|Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-1)|
|The Eagles take on the Falcons in week 2, which seems to be a yearly match up as this point as the Eagles have faced the Falcons in each of the last 3 seasons including the playoffs. The Eagles have gotten the better of the exchange in those games going 3-0. The Eagle will look to build off their strong second half from last week where they scored 25 points on their way to victory. The Falcons on the other hand will look to rebound from an embarrassing loss to the Vikings where they gave up 172 yards on the ground and failed to get anything going on offense until garbage time was upon them. The loss shouldn’t be indicative of the Falcons, they are a talented team on both sides of the ball and the Eagles secondary has struggled heavily against Julio Jones who has eclipsed 100 yards receiving in each of the last 3 matchups. The secondary struggled last week and it is only going to get harder for the Eagles as they each Jones, Sanu and Ridley. The Falcons young secondary isn’t going to have it much easier and will definitely get tested more this week than they were against the Vikings, but if Falcon D struggles against the run like last week it could be a long night for Falcon fans. The matchups to watch will be in the trenches where the Vikings gave Matt Ryan fits sacking him 4 times and pressured him all day. The Eagles defensive line is arguably better and the strength of the defense. They will need to be on their game to help the secondary out or it could be a long On the flip side Carson Wentz was gifted tons of time by his OL which allowed him to connect on multiple deep passes. The Falcons will need to find a way to get pressure or Jackson and Jeffrey could be in line for big games in back to back weeks. At the end of the day these two teams have played each other tough over the 3 seasons in some close low scoring games, so let's hope for a good injury free game on Sunday Night football’s rendition of the Bird Bowl. Go Eagles.|
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|Sunday, September 15th, 2019|
|Game Time||Game Location|
|8:20 PM - Eastern||Mercedes-Benz Stadium|
|7:20 PM - Central||1 AMB Drive NW|
|6:20 PM - Mountain||Atlanta, GA, 30313|
|5:20 PM - Pacific||Wikipedia - Map|
|Stadium Type: Dome|
|Surface: FieldTurf Revolution 360|
|Feels Like: 76°F|
|Forecast: Overcast. Partly cloudy throughout the day.|
|Chance of Precipitation: NA|
|Cloud Coverage: NA|
|Favorite/Opening Line: Philadelphia by -2|
|Record VS. Spread: Philadelphia 0-1, Falcons 0-1|
|Where to Watch on TV|
|NBC will broadcast Sunday’s game to a national audience. Al Michaels will handle the play-by-play duties and Cris Collinsworth will try to provide analysis. Michele Tafoya will report from the sideline.|
|TV Map - Week 2 TV Coverage Map|
|NFL Streams - Look here 30 minutes before the game for Streams|
|Disclaimer: Subscription Based Official NFL Radio Streams available via TuneIn|
|List of Eagles Radio network member stations with internet broadcast availability|
|Radio.com 94.1 Desktop Streaming|
|Listen to Merrill Reese and Mike Quick|
|Calling the game on 94WIP and the Eagles Radio Network will be Merrill Reese, the NFL’s longest-tenured play-by-play announcer (42nd season). Joining Reese in the radio booth will be former Eagles All-Pro wide receiver Mike Quick, while Howard Eskin will report from the sidelines.|
|Philadelphia, PA||WIP-FM||94.1 FM and 610 AM|
|Allentown, PA||WCTO-FM||96.1 FM|
|Atlantic City/South Jersey||WENJ-FM||97.3 FM|
|Levittown, PA||WBCB-AM||1490 AM|
|Northumberland, PA||WEGH-FM||107.3 FM|
|Pottsville, PA||WPPA-AM||1360 AM|
|Reading, PA||WEEU-AM||830 AM|
|Salisbury/Ocean City, MD||WAFL-FM||97.7 FM|
|Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PA||WEJL-FM||96.1 FM|
|Salisbury/Ocean City, MD||WAFL-FM||97.7 FM|
|Salisbury/Ocean City, MD||WEJL-AM||630 AM|
|Salisbury/Ocean City, MD||WBAX-AM||1240 AM|
|Williamsport, PA||WBZD-FM||93.3 FM|
|Wilmington, DE||WDEL-FM/AM||101.7 FM|
|York/LancasteHarrisburg, PA||WSOX-FM||96.1 FM|
|Philadelphia Spanish Radio|
|Rickie Ricardo, Macu Berral and Gus Salazar will handle the broadcast in Spanish on Mega 105.7 FM in Philadelphia and the Eagles Spanish Radio Network.|
|Philadelphia, PA||LA MEGA||105.7 FM|
|Allentown, PA||WSAN||1470 AM|
|Atlantic City, NJ||WIBG||1020 AM; 101.3 FM|
|Falcons Radio Network Wes Durham will handle the play-by-play duties and Dave Archer will provide analysis.|
|Westwood One will carry the game nationally with Kevin Kugler (play-by-play) and Jason Taylor(analyst).|
|Station||Eagles Channel||Falcons Channel||National Channel|
|Sirius Radio||SIRI 83(Internet 825)||SIRI 81(Internet 801)||SIRI 88 (Internet 88)|
|XM Radio||XM 225 (Internet 825)||XM 226 (Internet 801)||XM 88 (Internet 88)|
|Sirius XM Radio||SXM 225 (Internet 825)||SXM 226 (Internet 801)||SXM 88 (Internet 88)|
|Eagles Social Media||Falcons Social Media|
|Snapchat: Eagles||Snapchat: falcons|
|NFC East Standings|
|NFC EAST||Record||PCT||Home||Road||Div||Conf||PF||PA||Net Pts||Streak|
|The Philadelphia Eagles lead the Atlanta Falcons (20-14-1). (17-13-1) regular season, (3-1) postseason|
|Head to Head Box Scores|
|First Game Played|
|September 18th, 1966 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, PA. Philadelphia Eagles 23 – Atlanta Falcons 10|
|The Philadelphia Eagles lead the Atlanta Falcons (745-614)|
|Doug Pederson: 3-0 against the Falcons|
|Dan Quinn: 1-3 against Eagles|
|Coaches Head to Head|
|Doug Pederson vs Dan Quinn: Pederson leads 3-0|
|Carson Wentz: Against Falcons: 1-0|
|Matt Ryan: Against Eagles: 3-6|
|Quarterbacks Head to Head|
|Carson Wentz vs Matt Ryan: Wentz leads 1-0|
|Records per Stadium|
|Record @ Lincoln Financial Field: Eagles lead Falcons 7-1|
|Record @ Mercedes Benz: N/A|
|Rankings and Last Meeting Information|
|AP Pro 32 Ranking|
|Eagles No. 5 - Falcons No. 21|
|Thursday, September 6th, 2018|
|Eagles 18 - Falcons 12|
|A rematch from the 2017 divisional round with backup Nick Foles again for the Eagles. The Falcons moved the ball against the Eagles defense most of the night, but was suffocated each time they enter the redzone, scoring just one touchdown in five trips inside the Philadelphia 20-yard line. They came away with no points three times and settled for a short field goal on another. Nick Foles again played the role of receiver, catching a 15 yard pass from Nelson Agholor and Jay Ajayi added rushed for 2 TDs. Like the divisional round, the game came down to a goal line stand where again the Eagles defense shutdown Julio Jones and Matt Ryan in the endzone to preserve the win for the Eagles..|
|Click here to view the Video Recap|
|Click here for box score|
|Last 10 Meetings|
|Injury Reports||Depth Charts|
|2019 “Expert” Picks|
|Week 2 - "Expert" Picks|
|2019 Team Stats|
|Eagles Season Stats|
|Falcons Season Stats|
|2019 Stats (Starters/Leaders)|
|League Rankings 2019|
|Category||Eagles Stat||Eagles Rank||Falcons Stat||Falcons Rank|
|Points Per Game||32.0||6th||12.0||28th|
|Red Zone Offense (TD%)||66.7%||14th(t)||50%||18th(t)|
|Category||Eagles Stat||Eagles Rank||Falcons Stat||Falcons Rank|
|Points Per Game||27||17th(t)||28.0||21st(t)|
|Red Zone Defense (TD%)||50%||11th(t)||100%||24th(t)|
|Category||Eagles Stat||Eagles Rank||Falcons Stat||Falcons Rank|
|Penalty Per Game||6.0||6th(t)||9.0||22nd(t)|
|Penalty Yards Per Game||55.0||12th(t)||78.0||26th|
|Falcons QBs Matt Ryan (William Penn Charter) and Matt Schaub (West Chester East) attended high school in the Philadelphia area.|
|Falcons RB Dave Brock was born in Moorestown, NJ|
|Falcons Senior Assistant Bob Sutton coached with Eagles HC in Kansas City when Pederson was OC and Sutton was DC from 2013-2015.|
|Falcons Defensive passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson played for the Eagles in 1995.|
|Eagles DL coach Chris Wilson held the same title with the University of Georgia in 2013.|
|The two TEs in Sunday’s game played collegiately at Stanford: Eagles TE Zach Ertz (2010-12) and Falcons TEs Austin Hooper (2014-15)|
|Falcons RB Kenjon Barner played 4 seasons with the Eagles from 2014-2017 and won a SB with the Eagles in 2017.|
|Recap from Last Week’s Games.|
|Video The Eagles started slow against their division rival the Washington Redskins falling down 17-0. But the Eagles high powered offense finally got into gear and Desean Jackson’s homecoming turned into a highlight reel as the speedy veteren receiver caught a pair of 50 yard TD passes and Alshon Jeffrey added a pair of his own to take the lead. And kept it away from the Redskins who failed to get anything going against the Eagles defense in the second half until the game was already out of reach after struggling to stop the Redskins passing attack in the first half.|
|Video The Falcons came into the season as a potential playoff team, but looked nothing of the sort against the Minnesota Vikings to open the season. Matt Ryan played like a shell of the 2016 league MVP beginning his 12th season, unable to find his footing all afternoon in the face of a fierce pass rush that racked up four sacks. He threw 2 picks and struggled to get anything going until the game was already out of reach when he threw for 2 TDs in garbage time. The Falcons defense didn’t look much better as the Vikings ran all over them to the tune of 172 yards and 3 rushing TDs. Cousins only dropped back to throw a mere 10 times completing 8 of them in a dominant Vikings win.|
|DT Fletcher Cox (Starter)||WR Julio Jones (Starter)|
|OG Brandon Brooks (Starter)||C Alex Mack (Starter)|
|TE Zach Ertz (Starter)||OT Jake Matthews|
|SS Malcom Jenkings (1st Alt)||TE Austin Hooper (1st Alt)|
|OT Lane Johnson (1st Alt|
|Referee: Brad Allen|
|Philadelphia has posted a 20-14-1 (.586) all-time record vs. Atlanta (including playoffs), winning 11 of the last 15 (.733) series games dating back to 2000.|
|The Eagles are undefeated (3-0 overall) against the Falcons during the Doug Pederson era (since 2016), including a 15-10 home victory in the 2017 NFC Divisional Round|
|Doug Pederson has led the Eagles to a 34-20 record since 2016 (including playoffs), which marks the highest winning percentage (.630) by a head coach in franchise history.|
|Since 2016, Philadelphia ranks 3rd in the NFL in primetime winning percentage (.750, 12-4) (including playoffs)|
|ncluding playoffs, the Eagles have produced the 3rd-best red zone TD percentage (61.7%) in the NFL since 2017, trailing only New Orleans (64.8%) and Seattle (61.9%).|
|Philadelphia ranks 3rd in the NFL in 3rd-down conversion rate (43.7%) since 2017 (including playoffs), behind Tampa Bay (44.7%) and Atlanta (43.8%).|
|The Eagles own the 6th-highest scoring offense (25.8, 3rd in the NFC) in the NFL since 2017 (including playoffs), trailing only Kansas City (30.6), L.A. Rams (29.9), New Orleans (29.2), New England (28.5) and Pittsburgh (25.9).|
|Philadelphia leads the NFL in red zone defense (46.3%) since 2016 (including playoffs).|
|The Eagles have recorded the 5th-best (2nd in the NFC) 3rd-down defense (36.7%) in the NFL since 2016 (including playoffs), behind Minnesota (32.0%), Baltimore (35.1%), Denver (36.1%) and Jacksonville (36.6%).|
|Since 2016, Philadelphia ranks 5th in the NFL (2nd in the NFC) in points allowed per game (20.1) (including playoffs), behind NE (18.5), Bal. (18.9), Min. (19.1) and LAC (19.5).|
|OT Andre Dillard||G Chris Lindstrom|
|RB Miles Sanders||OT Kaleb McGray|
|WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside||CB Kendall Sheffield|
|WR Shareff Miller||DE John Cominsky|
|QB Clayton Thorson(I suck and am a Cowboy Now)||RB Qadree Ollison|
|CB Jordan Miller|
|LB Cole Holcomb|
|WR Marcus Green|
|Notable Off-season Additions|
|WR Desean Jackson||DT Tyler Davison|
|DT Malik Jackson||G Jame Carpenter|
|DE Vinny Curry||G Jamon Brown|
|S Andrew Sendejo||RB Kenjon Barner|
|LB Zach Brown||TE Luke Stocker|
|DT Hassan Ridgeway||S JJ Wilcox|
|QB Josh McCown|
|Notable Off-season Departures|
|QB “Big Dick” Nick Foles||CB Robert Alford|
|DE Michael Bennett||RB Tevin Coleman|
|DE Chris Long||CB Justin Bethel|
|S Chris Maragos||DE Bruce Irvin|
|RB Jay Ajayi||WR Marvin Hall|
|RB Josh Adams||CB Brian Poole|
|RB Wendell Smallwood|
|WR Jordan Matthews|
|DT Haloti Ngata|
|Eagles QB Carson Wentz (73) needs 4 passing TDs to move up to 6th on the Eagles all-time passing TDs list moving ahead of Sonny Jurgenson.|
|Eagles TE Zach Ertz (29) needs 2 TDs to move up to 11th on the Eagles all-time receiving TD list all-time tying WR Jack Ferrante and Brent Celek|
|Eagles TE Zach Ertz (4881) needs 118 yards to move up to 8th on the Eagles all-time receiving yards list all-time passing his mentor TE *Brent Celek|
|Eagles TE Zach Ertz (4881) needs 119 yards for 5000 career receiving yards.|
|Eagles WR Desean Jackson (34) needs 2 TDs to move into a tie for 7th on the Eagles all-time receiving TD list tying Jeremy Maclin.|
|Eagles WR Desean Jackson (6271) needs 194 yards to move up to 3rd on the Eagles all-time receiving yard list to moving ahead of Mike Quick.|
|Eagles RB Darren Sproles needs 54 yards to move up to 5th on the NFL’s all-time all-purpose yards list passing WR Tim Brown.|
|Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins's (4) needs 1 more Interception for a TD to tie CB Eric Allen (5) for most Interceptions for a TD by an Eagles player.|
|Falcons DE Vic Beasley (29.5) needs 1 sack to move up to 7th on the Falcons all-time sack list passing Roderick Coleman and 2 sacks to move u p to 6th on the list passing Lester Archambeau.|
|Falcons DE Vic Beasley (29.5) needs 1 sack to move up to 7th on the Falcons all-time sack list passing Roderick Coleman and 2 sacks to move u p to 6th on the list passing Lester Archambeau.|
|Falcons DE Adrian Clayburn (17.0) needs 2 sacks to move up to 17th on the Falcons all-time sack list passing Jumpy Geathers.|
|Falcons QB Matt Ryan (297) needs 3 TDs for 300 career passing touchdowns.|
|Falcons WR Julio Jones (10762) needs 102 yards to becomes the Falcons all-time leading receiver passing WR Roddy White.|
|Falcons RB Devonta Freeman (3335) needs 148 rushings yards to move up to 7th on the Falcons all-time rushing list passing FB Dave Hampton.|
|Pro Football Focus Matchup Charts courtesy of PFF Edge (join.profootballfocus.com/edge/)|
|WDB Matchups (CAPS = expected shadow coverage)|
|Matchups to Watch|
|Falcons Offensive Line vs Eagles Pass Rush|
|This is easily the most important matchup for the Eagles in this contest and one they have a favorable matchup in for the second consecutive week. PFF charted the Eagles as having a pressure rate of 42.2% against Keenum. This is a really good number but one that puzzles me a little bit. Coaches, players, and film experts all agree that the Redskins did a lot of max protect against our pass rush and for good reason. I think it worked well for the Redskins and I find the pressure percentage Philly was credited for to be quite generous. Individual players had their moments against the Skins but I felt the pass rush was ineffective; it’s still early but worth noting since that is how this defense is built to win. The Falcons Offensive line is one the Eagles have had a lot of success against recently and is still struggling to improve. They are looking to start rookie Kaleb McGary at right tackle and rotated him in for some snaps in week 1 with Ty Sambrailo. McGary was a bit of a project and working his way back from offseason injury. A tackle rotation is far from ideal under any circumstances, especially one with Sambrailo. Brandon Graham has a golden opportunity to flex in this contest with a matchup he should dominate. Fletcher Cox has been working in a bit as he works his way back into shape after offseason surgery. He has numerous wins against center Alex Mack throughout this matchup history and will see a journeyman backup guard Jamon Brown as he replaced rookie Chris Lindstrom at right guard. Mack is a good center but Brown is a terrible guard. Timmy Jernigan will also see extended snaps on the inside with the injury to Malik Jackson; the injury is a big loss for the Eagles but one they can overcome with Jernigan’s return and the steady play from Hassan Ridgeway. Left Guard James Carpenter isn’t anything to write home about either which bodes well for Philly. The Falcons have a solid-to-good left tackle in Jake Matthews who is fresh off a butt-kicking at the hands of Everson Griffen. I would expect Jake Matthews to bounce back and play better but there is blood in the water for Philadelphia here to get their pass rush back on track. Derek Barnett is showing a lot of improvement early on. Matthews continuing to struggle would create yet another opportunity for the Eagles pass rush. All of this, combined with the average coaching and play-calling from Dirk Koetter, creates an opportunity to attack the Falcons similar to how the Vikings did. Koetter calls for a lot of long developing pass plays which opens the door for a good pass rush to get home. The pass rush cannot afford to struggle for a second week in a row considering the next key matchup.|
|Falcons Receivers vs Eagles Secondary|
|The Eagles have a considerable advantage the trenches in this game but the Falcons have a juicy matchup (again) with the Eagles secondary. Schwartz has done well against the Falcons since he’s been DC with the Eagles, including shutting down their famed 2016 offense. Despite the successes the Eagles had of late, they’ve been carved to shreds by Julio. At least until he gets in the red zone, then he becomes Wholio. I won’t rehash the statline, but it ain’t great! The coaches, as well as the fans, will live with the Julio thrashing if we keep him out of the end zone and win the game. I just wonder how long the Eagles can get by playing with fire against this receiving group. Julio, Ridley, and Sanu are one of the best receiving rooms the Eagles will face this year. The Eagles secondary is fresh off poor matchup against the vaunted Case Keenum and his sad-sacks; they cannot afford the untimely coaching decisions and miscues from the players. We all know the scheme Schwartz will run. The Eagles defense is easy to figure out and remains unchanged. Players like Ronald Darby need to execute their coverage assignments better when they are asked to cover deep when the safety drops down. Coaches like Jim Schwartz should not have the slow Rasul Douglas play off-man coverage against a guy that runs 4.35 without safety help. Last week wasn’t an encouraging performance for the secondary. Fortunately, they know how to game plan against this Falcons squad and have had a lot of success in doing so. Any improvements from the secondary will go a long way to helping the Eagles win but it is not a unit that will carry them to victory. It can help them lose, which it almost did. This isn’t an offense you want to spot a lead.|
|Falcons Defensive Line vs Eagles Offensive Line|
|The Eagles have very favorable matchups in the trenches in this game as the Falcons don’t have a good defensive line outside of the great Grady Jarrett. He’s a treat to watch and one of the best interior defensive lineman in football. Jarrett is where the talent starts and unfortunately ends for Atlanta. Vic Beasley isn’t much of defender. Takk McKinley flashes some pass rush upside but is weak against the run. This is a unit that was mauled by the Vikings in the ground game. I don’t think the Vikings offensive line is suddenly good, but the favorable game script allowed them to run all over Atlanta. The Eagles have a much better Offensive Line with Kelce, Brooks, and Lane as All-Pro talents on the right side. Isaac Seumalo had a good and promising start at Left Guard with Jason Peters returning to form protecting the blindside. When healthy, this is a group with four All-Pro caliber players. This unit kept Wentz very clean and opened up holes in the ground game Hellen Keller could find. The Eagles haven’t had a lot of success offensively with the Falcons speed on defense but this defensive line is weaker for them than it has been. On the road, controlling the line of scrimmage will help keep the offense on schedule. The Falcons have struggled against running backs in the Dan Quinn era so dominating up front will go a long way in winning this contest.|
|There is a chance the Falcons Head Coach could be on the hot seat with another down season despite the talent on the roster. This is compounded by the major coaching changes they made heading into 2019. Dirk Koetter is a decent offensive coordinator and hasn’t proven to be much more than that in recent years. Still, this is a team, despite its flaws up front, that has a lot of talent. You have to love the Eagles coaches’ ability to consistently adapt in game circumstances to help the team win; they need to be better in this regard early in games this year. We all know the stat: the Eagles offense was among the league worst in 1st quarter scoring in 2018. Last Sunday saw a return of that. The 2019 is still very young to have definitive takes, but the coaching needs to be better early in games. You can’t consistently chase teams and expect to have success. The coaches do need time to figure out what works with the depth of weapons on the team so early bumps aren’t shocking. But this is a Falcons coaching staff that has held the Eagles offense in check since Quinn has been head coach and has weapons to make Philly pay a more punishing price than the Skins delivered. I mention this for all of the above reasons – not to try and panic. Doug is a great coach and has proven to rally the team. They just need to be more consistent. The same goes for Jim Schwartz. The defense is unchanged but some of the same problems remain; it’s up to the coaches to put the players in more advantageous situations to succeed.|
submitted by dourdan to BarryPepper [link] [comments]
Welcome to my novel, inspired by Barry Pepper's role in Crawl (2019)
Chapter 7: Health
I awoke to the smell of coffee and the sparkle of the sunlight. It was another beautiful day to be alive. In the distance I could hear the song, 'Maybe, I'm amazed,' playing on the living room speaker. The melody was one I knew by heart. I had hummed it in the field, on deployment, while dreaming of home. And when I was home, I sang it to my baby daughter.
“Baby I’m amazed at the way you love me all the time,” I sang only in my head. Baby always seemed like a better word than ‘maybe.’ The use of ‘maybe’ made an otherwise pretty, inspiring sung come off as somewhat sarcastic. “Baby I’m amazed by the way need you.”
I was strong enough to get in my wheelchair on my own, so I made my way to the living room fully expecting to see my wife. Instead, I saw Cece dancing in a loose flowing nightgown. She twirled around, with the baby in her arms, looking like the main character of The Nutcracker ballet. "Will you dance with me?" she asked, mid pirouette.
“Who are you talking to?” Clearly, I was in no condition to dance.
"You, of course, Daddy." Cece put the baby in a nearby carrier to free her hands. "Mom already left for the day."
"Mom does volunteer work with the USO, on my days off. It’s her break from the baby." Clearly this was a fact that royally pissed her off. "But now that you’re finally awake, it’s also my day to spend with you. Dance with me?"
That was when I noticed that the piece was playing on a loop. It was a cover of the Beatles song, performed by a female vocalist. It also seemed to only be two minutes long. Was this a performance piece? Had I interrupted a rehearsal of some kind?
"I don't know if I can,” I said, with a shrug. In truth, I just wanted to watch her.
Cece came closer, the silk of her nightgown touched my arm. "Anyone can dance."
“I’m a little out of practice.” In my chair, I was wearing the clothes I'd slept in; a white t-shirt and boxers. I had my prosthetic leg attached in case I wanted to attempt to piss while standing.
"Stand up, put your arms around me." Cece stroked my neck, down my shoulder.
"Give me a second." I knew I could. I had done it before but I needed a moment to gather my courage.
"Come on,” Cece said as she playfully kissed my cheek. “Stand tall, Master sergeant." My daughter helped me up, placing my hands on her shoulders. She was a good six inches shorter than me. But looking into her eyes, you'd never know.
"Do I still even have my rank?" I asked with a laugh. After all the shit I'd done I was lucky to not be in prison.
"Of course," Cece said, swaying her body softly. We slow danced like a teenage couple at prom. "General Blake made sure you were given full medical retirement."
If that was true, it was an impressive feat. "I guess I owe her one." I place my hands on Cece's waist, pulling her close.
"You owe her about a million. We all do." Cece put her head on my shoulder as we continued to sway. "I want to help you write your memoir,” she said in a whisper. “The world needs to know your story.”
"Before the chemo eats my brain?" I asked with a chuckle.
Cece didn't laugh. “Not funny, Dad.” She took a step away, letting me sit back in my chair. My daughter released a disappointed sigh, as she picked up a nearby remote and turned off the music.
Baby Gregory started to cry.
Cece turned her attention to her brother, rocking him in her arms. "Hush little one." She handed me a cup of coffee that had been sitting out long enough to be comfortably warm. "It breaks my heart to know that, maybe, there will come a day when daddy won't remember me." Cece took a sip from her own coffee. "Because I sure as hell will never forget the remarkable man he was."
I gave Cece a reassuring nod, assuming she was just being her usual sweet self. But as I matched her gaze, I could feel something much deeper. "Cece, are you alright?"
She shook her head, blinking away tears. "I know I was supposed to be the one to die. You made a deal with the angels to take my place." She sat down with a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast, casually offering me a fork.
"You knew?" How was that possible?
“I knew I was going to die if you never found your way back to Mississippi. But he moment you were in the room, by my side I could feel,” she paused, placing her hands over her heart, “this is going to sound weird. I could feel your energy, your spirit, maybe even your soul.”
"Really?" The idea filled me with a sense of comfort.
"When you're in pain, I feel pain." Her free hand touched mine, lending an air of truth. "When you cry, I cry. But when you're happy, confident, strong, I can truly feel your heart." Cece blushed as she looked away. "So, where do you want to start? I have my laptop right there. If you like I can tell you what I remember from your stories."
"I really don't feel like chronicling my shitty life, now or ever." Even if the illness did take my mind, I would hope it could take the bad memories first.
“Oh? Ok.” Cece adorably pouted her bottom lip. "So, what do you feel like doing?"
I was midbite, giving me a chance to come up with a genuine answer. "For starters, maybe leaving the house?" Since I had no memory of even arriving in Colorado.
"Ok, but let’s finish breakfast first. I promised Mom I'd take care of you and the baby." She took another sip of her coffee while balancing her baby brother with one arm. "And unlike Mom, I can't feed either if you with my tits."
“Aw, fuck, Cece!” I bit my lip, trying to avoid spitting coffee as I laughed. I certainly had some topic of conversation for the next time I spoke with my guardian angel.
“I have your sense of humor,” she said with a shrug. “And so, will Greg.”
After breakfast I was introduced to the extent of our on-base lodging. The entire apartment was one bedroom, one bathroom, with a kitchen that opened up to a living room. Cece slept on the sofa next to the baby's crib. All while everything our four-person family owned was stored in a single walk-in closet.
Cece dug through a trunk, pulling out a pair of jeans and a button-up shirt. “Here we go.” She proceeded to help me get dressed. I could actually dress myself easily enough, maneuvering my fake and real legs into the stiff denim. I put on my belt and the shirt on. I could have probably worked the buttons and zippers myself. But there was something addictive about human touch. Or maybe it was just Cece’s touch.
Still holding the baby, she had only one arm to work with, forcing her to come even closer. She balanced Greg on her hip while she buckled my belt. I watched as her fingers paused on my stomach before moving up my chest to button my shirt. Each movement was slow, deliberate. The sound of her wispy breath sent a shiver down my spine. "Lilith was the true bride of Adam."
"What?" I was unsure of what I just heard.
Cece only blinked like an innocent little doll. "Did you say something?"
“No, sweetie, it must have been the AC.” I knew I had an erection. I wanted her to touch me so bad. Her lips were inches from mine. I could practically taste the vanilla coffee creamer on her breath.
My hard-on was quickly deflated when Jamie appeared behind Cece, staring daggers at me. "If you even think about it, I will personally send you to hell."
Cece raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think the air conditioning is on. You sure you’re ok?”
"It’s nothing sweetheart," I said to Cece as I reached for the baby. "I can hold Gregory while you get dressed."
"That would be great.” Cece left the baby in my arms as she went to the bathroom. “Thanks, Dad.”
Balancing Gregory with one arm, I stood up. Walking was not the easiest thing in the world, so my intention was to hold the baby close to my chest.
His soft little face felt warm. "Da?" He squirmed, looking from side to side.
"Are you looking for Mama?"
Gregory shook his head. "Ga!"
"You looking for Cece?" I asked. That made much more sense.
But the baby seemed to be motioning towards the closet. “Ga!”
"What's back there?"
There were quite a few unpacked suitcases in various states of disarray. Looking closer, I could see a trail of sequins, made of holographic material. The pieces of plastic seemed to shimmer in shades of red, purple and blue. I stroked my hand along the zipper, opening the case just enough to take a peek. There were costumes, papers, an entire packed suitcase. At the bottom were her shoes; her worn in pointe shoes. I couldn't help but smile; she was still dancing.
"Oh that," Cece's said from behind me. "Just another one of a million that we owe General Blake." She casually pulled off the top sheet of paper. "I'm going to compete in Miss Colorado Springs."
According to the papers Cece was being sponsored by the Air Force base. "Wow, that's incredible."
"It's a preliminary to Miss America, so talent competition...yeah," Cece's voice trailed off. "I would've liked to only compete in talent but that's not how pageants for full-grown adults work."
Turning towards her, I caught sight of my daughter stepping into a pair of jeans. Her hips and legs were covered in scars; deep wounds that would never heal. I tried to tell myself they were from the surgeries that saved her, or maybe from her heroic escape, but I knew the truth. Those boys had butchered her; they hurt her in ways that she could never recover from.
The baby in my arms apparently felt my energy and started to cry, reaching for his sister.
Cece quickly finished getting dressed. "I'll take him." With one arm she put on a jacket. "Let's take a walk to the park by the elementary school."
"Does he have a stroller?" I asked.
"No, just the carrier car seat," Cece replied. "But I'm ok, just holding him." Greg seemed to melt into her arms, like a store-bought doll. "I imagine it won't always be this easy, once he learns how to walk." She turned to my wheelchair, which sat alone in the living room. "Should we bring your chair, in case you get tired?"
"Sure. But I'm not tired, right now." I pushed Cece in the chair, on the journey to the playground. It was warm for December in Colorado; jacket weather but nothing more severe. There was snow on the ground, just enough to make the world sparkle. "It's sure beautiful here."
Cece nodded, looking up at the afternoon sky. "Yeah, it is."
The past was the past. But as I swallowed a mouthful of spit, I felt the muscles in my neck grow tense. A cold breeze caressed my chemo port as if to remind me; this isn't heaven, you still have work to do. "So, when were you going to tell me about the Miss Colorado pageant?"
Cece shrugged. She motioned towards a bench for us to rest at.
"You don't seem very excited."
"I am," Cece said as she bit her upper lip. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to dance."
"But modeling, not so much?" I asked, in a vain attempt to get her to shed some of the emotional weight.
"No, I like to model.” Cece fidgeted with her hands, mentally composing an answer that would make sense. "It’s, well, you said it yourself; reciting the story of your shitty life is not the most pleasant thing in the world."
"Oh," I said with a sigh. Why would I expect her to be brave about her past, when I myself refused to acknowledge my trauma? I knew enough about the Miss America pageant; instead of a normal interview portion, contestants were required to have a platform, a topic they wanted to represent. "Couldn't you talk about something else?"
"I will. My platform is going to be about community support for military families. I want to encourage people to donate and/or volunteer for charities that support the families of deployed personnel. There are quite a few good ones, organizations that I’m truly proud to represent.” Cece sighed. “But that doesn't stop people from asking about my past." She bounced her baby brother on her lap.
"Why would people ask? Wasn't that the point of moving to Colorado?"
"Haters gonna hate,” she replied in a baby voice, “especially in the age of the internet."
I sat beside her and held her hand, desperate to change the subject. “You have always been so strong. I have complete faith in you.”
“Thanks, Dad.” She gave my hand a comforting squeeze. “General Blake told me I needed to be brave, like you.”
What? The idea made me slightly nauseous. “What has General Blake told you?”
Cece casually shrugged. “Just that you did some shit.”
"Oh, God," I muttered, mentally preparing myself. Damn Alyssa, are you freaking serious!
"I will never be ashamed of you. Not after what I lived through," Cece said, rocking the baby close to her chest. "But I know about the drugs and the sex. You let people hurt you because it felt good; it made you feel like you were worth something."
I nodded. Her level of empathy and understanding nearly drive me to tears.
Cece squeezed my hand again, confirming our connection. "If I win Miss Colorado, I want to speak out about mental health in the military. I mean, the way things are; it's such a stigma to ask for help, but if soldiers can't ask for help without risking a medical discharge the only thing left is to get fucked up."
"Wow, just wow." I cupped my hand over my mouth as my soul tried to determine whether to laugh or cry.
"Dad, you're my best friend.” Cece looked at me with sadness in her eyes. “You have the right to know, the cancer is in your brain. From what I overheard, you were having seizures and something about a blood infection. The medical team back in Mississippi didn't think you were going to wake up much less survive the flight to Colorado. But mom and I agreed, we weren't going to leave you behind."
The statement was a little odd. "You and Mom?" Even after I whored myself across the country?
"Neither of us could ever leave you."
“Does that include this little guy?”
"Of course, it does, right Greg?" Cece asked, tickling the baby's cheeks. "We love Daddy so much! We could never leave him to die in America's taint. And why is Mississippi America’s taint?"
Greg giggled happily.
"Because Florida looks like America's cock?" I asked.
"Among many reasons," Cece said with a smirk. “I told you Greg would inherit your twisted humor. Anyway, let's grab some food. A local place opened a few days ago, at the BX- they have the best nacho chili fries."
"God, I missed the base-exchange."
"Why? It's just a mall."
"Have you been to the outside world? Malls are vanishing faster than biscuits at a hometown buffet."
"Now I want fried chicken."
"There's a chicken place? How do people here pass their fitness tests?"
Cece laughed. “The malls are for dependents. Actual military personnel have to eat the ‘nutritionally diverse’ crap at the mess halls.”
“As usual, you are wise beyond your years.”
Cece offered to push me in the wheelchair so I could have some time to hold the baby, but he seemed happier in his sister's arms. We ate a quick lunch of nuggets and fries, before returning home to give Greg a bottle.
The last thing I remembered was drifting off to sleep, with the baby on my chest. I awoke to a dark, empty living room. the air was cold, dry. All around I could hear static. But the noise was not from the tv or even the landline phones. “Hello?”
I got up, making my way towards the bedroom, fully prepared to track down the sound. that was when I heard Leo.
He was sitting on the sofa where I had just been, with his rainbow wings wrapped around his shoulders. "You need to check your daughter’s laptop," he said while picking at a single shimmery feather. His fidgeting appeared to be the source of the static-like noise.
"Ok, sure." I walked to the closed laptop. "I don't see why you can't just talk to me."
"Oh, we'll have plenty to talk about."
I opened the laptop and clicked on the main internet browser. There was an urgent news article out of Mississippi. A man by the name Jason Valdez, age nineteen was missing. The teen was serving a six-year sentence for sexual assault, as part of a deal made with the prosecutor. But apparently even that was too much for him because he was snuck out of jail. This was accomplished by switching places with a volunteer from his grandfather's congregation. The imposter was found hours later, when SHE refused to take a shower. "Well, that’s some really twisted shit."
"Yeah, tell me about it," Leo said with a groan. “I guess that’s Mississippi for you; all Hispanic teenagers look the same.”
I scrolled down to look at the mug shot, curious to see if the article would include an image of the person that he managed to trade places with. It did not. But I could see how my daughter fell in love with this Jason guy. The boy was an athlete, valedictorian, and model. He had feminine features, the way a male model would; with high cheekbones and deep-set eyes. He was also the only child of the late Carlos Ramone Valdez, a locally famous agent of the cartel. “So, Jason’s mafia connected preacher grandfather broke him out of prison?"
"That's what it says, anyway." Leo crossed his arms, as he looked out into the distance. "Marcellei 'Marksman' Valdez is apparently someone with friends in low places."
"This Jason guy is on his way here?" I asked. I could feel my blood pressure rising.
"Maybe." Leo shrugged.
"Really, Leo? This isn't a fucking game! This is my family!" I was full on screaming like a deranged drill sergeant.
Leo looked at me, but only briefly. "Well, I guess it's a good thing he can't get on base and even if he could there's no way to find Cece's exact location."
"But he knows she's in Colorado?"
"Only because Cece happens to be listed on a very public website about an upcoming event that will be taking place in a very public auditorium."
I gripped my head. This was bad. "That piece of info took things from shitty to nightmarish really quick."
"Yup." Leo leaned back, crowing his arms over his chest. "Choices will have to be made."
Choices? I felt angry, but more than that I felt afraid. What the fuck was I supposed to do? I hobbled to a nearby wall and did the only thing I could; I slammed my fist into the hard surface over and over. "Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!"
I awoke with a jolt, sitting up like I had just been electrocuted. "Oh, dear God!"
Marni had been in the kitchen and rushed to my side. "Adam, what’s wrong?” She pressed her hand to my forehead. “Are you in pain?"
Looking outside the window, it was now dark. Apparently, I had been asleep for hours. "I'm fine." I went straight to Cece's laptop to find the date and location of the pageant. According to the website, the event was in January, at a mall in Denver. That was how long I had to make a plan, to protect the people I love, all while surviving chemo. I needed to draw from my strength; past present and future, to be the father they deserved.
This was going to require some divine intervention.
Chapter 8: Death
I was awoken by the sensation of coughing up blood. It was my third week of chemo in Colorado and the pain was once again becoming unbearable. I used to wonder why people, when diagnosed with a terminal illness, would often skip treatment and simply try to make the most of what time they had left. That felt like such a cowardly way to die. But now, in that moment, I could see the appeal. Chemo was not medicine. it was killing my cancer at the same rate that my cancer was killing me.
I pressed the nurse call button. "Hello, is anyone there?"
I could hear a static reply on the other end. The high-pitched sound sent a wave of pain down my body. Oh, fuck me.
I knew the room was constantly monitored, even when I was the only patient scheduled that hour. "Can I please have some water," I asked with desperation. I needed something more than water. Please I need someone, anyone.
“Hey, Adam,” whispered the small, red-haired nurse. She was on the younger side, not much older than Cece.
“Um, I don’t think we’ve met.” I attempted to extend my hand to her but I could barely lift its weight.
“Oh, sorry! It’s my first week. I’m Lia.” She looked and acted like a stereotypical preschool teacher, like the type of person who grew up with horses and always wanted to be a veterinarian. She placed her soft hand to my face, tracing a finger down my jaw. "Poor, baby you’re running a very high fever,” she said in a manner of utmost sincerity. “I'm going to pause the chemo to start you on some fluids and then ask the floor doctor what she wants to do."
“Thank you.” The very idea caused a wave of peace.
“Thank me when I make you all better,” she said before kissing my forehead.
There was something about her, and I could only smile.
In a matter of minutes, the nurse returned to start a course of saline into my PICC line. As Lia finished, she pressed her lips to my ear. “All done. You’ve been such a good boy.”
As I felt the cool liquid, a beautiful, sensual calmness washed over my very soul. Or maybe it was the fact that I was sporting a noticeable erection. "Is my wife here?"
“Yes, your wife and daughter are in the waiting room with your son. Your little boy is so precious.”
I felt her hold my hand, lacing her fingers through mine. Her hands were so small, soft, and gentle. Oh God. Her hands felt like Cece’s.
I closed my eyes, hoping to will the situation away. It worked.
When I awoke, the light in the room was different. I could see a female doctor speaking to Marni. They’re standing at the foot of my bed, speaking as if I wasn’t even present. "Mrs. Severgine, your husband is displaying symptoms of infection, it may be best for him to take a break from chemo for a while."
"How long is a while?" Marni asked. She briefly glanced in my direction, without turning her head.
The doctor cleared her throat, as if trying to assert dominance. “Long enough for his body to recover, and regain some strength."
I knew she was full of shit. My throat and lungs were on fire, my mind was slowing going to shit, and whenever I tried to sit up, I felt like my stomach was going to rupture in all possible directions. There would be no regaining strength. I already knew the game plan; there would be no more government-sponsored chemo, and I would be moved to a hospice ward to die. “Marni, please.”
My wife nodded. But there was a lump in her throat. “The chemo has been helping with the discomfort. He’s been able to sleep through the night.” She covered his mouth, as the fear in her eyes shone through. No matter how much she believed in me, I was going sleep for a long, long time. "Can you at least give him something for the pain."
"I'm going to prescribe some Fentanyl."
"No!" I shouted with what little strength I had. I knew what Fentanyl meant; I would lose consciousness; I would lose time.
The doctor sighed. “Another option would be cannabis to treat your nausea and muscle pain, but we'd first have to get your fever under control while monitoring your heart. unfortunately, your liver and kidney function will continue to deteriorate."
I knew what she meant. I couldn't hold down solid food; all my internal shit was shutting down. But there was one thought that forced its way to the front of my brain. "W-What about…”
“About what? Mr. Severgine?” she asked in an almost mocking tone.
“My eyes,” I regretted the question the moment the words exited my mouth.
The doctor looked at her chart. "Um, there is nothing in your chart that would indicate that as a concern."
If she was going to treat me like a mentally handicapped freak, I had to go all in. “AM- I- going- to- go- blind?"
“At this moment in time, I have no reason to believe the cancer will effect your vision.”
You believe that the cancer which started in my brain will not affect my eyes? "Can I still attend physical therapy for my leg?" You fucking sorry excuse for a human being.
"I would recommend a home care nurse."
"That won’t be necessary. Our daughter is well versed in pain therapy," Marni said as calmly as she could muster.
"I'll send the nurse in with something to help calm the fever.”
Checkmate; I was fucked. No sooner had she spoke, when a sharp pain struck my chest causing my lungs to slam shut.
"He's Code blue!" shouted everyone and no one.
Alarms blared as the world went dark.
I awoke in the intensive care unit. Every muscle in my chest was burning, until my body remembered that was on a steady flow of oxygen. Breathe, just breathe. My efforts were made easier when I saw my daughter by my side.
"Hi, Dad,” Cece said in an emotional whisper. “Mom's outside with the baby."
I tried to speak but no words came out. Upon swallowing I could feel the reason why; there was a breathing tube down my throat. It was all I could do not to cry.
"You coded three times,” she said, blinking tears from her eyes. “I was so afraid. I just can't imagine a world with you.”
Well, you're going to have to kiddo.
“But I know I’m going to have to.”
I could feel my daughter massaging my leg with gentle pressure.
“Mom says you ask about blindness?"
I reached for my daughter's hand. "I-" I started to draw the letter on her palm. "I w-a-s a-f-r-a-i-d."
"You were afraid?”
I spelled out 'D-A-N-C-E', while twirling my fingers. I was afraid I wouldn't get to see you dance one last time.
Cece cupped her hand over her mouth. She took a few breaths, to calm her mind and heart, before returning her hand to mine. “In heaven, we'll all have perfect wings and I'll dance with you every day.”
Over the next few days, I became strong enough to go home. By that I mean I could make it twenty-four hours without going into cardiac arrest. I was assigned a hospice care nurse who would check in once a day, while I spent my waking hours in a wheelchair. I would never walk again. Not that I could even if wanted to.
The pain in my back was intense. It came in two forms; the agonizing spasms in my remaining leg and violent, stabbing migraines. On one of my worse days, Cece stayed by my side.
Her massages were the only thing keeping me sane.
"I'm skipping the pageant," Cece said as she adjusted my leg.
"You can't,” I said with a comical groan.
"And why is that?” she asked with a sweet smile.
"Because I really want to go to Denver. and you can't deny a dying man's last wish."
“Ok.” Cece kissed my cheek. “For you.”
It wasn’t a hard decision; everything was all paid for, from travel costs to gowns and costumes. But, unfortunately, the pageant directors saw an opportunity and Cece became known as the military princess with the dying father. She was one of the few contestants interviewed on the local news.
The media was sent to our hotel room. For a painfully-awkward two hours I sat in bed, as Cece administered pain therapy to my leg. Off-camera, I consumed excessive amounts of cannabis in the form of surgery fruit-flavored candies. I’m sure I looked half dead in most of the footage.
"How's the cyst on your leg?” Cece asked, sitting by my side in her pageant dress. It was a short, but conservative tank-dress intended for the preliminary competition.
"Please let your mother take care of it." We were staying at a hotel room paid for by Cece's sponsors. Ideally, she was supposed to stay in a different hotel, rooming with a fellow contestant, but that wasn’t part of the deal. She refused to leave my side, much to the cringe of the pageant directors.
"Yeah, well Mom's taking forever. The store is just down the street. In the time it's taken her to find a first aid kit, I could have made a knife out of a shaving razor."
"You are not cutting my leg with a prison shank." I knew she crafty, so I wouldn't have put it past her to simply wait until I fell unconscious to do the deed.
The open sore was in a most awkward place. On my upper thigh, there was a brand. A scar from a lifetime ago, or at least that’s what I like to I tell myself. It was the mark of my sexual submission, my loyalty to the people who filled my mind body and soul with free drugs. The symbol had been lost to time. I think it was a shield or some twisted reimagining of military stripes. It was not for my benefit; it was to prove my worth. All I knew was I now had a festering sore cutting through the damaged flesh and scar tissue.
The door opened and Marni returned. "I bought a craft knife and bandages." She dumped out a plastic bag containing an Exacto knife, rubbing alcohol and at least five rolls of bandages.
I politely asked Cece to leave the room. She knew I was bleeding, and from where I was bleeding, but thankfully she had the kind heart and social intelligence to spare me a moment of humiliation. But I still didn’t want to be fully conscious when she saw my naked cock and slave-brand. Reclined on the bed, with my dick out, I made myself as mentally ready as I could. best case scenario; it would bleed out enough to relive the pain. I leaned my head back, not wanting to look at what she was about to do. I felt a cut. There was a great deal of moisture. I could feel my muscle throbbing, burning. I didn’t think the situation could get any worse, and then I heard a knock at the door.
"Hi, Cece!” shouted a male voice.
My daughter looked through the door. "Get the fuck away from me!"
“Cece, please just open the door!” the voice asked frantically.
Cece looked at me with a questioning glance. “What do I do?”
“Is that Jason?”
“Open the door.”
She nodded with a sense of confidence. My daughter knew why I said what I did— we could trap him.
"Cece, please hear me out," said the male voice, he seemed on the verge of tears.
"Fine Jason, I'll hear you out.” Cece opened the door to the sight of a tall, muscular teen. “Why are you not in prison?"
"I left. I found God and I left."
What the fuck kind of answer was that? I couldn’t see his face, but judging by his build, I figured I could take him.
Cece seemed more annoyed than frightened. "And you came here?"
"Yes, I came to you. I was meant to come back for you. I never meant to hurt you. we’re the same, you and me."
Cece scoffed and turned away, "How?"
I knew what he meant; Jason was Hispanic, and that couldn't have been easy to live with, in Mississippi. Still, I gripped the knife by the blade. The craft-knife was in my wife's hand, still cutting into my bleeding thigh. "What do I do?" I asked out loud.
“What?” Marni gave me a look. I knew, if it was up to her we would have called the police before doing anything stupid.
The world froze, as the color from the scene slipped away like a photo. "Jamie stood over Cece, placing his hand upon her shoulder.
All while Leo stood at my side. "I can't tell you what to do. I can only tell you what I would do."
"Dear Lord, guide my hand, guide my soul." I would like to say I didn't remember what happened next but Jamie would not let me forget.
“I can’t believe you did that! You stabbed that kid with the same knife your wife used to cut open your balls!"
I apparently used my tiny weapon to cut open Jason’s neck, a fact that Jamie found hysterical. I awoke in a hospital bed, my body secured in what could only be described as a straightjacket. “All this for stabbing a kid with an exacto blade?”
"And your dick was just hanging out when the cops got there, omg! It was hilarious!"
In the bed next to mine was Jason. The kid had a trac in his neck, and his eye was swollen shut. Seeing the damage to his prefect face, I kind of hoped the mutilation was my doing. But knowing Marni I wouldn't put it past her to get a swing in. He started to cough, and wheeze, struggling for breath as he spoke, "A-Are you awake, sir?"
What the fuck? "What's it to you?"
"I know your heart is too weak for chemo."
I couldn't tell if that was a question or a statement. "What?"
"My dad," Jason said in a breath, it was clearly painful, forcing the words to form. Although I could not fully see his neck injury, I could hear the blood bubbling in his wound. "It was the same for him before he passed."
"I was nine when he passed of bone cancer. It was one of the reasons why Cece and I became best friends." His voice was cracking at the word, 'friends', making him sound younger than his nineteen years.
I wasn’t buying it. "What kind of person gang rapes his best friend?"
"Can I tell you the truth? Not even my lawyer wanted to know the truth."
"I'll take a summery." I wasn't about to let him plead for forgiveness if he was not even willing to take blame. I held my dying daughter in my arms; I had no pity to give or tears to cry. But even I had to admit, his answer was surprising.
"I sold my girlfriend's virginity for a couple grams of meth." He was not proud not was he ashamed.
"Ok," I said with a sigh. "You have my attention."
"I'm a piece of shit with a reserved seat next to Satan." In a raspy whisper, Jason told the story of how he had gotten drunk, high and attempted to barter with the only thing of value he had in his possession; his girlfriend. "My hot, Asian, cheerleader girlfriend…”
“That’s my daughter!”
“My beautiful angel of a girlfriend, who I knew would do anything to save my worthless ass."
That sounded like Cece. but the fact remained; all three attackers left behind DNA. "She told me what you and your friends did to her."
"Not my friends..."
"Fine, the people who apparently had your balls in a vice; would have let them kill my daughter?"
"No, sir, I swear.” Jason started to sob. “I have told you nothing but the truth so I’ll tell you the truth of why my DNA was found in the rape kit.” He paused to gather breath. “They had me go last; to tie her hands and feet while I hurt her. I raped her while one of the other guys was choking her. I made sure to leave her hands free. I knew she had the ability to break out of a car trunk. I figured if she could escape on the way to the dumpsite, she could make a run for it."
"Dumpsite? You were going to leave her for dead?”
"If she was dead when we arrived, I would have killed myself, to be with her.” Jason sounded sincere. “I love her, this was all an epic fuck up.”
"What happened when you made it to the dumpsite with an empty trunk?"
Jason held up his left hand, something I had not noticed before; he was missing three fingers. "One for each payment owed, plus a few more things I gave up voluntarily."
"Wow." I had to admit that gained him a few points in my book.
"Yeah, I wanted her to get as far away as possible." Jason went quiet. "A lot of what happened, what I did, my grandparents and my lawyers told me to just stay silent, so it wouldn't have to go on record."
That made sense; all the pieces were coming together. He came from an honorable family.
"I fucked up really bad. But I’m clean now. I got the help I needed, made my peace with God. I just wanted to see her. I never got to say I was sorry.”
Leo stood at my side. He was stroking my arm. He placed his lips to my ear, "Ask the kid how he knew Cece could break out of a trunk?" With each touch, I felt the restraints loosen.
I needed to have faith in Leo's plan. "How did you know she could free herself?"
"She told me you taught her," Jason said with a nod. "You took her camping, hunting, fishing- when you were in-state, and when you were on deployment you would give her projects."
I hadn't gone on vacation with Cece for years. The thought of it warmed my heart. She loved to talk, learn, just discover the world around her.
"I bet someone like you never fucked up."
I looked to Leo who had now freed my right arm. If I could get out of this bed, I could kill Jason. I still wanted to kill him for what he did. But the fact remained, he was someone’s child. "Your father had a port in his chest?"
"During his last few months of treatment, the doctors said the chemo would kill him but he wanted to keep fighting."
I sat up in bed, enough to turn my body to the side. I needed to get a good look at him, face to face, man to man. At that moment Jason looked genuinely pathetic. He was in fact, just a kid. I wished I could remember what Cece would have wanted. Would she want me to forgive him? Did she forgive him? "So, what now, Son? You're going to get sent back to Mississippi where you're going to do some hard time."
Jason nodded. "I know. I could have gone to Mexico. I was actually supposed to meet up with some guy that my grandparents hired to sneak me out of the country by way of Cuba or Canada. I don't even know. I never planned on going through with it. This was my plan all along. I wanted to see her one last time."
I didn’t know if that was romantic or creepy. I felt my other arm release. I could now get off the bed. I had a choice to make so I was going to make it.
“Can you please take me to see her dance? After that you can do whatever you want to me. I know you’re sick, you have nothing to lose. You can send me straight to hell.”
“How polite of you to assume I’m going to kill you,” I said with my southern charm. “Now I don’t have to feel bad about it.”
The boy gave a sad chuckle. “You never did. I don’t deserve to be alive.”
“Yeah, you don’t. But you are.”
Jason was sobbing.
Oh, my fucking God. "Let's get the fuck out of here."
I had no idea how I would even accomplish such a task. “I want you to apologize. That’s what your best friend, my daughter, deserves.” In truth, what Cece deserved was the chance to be the hero of her own life.
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