I nodded, even though I couldn’t help but imagine getting chomped by a shark while trying to run out of the aquarium. “You’re not scared of them, are you?”



I’d said no. ‘Admire’ is the more correct word, and by admire, I mean ‘from a distance,’ not up close, which made the experience all the more surreal when the creature doubled back around and came back to view the people entering the aquarium.

“It’s a White Tip,” John had said, looking up at the creature’s dorsal fin, as if to confirm his point. “It says here that a ship called the Nova Scotia was sunk by a German submarine off of South Africa and that many of the people who died were eaten by these guys.”

Which is why I ‘admire’ them, I’d replied. I made sure to enunciate ‘admire’ full and well.

“Come on,” John laughed. “Let’s keep going.”

The most impressive part of the whole display was the sharks—I won’t deny that at all. We gradually advanced through the various oceans and through parts of South America and Africa until we finally exited out the other side. About that time, it was one-thirty and both of our stomachs were rumbling, so we stopped to eat at the restaurant housed inside the aquarium and ate submarine sandwiches and French fries before we left the place.

From there, John asked if there was anything else I wanted to do. I said I wanted to go back to the hotel.

We’re here now, as I’m writing this. John’s in the shower, probably waiting to see if there’s anything else I want to do while we’re here. I’m not particularly sure what else there is to do here, so I guess I’ll ask if there’s anything else he thinks I should see before we come back to settle down in the motel for the night.

I’ll let this journal go from here. I’ll probably write more about what we did today tomorrow, but for now, I’ll stop. My hand’s starting to cramp and I think I just heard the shower turn off. Pretty soon here, after the weekend ends, I’ll have to start writing more about what happened while I was living with Josh, but for now I’ll just enjoy the weekend. Might as well.

Day 37

After a two-and-a-half day excursion across the state, we’re finally on our way back home. As of writing this, I’m trying to keep my hand as steady as possible so I don’t fuck up and have to start over, which is no easy feat considering the road we’re on is torn to hell and the cliff to the side looks like it could fall over at any minute. I keep having to look down at my journal to distract myself from the rocks, but even that isn’t helping.

John just laughed at me.

“You afraid of heights?”

No, I just replied, shaking my head. It’s the rocks.

He said “not to worry” and that we’ll “be away from them soon.” I highly fucking doubt that, but oh well. Not much else I can do except grin and bear it. I had the same problem on the way up, but I managed, somehow.

I think I’m going to stop here. The bad thing about looking down at something in a moving vehicle is that I’m likely to get carsick, though so far I’ve been doing pretty well. The knots in my stomach are nerves, not nausea, and my chest doesn’t feel tight. I can still breathe, so that’s a plus.

It’s just anxiety.

I’ll get over it.

Day 38

We’re out of cliff country and sitting in the exact same hotel room we were in on the way up. I’d commented on the irony of it earlier, when we’d stepped into the room to see it set up the exact same way we left it, but John said irony was far and in between what we were now looking at.

“Irony is something that seems familiar in an awkward circumstance,” he’d said, collapsing onto the bed just like he had the last time we were here. “People mistake it for something sinister all the time.”

I guess that makes sense, all things considering. I’d once thought of John as ironic when he walked into the alley to find me nearly beaten to death, but I guess I never considered the fact that the familiarity of the whole thing was what made it seem sinister.

When John had first stepped into that alley, I thought he was a psycho who wanted to fuck my mouth. I guess things really are ironic when you think about them. A bird is born but cannot fly, thus is her irony as she can never leave her nest, while a gazelle is grazing in the grass and sees a lion but does not run, thus is her irony as the beast rips her to shreds—both ironic, in a way, but most people probably wouldn’t see it as such.

I should probably stop before I get myself in over my head. I’m not even sure if I’m using the word ironic correctly, but oh well—I guess that happens sometimes. John might or might not correct me on the usage later, but that’s all right. We’re going to be home sometime tomorrow. I guess then I can get back to living my life, as ironic as that might seem.

Day 39

We got back at about eleven-thirty PM. John had to go to bed almost immediately after he scrambled for something to eat, but I’m still awake, writing a journal entry that has little bearing over anything that’s happened today. We got up at around six, crawled in the car, stopped for egg and sausage sandwiches and continued on throughout the day, only stopping twice for gas and food. The day was, and still is, perfect.

Thirty-nine days ago, I could have never imagined living with a man who wanted nothing more than to help me. Now, though, I know what true kindness really means.

The past four days have been amazing—long, but amazing.

Thank you for taking me on this trip, John. I promise I’ll keep writing about what happened with me and Josh tomorrow, after I’ve slept and have a better mind frame. I know this entry was mostly sappy and without any real meaning, and I know I tell you how much I appreciate everything you’ve done more than you can probably bear, but I know it means a lot to hear it.

Every time you smile, I know just how much it means.

Day 40

Time to keep going, I guess.

The first time we went to the beach together, Josh locked his arm around my shoulders and led me along the shoreline. The tide was going in and out, splashing against our feet, and the seagulls overhead were cawing at us like they do in fast food restaurant parking lots when they want French fries or something similar. There were a few people around, mostly families, their children and a few odd teenagers, but other than that, the beach was completely ours.

“Are you nervous?” he’d asked.

About what? I had replied.

“About how close we look.”

Truth be told, I’d been a little more than nervous at the time. Back where I used to live, you didn’t go about with your arm around another guy’s shoulders if you knew what was good for you, so it wasn’t hard for me to immediately establish a level of consciousness about Josh’s public display of affection. When he asked that, I didn’t answer right away. That didn’t seem to bother Josh much, as he continued to lead me down the shore without much care in the world, but I knew I would have to eventually answer, so I bucked up and said, A little.

At that moment, Josh stopped, released his hold on me and settled down on the ground, just far enough away from the shore so the water could touch his feet. I stood there for about a minute, dumbstruck and not sure how to feel, before he gestured me to sit down beside him.

“You must’ve lived in a pretty shitty place,” he’d said.

Yeah, I’d replied. I did.

We sat there watching the children play, the dogs chasing after rubber balls and mothers taking pictures as fathers dove in after their sons and daughters. In the distance, a dolphin jumped, spun, then squeaked before falling back into the ocean, much to the delight of a group of teenage girls, one of which reached out to the dolphin as it approached. I have a distinct memory of wondering just how it would feel to touch one, but I didn’t voice my opinion. Instead, I simply watched, laughing when the six-foot creature bumped its head against the girl’s side and began to wade through the other children.

“I’m going in,” Josh had said, stripping his shirt over his head to reveal his hairy, muscular chest. “Come on.”

I’m fine, I’d replied.

“Come on, Dakota. Live a little!”

Up until that point, he wasn’t aware that I was afraid of sharks, though I didn’t necessarily voice my opinion until after I’d stripped my shirt off and stood ankle-deep in the water.

“You coming?” Josh had asked, laughing as he turned to face me while he continued to wade deeper in the water.

I’m afraid of sharks, Josh.

“There’s no sharks here. Besides—we’ve got a dolphin. He’ll protect us, right, squeaky?”

The dolphin squeaked in response, then butted its head into Josh’s side hard enough to knock him into the water. That was all it took for me to join the man I considered to be my boyfriend in the water, dolphin and all.

I’m not sure if this is the most appropriate thing to write about, John, but I’m getting there. The story’s unwinding, slowly but surely. This is one of the few really good things that happened between me and Josh while I was staying with him in Florida. I’d rather cherish these memories than put them away.

Day 41

Josh’s family had problems.

That’s easy to say when you’re an outsider and as such have an outside perspective, but it isn’t hard to pick out the little awkward things when you’re living with someone for such a short amount of time. Usually it’s hard to pick those things out—the way your boyfriend’s mother would tap her nails on the counter when her husband walked into the kitchen, the way the father would read the paper, stop, then sigh before folding it up after he heard someone moving around in the house. Little things like that cross your radar often when you’re first living with someone, but after a while, the pieces start falling together and the puzzle begins to start building itself on its own.

To say the least, the first month-and-a-half of living with them was wrought with tension.

Funny—I say wrought like it’s some fancy word that should be used to describe an average thing.

Let’s get on with this.

When the two-month line of my stay began to broach the calendar, I decided to hit Josh up about his parents’ problems while we were walking home from the burger joint a few blocks up the road. I’d started off simply enough—a Hey Josh to break the ice, then a Can I ask you something? to get things going. When he looked up and replied with a simple “yeah,” I took a deep breath, prepared myself for the awkward conversation that I knew was to come, then decided to take the club and beat the gopher over the head with it.

Your parents have problems, don’t they?

I still remember the look in his face the moment I finished the sentence. His forehead filled with lines, his mouth turned into a giant frown, the corners of his cheeks puffed forward like a chipmunk’s mouth filled with too many acorns. It scared me to see such a reaction, even though it wasn’t an obvious one, but I knew nothing bad would come of it. Josh wasn’t violent to say the least, unlike some men I’d run into, but everyone knew that asking a question about a touchy subject could go just about any way it wanted to.

After what seemed like an eternity, he finally said the three words I’d been waiting to hear: “Yeah, they do.”

With that said, I wasn’t sure how to reply. I expected him to elaborate further on the subject—to at least say his parents had marital problems or to mention some underlying issue that prevented them from living a fuller, happier life. That, however, did not come, which forced me head-on into the position of the farmer with the burning cattle rod.

What’s wrong? I’d asked.

“Nothing,” he’d replied, his normally-calm voice filled with hurt. “We’re just having money problems, that’s all.”

I expected something similar. It takes innocent things that don’t seem like such a big deal to turn good families into raging infernos, but I didn’t expect Josh to act so hurt about it. He was a good man—he worked a good job, was able to see the whole country and had decent wage. Even now, while I’m writing this, I’m still surprised at how strong his reaction was.

That doesn’t necessarily matter though. When we were more than hallway to the house, I asked if he was all right, he said he was fine, and I concluded the topic by saying I was just worried and wanted to know if something was up.

“Don’t worry,” he’d said. “Something’s up, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Day 42

I didn’t find out what was up until two months later.

“Someone’s been stealing money,” Josh had said. “Mom thinks it’s the gardener.”

Usually when you think someone that’s working for you is stealing money, you do one of two things—confront them or get rid of them entirely. However, when I asked Josh about this, he simply sighed and shook his head. He said there was more going on that he wasn’t comfortable talking about in the house, but when I asked if we could go take a walk (my suggestion at the time had been to go get pizza,) he’d simply shaken his head and said he didn’t want to deal with it right now.

He didn’t want to deal with it until two weeks later, while we were walking home from our usual hangout at the burger joint.

“The reason we can’t get rid of the gardener is because he’s got some shit on Dad,” Josh had begun. “Dad’s had a bit of a rough past. He’s cheated the government out of some money and he’s afraid if we try to get rid of the gardener, he’ll stab us in the back.”

I asked Josh just how much his father had cheated the government out of. Josh said he “couldn’t count it,” which I guess translates into “he couldn’t remember because it’s such an extreme amount.”

While we continued walking, Josh with his head slightly bowed and myself with my hands in my pockets, I tried not to think about my place in the family and just what might happen if the gardener tried to get a little too close for comfort with me. No one knew who I was—I’d never been broadcast as a ‘missing child,’ at least as far as I know, and I’d never heard people talking about the kid who went missing. Back then, I assumed that Dad had just let me run off without a care in the world and didn’t bother to try and get me back because I was so close to being an adult. Now I’m not even sure if he’s alive. Even if he isn’t, that doesn’t necessarily matter, but I distracted myself from my train of thought.

The point was, at the time, that the gardener was known within Josh’s inner circle to be wrong, a bad seed planted within the perfect tropical paradise.

I asked if something was going to happen to me.

Josh plainly asked the only thing he could: “What?”

I then elaborated: Will your parents force me away because of what the gardener’s doing?

Josh said no. I wasn’t too sure. I guess what happened is pretty much clear.

Day 43

The tension eventually became so thick that sometimes, I swore I could cut it with a knife.

Around the three/four-month mark, after I’d pretty much established myself as Josh’s live-in boyfriend who helped cook, clean and manage the small property, things started to get bad. The fighting that happened between Josh’s parents wasn’t just hushed whispers and startled bursts of sound—they were full-out brawls. They never actually fought (Josh’s dad was too old to throw a punch and too good a man to ever lay his hands on a woman, much less his wife,) but their arguments could be heard throughout the house on choice mornings, afternoons and evenings. I was always the first to leave—To take a walk, I’d said, and clear my head. Josh, as always, would follow. He knew that the fighting was starting to get to me.

One night, he asked why I couldn’t stand listening to them argue.

I said it was because it reminded me too much of my dad.

This is going to be a first for you, John, and it’s going to be a first for me too, because I’ve never really talked about my dad in this journal. I’ve said he stopped caring about me, sure, but I never mentioned that he used to beat me during his alcoholic rampages. When Josh first questioned me about it, I was afraid to answer because the memories that were flooding back were almost too much to take. Even now, writing this, it’s hard for me to even put into words what it’s like to have your vision go red over the amount of blood in your eyes, but I’m getting to it.

The conversation went something like this:

“It reminds you of your dad?”


“You haven’t—“

My Dad used to beat me, Josh.

“But how is this—“

He used to rant and rave just like your parents do before he got his belt out.

My dad called these beatings ‘growing pains.’ Every time I would disobey him, he would make a tiny cut into the leather and refine the tips just enough to make them sharp. When whipped, these teeth would break apart from the main part of the belt and slice down, much like an animal when it’s biting you out of defense. He would give me the amount of lashings equal to what he thought was punishment—two for talking back, three for disobeying, four for arguing, five for crimes he felt were ‘Beyond his mechanism of control’ and ‘Disrespectful to him in the greatest degree.’

The last time he beat me, he didn’t stop at five—he only stopped when I turned to try and get him to stop and the belt slashed my forehead.

Some would probably say that seeing your child’s bleeding face would cause you to stop everything and to help that child in any way you possibly could. That wasn’t the case for my dad. When he saw the blood running down my hairline and into my face, he stood there for a moment with his eyes wide and his own blood dripping down from where he’d bit his lip before he turned and slashed the belt at the ceiling. The light bulb exploded and the room went dark, much of what usually happens when it’s eight-thirty at night and it’s pitch-black outside. The darkness didn’t deter him though—he kept slashing the belt across the kitchen, destroying everything he could. This went on for I don’t know how long before everything just stopped. Like the calm after the storm, he simply sighed, took a deep breath, then told me to go to my room.

After I finished telling Josh this story, he brought me into his arms and started bawling. “I’m so sorry,” he’d sobbed. “I feel like a jerk for everything I’ve done to you.”

This might have been the point where he saw me as more than just a fuck buddy and more as someone he actually cared about. In those four months, he’d never explicitly said he’d loved me. Sure, he’d say it as we were having sex, when my legs were over his shoulders and his dick was eight-inches inside me, but he never once told me outside sex that he loved me.

At this point in our relationship, two months before I eventually left Josh and his family behind, he pushed me away from his chest and planted one gentle kiss on my lips. It was then and there that he said, “I love you.”

Day 44

At this point, I’m not exactly sure what I should write. The final chapter, maybe? The big finale, the last crescendo? I don’t know. I’m trying to figure out just what I should start talking about next, because seeing as how there’s two months left, there’s a few things I could write about: How Josh’s parents and their fighting started getting worse and worse, how the knocks at the door started to become more frequent, how the whispers that used to come from the living room while Josh and I were asleep started to become more frantic, more desperate, more secretive.

I don’t know.

Maybe I should just put it this way: The last two months I stayed with Josh can basically be described as purgatory, hell in the sense that I could barely stand being in that house.

What happened at the very end?

I think I’ll have to brace myself for that.

Sorry, John—let me get myself together a little more. If I can mentally prepare myself to write out what happened, it’ll be easier for me to do it without stuttering throughout the journal.


Day 45

The final chapter.

One night, while Josh and I were lying in bed, I heard his parents discussing my presence in the house. This wasn’t the casual banter they usually had—about where I came from, how long I had been with Josh and how close we seemed to be for such a short-term couple, that sort of thing. That night though, they weren’t talking about that. They were talking about something else.

“Have you noticed,” his father said, “that things seemed to get worse since Dakota arrived?”

Those words were enough to freeze me in place. When Josh suddenly paused as well, I thought maybe my skin had taken an icy chill, as his fingers drummed across my stomach, then stiffened before they fell back into place. However, he quickly fell back into an even form of breathing, much to my relief.

From that moment on, I listened to everything they said. I don’t think it’s necessary to reiterate the exact conversation, even though I do remember it to a perfect T, but hearing what they said made me realize how much of an idiot I had been for leaving my wallet out for something to find it. They knew whose it was—it had my name scrawled across it in a cowboys-and-Indians-style leather piece, so it was only natural for them to pick it up, maybe even shift through it.

What sealed my fate and what ultimately made them think I was stealing money?

The fact that I had a thousand or so dollars in my wallet.

Money was disappearing. There was a new person in the house. There was a lot of money in the new person’s wallet. Connect the dots is an easy game when you only have three possible marks to draw a line between.

The following morning, they didn’t say anything. My wallet was sitting in the exact same spot I’d left it in under the lamp on the end table. Things seemed normal, peachy even, and they both greeted me as though they held no ill will in their hearts.

That night, while Josh was sleeping and his parents had gone out for the night, I wrote a letter to Josh and said that his parents thought I was stealing money and that it was best if I left. I said to stay here, in Florida, and that if I got my life together, I might come back one day.

I didn’t end the note by saying I loved him.

Now, while writing this, I’m not sure if I should have.

I abandoned him without saying goodbye.

If I’ve ever regretted anything in my life, it was that I never told Josh goodbye.

To John—hopefully this suffices for that part of my life. The next part of the story is coming up here soon.

Shortly, my entire life story leading up to you finding me in the alley is going to come into a complete circle. Hopefully it won’t snap my head off when it does.

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