MoboReader> Romance > Wildflower

   Chapter 1 One

Wildflower By Aubrey Wolfe Characters: 26973

Updated: 2019-10-21 21:59


I tap my foot on the tiled floor, waiting anxiously for the dark-haired woman behind the glass protected counter to call my name.

I have been waiting 10 years for this day. The day to finally see the grass – and not through a chain-link fence, while I shuffled my feet on the concrete.

To feel the breeze on my face, and stand in the sun for endless of hours.

I have spent 10 years on the inside, doing time because of crimes I committed, to save my life. I clench my eyes closed. I don't have to think about that anymore. The minute she calls my name, I can leave this place, and those memories, behind me for good.

I know the thoughts and trauma I will be carrying with me won't disappear right away, and it won't be as easy as kicking them behind me as I leave, like I want it to be.

But I finally have my freedom. I have counted the days, weeks and months until I got here, and it has never felt better.

Until I make it out those doors, and there is no one there to meet me.

I have no idea where I'll be heading after this, though my mind tells me to head home, the only place I know. I still remember the run down, one-bedroom apartment in New Jersey that my dad and I had lived in together.

He of course, having the one-bedroom, and I slept on the couch. It was joyous times, and without him, I wouldn't be here.

Waiting for my name to be called, so I can be released from a 10-year prison sentence. I have barely turned 24, and I have yet to experience simple things like going to a high school party having my first beer – or even kissing a girl.

In an all-male maximum security prison, there aren't many opportunities to get your first kiss. At least, not from anyone of the female population.

"Tristan Burke! Come forward, " the woman barks and slams a box of my belongings on the counter. I jump to my feet and scramble to the front, looking straight at the ground while she finishes signing my release forms, then hands everything to the guard standing next to her.

He walks out and shoves the box into my chest with a sneer, turning around and instantly locking himself back behind the gate, his disgusted eyes never leaving mine.

For most of my 10 years here in Boston's largest maximum-security prison, the inmates and newer guards believed I was convicted of theft, technological manipulation, and trying to break into the wealthiest bank in New York, my home state.

But for those who came before, the ones who have known me since I barely knew myself, they thought otherwise.

They believed I was convicted for murder. But, lucky and unlucky for me, someone saw the potential I didn't know existed, and bailed me out.

Only for me to land my ass right back here a few months later, for longer than a couple weeks. I remember thinking those few weeks sitting in a holding cell at the local police station was terrifying; I hadn't prepared myself for what I experienced in here.

I go through my box of belongings and dip into one of the bathrooms to quickly change into the pair of clothes that had to be donated to me, since the last outfit I walked in here with, doesn't quite fit my 6-foot frame anymore.

I stop in the bathroom mirror, looking at my shaggy dark hair and unkept scruffy beard. What shocks me the most, is the shadows in my almost black eyes; the shadows only I can see, from everything I have endured.

The countless hours and days locked in solitude, to the point where I now welcome the quiet dark, and fear the loud brightness.

Turning away from the mirror, I gather my belongings and get out of there as fast as I can. I rummage through the box again when I get out the doors and fish out my phone and thankfully, the charger. I find a small outlet on the side of the building and charge my phone, in hopes that there is a name in there of someone who can help me.

I sit down on the bench and go through the small amount of contacts I have. I was given this phone when I was 14, because my father was never home and I often had to go out on my own and get groceries or other necessities. I saved up the money and bought myself a very basic, pay as you go phone.

My fingers stop when I come across a name I haven't heard, but thought of a lot while I was inside.

Parker Andrews.

He was the one friend I had who grew up quite wealthy, but never let it affect him. He was always down to earth and kind to everyone, regardless of their status in life or finances.

If there is anyone I can count on now, my best chances lie with him. I hit his name and dial his number, my hands shaking as I lift the phone to my ear. It rings a couple times, my pulse quickening, then it clicks when he answers.

"Is this for real?" he asks, his tone shocked but guarded.

A smile touches my lips in the first time in a long time. It feels good.

"Long time, Parker."

I hear him inhale sharply. "Holy shit, Tristan? Is that really you man?"

I nod, then realize he can't see me. "Yeah, it's really me man, it's been awhile."

"It's been like a decade man; I can't believe I'm actually talking to you right now. I want to ask you so much, but I don't think we have the time, " he laughs, but I can hear it's strained slightly.

"Actually, is there a chance we could meet up? I'm in Boston right now, " I say, leaving out everything, including the part where I'm stranded.

"What are you doing out there? I'm living in New Jersey now, but I can maybe make it out to Boston. You got a place out there?"

How do I tell him everything? Hey, haven't talked to you in 10 years, can you come pick me up from jail?

That isn't the ideal way I wanted to reconnect with him, but it doesn't look like I have any other choice.

I take a deep breath. "I'm going to be honest with you, man. I need help."

It's quiet for a few gut-wrenching seconds. "Is this why I haven't heard from you all these years?" he asks quietly.

I clench my teeth. "Yeah, it is. I can explain everything, but right now I have nowhere to go, I'm stranded in Boston. I'm not asking for a place to live; I just need some where to go."

"You know I'm always here for you, Tristan, but you better have a damn good excuse for this."

"Don't worry, I'm sure you'll love it."

***

I give Parker the address, and to my surprise he doesn't ask questions. I have no doubt he has to punch it into GPS, which will then expose exactly where he is picking me up from. I know the string of questions will probably come the minute I step into the car.

I can see that he is trying to keep his demeanor when his Silverado truck pulls up in front. I take a deep breath and haul my box of belongings towards the back, Parker getting out and rounding the side.

We stop and stare at each other. He hasn't changed much, other than his blonde hair getting a bit longer and curlier at the top, and his skin a little tanner than before, making his eyes look bluer. He's a bit more built than the lanky frame he sported in his early teens.

Before I can react, he rushes towards me and forces the box out of my hands, and gives me a hug. I haven't been physically touched like this in 10 years, the contact shocking me and my nervous system. I instantly tense up and my hands freeze, not knowing what to do.

Parker pulls back and gives me a suspicious look, clearing his throat and grabbing the box again. "It's good to see you man, " he says and smiles, putting the box in the back of the truck. I nod and rush over to the passenger side.

"So, want to explain to me why the hell I'm picking you up from prison?" he asks, and I take a deep breath before I start the story, knowing I would have to re-live it sooner or later.

"You remember my father?" I start off and he nods.

"Yeah, I remember he was never there, but I also remember he used to be a pretty good lawyer. Whatever happened to him?"

I shake my head. "I have no idea. He came home one day, after we had left that day from school, and there was a woman sitting on the couch, my father nowhere to be seen. She kept asking me where he was, and I said I never knew. The weekend came around, and she was still there, but my father wasn't. She kept saying he was supposed to protect her, but he was doing a lousy job, so she took her anger out on me, getting drunk and putting her cigarettes and joints out on my skin."

Parker cringes. "Jesus, man. Why didn't you tell anyone?"

"I never had the chance. Some men broke down the door, and kept asking the girl where my father was, and if they had what she owed him. I had no doubt she or my father owed them some money or drugs, so I tried hiding in my room, but one of the men saw me and dragged me out. Shit hit the fan when the girl pulled a gun out and shot one of the men holding me, splattering his blood on my clothes.

"She tried to get me away from them, but when I ran towards her, the man barking orders pulled a gun a shot her. I panicked, the man came towards me and shoved the gun into my hands, saying that if anyone came through that door, to shoot them. Then, he ran off."

I stop so Parker can digest that little bit, his face going pale.

When he nods for me to continue, I take another deep breath.

"As you probably assumed already, the man tipped off the police and they rushed through the door, my father still nowhere to be seen. They found me, still holding the gun, frozen with fear, and the two bodies around me. They identified the blood on me as both victims, and the gun was just a given. I was tried as an adult, and sentenced to life in prison."

"Whoa, are you serious? And you still haven't heard anything from your dad? How did you get out?" The words tumble out of his mouth, like something in him just switched on.

I hold up a hand. "That is twice as long a story, and something we can save for a night over beers at your place or something, " I say, wanting to avoid offering to go to a more public area.

"Well, I was actually thinking about that, " he says.

"Thinking about what?" I ask suspiciously.

He shrugs. "After everything you just told me, it sound like you've been massively fucked over, despite whatever has happened since then to get you here. I want to help you out, I had no idea any of this was happening then, but I know you need help now and I want to try and give it."

"You don't owe me anything, Parker. Like you said, you had no idea what was going on. The fact that you answered the phone and actually showed up is more than enough."

He frowns, not seeming convinced. "You were always there for me when we were kids, now I want to return the favor. I have a loft above my apartment that my landlord has been trying to rent out for a while, but it's kind of small. I can try and talk to him, and tell him you'll take it, if he can give you the first two month free, so you can find a job."

"Are you serious? That's too much, I can't take that."

He nods firmly. "You can, and you will. I'll even help you find a job; I was going to wait to show you but I mind as well tell you. I just opened a club downtown, a few weeks ago. I could use an extra hand around the bar, and I would pay you well for it, not just because you're my friend."

I instantly tense at the thought of being in a loud and crowded club, tending to drunk people at the bar. It does not sound ideal, or like something I can mentally handle.

"I don't think I could handle a crowd like that, I've been in there a long time, " I say, hinting but not revealing just how much time I did.

Parker gives me another suspicious look, but thankfully doesn't say anything. "I was thinking you could take the day shift, that gives me the chance to get a good sleep before I tackle the night shift. During the day, it's mainly opened as a bar, the floor isn't open."

The doesn't sound too bad, and it would help ease myself back into the public, start off with semi-normal interactions.

"I can give it a try, but I can't make any promises, " I mutter.

Parker grins. "It's just something to make money for now, you can look for something else at the same time."

The rest of the ride is spent in peaceful silence.

***

Everything looks exactly the same, and completely foreign at the same time as we drive through the state of New York. I have been down these roads many times in my past, but it still feels like I am visiting an unknown city.

The buildings have overall stayed the same in the last 10 years, with a few store additions and houses; but the people have changed, society has moved on to a new generation by now.

Am I going to fit in?

The only intelligible conversations I had in prison, were with the monthly therapists I was forced to see, after spending more than 12 hours in solitude for snapping, and hitting another inmate with a cafeteria tray. He kept threatening me if I didn't give up my dinner, since we were only given rationed portioned to make sure everyone was given the same amount, no more or less.

I had tried my best to ignore him, but my control snapped, like it had so many other times. I busted the side of his face, and cracked his nose. That would've earned me as least 5 hours in solitude, but it wasn't my first time.

The prison thought it was best to get me a therapist, to have someone to talk about my anger with, thinking I went into that place with the anger I carried. They refused to think that they had run a terrible establishment, where the inmates were beate

n by the guards, just as much as they beat up each other.

If you had the money on the outside, you got better treatment inside. If you didn't have anything, you were treated like nothing. Anyone could guess where I stood in that very fine line.

I feel myself start to tremble, just thinking about it all. How am I going to hold a decent conversation with anyone, without my anxiety taking over? Do I still carry the anger I had with me now? Or will it too disappear, along with the memories and demons of that place?

I won't know until I try. My biggest concern at the moment, is if anyone of the female population approaches me. I barely spoke to girls when I was 14, and haven't spoken to one in 10 years now. I've never flirted, or had any 'game' to begin with.

Hell, I'm sure I'm one of the few guys who is still a virgin at 24.

What girl would want to be with a guy, after she finds that out? Not too many, I don't doubt. Not just the female population; there is no doubt if my life had played out differently, I wouldn't turn down a girl that inexperienced, for the simple fact that for some it's a big deal, and you don't want to be the person to mess it up for the other.

That is a lot of unwanted guilt and shame to carry.

I'm already in my twenties, and I'm still worrying about sex. That's a great icebreaker for conversation.

The truck jerks to a stop, pulling me out of my thoughts and dragging my attention to the decent sized, two floor apartment building. I assumed the small door off to the side of the main door, is the one leading to the loft Parker was referring to.

"Here we are, " he says and grins. "It's not much, but it's been home since after high school."

"I'm surprised your parents let you live in a place like this. They always insisted on you living up to their potential."

Parker chuckles. "My parents actually divorced five years ago; it was about time. I could tell from a young age that the happiness they showed around me and others, it was all fake."

"Shit, sorry to hear man, " I say but he shrugs it off.

"I'm glad it happened, they weren't happy together, and that's what's important. Being with someone who makes you happy, not drags you down. Once my parents divorced, my mother realized she had been suppressing her passions to fit into my father's circle of friends. Once she was free to pursue them, she allowed me to do the same, and even helped me pursue my passion of owning a club."

We both share a laugh this time. I do remember Parker always saying he wanted to be his own boss, but he never expressed any other interests than that. I knew he had the potential to run a business, but a club wasn't something I expected, and I'm sure as much as his mother supported him, she was just as surprised.

"Want to check the place out? Then I can show you my club, I have to open her back up for the night shift."

"What do you mean?" I ask, taking in the slightly fresh city air around me, not having the best opportunity in the truck.

"Since I don't have anyone to work the morning shift, I open up early in the day until around lunch, then close up for a few hours to get some sleep, and then open up again for the night, usually until about 2 in the morning."

I cock an eyebrow at him. "You just do that every day?"

"I close the place for the day on Sunday's, unless there is a big game on, then I just open up for the evening and close up around 11pm."

It sounds like regardless; he is running that place day and night. He looks pretty well put together, for someone who is probably running on 4 hours of sleep. Between working, eating and hopefully showering, I can imagine how much time he has to himself to even just sleep.

"If you really need the help, I will agree to working a few hours in the morning, so you can get a few extra hours of sleep. You can teach me how to open the place up and shit, you don't have to show me the place, " I say and try to muster a convincing smile, though my hands are starting to shake and my chest is tremoring.

Parker lights up and claps me on the back. "I knew you would come around, though I thought for sure you were gonna change your mind in the truck. Thanks man, you won't regret it, " he says and unlocks the loft door.

When we reach the top of the narrow staircase, I can understand why people have turned the place down. The room opens up into a living room and kitchen, shared in one room, with a medium sized bay window looking towards the side of another building. There is a small bathroom on the left when you walk in, with a door to a bedroom further down.

I inspect the bedroom, it's a few sizes bigger than the cell I occupied for 10 years; which means it's perfect. The living room/kitchen is a decent space as well, everything pretty close together, if you put a couch in between the space where the living room and kitchen flooring touch, drawing a line to cut off the rooms.

The fridge is a few feet away.

"So, what do you think?" Parker asks.

I nod and spin around the room. "It's great."

"That's awesome! I'll call my landlord now, you can stay downstairs at my place for now, use the shower and stuff, I might have a change of clothes that will fit you if you want to look."

He leads me downstairs into his apartment and shows me the bathroom and where his dresser of clothes is. He does thankfully have a few pairs of clothes in my size, and closer to the style of today, since the clothes I'm currently 'borrowing' are even older than I am.

I take a steaming hot shower, welcoming the opportunity to take my time and use as much hot water as his tank will allow, Parker already having assured me that he doesn't pay for water at least, the Landlord has that covered.

In prison, we had about 5 minutes of hot water, and we shared the rooms with all the other guys. It was awkward and agonizing to say the least, you often wanted to avoid taking showers.

I locked the bathroom door, though I trust Parker, that initial fear is going to be there for a while.

Once I'm dried off, I throw on the clean black jeans and white shirt, topped with a black button up. I run my hands through my hair and over my beard, then poke my head out the door to call to Parker.

"What's up?" he asks, running up to me.

I fiddle with the doorknob, feeling very uncomfortable about to have this conversation with him.

"I'm assuming you have an electric razor?" I ask and he nods. "I've never used one, only a regular razor. Think you could show me how to use one?"

I wait for him to start poking fun at me, but he just smiles and nods, pushing the door open a little more. He walks over and pulls out a bulky razor, plugging it into the wall and turning it over in his hands, before placing it in mine.

He shows me the power button, the different speeds and the multiple razor heads I can install for different shaves and cuts. He even describes to me what kind of shave I would get with each, saying this was the razor his father gave him, and showed him the same thing.

My chest tightens for a fleeting second at the mention, thinking back to the fact that I missed out on those bonding moments. Though, even if I hadn't gone to prison, I don't think I would have gotten those moments anyway.

I thank him and he leaves, not uttering a single joke or tease. I thank him again quietly, for always understanding me, even if we aren't the same people, we once were together.

I quickly trim my beard with a lot more success that I thought I would, and also find a bottle of gel to tame my thick, uncut hair. I make a mental note to visit a hairdresser's when I get the chance – and money.

When I come out of the bathroom, Parker is just getting off the phone again. He grins when he sees me walk towards him, giving me a thumbs up when he takes in my less scruffy and dirty look.

"You clean up well, man. Good thing, too."

I narrow my eyes at him. "Why is that?"

"I just had the best idea after I left the bathroom. It's Saturday night, I'm closed up for the day tomorrow so we can sleep as much as we want, so therefore –"

"I'm not going out partying tonight." I cut him off, already knowing where his idea is going.

Parker's shoulder slump immediately.

"Why not?"

"Because I haven't had a good night's sleep in god knows how long, and I don't want to spend my first night out with a bunch of drunk college kids, " I say, remembering seeing the large college campus we passed a few blocks away, something that is also new.

"What kind of club do you think I run?" Parker asks, offended.

I roll my eyes. "I will come for one drink; will that satisfy you?"

Parker claps his hands. "I can settle for that. We're leaving in a couple hours. Might want to get something to eat here, the club isn't known for food after lunch, so I don't keep a whole lot stocked."

With that in mind, I rummage through his fridge while he takes a shower, making sure to grab something nutritious to make up for the lack thereof I had in prison. I make a ham sandwich with lettuce and tomato, topping it with a bit of macaroni salad and milk.

I all but devour the sandwich before Parker is even done his shower. He comes out and grabs a pre-made salad, staring at my basically spotless plate.

"I assume they don't feed well in prison, " he mutters through a mouth full food. I nod quietly, not wanting to go into detail with him or relive the conditions we endured as prisoners.

After we're done eating, we clean up and then head out to re-open his club for the night. Before we even roll by the front door, there is already a line half-way down the sidewalk.

I can already feel my nerves going crazy and my anxiety kick in; and I haven't walked through the door yet. My hands start shaking as Parker pulls around back to park.

I light a smoke to try and calm my nerves, telling him I'll catch up with him after, not sure if walking in now or after the crowd has rushed in is a bad idea. Neither seems pleasing; I don't want to be there when they swarm, and I don't want to walk into a crowd.

My breathing becomes uneven and I start having troubles breathing.

What the hell is wrong with me? I can do this, it's just a club.

A place I have never been before. I've never even had a touch of alcohol, or danced, or flirted. How am I even going to survive one drink? Chances are, Parker is going to give me something strong, and it's going to knock me on my ass.

I toss my cigarette butt and take a deep breath, before walking in the back door. The place is, of course, completely packed when I emerge from behind the bar, Parker already in frenzy mode trying to take everyone's orders.

I shrink away as more people approach the bar, and slip back into the hall. Parker spots me and waves me over.

"What are you doing over there? Go and mingle with people, maybe find a girl, " he yells over the music and nudges me in the side. I glare at him and stay rooted to my spot, my hands trembling at my sides.

I try and ball them into fists, to control the panic rising in my chest from the loud music and overbearing crowd. Parker notices my distraught and frowns.

"Let me serve these last few customers and I'll ask a friend to take over. We can go for a smoke break, " he says and turns back to the group of girls fawning over him.

I grip the counter and keep my head down, closing my eye to try and block out the music and anxiety. I'm so focused, I barely hear her voice in front of me, but it breaks through the panic and shadows threatening to rise, like a heaven sent.

"Are you alright?"

I look up into the most breathtaking blue eyes I have ever had the pleasure to see, and I have seen some pretty interesting eye colors. The brightest baby blue, with freckles of grey sprinkled throughout.

Even in the dim lighting, her eyes seem to light up.

Or maybe it's just me.

I stare at her, my hands still trembling as they grip the bar, causing my arms to shake as well. She notices and the prettiest frown settles on her lips, if that description is possible. I have never seen anyone frown, and still look gorgeous.

She jumps over the bar and lands next to me. The action startles me and I cringe away out of instinct. The frown doesn't leave her face, but she surprises me more by reaching out and grasping my hand.

With that simple touch, the pressure in my chest disappears and my head clears, the loud pounding music no longer damaging my ears or rattling my brain. The swirl of bodies and voices around me no longer taunting the demons to rise, and the anger to come with them.

"Want to step outside?" she asks, leaning closer to yell over the sound. The warmth of her body calms me even more, the most I have been in some time.

The feeling is exhilarating.

I nod and she leads me down the bar and towards the front door. My pulse quickens and I grip her hand without thinking. She slows her pace and looks back at me, giving me a smile that makes my heart stop – in a good way, for once.

She squeezes my hand back and that starts it up again. I've never felt this way before, and I wonder if it's because she is the first girl I've physically touched, or even talked to. This experience all together is new for me.

All I know, is that this mysterious girl's touch seems to calm my nerves and keep the demons at bay.

An urge takes over me. I don't ever want to let go of this hand.

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