Author Note: This chapter contains references to domestic violence, child abuse, and self-harm. If these are triggers for you or you feel uncomfortable with the subject, exercise discretion when reading.
Sinbad hated hospitals.
He hated the sick people. He hated the dying people. He hated the scent of death in the air. He hated the smell of viscous fluids and ammonia.
He hated the taste of the mystery meat on the tray of hospital food they brought you. It was worse than school cafeteria food.
He hated the little plastic pudding cups, and the way the seal sounded when penetrated with long red fingernails. He hated the cold lump of mashed potatoes on the tray. He’d rather eat coal from his Christmas stocking.
He hated the way the tongue depressor felt in his mouth. He could still recall the sensation of the wood shoved down his throat and the choking and the gagging and the spitting. Sinbad undid his top button and instinctively rubbed his neck.
He hated the sad look of his father. He hated the scared look of his mother. He hated how the medical staff looked at him like he was crazy. Sinbad closed his eyes and leaned against the wall. He would rather bleed at home than in the hospital. His signature choke collar hid the pain well enough. When he was old enough, the tattoos did.
He hated the snapping of the cheap-ass latex gloves. He hated the incessant ringing of telephones. Always ringing telephones. He hated the way the nurses sounded matter-of-fact over the P.A. system as if everything that happened in a hospital was normal.
Sinbad clutched the bouquet of purple lilacs and paced in the hallway of the place he hated the most. It was all the hospital gift shop had at this late an hour. Nothing that happened in a hospital was normal, he narrowed his eyes.
He hated the screaming. He hated the crying. He hated the mourning. Emergency rooms were the worst. Man falls off ladder in the middle of the night trying to hang Christmas lights in Simtember. Child comes in with a soap dispenser stuck up his nose because he wants to know what it smells like. Woman who looks like she’s the victim of repeated domestic violence blows, sitting and rocking and wailing. Sinbad grimaced. He knew the signs.
Stabbing victim in a mugging gone wrong. That’s what Lolly had told him. That’s what Rachel had apparently weakly whispered to an EMT.
Sinbad hated hospitals. But when Lolly had called him in a panic, he knew he couldn’t abandon her to worry in the hospital halls alone. He hoped into his truck and drove straight to Avalon Hospital.
When he arrived, he had attempted to locate Lolly in the emergency room, and was told he had to wait. Lolly came through the double doors to greet him. She looked frail for a seventeen year-old, and had evidently been crying, though she tried to wipe away evidence of said tears. She wasn’t wearing any makeup. Sinbad grimaced. She looked so young. Why am I here? Sinbad had wondered.
A mere few hours before, he had been so angry at Lolly. She had kissed him, and he was pretty damn sure he kissed her back. He couldn’t be with Loyola Racket. Sinbad made a fist with his free hand and relaxed, repeating the motion several times. He couldn’t get mixed up with the Rackets again. He plopped into a waiting room chair, running a hand through his hair.
He had just gotten free. Nobody left the Racket organization without exiting in a body bag or running for their life. It was pure luck of the draw during the reorganization under Russell “Russ” Racket that paperwork about employees “went missing.”
Sinbad had gone to the Racket manor to pick up his final payment from Dennis and instead found Marigold on the hill behind the mansion standing over a blazing bonfire. When she saw him, she lifted a black gloved hand to her lips, giggled, and said, “Shh!” She made him promise he could walk free if he never told anyone what he saw.
Sinbad pinched the bridge of his nose. Crazy “Bloody Mari,” as others in the organization had called her, never to her face, only behind her back, had mysteriously “helped” him out. He chalked it up to the dementia or meds and took that as a sign for a silent exit. It had been a miracle.
Then Lolly started hanging around, the youngest Racket granddaughter. He liked her. He really did. But she was too young for him, too dangerous for him, and too naive for him. He couldn’t be with someone like little Lolly Racket. Sure, she was cute, but she was trouble with a capital T.
Who am I kidding? Sinbad plopped into a chair. She’s beautiful. She loves me. I’m doomed.
When he had tried to follow Lolly back to the smaller, more private waiting room in the surgery ward, he was told he couldn’t follow because he wasn’t family. He tried to force his way, but the nurse rather aggressively stated he needed to wait out front.
“He is part of the family,” Lolly had insisted, sticking her little nose in the air.
She took his hand and squeezed, marching promptly past the surprised nurse, dragging Sinbad along behind. He had been flabbergasted. He wasn’t sure how he felt about being part of the Racket family, but something about the way Lolly said this warmed his heart. Family. I like the sound of that. He smiled to himself.
Too bad the Racket family was insane, he grimaced.
Even so it had been a long time since someone called him “family.” He wasn’t even sure he knew what it was. His parents met in a bar, had a drunken one-night-stand, and nine months later, Sinbad Anthony Rotter had been born. While the senior Mr. Rotter and the mother of his child did get married, Sinbad’s mom, Melanie was in love with someone else. When Melanie left the family, pregnant with another man’s child, his father had been heartbroken, and Sinbad had been devastated. His dad was driven to the bottle and most of the time neglected his son, but every once in awhile, he would sob in his Sinbad’s room.
Once when Sinbad was eleven, he had tried to find his mother. He hopped a bus to New Simoleans and found his mother, living with her children like a kept woman. His mother’s lover had come home to find Sinbad sitting on the couch playing go fish with his half-siblings. Enraged, the lover had tried to hurt Sinbad with the tongue depressor. He had to go to the hospital, and he remembered his mom making up some dumb excuse like Sinbad had tried to chew the wood and choked.
That was the last time his father and mother had been in the same room. Melanie’s lover took her away somewhere to a place where Sinbad couldn’t find her. He didn’t think his dad even tried. Sinbad’s dad, Ron drank himself into death. He was found sitting in a ditch in the swamps, beer bottle in crumpled brown bag still in hand. So stereotypical, Dad, Sinbad thought with a grunt. He had never gone looking for his mom again. He was forced into foster care home after home, toughening him up even more. If he thought a tongue depressor was the worst thing…
…Sinbad sighed and rubbed his temples. Family! What a joke! When he turned sixteen, he became an emancipated minor, got his GED, and moved in with Goodwin Goode, another kid from the system. Both teens were broke, though. Goodwin begged for a job all over town, and finally got one as a bedpan cleaner, but no one wanted to hire son of the “town drunk.” Sinbad was used to stealing before to get what he needed when his father was so far gone he couldn’t provide for his son’s basic needs. It was something Sinbad was actually pretty good at, so he gave stealing a try. At seventeen, he was stealing necessities. At eighteen, he was stealing cars and sitting pretty in the car theft ring in the lower ranks of the Racket organization. At nineteen, he was spending nights in jail because his comrades sold him out.
It was Dennis Racket, Lolly’s dad, who bailed him out. Sinbad had been shocked to see the man on the other side of the bars. He was the last person whom Sinbad expected would help him. Dennis said he didn’t want to see Sinbad suffer because of the mistakes of his parents. A little bird, the biological daughter of his mother’s lover with his actual wife, had come to Dennis and asked him to help Sinbad because she couldn’t without raising red flags with her family. Sinbad always wondered why the woman cared, but he figured she was probably just as disgusted by her father’s actions as he was. Why the woman had chosen Dennis was beyond him, but he decided to accept the help.
Still, Sinbad didn’t like taking charity so he gradually worked his way out of the theft ring, with the help of Dennis, and finally, Marigold and took a legitimate job working at Juan’s Pick ‘n Pull. It was a start. After two years, he would still see his mother’s lover around town sometimes, the smug bastard still married to his clueless wife. Between the lover and Lolly, Sinbad couldn’t hang around Twinbrook anymore.
But he just couldn’t escape Lolly. He glanced across the room watching the late teen biting her nails and twisting her sweater sleeves. She looked so scared and helpless. He wished he was a better man. He wished she was older. He wished he had a different past. So far, Lolly had been shielded from the Racket family underbelly and he didn’t want to be the one to change that.
“You want some coffee?” he called across the room.
She looked up at him, bleary-eyed, but bobbed her head.
He had to get out of this room. He had to get out of this hospital. He would stay until her father or another family member arrived. Then he would leave.
But as he walked down the hallway to the cafeteria to fetch two cups of coffee, he couldn’t shake what she had said. Something about “he is part of the family” jabbed at his heart and wouldn’t leave him alone.
Author Note: This chapter included references to domestic violence, child abuse, and self-harm. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence or child abuse, or you or someone you know struggles with self-harm, please seek help and check out the following resources.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline Phone: 1-800-799-7233 Website: http://www.thehotline.org/
- State Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Numbers Website
- S.A.F.E. Alternatives (Self-Abuse Finally Ends) Phone: 1-800-DONT-CUT or 1-800-366-8288 Website: http://www.selfinjury.com/
- To Write Love on Her Arms (a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide)