After the Game(5)

By: Abbi Glines

My brother, Vance, had stayed when we left and dealt with all of this. He’d hated them all. But his life had been here. With me gone, the gossip died, and he was able to continue. The talk about my return, however, ended up getting him suspended twice for fighting. He agreed he’d rather go to the private school near where we had been living that had accepted him. He had backed out when we decided to return to be with my grandmother, but my parents believed that it was best for him to finish his school away from Lawton. His IQ was ridiculously high, but so was his temper. I felt guilty for putting him in this situation. When he left last week, he had told me that this was what he wanted to do and not to feel guilty. I’d cried anyway.

Bryony stuck her little chubby hands out toward the heat and turned to Brady to flash him her smile. She had no idea that he was an enemy. I didn’t want her to know about enemies or ugliness in the world.

“What’s her name?” he asked.

“Bryony,” I replied. I didn’t want to talk to him. He didn’t want me in his truck any more than I wanted to be in it. Had it been any other of Gunner Lawton’s friends that had driven by, I’d still be out in the storm, trying not to panic. Brady Higgens wasn’t like that, though. He saw a baby in need, and he couldn’t ignore it.

“You’ve got pretty eyes, Bryony,” he told her.

She tilted her head back and looked up at me. Her damp blond curls stuck to her forehead. I bent my head and kissed that spot. It was hard not to.

“How old is she?”

Again I didn’t want to chat with him, but he was giving us a ride. So if he wanted to pretend that he cared, I would try and participate. “Fifteen months.”

“Wain!” she cheered as lightning struck outside.

Brady chuckled. She was adorable. He was going to be smitten before we got to my grandmother’s.

“You’re a big girl, then,” he said to her.

She nodded her head vigorously. She liked being called big. Even though she also still liked for me to rock her to sleep at night and cuddle her like a baby.

“Does your grandmother still live in the same house?” he asked as he turned down her street.

“Yes.” He would know how to get there. We’d grown up together. Been at the same school, gone to the same parties, played at the same park.

Finally he pulled into her driveway, and I wrapped my arms tightly around Bryony. I needed to get her inside before I got the stroller.

“Let me run her inside, then I’ll get the stroller,” I told him.

“I got the stroller. Y’all go on in.”

I didn’t argue. Opening the truck door I hurried up the sidewalk to the safety of the house. Walking inside I called out for Mom, but she didn’t answer. I wanted to hand her Bryony so I could run back out and get the stroller. Instead I set her down. “Wait right here. Let me get your stroller.”

She nodded, and I turned to walk back out when Brady ran up to the door holding her saturated stroller.

“Thank you,” I said again.

He nodded. “You’re welcome.”

Bryony’s small hand tugged at my pants leg. “Momma is wet.”

Brady’s eyes widened, and I realized what she had just said. Guess he knew now. She wasn’t my little sister after all.

I gave him a tight smile and closed the door before he could say anything else.

Especially for Riley



Momma? She’d called Riley Momma. I had heard it, and the look in Riley’s eyes had confirmed it. Which meant what? Had she gotten pregnant that soon after leaving town?

Or before? Could her lie about Rhett been her way of trying to pin her pregnancy on someone she thought she could get money out of? If so, that was sucky. She’d almost ruined Rhett’s future over her need to land someone as a father. It couldn’t have been Gunner’s because she hadn’t slept with him. We all knew it. Someone had gotten in her pants, so she’d had to lie. That much was obvious.

Had she cared too much about Gunner to sleep with him? That was what I’d never understood. Why lie on his older brother? Why not lie on her boyfriend? Unless she thought Rhett was more believable than Gunner. I guessed I’d never understand why she did that. No point in trying to figure her out.

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