Sunlight illuminated down on her from the skylight. Sunshine going through a glass of whiskey was the best way to describe her lament eyes. Her lips were chapped and face was pale, she had lost the motivation to care for herself any longer. Her whole life was written on her face. Each wrinkle revealed a life's lesson, experience, heartbreak and joy. Not one emotion sparked through the muscles of her face as she stood there looking forward. She stared at the crinkled piece of paper down in front of her, struggling to spill out even the first word.
"Ahem." She cleared her throat and looked over her shoulder for a moment. "So... here we are." Her voice cracked. "When I first..." She left her glasses at home, forgetting to take them as she walked out the door that morning. Her vision wasn't the best but she could still see fairly well with what's right in front of her, but at that moment the words were fading out and it didn't help that she always wrote in small print. She took in a deep breath and crumbled up the piece of paper and kept it in her hand. The words on that paper had no justice as to what was in her heart.
"I could give the usual speech. I could... but I won't. It wouldn't be enough. But where to begin?" She softly sighed, thinking of how to break the ice, to start her story.
"I guess I could go back to 1999... when I lost myself."
--- --- --- ---
Chapter One: 1999
"98 percent. Here's your next assignment." Mr. Dallas, Unity's homeschool teacher, graded her English paper and handed her the next assignment. "Read section B-3 from the English book and complete the assignment. Due next Tuesday. We're all done here." He stood up from behind his desk with his cup of joe tightly in his hand and left the room.
Unity carelessly shoved her homework into her backpack and walked out of the building. Every Tuesday at 10:30 in the morning she had to meet up with her teacher Mr. Dallas at R.H Young Academic Center to turn in her homework and to get assigned new work. Mr. Dallas didn't really care much for his job. This was his last year before retirement so he didn't bother checking to see if any of his homeschooled student's homework was correct, he just made up some grade that the student would be satisfied with. After Unity realized that Mr. Dallas wasn't checking her work she started slacking off and didn't read or study for anything. She skimmed the work for key words and wrote down anything that seemed like the possible answer. In a matter of minutes she would finish a week's worth of homework and pass with a B+ or higher, luckily it was her senior year.
It was pouring down as she exited the building and just as luck would have it, she forgot her umbrella at home. With a heavy sigh, she tucked her long wavy dark brown hair back under her sweater, put her hoodie on and grabbed her green pocket knife out of her jeans pocket, ready to defend herself in case anything happened as she started her two mile walk home on the sketchy side of town. Her father was the one who gave her the pocket knife that she carries around religiously when outside the house. There've been several attacks and shootings in and around her neighborhood and her father needed to make sure his daughter was safe.
Her wide dark brown anime eyes nervously scanned every movement as her long legs paced down the sidewalk. She was prescribed antidepressants from the therapist her mother suggested she'd see after her breakdown on the first day of her senior year at Ash Wood High. She didn't have friends and nasty rumors were spread, everyone ignored her because of it. So when her mother dropped her off on the first day of senior year, Unity started crying in the car and wouldn't dare to get out to suffer through another year in social hell. Just yesterday she was prescribed a higher dose, but so far her anxiety was about the same, six on a scale of ten on meds.
"Hey, ugly bitch!" A teenage high school student yelled out with his hand waving out the passenger window when the car drove past her.
Those remarks were just a simple reminder of what she endured at Ash Wood High. She gulped hard and started to sweat right in the middle of the cold winter air. It hurt to hear but she tried to shrug it off, her young eyes wet and not because of the rain.
Unity finally returned home and locked the door behind her. Her younger sister by one year Maria was in the living room, talking on the telephone while twirling the telephone cord around her boney finger, grinning wide. Maria and Unity looked nothing like sisters. They held completely different features and Unity found it odd that they didn't look anything alike. She even wondered if Maria was adopted at one point but she'd never asked her parents about it.
"Can I have some privacy? Damn." Maria covered the mouth piece on the telephone, rolling her eyes at Unity.
Unity and Maria were not always enemies. They recently starting falling out once Unity was put into home school. Maria was jealous that Unity got to stay home all the time and get little random whatnots from the store from her mother by Unity's request and Maria would hardly get a thing. What Maria's brain couldn't seem to comprehend is that being disrespectful and lying to your parents about spending time with a girlfriend while you're really out sucking face with a boy she hardly knew wasn't showing good judgement and self control. She would rebel even more when she couldn't get her point across. Unity on the other hand had her mother's complete trust. Because of her fear of stepping out the house to socialize she'd stay home and keep herself busy. She'd help her mother clean who hoarded random objects and clothes she'd buy at thrift shops, vacuum, wash the dishes, cook her own food and clean the restroom. Her few hobbies included watching television, listening to music and doing a lot of writing in her notebooks. Unity never disrespected her parents like Maria would, no matter how much they got on her nerves from time to time.
With Maria ignoring the loud shattering, Unity rushed over to the loud crash which led her outside her mother's restroom door.
"Mom, are you okay?" Unity knocked on the door.
"Call the police!" Her mother's voice trembled in fear.
"Dad, open the door!" Unity called out, knowing exactly what was happening behind the restroom door but she didn't get a response.
"Dad, please open the door!" She raised her voice, but again, nothing.
After a moment the restroom door swung open and her father stomped out with a gash on the side of his forehead.
"Mom, are... are you okay?" Unity stepped closer to her mother, standing in the corner with a rusty hammer glued to her hand and glass from the wall mirror surrounding her feet.
"Your father is pissed off like always because I took his check away so he won't blow it all on beer. He also lost his job today. The perfect frosting on top to the shit cake we're given." Catalina stared at the broken mirror.
Unity wasn't a stranger to catching her parents arguing and on occasion, physical altercations. The verbal blows never stopped. She'd wake up to their colorful language and tried to sleep away from it at night. In some odd way, she wasn't bothered by it so much. It was all she knew. She couldn't remember a time when they were happy but once in a while, like today, it shook her up. "Are you hurt?"
"No." Catalina lied. "We're in so much debt as it is... I can't see any other option right now."
"What are you talking about? What option?"
"We're going to have to send you to live with Grandpa Nick for a while." Catalina rested the hammer down by the sink.
"What?" Unity's eyes widened. "He's a bitter old drunk and you're thinking of sending your anti social, sensitive daughter to live with a man who doesn't care about anyone but himself? If we're really that tight on money, why won't you send Maria to live with him? She eats up more food and wastes more electricity than I do! I'm always going around turning off all the lights when they are not in use. Especially you, Mom. You need to learn how to turn off the lights when you leave the room."
"Grandpa Nick isn't keen on the idea either, but if he was to be stuck with one of you, he'd prefer you because you're able to be more independent. Your father and I just need some time to get everything together and pay off-"
"I could get a job. I can, I really can. I could work and help you pay some bills. I could buy my own food so I won't inconvenience you and buy my own clothes... please just let my try. I really don't want to live with Nick. Sending me to live with him would slowly kill me."
"How could you knock it before you rock it?"
Catalina raised her thin eyebrow at her daughter.
"Please... I can do it."
Catalina began massaging her sore hand from the physical altercation she just had moments ago. With a long sigh, she nodded. "Okay. If you can manage school and a job we can give this a try."
Unity knew it would be a challenge to find a job when she's always afraid to talk to anyone new, but now she was more motivated than ever. Living with Grandpa Nick was not an option for her.
-Six Days Later-
As a person with anxiety, you could imagine how hard it is to go into restaurants and stores and ask for an employment application, but Unity mustered up all her strength and did just that. Three days later, she got a call from a small burger joint called Hungry Bob's.
Unity stared at herself in the restroom mirror at Hungry Bob's. She pulled her long hair back in a loose bun and put on her black work hat which she hated. The loose black shirt and hair up with a hat made her feel like a boy, so she made sure she perfectly plucked her naturally arched dark eyebrows, applied pink lip gloss and made sure she wore some mascara to feel like a girl.
"I can do this." Unity whispered to herself and then threw her face in the sink and vomited up virtually nothing but some water and a piece of toast she bit into before she walked out the door this morning.
"I guess I can't do it."
Afraid she threw up the antidepressant she took right before she arrived to work, she reached into her shoulder bag and pulled out the bottle of antidepressants. She knew it wasn't a good idea to take another one, but she didn't know how she was going to make it through the work day without it. How could she when she feels like throwing up when she's put in a new situation?
"Okay... lets get this crappy day over with."
-Fifteen Minutes Later-
"Okay, so grab a pair of gloves from the box behind you, then grab some meat and roll it into a ball. Simple as that. Needs to weigh 3.5 to 3.7 ounces." Noah, the shift leader grabbed some hamburger meat, rolled it into a ball at the correct weight and laid it down on the large food pan. He was a six foot tall, slim fit half black and half Caucasian gay man with cornrows. "You're going to be slow right now, but the more you do this the faster you'll get."
"Okay." Unity sighed. She made sure her gloves were snug tight, grabbed a small handful of meat, laid it down on the scale to get the correct weight and rolled it into a perfect ball.
"Perfect, I can tell you're going to be a pro at this in no time." Noah assured her.
"Alright! Teaching the new girl how to roll meat!" A pumped up girl with bright pink hair sticking out through her work hat, brown painted on eyebrows and blue eyes walked up to Noah and Unity. "I'm Zoey and you are?"
"Unity." She observed the confidence in Zoey that she wished she had.
"Unity? Never heard that name before. That's unique. What are you? Whitesican?" Zoey checked out Unity from head to toe, making the newbie feel a bit uncomfortable.
"Just Mexican..." Unity answered, not knowing why that question was relevant.
"You have very light skin. I thought maybe you were mixed or something. You kinda look more white than Mexican. Very pretty. How old are you?" Zoey continued to question.
Do you really think all Mexican's are supposed to be dark skinned? Unity thought to herself.
"Sixteen... and you?"
"Just turned twenty-one!" Zoey grabbed a pair of gloves and stood beside Noah to roll meat.
"Oh Zoey, you sure are a wild one." Noah smirked.
"You know I am." Zoey responded to Noah's remark but winked right at Unity. "We're all good friends here. You'll make a great addition to our work crew. You seem a little shy, but I've been known to crack open that small shell that introverts hide themselves in."
"You know what will really getchu out of that she'll? The New Year's Eve party Friday night." Zoey stared at Unity.
"Yes! Unity, what are you doing Friday night? And don't say you're busy because I know introverts say they have plans and the plans usually involve a bucket of ice cream and a sappy love movie." Noah joked.
"I, uh, usually watch wrestling with my dad Friday nights when he gets out of work."
"Thursday Night Smackdown?" Zoey raised an eyebrow.
"My dad doesn't have time to watch it Thursday so he records it and we watch it Friday." Unity explained.
"The Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin are my two favorites... oh and The Rock! But um, no, you need to come with us. It's at The Next Bar. Everyone goes there because it's so easy to get in if you're not twenty-one. Noah's friend works as a bouncer and lets everyone in who is underage that works here." Zoey informed.
"I... I don't know. Bars are not really my scene. Well, at least I don't think I'll like it."
"Oh, come on!" Noah turned on his convincing powers. "It's going to be a lot of fun. It's the turn of a new millennium! 2000! And if my mom is right, it'll be the last night on Earth. I don't think you want to spend your last night on Earth watching sweaty men wrestling over a belt when they don't even wear pants... though that sounds like the way I want to spend my last night on Earth." He winked.
"I... I don't know." Unity stammered.
"Oh, hey, Harley. Ready for another day at the best burger joint in the world?" Zoey greeted the tall man who walked in.
"Oh yeah, I'm living the American dream." Harley sarcastically responded in a deep British accent. "Can't wait for Friday night. I need to unwind."
"You and I both, brotha! Meet the new girl. This is Unity. Unity, this is Harley, the main shift lead here in the mornings." Zoey introduced.
Harley eyed the new girl from afar, shrugged out of his jacket and made his way over to her. "What was your name?"
"Unity." She gulped, her hands fumbled with the meat she was trying to roll. He was tall, tattoos covering his strong pale arms, long, black wavy slick back hair, neatly trimmed, sideburns perfectly shaven to design a lightning strike that complemented the shape of his jaw, clearly talented with a razor and lips that spilled out that gorgeous accent and with the darkest brown eyes she'd ever seen with a two inch scar underneath his eye to his cheekbone. Instant attraction.
Harley knew right away she was intimidated by him from her body language and he rather liked it. "I can see you're a shy one."
"Just a little." She diverted her eyes away from his and back to the meat.
"Just a little?" His eyes shifted down to her figure and he approved of what he saw so far. "Not for long." He walked away, heading to the front of the restaurant.
Unity stared at Harley walking away. He had this bad boy aura about him. The way he talked and walked with his black jeans hanging loose. He was bad news for sure, but that's something Unity would have to learn the hard way.
"Hey, Zoey?" Unity snapped out of a dirty fantasy. "What time is that party?"
"No fair, why does Unity get to go out and I can't go to my friend's party?" Maria fought with her mother.
"Because I trust Unity's judgement and not yours. Unity has never given me a reason to not trust her, but you have. I know how you are around boys and I'm not having any of that." Catalina put her foot down, trying to put an end to Maria's bickering.
Unity could overhear the arguing between her mother and sister in the restroom, so she drowned them out with some music. She blasted No Doubts album Tragic Kingdom through her father's boombox. Music really did help calm her down in times of stress. She had taken an antidepressant that morning before school and decided to take just one more. She knew very well she shouldn't and that she shouldn't be getting in that habit because her pills would be long gone before she could get it refilled again. Except if she was going to survive the night in such a social place, she needed it.
She then continued to put the finishing touches to her make up. She applied her mother's pink beige lipstick that gave her just enough color to keep her lips from looking washed out. It really brightened up the natural pigment in her lips and she smiled at the results. She made sure the thin line of eyeliner was perfect and lightly added some mascara, just enough to lengthen her lashes out for wider eyes.
"Unity, the phone!" Catalina called out over the music blaring.
Unity couldn't make out what her mother said so she turned off the boombox and rushed out of the restroom to see her mother standing with the phone in her hand.
"Thank you, Mom." Unity grabbed the phone and covered the mouth piece.
"I'm going to bed early tonight, it's been a long day. Have fun at Zoey's house and here's ten dollars to pitch in for a pizza if you guys get hungry." Catalina handed her a ten dollar bill.
"Thanks. Good night, Mom." Unity accepted the ten as she played along with the lie she fed her mother. She was afraid that if her mother knew the truth about attending a party at a bar then she wouldn't be allowed out of the house.
"Your mom sounds hot. " Zoey's voice brought a smile to Unity's face. "Are you ready because Noah and I are about to head out to pick you up."
"Um, yeah. I'm... I'm just about ready." Unity stuttered, anxiety rising of not knowing what's to come tonight.
"Alright, we'll be there in about ten minutes. Keep a look out for a blue Ford Explorer."
"Okay, see you in a bit." Unity untangled the cord to the house phone and hung up.
What does a Ford Explorer look like? Unity raised her left eyebrow, no knowledge of what the car looks like.
-Thirty Minutes Later-
"Woohoo! We are going to have such a wild night!" Zoey jumped out of Noah's car and fixed her short, rainbow colored dress that went perfect with her wild pink hair. "Ah, my beer can is empty." She threw her empty beer can on the parking lot ground.
"Hey, you better have not spilt any beer in my mom's car. She'll throw a fit." Noah warned Zoey.
"No man, we're all good here. Every single drop of beer is inside my belly."
"You ready, Unity? Because we about to get it poppin'!" Noah led the way to the entrance of The Next Bar.
"Sup, Noah?" The large tattooed bouncer high fived Noah, opening the bar's door. "You guys have fun tonight."
The Next Bar seemed relatively small from the outside, but to Unity's surprise it was quite roomy inside. The lighting was dim except for out on the dance floor. Green, red and blue lights flashed down on the people dancing, setting the perfect mood to let loose. People were drinking and dancing the night away, enjoying their last night of 1999.
"I need to pee, come with me." Zoey pulled Unity's arm through the crowd, but with a simple shove from a random man who cut between them, they became separated and Unity was left alone trying to find the restroom through the drunken crowd.
"Hey there, shy one." Harley cut right in front of her.
"Oh, hey there." Unity raised her voice so she could be heard.
"I'm surprised you're here. Doesn't seem like a place for a shy bird."
"Last night on Earth, right? Figured I should at least live tonight." Unity's eyes shied away from his.
"Come with me, I'll buy you your first drink." He gripped her wrist and led the way to the bar.
"What makes you think this will be my first drink?" Unity questioned.
"I don't know. A shy sixteen year old girl. I'm just assuming. Is this your first drink?"
"No." Unity was quick to answer. "I've tasted my dad's beer before."
"Tasted doesn't count. Two shots of Patron." He waved to the bartender.
Unity gulped the dry lump in her throat as she saw the shots being poured. She had to do this, she didn't want to be the uncool girl who can't hang with the people she desperately wanted to be around. If she was ever going to change then tonight was the night.
"To your first drink." Harley raised his shot.
"First drink." Unity croaked and chugged it down with him. "Oh my gosh! That's really strong!" Her face distorted from the fire running down her esophagus.
"Man," Harley chuckled. "that's not even that strong. You should probably stick with the girly drinks."
"No, give me another shot." She demanded, wanting to prove she wasn't weak and needed to learn how to step out of her comfort zone.
"Two more." Harley signaled the bartender.
Unity grabbed the shot and slammed it down before Harley could grab his.
"Well, shit. Maybe you're not so weak after all."
"No, I'm not." Unity established. She didn't know where this boost of confidence was coming from, she never felt like this before. Maybe the higher dose of antidepressants were working. "Can I see your tattoos?" She bravely asked.
He stretched out his long strong arms for her to get a clear look. She stared up and down both arms, tribal designs, a spider web, barbed wire and two names, Laura and Mona. "How far up does it go?"
He rolled up the sleeve of his black shirt, showing off his sculpted tattoo covered biceps. "Did it hurt to get it done?" Unity was curious to know.
"Not really. It was therapeutic. To me, at least." Harley pulled down his short sleeve.
"I've always wanted to get a tattoo."
"Really? You?" He glanced up and down at her innocent appearance. "What of?"
"I drew a pretty cool design last summer and have been so entranced by it that I want that as my first tattoo."
"Where on your body do you want it?"
"Hm, I don't know yet." She shrugged.
Harley leaned forward and placed his hand on the small of her back, sending shivers down her spine as this was the first time a man had ever touched her there, let alone invaded her personal space.
"You should get it there." His fingers tracing down her black and white low cut shirt, slowly finding the entrance to touch her bare skin. "That would be pretty hot."
"Hey Harley, want some?" A young man with similar features as Harley made his way over to them with a joint in his hand.
"Wanna join?" Harley removed his hand from her and stepped closer to the man with the joint.
"Uh, no, I'm fine." Unity cleared her throat.
"Aight, I'll be right back." Harley disappeared into the crowd of people, leaving Unity sitting alone at the bar.
She was completely lost in the moment, already fantasying about having her first kiss with Harley. Her gut was telling her she should stay far away from him, but the feeling of being alone, not having a boyfriend while everyone around her had one and never being kissed told her otherwise.
"Did it hurt?" A random man squeezed Unity's shoulder from behind.
"Excuse me?" Unity spun the barstool around to see who was gripping her shoulder.
"When you fell from heaven, baby."
Unity rolled her eyes at the lame pick up line from the older man who reeked of alcohol and a wedding ring on his finger. "Please, go away." She brushed his hand off her shoulder.
"Come on. You want to spend the last night on Earth sitting alone or do you want to scream in pleasure multiple times tonight?" The creepy man ran his dry hand down her back.
"I said leave me alone!" She pushed him away.
"Don't be harsh, baby. Let me buy you a drink to loosen up." His hand slithered down to her knee.
"Hey!" Unity slapped his hand and immediately the man was dragged back by the collar of his dress shirt.
"The lady clearly isn't interested so know when to quit." A Good Samaritian came to her rescue.
"Know when to not butt in." The drunk man defended. "This is between me and jailbait over there."
The Good Samaritian glared in disgust. "Walk away." He warned, forming a fist.
The drunk man looked down to the man's hand, knowing he was about to be in a fight if he didn't back down. "Whatever, man. Didn't even want her anyways. I could do better." He purposely brushed past the Good Samaritian.
"Are you okay?" The Good Samaritian asked Unity.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm... I'm fine." Unity forced a slight smile to the 5'10 attractive hero.
"You know, if I was a girl I'd be pretty disgusted. That so called man is old enough to be your father."
"Exactly how I'm feeling right now. This is why I'm not a bar type of girl."
"Well, bars can be pretty chill if you're with the right crowd. Are you here alone?"
"Uh, no, but it feels like I am."
"Oh, how fun. They ditched you?"
"Not intentionally, at least I don't think. Lost my friend on the way to the restroom and lost the other one when he went out for a smoke."
"Ah, I see. You gotta be careful. A pretty girl sitting alone at the bar is going to call out all the creeps and freaks here."
"Yeah, I'm starting to realize that."
"I'm sorry, where are my manners? I'm Ryan." He held his hand out for a shake.
"Unity." She quickly wiped her sweaty palm on her jeans and shook his strong hand.
"Unity. Never thought of Unity as a name... that's very beautiful. Strong name, united, being whole. That's pretty cool."
"Th-thanks." She gulped as he let go of her hand. That handshake was even better than Harley touching her lower back. Very firm with direct eye contact.
"Are you going to be okay here, Unity? My friends and I are about to go on stage.".
"You're in a band?"
"We're just a bunch of guys that rock out when bored." Ryan chuckled. "But yeah, I guess we're a band. I don't think we'll ever be good enough to make a career out of it but a man can dream. So are you going to be okay here?"
"Yeah, I'll be okay."
"Okay. Be kind to me when I'm on stage. I have a small cold I'm trying to conquer so my voice isn't at a hundred. I'll see ya around." Ryan winked as he flashed his pearly whites and walked away.
Unity stared at Ryan as he disappeared into the crowd. His dirty blonde faux hawk, icy blue eyes that had the power to slay her, his straight eyebrows, perfectly defined smooth oval face, white t-shirt, dark gray jeans, white sneakers and that leather jacket that brought out a nice bad boy feel to him but his charming personality revealed nothing but a good hearted man. She'd do anything to have him turn back around.