Family Bonds- Alex & Jennie…Prologue


Jennie Zale was walking home from school like she always did. She was alone at this point, the few neighborhood kids she’d normally walked with home by now.

She knew enough to come straight home or her father would find out and he’d be ticked off. Pissed. Yep, at ten years old, she shouldn’t be using the word pissed, but in her household, that word was mild.

The only good thing was her older brother, Griffin, should be there with her mother. Her father would be at work for a few more hours and maybe when he got home he wouldn’t be so angry.

She turned the corner and saw the police cars, her heart skipping more than one beat. Her brain was frozen, but her legs started to move.

She was on a sprint by the time she got closer and realized it was her house, police tape everywhere, but Griffin intercepted her, picking her up and turning her to not see anything.

“What’s going on, Griffin?” she asked in a panic. “It’s Mom, isn’t it? Dad should be at work. Did someone call the cops on him again?”

“Shh,” Griffin said, moving away from the house and not letting her down. Her brother was big for seventeen and easily carried her away. Or maybe it was the strength of grief that she felt radiating off his body.

“Tell me, Griffin. It’s Mom, isn’t it?”

Griffin set her down at the corner again, far enough away, her back to the direction of their house. “Yes.”

There were tears in Griffin’s eyes, ones she hardly ever saw. Even when he was taking a beating in her or her mother’s place. 

In the past few years, Griffin had put himself in harm’s way to protect them. He fought back plenty enough times to the point their father didn’t walk away unscathed much.

Maybe that was why her father didn’t do much more than yell and throw things when Griffin was around.

But something told her Griffin hadn’t been around this time. He hadn’t been there to step in front of their mother. He was probably in school like her.

“Is Mom going to be okay?” she asked. She’d seen the ambulance along with the police cars. 

“Mom is going to be at peace now,” he said. “Dad can’t hurt her again.”

She let out a sigh. “So Dad is going away for good now? We can really relax? Mom doesn’t have to deal with him anymore?”

Griffin ran his hands over his face and neck. “Dad can never hurt Mom again because Mom is gone.”

“What do you mean she’s gone?” she asked. “She left? Can we find her?”

“Dad killed her, Jennie. I’m sorry.” The tears were running down his face and he was sucking in his breath fast.

“You’re lying,” she said, hitting his arm and crying. Her throat was dry and it wasn’t until Griffin pulled her close and was almost suffocating her that she realized she’d been screaming. “Tell me you are.”

“No,” he said quietly. “I wish I were. I wish I could kill that son of a bitch myself.”

“Don’t say that,” she said. “That’s not you.”

“It feels it now,” he said.

“I need you both to come with us.”

She felt Griffin tense and turned to see two police officers standing there. One female and one male. They both had sympathy in their eyes. She’d seen it enough in her life. From neighbors and teachers, to social workers. Anyone who had tried to help their family but couldn’t seem to get through.

The threat of what their father did had been hanging in the air so long the fear had been choking the family for years.

“I want to stay with Griffin,” she said, holding him tight. She didn’t need to worry; her brother had a strong grip on her.

“We’ll try,” the female officer said. “But it’s out of our control. Why don’t you tell us some of the things you need in the house for a few days and we’ll go in and get them.”

“What?” she asked. “I can’t go in the house?”

“No,” Griffin said. “You don’t need to. You don’t need to go on the property either. Can she stay here?”

“I think that would be smart,” the female officer said.

“I can take you in,” the male officer said to Griffin. “We’ll keep your sister here. She’s safe.”

Griffin let go of her, but she wasn’t letting go of him. “Don’t leave,” she cried.

“I’ll be back,” he said, turning and squatting down to look her in the eye. “I’m just going to get us some things for a few days. I won’t leave you, Jennie. But if we are separated, be strong. I’ll be back for you when I can. It’s my job to protect you and never forget it.”

She was sobbing when Griffin walked away, the female cop taking her hand and walking with her a little in the other direction.

“I’m never going to see my brother again, am I?” she asked.

“I’m sorry, sweetie. I just don’t have any control over this. Everyone will try as hard as they can to make sure you are kept together.”

“It won’t happen,” she sobbed. “No one cares enough about us. If they did, this wouldn’t have ever happened to our family.”

She took off running toward the house and Griffin, almost making it before Griffin turned and intercepted her. “Stop,” he said. “Be strong for Mom. I’ve got you. I’ll always have you. Even if I’m not with you, know that I always will be. We’ll get through this. It’s my promise to you.”

“Mom promised nothing would happen to her and look at how well that worked out,” she screamed and then ran in the other direction away from everyone.

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