After the Game (Page 40)

“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 b***h 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.”

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