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J. A. Titus

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The Kindness of Strangers
by J. A. Titus   

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Literary Fiction

Publisher: ISBN-10:  0557539242 Type: 


Copyright:  June 29, 2010 ISBN-13:  9781453668726

What happens when a child’s innocence & trust gets taken away by someone they love? After years of abuse, Sydney Venery finally escapes. With no one else offering to help around her, she accepts the assistance from a kind stranger by the name of Irene. After a frightening attack it is another stranger that comes to her rescue, Ian, who charges in to save her like a knight in shining armor. With the help of Ian & Irene, Sydney slowly begins the healing process & moves forward with her life; raising her child, attending school & accepting that what has happened to her isn’t her fault. Learning to love & trust again isn’t easy, but it is with The Kindness of Strangers that she learns to get by.

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Chapter One

“Get back over here!” he growled vehemently.

Breathing heavy, her heart pounding with anticipation for the worst, she huddled in the very back of her closet. She wrapped her arms tightly around her knees and pressed them to her chest, trying to stay out of sight. With the closet door partially opened, she could see the faint stream of light cast off from the hallway, into her darkened room. She tried to catch her breath as she heard him clamber into her room. He shuffled through the clothes and things she had on her bed, threw down her books to the floor, and thrashed at the under belly of her mattress like swatting at an annoying fly. She knew he couldn’t see in the dark, but she didn’t want him to hear her. She was too afraid of what would happen if he found her.

She pressed harder against the closet wall and bit down on her finger in an attempt to breathe a little easier. The reality of everything had finally hit her like a smack to the head. If she didn’t escape now, if she didn’t run away, she would forever be a victim. She would forever be his slave.

“Come out, you little bitch, before I find you.” He muttered, “It’ll only hurt worse if I have to find you.”

The smell of his sour breath wafted around her. She pinched the bridge of her nose with her free hand and tried not to gag. He was drunk again; it was quite obvious. Why wasn’t anyone home to help her? Why was she alone?

“Get your ass out here, Syd, or you’re really going to get it. I’m going to beat you so hard, you little tramp….”

His voice trailed off as he pulled out her bureau drawers and slammed them back. She knew he wanted to frighten her, to make her scared and end her little hiding charade. Instead, she pressed harder against the wall trying not to disturb anything around her for fear that he would discover her hiding place.

Heavy footed, he stumbled to her closet door and ripped it open, half expecting to see her frightened little face peering up at him in the darkness. He grumbled incoherently when he didn’t get this satisfaction. Angrily, he began pushing the hanging clothes aside trying to see into the back. He fell to his knees with a hard thud against the hardwood floor and crawled towards the rear of the closet. Sydney, shaking with fear, shifted her feet underneath a navy blue comforter beside her in the event he would pull things out as he had attempted to do under her bed. She didn’t want him to see her white socks in the dull light knowing they would surely be a beacon of her whereabouts.

On his knees, he began to pull out and toss her belongings; starting first with her skateboard, which he slammed against the wall closest to her bed, narrowly missing the front window. He then threw out her basketball and all of her shoes, flinging them clear across the room. She could hear them land as the sound reverberated against the hard wood floor. Still biting her finger, she held her breath hoping he would give up and look in another room.

“Aahhhh … I’ma gonna git you, girl … I’ma gonna git you.” He taunted almost giddy with the plans he had in his head. “Oh, just you wait until I get you!”

The bitterness rose in his voice, and she debated whether or not to give up. She knew it would be the only way to get him to fall asleep long enough for her to have the chance to escape.

She pressed even harder against the wall, wishing she could melt into it. Wishing she had a secret handlebar to make the wall turn into another room, similar to what it did in the movies. Only there wasn’t any handlebar and there certainly weren’t any other secret ways of escaping, he would eventually find her if he continued his pursuit her closet wasn’t that deep.

As she cowered there, she could hear the grunting and the heaving of his breath. He was getting tired, and the alcohol was throwing off his equilibrium, making him feel unbalanced and dizzy. He would probably give up soon if she continued to hold her breath a little longer.

Her heart still pounded, and the sound of her blood rushing through her body filled her ears. She bit down harder on her finger barely recognizing the pain her teeth inflicted upon her flesh. Her lungs slowly caved to the pressure, desperately seeking fresh air. She knew was going to have to exhale soon.

She closed her eyes and tried to picture something pleasant, something to distract her from her situation. She needed her mind to forget what was going on. She envisioned a green field along the high school and students crowded all around playing their after school activities. Even Tommy Lavigne, her high school crush, mingled in the mix. She focused her thoughts on his deep brown eyes staring back at her, the cute little dimple in his left cheek when he smiled, and how white his teeth were when he smiled. The image of his bronze skin and his curly brown hair sent excited shivers up her spine.

Tommy couldn’t save her though; he didn’t even know her name or that she even existed. Right now she was in reality, and she was trying to hide from her father, fearing what his twisted mind was going to inflict on her this time.

Her father, William Venery, was the fire chief and a respected man in town. What all the people around him didn’t know, or were too blind to see, was he also was a man who had many skeletons in his closet. Secrets and lies he would never expose, including the desire to torment his sixteen year old daughter Sydney. He got such a thrill inflicting pain behind closed doors; it was nothing more than a power trip to him. A few sips of whiskey and he’d shed his sheep’s clothing, revealing the true wolf inside.

Sydney’s eyes snapped open. Her lungs burned as if they were on fire, making it difficult for her to hold in her breath any longer. She slowly and as quietly as she could, exhaled. Pausing, she listened, but only the sound of silence greeted her ears. She couldn’t hear him or his heavy breathing anymore, and the smell of alcohol began to dissipate. Had he left?

She breathed in quickly and once again held her breath. The sound of her blood rushing in her body returned to her ears, nothing else, just silence.

She slowly pulled one of her sweaters aside and peered into her room. Sure enough he was not in there, but where was he? She exhaled again and tried to steady her breathing. She didn’t want to step out of the closet for fear he would be hiding behind her door or somewhere in the hallway. She waited and resumed listening. Every creak and moan the house made, and every noise from outside her windows, confirmed she shouldn’t leave the comfort of her closet just yet.

Her heart slowly evened its pace, and she breathed normally. She continued to wait, ten, maybe fifteen minutes went by. She didn’t hear anything. Gathering all her courage, she decided to step out and see what was going on. Cautiously she skirted over her clothes and stepped into her bedroom. It was still dark, despite the hallway light. She tip toed towards her bed and peered through the crack between the wall and her bedroom door. There was nobody there. She sighed with relief, but she knew she wasn’t getting off that easy. She, slowly-but-surely, tip toed to the hallway and looked out. The light was bright, and it bothered her eyes making it difficult to see. Waiting, she allowed them to adjust. After a few seconds, she looked to the left of her and then she looked to the right of her; there was no sign of anyone.

She saw that her parent’s bedroom door was open and crept closer to see if he had passed out on the bed. This time her heart was pounding once again with fear. Her hands went cold and numb quickly. She was afraid, but she still had to know. She pressed herself against the hallway wall and slid slowly towards the door.

She could hear his ragged breathing. It was unusually heavy and deep. Did he fall asleep? She slid closer. When she was beside the door, she looked through the space between the wall and the door and made out a figure on her parent’s bed. She could see the figures chest rise and fall. Breathe in and breathe out. She stood there frozen, afraid to move. She hoped her mother and brother wouldn’t return anytime soon, not wanting the noise to wake him up. Rise and fall. Breathe in and breathe out. She continued to watch his chest. His breathing shortly fell from heavy to silent. Was he dead? No, of course not, he had undoubtedly passed out. Still scared she would wake him she slowly slid along the wall towards her bedroom and softly closed her bedroom door. She made sure not to close it all the way knowing the slight click might set him off once again.

She pulled a backpack from her closet and began throwing clothes in, stuffing it full. She didn’t bother taking any of her shoes as she had left a pair downstairs by the back door. She slowly zipped her bag, removed her favorite jacket out of her closet and slipped her arms through the sleeves.

It was Tommy’s jacket. She had stolen it from his locker while he was in football practice, and much to her surprise he hadn’t even noticed it had gone missing. Regardless, she didn’t dare wear it to school in case he would ever recognize it.

She pulled the strap of her backpack over her shoulder and headed towards the door. Slowly she opened her bedroom door and peered out. Her parent’s room stood eerily quiet, without a sound. She held onto her backpack tight against her side and watched her parent’s room, cautiously eyeing it as she slowly descended the stairs to the living room.

There were no lights on in the living room leaving the entire downstairs of the house nearly pitch black since the sun had set earlier. She let her eyes adjust once again to the darkness, and she stealthily crossed the room to the kitchen. She quickly went through the cabinets, grabbing whatever she could fit into her pockets to eat later. As she went to open the back door, she noticed her father’s wallet lying on the table open. She stepped back to the table and opened the dollar sleeve. There were six crisp, brand new hundred dollar bills all neatly in a row. She pulled the money from the sleeve and stuffed it in her shirt, thanking her lucky stars she had something to live on even if for a short time. She walked back to the back door, slipped on her shoes and stepped out into the cold October night.

When she reached the end of her street, her heart thundering in her ears, she turned back to see her house for the last time. She never wanted to return there. There were too many painful memories. She wiped away a strand of hair that fell into her face, which was hot with sweat. She stared hard into the night, moving her eyes from the old porch with the dried up corn stalks attached to its pillars. Then shifted to the creaky metal gate in front of the walkway, and then finally to the broken, blue shutter on the second floor. The shutter she accidently broke while trying to run away the first time.

It wasn’t too long ago, just after school began that September. He had just finished pressing his hard body on hers, beating and raping her for over an hour, and got up to take a shower before her mother came home from running her weekend errands. She laid on her bed hurting, pained from the abuse she just endured. She was too afraid to get up for fear he’d hear her moving and not be done with her. She continued to lie there until she heard the sound of the water hit against the plastic shower curtain. That was it she thought. That was her breaking point. She had endured his abuse for too long. She crumbled to the floor, trying to ignore the pain all over her body, trying to ignore what he had just done to her. She felt the burning deep inside of her.

Her mind racing, she quickly got dressed and carefully listened for the water in the bathroom to make sure he wouldn’t suddenly appear. She threw on a sweatshirt and opened her window. She knew if she tried to walk past the bathroom he would come out wanting to know where she was going. She didn’t want to confront him nor did she want to see his ugly, bearded, bloodshot face ever again.

Quickly, she lifted the screen and tried to fit her head, shoulders and right leg through the window, but she couldn’t manage it. It was too tight; her hips got stuck. She pulled her leg in and twisted around so that her backside rested on the window sill and did her best to slide out onto the porch’s roof. When she was finally half way through she lost her bearings and grabbed a hold of the blue shutter trying hard not to fall. If she fell, it would be quite a ways down, and she knew she’d not only break something, she’d also have to deal with him again. His questioning eyes … just thinking about it made her shudder.

Just as she was about to get her left knee out of the window the blue shutter gave way and snapped. She fell backwards down the sloped roof and nearly took the flight of her life, backwards. She reached out quickly to grab the gutter and pulled herself up. As quick as she could she scrambled back into her room and tried to catch her breath. She was going to be in deep if he found out about the stupid shutter. She sighed deeply, regretting she even tried, as she closed the screen and shut her window.

That was before, now she had finally done it, she had finally escaped. Now she could do what she wanted, where she wanted, and with whom, no one was going to hurt her ever again.
She adjusted the backpack on her shoulders and kept walking. She didn’t dare turn around to see that house again. It was in her past, something she could leave behind. She was focused on her future and determined to make it better.

Professional Reviews

An Emotionally-Charge Experience!
When I started reading The Kindness of Strangers, I found myself reading a chapter at a time during short breaks; by the sixth chapter, I was completely absorbed and ultimately finished the second half in one sitting.

Despite a lack of attentiveness to grammatical conventions, this book envelops the reader's mind in the dark, unfathomable world of an abused teenager. While I must admit that grammatical errors and the occasional hackneyed phrase initially took away from the reading experience, the raw and tangible emotion of the work obscures and overwhelms these potential flaws, allowing for the morbid, perhaps initially surreal setting to take on more realistic qualities. Although unlike the typical human experience, the characters and their interactions create a strong connection to the everyday man and woman. Their attempts to overcome adversity and survive provide an understanding of the complex world of those unfortunate individuals that slip through the cracks of humanity's moral and societal values and give each reader ample material to question their own values. I strongly recommend this work to all readers and hope they enjoy this work as much as I did.

Couldn't put it down!
This book was great! I couldn't put it down! I got so involved in the characters that I couldn't wait to see what happened to them next. I can honestly say I went through all the emotions reading this book... laughing, crying, anger, excitement! I hope you write a follow-up to this book! I would love to see how the main characters evolve and how their lives change as time passes!

Intense at times.
Very well written. The author paints a vivid picture of the frightening world experienced by the children of alcoholics (but seldom talked about), and yet leaves the reader feeling hopeful that with the kindness and help of strangers, one can escape a life of desperation. I can't wait to read more books by this author.

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