The Redemption (The Club #3)

by Lauren Rowe

Chapter 1


I don’t want to stop holding on to her, but they peel my body off hers. I stumble backward, my eyes wide. I look down at my shirt. It’s soaked in her blood. There’s so much blood. It’s everywhere.

“No pulse,” one of the men says, holding her wrist. He moves his fingers to her throat. “Nothing.” He frowns. “Damn. Her carotid’s slashed clean through. Talk about belts and suspenders—Jesus.” He shakes his head.

“What kind of animal...?” the other man says, but his voice goes quiet. He glances over at me. “Get him out of here. He shouldn’t see this.”

The men are dressed like firemen—but I don’t think they’re firemen because there’s no fire.

“Body’s already cool. I’d estimate a good fifteen, twenty minutes, at least.”

I love you, Mommy, I said to her. But she didn’t say it back to me. This is the very first time she didn’t she say it back to me, ever. When I say it, she’s supposed to say, “I love you, baby—my precious baby.” That’s what she always says, just like that. “I love you, baby—my precious baby.” Why didn’t she say it this time? And why won’t she look at me? She just keeps staring out the window. I look out the window, too. An ambulance is parked in front of our house. The siren light on top is twirling around but it’s not making any sound.

I hear faraway sirens. They’re getting closer. I usually like hearing sirens—especially sirens that are getting closer. I like it when a police car chases after the bad guy or a big red fire truck zooms past our car. Mommy says when you hear a siren you have to pull over to the side of the road. “There they go to save the day!” she always sings when they pass. But not today.

Today, I don’t like hearing sirens.

I move to the corner of the room. I sit on the floor, rocking back and forth. I told her I love her, but she didn’t say it back to me. And now she won’t look at me, either. She just stares out the window. She doesn’t even blink. She’s mad at me for not saving her.

“Is this your mother, buddy?” the first man says. He bends down to me.

My voice doesn’t work.

She’s my mommy.

“Was there anyone else in the house with you two?”

I wanted to be alone with her. I wanted her all to myself. I wanted to take her pain away. I was a bad boy.

“We’re here to help you, son. We’re not going to hurt you. We’re paramedics. The police are coming right now.”

I swallow hard.

I stayed in the closet because I thought I could use the magic in my hands after the big man left, but then the magic didn’t work. I don’t know why the magic didn’t work. I was bad.

“What’s your name, son?” the other one asks.

“Get him out of here,” the first man says again. “He shouldn’t see this.”

The man bending down to me waves the other man away. “You’ve got blood on you, buddy,” he says softly. “I need to make sure it’s not yours. Did anyone hurt you?”

He grabs for my hand, but I jerk free and run to her. I throw myself on top of her. I don’t care if I get more blood on me. I hold on to her with all my might. They can’t make me leave her. Maybe my magic hands will start working again if I try hard enough—maybe I didn’t try hard enough before. Maybe she’ll stop staring out the window if my magic starts working again. Maybe if I say, “I love you, Mommy,” enough times, the magic will work again and she’ll finally blink again and say, “I love you, too, baby—my precious baby.”

I lie in my bed on top of my baseball sheets. Josh lies in his bed next to mine on top of his football sheets. Josh usually throws a fit if he can’t have the baseball sheets, but this time, he let me have them without a fuss. “You can have the baseball sheets every night if you want,” Josh said. “From now on, I’ll give you first pick.”

A week ago, I would have been happy he said that about the sheets. But now I don’t care. I don’t care about anything. I don’t even care about talking ever again. It’s been a week since Mommy went away forever and ever, and I haven’t said a single word since then. The last words that came out of my mouth were, “I love you, Mommy” when I was hugging and kissing and touching her with my magic hands that aren’t magic anymore—and I’ve decided to let those be the last words my mouth ever says.

Even when the policeman asked me what the big man looked like, I didn’t say a word. Even when I heard Daddy crying behind the door of his study, I didn’t say a word. Even when I dreamed about the big man cutting mommy up with a knife and then coming after me, I didn’t say a word. Even when Daddy told us last night how the police figured out it was Mariela’s sister’s boyfriend who made Mommy go away forever and ever, and I heard Daddy say on the phone to Uncle William, “I’m gonna kill that motherfucker,” I didn’t say a word.

I sit up in my bed.

I hear Mariela’s voice downstairs in the foyer. I know she’s in the foyer because her voice is bouncing really loud and the foyer is the only place in our house where voices sound big and bouncy like that, especially a voice as soft as Mariela’s.

I look at Josh. He’s fast asleep. Maybe I should wake him up to say hi to Mariela? But no, Mariela’s mine. I’m the one who sits and talks to her in the kitchen while she’s cooking us Venezuelan food. I’m the one who helps her wash the pots and listens to her sing her pretty songs in Spanish. I like it when she dips her hands into the dishwater and her brown skin comes back up wet and shiny and looking like caramel sauce on an ice cream sundae. Mariela’s skin is so soft and smooth and pretty, sometimes when she’s singing, I touch her arm with my fingertips and close my eyes and rub softly up and down. And her eyes are pretty, too—the color of Tootsie Rolls. I like how Mariela’s dark eyes twinkle at me when she hands me a pot to dry or when she sings me one of her songs.

“Señor, por favor!” Mariela shouts downstairs.

I jump out of bed and bolt out of my room. This is the first time I’ve left my bed since Mommy went away forever and ever. My legs feel stiff and sore. My head hurts. I promised myself I’d never leave my bed again, but I want to see my Mariela. Even if I made that promise to myself about never leaving my bed ever again, maybe I can make a new rule that I’m allowed to leave my bed only if it’s to see Mariela. I run down the steps as fast as I can. I can’t wait to hear Mariela’s voice calling me Jonasito or singing me one of her pretty songs.

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