Chapter 2: Home Sweet Home
Cade spent a restless night on the couch attempting to sleep. He felt as though something was biting him all night and in the morning he wondered if he had developed a rash from the filthy couch. He couldn't help but think this house was the most disgusting place on earth. Taking a shower in the bathroom was out of the question. He stood up and walked into the bedroom where his wife and two younger children were sound asleep. He kicked the bed, "Get up!"
Callie rolled over and looked up at him, "What is it baby?"
"We're leaving," Cade informed her.
"What?" Callie thought he was joking, "Where will we go?"
"Just get the hell up," Cade said. He didn't feel much like talking about it. He just wanted to leave.
"We can't just leave," Callie complained, "We have no place to go."
"Do you want to stay here in this shit hole?"
Callie rolled over and closed her eyes, the last place on earth she wanted to be was living in this "shit hole" as Cade called it. But sometimes a shit hole was better than the street, though in this case it was a toss-up. Callie nudged the two sleeping children that were in bed beside her to wake them.
Cade left the room and went to wake up Ashley who was sharing a bedroom with his sixteen-year-old brother Quinn. That arrangement made Cade ill, and he hoped Quinn had enough sense to keep his hands off of an eleven-year-old girl, but he had his doubts. He nudged Ashley to wake her up and she jumped. When her eyes opened, there was an unmistakable look of fear in them. "C'mon, get your belongings together, we're leaving."
Ashley didn't question him at all. She sat straight up on the bed and then began to gather up her possessions, which were few and far between. She didn't dare ask any questions since she was afraid of her own shadow. She put everything she owned of value into an old torn paper bag, especially the picture of her mother which she carefully kept hidden at all times so her Grandpa Seth wouldn't beat her over it. She didn't own much clothing.
"Cade, what's this all about?" Callie asked in irritation when he returned to her room to help her pack her belongings.
By this time, Seth, Annie, and Quinn were wide awake and came out to see what the commotion was all about. "What's going on?"
"Cade says we're leaving," Callie informed them, as if she were tattling on him.
"Hah!" Seth roared with laughter, "How?"
Callie didn't know the answer to that and Cade had disappeared momentarily. For all she knew, Cade was out committing armed robbery again in order to get enough money to go wherever it was he was taking them.
When Cade returned, he was wheeling an old shopping cart that he had snatched from a nearby abandoned lot. It likely belonged to a transient who would be angry to wake up and discover it missing. They loaded their belongings into the shopping cart and as Cade pushed it along the sidewalk, the wheels scraped against the pavement.
Seth laughed heartily at the sight, "Good God, you look pathetic." Cade's mother Annie frowned, "I wish you wouldn't leave Cade."
"Sorry Ma," Cade said, "We've got to get out of here." Annie nodded in response, she knew why her son was leaving and she didn't blame him.
Quinn sneered, "What a loser, a shopping cart?"
"We look ridiculous Cade," Callie pointed out as they walked away from the house pushing the shopping cart that held all of their possessions. "We look like homeless people."
"We are homeless people," Cade informed her, "But we're not staying there one second longer."
Cade lifted his five-year-old daughter Jessica up and placed her in the cart when she complained that her legs were tired. It was a long walk from their house to the bus station, and when they arrived at the bus station, they finally ditched the shopping cart and carried their possessions in their arms while boarding the bus. Cade bought all of them a bus ticket out of town.
Callie wondered why she was following Cade's lead without question. She knew he didn't care about her that much, especially after his reaction to her yesterday when she attempted to have sex with him, yet she was sick and tired of living with Seth and Annie and going with Cade, as crazy as it seemed, was more appealing than staying where she was. It was her lot in life to be a lost soul, always unsure of where she was going next and what would happen to her. She was accustomed to unpredictability.
Ashley sat on the bus seat alone, clinging to the torn paper sack filled with her possessions. Everything she owned in the world was in that sack. Harley eagerly looked out the bus windows since he had never been out of the city before, and Jessica clung to Callie with her head down.
"God Cade," Callie said in anguish as the bus rolled along, "Where are we going?"
Cade didn't answer her; he just stared out the window and watched the city disappear behind them. They were traveling about a hundred miles south of the city and before they reached the town for which he had purchased tickets, Cade asked the bus driver to pull over and let them off the bus.
The bus driver looked at him as if he was crazy, and according to company policy the driver wasn't supposed to let people off in the middle of nowhere. It was against regulations, but the driver was anxious to be rid of them. They stunk to high heaven and their stench made the entire bus smell. He let them off the bus and Cade and his family stood on the side of the road holding their possessions as the bus sped away.
"Cade!" Callie began to freak out, "What are we doing?"
Cade didn't answer. He simply turned and led them along the road until they came to a long dirt driveway leading up to a small house off in the distance.
"Where in the fuck are we?" Callie demanded. She was scared. The Cade she knew wouldn't hesitate to slit all of their throats if they gave him a reason. Suddenly every panic button Callie possessed was going off. Why had she left the city?
Cade continued walking up the dirt driveway until they reached the old house. It was boarded up and nearly every single window on the house was either broken or missing. Cade breathed a heavy sigh as he looked at the house and then he reached inside his pocket and pulled out the envelope that was inside his pocket. He examined the contents of the envelope for awhile and then looked at the property. The yard was overgrown with weeds.
"Where in the fuck are we?" Callie asked when she could no longer stand it.
"Stop swearing in front of the kids," Cade said.
"I'm hungry," Jessica whined, and it was the first time Cade remembered hearing her say anything since they left the city.
Cade walked up to the door of the house and moved the rickety ripped screen door out of the way and turned the door knob. It was locked. He reached into the envelope and retrieved a key. He slid the key in the lock and the door knob turned and the door clicked open. There was a delinquent tax notice posted on the door.
Callie was shocked and she wondered how Cade had managed to get a key to this house. The house was dilapidated and dusty and there were traces of animal droppings everywhere. It was obvious that the house hadn't been lived in for a long time and it was very dark inside because of all the boarded up windows. Cade looked at the kitchen, everything inside was ancient and outdated, including an old water heater and refrigerator. The kitchen had some very old dishes and other items in it, but they were covered with thick dust and dirt. The living room was full of dilapidated, rotting furniture. In the bathroom, Cade noticed the medicine cabinet was stuffed full of random items and he noticed an old razor strop hanging behind the door, which was old and worn.
Upstairs the bedrooms were sparsely furnished and mattresses were rotting beneath the stale bed sheets.
"What is this place?" Harley asked after awhile, when he could no longer hold back his curiosity.
"This was once my grandpa's house," Cade informed them. "My dad's dad."
Callie was astounded by his words. "Are we trespassing here?" She asked.
"No, I got a letter in prison about six months ago. They tried to find me a couple of years ago. I guess my grandpa died and left me this place when he died. My dad died a long time ago and my grandpa had no one else to give this place to I guess, so he left it to me."
"You own this?" Callie was shocked.
"I guess so," Cade said as he continued looking around. "I only visited here a couple of times when I was a kid, so I'm surprised I remembered how to get here." But since it was the only good memory he had of his childhood, he knew that was why he remembered the way.
Harley and Jessica began to race around the house excitedly, "This is a cool!" They were stirring up dust everywhere.
"Stop it!" Callie scolded as she choked on the dust.
Ashley stared wide eyed at everything. She wasn't sure what to think. At least at her grandparent's house, she knew what to expect, this was all very new and unpredictable. Her dad, what she remembered of him before he went to prison, made her very nervous and she knew that Callie didn't like her much. Jessica began to complain once more about how hungry she was.
"I don't think there's much food here," Callie observed and she searched through the kitchen cupboards until she found a few old cans of food. Most of them were expired, but some of them weren't bulging and she thought they might be safe to eat. If there was one thing she was good at it was figuring out was how to find food in order to survive. One of the cans was a can of peaches and she searched for a can opener and finally found an old rusty one in the drawer. The peaches were only a year past the expiration. She gave Jessica a few peaches, and then she gave Harley some.
"Can I have one?" Ashley drooled.
"Sorry sweetie," Callie said, "I don't think there's enough."
Cade grabbed the can of peaches out of her hand, "Give Ashley some, the same as you give these other kids." He thrust the can at Ashley who stared wide eyed at him and tentatively took a peach from the can with her filthy fingers. "Here, take the rest of these peaches outside," Cade said, and handed the can of peaches to the children and pointed for them to leave. All three children scampered out the back door of the kitchen into the yard.
"Cade, I..." Callie was afraid he was going to beat her for not giving Ashley any peaches.
"I don't ever want to see you treat Ashley any differently than those other brats you call kids," Cade hissed at her, "You got that? She's as much my kid as those other two and you'll make sure she gets what they get, got it?"
Callie swallowed. "I didn't mean to."
"Oh yes you did," Cade said bitterly and he glared down into her eyes, "And if you ever do it again you'll be sorry."
"I won't." Callie said fearfully.
Ashley was upset that she had caused a problem. She sat on the porch far away from the other two kids with her knees propped beneath her chin. "Dad's gonna give mom a beatin'" She heard Harley say to Jessica.
"No!" Jessica cried in fear, but neither of them dared go back inside the house.
Cade grabbed Callie by the arm, "I know what you did while I was away in prison; you ran around and cheated on me the whole time and when you weren't doing that you were sponging off my family."
"All I did was try and survive," Callie said fearfully, "God dammit Cade, what was I supposed to do? I had no one."
He gritted his teeth.
Callie looked up at him in fear, remembering the way he used to smack her around over the slightest things and she swallowed, "OK, I won't treat Ashley any differently."
"If you do," Cade warned, "You'll be sorry."
Callie had always been slightly jealous of Ashley because she was Cade's child from another woman. Callie had always felt that Cade had loved Ashley's mother a great deal and she wasn't sure he even loved her and he definitely didn't love her the same way. He had only married her because she was pregnant with Harley.
Ashley had been raised by her mother until she overdosed on drugs while Cade was in prison, and after that, Ashley had been sent to live with Cade's mother and stepfather. It had been one of the worst days of Ashley's life.