After the Game(4)

By: Abbi Glines

When she was placed in my arms, my world tilted. My life would never be the same, and all the pain that had led to her arrival in this world was gone. Just like that. I no longer cared about the past. I just cared that she was mine. Who her father was and what he had done meant nothing. Not now. Not ever.

I had my daughter. She was healthy. It became the only important thing in my life. Sleepless nights became a special time for us to bond. Endless crying when she didn’t feel good became a chance to learn how to make her laugh. That was what mattered. The two of us.

“Yes, it’s raining, baby girl. Let’s see how fast we can get home,” I said with a cheery tone.

She clapped in response, and I pulled my hoodie over my head to fight off the wetness for at least a few minutes before running toward the sidewalk that led to my grandmother’s. It wasn’t so bad. The fall air smelled good damp. It reminded me of my childhood. Those were good memories, ones I wanted for Bryony. Although we wouldn’t be able to stay in Lawton. As much as I missed the town that had been part of me, it no longer accepted me. For now we would make our home here. Keep to ourselves and enjoy life. But it wasn’t permanent.

A truck slowed beside me, and I kept jogging. I didn’t turn to see who it was. I had a mission.

“You need a ride?” a familiar voice called out. I still didn’t turn my head. I’d know Brady Higgens’s voice anywhere. The hateful looks and words that I remembered from him kept my gaze straight and my feet moving.

“Jesus, Riley, it’s pouring and the baby is getting all wet. At least get in for her sake. She’s gonna get sick.”

He sounded exasperated. I didn’t like the tone of his voice or him thinking he should guide me in the way I was raising my child. A little rain wasn’t going to make her sick. This wasn’t the last frontier, for crying out loud.

“You’ve got another two miles to your grandmother’s house. This storm is gonna get worse. Let me give you a ride. For the baby’s sake.”

The way he said baby infuriated me. He didn’t realize who Bryony was. He along with all the other idiots in this town thought I’d lied. Accused me of it and ran me out of town. All because it wasn’t possible that golden boy Rhett Lawton would rape me. I had to have come on to him. He had to have been the one to push me away. I was his brother’s girlfriend, after all. Why would he rape me? I must be crazy.

I stopped running and turned to look at Brady. He had always been the good guy. Taking up for people and believing the best in them. Except for me. He’d turned on me just like the others had. I was about to open my mouth and tell him exactly where he could shove his almighty tone when the sky roared and lightning shot across the sky. Rain I wasn’t scared of, but I didn’t want Bryony out in an actual storm. My scathing words fell away and instead I said, “Okay.”

He nodded, looking relieved I’d given in, and jumped out of the truck to grab the stroller after I lifted Bryony into my arms. “Just throw it in back. It’s wet anyway. I’ll have to set it out in the sun tomorrow to dry it.”

I didn’t wait to see if he did as I said. I hurried around to the passenger side and climbed in, with Bryony smiling as the raindrops pelted her face. The heat was on in the truck, and her little shiver made me worried Brady could be right and she might get a cold from this. I would get her some orange juice and a warm bath as soon as we got home.

Brady climbed back inside, and I grudgingly glanced at him and forced the words “Thank you” out of my mouth. Not something I’d ever expected to say to him or anyone around here.

He looked at Bryony. “I doubt your parents would want you walking your little sister home in this weather. I’m just glad you agreed to get in.”

My little sister? Really? That was what they were saying in town? I frowned and turned my attention toward the window to look out. I could correct him, but what good would that do? None. He would assume I got knocked up after I left town. Never could my actual story have been true. Although if one took the time to really see her, Bryony looked like a Lawton. She had many of her father’s features. I wasn’t going to point that out, though. I never wanted her to know the Lawtons. They were monsters.

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