By the time Leo pulled into the driveway of Braden’s home, my wrists were raw and I had to pee so badly my stomach was cramping up.
“This is it,” I said through my teeth as I clenched them tightly against the pain.
He opened the door and got out then he opened my door and I didn’t wait for someone else to grab me and jerk me around. I was hurting too bad for that.
He didn’t say anything as he unlocked the cuffs behind my back. I felt like weeping from relief when my hands fell limply at my sides.
He moved to open the trunk and set both my suitcases on the driveway. With one small nod he got in the car and drove away. I went to pick up my bags and stinging pain shot up both my arms. I decided my suitcases could stay out here for now.
I walked to the door and looked up at the house I had helped Braden decorate before she was married. Her husband had bought it for them four months before their wedding so that Braden could get it fixed for them to move into once they were married. It had been romantic. I had stood in her house and wished that some man would love me that much one day.
I wasn’t meant to be loved like that. I couldn’t be. My desire to want that had been selfish. Reaching up, I pressed the doorbell and waited.
When the door opened it wasn’t Braden who I had hoped would be here so I could throw myself into her arms and cry. Instead, it was Kent, her husband.
“Della?” he asked his eyes going wide in surprise.
“Hello, Kent,” I said in a strained voice. My bladder was begging to be set free. “Can I use your restroom?”
He stepped back and let me inside. “Uh, of course, you know where it is.”
I walked past him and decided I’d take a minute to gather myself after I relieved myself.
Once I was finished I stood at the mirror and stared at my swollen red-rimmed eyes. I looked as pathetic as I felt. I washed my wrists with soap and water then dried them. The tender skin stung but at least they were clean now.
I walked back to the entryway to see Kent walking in with both of my suitcases. His eyes found mine and the sympathy and concern in them only made me feel even more pathetic.
“Thank you. I’m afraid I don’t have the car. I didn’t get to bring it back with me. I’ll find a way to get it though.”
Kent put my suitcases down and nodded his head toward the kitchen. “Come on. Let’s get you something to drink and eat if you’re hungry. I called Braden. She’s on her way home from work.”
I glanced at the clock. It wasn’t yet three o’clock. Braden would still be at school. She was a third grade teacher. I sat down on one of the tall bar stools that Braden and I had found at a boutique for a ridiculous amount of money. But she’d loved them and Kent never told her no.“I know I’m not Braden. But you can talk to me if you need to,” Kent said while he went about fixing me some sweet iced tea. He hadn’t even asked me what I wanted. He already knew. I’d been a package deal with Braden. Kent had loved her and overlooked the fact she was so dedicated to me. He had once said it was one of the reasons he loved her.“I’d rather just say it once. I’m not sure I can tell it twice,” I said as he set the glass down in front of me. I knew he understood. He’d seen me have more than one of my spells. I wasn’t sure if Braden had ever given him the details. I had once thought that she wouldn’t share that with anyone but now that I knew what it felt like to love someone and want to share everything with them… I believed differently. I was okay with it. If she told him it was her story too. She had every right.“If there is someone I need to go beat the hell out of you just say the word.”The fact Kent was so worried about me relieved my mind. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go next but I needed a week or so before I made a life for myself again. I wasn’t ready to be alone. Not yet.The front door swung open and Braden’s heels clicked down the hallway as she ran toward us. “Della!” she called out and I stood up. Tears filled my eyes. I needed to see her.“The kitchen Bray,” Kent replied.Braden came barreling into the kitchen and a sob escaped me as I saw her run straight to me. Her arms wrapped around me and I clung to her. She’d sent me on this trip to find myself and yet I’d found so much more. I wanted to be able to express to her that this wasn’t just heartbreak. I’d made memories of a lifetime that I wouldn’t trade for the world. But right now I just needed her to hold me while we both cried.She didn’t even know why she was crying she just held me and cried. I had missed her so much. I’d come to the right place. This was home. Even with the memories that haunted me here this was where I belonged. Braden was my home. She was all I had.“Why don’t we get her into the living room and you two can sit on the couch and cry all you want?” Kent said in a gentle voice.Braden nodded but she didn’t let go of me. We managed a few more sniffles and sobs before easing back enough to look at each other.“Are you okay?” she asked.I nodded then I shook my head. “I don’t know. I’m lost and confused.”Braden reached down and grasped my hand. “Let’s go to the living room and get comfortable”I wasn’t ready to talk right now but they both deserved an explanation. I needed to tell them exactly what had happened in Rosemary. And maybe they could help me figure out what I was going to do with my life now. My travels were over. I needed to live my life here. Where I was sure of my surroundings and I couldn’t hurt anyone else.I began explaining how everything happened at the gas station and then how I ended up there once again because of Tripp. Then I told them about how I lost my heart to Woods and how I would do it all over again.When I was finished Braden was wiping at her eyes again. “I hate that man. I want to strangle him. How could he do that to you? And does Woods know?”I shook my head then paused. I wasn’t sure if Woods knew now or not. Did he think I’d just left him? Did that matter?“It doesn’t matter. I can’t stay with him. You know that more than anyone. What happens when I snap and I lose my sanity? I don’t want Woods to love me and be left with a shell of a woman the way I was left with my mother. He has this life in front of him with so much he’s worked for. I can’t be who he needs. I’m trying to be who I need. I’m not what any man needs, Braden. You know that.”