How can we erase the memories that threaten to scar us?
On the outside, Brynn Michaels appears to have it all. A successful career. A loving husband. A beautiful home. But nobody, not even her husband, knows the depth of Brynn’s horror. Abandoned as a child on the side of the road by her young, drug-addicted mother, then later abused by her adoptive father, Brynn has spent her entire life hiding her physical and emotional scars. As Brynn struggles to overcome her past so that she and Adam can begin a family of their own, the darkness refuses to let her go.
Brynn and Adam Michaels have rebuilt their lives after Brynn's painful and cruel past threatened to tear them apart. With a baby on the way, hope and promise are within reach. Just when Brynn envisions that she and Adam can lead a happy life, an unexpected visitor arrives, threatening to destroy everything.
When the one thing holding them together is ripped cruelly from their lives, they are forever changed, their fragile life together teetering dangerously on the edge. When a handsome stranger arrives at Brynn’s darkest moment, feelings she never knew could exist are stirred within her and she must make a choice.
All her life, Brynn Michaels has fought to escape the demons, from her childhood, that continue to haunt her. Just as something promising happens in her life, Brynn is involved in a devastating car accident that nearly kills her.
Leaving Eva~Book One
Daddy, please stop!
Daddy, you’re hurting me!
She never saw it coming. She didn’t even know he had hit her until her right cheek and eye were exploding. With so much rage on his face, his anger emanated toward her, dangerous and hot.
She’d never seen Daddy so angry before, not even with Mommy.
She was stunned, her feet frozen in one spot. She wanted desperately to run but was unable to move. It was almost as though she was trapped in a bad dream and couldn’t wake up. Her heart was pounding hard in her chest, and her mind was racing. Daddy’s massive body was blocking the way, and she thought wildly that maybe if she didn’t move, he wouldn’t hit her again.
She was wrong.
He smacked her again, hard across the mouth, and she could feel blood pouring from her bottom lip. The saltiness of it made her want to gag. He reached out, grabbing her small thin arms, squeezing them so hard they felt as though they may break in two. He picked her up until her feet were dangling off the ground and threw her down, hard. Her head snapped back and hit the wood cabinets. The cracking sound resounded in her ears, and there was an instant blinding pain.
She knew she was crying, but couldn’t feel any tears. She was afraid, and it was a strange familiar, haunting feeling that she knew she had felt sometime before in her seven and a half years. Daddy was never overly affectionate or kind, but he had never hurt her. She had been with them for three years, and during that time, he had barely ever touched her, good or bad. But now, he was intent on hurting her for reasons that didn’t make sense.
She begged him to stop, trying to come up with the right words as they tumbled out in between the sobs. “Daddy, please! I–I–I–I’m sorry. I’ll be careful. I’m s–s–s–sorry.”
“You should be sorry! You need to be more careful, damn you. You ruin everything you touch with your filthy little hands!” He growled, grabbing hard at her long dark hair, pulling some of it out sharply at the roots. He yanked on the ponytail as she reached out
blindly trying to get him to ease his grip.
Daddy’s blue eyes were dark and full of something that she
didn’t recognize at all. His face was distorted, almost trance-like, looking through her as if he weren’t seeing her at all. She struggled away, but his grasp on her hair wouldn’t let her escape. She felt trapped and helpless, like a mouse in a cage. Without any effort, he grabbed her again and threw her back down to the ground.
The girl was crying so hard, her small body trembling in fear of what would happen to her next. “No, no, no, no,” she cried over and over. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it.”
She crouched down tight against the cabinets, and she pulled her body in, hoping to shrink. Maybe if I’m small, I’ll be hard to get, and he will stop. Maybe Daddy will stop!
He kicked clumsily at her sides with hard steel-toed work boots. “Damn stupid kid! Why do you have to be so clumsy? Jesus Christ, you’re ALWAYS spilling and dropping things.” His voice was so loud, and he was spitting as he hovered over her.
The girl was trying to remember why he was so mad and then she remembered the spilled iced tea all over the floor, soaking into the beige carpet like a sponge.
“I’ll be more careful. I’ll be more careful! PLEASE DADDY, you’re hurting me!” She was screaming, but he didn’t hear.
“I work my ass off to provide for you and your mother, and this is how you repay me! I should never have let your mother convince
me to buy you, you stupid Bitch!” Daddy’s voice was ugly and full
of hatred. The girl didn’t know if the pain from the blows or the
mean words he spoke hurt the most.
She raised her hands over her head futilely as a shield. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m so clumsy and bad! Please, Daddy, please. Her head was pounding, and there was pain everywhere.
One, two, and then three more times Daddy hit her. There had been so many that she had actually lost count. His hands were open one second and closed the next. There were blows coming from every direction, first hitting on the head, then the arms, both sides, and occasionally the face.
The smell of whiskey was hanging above the tiny girl in a large cloud, curling her nose with its sweet insipid smell. She was gag- ging and crying at the same time, and it was hard to breathe. She was choking on her own stupidity and carelessness. Mommy keeps telling me to be more careful. I’m a bad girl. I’m too loud and stupid, and I always spill things. Mommy will hate me now, too. I’m a bad girl!
She dared a glance upward and could see that Daddy was starting to pant, his face red while sweat poured down his forehead. Please God, make him stop. Please help me be more careful! Why can’t I just be a better girl?
“Please stop, please,” she cried desperately, in a small, frightened voice that she hadn’t heard before. Daddy doesn’t love me because I’m stupid. Daddy hates me. I hate me, too. I’m so stupid.
He looked at her, his gaze slicing through her. “You’re the reason your mother hates me! It’s all your fault, you stupid useless brat!”
It was true. Mommy has me so she can’t love Daddy. She told me. It is my fault!
It felt as if he had been hitting her for so long, but after only a few minutes, he was spent.
He finally staggered backwards clumsily, not looking her way at all. Daddy didn’t look well, his skin pale and wet with sweat, the rage replaced with confusion and shame.
“Go to your room, right now, Brynn!” His voice was barely audible as he looked away.
Brynn stood feeling unsteady for a moment, her body shaking uncontrollably as she willed her legs to move. I’m going, Daddy. I’m going.
Daddy turned and staggered out to the porch and lit up a cigarette. The cool night air came in with a welcome gust soothing her burning face, and she forgot about the pain momentarily. The danger was still palpable in the air, and Brynn realized that she needed to get to her room.
The journey up the stairs was difficult, but she finally made it, falling onto the bed with relief. Brynn buried her face into the pillow smearing bright red blood and tears on the crisp white pillowcase.
He hates me! He hates me, and I’m so stupid. It’s my fault. I’m so clumsy and stupid. If I run away, maybe Mommy will love him and then he will love me. I ruined everything! I wish I had never ever been born!
After what felt like hours, she stood up, carefully walked into the bathroom, and locked the door. Brynn looked in the mirror and searched all over for bruises. The right cheek and eye were swelling and turning purple. The split in her lip was also swelling at an alarm- ing rate as the blood was starting to crust and dry up. Her eyelids were swollen from crying so hard, and there was nothing but pain in her ribs, back, arms, and legs from all of the kicking they endured.
Brynn wished Mommy would hurry home. Mommy, where are you? Mommy, I need you!
Daddy had never been this mean before. He was to Mommy, but not to Brynn. He yelled occasionally, but had never kicked, hit, or swore at her. Daddy never kissed or hugged her, but Brynn always thought he loved her. After all, he bought her things from time to time, like big lollipops and candy from the store. He gave her presents for birthdays and on Christmases. My Daddy hates me! He wishes I were never adopted. He hates me more than anything in the world.
What if Daddy hits me all the time? The thought struck suddenly. I should run away.
Brynn knew Mommy couldn’t protect her. Mommy couldn’t even protect herself. While Daddy had never hit Brynn before, he hit Mommy. He even shook Mommy hard making her flop all over the place like Brynn’s favorite doll, Betsy. Mommy said it wasn’t Daddy’s fault. She said it was only because of the alcohol. Today, Daddy was drinking a lot of alcohol, and Brynn noticed that it was a lot more than usual.
The “special” glass was filled up five times, full to the top. Usually, Daddy only had Brynn fill it two or three times, and then Mommy
did the rest after bedtime. Daddy never filled his own glass because
he said it was their responsibility. “I put a roof over your heads, and
give you food to eat, and clothes to wear. I buy everything!” He
reminded them of this often.
Even though Daddy was mean to Mommy, Brynn still loved him.
You’re supposed to love your Daddy. That’s what happy families do. They love each other. She wanted to have a happy family more than anything. Even though her only friend, Stacy, had a sad family, families were supposed to be happy. Mommy didn’t like Brynn to have a lot of friends because she didn’t want her away from the house much. Mommy always made her come home so she could spend time with her. Mommy said that she missed Brynn too much when she was gone.
Brynn was sad because Mommy didn’t love Daddy. Mommy told her repeatedly, even if Daddy was in the room, that she didn’t love him. She always whispered it loudly, pretending that it was their little secret. Brynn knew that Daddy could still hear. But Daddy was quiet like he didn’t care, even though he had a funny look on his face. Mommy and Brynn were best friends, and Mommy told her everything.
“We only stay with him because he takes care of us, Brynn. I only love you,” Mommy always told her. Brynn thought that maybe Daddy loved Mommy. Why else would he take care of them? Maybe Daddy will stop taking care of us now that he is hitting me, too. Brynn was afraid of what would happen to them.
There must have been something wrong with her or Brynn’s real Mommy would have wanted her. Brynn picked up the picture of her and Mommy Rose that sat next to her bed. It was a picture of them right after her “Gotcha Day.” Brynn looked very different then, so skinny and scraggly with a permanently sad expression on her face. She thought about her real Mommy, and again wondered where she was and why she left her. Brynn wondered if her real Mommy ever thought of her and what she looked like. Would my real Mommy care that Daddy was hitting me? Would she save me?
Brynn reached up carefully touching her cheek. It felt big and was throbbing and stinging. She felt hot. She lifted up her shirt and saw the skin on her sides turning red and purple. Her arms were tender and painful to the touch and there were handprints bruising her skin.
She moved slowly to her bed and waited for Mommy Rose to
come home. Every part of her face was burning, and her lip kept
bleeding. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t stop crying, salty tears
burning the open wound on her lip. How could Daddy be so mean?
Mommy! When she finally heard the car in the driveway, her heart leapt for joy. Brynn dared not leave the bedroom for fear Daddy would see her.
Mommy will come kiss me good night. Brynn waited for Mommy to come up. When Mommy saw her face, she would know what Daddy had done. Brynn was ashamed that Daddy had to punish her. Maybe Mommy won’t love me anymore either, she thought suddenly. She’ll think I’m too clumsy, too. She hates when I spill things because he always yells at me. Maybe she will hit me, too. Brynn was suddenly afraid. She hadn’t thought of that before.
She waited anxiously. When Mommy’s light footsteps echoed in the hall, Brynn held her breath, waiting for the door to open. Did Daddy tell her what I did? What if she hates me, too?
The door opened slowly and Mommy walked in looking like an angel. Mommy’s brown eyes were very serious as she looked at Brynn. She didn’t say anything but instead, walked over to the bed slowly, and hugged Brynn. Brynn held her tight and sobbed into her chest.
“Oh, Brynn,” Mommy said in a soothing voice. “What did you do? Why were you so clumsy? Why can’t you just be more careful? It will be okay.”
Brynn couldn’t speak. She couldn’t say anything between the sobs. Mommy gently touched Brynn’s swollen cheek, tears forming in her own eyes. She started to reach toward Brynn’s cracked lip and stopped before touching it.
“Brynn, you have to be more careful. Daddy doesn’t like messes. You can’t spill because he gets really mad.” Mommy scolded gently. Mommy didn’t look angry like he had. Instead, she had a different look on her face. It was a look that Brynn didn’t understand. Brynn breathed a sigh of relief. Mommy didn’t hate her like Daddy did.
She held Brynn close. Mommy smells like flowers. Sweet.
For the first time that night, Brynn felt safe. Mommy went to the bathroom, got a washcloth, ran cool water over it, and washed Brynn’s tearstained face. She wiped Brynn’s swollen cheek and gently swabbed her bloody lip. She was careful as she tried to clean up the crusted blood. Mommy spoke gently, soothing, as she did when Brynn was much smaller. Then she tucked Brynn into bed and kissed her first on the forehead and then on the cheek. Brynn winced in pain and then smiled weakly, relieved that Mommy was home.
“There will be no school until your lip and face looks better, sweet girl,” Mommy said attempting a smile. “We’ll stay home and do puzzles together all day and drink hot cocoa. We’ll have a ‘girl’s day’.” Mommy stroked Brynn’s hair lightly, “But you can’t tell anyone about Daddy hitting you. If you do, they will take you away from me.”
Brynn didn’t want to be away from Mommy. She loved Mommy. “I promise, Mommy, I won’t tell,” Brynn said, her voice small and serious.
“You’re a good girl, darling,” Mommy said looking at Brynn with adoring eyes.
“No, I’m not, Mommy, I’m a bad girl. I took your love away from Daddy. It’s my fault you don’t love him,” Brynn cried. She wanted to confess because she didn’t want to keep a secret from Mommy.
Mommy’s face got angry and then she suddenly smiled, showing her pretty white teeth. “Oh, Brynn. It’s not your fault I don’t love Daddy. I never loved Daddy. I only married Daddy so that I could find you one day. Even if you weren’t here, I still wouldn’t love Daddy.”
Brynn was relieved. It wasn’t her fault after all, but then she was sad. Poor Daddy. Not to be loved was so sad.
“Is Daddy going to hurt me again? It really hurt, Mommy,” she said sadly, trying not to whimper.
“No, Brynn! Mommy won’t let Daddy hurt you like that again!” Mommy said. But Brynn was still afraid because Daddy hit Mommy, and nothing could stop him.
Mommy answered without Brynn asking, “I know Daddy hits me, but we can’t leave because he takes care of us. We need him. I’ll talk to Daddy and I won’t leave you alone with him again.”
Brynn was relieved. She wasn’t alone with him much, but if it were never, then he couldn’t hurt her again.
“Thank you, Mommy!” She loved Mommy so much. Mommy was pretty and nice, and Brynn loved her with all of her heart—to the moon and back, “I love you so much, Mommy!”
Mommy gave her baby girl a sad smile. She bent over and tucked Brynn in, leaving the night light on.
“Go to sleep, sweet girl. I love you, too,” she whispered softly. Brynn closed her eyes and got as comfortable as she could. She moved around trying to get more comfortable despite the pain. All of her muscles hurt and her lip were stinging. She didn’t realize how tired she was, and she quickly started to drift off.
Mommy went downstairs, and just as Brynn fell asleep, she was jolted awake by the sound of Daddy yelling. Daddy was yelling at Mommy!
She covered her ears tight trying in vain to block out the voices. Mommy was screaming, and then there was a slapping sound. Something made a loud cracking sound, like the sound of wood splintering and breaking, which made her jump. Mommy cried out loudly.
Brynn huddled up tight in her bed and squeezed her eyes closed as she felt tears running down her face. Daddy, please don’t hurt Mommy. She wanted to run downstairs, but she was afraid. What if he hits me again? Mommy, Mommy! Brynn grabbed her dolly, Betsy, and hugged her until the screaming stopped. Then there was an eerie silence in the house. She tried to stay awake, because she was terrified that her door would open, and then he would come in and try to hurt her again. She strained to hear Mommy’s voice, but there was nothing but quiet. She listened hard for Mommy to make a sound, but she didn’t hear anything in the house. Her eyelids started to get heavy and she finally fell into a restless, painful sleep.