Promises

By: Angela Verdenius

Prologue



The lounge room was old fashioned, nothing looked liked it had been updated in years. The carpet was old, faded, the furniture heavy, crocheted doilies of some kind draped over the headrests of the bulky armchairs and sofa. In the corner of the room a grandfather clock ticked the seconds past. From the kitchen came the murmur of voices, one light and hesitant, the other gravely and steady.

His mother and his uncle were talking. Jason wished he was in there, knew he should have been backing up his mother, but it’d been her wish for him to wait here, his uncle’s silent gaze that had pinned him to the spot.

So here he sat with his fractured ribs so painful, the analgesia he’d taken earlier wearing off. His black eye was blossoming into a full-on shiner. The beaten he’d taken from his brother had been vicious, and on top of the beating he’d already had from him and his father both, it had given him a whole world of pain.

But that was over. His no-good father and brother were hundreds of kilometres away outside a small farming community. He sat now in a large old house filled with old furniture, the sound of traffic outside. City traffic. As far from the country as one could get.

Wincing a little, he drew in a shallow breath. Damn it, he should be in there with his Mum, not out here. But he’d wait for her. One thing he’d promised himself, he’d do right by her. He’d waited too long, almost lost himself, but he was here for her now. Would always be here for her now. So he’d wait even if he didn’t like it.

A young man about the same age as him entered, placing a mug of steaming coffee on the table in front of him along with two pills.

“Pain killers,” the man offered, his smile reaching his eyes even though wariness also lit them. “I’m Luke, your cousin.”

“Jason.” He picked up the pain killers. “Thanks.”

“Yeah, no worries.” Straightening, Luke looked towards the hallway.

Jason popped the pills in his mouth, chased them down with a gulp of coffee hot enough to burn his tongue. Grimacing, he lowered the mug.

Before Luke could say anything further there came the scrape of chairs, the sound of Jason’s mother nearing. Luke nodded to Jason and disappeared back down the hallway.

Jason stood slowly, carefully, watching Lora enter the room. Her face was pale but a small, tremulous smile curved her lips.

“Your uncle wants to see you now,” she said.

Jason glanced past her head. “Is everything all right? Can we stay the night?”

Looking up at him, Lora gently tugged his old, grease-stained t-shirt straight. “We can stay. Talk to him.”

“Okay.” Giving her shoulder an awkward pat, he stepped past, walked out into the dark hallway, followed the light into the brightly-lit kitchen where Uncle Harris sat with a thumping great Bible at his elbow.

Great, a Bible basher, no doubt going to start preaching hellfire and brimstone. Jason’s teeth clenched. For once he’d keep his big mouth shut for the sake of his Mum. He’d done enough damage in his life, he didn’t need to break fences that didn’t need mending.

Uncle Harris watched him steadily. “Take a seat.”

Pulling out the one directly opposite, Jason sat at the big, long table and waited.

“Tell me what happened,” Uncle Harris ordered quietly.

“I’m sure Mum told you-”

“I want your story.”

Jason’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“I want your words,” Uncle Harris insisted. “I want to see your face.”

Shit, the man was a fanatic or what? Was he looking for the devil’s forked tongue or something? Jason gritted his teeth, forced himself to speak civilly. “We travelled here to see you. Mum wanted to see you.”

“Tell me what happened to bring you here.”

Not for the first time, shame seeped through Jason. Shame because of what he’d been, what he’d done, what he’d allowed to happen before he stepped in and stopped it.

His uncle waited, gaze fastened on him. Jason studied him back, taking the in the big build, the muscle from hard work, the big hands resting on the table beside the Bible. Big hands, calloused, scarred, capable. Honest man’s hands.

Not like his hands.

He resisted the impulse to shove his hands under the table. He was a man, for God’s sake. Young, true, but still a man.

Also By Angela Verdenius

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