The outliers, p.14
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       The Outliers, p.14

         Part #2 of The Outskirts Duet series by T. M. Frazier
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  Richard nodded. “I’m a widower, but I have a daughter.”

  “I’m sorry about your wife,” I offered.

  Even though she’s ALIVE. Which I was hoping he had no idea about.

  “We all have our fair share of problems, son. My wife and I weren’t always on the same page. My daughter is going through a rebellious phase. Even with my guidance, she’s lost her way.”

  “Again, I’m sorry to hear that.”

  Richard waved me off. “Don’t apologize. I’m very very certain that she’ll find her way back to us soon.” He crossed a leg over his knee. “One way or another.”

  Like hell she will.

  “And if she doesn’t?” I asked.

  “That’s not an option,” Richard said in a very serious tone, looking down at his hands. “Defiance is never an option.” he cleared his throat and looked back up at me and smiled. “Not when it comes to God.”

  Richard stood up and walked behind me. He peered out the plastic tent window then lowered the flap for the shade casting the room in a muted light. “I have a service in a few moments. One of our very last for the summer. I’m sorry I can’t give you more time. But tell me this. Do your real problems lie with your relationship with your family or your relationship with God? Or…” He walked back around the desk and leaned over it with his hands flat on the top. His eyebrows pointed inward. A twisted cruel smile pulled at his lips. “Or…is it a woman who has you seeking out HIS holy plan?”

  “Well,” I started, about to spew some more bullshit about a made-up problem when he interrupted me.

  His voice took on an entirely different tone. This time it was low. Bitter. “Because I think the real problem might stem from your sins. Specifically, your fornication…with my daughter.”

  I almost laughed. “They said you knew everything. I’m surprised it took you this long to figure out who I was.”

  Just then the feedback of a microphone pierced through the speakers in the big tent next door. Sawyers voice was coming through loud and clear.

  I smiled up at Richard who stood straight and appeared confused as he darted for the door. I stood in front of him, blocking his way. “Actually, fornication with your daughter isn’t a problem at all. Considering she’s not your daughter.”

  Richard fumed as he marched passed me into the big tent but came to a halt when he saw Sawyer standing at the front of the room addressing the huge crowd that had gathered for the service.

  She held up the ‘Sandy Bennett’ cell phone.

  He was just in time.

  Chapter 22

  Sawyer

  There’s a certain amount of fear that comes with any kind of public speaking. Yet, as I walk down the aisle under the tent, surrounded by the kind people that were in my daily life for twenty-one years. I felt no fear.

  None. Maybe because this was what was familiar to me for so long.

  My palms were dry. My breaths were even.

  I felt powerful. Strong.

  And ready to face my demons head on.

  Maybe because my child growing in my stomach was giving me a new sense of bravery I’ve never known before. Maybe because I was about to say words that I’ve wanted to say for so long to so many that my excitement outweighed my fear.

  Critter, Maddy, and Miller were manning the entrances and exits. Josh stood next to me in her police uniform looking every bit the part of the angry cop. Her job was to also make sure that I was not interrupted until I had said all I had to say.

  The tent was full. Every available seat had a body in it.

  When we reached the podium, Josh leaned over and grabs the microphone “Ladies and gentlemen,” she said, “we have a quick public safety presentation for you before your service starts today. We apologize for the interruption. Please listen carefully and will be out of your way as soon as possible. Thank you.”

  Josh nodded to me. It was my turn.

  I looked over a sea of faces. Some familiar. Some not.

  “My name is Sawyer Dixon,” I started. However, I pause when I saw my father standing in the back corner of the tent staring at me like he’d seen a ghost. I didn’t think I’d be able to find the words to continue because my heart was beating so loud I didn’t know if I could hear my own voice.

  As I began to speak Richard pushed his way down the aisle Josh met him in the middle and shook her head blocking him from going any further.

  “Like a lot of you, I grew up in this church. Just like my mother. Every single day of my life lived in fear that my father would kill my mother. I feared that he would kill me. I feared that he wouldn’t kill us and we would have to keep on living these torturous lives forever. He repeatedly beat, raped, and starved my mother, to the point where she couldn’t go on and decided to kill herself.” I took a deep calming breath.

  “And for a while I was so mad. I didn’t know why I was so mad until I realized I wasn’t really mad at her at all. I was jealous. Jealous that she found a way out and I was still there.

  I was now the one being beaten and told it was discipline. I was threatened and told it was God's word or God's plan. I was deprived of love because in this church a woman, a girl, we are deemed unworthy of love. We are starved affection. We are so beneath the men that we can’t eat at the same table or make eye contact. Yet, my father continued to preach family first while sucking the life force from us with each passing second.

  “Liar! You have no proof!” my father called out, shaking his closed fist in the air.

  “Simmer down,” Josh warned. Placing her hand on her gun holster. “She’s getting to that part.”

  The audience began to speak to one another in hushed whispers. My eyes fell on a young woman in the audience standing in the back.

  Bridget.

  I gave her smile and she looked as though I was on suicide mission.

  I strained my shoulders glanced over to Finn, then Miller, and then finally my real father.

  Critter.

  Who looked angry, yet proud from where he stood on the opposite end of the tent from Richard.

  It felt good to have him witness this. It felt good to be up there saying the things that I’d been thinking needed to be said my entire life.

  “Someone told me recently that it doesn’t matter what your religion believes in regardless of how silly or stupid it may seem to others. What matters is what you take from it. How it makes you feel. Nothing about Richard or this church has ever made me feel better or loved or wiser. Or kinder.”

  Under the pretense of love Richard teaches hate.

  “All lies. Don’t listen to her. She’s a deflector. She left the church. This is the devil’s work. All of it!” Richard yelled. His face turning red with his anger. And just like he’d always done with me…

  I dismissed him.

  In my heart. In my mind.

  In my life.

  He was not important enough to acknowledge. To look me in the eye.

  So, I moved on.

  “I’m not going to tell you again.” Josh warned, moving to stand right in front of Richard.

  “I’ve never come forward before because I had no proof, nothing to back up what I’m telling you today.” I grabbed the cell phone from my back pocket and looked to Miller in the back of the room who gave me the nod to go ahead.

  “But I left and found a new home. A new family. Things have changed.” I thought about the child growing my belly. “Everything has changed.”

  The crowd again began to speak to one another in hushed whispers.

  I pressed play on the phone.

  The light from the projector Miller had installed the night before came to life on the tent wall behind me. The audience gasped as the first clip from the phone showed Bridget’s own husband pushing her head into the dining room table while yelling at her for accidentally making eye contact. The second clip was of Richard and it looked as if it was taken through the window of our house on the second story. Richard was straddling my mother on their bed. It was ha
rd to watch. I felt helpless then and watching it made me feel just as helpless.

  I turned around to face the crowd to gauge the reactions instead of watching the video. Most of them had their eyes locked on the screen, flinching with the women on the wrong end of wrath.

  Clip after clip showed high ranking members of the church all doing much the same. When the video was over Josh already had Richard in cuffs and was leading him away. He screamed over his shoulder, “The devil has won this round but God WILL prevail in the end.”

  “That’s the thing,” I said. “All of this was done under the guise of God and discipline. I don’t know what kind of God would look at these videos and think that is properly represented his will. And if that’s the kind of god you choose to believe in, it’s not a god I want to know.”

  “I’m proud of you,” Finn said leading me away from the podium underneath the tent flap behind the podium the opposite direction of the crowd.

  As soon as we were on the other side someone stepped into our path. I took a startled step back. Finn pushed me behind his body. His entire body stiffened as he readied himself to go on the offense.

  “It’s just me. Bridget.” I peeked out from around Finn and he stepped aside. I approached her like I would a small child who might easily scare.

  “Thank you for leaving us that phone.”

  Bridget kicked at the dirt. “No, thank you for using it. I stole it years ago. Been sneaking around taking videos here and there. Never really knew what I was going to do with them or how I was going to get people to see them. It’s me who should be thanking you.”

  “Do you need a place to go, Bridget?” Finn asked using the same soft tone I was.

  She shook her head. “My husband was carted off as well. I think I’m gonna be okay. Gonna go back to North Carolina and ransack the house. Take anything of value and I’m going to take a page from your book and... escape.”

  There was an excitement. A life in her voice that hadn’t been there before. Bridget skipped off as my heart skipped while watching her leave.

  “Look what you did, baby,” Finn said, pulling he into the crook of his arm. “She’s going to have her own life now. A real life all because of you.”

  I was on the verge of tears. I couldn’t believe it. “No,” I shook my head. “Not because of me. Because of her.”

  “You’re right,” Finn agreed. “I think Bridget was much stronger than we gave her credit for.”

  Bridget had proven to be more than I’d judged her to be. I’d never make that same mistake again. Because, as we’d just witnessed, Bridget was a force to be reckoned with.

  And the day of reckoning was here.

  Chapter 23

  Sawyer

  Because of the serious nature of Richard’s crimes, he was denied bail. He was awaiting trial in the Brillhart County prison. We were told the evidence was ironclad and he wouldn’t be seeing freedom for a very long time.

  If ever.

  I didn’t know if I could ever get used to not having to look over my shoulder, although my steps felt a bit lighter and the mood between those I care about most had improved considerably.

  Finn told me to meet him at the library. Of course, we happened to be getting a hurricane that very night. My first one.

  When I had asked Miller how I needed to prepare for the hurricane he laughed and told me, “It’s only a category one. You only need to buy some more beer.”

  “What do you do for category five?” I’d asked.

  Josh answered by telling me that the best way to prepare for category five was to place your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye.

  I’d make sure to remember that.

  I arrived at the library right on time. “What is all this?” I asked, looking around the dark room. The only light was coming from an overhead projector. Finn stood on the back of the room, fiddling with dials on multiple little black boxes. “Finn?”

  Finn guided me by the hand to the center of the room where he’d pushed aside all the desks and set up a blanket and pillows all over the floor. “You can call me Professor Hollis and tonight you are my pupil so have a seat young lady.” He moved to the front of the room and stood in front of a large screen hanging from the ceiling.

  “What’s going on? What is this?” I asked, perching myself among the soft pillows. “I thought we were here because of the hurricane, but the storm isn’t set to come in until later tonight.”

  “You are correct. We are here because it’s the highest point in town and the furthest away from the water in case of flooding. But I thought we could get here early. I wanted to spend some time educating that precious and very sexy mind of yours in the ways of our odd world. All in the name of your quest for knowledge, I wanted to teach you some things before the power goes out.

  “Okay,” I said, skeptically, folding my legs up like a pretzel.

  Finn smiled and that dimple I love so much appeared. “Welcome to extremely shortened version of everything in our world. My name is Professor Hollis and I will be in charge of molding your mind this evening,” Finn said, dramatically extending his arms.

  I laughed at how seriously he was taking this and I was touched at how much trouble he’d gone through.

  “Shall we begin?” Finn pushed up the fake plastic black rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose. He was wearing a long white lab coat. He had a remote in his hand and he stood off to the side of the projector. He clicked a button and a black and white picture of an ape appeared on the screen. “You’ll note the pen and pad on the floor in front of you, Miss Dixon. I recommend taking notes so you won’t fall behind before the test.”

  I picked up the notebook and pen and nodded for Finn to continue. “Very good. First lesson. Evolution.” He clicked the remote. On the screen was written the very next words he spoke. “People came from apes.”

  He clicked the remote again. It was a drawing. A portrait of a man wearing a white wig with the American Flag across the background. “Lesson two. American Politics.”

  He shook his head and clicked through two more slides. “All you need to know is that modern politics aren’t rooted in any sort of factual realm created by humans.” He clicked the remote again and a picture of a group of twenty something adults were sitting on a couch in a cafe. “Now, on to pop culture. How much do you know about the show Friends?”

  “Not a thing.”

  “Good, because this is where I take over Professor Hollis,” Miller showed up wearing a matching lab coat and plastic rimmed glasses. He took the remote from Finn and they exchanged long hard handshakes and pseudo stern looks.

  “I didn’t even hear you come in!” I said to Miller as Finn joined me on the floor.

  He buffed his nails on his coat. “I mean. Most people don’t. I AM a distant relative to Batman. Which brings me to our next subject.” He clicked the remote and the screen showed dozens of illustrations of men and women all dressed in tight fitting costumes and masks. I recognized some of them and others I didn’t. “Superheroes and all the ways they are incredibly awesome,” Miller said.

  I laughed through the entire next hour where Miller’s lessons ranged from ‘Why Nickelback music doesn’t suck all that bad’, and ‘Why Bruce Willis should be nominated for Sainthood.’

  I leaned against Finn and laughed as Miller went off and tangent after tangent. While he gave his lesson Josh, Critter, Wilfredo, and even my mother had arrived with coolers and other
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