After the Game(8)

By: Abbi Glines

My parents had worried about me coming back too, but I understood their need to be with Grandmamma. After the call she had been found at three in the morning banging on the door of the grocery in town demanding bananas, we all knew there was no other option. None of us wanted to put her in a home.

Hiding indoors with Bryony wasn’t fair to her either. She loved the park and playing outside. I had made the decision to face this town head on and whatever they said didn’t matter. Small-minded people in a small town. This didn’t affect my future.

However, saying that and believing it are two different things. It wasn’t easy to see people from my past and be treated as if I were the plague. Those who were once friends now acted like I wasn’t there or scowled at me.

All because I asked my boyfriend’s older brother for a ride home from a field party after I had fought with Gunner. I had trusted Rhett. That was my only mistake. I had done nothing else wrong.

Holding on to my virginity had been a choice for me. I didn’t want to just have sex with a guy who I wasn’t in love with. When I had sex I wanted to know it was the right time. With the right person. Gunner had never been the right person. And I was only fifteen. Other girls were having sex, and I constantly heard how silly I was for waiting and how Gunner was going to cheat on me. But I hadn’t cared.

I was waiting.

Until Rhett took that choice away from me that night he took my virginity. I still deal with nightmares about it. But Bryony’s birth had changed me a lot. Made me stronger and healed me in a way nothing else could.

I’d decided I was a virgin still. Maybe not physically, but in my heart. I hadn’t chosen to give myself to a guy yet. That choice was still mine to hold on to. I wouldn’t allow Rhett to have taken that from me.

“My samich,” Bryony said happily and clapped as I set the ketchup-and-toast sandwich in front of her.

“Do I like that?” Grandmamma asked me.

Smiling, I shook my head. I wasn’t sure anyone other than a one-year-old could actually like that.

“You like pears and cottage cheese,” I reminded her.

She nodded again, then looked behind her. “Have you seen Thomas?”

The Number You Are Trying to Reach Is No Longer in Service



This Friday was the first game in the playoffs. We were all nervous, but the excitement was building. We had a real chance at the championship this year. To go out our senior year as champions would be epic. I had already decided on going to Texas A&M next year. Everyone thought I was going to Alabama, but when the pros and cons were all put in front of me, my future looked better at A&M.

That announcement hadn’t happened yet, though. I was waiting until we held the championship in our hands before I said a word. Next year was just that . . . next year. I was focused on the here and now. Getting my head distracted by what could happen next year didn’t help us win games.

Turning the aisle at the grocery store with the gallon of milk Mom had sent me to get, I came face-to-face with Lyla Young. Riley’s mother.

“Well, hello, Brady. You’ve grown two feet since I saw you last. Hard to believe you’re all seniors this year.”

The Youngs had always been good parents. Like my own. They held barbecues and parties for our group of friends over the years and were involved in the school functions. Or they had been. Before.

“Hello, Mrs. Young. Good to see you,” I replied.

She smiled, and it was genuine. Not bitter or angry like I would expect. After all, I was friends with the Lawtons. I had taken their side. I had been happy to see Vance leave town last week. Everyone said he was a ticking time bomb. I wasn’t a family friend. At least not anymore.

“Tell Coralee I said hello.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied. Then for some reason I can’t explain I blurted out, “I saw Riley and her daughter yesterday.” Why those words came out of my mouth I wasn’t sure, and I would do anything to cram them back in and walk away.

Lyla smiled. “That Bryony is a sweetheart. Riley is so good with her. I hope you said hello.”

Again, no judgment or anger in her words. She was sincere. Mom had always liked Lyla.

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