After the Game (Page 8)
This wasn’t the first time we’d had this conversation. But it had been a while. A year ago, a guy in the town we were living had asked me out on a date. He worked at the local movie theater, and I went there once a week to watch a movie after Bryony went to bed at night.
I had stopped going to the movies after that. The idea of facing him or even trusting someone wasn’t something I wanted to do. I didn’t desire the things I once had. I hadn’t wanted to date or get close to anyone.
Mom didn’t get it. No one got it. I was tired of trying to get them to understand. I just needed to be left alone. I liked things as they were. Changing them now was pointless. I had a rhythm. Bryony was happy with our routine. My life as a social teen was over. I was a mom.
Why couldn’t she just be happy for me? I had a plan for my future. Not all seventeen-year-olds could say that. I didn’t rely on a guy to make me feel important. That was also a solid check in my corner. So why did my mother think I still needed fixing? I was pretty damn perfect like this.
“Good night, Mom,” I said before heading down the hallway to the bathroom. Where I would soak in the tub for an hour and read a book. That was all I needed tonight. I didn’t need friends. I had Bryony. She was my world.
* * *
“Momma.” Bryony’s soft voice was in my ear. “Momma.”
I opened my eyes to see my daughter hovering over my face.
Stretching my hands over my head, I smiled up at her. “Good morning,” I said.
“Gan’mamma gone,” she replied, frowning.
That took me only a second to sink in before I sat up and swung my feet over the side of the bed and jumped up. Bryony scrambled down beside me.
“Do you mean she left the house?” I asked her.
Bryony nodded. “Her go park?” she asked hopefully. Bryony woke up wanting to go to the park. It was a daily thing. I hoped I was misunderstanding her and my grandmother was still in this house. My heart was beating frantically regardless as I jerked on a pair of shorts and ran down the hallway toward the kitchen.
“Grandmamma!” I called out loud enough so I she could hear me anywhere in the house.
No response. “Grandmamma!”
Why hadn’t Mom woken me up this morning? This wouldn’t have happened if I had been awake.
“Gan’mamma,” Bryony called out behind me. “You go park?”
I turned to look in the living room, and the front door was wide open.
“Oh God,” I whispered then reached for Bryony, picking her up and running outside at the same time.
This could not be happening. My grandmother could have gone anywhere. She couldn’t remember anything, much less directions. And I was supposed to be watching her. Why had I slept late?
I buckled Bryony into her stroller. She was still in her pajamas and needed a diaper change, but there was no time for that. I had to find my grandmother.
I shared a car with my mom. She had it at work this morning. So we would have to search on foot. My phone was still inside, beside the bed, and I would have to leave it there because there was no time to lose. Running barefoot in the tank top that I’d slept in and a pair of cut-off jean shorts, I ran toward the street pushing Bryony.
Stopping, I looked both ways, not sure which way to go first.
“Dat way, Momma,” Bryony said, pointing to the right toward town.
“Did you see her leave?” I asked Bryony.
She nodded. “Gan’mamma dat way.”
I kissed her little blond head in gratitude and started running down the sidewalk toward town, praying I found her before something bad happened. I would set my alarm for five in the morning from now on. Never again would this happen. Never again.
We’ve Got Workout in Five Minutes
As I reached for my protein shake, something caught my eye and I slowed my truck down. It was Riley and Bryony running down the street. I turned back around at the stop sign. That hadn’t looked like a morning exercise run, and I knew Riley stayed with her grandmother in the mornings. Especially this early. It wasn’t even seven yet.
Pulling up beside them, I rolled down my window. “Everything okay?” I asked.
Riley turned her head toward me, and there was a frantic look in her eyes. “No, my grandmother is missing.”
“Get in,” I told her. “I’ll help you look.”
She shook her head. “That’s not safe for Bryony. She should really be in a car seat.”
Good point. It wasn’t raining today, and the threat of lightning didn’t outweigh the need for car safety. So I pulled ahead into the service station and parked the truck. Then I ran over to catch up with her.
“What are you doing?” she asked, sounding frustrated.
“I’m going to help you look. Where have you already searched and where should I go check?”
She stopped running then and took several deep breaths. “Why are you doing this?”
“Because your grandmother has Alzheimer’s and is missing. You need help finding her.” I would have thought the answer was obvious.
“Someone could see you with me. It’s that time of day when everyone is headed to school.”
“Where do I look, Riley?” I repeated, annoyed with her comment. I understood why she thought that, but it stung to hear her say it. I didn’t want to be that guy. The one who cared what everyone else thought.
“Fine. I was going to the park because Bryony thinks she may be there. Could you go to the grocery store?”
“On it. I’ll meet you back at the park,” I told her and took off running in the direction of the grocery store. I wondered if she’d called her parents yet. If we didn’t find her grandmother in the next fifteen minutes, I would ask.
The manager, Mr. Hart, saw me run inside and smiled. “Need something this early?” he asked.
I shook my head. “No, Mrs.—uh, Lyla Young’s mother is missing. Have you seen her in here this morning?”
Mr. Hart’s eyes went wide. “Amelia? Good Lord, she has Alzheimer’s” was his response.
“Yeah, she does. Have you seen her?”
He shook his head. “No, but I’ll make some calls and keep my eyes open.”
“Thanks,” I replied then hurried back out the door and headed for the park. Maybe the little girl had guessed right. I sure hoped so.
“Brady! Man, what are you doing? We got workout in five minutes,” West called out from his truck.
“I’m helping Riley find her grandmother. She’s missing. Tell Coach I’m sorry and I’ll be there soon as we find her.”
West frowned. “Riley Young?” he asked as if I had just said something insane.
“Yeah,” I replied and kept running. I didn’t have time to defend myself. He could be judgmental if he wanted to. That was something I was going to have to deal with if Riley ever decided to let me be her friend.
“Doesn’t her grandmother have Alzheimer’s?” he called out after me.
“Yeah, she does.”
I didn’t look back as I answered.
It wasn’t until I got to the park to see Riley running back out of it while pushing the stroller that I heard footsteps behind me.
I turned to see West. What the hell?
“What are you doing?” I asked, confused.
“Helping. Where have y’all not looked?” he asked.
This was a turn of events I didn’t expect. “Only checked the park and grocery store.”