Archive by Author | dellanioakes

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 15

sidetracked resizedJasper slipped the letter into an evidence bag.

“I’ll read it,” Vanessa volunteered. Clearing her throat, she scanned the letter before reading aloud. “Dear Aiden, I’m sorry I left so suddenly. I discovered that I was pregnant, and Troy would know the baby wasn’t his. He’d have killed me, or her…. It’s a girl. I had her when I was in Gainesville, during my first year. I put her up for adoption, because there’s no way I could take care of a baby. I hardly had a penny to my name. School was covered, but not living expenses…. I named her Rowan, but I don’t know what her parents called her. They were really sweet people, chosen for me by an agency. They paid my living and medical expenses while I went to school. I barely got to see her after she was born, but they sent me this picture. Isn’t she beautiful? She looks so much like you. I love her so much, because she’s yours. I hated to give her up, but you’re too young to be a dad, and I couldn’t burden your family like that. I loved you like crazy, kid. I still do, but I’m no good for you. Take care, Aiden. Do great things.”

“It’s dated a year ago,” Jasper said. “How the hell did it end up here?”

Aiden shook his head. “Did it have an address on it?”

“No. I suspect she wrote it, but didn’t mail it for some reason,” Vanessa said. “The child would be—three—now?” She did some calculations.

“Not quite. Little over two and a half,” Jasper clarified.

Aiden was too shaken to speak.

“You okay, there, bud?” Jasper asked. “He’s gonna blow, Ness,” he cautioned.

Vanessa backed away from them. Jasper held Aiden while he vomited at his feet, barely missing his own shoes. Gasping and groaning, he held his stomach. Vanessa moved out of earshot. She couldn’t handle the odor, or the sound, for that matter. Usually not bothered by such things, being pregnant had made her very aware of smells. Popping a peppermint in her mouth, she turned her back and inhaled slowly through her mouth.

“He’s okay now, but let’s move on.”

“You’re not going to clean that up?” Vanessa pointed to the mess.

“Not my job.” He winked at her. “I’ll grab the hose, provided it’s not full of holes. I need to get back inside. You okay now, bud?”

Aiden nodded, breathing raggedly. Jasper handed him a stick of gum.

“Hell of a way to find out you’re a father. You handled it better than I would have.” He clapped the younger man on the shoulder, impressed that he held up.

“If I’d known….”

“You’re a good man, Aiden. This isn’t on you,” Jasper stated, accepting no protests. “We don’t know when something like this happens, unless the lady involved, shares. I’m sorry you had to find out like that, especially now. You sure you’re okay?”

“I just wanna go home,” he whispered. “I don’t understand. We were careful….”

“Accidents happen, son,” Jasper said. Nodding to his boss, he went inside.

“I want to go with you to see Troy,” Aiden said.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” She could see by the set of his jaw, he was angry. “We have no proof he killed her.”

“You’re running DNA, right? Is his on file?”

She cast her eyes down. “Whoever has been protecting him, all this time, has managed to keep that out of the file. I can’t ask for it without a warrant.”

“Take me to him, I’ll get your DNA.”

“You have to promise not to start anything. I don’t want to arrest you for assault.”

“It’s not assault if he throws the first punch, is it?”

“Then, I’d have to arrest him.” She smiled, liking the way the young man thought.

“Let’s go.”

She knew it was a bad idea, but instincts warred in her. He had to participate, or he’d go mad. He wanted closure, needed release. Right now, he probably felt like he’d been hit by a truck.

“For Wendy. For our daughter. I have to do this, please.”

“Call your mother. Tell her where we’re going. The rest, we tell her in person.” She cut her eyes at him. “Don’t get hurt,” she cautioned. “If I let a kid get half killed….”

“Does it count in my favor if he swings first, but doesn’t connect?” His blue eyes pierced Vanessa’s soul.

“Yes. You can’t swing at him first.”

“Won’t have to. Troy and I have history.”

“This is a really bad idea, Aiden.”

“If you won’t take me, I’ll just go on my own.”

Figuring if she was there, she could keep the boy from getting killed, she sighed. “Get in. But you keep your distance. You let him come to you.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 14

sidetracked resized“Is he here?”

“Maybe. Why?”

“Just a few questions….”

“He ain’t here. Don’t think he was home last night. Why? What’s he done?”

“We don’t think he’s done anything. We’re asking routine questions in an investigation. I can’t share any details, it’s ongoing….”

“It about that girl that got herself killed?”

Vanessa didn’t say anything, waiting.

“Cause he knew that little slut. She lived her a while, sleeping with my boy. Acted like she was too good for us. Bitch! All smart and snarky. Played golf!” Her tone indicated what she thought of that game. “Left her shit here. Troy wouldn’t let me throw it out. Said she’d be back. She ain’t been back in three years.”

“Do you still have it?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“May I send someone over for it?”

“Sure. Anything to get it out of here. You think Troy killed that girl?”

“We just want to ask him questions.”

“You might try work,” the old woman suggested. “You really gonna get this shit outta my house?”

“I’ll send people over to get it right away.”

“Make the call,” the old woman demanded, lighting a cigarette. “It’s easy to say, but I want proof. When you done that, I’ll tell you.” She huffed smoke in Vanessa’s direction. Scowling, she gripped the Camel in a nicotine stained claw.

Vanessa pulled out her phone and called the station. Moments later, two units pulled up. The officers looked annoyed, but dutifully pulled out cases with evidence bags and other forensic tools.

“Fine. He works up at Conti Automotive in Port Orange. Off Dunlawton in one of them complexes. You need to look up an address, cause I don’t know it.”

“I can find it. Thank you for your help, Mrs.?”

“Berman. Gertrude Berman.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Berman.”

“You get that shit outta my house. I’ll show you.” She gestured to the police officers.

Wrinkling their noses, they followed the woman into a morass of dog funk, cigarette smoke, and other pungent odors.

“I don’t love you anymore,” Sergeant Waters said as he followed his colleague inside.

“Yeah, you do. But watch where you step. I don’t think those dogs go out.”

“You’re not coming?”

“I’m pregnant, Jas. What do you think?”

He gave her a sympathetic smile. “See you later.”

“Thank you both.”

Taking a last, deep breath of fresh air, he followed the woman inside.

Back at the car, Vanessa slid into the air conditioned freshness. “God, that place reeked! That fine figure of a woman, is Troy’s grandmother. He lives here. Apparently, so did Wendy, for a while.”

“That’s too bad. Why did the other cops come?”

“Wendy left some things here. They’ll be collecting them as evidence. When we’re done, if there’s anything you’d like….”

“Thanks. I don’t know, maybe.”

Vanessa’s radio crackled. “Go for Weinstein.”

“Boss,” it was Jasper. “Your buddy in the car, he wouldn’t be Aiden, would he?”

“Yes. Why?”

“There’s a note here for him. Still sealed. I’m gonna bring it out. I don’t feel like I should be the one to open it.”

Aiden stifled a sob, biting the inside of his cheek.

“Okay. Thanks.” She turned off the car and they got out. Aiden waited for Jasper, who handed him a pair of nitrile gloves, then slit the envelope, handing it over.

With trembling hands, the young man opened the paper inside. It was pretty, floral stationary. He recognized Wendy’s hand writing. A picture fell out. He caught it, looking into the face of an infant. For a second, he wondered how she’d gotten a baby picture of him, then the shock hit him in the gut. He staggered back a step, losing his balance. Jasper caught him.

“Whoa, dude. You look like you took a nut shot.”

Aiden handed him the letter and picture. “I can’t.” He shook his head, closing his eyes, as he tried to catch his breath.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books https://www.amazon.com/Dellani-Oakes/e/B007ZQCW3A

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 13

sidetracked resized“Absolutely. Whatever you need. I wish that Wendy had contacted me. I didn’t even know she was around. The boys talked about the Running Girl, but she must not have been out when I was. I never saw her. If I had—if I’d know….” His voice caught in his throat.

“This isn’t on you, Aiden. You can’t help if you don’t know. I work with a bunch of men who have a Sir Gallahad complex. You want to fix things, take care of everyone. It’s highly admirable, but you have to remember, some things are just too broken. Not everyone can be saved. But I promise you this, I will do everything in my power to find who did this. I want you to have realistic expectations. We may not ever find out.”

“Yes, you will,” Aiden said. “I believe in you.”

Vanessa was startled and touched by his confidence in her. “I hope I can live up to that expectation.”

“You can.”

“I’ll be by in fifteen minutes. Would your mother like to come?”

“I’ll ask. Mom, wanna go?”

“No. This is for you and Vanessa to do.”

He nodded, accepting that. He conveyed the message to Vanessa.

“No problem. If she changes her mind, that’s fine. I’ll be there shortly.”

Aiden hurried to dress and brush his teeth. When he came out of his room, he was wearing tan chinos and a red Oakely shirt. Instead of his usual flipflops, he wore his best sneakers. He stood taller, and the grief on his face aged him a little. Deirdre had the odd feeling that he truly was no longer a little boy. A man stood before her. She had to grapple the urge to smooth his hair and do other Mom things. He didn’t need to be coddled.

“You look very handsome.”

“Thanks.” His grin made him look his age, but the somber expression returned.

Vanessa pulled up into the driveway. Aiden went out to meet her, and Deirdre followed.

“You sure you don’t want to come?” Vanessa asked.

“No, my son needs to do this on his own,” Deirdre replied.

“Okay, let’s go!”

“Call if you need me,” Deidre addressed Vanessa, but glanced at her son.

“We will,” he replied.

Vanessa didn’t say much as they drove across town. It wasn’t far from the Partridge’s home, which was in the Thirty-second block of Kumquat. As they turned into Lime Tree Drive, from the Boulevard, Aiden stiffened. He spotted the house, exactly as it had been a few years ago. If anything, it looked even more faded and shabby than it had. A blue tarp flapped on the roof, a telltale sign of hurricane damage.

“That’s it,” he pointed.

Vanessa slowed and rolled into the driveway behind a battered Ford pickup. The yard was ragged and needed cutting, but the house was lived in. The front window had no drapes, and they could see battered furniture inside. Someone walked into the room, silhouetted against a large mirror behind. Aiden couldn’t be sure, but he thought it was a woman, not a man.

“You want me to come up to the door?” he asked.

“No. You stay in the car.”

He nodded, pressing his lips together. “I wanted to see…. How she lived.”

Vanessa patted his hand. “Trust me, you don’t. I’ll be back soon. If you want, go for a walk, but don’t wander far.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Biting his thumb knuckle, he rested his elbow on the window edge.

Vanessa’s dark, appraising eyes took in details of the young man. He was about six foot three, with a lean build. Light blond hair, like his mother’s, had a slight curl. His eyes, a sage green, saw everything, cataloging them. He carried himself with confidence, a rare thing among teenagers. There was a set to his jaw that spoke of his dogged determination. She recognized it, because she saw that expression every time she looked in her mirror.

“I’ll be right back,” she repeated.

Nodding, Aiden continued to bite his thumb.

Knocking on the door started a chorus of yapping inside. The door was yanked open by an elderly, fat woman with a dirty dressing gown, her sparse graying hair in curlers. Her eyes were nearly colorless, red rimmed and watery. She reeked of cheap beer, stale cigarettes and body odor. Vanessa had to stifle a gag. Her heightened sense of smell would betray her soon. Taking a step back, she introduced herself, holding up her badge.

“Yeah. What’s he done now?” she snarled.

“Excuse me?”

“You’re here about my loser grandson, right? What’d he do? I told him, I ain’t bailing him out no more. He gets in trouble, he gets himself out of it.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 12

sidetracked resized

Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

After making arrangements with Aiden, Detective Weinstein speaks to Deidre again. The police officer reveals that there was evidence of sexual assault, and she hopes it will help them bring the guilty party to justice. In the morning, Aiden tells his mother a little bit more about Wendy, and how sweet and smart she was.

“You really loved her.”

“Yeah. And she loved me. She told me—that night.” His lips trembled and he had to set his coffee down, his hands were shaking too much. “I wish we’d gotten together sooner, but she had this creep of a boyfriend.”

“What was his name?”

“I’ve been trying to remember. Troy, something. He was a couple years older than her, at least. So I didn’t know him from school. He was a real low life son-of-a-bitch. I can see the bastard’s face.”

“Did he go to school here?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“You know they post all yearbook pictures now?”

“Shit? Really?” He snorted, shaking his head. “So my uber-goof expression from my freshman picture is immortalized?”

“For all to see, yes. And it was cute!”

“Boys aren’t cute past the age of ten,” he corrected her, sounding just like his father.

“My point, Mr. Uber-Goof, is that we might be able to track down his picture. Do you have any idea when he graduated?”

Aiden closed his eyes, inhaling slowly, trying to center himself. “He had a shirt that said Class of 2011. It was signed by all the class on the back. They do one every year.”

“So, we begin with that and then work our way out. You’re sure it was Troy?”

“Yes. He wanted her to get a tattoo of his name, but she refused. She finally broke down and got a henna one on her ass. She showed me. She said she wanted to sit on it every chance she got.” Blushing, he ducked his head. “Sorry. More information than you want.”

“Maybe so, but it’s helpful.” She booted the computer.

Once it was ready, they took seats and accessed the yearbook site. It took some digging to find Troy. He hadn’t been in any extra curricular clubs, wasn’t on any teams, and seemed to be completely unexceptional in every way. Finally, they hit pay-dirt with the auto shop class.

“That’s him,” Aiden pointed to the screen. His lip curled in disgust. “I can’t forget that face.”

Deirdre could understand that. Though he was very handsome, there was a cruelty and hardness in Troy’s eyes. He was about six feet tall, with bulging muscles. Curly, black hair fell to his shoulders, slicked back from his face. He had open gauges in both ears, at least the size of a silver dollar. He was the only one in the picture not smiling. In fact, he stood with his arms folded, glaring at the camera.

“Looks like a real piece of work,” she said.

“He used to hit her.”

“And you didn’t report it?”

“I wanted to, Mom. She said it would only make it worse. He seemed to have some magic pill, he never stayed in long.”

“And she stayed with this creep of nature? Why?”

“You’ve been really lucky with Dad. He’s a great guy, he’d never hurt any of us. Some people—they get into something, and they’re too scared to leave. She was using the move to Gainesville to get away from him. I think one reason she left so fast, and cut off her phone, was because of him. We need to tell Detective Weinstein. I’d have said something before, but I couldn’t remember his name.”

“Right away.” She pulled out Vanessa’s card and called.

The detective answered with a smile in her voice. “Deidre, hi. I was just about to call you.”

“Did you have more questions?”

“I did, for Aiden. I didn’t want to disturb him at school, so I thought I’d leave a message with you. I hate voice mail.”

“So do I. As a matter of fact, he’s here. I let him stay home.”

“Of course. May I speak to him?”

“Yes.” She handed the phone to her son.

Nodding his thanks, he took it. “Hello, Detective. Before you ask any questions, I wanted to tell you something.” He told her about Troy, giving her his last name, Intriago.

“Oooh, I know him,” her voice held a chilly malice. “Yeah, on more than one occasion, he’s graced our holding cell. Nasty piece of work. She was dating that—man?”

Aiden chuckled. “Detective Weinstein, my daddy was a Marine. He’s said so many curse words, he’s made up a few. Troy was an abusive bastard. I wanted to report him, but Wendy said he never was held long. She was afraid of retaliation.”

“And well she should be. He’s connected, or he was. A highly placed relative, maybe. More than that, I don’t know. Thank you. I was wondering if I could get you to drive along with me to the house? I want identification before I go talk to the residents.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 11

sidetracked resized

Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

Aiden and Deirdre have a heart to heart about Wendy, and both decide to turn in. As she’s getting ready for bed, Deirdre’s phone rings. It’s Detective Weinstein, who wants to speak to Aiden. She asks him to go with her, to identify the house where Wendy lived.

“Thanks. I might…. Please, find who did this and take them down, Ms. Weinstein.”

“That is my intention. Thank you for your help.”

“You’re welcome. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight. Let me speak to Mom again?”

He handed the phone to his mother. Giving her a hug, he closed the bedroom door.

“He was very helpful. I told him if he needs to see someone, I have names of very good therapists, who are reasonably priced.”

“Thank you. My boy is strong, but even a hardened man would find that difficult.”

“Agreed. First love, huh? In every sense, I gather.”

“Yes. He said she left soon after, for college. I did a little digging. I know it’s not my job…. I was curious. Why would such a talented girl leave school? She was involved with her college professor. They got caught and she got thrown out of school about five months ago. As far as I can tell, nothing happened to him,” her voice got tight with anger. “Bastard!”

“That’s low. Why can men get away with that shit? Just because we have boobs, it’s our fault?” Weinstein snorted, then chuckled softly. “Sorry. Stepping off the soapbox.”

“Rant away, sister. I agree!” She paused, forming her sentence with care. “I saw the condition of her clothing. I hope Aiden didn’t. Was she—She was—assaulted….”

“Yes. He was sloppy. We got some specimens, but unless he’s in the system, it won’t help us track him. It will help us nail him when he’s caught.”

“My husband and I will claim the body if no one else does,” Deirdre said. “I didn’t want to say that in front of my son. If she has no family, we will do that for her. I wish I’d known her before. No one should have to live like that, unloved. Unwanted. My husband says I’d adopt the world if I could.”

“It’s an admirable trait. My mother is the same way. She was always pulling in loners and strays, all our friends call her Mom. Biggest heart. Loves all of her babies, whether she gave birth to them or not.”

“She and I sound a lot a like. Thank you…. I can’t keep calling you Ms. Weinstein.”

“Vanessa. I’ll find this guy, Deirdre. Like you, I’ve taken this case personally. I don’t know why, but I think when I saw the grief in your son’s face….” She sniffled. “Sorry. I don’t usually get this emotional.”

“But you’re pregnant.”

“How did you know?”

“I worked as a lactation consultant for five years, I’ve had three kids, and I’m a La Leche League leader. I know from pregnant. Three months?”

“Eleven and a half weeks. My first. My husband and I are very excited.”

“Best of luck to you. If you need any advice, call me. You’ve got my number.”

“Thank you. I’ll let you get to bed now, I’ve taken up enough time.”

“If it helps find Wendy’s killer, take all the time you want. Goodnight, Vanessa. Thank you.”

“Goodnight. Thank me when this is over.”

They hung up. Deirdre was too wound up to sleep, so she sat at her computer and wrote more at her book. It wasn’t turning out at all as she’d intended, but she found that the liked the direction it was going. Around 2:00, she finally shut it down and went to bed.

After dropping off the boys, Deidre stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts and picked up a dozen glazed donuts and two large cups of coffee. Her boys all had a caffeine habit, though Aiden was the only one who really liked coffee. He was awake when she walked in, and helped her carry the food to the table.

“You didn’t have to do this, Mom.”

“Yes, I did. Have as many as you want. I get two,” she clarified, because he could eat all twelve, given the chance.

Sipping coffee and eating their donuts, they sat in comfortable silence. Where Corin had to chatter, and Burl sat sullenly, grumping, Aiden was her cozy companion. Since he was small, he’d been the cuddler, climbing on her lap just to snuggle. It had nearly broken her heart when he decided he was too big for that. However, when they spent time together, it was like he was her other half. Their birthdays only ten days apart, they shared a star sign. Some people told her that would cause friction, but it never had between them.

“Wendy was super smart,” he said softly. “Straight A’s. She did the dual enrollment and graduated with a weighted GPA of 4.8. She was valedictorian. And crazy good at golf. She got snapped up by UF, they couldn’t wait to get her. She had schools all over the country trying to recruit her, but she wanted to stay in Florida. It was her home.”

“Was she born here?”

He nodded. “At Halifax, just like me. Her birthday is on the Twenty-sixth of September, two days before mine. I took her to lunch the day between, to celebrate.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 10

sidetracked resized

Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

Deirdre calls Fred to see if he can come home, but he’s fairly sure he can’t get away. Aiden tells her about his night with Wendy. Afterward, he asks if he can stay home from school the next day.

“Since when do you use lurid in a sentence?”

“I guess I started today. Is it okay if I stay home?”

“Yes. I’ll see if they can give your work to Burl.”

“Thanks. I don’t want to be the guy who identified the dead body.”

Deirdre could understand that. He’d either be shunned, or attract all the creepy girls who got off on death.

“You don’t think it will be a problem for your brothers?”

“They didn’t know her. Burl will let it roll, Corin—who knows? They’ll be fine.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“We aren’t little kids anymore, Mom.”

“You’ll always be my baby,” she said softly, touching his cheek. “Even when you’re old and gray, you’ll be my baby boy.”

“I love you, Mama,” he said, tears falling again.

“I love you too, Sugar Plum. Even if you aren’t going to school, I am. I’d better get my happy ass to bed.”

Aiden grinned through his tears. “You’ve always said that, even when we were kids. Didn’t you worry about cussing in front of us?”

“With Daddy’s mouth? F**k, no. You were the first kid in kindergarten to say shit in class. I thought your teacher would have apoplexy. I told her she should be glad you didn’t say something worse.”

Aiden chuckled. “And the first kid to learn all the words to Fade to Black and Iron Man.”

“I taught you well.” She gave him a kiss on the forehead. “Try to sleep. If you can’t, have a couple Benadryl. That will make you sleepy.”

“I’m gonna stay up and play guitar for a little while. I won’t use the amp. I just need to unwind.”

“Okay. I’m gonna lock up. Goodnight, son. Each day gets better, I promise.”

Nodding, he shuffled off to his room. She heard him start to play his acoustic guitar as she made the rounds, locking up and setting the alarm. Since it was one of Fred’s jobs, she sometimes forgot. Finding Wendy’s body had spooked her, though. She felt vulnerable, on edge. She wasn’t tired, but 6:00 came awfully early. She had finally decided to start sleeping in, once she felt that Aiden was able to drive his brothers to school. They could find a secondhand car for him, or he could drive his father’s heap. Fred could use hers to go to work, or she could drop him off and pick him up.

Planning and plotting, she got ready for bed. It was barely 10:00 when her phone rang. She was getting into bed and hadn’t turned it off yet. She didn’t recognize the number, but had a feeling it was important.

“Mrs. Partridge? Detective Weinstein.”

“Oh, hello!”

“I apologize for calling so late. I wondered if I might speak to Aiden.”

“I’ll see if he’s still awake. This really shook him up. The young lady, Wendy, was his first love.”

“Oh, wow. Poor kid! I had a couple questions to ask him, if he’s available?”

“I’m looking now.” She tapped on Aiden’s door.

The guitar music stopped and he answered. He looked like he’d been crying again. “Yeah?”

“Detective Weinstein to speak to you.”

His face full of questions, Aiden took the phone. “Hello?”

“Hi, Aiden. I’m sorry to bother you, but I wondered if you knew where Wendy lived before she graduated?”

“Um…isn’t there a record of it? I thought the foster system kept track of those things.”

“Normally, yes. But it seems that she wasn’t in the system the last year she was in school. She had been assigned a home, but left.”

“I don’t know their names, but I remember where she lived. I saw her there a couple times. I didn’t ever meet anyone, but she showed me the house. It was over on Lime. The far end, north side of the Boulevard. I don’t know the number, but it was a ratty looking place, second house on the left in the first block after the intersection. At the time, it was that white cinder block with brown trim, but that’s been a few years.”

“I think I know the house you described. Thank you. Do you remember anything else?”

“Not really. She wouldn’t invite me in. I remember seeing someone peering out of the window. There weren’t drapes, or they were open. A fat lady with her hair in rollers, smoking. That’s all I remember. I’m sorry.”

“No need to be. That’s more than I had earlier. I’m very sorry for your loss, Aiden. I know this must be really hard. If you feel you want to—talk to someone, I can recommend a couple people.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books