Out of the Wreckage - CeeCee James

Out of the Wreckage

CeeCee James

Chapter One

Jason, Sixteen Years Old

The water drummed off Jason’s scalp and down his naked back. He stood, hands against the shower wall, head bowed under the hot spray as it dripped off his lower lashes. Yeah, sure it’s just water, he thought. It was pointless looking for shampoo. There wasn’t any. Like everything else, money was running out. Instead, he reached for the bar of soap and ran it through his dark hair.

After a minute, he reluctantly turned the faucet off. The water stopped, taking the comfort of heat with it. Get moving. They could be coming soon.

Stepping out, he quickly toweled dry, and used the towel to wipe down the shower stall. He wrapped the wet soap in a plastic bag and hid it under the sink. Hurrying downstairs, he stashed the wet towel in the dryer.

Jason moved quietly, not wanting to break the ominous stillness permeating the house. In the kitchen, he poured himself a bowl of cereal and sat at the table. The ticking of the clock broke the suffocating silence. It was his grandma’s favorite clock, the one she’d brought over with her from Ireland.

The clock chimed the top of the hour, and he jerked. Crap, I’m late. The teacher’s going to yell at me again. Mrs. Garret had stared down her nose when he’d been late last week. “Using your last excused tardy? Still have a long way to go this sophomore year, young man.”

He tipped the bowl and drank the remaining milk. After rinsing it at the sink, he put it away. Quickly, he checked the kitchen to make sure every surface was wiped clean of his presence.

Jogging upstairs, he poked his head into the bathroom, just like he had every day for the last seven weeks. All clear.

He opened the door to his bedroom and grabbed his backpack. After shutting the door again, he pulled a piece of fuzz off of his sock and balanced the tiny piece of lint on the knob.

Invisible, unless someone were to look for it.

On his return trip, Jason took the stairs two at a time. He grabbed a second backpack—his emergency pack—from the hall closet and hoisted it onto his shoulder. The weight of it dug the strap into his flesh.

He couldn’t leave by the front door. A steel lock box hung from the knob. Instead, he headed out the slider. He slid it closed and then carefully rocked the door a fraction in its track. The latch caught, locking the door.

Jason raked his hand through his hair and glanced up at the brightening sky. The sun lit the horizon with a pale peach line. Birds were waking up and chirping from the trees. The day was going to be beautiful.

Rounding the corner of the house, he stowed the emergency pack under the hedge by the driveway. He kept his head ducked as he hurried down the street, blending in with the many teenagers walking towards the high school.

* * *

“Jason.” The principal stopped him in the hall. She hesitated a moment then continued. “I’m sorry about your grandma. Things going well at your uncle’s?” She reached out to touch his shoulder and he shifted uncomfortably. “Anything I can do?” she asked, her eyes filled with concern.

He shook his head and shuffled the books he was holding. The students in the crowded halls split around the two of them like oil and water. A few kids glanced back, curious, then pressed forward in a rush to make it to class before the bell rang.

“I’m hoping to meet him. Did he get the letter I sent?” she asked.

Jason’s heart pounded in his throat and he swallowed. “Yeah, uh, I got to get going.” He jerked his head towards the classroom.

The principal pressed her lips together and dismissed him with a nod.

Why can’t they just leave me alone? His hands were sweating as he opened the door, almost dropping his books. Just one more period to go. Keep your head down and nose clean.

After his final class, Jason jogged home, tossing furtive glances over his shoulder, careful not to be noticed. He sidled into his grandma’s yard and snagged his emergency pack on the way to the back of the house. He dropped the pack, flinching at the sound of it thudding onto the patio floor. Like he had that morning, Jason rocked the door back and forth; eventually the lock unlatched. Slipping inside, he wiped at the sweat beaded along the top of his lip.