She was holding out, until she was eighteen.
Cleo had seven months, three days, and four hours until she was of age. And when she was? She’d get as far and fast away from her stepmother and step sister as possible.
It had been three years since the death of her father. And Cleo still mourned his loss like he’d just died. While his widow on the other hand, had her “friend” over the next day after his funeral.
Cleo could admit, she’d swung on the b***h for that. At fifteen, full of anger and hate, she’d seen Peyton bringing some stranger into her father’s room. And what she heard next? Traumatized her.
So yeah, when he was still buttoning up his pants, Cleo went in swinging a bat ready to go to jail for murder. It took a lot to calm her down that night, her grandfather came in chuckling to be honest.
He hadn’t cared about Peyton hollering how she was crazy and needed help. Instead, he’d laughed and kissed her forehead, “Turning so much into your mama it’s a shame.”
You’d think from there, Cleo would have gone to live with him or her other grandparents. But no.
After a week and Peyton had her fun, she called Ray. Cleo’s maternal grandfather, and told him to bring her home. “Well, I don’t see what for? You obviously got what you wanted, the hell you need my grandbaby for lady?” Ray’s question wasn’t answered then.
Instead, Peyton threatened to call the police, but Ray still wasn’t fazed. Hell, he was family and more so than Peyton was.
Or so they thought.
Apparently, in his drugged-up state as he suffered, Peyton had Billy sign over custody to her.
So she was now Cleo’s legal guardian. And since they were unable to prove he was not in his right state of mind, Cleo had to go home. She cried the entire way there, and her grandfather promised to stay close.
Peyton still slowly, and painfully found a way to isolate him. And with her late husband's parents going into a home a town over, she had no outside intruders.
The torture began with making Cleo give up everything she liked. Clothes, books, shoes, movies, everything had to go. And then? She took more.
Iphone 8 replaced with a cheap burner, tablet “accidently” broken, and her computer? It seemed to have grown legs and ran away. Peyton loved it too, watching Cleo try to check her anger.
Because she knew while Cleo wanted to fight her, to really fight her. She wouldn’t now.
After seeing the fear on her face after Peyton threatened to send her to jail for assault, Peyton knew she had her ace. Her way to control Cleo and get her way.
Which came in handy when the beautiful little girl became a beautiful young woman. Seeing her dates she’d bring home side eyeing her, Peyton told her to do the sickest thing yet. “Cut off all your hair.”
Cleo had looked at her horrified when the electric razor landed on her bed. “What? NO!” Peyton stalked into her room, “What the hell you just say to me?” Cleo stood out of her bed, “I said no you crazy b***h I’m not cutting my hair!”
But it didn’t matter what she said, Cleo in the end lost as Peyton refused to let her eat. Kept her from leaving her room, and basically held her captive. Telling the school she had lice, explained away why on Monday Cleo walked in with a buzz cut.
Thing was, her smooth chocolate skin, thick plump lips, and bubbly smile, Cleo ate the look up. And Peyton seemed to hate her even more for it, for the way Cleo seemed to effortless spin things to her way.
Which is why she started bullying her daughter, to bully Cleo. Forcing the young girl to be mean to her step sister, Hailey slowly but surely poisoned against her. Seeing how pretty and sweet she was, made Hailey hate her.
All because her mama had it embedded in her head now.
At school, where Cleo for a time being had peace of mind, lost that. Hailey kept telling people, what a slut she was, what a hoe she was, and how she did this and another with a guy.
And like herpes it burned through their school and spread like a fire. All-consuming and vengeful, Cleo was soon isolated and looked at like she was stain.
But now? Now here she was.
On the cusp of graduating out early and moving half way across the country, Cleo could care less. She could care less about the s**t written on the bathroom walls about her. And she could care less that her ex-boyfriend of a week was now sleeping with her step sister.
And she could really care less about the fact her step mother was sleeping with a seedy drug dealer now.
In all honesty, it worked out in her favor. Because now, Peyton was too busy screwing her new d**k to pay attention to Cleo. And Hailey was too busy rubbing in Cleo’s face that she was happy with Jordan. If only she’d pause to see how unaffected Cleo actually was.
In fact, all Cleo could hope for now was freedom from all this drama. Chaos.
She got home at three o clock like always. Hailey had a brand new car, one she refused to share with Cleo. And sine Peyton was a cunt, she didn’t force her daughter to. But Cleo didn’t mind unless it was raining.
And even then, Cleo would rather look sad riding her bike in the rain then in the car with Hailey. But today was perfect for her.
The sky was blue and everything clear, and as she put her bike down, she heard, “Hey dyke gonna go eat some snatch?” Looking at one of Peyton’s friends hollering the insults, Peyton flipped her off, “Homophobia isn’t cute, it’s disgusting.”
The girl rolled her eyes calling her something else. But Peyton wasn’t laughing along, instead her fingers were flying across her phone as she looked stress. Leaning on Jordan, the handsome African-American jock, she whispered, “I gotta go.”
She sped out of the parking lot all dramatic as she burned rubber. Her friends worried, but Cleo assumed it was just another booty call more important than insulting her. Getting on her bike, Cleo ignored the eyes watching her peddle away.
The bike ride home was her exercise and way to clear her mind. But when she got home and saw both cars, she instantly wanted to go to the library. Anywhere else but here.
But Peyton had rules, and if Cleo didn’t follow them? Well, Cleo would be hungry, with no clothes, and nowhere to sleep for a few days. If not an entire week...again.
Walking into the front door, Cleo smelt smoke and instantly wanted to scream. She hated smoking and told Peyton about that s**t. This was her parents' house, no way in hell would either allow it.
Closing the door, Cleo gritted out, “Unless you want the entire house to smell like an ass tray at least open a window!” Starting upstairs, Cleo froze when she heard a deep amused chuckle, “Sorry gorgeous, I’ll put it out.” Turning in shock, Cleo looked at the handsome African American man smiling at her.
Stamping out his cigar, he looked at Cleo intrigued as she descended the one step she’d climbed. “Who the hell are you?” Cleo asked as she came into the kitchen all the way. Jumping when she saw movement, Cleo looked at the other two handsome black men.
Waiting in a corner in suits, both stood with bored expressions until they saw her. “Good evening,” Turning to look back at their dining room table, Cleo watched him stand. So tall and built, the dark-skinned man wore a black suit.
He looked pristine, fancy, and way too important to be in her kitchen. But he stuck his hand out as he introduced himself like they were equals, “I am Tyrone Royal, and you are?” Cleo slowly accepted his hand, “Cleo. Cleo Bryson.”
Tyrone nodded as she quickly pulled her soft hand from his. Turning to look at Peyton nervously fidgeting, Tyrone asked, “Your other daughter?” Cleo corrected him without hesitation, “Step. She is not my mother.”
Looking at her curious at the adamant way she insisted that, Peyton sent Cleo a dirty look. One not missed by Tyrone who watched Cleo as she nervously said, “Welp, this doesn’t look like this involves me. So, I’m gonna go upstairs.”
Turning to go and jump out her window, Tyrone’s two hench men stopped Cleo from taking a step out of her kitchen.
“Um excuse me brick wall one and brick wall two.” She said trying to be nice. But they scared her and right now, Cleo felt uncomfortable. Like she’d just walked in on something bad. And whatever it was, had s**t to do with her.
Or so she thought.
Chuckling both men exchanged looks before facing their boss curiously. Turning around slowly, Tyrone Royal was smiling at her. Cleo was about to pop s**t and ask why, but he spoke first.
“Actually Cleo, how about you stay please, I don’t think you know what’s going on here.” Tyrone said kindly waving her over. Peyton still nervous and knowing she was in trouble glared as Cleo slowly sat down, “She’s not needed sir, like I said-.”
Sending her a withering glare to silence her, Cleo was shocked to see the change. From barking Pitbull to a whimpering b***h. It was incredible.
Confused never having seen Peyton nervous, scared, and letting someone silence her, Cleo met Tyrone’s eyes. They were beautiful and confusing too.
One was black, so black in fact it seemed like his pupil had expanded like in anime cartoon. But his other eye was silver, so silver in fact it almost seemed white. With his five-o clock shadow dusting his strong jaw, he was so handsome it hurt.
Cleo was intimidated when she found him looking at her.
“Cleo, did you know your stepmother was a drug addict?” Eyes widening as her back went straight, Cleo looked at the shamed Peyton, “No I didn’t.” Tyrone hummed not surprised, “And did you know she has gambling debts reaching close to five hundred thousand dollars?”
Stomach falling into her ass, Cleo whispered blinded, “No.”
“How about the fact she put this house and cars, and basically everything else up to cover her debt?” Cleo could care less about jail in that moment. Because a numbness had settled in as she realized what was happening.
And she swung.