by Begin Again
After suffering the consequences of a physical beating from her father, with a belt, Beth Culbertson decides she will not take any more abuse and runs away, but the father has a different story to tell.
Tyson’s temper was flaming hot by the time he reached Last Chance. He couldn’t decide who he hated worse, Ethan or Jesse. As soon as Jesse saw Ty storm through the front door, he knew he needed a plan, and he needed it fast.
Tyson chose a spot near the end of the bar, a quiet place so he could confront his so-called friend about the girl. Jesse popped the top off an ice-cold Heineken and set it down in front of Ty.
“First one’s on the house.” Jesse gave Ty the once over. “Though you look like you’re going to need more than one, pal.”
“Thanks to you!” Tyson lifted the beer to his lips and started swallowing until it was empty. Without being asked, Jesse replaced it with another one.
“Because of me? I didn’t do anything.”
“I left you at the house-” Tyson lowered his voice, checked to see if anyone was near, then asked, “What’d you do, Jesse?”
“I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about, Ty. It looks like some prizefighter knocked you out in the first round, and now you’re coming in here accusing me of something.” Jesse exchanged the second empty bottle for a fresh one. He needed to keep them coming.
“The girl -” Tyson, without even thinking, chugged down the third beer. “Tell me you didn’t … you didn’t touch that girl.”
“What girl? I have no idea what you’re ranting about.” Jesse leaned across the bar. “Trust me; I don’t know anything about a girl.”
“She was at Ethan’s house.” Tyson’s anger flared. “Eth thinks you raped her!”
“Whoa, brother! I never saw a girl, and I certainly get enough action without needing to rape someone.” Jesse moved closer to Ty, “You tell your friend, he better shut his mouth, or I’ll be shutting it for him.”
Tyson ran his hand across his bruised jaw. “Don’t worry, I did, and he clocked me.”
Jesse set two high-ball glasses on the counter. He filled them with whiskey, pushing one towards Ty. He raised his glass in the air. “I salute you, my friend. Appreciate you standing up for me.”
Ty drank the whiskey, savoring the burn as it rolled down his throat. He wasn’t feeling the pain as much anymore.
Across town, Ethan walked into Chill Out. It was a small Mom and Pop restaurant, mostly flipping burgers and serving salty fries for the local kids. He scanned the counter and the booths.
In one of the far booths, a petite girl with shoulder-length red hair, blue oversized tortoiseshell glasses, and a navy blue leather choker waved at him. She smiled nervously as he slid into the booth.
“Hi, I’m Ethan.”
“I’m Rachel, Beth’s friend.” She laughed, “Guess you already figured that out, right?”
“Would you like something to eat? What’s good here?” Ethan tried to put her at ease.
“Beth -” She choked back a sob and continued, “Beth and I always get the cheeseburger baskets. It comes with fries and a coke.”
He waved for the waitress, and then he placed the orders. Ethan needed information, and he hoped Rachel would have it.
“What happened between you and Beth this morning, if you don’t mind me asking?” He didn’t want to push, but it might be necessary.
“My parents believe her dad. They’re buying the whole wheelchair stuff. They think Beth did all that because no parent would lie about their child that way.”
“Don’t they know about the beatings?” Ethan found it impossible to believe that an adult would approve of anyone using a belt on a child.
“Nobody does! Beth lied and covered for him all the time. She’s afraid of him. She knows he’s responsible for her mom’s death and her dog, Toby, too. He’s threatened her so many times.”
“That’s rough. Losing your mom and then having your father do those things. Does she have any other family or friends she’d turn to besides you?
“No, it’s just Beth and her dad.” Rachel waited for the waitress to set their food down and walk away. “There were a couple of caseworkers from the Child Services place. Dwight missed a court date, and they were there when Beth and I came home from school.”
“Great! Do you remember their names? Maybe Beth contacted one of them.”
“I doubt she would. She didn’t want anyone to know. I tried to tell her she needed to talk to Bert, but she was so afraid. Look where that got her.” Tears started to form in Rachel’s eyes. “I’m sorry, but I’m so scared for her. And I let her down really bad. I wasn’t there for her, and she needed me.”
Ethan handed her a napkin and waited till she gained control. He knew how she felt since he’d pretty much done the same thing to Ty.
“Don’t worry. We’re going to find her. You can tell her you didn’t mean any of it. I’m sure she’ll understand. But try and remember the caseworkers’ names.”
“Oh, gosh, I just wanted to get out of there when they started asking questions about Beth’s bruises. She told them she fell at the park playing with Toby.”
“I guess I could just try calling and see if anyone will tell me anything, but I know how closed mouth they are. You know, rules are rules.”
Rachel laughed. “Yeah, I’m supposed to be studying at the library, right now? My parents would ground me for life if they knew I was sitting here with you.”
“My lips are sealed. I won’t tell.” Ethan smiled at the innocent young girl sitting across from him. How could this all be happening in their world?
“Oh, I think I know. It was Bertha, no that’s not it. Bert … Bert and Gigi, or was it, Ginger? I’m pretty sure it was Bert and Gigi; one of them was new.”
“You did good, Rachel. I’ll call their office tomorrow and see if I can make a connection.”
Ethan checked his phone. No call from Tyson yet either. He would try again after they finished eating. They both finished their burgers in silence, worrying about their friends.
The beer and whiskey had flowed freely all night, and Tyson was far past the stage of sober. His elbows were on the bar, holding his head up.
“Hey, pal, it’s closing time.” Jesse wiped the bar down and tossed the last beer bottle in the trash.
“Yeah, I bet...ter get my act to..get..her. What’d I do w..ith my keys?”
“You can’t drive, Ty. You’re coming with me. I’ve got a job to do, and then I’ll drop you off.”
“Suuure! I know you’ll take care of me, right?”
“Yeah, I’m going to take good care of you, Ty.”
Jesse moved to the other end of the bar and made a phone call.
“You set?” He listened to the person on the other end and added, “It’s going to be like taking candy from a baby. Trust me!” He hung up the phone and went to get Ty.