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Authors: Jessica MacIntyre

Blackbird

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Blackbird

Jessica MacIntyre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

I’d like to start as always by thanking my beta babes. For this book I had Tiffany Samson and Denise Hunter. Once again they took time out of their busy lives to go over things with me and made some great catches. Any mistakes you find in this book are purely my own, and probably something I rewrote after they looked at it, so my bad.

 

I’d also like to thank my family for putting up with my trips to Starbucks, and the good people of Starbucks for not kicking me out at the four hour mark.

 

Also thank you to Jenny Laatch once again for the magnificent cover. It’s everything I wanted. And thank you dear reader. This is the first of what will be a series so be on the lookout for more Blackbird. Chelle's story is not yet finished. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedication

This book is lovingly dedicated to my son, Angus. His innocence and sense of adventure make me believe that anything is possible and that despite all the evils of the world there are some who are good and pure of heart. Never change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

              The memory of the pain was always raw and not something she liked to relive. It was only when something forced it to the surface that it would replay, involuntarily, in her unconscious mind. Once it began, it simply could not be turned off. The blood, the screaming, the cold when she was discarded out into the night scared and disowned. Fifteen is too young to be all alone, especially with such a burden.

Chelle stirred in her sleep, the concrete floor cold underneath her as the events played themselves out once more. She felt it all. The searing and ripping as her back released its secret for the first time, like rusty, jagged blades slicing her open, spilling her blood and dignity all over the floor of her parent’s tiny rundown living room.

Her father, who thought of himself as merciful, had brought out the belt…again, and there was no one to save her. There was never anyone to save her. No siblings. Just she and her useless mother, standing watch as leather met skin over and over.

Crack, crack, crack…

 

When the beatings first began she had pleaded for sanity, for understanding. It had only taken one or two of them to understand that any plea for clemency was falling on deaf ears, and so, she had taught herself to endure it, biting down on her lip so hard that she drew blood each and every time. Her teeth had left a small but permanent scar on the bottom one which she now always covered with lipstick. Not because she was afraid others would notice, but because having to see it staring back at her when she looked in the mirror was unbearable. Chelle was loath to see her reflection as it was.

There was no memory of what she had done to deserve the beating on that night. It was something so insignificant that she hadn’t bothered to file it away. What she did file away -  which her subconscious mind liked to drudge up at unexpected times - was the anger. Raw, biting anger that had overcome her like no other time before. An anger so powerful and unforeseen had risen from the core of her very being at the sheer exhaustion she felt for having to endure his sick little ritual for so long. It was rage she lived with now as a constant companion, having to keep it just below the surface lest anyone find out what she was.

On that night the anger had nowhere to go, and with nothing to stop it she had felt the stabbing pain and the blood running down her back as her shirt was left in shreds, hanging on by bare threads as they emerged, one from each shoulder blade.

Wings. Giant black wings that sprouted from her back. So heavy and awkward that they had leveled her to the floor. Something else happened too. As she stood and reached for her mother, a scared and whimpering child in pain, she had grabbed her father’s old and cigarette burned easy chair to steady herself. Although worn and ready to be discarded it was a sturdy piece of furniture, one she had jumped on and bounced in for many years, and yet under the slight touch of her hand it broke into pieces. Stumbling into the kitchen she had fallen against the table, shattering that as well sending splinters of wood scattering all over the kitchen floor.

Horrified and frightened her father had grabbed his .22 gage shot gun, aimed it at his only daughter, and with unsteady frightened hands screamed obscenities at her. “What the fuck are you?” he had yelled as he pointed the gun as best he could while trembling violently. “Get the fuck out of here! Fuck off and don’t come back.”

Don’t come back? But where was there to go? Now everything blurred as she sought out her mother and she heard her own voice, small and frightened, beg, “Mommy…please!” Her mother had taken one look at her and stood behind her husband, now pale and trembling as well, frightened of her own flesh and blood. All of her mother’s life was now fear. Fear of her brutish husband, and fear of Chelle, who was now confirmed as a monstrosity.

“Dear god, Chelle. Please just go. Do what he says. Go and don’t come back.”

Don’t come back. Those three words cut her worse than the razor sharp wings that had torn their way out of her very bones. She stood for one moment longer, hoping against hope that they would change their minds. Praying that they would put down the gun and help their bleeding, frightened little girl. Her father had simply steadied his finger on the trigger to show that he was serious.

Fine. If that was the way they wanted it she wouldn’t come back, not ever, not even if they begged. Chelle threw the door open, breaking it from its hinges as she did and ran out into the night confused, scared…alone. All her life she had been alone in one way or another, and now at twenty-five she was still alone, waking up on the cement floor of an empty house, a stranger’s laundry room.

Sitting up she hugged her knees to her chest and rocked back and forth still reeling from the dream. Why couldn’t it just leave her be? Wasn’t it bad enough she had to keep herself separate and apart from the world? There was no peace, not even in sleep.

Checking her watch she was even more aggravated to see that it read 5:30 a.m. She had only been asleep for an hour and now she wouldn’t get back to sleep at all. Of all the luck, especially on a day when she had volunteered to work a double. Work, today would start at 11:00 a.m. and not be over until 3:00 a.m.

Working at the bar was draining and over the last three months she had seen a lot of young waitresses come and go, mostly because of ‘Billie the Bitch’.  Billie had flawless straight teeth, a fancy upbringing, a fake tan and hair so blonde that it was practically a shade of white. Over the last little while she had been taking more liberties to be the bitch that she was, seeing as how she was now engaged to the owner and about to marry into one of the most well-known families in Halifax. Her real boss, Robert Cole, was the owner of many successful bars downtown and Chelle worked at the main haunt, ‘Cole’s Bar and Grill’.

It was a mid-priced establishment where families would eat in the dining section during the day, but turned into more of a party place after ten o’clock. The tips were good and the pay was decent. There weren’t too many assholes compared to other bars in town and it was certainly better than stealing to survive, although she wasn’t sure what she was doing right now by squatting in this house was any better, but it sure beat the March cold. Thank god for snowbirds.  If it weren’t for seniors who vacationed in Florida she would be in a shelter, or freezing to death on the street.

 

This particular house had kept her warm for two winters now. The thought of getting a place of her own had crossed her mind. She had enough money saved but putting down roots just seemed scary. She’d called a place home once, and as awful as it had been she had felt like she belonged there, but what was the point of getting used to something and getting attached only to be told to leave and never come back. Fear kept her running, but it also kept her safe. Nothing in her life was permanent. The only normal thing she had was a bank account and that was only because most places in this day and time wouldn’t pay you without one. She hated it.

Grabbing her backpack and never turning on a single light she felt her way to the bathroom. The layout was familiar to her from having done this hundreds of times. Once in the windowless bathroom with the door safely closed she turned the light on and proceeded to wash her face with the supplies and towel in her bag. She never used any of their things, except for water. She washed her clothes by hand in the sink or tub and dried them on the drying rack in the laundry room. Just because she slept here didn’t mean she had to intrude any more than she already was. The less space she took up in the world the better. A connection to anyone or anything only left you hurt. This job was starting to come with connections and if it hadn’t been for the great money she would have moved on already. Three months was usually the limit.

Turning the light off again she made her way back down into the basement and crawled into her sleeping bag once more, this time to stare at the ceiling and think of something, anything else. There were books upstairs on shelves that looked enticing and would be a great distraction, but she couldn’t bring herself to touch them, and so she simply lay on her old sleeping bag on the concrete floor. When the sun rose and she could see without having to feel her way around she rolled up the sleeping bag and placed it behind a stack of boxes. She needed to get out before any of the neighbours were up. She knew their schedules because she had watched them for two years now and so quickly grabbed her backpack, headed up the basement stairs and out into the street, locking the door behind her and then placing the key above the doorframe in the hiding place where she’d found it.

All of these neighbours were retired and so they rarely made a move before 9 a.m. Now it was time for her to find some place to be. A coffee shop would do, or perhaps the library, the big new one downtown. Maybe she could find a little space there and doze off for a bit before having to report to Cole’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

Robert came around the corner just as he picked up the sound of his fiancé’s voice, stern and cold, talking to an employee. The door to his office was open a slight crack and he stood for a moment, stopping to assess what was going on. He would really have to clear out that spare office for her soon. He enjoyed having his own space at this bar and sharing it with her was beginning to agitate him. It had once been his haven to put his head down and work, now that she was constantly around he wasn’t getting nearly as much done. He chalked it up to growing pains. His father and mother had run the string of downtown bars together for years and he had seen them get up each other’s noses occasionally. It would only make sense that he and Billie would have the same problems.

Billie was perfect. She was beautiful, level headed and spoke plainly. You never wondered where you stood with Billie Winters. If she was pissed at you, you knew it. She was pissed at someone right now. “You have to wear it. All the other girls are wearing it and we can’t make an exception for you. It’s the nighttime uniform now. It’s after ten o’clock so go change like everyone else did.”

“Billie, all the other girls hate it too. It’s completely sexist and it’s not like you need to attract customers. Most of the time we’re so busy people are waitlisted for a table. What’s the point of it?”

“Chelle, I’m only going to say this once. The point of it doesn’t matter. We don’t owe you an explanation as to the point. It’s the rule. You can go put it on or you can leave.”

              After a few moments of silence he heard a quiet, ‘fine’. Chelle had relented. Billie certainly had no problems putting her foot down. Robert didn’t either but would have handled it entirely differently. Talking to people like that was what made them quit, and his parents had always taught him that a high turnover costs money in the long run. He would have to talk with her over dinner and encourage her to be more diplomatic. The staff already bristled when she came around and he couldn’t have that. Cole’s had always been a good place to work and he wasn’t about to see that change.

              “Grab two cases and put them out front before you change,” he heard her say. And with that the door opened. Chelle came toward him, giving him a friendly nod as she struggled to grab two large cases of Keith’s.

              “Need some help?”

              “No, I got it,” she said, putting the shirt on top of the boxes as she lifted them. They got roughly three inches off the floor before she had to put them down again.

              “Maybe just take one at a time,” he said, giving her a warm smile.

              She seemed embarrassed, but managed to return his smile anyway. “Good idea. I’ll be right back.”

              Chelle was someone he liked very much. She had a quiet resiliency that he admired. No matter what was happening she always managed to keep her head up, do her work and get things accomplished. She was a good worker and sadly these days that was a rare find. She was also quite pretty. Not in a conventional way like Billie or some of the other waitresses, but in a natural and classy way. She had long straight black hair and deep brown eyes which were always set off by the lipstick she constantly wore. And it was constantly.

              Halifax being a small city he had run into her a few times outside of work. She kept early mornings even though she worked the closing shift and it was common to see her at the coffee shop down the street. Hair tousled and strewn like she’d just rolled out of bed, but she’d always taken the time to put on the lipstick. Truth be told he thought it was sexy as hell. Most of her beauty though was in the way she carried herself. There were lots of pretty girls that came and went from the bar, but something about Chelle was different. It was some kind of an asset he could never put his finger on.

              As he watched her walk off with the beer, barely able to carry the one case as it was, he took a quick note of her form. She was perhaps only five foot three but she had a great body. Her back was probably as beautiful as the rest of her so he couldn’t understand why she would have a problem with the new backless shirts Billie had picked out. All the girls looked smoldering in them and she would too.

              When she disappeared around the corner he sighed and pushed the door open to the office. He was getting married in a few weeks and should really stop looking at other women. Billie gave him a warm smile as he entered and stood, putting her arms around his waist and kissing him passionately. He kissed her back, noting how good she looked. Billie rarely had even so much as a hair out of place. It was after ten o’clock and she still looked like she’d only just finished getting ready. They had gone to school together and their parents had been friends. Everyone had been pushing for this union since they were kids and now it was finally happening. After years of playing the field, Robert Cole, the most eligible bachelor in town, was going to settle down. He had always resisted dating Billie because he knew once he did, the courtship would play through to its logical conclusion. Now, after having just turned thirty, he was finally willing to admit the whole idea made sense.

              “Holding down the fort?” he said, smiling down at her.

              “Yeah, no major incidents. Just had to straighten one employee out just now. I mean, we’re their bosses not their friends, right? They’ll walk all over us if we don’t let them know that we’re the ones in charge.”

              Robert wholeheartedly disagreed with that but it was too late to argue. All he wanted to do was have some dinner, then go home and watch the hockey game. Before he could answer there was a frantic knock on the door. Whoever it was didn’t wait for an answer before barging in. “Hey Boss,” it was Lisa. Thin and pale, she had been a fixture at the bar for the last ten years. She’d obviously seen something that made her queasy. “Ricky just tossed his cookies in the bathroom. He can’t come out. He’s pretty sick I don’t think he’s gonna be able to stay.”

             Shit! There goes my night.  “You go home,” he said walking away from Billie. “I’m gonna have to take over.”

              “What?” Billie was turning slightly crimson with anger. “But I thought we were having dinner.”

              He turned back to face her, taking her face in his hands. Billie liked running the bar but didn’t yet realize the full extent of the responsibility. The other bartender was on vacation in Cuba and so Ricky was the only option, and if Ricky couldn’t do it that only left him.  “I’m sorry sweetheart. This is how it goes sometimes. You head out and I’ll see you in the morning.”

              Billie gave a frustrated sigh and broke free of him, exiting the office without as much as a goodbye. He could see Lisa felt embarrassed for him, but he simply and calmly locked the office door and made his way to the bar, slipping behind it and changing the channel to the hockey game. The music was on but not overly loud. If he had to be stuck behind one of his bars for the next four hours couldn’t it have at least been the sports bar a few buildings down? At least then he would have been able to hear it too. Of all the luck.

              He began serving drinks and taking money as people and staff came up to the bar with their orders and the din of the crowd melted together into a level of chatter that was a certain kind of soothing. He’d been tending bar ever since he was old enough and could probably do it in his sleep. His mind emptied and the only thing he focused on where drinks and money, taking the occasional glance up at the game to check the score.

              After he had been serving drinks for a good twenty minutes he realized he had taken drink orders from everyone except Chelle. He noticed something else too. Picking his head up he noted a shift in the air, the awkward pause that everyone had taken from their night out. All eyes were focused in one direction, on the missing waitress who was walking toward him, tray in hand.

              She faced him, head up and eyes steady. The tray however trembled in her hands. “I need two shots of Crown Royal and two Buds.”

              Robert was silent for a moment, watching the crowd behind her in confusion. Chelle had just taken the order of two young men at a table directly behind her and one of them was making a gagging motion with his finger as he looked at his friend. He put the order on the counter and with trembling fingers Chelle did her best to place them on the tray without spilling them.

              As she turned to walk away he finally saw what everyone else had seen. What they had been pointing and staring at that, until a second ago, had so confused him. There, on her back, were two very large scars, running the length of each shoulder blade. Whatever had happened to her had left the skin on her back looking like it had been shredded, and not just once, but multiple times, as if someone had taken sharp blades and very deliberately cut into her back over and over again.

              Now he understood her protest against the shirt. If he’d had any idea there would have been no way in hell he would have subjected her to that. Robert put his hand over his mouth, disgusted with himself that he’d let Billie talk him into the new uniforms in the first place.

              The shots he’d poured rippled in the small glasses slightly as she placed them in front of the two men, but they didn’t spill. Then as she was placing the beer down one of them said, “Looks like you got in a fight with a chainsaw or something.”

              This gave the two of them the go ahead to begin snickering. The other one said, “Fuck. You must havereallypissed somebody off, sweetheart.” Both of them went from snickering under their breath, to openly laughing. Robert had seen Chelle deal with every manner of asshole that can walk into a bar in the three months she had been working for him and usually she took whatever smart remark they had to give and brushed it off. Not this time. From where he was standing he saw her eyes redden and a few tears begin to fall. She stood for a moment not knowing what to do. This seemed to make the two assholes laugh even harder.

              “Must’ve cut out her tongue too, eh?” Suddenly the tray hit the floor with a clatter and Chelle bolted back in the direction of the office, disappearing from everyone’s sight. Every bit of chatter in the bar had stopped and as the song that was playing ended the bar grew deathly silent.

              Robert’s hands were shaking now too and he grabbed an empty tray from another waitress as he walked toward the two. As calmly as he could he removed the drinks and said, “Out. You’re done here.”

              In their drunkenness they became indignant. “What? Us? It’s that fucking gross waitress you should be telling to leave. How are people supposed to eat and drink and look at that mess?”

              “Yeah,” the other said. “It’s disgusting. She looks like someone spilled acid on her.”

              Robert signaled one of the bouncers who came over and stood by the table in silence with his arms crossed. “I said you’re done here. Don’t come back.”

              “Don’t come back? I’ve been coming here for years. It’s you that’s in the wrong. You hired a bitch who was all fucked up.”

              Without even thinking Robert placed the tray on the table, balled his fist up and reared back, punching the man square in the face. “I don’t like having to repeat myself. You’re done! Out! Don’t show your face in here again.”

              Before they could protest the bouncer grabbed the man, blood trickling down his face and neck and threw him outside. His friend decided he didn’t need to be told twice and quickly scurried toward the exit on his own like a frightened mouse. Everyone was staring at him now. He didn’t care. “Nancy, jump behind the bar for a few minutes,” he said to another waitress as he headed back toward the office.

              Quickly he grabbed one of the old uniform tee shirts that all the girls had turned in and began looking around for Chelle. Lisa was coming up the stairs from the cellar. “She’s locked herself in there,” she said, frowning.

              “I’ll talk to her.”

              Robert was standing in the old cellar directly in front of the door to the storage area. He lifted his hand to knock, but then hesitated. A moment passed as he tried to think of what to say. “Chelle?” he said, rapping at the door softly. “I have a shirt for you. I’m going to leave it outside the door ok?”

              No response.

              “I just want you to know that I’m sorry. We’re sorry. I would never have asked you to wear it if...” he didn’t know how to end that sentence without sounding like an awkward jerk. He was the boss and the buck stopped with him. He had been happy with the tee shirts and should have said so instead of letting Billie convince him to fix something that wasn’t broken. Now poor Chelle was in the cellar, probably crying her eyes out behind that door, humiliated, and it was all his fault.

              “I threw those guys out and told them they can’t come back. You can go home if you want, Chelle…ok?” Still nothing. Damn he wished she’d say something.

              “Chelle are you alright?”  Still there was silence. “Ok, I understand. Look, I’m very sorry. We’re gonna go back to the shirts starting tomorrow. I’m sorry.”  He was repeating himself but didn’t have any idea of how else to say it. Hewassorry, but right now he had a feeling she didn’t give a flying fuck how he felt. He decided just to leave her be.

              “I’m going back upstairs. Have someone come get me if you need anything. Truly Chelle, I’m very sorry.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three

              Stumbling down the stairs Chelle nearly fell halfway down. At the last moment she managed to grab the banister, pulling it partway out of the wall as she did. She shoved it quickly back into place hoping nobody would notice and ran as fast as she could toward the open door. This was the only safe place for this to happen at work. Hopefully nobody was in there. Nobody should be because as far as she knew all of the employees were upstairs dealing with the busy Saturday night hockey crowd.

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