Forgotten Trails(8)

By: Bonnie R. Paulson



Rachiah's heart sank. A sensation she could’ve sworn she’d grown used to.

She'd come so close, she should never have gone through Cook’s door. She could've sat out there and held onto the hope it was him in that building. So much hope. She’d been nervous but she’d been slightly soaring. Now...

No, she had to go through that stupid door. She just had to ask the questions. Had to be bold in spite of everything pointing toward her expected failure.

All those months and years searching for Jeff, and there Rachiah was, yet again, being told he wasn't there. No one knew him.

She’d hit another dead end.

Again.

Disappointment crashed over and she sagged forward. Blinking back tears threatening to cascade down her cheeks, she blinked hard. Okay, it was one more setback. She could deal with those. No big deal. She lifted her chin and replaced the iron rod in her back that her mom had raised her to believe was back there. Regality held your spine straight. Self-respect held it intact. She was Salish. She wouldn't cry. She had no reason to cry.

Her victory was just around the next corner. This small failure was a small bump on her journey.

Then why did it sting so dang bad?

She slapped the table softly, the counter fogging a little under her damp palm as she pressed it there for a second too long. She swallowed, her throat tight. “Thank you anyway.”

Turning, she walked to her car with her posture as close to perfect as she’d ever gotten. She wasn't defeated. She couldn't fail.

She had to talk to someone.

Damon. Could she talk to Damon? He kept calling her and talking to her as if they were the best of friends.

She couldn't talk to Cyan or Sherri right now. They were too busy with the beginning of their new lives with the men of their dreams. Plus, they hadn’t held back in their vocal discouragement and disbelief in what she was doing. They thought she was throwing her family away.

Rachiah was the one who was behind. She didn’t fit in. She was always behind.

She settled into the driver's seat of her escort. Opening her phone, she sighed. She couldn't call Damon. She didn't have a charged battery.

She leaned her head back, resting on the headrest. Why did she have to be so alone when that was the last thing she wanted? Keeping her eyes closed, she refused to let the tears fall. Or to let the sobs escape.

She couldn't talk to Damon anyway. He didn't want to hear about her failures. Nobody wanted to hear about her failures.

“I don’t want to hear my whining.” Her voice was abnormally loud in the confines of the car. She shifted on the well-worn cushion. Now she was talking to herself.

Great.

But the truth was she didn’t want anyone to know she couldn't find the dad who had left to see if he might secretly want her.

She was running after a man who should love her, but hadn’t turned back since he’d left so many years ago. He didn’t want her.

Rachiah was all alone. And it had never felt as achingly true as it did in that moment.

~~~

All night long, Rachiah couldn't sleep. The ache in her empty stomach throbbed, keeping her awake.

She couldn't sleep.

She couldn’t find Ratchet.

She couldn’t be honest with her friends.

She couldn’t talk to her parents.

She couldn’t be what she was raised to be, because she couldn’t believe anything with all of the lies.

Her list of impossibilities ate at her. She couldn’t give up.

Tracing her steps back to the last lead was how she kept going. The men in the diner had said Jeff could be found at Cook’s.

She had to go back into the tortuously delicious smelling restaurant and talk to those men. Maybe they would drop some food or something.

They would be regulars with the way they had come in the morning and acted like they needed to have their coffee immediately.

If she was already going in there, maybe she could scrape together one of the dollars out of her money and have something even if it was just a packet of crackers with her coffee. She shoved her hand into the crevice between the passenger seat and the shifting base.

The message button beeped on her phone. Rachiah turned her head and lifted the phone with her free hand. She squinted at the small writing. A text from Cyan read, “Emma is very sick again. She's even sicker than last time. You need to come home soon.”

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