Authors: Silla Webb
Lost in the story, my heart lurches into my throat when I hear the wooden planks of the porch creak. Holding my breath I listen carefully, noticing the rattle of the swing chains. My heart gallops faster and I smile to myself knowing my Luke is back. Clutching my phone in my hand, I register the time and decide to wait five minutes before going outside to see Luke. I don’t want to appear too eager – or
. My heart skitters out of rhythm as the minutes tick by. Dragging in a few steady breaths, I climb off the couch with my phone in hand to make my way outside. Gripping the door knob in my hand, dread blankets over me and something tells me not to open the door, but I dismiss the feeling knowing it’s just Luke. Pulling the door open smoothly, I dip my chin to my chest to hide the blush that stains my cheeks.
Taking slow steps towards the swing my eyes ascend from the wood planks coming in contact with flawless black dress shoes. I pause in my steps and my eyes flutter up swiftly landing on the sinister grin of pure evil. Scrambling backwards to get inside, my pajama pants catch on a crooked nail and I crash to the floor in a loud
I open my mouth to scream, speak, anything but the words just hang captive in my throat. Sucking back a shaky breath of terror, tears fill my eyes as Drew leans forward revealing himself to me.
“Sweet, little Savannah.” He chuckles proudly as I whimper softly. “Now, now there little Sister. No need to panic. I’ve only come to check on you and my niece and nephew. It’s been a while, wouldn’t you say?” He smirks devilishly and I can distinctly see Daddy’s face staring back at me, only younger – darker. How I’ve never noticed it before now – the distinguishing resemblance he bares to Daddy escapes me.
How did I never see it?
“Why so silent, Sis? You’ve never reacted this way to my presence before. You were always Drew this, Drew that. Hell, I often thought you were my biggest fan. What’s changed?” He chuckles again, sending reverberating tremors down my spine.
“Ll-leave.” I mutter as I dig my nails down into the strong wood, trying to gain my strength to stand.
“Leave? Why Savannah, I’ve just arrived. We have a lot to discuss, so get comfortable, won’t you?” He asks, but I can tell by his tone it’s not a question, but a demand.
I steel my spine and look at him confidently, trying to mask my fear. He knows it’s there – he can see it with his eyes, smell it even. He’s like the Big Bad Wolf ready to strip me-the poor defenseless Red Riding Hood of all that I love.
“I’ve been told Josh has refused to sign the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, requesting you visit him in jail.” He states matter-of-factly. Drew’s a powerful man, it doesn’t take much to get whatever information he needs. I shake my head nervously. “I don’t think that would be very wise, Sis. Josh is uncontrollable and very dangerous. I’ll speak with James and have him see what he can do to encourage Josh to sign the divorce petition. However, I feel as if I’d be doing a great disservice as your brother by not protecting you from that sick bastard.” His right brow tips up and there it is again staring back at me, the face of my daddy – our
“Protect me?” I mumble, shocked when my voice finally breaks free. “It’s your fault, Drew, that I was subjected to that abuse. It’s your fault that my children nearly lost both of their parents.”
Woah, where did you come from, Savannah?
My inner voice speaks back to me and I’m as surprised as she is at my brazen statement. “So please, allow me to make it very clear that your
is the very last thing that I need.”
Pushing up on quivering legs, I right myself, gaining a steady balance before taking small steps backwards towards the front door. Stepping across the threshold I immediately feel safer. I brace the door with my hand, slowly pushing it closed but Drew’s parting words taunt me.
“Savannah, heed my warning. I know what’s best.”
I wake with a start, my chest shaking uncontrollably with fear. My eyes scan the room quickly as I try to familiarize myself with my surroundings.
This is getting old.
My eyes land on Brailee as she stands over the couch with her lips pursed together tightly, her arms crossed over her chest. Glaring at me disappointedly, she huffs out a gruff breath that blows her bangs out of her face. I smile up at her as I stretch my arms overhead, but she stares pointedly at me like I just chopped the head off her favorite Cabbage Patch doll. Sitting up, I pull the blanket around my legs and rub my face trying to wake myself up.
“Momma, we’re late.”
“Late? Late for what, Brailee?” I mutter sleepily.
“SCHOOL, Momma! Remember! It’s MONDAY!” She cried out overdramatically.
Jumping up from the couch, I stumble before gaining my balance then race up the stairs to wake Braden up. “He’s eatin’ cereal, Momma. Just hurry!” She screeches up the stairs, and although I can’t see her I know she’s tappin’ that little foot of hers. Little Miss Sass. Sweet God, she should’ve been Carly Jo’s daughter. I brush through my hair quickly then swipe at the blotchy mascara stains beneath my eyes before changing out of the pajamas I’ve been wearing since Saturday night.
Jogging down the stairs, Brailee and Braden are waiting by the front door impatiently. Without a word, I snatch the keys from the entryway table then pull the front door open slowly, peeking out before stepping onto the porch. Noticing the coast is clear, I hurry the twins out the front door then pull the door closed, locking it tightly behind me.
“Momma, you should really be thinkin’ hard ‘bout an alarm clock, ya know.” Brailee tsks from the back seat.
“Brailee, you’re only twenty minutes late for school. Bein’ tardy ain’t never killed anyone, so chill out.” I warn her.
“Ain’t never killed nobody, but Mrs. Cumpton done told me that if I’m late anymore she’s takin’ my recess and that just ain’t fair!”
“Little lady, let me warn you now: if you keep up that sharp tongue you’re wielding, losing recess will be the least of your worries. Do you understand me, Brailee?”
Crossing her arms over her chest, her eyes drift into thin slits and she glowers back at me angrily. “Yes, ma’am.” She says, before muttering something else under her breath.
“Brailee, do you have something else to say?” I ask, knowing that I’ll regret hearing her answer. Brailee is never disrespectful, so something has to be gnawing at her for her to misbehave as she is.
Her nostrils flare as she exhales, her sweet delicate face distorting into the angry features her daddy wears. “I. WANT. MY. DADDY!” She grits out hatefully.
My heart stills. Approaching a broad shoulder alongside the road, I pull over slamming the SUV in park. Unlatching my seat belt I climb down from the vehicle, then open the back door in reach of Brailee. My brave little princess has held me up without faltering, lending me her strength to get through each day. To be so small, she’s a force to be reckoned with. So when her veil slips and her pain shines through, I know it’s bad. Really bad.
Releasing her seatbelt, she falls into my arms and melts against me. Her sobs are endless, dreadfully quiet and it pains me because all I can offer her is comfort. I know it’s hard for the twins to understand that one day Josh was there, the next he was gone with no hope in sight of seeing him again. I won’t make false promises that they’ll reunite with their daddy one day soon, because fact is – they won’t.
Braden unlatches his belt and wraps his arms around Brailee and me, shushing her as he pats her little shoulder. This is his moment of strength, something I’ve been praying for, but hadn’t expected to see just yet. My babies have endured too much pain in these last couple of months. I want nothing more than to shelter them from the heartache, filling them with happiness. But it all comes with time.
Brailee pulls from my hold and I brush away at the tear matted hair that’s sticking to her sweet face. Looking up at me with giant googly eyes I can see the brash of pain that swells with her tears. “I’m sorry, Momma. I just miss him.”
“I know you do, baby girl. I’m so sorry. Momma would do anything she could to take the hurt away.”
Climbing up in her seat, Brailee pulls her seatbelt over her lap and sucks back the last of her tears. “Let’s go, Momma. We’re late enough as it is. Scoot.” She says, shooing me away.
“Baby girl, are you sure you wanna go to school?”
“Daddy would tell me to go. Ain’t nothin’ I can do sittin’ at home bellyachin’ ‘bout missin’ him. So let’s go.” And her strength returns with a vengeance, almost as if it wasn’t lost at sea after all.
After dropping the twins off at school, I find myself wanderin’. I’m smotherin’ within the walls of my house. I don’t feel safe there now that I know Drew has been watching my every move. Countless nights I have felt as if a voyeur were stalking me as prey…turns out I was right. I can’t wrap my head around the deceitful game he and Josh toyed with me for years, all to gain Simon Energy.
Sliding into the cracked vinyl booth, I allow a sliver of hope to swell within me. Many times before while having lunch with Carly here at the Village Diner, Luke would make a subtle appearance – almost as if this was his second home. I know the chance encounter of him showing up today is slim, but a girl can hope.
But then I don’t even know what I’m hoping for.
To see Luke?
To understand this uncontrollable need to be near him?
Yep, keep goin’, sweets.
To finally be honest with myself that there’s some strange gravitational pull to him, and I’m only fighting a losing battle by lying to myself, prolonging the inevitable.
Gettin’ warmer, Sav!
Luke calls me Sav.
I miss him.
Fear rolls over me as I’m struck hard with realization.
Gotta face the music sooner or later!
Pulling my phone from my purse, I scroll through my text messages before hovering my finger over my last message sent to Luke. Glancing over the eight short messages, I decide to send one final text. If he doesn’t reply to this then lying to myself will have been a good thing. Unsure of what I want to relay in the message, I figure simple honesty is the best route. I type a simple –
I miss you,
then press send.
I order breakfast, keeping a watchful eye on my phone for the blinking light to notify me of an incoming text. Each time the bell chimes on the diner door my head whips up searching for Luke, but each time I’m let down.
Sav, you just gotta have faith
– my conscience urges me, but I have no idea why I’m putting my faith in Luke.
Over the last couple of months Luke has just been there. Morning, noon and night, any time I needed comfort, and even times when I felt okay, he was always there. I welcomed Luke’s company because nobody else recognized the storm I was facing. A man has never cared about me so purely; it was a foreign feeling that I relished in.
I knew better.
I knew eventually I would start to depend on him, expecting more from him than he can give. Sadly, I don’t even understand what it is that I expect, but there’s something that I need and I feel like I may suffocate if I don’t get it soon.
By now, my eggs are cold and have grown less appetizing over time as I’ve sat here staring down into the plate mulling over my thoughts. Shooting Carly a text, I pay my check and head towards her house for some sisterly advice. I know, this is probably the worst place to get it, but who else do I have at the moment? Yep, not a damn soul.
Knocking on the front door softly, Carly yells through the house inviting me inside.
So much for trying not to wake the baby.
Then again, I’m sure in this house sleep is an elusive event for little Ryleigh. They all got some big mouths. I twist the door knob then enter, kicking my shoes off as I pad into the living room.
“Mornin’, Sis.” She says around a long yawn rubbing her eyes sleepily. She’s curled up in Colton’s recliner sweet little Ryleigh nestled in her lap, sleeping peacefully. She tilts her head to the side and glares at me curiously. Snickering she says, “You look like hell.”
I flop down in the corner of the couch, pulling my legs up to my chest, hugging my knees securely. Looking her up and down, I consider remarking on the sloppy pony and wrinkled up pajamas she’s sportin’ but hell, she wears motherhood well. “Feel like it too.” I groan, not so much as for show either because I’m genuinely exhausted.
“So what’s up, why ya lookin’ like you were just dragged outta the Dixie dumpster for?” Her shoulders shake as a smartass giggle falls off her lips. Yep, that’s my little sis. She’s fluent in Redneck, Bitch AND Sarcasm, y’all…
ain’t I lucky.
“Just not sleeping well, got a lot on my mind these days.”
“Ah yeah? Tell me ‘bout it, Sis.” Carly says, mindlessly swaying Ryleigh back and forth.
“Oh you know, your everyday run of the mill case of psycho husband.” I shrug like this is random chit chat. Hell, anymore it really is. She chews on that thought for a moment then smiles wide just before she speaks, like her next statement is one of utter brilliance.
“My advice?” She passes me a sideways glance. Nodding my head she says, “Let it go.”
“Let it go?” I deadpan, my eyebrows scrunching up in confusion.
“Yep, just let it go.” Her smiles never waivers.
“Have you been watching
again?” That’s the only explanation for her stupid comment. I swear these kids have embed that damn movie into our heads for nearly a year.
“Hey, sometimes you just gotta take the advice of a quirky little snowman.” Noticing that I find absolutely no humor in her advice, she rolls her eyes and huffs. “Listen, okay? Josh is old news, Savannah. You know he’s off his rocker. I told you, let Michele handle the divorce and do your best to put it all behind you.”
Oh as if it’s all that simple. Just because he’s behind bars miles away, I should erase him from thought, pretending that chapter of my life never happened? Holy hell, wouldn’t that be marvelous? Guess what? It don’t happen that easily. My eyes narrow and I bite my words out harshly. “You know, I could probably
let it go
if Josh was someone I could just forget. But he’s not, Carly. He’s my husband, the father of my children. He’s the man that I spent the last ten years of my life trying to make happy, trying to love. He’s the man who evoked so much fear and hatred in me. The memories, Carly, of what he did to me are not forgettable. I wish like hell they were!”
“That’s good, Savannah! You’re finally getting angry. You’re finally showing more emotion than wallowing in self-pity!”
Oh damn, did she just go there?
Yep, I think she did.
“Carly, I didn’t come here to be badgered. You can’t possibly understand how I feel. Colton loves you and would never do you harm. You don’t have to live in fear of the unknown.” I spit as the anger continues to bubble up from the pit of my belly.
Carly gives me a pointed look as she picks Ryleigh up and carries her to the nursery. When she returns she stops by the kitchen before returning to the living room with two Mason jars of sweet tea. Placing them on the coffee table, she climbs on the couch next to me, crossing her legs under her ass and folding her hands in her lap.
“I don’t understand.” She shrugs in agreement. “Josh is locked up. He can’t hurt you anymore. Why are you still so scared of him?”