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The Pucking Wrong Number: Chapter 1


I sat on the edge of my bed, staring out the window into the dark, seemingly starless sky. Freedom was so close I could taste it.


It felt like I’d been waiting my whole life for this moment. For this specific birthday. The thought of finally being able to leave this place, to start my life, on my own terms…it helped get me through each day.

I knew it would be difficult when I left. I only had my scrimpy savings from my after school job at the grocery store to start my life. But I’d do whatever it took to make something of myself.

Something more than the empty shell my mother had left me that day.

I’d been in the foster system since I was ten years old, the day after that fateful night where I’d lost her. Everyone wanted to adopt a baby, and a baby I had not been. I’d gone through what seemed like a hundred different homes at this point, but my current home was where I’d managed to stay the longest.


My foster parents, Mr. and Mrs. Detweiler, and their son Ripley, seemed like nice people at first, but over time, things had changed. They were different now.

Mrs. Detweiler, Marie, had come to think of me as her live-in maid. I was all for helping out around the house, but when they got up as a collective group after every meal and left everything to me to clean up–as well as every other chore around the house–it was too much.

Someday, hopefully in the near future, I would never clean someone else’s toilet again.

While I could deal with manual labor for another month, it was Mr. Detweiler, Todd, who had become a major problem. His actions had grown increasingly creepy, his longing stares and lingering glances making me sick. Everything he said to me had an underlying meaning…was an innuendo. He’d started talking about my birthday more, like he wanted to remind me of it for reasons far different than the promise of freedom it represented to me. I’m not sure it had even occurred to any of them yet that I was actually allowed to leave after that day. Both my birthday and high school graduation were the same week. Perfect timing. I just hoped he could control himself and keep his hands off me long enough to get to that point. Some people might not think a high school graduation was anything special, but to me, it represented everything.

Ripley was fine, I guess. He was more like a potato than a person, which was better than other things he could be. His eyes skipped over me when we were in the same room, like I didn’t actually exist. And maybe I didn’t exist to him. As long as his bed was made every day, and he had food on the table, and toilet paper stocked to wipe his ass, he could care less. He was much too involved in his video games to care about the world around him.

I glanced at the clock. It was 4:55pm, time to get dinner started before Mr. Detweiler got home from work. Sighing, I absentmindedly smoothed my faded quilt that Mrs. Detweiler had brought home from who knows where, and headed out to the hallway and down to the kitchen. The house was a three bedroom rambler in an okay part of town. It was nicer than other places I’d stayed, but I’d found that didn’t matter all that much. The hearts beating inside the home held a much greater significance than how nice, or not nice, the house actually was.

I’m sure I could have been perfectly happy in the hovel I’d started life in with my mother…if only she’d been different.

I came to a screeching halt, and panic laced my insides, when I walked into the kitchen and saw Mr. Detweiler leaning against the laminate counter. How had I missed him coming into the house? I couldn’t recall hearing the garage door opening.

He was nursing his favorite bottle of beer, which was actually the fanciest thing in the kitchen, costing far more than any of the other food they bought. Todd Detweiler was still dressed in the baggy suit he wore to the accounting office he worked at. He had a receding hairline that rivaled any I’d seen, so he brushed all the hair forward, carefully styling it to a point on his forehead right above his watery blue eyes.

He raised an eyebrow at the fact I was still frozen in place. But he usually didn’t get home until 6:30, long enough for me to get dinner on the table and hide away until they were done.

“Well, hello there, Monroe,” he drawled, my name sounding dirty coming from his lips.

I schooled my face and steeled my insides, taking methodical steps towards the fridge like his presence hadn’t disarmed me.

“Hello,” I answered pleasantly, hating the way I could feel his gaze stroking across my skin. Like I was an object to be coveted rather than a person.

I knew I was pretty. The spitting image of my mother when she was young. But just like with her, my looks had only been a curse, forever designed to attract assholes whose only goal was to use and abuse me.

I reached into the fridge to grab the bowl of chicken I’d put in there earlier to defrost…when suddenly he was behind me. Close enough that if I moved, he’d be pressed against me.

“Is there something you need?” I asked, trying to keep the edge of hysteria out of my voice. His hand settled on my hip and I squeezed my eyes shut, cursing the universe.

He leaned close, his breath a whisper against my skin. ‘You’ve been thinking about it, haven’t you?’ Todd’s breath stunk of beer, a smell that would prevent me from ever trying it, no matter how expensive and nice it was supposed to be.

“I—I’m not sure what you’re talking about, sir.” I grabbed the chicken and tried to stand , hoping he would back away. But the only thing he did was straighten up, so our bodies were against each other. I tried to move away, but his hand squeezed against my hip. Hard.

“I need to get this chicken on the stove,” I said pleasantly, like I wasn’t dying inside at the feel of his touch.

“Such a tease,” he murmured with a small chuckle. “I love how you like to play games. Just going to make it so much better when we stop.” There was a bulge growing harder against my lower back, and I bit down on my lip hard enough that the salty tang of blood flooded my taste buds.

My hands were shaking, the water sloshing around in the bowl. An idiot could figure out what he was talking about.

“Have you noticed how much I love to collect things?” he asked randomly, finally releasing my hip and stepping back.

I moved quickly towards the sink, setting the bowl inside and going to grab the breadcrumbs I needed to coat the chicken breasts with for dinner.

“I have noticed that,” I finally responded, after he’d taken a step towards me when I didn’t answer fast enough.

How could anyone miss it? Todd collected…beer bottles. Both walls of the garage had various cans and bottles lined up neatly on shelves. There were so many of them that you could barely see the wall—not sure how social services never seemed concerned he might have a drinking problem with that amount of empties. But Todd was never worried about that. He added at least five to the wall every day.

“Virgins happen to be my favorite thing to collect.”

I’d been holding a carton of eggs, and I dropped them, shocked that he’d outright said that, shells and yolk ricocheting everywhere.

Just then, Mrs. Detweiler ambled in, her gaze flicking between her husband and me suspiciously. “What’s going on in here?” she asked, her eyes stopping on the ruined eggs all over the floor.

Marie had once been a pretty woman, but like her husband, her attempt to hold onto youth was a miserable failure. Right now, she was wearing a too tight flowered dress that resembled a couch from the eighties. It accented every roll, and there was a fine sheen of sweat across her heavily made up face, probably from the effort she’d had to make to get out of her armchair and storm in here. Her hair was a harsh, bottle-black color, and though she attempted to curl and keep it nice, it was thin and limp and I’m sure disappointing for her.

I usually didn’t pay attention to looks; I knew better than most they could be deceiving, but Todd and Marie Detweiler’s appearances were too in your face to ignore.

“Just an accident, honey,” he drawled, walking towards her and pulling her into a soul sickening kiss that made me want to puke considering Marie most likely had no idea where else that mouth had been.

They walked out of the kitchen without a backward glance, leaving me a shaking, miserable mess as I cleaned up the eggs and tried to make dinner.

If that interaction hadn’t sealed the deal that waiting for my birthday to leave wasn’t an option…the next night would.

I was in bed, tossing and turning as I did every night. When your mind was as haunted as mine was, sleep was elusive, a fervent goal I would never successfully master. I’d never had a night where I could relax, where the memories of the past didn’t creep in and plague my thoughts.

It was 3 am, and I was on the verge of giving up if I couldn’t fall back asleep soon.

Light footsteps sounded down the hallway by my door. I frowned, as everyone had gone to bed long ago. I knew their habits like they were my own at this point.

Was someone in the house? Someone who didn’t belong?

The footsteps stopped outside my door, and shivers crept up my spine.

“Hello?” I whisper squeaked, feeling like a fool for speaking at all when the doorknob tried to turn, getting caught on the lock I was lucky enough to have.

I felt like the would-be victim in a horror movie as I slid out of bed and yanked my lamp from the nightstand, prepared to use it as a weapon if need be.

The person outside fiddled with the lock and it clicked, signaling it had been disengaged.

There was a long pause as I stared breathlessly at the door, waiting for the inevitable.

The door creaked open and a hairy hand—that I recognized—appeared.

It was Mr. Detweiler’s.

I didn’t think, I just started screaming, knowing I had one chance to get him away from my room.

I needed to wake up his wife. With their bedroom right down the hall, I just needed to be loud enough.

Sure enough, a second after I started screaming, the door banged shut, and footsteps dashed away. A moment later, I heard the Detweilers’ bedroom door fly open, and then a moment after that, my door cracked against the wall and Marie’s harried form was there. Her chest was heaving, pushing against the two sizes too small negligee she was wearing–that made me want to burn my eyes–and her gaze was crazed as they dashed around the room, finally falling to me standing there in the middle of it, a lamp clutched to my chest.

A red mottled rash spread across her chest and up to her cheeks as anger flooded her features.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Someone was trying to get into my room. Someone unlocked the door.”

I didn’t say it was her husband, because that would give me even more problems.

A moment later, Todd was there, faking a yawn with a glass of water in his hand. “What’s going on?” he asked casually. Our eyes locked, and in that moment, he knew I knew it was him. His features were taunting, daring me to say something, like his wife would ever believe anything that came out of my mouth when it came to him.

“The girl’s saying someone was breaking into her room,” Marie scoffed before pausing for a second and examining her husband. “Why were you up?”

The way her lips were pursed, the way her flush deepened—it told me a lot. Apparently, Marie wasn’t so unaware of her husband’s true nature after all.

Not that she would ever do anything about it.

“I was getting some water when I heard Monroe scream. But I didn’t hear anyone else in the house.” His gaze feigned concern. “Are you sure you didn’t just have a nightmare?”

I stared at him for a long, tense moment before I took a breath. “Maybe that’s all it was,” I finally whispered, eliciting a loud huff from Marie.

“Get yourself under control, you brat. The rest of us need our sleep!” she snapped, whirling away and leaving, curses streaming from her mouth as she walked back to her room.

Todd lingered, a smug grin curling across his pathetic lips. “Sleep well, Monroe,” he purred, a firm promise in his eyes that he would be back.

And that he would finish what he started.

I fell to my knees as soon as the door closed, sobs wracking through my body.

I’d never felt so alone.

He had ruined everything. A month away from a high school diploma, and he’d just torn it from my grasp.

If Todd got his hands on me, he would break me. And I wasn’t talking about my body–I was talking about my soul.

The image of my mother’s desolate, destroyed features flashed through my mind.

That couldn’t be my story. It couldn’t.

I had to leave. Tomorrow. I had no other option.

The Detweilers lived in a small town right outside Houston. I decided Dallas would be my destination, about four hours away. I’d never been there before, but the ticket price wasn’t too bad, and it was big. Just what I needed to hopefully disappear. Surely the Detweilers wouldn’t try and go that far, not with only a month left of state support on the line. I bet they wouldn’t even tell anyone I was gone. They’d want that last check.

I didn’t let myself think about what my virginity would be worth to Todd. Hopefully, “easy” was one of his requisites, and he would forget me as soon as I disappeared.

I went to school, my heart hurting the whole day. I’d never been one to make close friends—when you never knew when you’d be moving on, it was best not to make any close connections—but I found myself wishing I had longer with the acquaintances I did have. I walked the familiar hallways, wondering if it would have been hard to say goodbye at graduation, or if I was simply feeling the loss of my dream.

Mama had never graduated from high school. In her lucid moments, though, even when I was little, she would sometimes talk about her dreams for me. Dreams of walking across that stage.

I’d just have to walk across a college stage, I told myself firmly, promising myself I’d get a GED and make that possible.

After school, I went to the H.E.B. grocery store where I worked, putting even more hustle in than usual since I’d be a disappearing act after this shift. The timing worked out, because it was payday, and I was able to get one more check to take with me. Every penny would count.

After my shift, I bought a prepaid phone since I didn’t want to take my Detweiler phone with me. Knowing them, they’d probably try and get the police to bring me back by saying I’d stolen their property. A part of me was a little afraid they could track me with it too. I knew I wasn’t living in a spy thriller…but still, better to be safe than sorry.

Once I got home, I packed a small bag with some clothes, my new phone, and the cash I’d saved up. And then I sat on my bed, hands squeezing together with anxiety.

I didn’t have a good plan. For as much as I’d been dreaming of getting away, my plans were more fluid than concrete. And all of them had depended on me having a high school diploma so I could get a better job, as well as not having to look over my shoulder every second for fear the Detweilers were after me. The state also had a support system for kids coming out of foster care, and I’d been hopeful I’d have that to lean on.

But I could do this.

I cleaned up after dinner. Marie had ordered pizza, so it didn’t take as much effort as usual. And then I sat in the corner of the living room, biding my time until I could say goodnight. It was a tricky thing. I had to escape tonight–late enough that they’d gone to bed, but not so late that Todd decided to give me another late night visit.

My departure was the definition of anticlimactic. My mind had conjured this image of the Detweilers running after me as I escaped with my bag out the window, the sound of a siren haunting the air as I ducked in and out of the bushes, trying to avoid the police.

But what really happened was that I slipped out the window, and everyone stayed asleep. I walked for an hour until I got to the Greyhound station, and no one came after me. The exhausted-looking attendant didn’t even blink when I bought a ticket to Dallas.

It was nice for something to go my way every once in a blue moon.

The bus ride took twice as long as a car would have. And although I tried to catch a few hours of rest, I kept worrying I’d somehow miss my stop, so I never could slip into a deep sleep. My mind also couldn’t help but race with thoughts of what my future held. Would I be able to make it on my own?

Despite my worries, a sense of relief flickered in my chest as the distance between Todd and me grew with each mile that passed.

At least I could cross keeping my virginity safe off my list of to-do’s.

When we finally arrived in Dallas, the morning sun was just peeking over the horizon. Even with the dilapidated buildings that surrounded the Greyhound station, I couldn’t help but feel excitement. I was here. I’d made it. I may have never been to Dallas before, and I may not have known a single soul here, but I was determined to make a new life for myself.

This was my new beginning.

It took about twelve hours for the afterglow of my arrival to fade and for me to find myself on a park bench, debating whether I could actually fall asleep if I were to try. Or if it was even safe to attempt such a thing.

I’d gotten off the bus and was in the process of calling for a cab to take me to the teen shelter I’d found online. And then I’d been fucking pick pocketed while I looked the address up. They’d taken all the cash in my pocket that I’d pulled out for the cab, and swiped my phone right out of my hand.

You can bet I ran after them like a madwoman. But with a backpack containing all my earthly possessions weighing me down, the group of boys easily outran me.

I hadn’t dared to spend any of the rest of the cash I had left, except to get a bag of chips from a gas station that had seen better days.

I’d walked all over for the rest of the day, trying to find the shelter, scared to ask for directions in case anyone got suspicious and reported to the authorities that I looked like a runaway teen.

Obviously, I never found the place, because there I was, on the park bench. Cold, hungry, and pissed off.

And exhausted.

Apparently, when you hadn’t slept for close to forty-eight hours, you could fall asleep anywhere, because eventually…that’s exactly what I did.

I woke with a start, the feeling of someone watching me thick in my throat. Night had fallen, and a deep blue hue had settled over the park. The trees and bushes were indistinct shadows against the darkened sky. The street lamps had flickered to life, casting a warm glow on the path and the nearby benches. The light danced and swayed with the gentle breeze, casting long shadows on the ground. You could hear the rustling of leaves and the chirping of crickets.

I yelped when I saw a grizzled old man sitting next to me on the bench, a wildness in his gaze that matched the tattered clothing on his body. There was the scent of dirt and body odor wafting off him, and when he smiled at me, it was only with a few teeth.

“Oy. I’ve been a watchin’. Making sure you could sleep, my lady,” he said in what was clearly an affected British accent.

I flinched at his words, even though they were perfectly friendly and kind, and scooted away from him.

“Oh, don’t be afraid of Ole Bill. I’ll watch out for ye.”

I moved to jump off the bench and run away…but I also had a moment of hesitation. There was something so…wholesome about him. Once you got past his looks and his smell, obviously.

“This park’s mine, but I can share. You go back to sleep, and I’ll keep watch. Make sure the ruffians stay away,” he continued. Even though I had yet to say anything to him.

I opened my mouth to reject his offer, but then he pulled a clean, brand new blanket with tags out of his grocery sack. When he offered it to me…instead of talking…I found myself crying.

I sobbed and sobbed while he watched me frantically, throwing the blanket at me like it had the power to quell hysterical women’s tears. When I still didn’t stop crying, overwhelmed by the events of the past few days…and his kindness, he finally started to sing what I think was the worst rendition of “Eleanor Rigby” that I’d ever heard. Actually, it was the worst rendition of any song I’d ever heard.

But it worked, and I stopped crying.

“There, there, little duck. Go to sleep. Ole Bill will watch out for ya,” he said soothingly after he’d finished the song—the last few lyrics definitely made up.

I was a smarter girl than that, I really was. But I was so freaking tired. And everything inside of me really wanted to trust him. After all, he had called me “little duck.” Serial killers didn’t have cute pet names for their victims, right?

“Just a couple of minutes,” I murmured, and he nodded, smiling softly again with his crooked grin that I was quite fond of at that moment.

I drifted off into a fitful sleep, shivering from stress and exhaustion, and dreaming of better days.

When I woke up, it was far later than ten minutes. It was the rest of the night, actually.

Bill was still there, watching over me, and whistling softly to himself, like he hadn’t just stayed up all night. My backpack was still under my head, the cash still in it, and at least I didn’t feel like anyone had touched me.

Fuck, I’d gotten desperate, hadn’t I?

“Do you have a place to stay, lassie?” he asked softly. I shook my head, biting down on my lip as I thought about spending another night on this bench.

“Ole Bill will take you to a good place. It’s not as nice as my castle, but it will do,” he said, gesturing to the park proudly as if it was in fact an English castle complete with a moat, and he was its ruler.

Despite the fact that he’d at least proven trustworthy enough not to do anything to me after a few hours, it was still pure desperation that had me following him to what I was hoping wasn’t a trafficking ring, or something else equally heinous.

I relaxed a little as he took me to a slightly better part of town than where I’d been walking the day before. He chattered my ear off, all in that fake British accent, regaling me with stories about places I was sure he’d never visited.

Before I knew it, we were standing in front of the entrance to what appeared to be a fairly new shelter. The sign read that it was a women’s shelter, and the sight made me want to cry once again.

“When you get in there, tell ‘em Ole Bill sent you…they’ll give you the royal treatment,” he chortled, and tears filled my eyes for what seemed like the hundredth time—causing him to take a step away–probably fearing I would burst into hysterics again.

I hesitated for another moment before I finally ascended the steps that led to the shelter doors. Stopping halfway, I glanced back at Bill, who gave me another charmingly snaggletoothed grin. “I see great things for you, little duck,” he called after me when I continued to walk.

I knew I’d never forget him. He may have been homeless and slightly crazy, but he was also one of the kindest people I had ever met. He’d watched over me, a stranger, and helped me when I needed it the most.

As I walked inside, exhaustion still stretched across my shoulders, I strangely felt at peace right then that everything was going to work out.

“Welcome to Haven,” a kind woman murmured as I approached the front desk.

Haven indeed.

I could only hope.


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