Chapter 11.

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    When I was five, I had the brilliant idea to jump into my grandma Theresa's pool when I had absolutely no idea how to swim. I spent a few moments frantically struggling underneath the water, trying to fight my way to the surface. When I finally made it, I was gasping for air like I had never breathed before, and my lungs felt like they were about to burst. 

 That's how I felt when I heard Archer speak, heard him say those words that I never, ever expected to hear from anybody I knew.

 It took me several seconds to actually comprehend what Archer had said, and when I finally managed to get my composure back, it felt as if a lifetime had just passed me by. 

 "What?"  I gasped. 

Archer looked over at me, a scowl etched on his face, and for the first time, it suddenly seemed as if he was so much older than he actually was. Instead of being seventeen, it seemed as if Archer was actually a middle-aged man who had seen the horrors of the world in ways that most people can't even begin to comprehend. 

 A teenage guy taking on two jobs, taking care of his mother, grandmother, and three little sisters? Archer Morales wasn't anybody you could exactly call normal, that was for sure. 

 Right then, I wanted to heal his own wounds, and forget everything else in the world that had ever given either of us trouble. 

 "Ever heard of Patrick St. Pierre?" Archer said dryly, staring down at his feet again. 

I shook my head. "No."

 Archer blew out a sigh, leaning forward on his knees so his head was resting in his hands. "Well, that asshole of a man is my dad. And because my asshole of a dad, April, May, and June have never met their father."

 I was fairly certain my jaw hit the ground as I stared at Archer in horror. 

There were a lot of things in this universe I knew to be crazy, unpredictable, and awful. But this? What Archer had just told me? That had to be one of the worst things to ever happen to somebody. 

 "E-Excuse me?" I croaked, gripping my jacket sleeves tightly. "Did I hear that correctly?"

Archer jumped to his feet and started pacing in front of me, his hands clasped behind his back.

"My mom met my dad in high school. They went to JFK, too. And my mom ended up getting pregnant with me right after they graduated, so they had this shot-gun wedding and moved in together, which ended up being a total disaster, because, like I said earlier, my dad's an asshole. I don't have that much memories of him, but hell, the ones I do? The guy was completely awful. He used to kick my mom around all the time, and even though I was really little, I tried to stand up for her, and ended up getting kicked around a lot myself. I hated that man from the second I laid eyes on him, I'm positive of it."

 My heart was starting to pound erratically against my chest, and there was a buzzing noise in my ears. Just how was I supposed to react to this? I'd never exactly been told anything like this before, so it was a little more than disconcerting. 

 Even though it seriously sucked to admit it, I doubted there was anything I could say that would possibly calm Archer down, or make him see some sort of point that it wasn't going to do him any good to have a complete breakdown in the middle of Central Park. 

 But I already knew that he didn't talk about himself or what was going on with him at all, so I decided then and there that I was going to just sit back and let him vent about anything he needed to. 

 "What happened after that?" I muttered, taking a deep breath.

"My mom and I went to live with my grandma," Archer answered in a steely voice. "My mom divorced my dad and got a restraining order against him, but that sure as hell didn't stop him. He used to show up at odd hours of the day, banging on our front door and demanding that my mom let him see me, that she wasn't going to be able to take me away from him or something like that. I don't really remember."

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