“Everyone has a choice, John,” a deep, rich voice chides from somewhere. I look up as the man behind the mystery voice descends the stairs, his eyes landing on me. There is an evil coldness in his stare that makes my heart skip a beat. His hair is dark and styled in a way that says he doesn’t give two fucks about what anyone thinks. He wears a suit that looks like it cost more than the farmhouse. His chin is sharp and held high as if he believes he is above everyone else.
“I swear to you, Bree, I didn’t have a choice. The bills were piling up: the mortgage, utilities, insurance, tuition… There just wasn’t enough money for everything. The bank was going to foreclose on the farm, and your school was threatening to take action against you. The idea that you would have to drop out of your classes was killing me. I had to protect you and our home. I had no other choice.” The words achingly and sorrowfully flow from him. It is difficult for any man to swallow his pride and admit he has problems.
I still wasn’t sure what was going on, though. I know we never had “extra” money to spend, but Dad always said it was okay. He told me that we always had enough to make ends meet. Anger surges through me as I realize he lied to me.
“You lied to me?” I question unbelievingly though I am certain I already know the answer. It is standing in my living room.
“Well, this is heartbreaking, but we should really consider getting down to business,” the mystery man stated unsympathetically. I had yet to learn the man’s name, and still he had the audacity to sit on my father’s sofa as if he owned the place.
“Who are you?” I ask bluntly. I am not sure if I will get a straight answer as most if not all of the men in the room look like they work for the FBI.
“Who am I?” A smile quirks at the sides of his lips and laughter fills the room. My cheeks redden and more anger finds its way into my already broken heart. Just as soon as the smile appears, though, it vanishes.
“I’m Alzerro King, sweetheart, and your dear ol’ daddy owes me a lot of fucking money.” My mouth drops open at his accusation.
“He doesn’t,” I deny vehemently. My father had already pretty much admitted to taking money from this man, but I still have to try to protect my dad. I have to find a way out of this mess. Why didn’t he tell me he borrowed money from someone? The man who escorted me into my house pulls harder on my hair, causing me to grit my teeth tightly. I am about five seconds from turning around and slapping this guy.
“See, that’s where you’re wrong. Your dad borrowed enough money to pay for a years’ worth of school. Not only that, he paid the farm off and finished paying off the funeral costs.” My eyes grow wide as tears threaten to leak from them. The secrets are accumulating at a rate that I can’t even begin to believe.
My father went behind my back and borrowed money from someone dangerous. Why didn’t he just go to a bank like other normal people? He lied and told me everything was okay. Looking at the big picture, it’s clear to me that absolutely nothing is okay. Nothing about this situation is okay. Nothing about a gun being pointed at my father’s head is okay!
“I was okay, Bree, everything was okay. Then there was a bad storm and we lost almost all of the crops. I couldn’t afford to pay…” The earnestness in my father’s voice tells me he is trying to make me understand. How can I understand the lies and the danger we are now in?
“Shut the fuck up!” Alzerro yells, his words echoing off the drab walls of my country house. His voice is authoritative and commanding as if his words hold a power that everyone bows to. He looks as if he is used to being obeyed and doesn’t tolerate any insubordination. He looks right at me, his eyes possessing me. Their darkness is overwhelming and makes me wonder if any good can be found in him.
Silence falls over us as I push the tears away and put my thinking cap on. There has to be a way out of all of this. There has to be a way to earn the money back so we can pay these men back. The danger that surrounds these men tells me that it will be a mighty feat, but I’m not scared of a little hard work. My momma didn’t raise no quitter.
My eyes scan the old blue wallpaper that lines the living room walls. My mom had wanted it, In fact, she loved it so much that after we lost her to cancer, we never took it down or painted over it. No point in doing so since it wouldn’t make the hurt go away. Instead, we just kept it as a vivid reminder, something to hold her memory and keep her here with us even when she isn’t. God, I wish that wallpaper held some answers!
“There has to be a way to repay…” I don’t get to finish my sentence because he abruptly stands up and walks menacingly toward me. The man at my back releases my hair and pushes me forward so my body is almost touching Alzerro’s. I stumble and fall to my knees. Alzerro holds his hand out, gesturing for me to stay below him.