Can't Slow Down - Lizzie Hart Stevens

For my Hart Beats:

I am so very thankful for each and every one of you. Your love and support truly means the world to me. Huge hugs to you all! xo

Can’t Slow Down

Copyright© 2015 Lizzie Hart Stevens

Cover Design by Michele Catalano Creative; Copyright © 2015

Formatting by Cassy Roop of Pink Ink Designs

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means such as electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior written permission of the author of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Except for the original material written by the author, all songs and song titles mentioned in the book Can’t Slow Down are the property of the respective songwriters and copyright holders.

I’M FOCUSING HARD on trying to beat Level 4 of Donkey Kong when my mom and dad walk over to tell me goodbye. It feels different this time, although I’m really not sure why.

“One sec, Mom.” My thumbs are going as fast as they can, pressing the keys in a perfect rhythm.

“Yes! Got it!” I throw my arms up in excitement. “Sorry, Momma, I just had to beat that level!”

Mom kneels down on the floor so that she’s eye level with me and places her hands on my knees. She looks so pretty in her new blue dress and high heels. Her brown hair is curly today and she’s wearing makeup. Momma doesn’t always wear makeup.

“Coen, sweetie, Daddy and I are going to a wedding tonight. You’re going to sleep here at Aunt Sarah’s and we will pick you up in the morning.” I hate when my parents leave me with Aunt Sarah. It’s so boring. I’m not allowed to touch anything.

As if Momma can read my mind, she places her hands on my cheeks and looks me in the eyes. “You be a good boy and listen to your aunt, okay, baby? Dad and I love you very much.” She kisses me on the forehead.

There are lots of breakable things at Aunt Sarah’s. I’m not even allowed to get close to the wooden cabinets with glass doors that hold her special things. But I’ll listen to Mom.

I don’t want them to go, but I don’t want my mom to feel bad either. “I love you too, Mom and Dad. I’ll be good. I promise. See you tomorrow.” I stand up and hug Dad. He’s wearing a dressy button-up white shirt and a pair of black dressy pants and shiny black shoes. His hair is shiny, too.

“Love you, son. Mind your manners. We’ll see you in the morning.” He lets go of our hug and ruffles my hair.

“I will, Dad. Love you too.”

I sit back down on the couch and dive into the next level of Donkey Kong on my Gameboy. I can hear Mom and Dad saying thank you and goodbye to Aunt Sarah as they head out the door.

I’M AWAKENED IN the middle of the night by the sound of the phone ringing. I rub my eyes and roll over to look at the digital clock.

3:32 AM

The phone isn’t really ringing. It was all a dream. Every fucking night, for the past nineteen years, I wake up at this time. It’s a constant reminder of what I lost that night when I was just eight years old. The time when I found out I would never get to see, hear, talk to, or hug my parents, ever again. The only two people in this world who cared about me . . . gone.

I swore that day that I would never love anyone again. I was left in a world of darkness and hurt when my parents were taken from me. They were hit head-on by a drunk driver on their way home from the wedding they were attending that evening. Killed instantly. Everything I’ve ever known, crashed into oblivion.

Aunt Sarah wasn’t thrilled about having to raise me and I can’t say I was exactly excited about it either. I spent my teenage years at the skate park with my best friend, Derek, and mowing every lawn I could. Not just to make money, but to get out of the house and away from my aunt and her insane