The Destiny of Violet & Luke (The Coincidence #3) by Jessica Sorensen

Prologue

Luke

(Eight years old)

I hate running, but it always seems like I’m doing it. Always running everywhere. Always trying to hide. I hide just as much as I run, but if I don’t then bad things will happen. Like getting found. Or getting forced to do things that make me sick to my stomach. Getting forced to help her.

“Come out, come out wherever you are,” my mom singsongs as I run out the front door of my house. Her voice is slurred, which means she’s been taking her medication again. She takes her medication a lot and it doesn’t make any sense to me. I have to take medication sometimes, too, but because I get sick. Whenever she takes it, it seems to make her sicker.

She used to not be like this, well not as bad anyway. About a year ago, when my dad was still around she would act normal and not take medication. Now, though, she does it a lot and I think she might be going crazy. At least she seems that way compared to everyone else’s moms. I see them picking up my friends from school and they always look happy and put together. My friends are always glad to see them and they don’t run and hide from them, like I do all the time.

I race around to the back of the house, running away from the sound of her voice as she chases after me, looking for me. She’s always looking for me and I hate when she does—hate her sometimes for always making me run and hide. And for finding me. I usually hide underneath the bed or in the closet or somewhere else in the house, but she’s been finding me quicker lately, so today I decided to hide outside.

As I make it to the back porch stairs, I slam to a stop, panting to catch my breath. There’s just enough room for me to duck down underneath the decaying boards and hide underneath it. I pull my legs up against me and lower my head onto my knees. The sunlight sparkles through the cracks in the wood and down on me. I’m nervous because if the sun can see me, then maybe she might see me, too.

I scoot back, closer to the bottom step and out of the sunlight, and then I hold my breath as I hear the screen door hinges creak.

“Luke,” my mom says from up on the top step. She shuffles across the wood in her slippers and the screen door bangs shut. “Luke, are you out here?”

I tuck my face into my arms, sucking back the tears, even though I want to cry—she’ll hear me if I do. Then she’ll probably want to hug me better and I don’t like when she does that. I don’t like a lot of things she does and how wrong she makes my life feel.

“Luke Price,” she warns, stepping down the stairs. I peek up at her through the cracks and see her pink furry slippers. The smoke from her cigarette makes my stomach burn. “If you’re out here and you’re ignoring me, you’re going to be in trouble.” She almost sings it, like it’s a song to some game we’re playing. Sometimes I think that’s what this is to her. A game that I always lose.

The stairs creak as she slowly walks down to the bottom step. Ashes from her cigarette scatter across the ground and all over my head. A few land in my mouth, but I don’t spit. I stay as still as I can, fighting to keep my heart from beating so loudly as my palms sweat.

Finally, after what seems like forever, she turns around and heads up the stairs back to the house. “Fine, have it your way, then,” she says.

It’s never my way and I know better than to think so. That’s why I stay still even after the screen door shuts. I barely breathe as the wind blows and the sunlight dims. I wait until the sky is almost gray before I peek up through the cracks in the stairs. If I had my way I’d stay here forever, hiding under the stairs, but I’m hungry and tired.

I can’t see or hear her anymore so I lean forward, poke my head out from under the stairs. The coast looks clear so I put my hands down on the dirt and crawl out onto the grass. I get to my feet and brush the dirt and the rocks off my torn jeans. Then, taking a deep breath, I run around to the side of the house and hurry quickly up the fence line until I make it to the front yard.

I’ve never liked where we live that much. Everyone’s grass always looks yellow and all the houses look like they need to be repainted. My mom says it’s because we’re poor and this is all we can afford thanks to my dad leaving us and that he doesn’t care and that’s why he never comes to see me. I’m not sure I believe her since my mom’s always telling lies. Like how she promises me time and time again that this will be the last time she makes me do things I don’t want to do.

I stand in the front yard for a while, figuring out where to go. I could climb through my sister’s bedroom window and hide out there until she gets home, then maybe she can help me. But she’s been acting strange lately and gets annoyed whenever I talk to her. She’s lucky because mom never seems to notice her as much as she notices me. I don’t know why. I do my best to blend in. I don’t make messes, keeping the house clean and organized like she likes it. I keep quiet. I stay in my room a lot and organize my toys in categories, just the way she likes them, yet she’s always calling for me. But Amy seems invisible to her.

She’s so lucky. I wish I were invisible.

I decide to go for a walk down to the gas station at the corner where I can get a candy bar or something because my stomach hurts from hunger. But as my feet touch the sidewalk, I hear the front door swing open.

“Luke, get in here right now,” she says in a frenzy, snapping her fingers and pointing to the ground below her feet. “I need you.”

I freeze, wishing I were brave enough to take off running down the sidewalk. Just leave. Never come back. Sleep in a box because a box seems so much nicer than my sterilized house. But I’m not brave and I turn around and face her just like she wants me to. She’s holding the door open, her hair pulled up messily on top of her head and she’s wearing this purple tank top and plaid shorts that she always wears. It’s pretty much like a uniform for her, expect she doesn’t have a job. Not a good one anyway where she has to wear a uniform. Instead, she sells her medicine to creepy men who are always staring at her or Amy when she walks out of her bedroom.

She crooks her finger at me. “Get in here.”

An unsteady breath leaves my mouth as I trudge to the front door, a nauseating feeling of puke rising in my stomach. It happens every time she needs me. I get sick to my stomach at the thoughts of what she’s going to make me do creep inside my head.

When I reach the stairs, she moves back, not looking happy, but not looking sad either. She holds the door open for me, watching me with her brown eyes that remind me of the bag of marbles she made me throw away because they didn’t look right. Once I’m inside, she closes the door and shoves the deadbolt over that’s at the top. She fastens the small chain and then clicks the lock on the doorknob before turning around.

The curtains are shut and there’s a lit cigarette on a teal glass ashtray that’s on the coffee table, filling the room with smoke. There’s a sofa just behind the table and it’s covered in plastic to keep “the dirty air from ruining the fabric,” my mother told me once. She always thinks the dirt in the air is going to do something to either the house or her, which is why she rarely goes outside anymore.

“Why’d you run off?” she asks me as she walks over the sofas and flops down in it. She picks up her cigarette and ashes it, before putting it into her mouth. She takes a deep inhale and seconds later a cloud of smoke circles around her face that’s covered in sores. “Were you playing a game or something?”

I nod, because telling her I was playing a game is much better than telling her I was hiding from her. “Yes.”

She takes another breath off her cigarette and then stares at the row of cat figurines on one of the shelves lining the living room walls. Each row on the shelf is organized with figurines, according to breed. She did it once when she was having one of her episodes from too much medication, the one that makes her stay awake for a long, long time, not the stuff that makes her pass out. The glass clinking together and her incoherent murmuring had woken me up when she was rearranging the figurines and when I’d walked out she was moving like crazy, frantically trying to get the animals into order or “something bad was going to happen.” She knew it was—she could feel it in her bones. I think something bad already did happen, though. A lot of bad things actually.

“Luke, pay attention,” my mom says. I tear my gaze away from the figurines, wishing I was one of them, so I could be up on the shelf, watching what’s about to happen instead of taking part in it. She switches her cigarette to her other hand and then leans to the side, grabbing her small wooden “medication box.” She sets in on her lap, puts the cigarette into her mouth one last time, and then sets it down so she can turn on the lamp. “Now quit messing around and come here, would ya?”

My body gets really tight and I glance over my shoulder at the front door, crossing my fingers that Amy will come home and interrupt us long enough that I can find another place to hide. But she doesn’t and I’m stuck out here. With her.

“Do I have to?” I utter quietly.

She nods with chaotic frenzy in her eyes. “You need to.”

Shaking, I turn back around and trudge over to the sofa. I take a seat beside her and she pats me on the head several times like I’m her pet. She does that a lot and it makes me wonder how she sees me; if I’m kind of like a pet to her instead of her kid.

“You were a bad boy today,” she says as her fingers continue to touch my hair. I hate it when she does that and it makes me want to shave my head bald so she won’t be able to touch me. “You should have come when I called you.”

“I’m sorry,” I lie, because I’m only sorry I was found. I need to find better hiding spots and stay in them long enough that she’ll stop looking for me, then maybe I can become invisible like Amy.

“It’s okay.” She strokes my cheek and then my neck before pulling her hand away. She places a kiss on my cheek and I shut my eyes, holding my breath, trapping in a scream in because I want to shout: Don’t touch me! “I know deep down you’re a good boy.”

No, I’m not. I’m terrible because I hate you. I really do. I hate you so much I wish you were gone.

She starts humming a song she made up as she removes the lid from the box and carefully sets it aside. I don’t even have to look inside it to know what’s in it. A spoon, a lighter, a small plastic baggie that holds this stuff that looks almost like brown sugar, a thin piece of cotton, a half a bottle of water, a big rubber band thing, and a needle and syringe that she probably stole from the stash I use to give myself insulin shots.

“Now you remember what to do?” she asks, and then starts humming again.

I nod, tears burning in the corners of my eyes because I don’t want to do it—I don’t want to do anything that she tells me. “Yes.”

“Good.” She pats my head again, this time a little rougher.

I don’t watch her as she opens the baggie and puts some of the brown sugary stuff onto the metal spoon along with some water, but I can pretty much visualize her movements since I’ve seen her do this a lot, sometimes twice a day. It really depends on how much she’s talking to herself. If it’s a lot then she brings out the needle a lot. But sometimes, when she gets quieter, it’s not so bad. I like the quieter days, one’s where she’s either focused on cleaning or stuck in her head. Or I’ll even take her being passed out.

She heats the spoon with the lighter as she mutters lyrics under her breath. She actually has a beautiful voice, but the words she sings are frightening. After the spoon is heated enough, she ties the rubber band around her arm, I sit on the couch beside her, tapping my fingers on my leg, pretending I’m in there instead of here. Anywhere but here.

I hate her.

“All right, Luke, help me out, okay,” she finally says after she’s melted her medication into a pool of liquid and sucked some into the syringe.

I turn toward her, shaking nervously. Always shaking. Always nervous, all the time. Always so worried I’ll do something wrong. Mess up. She instantly hands me the syringe and then extends her arm onto my lap. She has these purple marks and red dots all over her upper forearm from all the other times the needles have gone into her. Her veins are really dark on her skin and I don’t like the sight of the needle going in just as much as she does like it. Like a routine, I point the needle toward her arm near where all the other dots on her skin are.

My hand quivers unsteadily. “Please don’t make me do this,” I whisper. “Please Mom.” I don’t know why I even try, though. She’ll do anything to get her medication. And I mean anything. Dark things that normal people wouldn’t do.

“Deep breaths, remember?” She ignores me as she wraps her free arm around the back of my neck. “Remember, don’t miss the vein. You can mess up my arm or even kill me if you’re not careful, okay?” She says it so sweetly like it’s a nice thing to say and will make me less nervous.

But it makes things worse, especially because part of me wishes I’d miss the vein. I have to take a lot of breaths before I can settle down inside and get my thoughts from going to that dark place they always want to go, reminding myself that I don’t want to hurt her. I don’t.

When I get my nerves under control the best that I can, I sink the needle into her vein, like I’ve done hundreds of times. Each time it gets to me, like I’m sticking the needle in my own skin and feeling the sting. I wince as her muscles tense a little underneath the poke of the needle. As I push in the plunger, the medicine enters her veins and seconds later she lets out this weird noise, before sinking back on the couch, pulling me down with her. I hurry and pull the needle out before we fall down completely onto the couch cushions.