After the Game(10)

By: Abbi Glines

“Look how tall he’s gotten,” Mom said, smiling as if his visit were the best thing in the world. She didn’t realize he was here to talk about Bryony and what he had heard. She thought he was being friendly. Everyone always thought Brady was just being the nice guy.

“Why are you here?” I asked, not wanting to do the small-talk thing.

“Riley.” Mother’s tone was that of a warning. But I just didn’t care.

“I’d like to talk, about things,” he said in his I’m nice, just trust me voice.

“It’s not your concern,” I snapped back at him. He was Gunner Lawton’s friend. They were tight, and I didn’t trust him at all.

“Riley,” Mother said, trying to get my attention. I was ignoring her. This was my problem. She needed to back out of it.

“It’s okay, Mrs. Young. I deserve this. I wasn’t nice to Riley two years ago, and I took the Lawtons’ side,” he said, glancing at my mom, then back to me. “But I’d like to talk to you now. Understand. Listen.”

I didn’t need him to understand or listen. Who the hell did he think he was? I would ask him just that if it wouldn’t send my mother into a fit.

“My life is good. I don’t care what you or anyone else thinks or believes. I stopped trying to convince anyone of anything a long time ago. Just leave. Let me be.”

“Riley, that’s enough. I’d like to speak to you in the kitchen,” my mother said in a stern voice. I wanted to tell her no, but I wasn’t stupid.

I spun around on my heel and stalked to the kitchen. She whispered something to Brady and I rolled my eyes. She was buying his nice-guy shit just like everyone else. Ugh. It made me sick.

“I cannot believe the way you are acting. That boy came here because he believes you. He saw Bryony and he wants to talk to you. Make amends. Why can’t you let him? He could be a good friend. You say you don’t need friends, but you do! You more than anyone I know needs a friend. That boy in there is a good one.”

My face felt hot from the anger boiling inside me. “That boy in there,” I snarled, pointing my finger in the direction of the living room, “turned on me and called me a liar two years ago. He was supposed to be my friend, but he never listened to me. No one here did. Why would you think I’d give him a chance now? Because he wants his conscience cleared? Well, boo-freaking-hoo. I do not feel bad for him.”

Mom shook her head and dropped her hands from her hips, but there was a softness in her eyes. “Honestly, Riley, when are you going to let all this pain and bitterness go? Yes, you were hurt in the worst possible way, and it breaks my heart to think about it. But you were given a beautiful gift from it all. You know that. You’re a wonderful mom and you are so strong. But you are holding on to this pain and keeping others out. That’s not a good example for Bryony. You need a friend, sweetheart. It’s time to let someone in, and from all I know of Brady Higgens, he’s a really good kid.”

Well, crap. That was low. Bringing Bryony into it. I made sure never to let her ears hear about the past and what I went through. I wanted her safe from all that. I did everything I could to make her life happy and complete.

“That’s not fair. Bryony doesn’t know any of this.”

Mom shrugged. “Maybe not, but she sees your body language. She will one day realize that you’re carrying bitterness and hurt. And that you build walls around yourself. She’ll learn to do the same.”

That was what broke me. If she was right, and my mother was rarely wrong, I couldn’t live with myself. I was in self-preserve mode. It wasn’t an easy life, but after what I’d been through, it was the only way I could deal. I didn’t trust easily. Or at all. But that didn’t mean I wanted Bryony to live like me.

“But why Brady? How does my telling him anything change that? He’s not going to become my buddy. He’s got a football team to worry about, and a college scholarship. My talking to him does nothing.”

But ease his guilt, I finished in my head. Which I still thought was unfair. I wanted him to feel guilty. He should.

“You don’t know that. Give him a chance,” my mother replied.

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