Where the Road Takes Me(6) read online by Jay McLean
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Where the Road Takes Me(6)
Author: Jay McLean

   She sighed then. “You better get inside before Mary realizes you’re gone.”

   He hopped off the swing seat awkwardly, causing it to glide backwards. And then he was gone, running up the steps to the front door, just as it swung open.

   He froze.

   “Inside!” A middle-aged woman whisper-yelled. I assumed that must be Mary.

   He ran in, ducking under her arm while her eyes searched the front yard. When she saw Abby and me, a different expression replaced the scowl on her face.

   Sadness. Sympathy. “Are you okay?”

   “Yes, I’m fine,” Abby replied quietly.

   Mary studied me quickly, before speaking to Abby, “When you’re done out here, come inside and get some clothes on.”

   “Yes, ma’am.”

   Then she, too, was gone.

   Abby self-consciously tugged her skirt lower.

   “Abby . . .” I said cautiously. “What’s going on? Why did you want to lose yourself tonight?”

   “It’s the anniversary of my mom’s death.” She glanced up at me now. “I was having a really bad day, Blake. The kind of day where all I want to do is forget.” Her voice broke. A tear fell. She went to wipe it away, but I beat her to it. I didn’t remove my hand from her cheek. Not even when her eyes widened in surprise as I leaned in closer. She searched my face, begging for an explanation.

   “Do you think that’s what she’d want?”

   She sniffed. “What?”

   “Do you think that your mom would want you to try to forget her existence? Even just for one day? I don’t really know you, but from where I’m sitting, you turned out pretty well . . . and if she had anything to do with that, then maybe you should try celebrating her life, rather than trying to forget it.”

   She let it out now—the sob that had been brewing inside her. “I’m sorry,” I said in an effort to soothe her, but my words just made her cry harder. “I’m so sorry,” I repeated.

   She pulled back. Her hair caught in the wetness of her tears. “Where did you come from?” It wasn’t a question, though. More like a thought that needed to be voiced. Then she rubbed her nose against mine.

   And then it happened.

   The kiss.

   My eyes drifted shut. I could taste the saltiness from her tears. But the moment was over way too quickly. I was still frozen when she pulled away. Her breath brushed against my lips. Then the cold morning air replaced it. “Thank you, Blake.” My eyes snapped open. She was already on the steps, walking up to the door.

   I rushed over and took her hand. “What are you doing? Where are you going?”

   She turned to me and placed one hand on my cheek, rose up on her toes, and kissed the other. “It’s just one night, Blake.” There she went, using that tone with my name again. “Take care of yourself, okay?”

   I blinked, confused, as she ran up the steps and into her house, closing the door behind her.

   What the hell had just happened?

   I sat in my car for a good ten minutes before finally starting the engine. I’d never felt anything like that before—that anxiety at the thought of never seeing her again. I took one last look at the house. The attic light was on. She was there, one hand raised, waving good-bye.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

   I lifted my head and reached for the phone on the nightstand. I had no idea how long I’d been asleep, but the ringing made my head pound. I knew it was Will, because he’d put some stupid rap song as his ringtone on my phone. It drove me crazy—which was why he’d done it. “What?” I said, sitting up and letting the covers bunch at my waist.

   I tried to focus my vision as I pulled the phone away to check the time. It was early afternoon, but I felt like I’d only just fallen asleep.

   “Find a new toy last night? Hannah was pissed you just left.”

   I’d never been with anyone but Hannah, and I didn’t know what made him think differently. “That’s why you’re calling?”

   His chuckle made me squirm. “No, dick. We’re all meeting at the tattoo shop. Remember?”

   I rolled my eyes. We had just won the state championship the week before, and the team wanted to get matching tattoos. It was stupid. They were stupid.

   “Yeah, man. I’ll meet you there,” I lied and faked the edginess in my tone as I said, “I gotta go. Hannah’s calling.” I hung up and threw the phone on the bed. Not five seconds later, it rang again. Hannah this time. I picked it up and rejected the call.

   Resting on the edge of the bed, I let my feet drop to the floor with a thud. And then I did something pathetic. I got on my phone, pulled up Facebook, and typed in the name Abby. Of course I had been too dumbstruck to call my phone from hers and get her number last night, but I was sure we had to know some of the same people—and Facebook was the place to find anyone.

   Only it wasn’t.

   I searched through four pages of Abbys. Nothing.

 

   With the basketball season over and my “friends” being idiots, I didn’t have shit to do. I tried to get some homework done, but I couldn’t focus.

   After lacing my sneakers and going to my wardrobe, I moved a few boxes aside on the top shelf until I felt the hard leather of the basketball. This one was new, my fifth one in just as many months. I’d tried to find different places to hide them, but my strategy didn’t seem to be working. Dad had never told me, and I’d never asked, but I knew he was taking them . . . probably deflating and discarding them, just like he’d done with my ego and my dreams of playing ball.

   The one thing he couldn’t take away, though, was the mental escape I got from playing the game. And right now, I needed the escape. I needed to get Abby out of my head.

   An hour dribbling a ball up and down the driveway killed me. I hunched over and attempted to catch my breath.

   “You’re dehydrated.”

   I lifted my eyes. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d heard her voice. I nodded in greeting. “Mother.”

   She leaned against the doorway of the guesthouse and took a sip of whatever her current choice of alcoholic beverage was. “Have you had anything to eat or drink today?” she asked.

   Sighing, I straightened up, dropped the ball on the ground, and settled my foot on it. Then I crossed my arms over my chest and waited for her to continue with the facade of being a caring mother.

   She glared at me. It was her go-to move. “What?” She raised her chin, attempting to look defiant. It would’ve worked if she wasn’t drunk off her ass. She’d changed in the last few years since she’d started drinking. She had once been vibrant, the perfect soccer mom, according to everyone. Now she looked like ass. Her clothes were several sizes too big for her, most likely because of all the weight she’d lost recently. Her hair was a mess, and her eyes had lost the fight to fake it. She looked at least a decade older than her forty-five years.

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