Home > Show Me the Way (Fight for Me #1)

Show Me the Way (Fight for Me #1)
Author: A.L. Jackson




Alabama - Eleven Years Ago


Rain pelted from the angry sky, and heavy gusts of wind howled through the trees, which thrashed in the blackened night. In agony, I ran, sure my heart had to be beating as loud as the thunder that cracked through the heavens above.

I gasped when my foot slipped on the slick, muddy ground, and I stumbled forward, landing hard on my hands and knees. I cried out, unsure where the pain was coming from—my mind or my heart or my torn flesh.

Why would they do this to me?

I wept toward the ground, stricken with grief, with betrayal, before I heaved myself back onto my feet, trying to find traction. I staggered toward the house, which was lit up like warmth and light just off the road. Clutching the wooden railing, I propelled myself forward and then flung open the door and fumbled inside.

I whimpered in misery when I paused to look around the room. Loss hit me as hard as the storm that raged outside.

Why would they do this to me? How could they be so cruel?

It took about all I had, but I forced myself to move, knowing I couldn’t stay. I had to leave. I had to get away. Choking back sobs, I clung to the banister and hauled myself upstairs and to my room. Knees caked in mud and blood, I dropped to the floor and dug out the suitcase from beneath the bed. I staggered to my feet and headed for the closet.

Tears clouding my vision, I tore clothes from their hangers and shoved them into the suitcase I’d tossed onto the bed, my movements becoming more frantic with each piece I ripped from its spot. The urge to escape only intensified when I moved to the dresser. Distraught, I ripped the drawers from their rails and tipped them upside down, dumping what would fit into the suitcase.

The whole time, I struggled to restrain the sobs bound in my throat. To keep them quiet. To pretend it hadn’t happened. To pretend I didn’t have to do this.

With shaking fingers, I tugged at the zipper.

“Rynna, what’s going on?” The sleepy voice filled with concern hit me from behind.

Torment lashed like the crack of a whip. My eyes slammed closed, and the words trembled from my mouth. “I’m so sorry, Gramma, but I’ve got to go.”

The floor creaked with my grandmother’s footsteps. She sucked in a breath when she rounded me, shocked by my battered appearance. “Oh my lord, what happened to you?” Her voice quivered. “Who hurt you? Tell me, Rynna. Who hurt you? I won’t stand for it.”

Vigorously, I shook my head, finding the lie. “No one. I just . . . I can’t stay in this stupid town for a second more. I’m going to find Mama.”

I hated it. The way the mention of my mother contorted my gramma’s face in agony.

“What are you sayin’?”

“I’m saying, I’m leaving.”

A weathered hand reached out to grip my forearm. “But graduation is just next month. You’ve got to do your speech. Walk across the stage in your cap and gown. Never seen anyone so excited about somethin’ in all my life. Now you’re just gonna up and leave? If you can’t trust me, then you can’t trust anyone. Tell me what happened tonight. You left here just as happy as a bug in a rug, and now you aren’t doing anything but runnin’ scared.”

Tears streaking down my dirty cheeks, I forced myself to look at the woman who meant everything to me. “You’re the only person I can trust, Gramma. That’s why I’ve got to go. Let’s leave it at that.”

Anguish creased my grandmother’s aged face. “Rynna, I won’t let you just walk out like this.”

She reached out and brushed a tear from under my eye. Softly, she tilted her head to the side, that same tender smile she had watched me with at least a million times hinting at the corner of her mouth. “Don’t you ever forget, if you aren’t laughing, you’re crying. Now, which would you rather be doin’?” She paused, and I couldn’t bring myself to answer. “Wipe those tears, and let’s figure something out. Just like we always do.”

Sadness swelled like its own being in the tiny room. Loss. Regret. Like an echo of every breath of encouragement my grandmother had ever whispered in my ear. “I can’t stay here, Gramma. Please don’t ask me to.”

With the plea, my grandmother winced. Quickly, I dipped down to place a lingering kiss to her cheek, breathing in the ever-present scent of vanilla and sugar, committing it to memory.

I tugged my suitcase from the bed and started for the door.

Gramma reached for me, fingertips brushing my arm, begging, “Rynna, don’t go. Please, don’t leave me like this. There’s nothing that’s so bad that I won’t understand. That we can’t fix.”

I didn’t slow. Didn’t answer.

I ran.

And I didn’t look back.









Leafy shadows flashed across the windshield, interspersed by the blinding strikes of sunlight that burned from the sky as my car passed beneath the heavy canopy of trees where I traveled the winding two-lane road.

The closer I got, the harder my heart beat within the confines of my chest and the shallower my breaths grew. Cinching down on the steering wheel, I peered out at the worn sign on the side of the road.

Welcome to Gingham Lakes, Alabama, where the grass is actually greener and the people are sweeter.

Anxiety clawed through my nerves.

It’d been eleven years and what felt like a lifetime since I left the small city that could hardly be considered more than a town. I’d promised myself I’d never come back.

And there I was.

I just wished I had broken that promise sooner. Not when it already felt as if it were too late.

“Earth to Ryn.”

I jumped when the voice boomed through the car speakers. I was losing it. It seemed fitting. I’d been questioning my sanity ever since I’d signed on that dotted line.

“Are you there, or have I already lost you to the Deep South?” Macy asked. I could almost see her raising a dark brow at me.

“You really are dead set on breaking my fragile heart, aren’t you?” she continued. “You left me here to fend for myself. Not a soul to go out with on Friday nights and no one to make me miracle hangover breakfasts on Saturday mornings. That’s a travesty. Don’t you dare shred it more by pretending I don’t even exist. BFFs, remember? Don’t forget it, or I’ll show up with the sole purpose of kicking your skinny ass. Oh, and to get back those black jeans I know you stole. I’ve been looking for them for the last two days. I bet you have them hidden at the bottom of one of those boxes.”

“I wouldn’t dare,” I barely managed to tease through the thickness that lined my throat. “Where those jeans probably are is under your bed in that disaster of a room. You’re worse than a twelve-year-old boy.”

I was doing my best to inject a smile into my voice, but there was no disguising the hitch in my words as I rounded the bend and the town came into view in the valley below.

Gingham Lakes.

God, it was beautiful.

The valley was a vast expanse of green. Flush with abundant, flourishing trees. The massive lake tucked at the base of the opposite mountain range appeared little more than a glittering mirage in the far distance, the river so serene and calm where it ran through the middle of the city and segmented it into the two mirrored-halves.

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