After the game, p.19
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       After the Game, p.19
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         Part #3 of The Field Party series by Abbi Glines
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  wasn’t what I really wanted either. I wanted the man I’d thought my dad was to be that man.

  I sat down at a chair closest to Mom and turned my attention to my dad. I wanted him to talk. This was his disaster. She shouldn’t be the one explaining anything to me.

  “What you saw was a mistake . . . ,” he began.

  I wasn’t about to let the bastard lie.

  “You accidentally had your pants down and a naked woman on your office table?” I asked with disgust.

  He winced and glanced at my mother. “That’s not what I meant. Miranda and I have been working together a lot over the past year. Things got carried away. In marriage sometimes people go through rough patches and it opens the door for this to happen. I made a mistake by allowing it to happen. I was weak and I will never forgive myself for hurting your mother . . . or you.”

  I let out a hard laugh full of hate. “Jesus, that’s the biggest crock of shit I’ve ever heard. Your life wasn’t rough. She does everything for you. She is what makes this house a home. Her!” I yelled, pointing at my mother. “She’s why I’m who I am. Her. All because of her. So this rough patch is your excuse to stick your dick wherever you want.”

  “Brady.” Mom’s voice broke, but I could hear the pleading there asking me to stop.

  My father sighed and looked at my mother, then back at me. “I’m moving out. You, your mom, and Maggie will stay here, I’ll keep the bills paid, and we will decide in the coming weeks where we are going to go next.”

  “I’m filing for divorce, Boone. I’ve already told you that,” my mother said, her voice harder than I’d thought it would be.

  He looked defeated, and I wanted him to look torn apart like I felt, like she felt. Defeat wasn’t enough. He needed to feel agony.

  “Whatever you want,” he finally said.

  Mom stood up. “I’m going to my room. You have everything you need out of there, I assume,” she said without looking at my father.

  “Yes.”

  She bent down and kissed the top of my head. “Good night,” she whispered, then walked out.

  My father didn’t make a move to leave, so I turned to him. “I’ll never forgive you. I hope you die a lonely old man with so much regret and sorrow you can’t find happiness. Not even in death. You tore us apart, but we will be okay. You won’t. You’ll never be okay again.” I stood up. “Don’t come to my games. Don’t come to my practices. Stay away from me. I want nothing to do with you. Enjoy the blond bitch and know she’s all you’ve got. That’s if she leaves her husband.”

  That was it. I couldn’t say more. My chest hurt so bad it made it difficult to breathe. I walked out of the kitchen and to my bedroom. I didn’t move until I heard the front door close. I walked to the window and watched him toss a duffel bag in his truck, then drive away.

  My memories of the life we had lived as a family were no longer comforting. I didn’t want to remember anything that man was a part of. It was almost as if my identity had been taken from me. Who I was compared to who I am now.

  I sat down and pulled my cell phone from my pocket.

  It’s done. He’s gone, I texted Riley.

  Just saying it felt unreal. Like this was a nightmare I’d wake up from soon.

  I’m sorry was her response.

  So was I. So was I.

  Change Is Still Coming

  CHAPTER 47

  RILEY

  I picked up the phone several times to text Brady and check on him. But each time there was no text from him, so I set my phone down and gave him the space he needed. They had a lot to deal with today. I just wished I knew how to help them. But there was nothing I could do.

  Mom didn’t work today, so I took Bryony and we went to the park, then to the grocery store for her. While Bryony napped, I focused on schoolwork. By the time dinner came and I still hadn’t heard from Brady, I was concerned.

  “You seem distracted,” Mom said over the table.

  Bryony was eating her noodles and chicken with her fingers, and I had been watching her, my mind somewhere else. I turned back to my food and realized I hadn’t eaten anything. “Yeah. Brady’s dealing with some family stuff,” I explained the only way that I could.

  “What’s going on?”

  I sighed, lifting my eyes to meet her gaze. “I can’t tell you.” I wish I could, though. I needed her advice right now. She would know what I should do.

  Mom nodded as if understanding my situation and didn’t push me for more. “You haven’t talked to him today?”

  I shook my head. I knew he had to focus on his family, but I just wanted to know he was okay. If that was even a possibility.

  “That game last night caught some footage of him having words with his dad. They cut from the scan fast, but there was a glimpse. The conversation seemed heated.”

  I had wondered if the television had seen that. If so, this news was going to come out soon with this gossip to go behind it. “Yeah” was all I said.

  “You can’t help unless you’re asked. Just be there when he needs you.”

  That was what I was trying to do. But it was hard when you heard nothing from him.

  “Chick-chick!” Bryony yelled and slapped her tray.

  “Looks like someone was hungry,” Mom said, reaching over to put more chicken on Bryony’s tray.

  “Say thank you,” I reminded her.

  “Tank ooo,” she said, then began shoveling the chicken in her mouth.

  “She must have played hard at the park,” Mom said, smiling as she watched her.

  “Oh yes. Always.”

  We ate a little more in silence. Dad was working on the car and said he’d come eat once he had it fixed. Grandmamma was taking a nap. So it was just us three.

  “Grandmamma has a doctor’s appointment on Monday. I’ll stay home and take her. That should give you extra time to do schoolwork.”

  “I’m ahead already. At this rate I’ll graduate by March.”

  Mom took a sip of her sweet tea. “You still planning on getting you and Bryony a place of your own somewhere? Or do you think y’all might stay here now that Lawton is accepting you?”

  I didn’t know. Not anymore.

  Leaving here had been all I could think about. Now I wasn’t so sure. Brady had changed that. Yes, he’d be leaving soon, but he had managed to make this place feel like home again. Maybe not completely, but enough.

  “I’m not sure yet,” I told her. “I didn’t expect things to take the turn they did. Gunner talked to me last night. He was nice. Friendly. West was there too, and it was almost if I hadn’t left. Except we have all changed. For the better.”

  Mom smiled. “Age will do that to you. Change is still coming. This is just the beginning.”

  I was good with the change so far. But change was always scary. The future wasn’t always exciting.

  * * *

  My phone lit up at midnight, and the only reason I noticed was because I hadn’t been able to sleep worrying about Brady.

  Can you come outside?

  Finally. A text from him. The fact that it was at midnight would annoy me if I weren’t so relieved. It hadn’t been a good day for him. That I already knew without talking to him.

  I got out of bed and tucked the pillows around Bryony’s little body so she wouldn’t miss my warmth. Then I slipped on my flip-flops and went quietly down the hall and out of the house.

  Brady’s truck was parked with his lights off in the driveway. It was cold, and I was wishing I’d grabbed a jacket. Hurrying, I ran out to his truck and climbed inside, glad to find it warm from the heater he’d been running.

  “Hey,” I said as I shivered.

  “Sorry it’s so late,” he replied. His voice sounded hollow. Much like a little boy who had lost his favorite action figure.

  “I wasn’t asleep.”

  He turned to me. “I helped Mom pack Boone’s things up today. We put them outside by the garage for him to pick up. His clothes, boots, shaving supplies, the
tie I gave him for Christmas when I was ten years old, the book about great dads I gave him for Father’s Day when I was thirteen, all of it. Every memory was packed up and taken out of the house. Maggie took down all the family photos he was in and packed them away. I had her put them up in the attic space left in my room. It was a quiet day. We didn’t talk much. Just cleared Boone’s stuff out like he was dead. In a way he is. The man I knew is gone. In his place is this impostor that I hate.”

  I thought about how I would feel if that were my dad. If he’d hurt my mother like that. And me. Would I be able to pack him away and send him off? My chest hurt just thinking about it. Even if he did something that horrible I’d love him. I didn’t think he could do something to make me hate him like that. Maybe I was wrong.

  “She’s cried a lot today. She tried to hide it, but she would walk away and close herself off in the bathroom. I could hear her crying. I wanted to put my fist through a wall at the sound of her sobs. Knowing the man she trusted and loved did that to her.”

  He was worried about his mom. I loved my mom too. Finding her hurt and upset like that would kill me. If I were in his shoes, I might be able to hate what my dad had done. I wasn’t sure, and I hoped I never had to find out.

  “How are you?” I asked him. He’d told me about his mother, but he hadn’t said how he was feeling.

  “Broken. Different. He changed me. He changed us all.”

  I slid over to sit beside him, and this time it was my hand that covered his. “Tonight at dinner we were talking about how things were changing for me here. Mom said with age we change. There is more to come. This isn’t a good change or an easy one, but it’s part of your life, and you control how it affects you. Your father can’t control you.”

  He flipped his hand over, and his fingers threaded through mine. We sat there, me looking at him and him looking straight ahead out the window, lost in his thoughts. I wondered how Maggie was handling this, but it didn’t seem appropriate to ask that. Not now.

  “I don’t want to go home. It hurts too much. But I can’t stay away because they need me there. With Boone gone, I’m the man now. That’s a responsibility I wasn’t ready for either.”

  Something else I understood all too well. When Bryony was placed in my arms, I was an adult suddenly. Life turned and I was terrified.

  “Those things that terrify us can make us stronger and become something beautiful. When I had Bryony, I was more scared than I’d ever been. She was a living, breathing human and I was in charge of her life. Keeping her alive, taking care of her. In a second my world turned on its axis, and I thought I’d never make it. I would fail. But I didn’t. And I wouldn’t give her up for the world. The person she made me is strong, brave, and I love who I have become.”

  He squeezed my hand. “Thank you. I forget when I’m in that house that I’m not the only person on earth to go through something so difficult. I think it’s all on me. No one’s done it before. But you did something much harder. My mom is an adult and Maggie is seventeen. Taking care of them is nothing like being handed a baby to protect.” He paused and looked at me. “If this makes me half the person you are, I’ll be thankful. The hate I have may actually fade to disappointment. I want your strength.”

  He was stronger than he realized. We all were. When faced with something like this, we found the strength inside us that we hadn’t needed to use before. It was being brave enough to use it that made the difference. Finding an easy escape or running from it didn’t make it go away. Facing it head on, knowing you could withstand it and overcome it, was what made you tough enough to live life.

  We Can Survive This

  CHAPTER 48

  BRADY

  The rest of my weekend I spent taking care of my mom and helping her any way I could during the day. Once I was sure she was asleep at night, I would go to Riley’s and we would sit in my truck for hours and talk. Sometimes we would just sit in silence. We didn’t need to talk. Just being there with her made it better. She reminded me I was strong enough for this. A fairy-tale life wasn’t real for anyone. We all faced something hard.

  Monday I didn’t want to leave Mom and go to school, but she made me. She said my staying home wasn’t good for us. We had to learn to live life regularly again. Seeing her red eyes from crying sliced through me every time I looked at her. It also made the hate I felt for Boone grow.

  No one at school knew what was happening. I didn’t want to talk about it. Soon enough the entire town would know. Luckily no one was talking about my fight on the field with Boone. They all were talking about the last play of the game and Riley Young being my date. And, of course, our kiss.

  That helped keep my mind off things. But in class, when it was quiet, my thoughts went to my mom and I worried about her. It was just after lunch when Maggie found me in the hall.

  “I can’t stop worrying about Aunt Coralee. I’m checking out and going to the house. I wanted you to know so that you could stop worrying too. You need to stay here for practice, but I don’t. I can miss some classes.”

  Mom would argue with her that she shouldn’t have left school, but I didn’t tell her that because I wanted her to go. I didn’t want Mom alone.

  “Yeah. That would be good,” I agreed.

  Maggie nodded. “West is letting me take his truck. Give him a ride after practice. He may forget he’s without a vehicle.”

  “I’ll take care of him. You go be with Mom.”

  The look she gave me was a mirror of my own thoughts. We loved her. Watching this was hard for Maggie, too. She’d just found happiness and security, then this happened. I had to remember that Maggie was dealing with this just as much as I was. Possibly more. She’d been through a living hell much worse than this.

  “Hey,” I said to her as she started to leave. She turned to look back at me. “If you need to talk. Or anything. I’m here. Always.”

  She gave me a sad smile. “Thanks. We’re going to be okay, Brady. All three of us. We can survive this.”

  She was right. We could.

  * * *

  Practice was grueling. The last play of the game may have been a success, but the fact that we’d had to pull off a miracle to win meant we hadn’t played the game like champions. Coach drilled that into our heads a million times in the two hours we were on the field today. There wasn’t a part of my body that didn’t ache.

  Mom would have dinner ready, and going home to eat with her and Maggie was important right now. Problem was I really wanted to see Riley. She was what kept me sane in all this.

  I picked up the phone and called Mom.

  “Hello.” Her voice wasn’t the usual cheerful tone I was used to.

  “Hey, Mom, how are you?”

  She sighed. “Good. Maggie and I cleaned house today, made cookies, and are finishing up supper. Are you coming home or going to Riley’s?”

  Maggie had been with her all day. It was my turn to take over and give her a break. I couldn’t expect Maggie to take care of my mother all the time, just because this was hard on me.

  “I’ll be there in a few minutes,” I said, almost reluctantly.

  Mom paused. “Why don’t you invite Riley and Bryony to dinner? I’d love to have them and get to visit with her daughter. Would be good to have a baby around here to lighten things up.”

  The woman was a mind reader. She knew why I had called and what I was dealing with internally without my saying a word. “Thanks, Mom. That would be great. Let me call her.”

  There was a soft laugh from her, and hearing her laugh even a little helped.

  “I’ve made plenty tonight.”

  As soon as I said my good-bye, I called Riley, hoping she hadn’t eaten yet and this was a way I’d get to see her.

  “Hey,” she answered after the first ring.

  “Have you eaten dinner?” I asked her immediately in case she was in the middle of it. I wasn’t above begging her to stop midbite and come with me.

  “Uh, no, Mom was waiting on Dad.”


  “Good, because Mom has invited you and Bryony for dinner. She said it would be good to have a baby around to lighten things up.” And I want to see you really damn bad. I didn’t add that last part.

  “Oh,” she said, then paused. I was afraid she was thinking of ways to turn my offer down, so I dove right back in.

  “I missed you today. I want to see you, but I need to go home to Mom, too. If you’d come, that would make this easier.”

 
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