Fallen Too Far (Chapter Twenty-Four)

I didn't look back and he didn't call my name again. I headed down the stairs with my suitcase in hand. When I got to the bottom step, my dad came out of the living room and into the foyer. A frown was etched on his face. He looked fifteen years older since the last time I'd seen him. The past five years hadn't been good to him.

"Don't leave, Blaire. Let's talk about this. Give yourself time to think about things." He wanted me to stay. Why? So he could make himself feel better for ruining my life? For ruining Nan's life?

I pulled the phone he'd wanted me to have out of my pocket and held it out to him. "Take it. I don't want it," I said.

He stared down at it and then back at me. "Why would I take your phone?"

"Because I don't want anything from you," I replied. The anger was there but I was tired. I just wanted out of here.

"I didn't give you that phone," he said still looking confused.

"Take the phone, Blaire. If you want to leave, I can't hold you here. But please, take the phone." Rush was standing at the top of the stairs.  He'd bought me the phone. My dad had never told him to get me a phone. The numbness was settling in. I couldn't feel any more pain. No sorrow for what we might have had.

I walked over and put the phone down on the table beside the stairs. "I can't," was my simple reply. I didn't look back at any of them. Although I'd heard Georgianna's heels click on the marble floor alerting me that she had entered the foyer.

I grabbed the door handle and pulled the door open. I would never see any of them again. I'd only mourn the loss of one.

"You look just like her." Georgianna's voice rang out in the silent foyer. I knew she meant my mother. She had no right even to remember my mother. Or speak of her. She'd lied about my mother. She'd made the one woman I admired above everyone else seem selfish and cruel.

"I only hope I can be half the woman she was," I said in a loud clear voice. I wanted them all to hear me. They needed to know there was no doubt in my mind that my mother was innocent.

I stepped out into the sunshine and closed the door firmly behind me. A silver sports car spun into the drive as I made my way to my truck. I knew it was Nan. I couldn't look at her. Not now.

The car door slammed and I didn't flinch. I threw my suitcase into the back of the truck and opened the door. I was done here.

"You know," she said in a loud amused tone.

I would not respond to her. I would not listen to her mouth spew more lies about my mother.

"How's it feel? Knowing you were left for someone else by your own father?"

It felt numb. That was the least of my pain. My dad had left us five years ago. I'd moved on.

"You don't feel so high and mighty now, do ya? Your momma was a cheap hussy that deserved what she got."

The calmness that had settled over me snapped. No one was gonna talk about my momma again. No one. I reached under the seat and pulled out my nine millimeter. I turned and aimed at her lying red lips.

"You say one more word about my momma and I'll put an extra hole in your body," I said in a hard flat voice.

Nan screamed and threw her hands up in the air. I didn't lower the gun. I wasn't going to kill her. I'd just wing her in the arm if she opened her mouth again. My aim was spot on.

"Blaire! Put the gun down. Nan, don't move. She knows how to use that thing better than most men." My dad's voice caused my hands to tremble. He was protecting her. From me. His daughter. The one he wanted. The one he left us for. The one he'd deserted most of her life. I didn't know what to feel.

I heard Georgianna's panicked voice. "What is she doing with that thing? Is that even legal for her to have it?"

"She has a permit," my father replied, "and she knows what she's doing. Stay calm."

I lowered the gun. "I'm gonna get in that truck and drive out of your life.

Forever. Just keep your mouth shut about my momma. I won't listen to it again," I warned before turning and climbing into my truck. I tucked my gun back under the seat and backed out of the driveway. I didn't look to see if they were all huddled around poor Nannette. I didn't care. Maybe she'd think twice before she fucked with someone else's momma. Because, by God, she better never talk bad about mine again.

I headed to the country club. I'd have to tell them I was leaving. Darla deserved to know not to expect me. So did Woods for that matter. I didn't want to explain but they probably already knew. Everyone knew but me. They'd all just been waiting on me to find out. Why one of them couldn't have told me the truth I didn't understand.

It wasn't like this was life altering for Nan. Everything she'd ever known hadn't just been blown to hell. My life had just flipped on its axis. This wasn't about Nan. This was about me. Me, dammit. Why did they have to protect her? From what did she need protecting?

I parked the truck outside the office and Darla met me at the front door.

"You forget to check the schedule, girl? This is your day off." She was smiling at me but her smile vanished when my eyes met hers. She stopped walking and grabbed the railing on the porch of the office. Then she shook her head. "You know, don't you?"

Even Mrs. Darla had known. I simply nodded. She let out a long-winded sigh, "I'd heard the rumors like most folks but no knew the whole truth. I don't want to know it 'cause it ain't my business but if it's close to what I've heard then I know this hurts."  Darla walked down the rest of the stairs. The commanding little firecracker I knew was gone. She opened her arms when she got to the bottom step and I ran into them. I didn't think about it. I needed someone to hold me. The sobs came the moment she wrapped me up in her arms.

"I know it sucks, sugar. I wish someone would've told you sooner."

I couldn't talk. I just cried and clung to her while she held on tight.

"Blaire? What's wrong?" Bethy's voice sounded worried and I looked up to see her running down the steps toward us. "Oh shit. You know," she said, stopping in her tracks. "I should've told you but I was scared to. I didn't know all the facts. I just knew what Jace had overheard from Nan. I didn't want to tell you the wrong thing. I was hoping Rush would tell you. He did, didn't he? I thought for sure he would after the way I saw him looking at you last night."

I eased back out of Darla's arms and wiped at my face. "No. He didn't tell me. I overheard. My dad and Georgianna came home."

"Shit," Bethy said in a frustrated sigh. "Are you leaving?" The pained expression in her eyes told me she already knew the answer to that.

I only nodded.

"Where will you go?" Darla asked.

"Back to Alabama. Back home. I have some money saved up now. I'll be able to find a job and I do have friends there. My mom and sister's graves are there." I didn't finish. I couldn't without breaking down again.

"We'll miss you around here," Darla said with a sad smile.

I would miss them too. All of them. Even Woods. I nodded. "Me too."

Bethy let out a loud sob and running over to me she threw her arms around my neck. "I never had a friend like you before. I don't want you to leave."

My eyes filled up with tears again. I'd made a few friend here. Not everyone had betrayed me. "Maybe you could come to Bama and visit sometime," I whispered in a choked sob.

She pulled back and sniffed. "You'd let me come visit?"

"Of course," I replied.

"Okay. Is next week too soon?"

If I could've managed the energy to smile, I would have. I doubted I'd ever smile again. "As soon as you're ready."

She nodded and rubbed her red nose with her arm.

"I'll let Woods know. He'll understand," Darla said from behind us.

"Thank you."

"You be careful. Take care. Let us know how you're doing."

"I will," I replied, wondering if it would be a lie. Would I ever talk to them again?

Darla stepped back and motioned for Bethy to come stand beside her. I waved at them both and opened the truck door to climb in. It was time I left this place behind.

Chapter Twenty-Five

The sigh of relief I expected when I drove under the first out of only three traffic lights in Sumit, Alabama didn't come. The numbness had taken over completely on my seven-hour drive. The words I'd heard my father say about my mother replayed over and over in my head until I couldn't feel anything for anyone.

I turned left at traffic light number two and headed for the cemetery. I needed to talk to momma before I checked into the only motel in town. I wanted to let her know that I didn't believe any of it. I knew what kind of woman she was. What kind of mother she was. No one would ever compare. She'd been my rock when she'd been the one dying. Never had I feared that she'd walk away from me.

The gravel parking lot was empty. The last time I'd been here most of the town had come to pay their last respects to my mom. Today the afternoon sun was fading away and the shadows were the only company I had.

Stepping out of my truck, I swallowed the lump that had risen in my throat. Being here again. Knowing she was here but she wasn't. I walked down the path to her grave wondering if anyone had come to see her while I'd been gone. She had friends. Surely someone had stopped by with fresh flowers. My eyes stung. I didn't like thinking she'd been left alone for weeks. I was glad that I'd had them bury her beside Valerie. It had made the walking away easier.

The fresh patch of dirt was now covered in grass. Mr. Murphy had told me he would cover it in sod for free. I hadn't been able to pay any extra. Seeing the green grass made me feel like she was properly covered as silly as that sounded. Her grave looked just like Valerie's now. The headstone wasn't as fancy as my sister's. It was a simple; it had been all I could afford. I'd spent hours trying to decide exactly what I wanted it to say.

Rebecca Hanson Wynn

April 19, 1967 – June 2, 2012

The love she left behind will be the reason dreams are reached. She was the rock in a world that was crumbling. Her strength will remain. It's in our hearts.

The family that loved me was no longer here. Standing here looking at their graves it rang home how alone I really was. I didn't have family anymore. I would never acknowledge my father's existence after this day.

"I didn't expect you back so soon." I'd heard the gravel crunch behind me and I'd known without turning around who it was. I didn't look at him. I wasn't ready yet. He'd see through me. Cain had been my friend since kindergarten. The year we'd become something more it was just expected. I'd loved him for years.

"My life is here," I replied simply.

"I tried to argue that point a few weeks ago." The touch of humor in his voice didn't go unnoticed. He liked being right. He always had.

"I thought I needed my father's help. I didn't."

The gravel crunched a little more as he stepped up beside me. "He still an ass?"

I only nodded. I wasn't ready to tell Cain just what an ass my father was. I couldn't voice that right now. Saying it out loud made it real somehow. I wanted to believe it was a dream.

"You not like his new family?" Cain asked. He wouldn't let up. He would ask me questions until I broke down and told him everything.

"How did you know I was home?" I asked, changing the subject. It would only sidetrack him for a moment but I didn't intend to stand around long.

"You didn't really expect to drive your truck through town and it not become the number one source of headline news within five minutes? You know this place better than that, B."

B. He'd called me B since we were five. He had called Valerie, Ree. Nicknames. Memories. It was safe. This town was safe.

"Have I even been here five minutes?" I asked still studying the grave in front of me. My mother's name etched in stone.

"Naw, probably not. I was sitting outside the grocery store waiting on Callie to get off work," he trailed off. He was seeing Callie again. Not surprising. She seemed to be the one he couldn't get out of his system.

I took a deep breath then finally turned my head and looked into his blue eyes. Emotion battled past the numbness I was hugging close to me like a cloak. This was home. This was safe. This was all what I knew.

"I'm staying," I told him.

A grin tugged at his lips and he nodded. "I'm glad. You've been missed. This is where you belong, B."

A few weeks ago I'd thought with momma gone I didn't fit in anywhere. Maybe I had been wrong. My past was here.

"I don't want to talk about Abe," I told him and shifted my gaze back to my mother's grave.

"Done. I'll never bring him up again."

I didn't have to say anything else. I closed my eyes and prayed silently that my mom and sister were together and happy. Cain didn't move. We stood there without speaking as the sun set.

When the darkness had finally settled over the cemetery, Cain slipped his hand into mine. "Come on, B. Let's go find you somewhere to stay."

I let him lead me back down the path and to my truck. "Will you let me take you to Granny's? She has a guest bedroom and she'd love to have you stay there. She's all alone in that house. She might even call me less if she has some company."

Granny Q was Cain's mother's mother. She'd been my Sunday school teacher all during elementary school. She had also sent us meals once a week when my mom got too sick.

"I have some money. I was going to get a motel. I don't want to impose on her."

Cain let out a hard laugh, "If she finds out you're in a hotel room she'll show up at the door raising hell. You'll be in her house when she's done with you. It's easier just to go to her house now instead of causing a scene. Besides, B there is one motel in this town. You and I both know how many date nights have ended up at that place. Major yuck factor."

He was right.

"You don't have to take me. I'll go see her myself. You have Callie waiting on you," I reminded him.

He rolled his eyes. "Don't go there, B. You know better. Snap of your fingers, babe. Just a snap of your fingers. That's all it would take."

He'd been telling me that for years. It was a joke now. At least to me it was. My heart wasn't there. Silver eyes flashed in my mind and the pain broke through the numbness. I knew where my heart was and I wasn't sure I'd ever see it again. Not if I was going to survive.

Granny Q wouldn't let me sit quietly. She wouldn't let me settle. Tonight I needed peace. Solitude.

"Cain. I need this night alone. I need to think. I need to process. Tonight I need to stay at the motel. Please understand and help Granny understand. Just for tonight."

Cain looked out over my head with a frustrated scowl. I knew he wanted to ask questions but he was being careful. "B, I hate this. I know you're hurting. I can see it all over your face. I've watched you hurt for so many years. It is slowly eating me up. Talk to me, B. You need to talk to someone."

He was right. I did need to talk to someone but right now I needed to worry about dealing internally. I'd tell him about Rosemary Beach eventually. I'd have to tell someone. Cain was the closest friend I had here.

"Give me some time," I said, looking up at him.

"Time," he nodded. "I've been giving you time for three years. I don't see how a little more can hurt."

I opened the truck door and climbed inside. Tomorrow I'd be ready to face the truth. The facts. I could make it… tomorrow.

"Do you have a phone? I called your old number the day after you drove off and left me here and it said it was disconnected."

Rush. His face when he'd begged me to keep the phone he'd lied about flashed in my mind. The pain pressed through a little more.

I shook my head. "No. I don't have one."

Cain's scowl deepened. "Dangit, B. You shouldn't be without a phone."

"I got a gun," I reminded him.

"You still need a phone. I doubt you've ever pulled that thing out on anyone in your life."

That was where he was wrong. I shrugged.

"Get one tomorrow," he ordered. I nodded although I didn't intend to get one then closed the truck door behind me.

I pulled back out onto the two-lane street. I drove the half mile up to the first traffic light and turned right. The motel was the second building on the left. I had never stayed here before. I had friends who had come here after prom but that was all a part of high school I only heard about in the hallways.

Paying for the night was easy enough. The girl working the desk looked familiar but she was younger than me. Probably still in high school. I got my key and headed back outside.

The shiny black Range Rover that was parked beside my truck looked so out of place here. The heart I'd thought was numb slammed hard against my chest in one painful thud as my eyes connected with Rush's. He was standing in front of the Range Rover with his hands in his pockets watching me.

I didn't expect to see him again. At least not this soon. I'd made it clear how I felt. How had he known to get here? I'd never told him the name of my hometown. Had my father? Did they not understand I wanted to be left alone?

A car door slammed and my attention was jerked off Rush to see Cain stepping out of the red Ford truck he'd gotten for graduation. "I'm hoping like hell you know this guy 'cause he's followed you here from the cemetery. I noticed him on the side of the road watching us a ways back but I didn't say anything," Cain said as he sauntered over to stand slightly in front of me.

"I know him," I managed to get past the tightness in my throat.

Cain glanced back at me, "He the reason you came running home?"

No. Not really. He wasn't what sent me running. He was what had made me want to stay. Even knowing everything we might have had was impossible.

"No," I said, shaking my head and looking back at Rush. Even in the moonlight his face looked pained.

"Why are you here?" I asked, keeping my distance. Cain shifted more in front of me when he realized I wasn't going near Rush.

"You're here," he replied.

God. How was I going to get through this again? Seeing him and knowing I couldn't have him. What he represented would always dirty anything that I felt for him.

"I can't do this, Rush."

He took a step forward, "Talk to me. Please, Blaire. There is so much I need to explain."

I shook my head and took a step backward. "No. I can't."

Rush cursed and shifted his gaze from me to Cain. "Could you give us a minute?" he demanded.

Cain crossed his arms over his chest and took one more step to stand in front of me. "I don't think so. It doesn't seem like she wants to talk to you. Can't say I'm gonna make her. And neither are you."

I didn't have to see Rush to know Cain had just majorly pissed him off. If I didn't stop them this would end badly. I stepped around Cain and walked toward Rush and the direction of my room. If we were going to talk we weren't going to have an audience.

"It's okay, Cain. This is my stepbrother, Rush Finlay. He already knows who you are. He wants to talk. So we are going to talk. You can leave. I'll be fine," I said over my shoulder and then turned to unlock room 4A.

"Stepbrother? Wait… Rush Finlay? As in Dean Finlay's only child? Shit B, you're related to a rock celebrity."

I'd forgotten what a fan Cain was of rock bands. He would know all about the only son of Slacker Demon's drummer.

"Go, Cain," I repeated. I opened my door and stepped inside.