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Outlaw’s Promise

By:Helena Newbury

of water and some of my mom’s banana loaf.

Back in the tool shed, the man had lifted his t-shirt and twisted so that he could look at his side. There were two long, straight slashes across his muscles, blood welling and running. He looked up as I entered as if worried I’d freak out, but I shook my head: I’d seen blood before.

At first he tried to get me to give him the supplies so he could do it himself, but it was too awkward and he soon gave up and let me do it. I washed the wound out with water and then antiseptic: he hissed but managed not to yell. Then I pressed a gauze pad against it and stuck it in place with tape. “Did they do this to you?” I asked, jerking my head towards the road.

He nodded. “I got away but they came after me. They were wearing me down and then I came off my bike.” He ran his hand over his newly-dressed wound. “Thank you. I’m Carrick.”

Carrick. I’d never heard that name before. A foreign name from a mystical land. “I’m Annabelle.”

I passed him the water and the banana loaf. He stared at them for a second. “God bless you,” he muttered, and devoured them.

Over the next four hours he drank the whole bottle of water, plus another I fetched him, and worked his way through four thick slices of banana loaf. He told me about riding his bike, about the motorcycle club who’d just made him a “Prospect”—a potential member—even though he was only seventeen. He told me about the—he had to think hard to find words suitable for my ears—eejits who’d cut him with a knife, a rival club. He showed me the Hell’s Princes patch on the back of the sleeveless leather jacket he called a cut. Sometimes he’d doze, drifting off in the middle of a sentence. But each time he woke, his color was better.

When the sky started to lighten outside, he gingerly stood up. He was cautious at first, holding onto the wall for support, but he managed to stagger outside and retrieve his bike. As soon as he swung a leg over the saddle he seemed better, as if the bike and he had missed each other. “Will you be okay?” I asked.

He nodded, then looked at me. “Will you?” He looked around at our ramshackle house and the field of dried-out maize.

I thought about telling him my step-dad sometimes hit us. But my mom had always told me that I shouldn’t disrespect him, and telling other people our secrets probably qualified. So I just nodded.

Carrick looked as if he wasn’t satisfied. He reached under his t-shirt and took off a slender gold chain. “Have this,” he told me. “For good luck.”

It was a four-leaf clover in shining gold. I looked down at it in amazement as he settled it around my neck. It was the nicest thing anyone had ever given me.

“And I want you to have something else, too,” he said. He felt in his pockets, found a gas station receipt and a stub of pencil, and wrote a phone number. “You saved me. Where I’m from, that means I owe you a boon. A favor. If you ever need me, you call that number. Okay?”

I nodded and clenched the paper tight in my fist. Then he started the bike and the heavy thump thump turned to a roar as he pulled away. I watched the big bike until it was out of sight and then turned and ran back to the house before someone missed me.



When I was fifteen, my mom died. I thought maybe our grief would bring my step-dad and me together but instead the resentment started to build. He’d invited my mom into his house but he’d never really wanted me.

And as I started to get older he started to look at me in a way he never had before. He never did anything. Not once. But the staring and the resentment built until the two were twisted together like choking ivy around a blackened, scarred tree. He hated me; he wanted me.

I’d long since memorized the phone number Carrick gave me but I didn’t call. Calling the number would take its power away. As long as I held onto it, like a talisman, I could pretend that he could still come and rescue me.

He grew in my mind, becoming larger-than-life. I remembered those blue eyes and that hard, strong jaw: I’d only been a kid at the time but now I was sure he’d been gorgeous. As I got older, the fantasies changed: I thought of hard abs, of tanned biceps under a tight white t-shirt. Beneath the covers, I thought of that Irish voice growling Annabelle and I gasped his name in return.

Even when I hit eighteen I still couldn’t move out: my waitressing job barely made enough to pay the bills and my step-dad kept reminding me that he’d put a roof over my head for years so I owed him. My grades were good but there was no way I could afford college.

But I found that my weird mind was good for something: I could fix things. People would bring me lawnmowers and chainsaws to mend. I was like a doctor with a patient: a machine that was out of whack felt wrong to me, the sound made me itchy and jumpy and I couldn’t leave it alone until I’d fixed it. In my head, the machines just sort of came apart into shining pieces and I could sift through them and figure out what was wrong. I was happier around machines than around people: machines didn’t laugh at how cheap my clothes were or make me feel like a freak. It brought in a little extra money but my step-dad was starting to run up debts with his drinking: first to bars, then to banks and then to loan sharks.

I didn’t know how to talk to guys: I’d mumble and flush...and who’d want the weird girl from the farm way out of town, who still lives with her dad and has grease under her fingernails? I worked a seven day week as a waitress because at least that got me out of the house, then stayed up late fixing.

The years stretched ahead of me, inevitable and identical. I thought life couldn’t get any worse.

And then, one night, it did.





2





Annabelle





Now





I came home to find my dad talking to a guy I didn’t recognize: a biker. For an instant, my mind went to Carrick...but this guy was muc

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