It was hot as Hell. Muttering a curse under my breath, I tore off my shirt and tossed it on the lawnmower. July was a bitch. Mowing the entire trailer park in the middle of the day wasn’t the smartest idea, but it hadn’t been my idea. The old cunt that acted as a landlord for the place had wanted it done, and it wasn’t my job to question her. She paid me decently for mowing the grass and taking care of the maintenance around the place. I had spent the last three hours mowing and sweating a few gallons along the way. My shirt was soaked, and I seriously needed a shower. After putting the push mower back in the supply shed, I headed home, which was only a few trailers away from the shed sitting in the middle of the rundown trailer park.

Bone tired, I opened the door to my trailer and walked in…

The television was on and Emmie was sitting on my couch. Normally that wouldn’t have been a problem for me. When my mom and stepdad weren’t home, Emmie came over and watched TV with Shane for a few hours to escape from the nightmare that she called a mother. Today, Shane wasn’t home. He was out with some chick that he had met at one of our gigs a few towns over last Friday night.

My mom was at work, like always. She worked hard and was rarely home, so there was only one person that could have let Emmie in…

My heart turned cold, and I had to fight not to throw up as I looked down at the sweet little girl sitting on the sofa. Her hair was a mess, just like it always was. She was wearing shorts that were too big for her, probably a pair that one of us had bought her at a yard sale since her mom didn’t care if she had clothes or not. There was a Band-Aid on her shin and a few bruises on her legs and arms.

She looked up at me and smiled when she saw me watching her. “Hey!” she greeted, taking a sip of a juice box.

“Emmie, why are you here?” I asked. “Who let you in?”

Her smile dimmed a little. “Mr. Rusty let me in. I was playing and he asked if I wanted to come in out of the heat.”

We were one of the few families in the trailer park that had an air conditioner. How nice of Rusty to invite Emmie inside to cool off. I clenched my hands into fists, attempting to stay calm in front of the innocent little girl that I loved so much. I didn’t want to scare her, but she had no idea that I had just saved her from unimaginable nightmares.

“Where’s Rusty now?”

“He had to use the bathroom,” she informed me, watching me closely.

I crouched down in front of her and took her hands in my much larger ones. “Listen to me, Emmie. I want to ask you something, and it’s important that you tell me the truth. Okay, sweetheart?”

She nodded her auburn head, and I tightened my hands around hers. “Did…” I swallowed the bile rising in my throat and started again. “Did Rusty touch you?”

Her eyes widened. “I…” She turned pink in the face and bit her lip. “Drake…”

“Did he, Em?” I whispered.

“I…I don’t…” She swallowed hard. “He said not to tell.”

“Where?” I demanded. “Where did he touch you, Emmie?”

“Just my leg.” She had tears in her eyes, and I realized that my hold on her hands was too tight. I eased up on my grip but didn’t release her. “He sat with me and rubbed my leg while I watched TV. I didn’t like it and told him to stop.”

“Did he?”

She nodded. “Yes. Of course he did. Then he went to the bathroom. I think he’s taking a shower or something cause he’s been in there a while.”

Rage like nothing I’d ever felt before boiled through me. I was starting to shake with it and saw the fear in Emmie’s eyes. I tried to contain it, but I was quickly losing control. “Rusty is a bad man, Emmie. Remember how Jesse, Nik, and I talked to you about bad men?” She nodded her head, tears spilling from her big green eyes. Nine years old and I could already tell that she was going to be one beautiful woman when she grew up.

The guys and I had warned Emmie of a lot of things over the years: not to touch the needles that her mom used for her drug habit and never let one of her mom’s men be alone with her. The usual talks that you had with a little kid who lives in a home filled with everyday monsters that kids like Emmie had to deal with.

I had been lucky to never have a parent that abused me or did the things that Emmie’s mom did. My mom was great, but she worked two jobs to keep up with bills. My dad was a decent enough guy when he came around, so I hadn’t been prepared when my mom had married Rusty Nelson when I was ten and Shane was eight. He had seemed like a good guy too, until the night he had climbed into bed with me. My mom had been working the night shift at the gas station down the road, and Shane had been at a sleepover with his pal from school…

That night had been the beginning of my nightmares. I had been prepared to tell my mom and had threatened to do just that, but Rusty was a manipulative bastard. He could make threats just as good as I could. He had assured me that no one would believe me. Who was going to believe a ten year old boy over an adult like him? Then he had threatened me with the one thing that was sure to keep my mouth shut.


If I told, then Shane would be next. There was no way I wanted my baby brother, the boy that was my best friend, to experience what I had just gone through. So I kept the abuse to myself. And it continued for nearly a year.

When I turned eleven, I shot up in height by nearly a foot, and puberty hit fast. I didn’t look like a little kid anymore. I was turning into a man, and Rusty hadn’t liked that, so I was forgotten. I had been scared that the pervert was going to start abusing Shane, so I kept my eyes open for signs that it was going on. There were none and I started to relax…

From down the hall I heard the toilet flush, and I stood, putting the length of the living room between me and Emmie in case I hurt her by accident. There was no way Rusty was walking away from this. He had messed with the wrong kid this time!

“Drake?” Emmie whispered my name, and I gave her a grim smile.

“It’s going to be okay, Em.” I picked up the phone that was beside the rocker my mom loved to sit in. I punched in a number I knew by heart and waited for someone to pick up on the other end.

“Yeah?” It was Mr. Thornton. The guy sounded drunk and he probably was.

“Mr. Thornton, is Jesse home?” I knew he was. He needed to be at work for the evening shift at the plant soon.

“Jesse!” The old man bellowed, and I heard Jesse stomping through the trailer.