Until friday night, p.18
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       Until Friday Night, p.18

         Part #1 of The Field Party series by Abbi Glines
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  West’s strong fingers moved my shorts out of the way and were inside without any more argument. I arched my back and cried out from the sudden pleasure. He held on to me as he kissed down my neck, telling me how perfect, beautiful, and special I was. He never said I love you, but neither did I.

  Hours later I was tucked into bed, when West climbed in through my window. I opened my eyes and watched as he slipped off his boots and jeans then climbed in with me. Once he had me curled up on his chest, he kissed the top of my head. “One day I’m going to make love to you on a bed,” he whispered.

  I drifted off to sleep, thinking about West and I doing something much more interesting than just sleeping in my bed.

  When I woke the next morning, West was gone, and the sun was pouring in through my windows. I buried my head in the pillow he’d been sleeping on and inhaled deeply. I loved smelling him.

  I got up and went to get dressed so I could go down and eat breakfast. Also, I wanted to let Aunt Corlaee know that I’d like to talk to her, Uncle Boone, and Brady sometime today. Whenever she said was a good time, I’d let West know.

  Today was a big day for me. Today I would stop hiding. I’d make real relationships with my family. I was excited about that. But I was also scared. Afraid of what they’d ask me. Terrified they’d want me to speak of that day. I didn’t want to describe that day again. Ever.

  Having West beside me while I told them would help, and it would explain a lot about my relationship with him that I knew they didn’t understand. But I needed them to be clear that I wouldn’t talk about that day to them or anyone else. I never wanted to mention my father again. If they wanted to talk about my mother and fond memories of her, I could do that. I wanted that now.

  I was ready for that now.

  Brady was sitting at the table, his hair sticking up in random places, wearing only a pair of plaid pajama pants while he ate a bowl of cereal and drank a cup of coffee. The newspaper was open to the sports section, and he was reading it intently.

  Aunt Coralee was standing at the bar in the kitchen, writing down a list. It was for groceries. I knew that list. She did it every Saturday. She looked up at me when I entered, and beamed a bright, cheery smile.

  “Good morning. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t cook any breakfast. We’re out of most everything. I’m going to run to the store this afternoon and get what we need. But for now you’ll have to make due with cereal or toast. I think we have some fresh fruit, too.”

  I was good with a bowl of cereal. It was what I’d lived off of during my two years with Jorie. She hadn’t cooked at all. But she’d also rarely been home. I’d lived alone for the most part.

  Brady glanced up at me then went back to reading his paper and eating.

  I walked over to Aunt Coralee and laid down the note I’d written about talking to them today. I figured walking down here and announcing we needed to discuss the fact I was talking again would be too much of a surprise. I also wouldn’t get a chance to tell them what I was willing to talk about and what I wasn’t.

  I didn’t want to go to a counselor, therapist, shrink— whatever you call them. I’d been to ten of those. None of them had helped me at all. I wasn’t going back, and they needed to know that.

  Aunt Coralee read the note then looked up at me with a concerned frown. “Sure, sweetheart. We can talk now if you like,” she said.

  Brady jerked his head up and looked back at us. “Talk about what?” he asked.

  “Maggie wants to talk to all of us about something,” she said, glancing at him for a moment before looking back at me. “Here, you can use my pen.” She handed me her pen.

  I shook my head. Then I pointed to the part in the note that said all three of them.

  Her frown deepened. “Okay. Yes. Well, let me go get your uncle Boone. He’s outside, cutting grass.”

  She patted my arm and hurried for the door. She wasn’t going to give me much time to get West here. I didn’t try texting him in case he was asleep. I called instead.

  He answered on the first ring.

  She’s Just Like Her Momma



  Maggie was waiting outside on the porch swing when I pulled up. She’d called me just as I was getting out of the shower. Somehow I’d made it here in ten minutes. My hair had still been wet and I hadn’t been able to find any underwear, but I’d made it.

  She stood up from the swing and walked over to the top of the steps. “Hey,” I said, pressing a kiss to her lips. “You ready to do this?”

  I could see the anxiety in her eyes when she nodded. I slipped my hand over hers. This time I would be the one holding her up. She’d make it through this. I wouldn’t let go.

  “They’re waiting. Brady heard me call you, so he explained that I was waiting on you and I wanted you in on this conversation. But I think I’ve worried them. Brady knows, but Aunt Coralee and Uncle Boone look really concerned.”

  I tilted my head toward the door. “Let’s go do this, then. I’ll be right there the whole time.”

  She gave me a relieved smile, and my heart thudded against my chest. She made me feel things I’d never felt before. Things I wanted more of. Things I didn’t want to live without.

  I followed her inside and, sure enough, all three Higgenses were sitting in the living room, waiting. Brady was the only one who was relaxed and looked bored. His parents were on the edges of their seats. There was a note pad and a pencil on the table in front of Coralee. I wondered if she’d brought that for this discussion.

  Maggie walked to stand in front of them all, and I squeezed her hand. She could do this. I’d make sure she could.

  “I want to talk again,” she said in a soft voice that startled both her aunt and uncle. I’d never seen Boone’s eyes get so wide.

  “I want to be a part of this family. I’m ready for that. But I need you to understand something,” she said to them, then glanced at me. Her hand was still tucked inside mine, and I nodded to reassure her. “I don’t want to talk about . . . that day. I don’t want to talk about him. I don’t want to talk to a therapist. I do want to talk about my mom. Good memories. I like thinking about her, and I’ve talked about her with West a lot. He listens, but I’d like to share memories with other people who knew her and loved her. But the rest . . . I can’t. I stopped talking to protect myself. From me and from everyone else. It’s how I survived.” She stopped and waited.

  Coralee stood and tears welled up in her eyes. “We won’t make you talk about anything you don’t want to, Maggie. I promise you that. I’m just—” She let out a small sob. “It’s good to hear your voice again,” she finally said before covering her mouth and letting out another sob.

  Maggie’s shoulders eased some. That was what she’d needed to hear.

  Boone looked at me then back at Maggie. “I reckon he’s who got you to talk. He needed you, and you knew you could help him, so you talked. Sounds like something your momma would have done.” He moved his attention back to me. “She’s just like her momma. Special, kind, sweet. But strong, too. She’s survived a lot. And if this,” he said, pointing at the two of us, “is more than friendship now, then you be sure you’re ready to cherish her. You hurt her, and I’ll hurt you. Don’t care who you are.”

  He was protecting her. Like a father. Like her father should be doing. I’d always liked Boone Higgens, but he’d just climbed a notch in my eyes. He was being the father Maggie needed. The one she’d been given had destroyed her life. Now Boone was going to protect it.

  I nodded. “Yes, sir. I know how special she is. I would never hurt her. I swear.”

  He didn’t seem convinced, but he looked back at Maggie. “I love you, little girl. I loved your momma. Losing her changed all our lives, but it especially changed yours. We want to help you heal. If you’ll let us.”

  A tear rolled down Maggie’s face, and I had to fight my instinct to grab her and comfort her. She needed this with them. I couldn’t step in now.

  “Thank you. I . . . like it here. I like this house and all of you. I feel safe, and it’s been a long time since I’ve felt safe. Thank you for giving me a home.”

  Brady stood up. “I’m just glad you came so I could finally get my attic bedroom,” he said, then winked at her.

  Maggie laughed, and I fought the little bit of jealousy that tugged at me over someone else making her laugh. I loved her laugh, but it seemed I was getting possessive of it.

  She had a family now. One she would allow into her world.

  Maggie wouldn’t be silent anymore.

  I left Maggie with her aunt Coralee to go grocery shopping after lunch. I needed to get home, because my momma wanted me there to tell my grandmother good-bye today. I had managed to dodge the woman most of the time she’d been there. The only time Momma hadn’t been with her was at my game last night.

  Walking inside I stopped when I saw several suitcases by the front door. One of those being my mother’s. My grandmother was sitting on the sofa, her back straight and her hands in her lap as if she were posing for a photo. It was creepy as hell.

  “Momma?” I called out instead of speaking to that woman.

  My mother came around the corner, another duffel bag on her arm. She looked nervous and uncertain. My stomach knotted up. I wasn’t moving. We hadn’t talked about this yet, but I sure as hell wasn’t leaving Lawton.

  “What’s going on?” I asked, afraid to step any farther into the room.

  Momma gave me a sad look, then put the bag down on top of her suitcase. “I wanted to talk to you about this before you left this morning, but you just took off. Which is okay. You have a life. I don’t want your life to change. I just . . .” She glanced at her mother then back at me. “I need a break from here. Being in this house is hard on me. I keep thinking your dad is going to walk in the door any minute. I miss him, and being here makes that so much worse. I just need a break. I would love for you to go with me, but I know with football and Maggie . . . I don’t expect you to. I won’t be gone but a couple of weeks. Please understand. I can’t be here all day alone with his memory.” Her eyes filled with tears and began to roll down her face.

  “You want to go to Louisiana?” I’d been there, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to visit my grandmother’s house. It wouldn’t be an uplifting trip. She’d be in hell with that woman and in that house.

  She nodded and wiped at her face. “It was my home once. I know you don’t have fond memories of it, but I do. I need something to take my mind off the pain. The sadness.”

  This was her choice to make, and I wanted her to be happy again. I hated thinking of her in pain and suffering here alone while I went to school and practice and spent time with Maggie. And I would miss her, but I wasn’t leaving Lawton.

  “You’re eighteen. You’re a man now. You’ll be fine here while I’m gone. You have your friends and Maggie. The moment you need me, call me and I’ll be here. But I have to get away, West. I have to.”

  I did the only thing I could do. I walked over and hugged her. We had both lost Dad. I’d had Maggie to help me deal with the pain. She had no one. “I love you, Momma. I understand.”

  She sniffed and squeezed me tightly around the waist. “I love you too, and I’m so proud of you.”

  But she was leaving me. Dad had just left us, and she was leaving me too.

  She’s Been Paying Attention

  in Her Silent Wonderland



  Shopping for groceries with Aunt Coralee was interesting. She chatted a lot and asked all kinds of questions. I didn’t realize how much she hadn’t found out about me yet. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

  When we got home, Brady was outside playing basketball with Asa, Gunner, Ryker, and Nash. Aunt Coralee stopped and tossed them all Gatorades from one of the bags before she went on inside. They each grabbed a couple of bags too, and the car was quickly unloaded.

  I helped her put things away and had just started heading up to my room when Gunner stopped me. “Hey, you gonna talk to us now too?”

  I hadn’t told Brady not to say anything to his friends. They were West’s friends too. But now that they knew I was speaking, I wasn’t sure how to handle them. I didn’t want a million questions from them, either.

  “It’s okay. He told us you got limits. Come on and hang out down here with us,” Ryker called out as he sank onto the sofa, a bag of chips in his hand.

  I turned around and walked back down the steps. If I wanted to fit into West’s world, I would have to do this.

  “You’ve been whispering to West for weeks. I’ve seen it,” Nash said from his perch on the barstool. “I tried to get you to talk to me, but nothing. West crooks his finger, and you start chatting him up.”

  “Nash.” Brady’s tone held a warning.

  Nash shrugged, then smirked at me. “It’s okay. You can come talk to me now.”

  “I asked her to stay down here and talk to us. She can come talk to me,” Ryker argued.

  I glanced at Brady, who shrugged and rolled his eyes before grabbing the Xbox remote and sitting down on a beanbag chair.

  Gunner’s arm rested on my shoulders, startling me. “She wants to talk to me, dontcha, sugar?” he said, sounding like his usual cocky, arrogant self.

  “Gonna get that arm ripped off if West shows up,” Asa warned him.

  Gunner flexed his arm that was around my shoulders. “I ain’t scared of West. He won’t hurt these priceless receiving arms.”

  “Shi-it,” Asa drawled, shaking his head and picking up the other Xbox remote.

  “Y’all, back off her. She decided she wants to talk, and y’all are gonna have her changing her mind,” Brady grumbled without taking his eyes off the screen.

  “I just want to hear her say something,” Nash called from across the room.

  I could stand here silent and let them go on and on, or I could say something and get this awkward moment behind me. Sucking in the courage I needed, I turned to Nash. “What would you like me to say?” I asked.

  The room went silent. Then Nash’s face broke into a grin. “Well, hell, Maggie. Even your voice is pretty.”

  “I was thinking the same thing,” Gunner added, still draped around me.

  “Thank you,” I replied, not really knowing what to say to that.

  “You’re welcome, sugar,” Gunner said, sounding amused.

  “Seriously, get your arm off her before West gets here,” Nash said, glaring at Gunner.

  “You ain’t worried about West. You’re just jealous. You’ve been after her since she showed up. But you moved too slow and, dude, you snooze, you lose,” Gunner taunted him. I decided to end this before it got ridiculous.

  I moved away from Gunner, causing him to drop his arm.

  “I’m not your sugar,” I informed him. “And, seriously, if a girl likes being your ‘sugar,’ she needs her head evaluated.”

  “And that’s how you burn his ass,” Ryker said through his laughter.

  “Everyone knows that Gunner loves Gunner more than anyone else. A girl would be naïve to think differently,” I added.

  Gunner laughed this time. “She’s been paying attention in her silent wonderland.”

  “That ain’t real hard to figure out, douche,” Asa said with a chuckle.

  “Not to change the subject, but did y’all know Riley Young was back in town?” Nash asked, looking from Brady to Gunner almost nervously.

  Gunner’s easygoing demeanor died. Coldness came over his face that I’d never seen before. “She won’t stay long. No one wants her here,” he said as he stalked back toward the kitchen.

  Once he was out of the room, Brady stopped playing long enough to shoot an annoyed look at Nash. “Did you have to bring that shit up? We all knew she was back. No reason to point it out. I saw her at a field party a couple of weeks back. I made sure she knew she wasn’t wanted, and then I told him I’d seen her.”

  “You sa
w her at a party? Fuck. She’s got nerve,” Asa said, sounding amazed.

  “She didn’t stay. Never saw her come into the clearing. Doubt she got out of her car.”

  The dark-haired girl who’d driven up that night and who Brady had glared at before walking off. I’d forgotten about that. That had to be who they were talking about. But why did they hate her?

  “Riley Young don’t belong here. We’ll all make sure she gets that message if she tries coming back to Lawton High. No one wants her there. And Gunner doesn’t need that screwing with his head,” Brady said as if he could control it all.

  She had been beautiful. I remembered that much. And she’d seemed sad and lonely. I couldn’t imagine that the girl I’d seen that night had done something so horrible, they all had a reason to hate her. Especially Gunner.

  There was a knock at the front door before it swung open. West walked in, and his eyes immediately locked on me. I forgot everything else, and smiled. He made me smile. I couldn’t help it.

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