I know. I know. It's been a whole month since I last posted on my blog. I fail. I really do. I'm a horrible blogger. I would go on to say how crazy my college classes have gotten lately, but no one wants to hear about that. I'm am sorry about being MIA though. I'm going to try and do a better job at keeping my blog updated from now on.
I've finished editing Redeeming Lainey. I'm looking into interior formatting right now. Since I'm making physical copies of this book, I want it to look pretty :) Because of that, I don't have an exact publishing date, but I'm looking to have it published around mid-late April--hopefully before my finals week. Keep in mind that that is just tentative. I want to publish the ebook and physical copy at relatively the same time, so the date could change. I'll keep you updated with information when I get it!
Since it's been so long since I posted a teaser, I decided to post the entire first chapter for Redeeming Lainey. The prologue is at the end of the Reaching Retribution, so hopefully everyone has read that. The first chapter and the rest of the book takes place two years after the prologue.
(I'm pretty sure this is the only chapter where the POV switches back and forth three times. Most of the chapters only have one Lainey and Bryce POV. )
Two years later
Waiting at the bus spot, I survey my surroundings. Bus stops this time of night are a little sketchy, but Randi convinced me that I needed to go back; at least for a few weeks. Earlier in the summer, I tried to not be happy when I heard the news, but honestly, that man got what he deserved. He hurt my mom and me too many times for me to care what happened to him.
There are seven people around me. A woman in her mid-twenties is looking around nervously while holding a small toddler around her waist. The toddler stares at me as his mother watches all the cars that pass by the stop. I try to smile at him since that’s what you usually do around babies, but I don’t have it in me. Not tonight. An elderly black man is sitting to the right of me on the bench, humming some gospel song as he reads from the Bible. He’s using his cell phone to provide the illumination to see the words on the page. I wish I had his dedication to faith. A boy, probably around sixteen years of age, is standing to my left holding a skateboard in his arm and bobbing his head to the loud music coming from his headphones. Everyone else looks like what you’d expect to see at a bus stop. I notice all of them, yet not a single one of them looks in my direction.
The bus pulls up, effectively ending my people-watching moment, and its doors creak open. Everyone around me mills forward walking to the large Greyhound bus. Where are they all going? What are their back-stories? Do they have a dark past as well?
I wait until everyone has gotten on before I stand up. This is my last chance to turn around. I can still go back to my apartment and pretend like nothing has changed. It would be easy. I’ve barely thought about that town since I left.
Sure, every now and then I think of the people I left behind. Well, the two people I left behind. Mom and Bryce. I know Mom’s been trying to contact me for a while now, but I didn’t want to hear her voice. I didn’t want to talk to her because I knew the guilt I would feel when she asked me to come home. That place was not my home. I just couldn’t pack everything up and go back.
Living with Gregg was a nightmare, and I honestly could not stand living there anymore. I had to get away, so I did the only thing I could think of. While I was hiding in my room, I wrote two notes, packed a small bag, and jumped out of the bedroom window. I never looked back and haven’t even thought about returning until yesterday.
I don’t know what I’ll find when I get there, but there’s only way one to find out. Biting my lip, I get off the bench and slowly walk toward the bus. My heartbeat increases with each step I take forward, and when my foot touches the first step of the bus, I expel the breath I’d been holding. I heard somewhere that it’s impossible to suffocate yourself by holding your breath, so there’s no point in wasting my energy to attempt that. I have to face this.
My hand shakes as I hand the driver my ticket. The older man gives me a strange look before accepting it. I’m sure these bus drivers have seen it all; a nervous girl shouldn’t be too surprising. I walk to the empty row in the back and sit beside the window. This is going to be a long ride.
Leaning my head against the cold surface, I watch the city lights as they pass by. It costs a lot to live in Chicago, but somehow I’ve managed. My roommate, Randi, and I are both students, and it’s definitely been a struggle, but it’s worth it. I’m going to a school I love. I’m studying something I love. For the first time in my life, I feel like things are starting to turn around for me. I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be.
Now, I have to go back. Back to the town of my darkest days. Back to the place of my darkest memories. I don’t want to go back, but I do want to see my mom. I want to make sure that she’s all right. I want…it doesn’t matter what I want anymore.
I close my eyes and refuse to think about the past. I live in my head too much. I’m aware of that. Living inside my head gave me the slight reprieve I needed back then. I would escape into these alternate realities—realities where I was happy and safe. Now, I have to live in the moment. Right here. Right now. I don’t know what lies ahead of me, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m scared.
My head vibrates against the cold window with the bus’s movement as we start heading out of the windy city. The steady reverberation of the engine and the blurred lights are reminders that this is actually happening. I can’t turn around now. Closing my eyes, I tune out all the quiet, polite conversations around me and try to sleep. I’m about to start a new chapter in my life. I’m turning the page. Forgetting the past. Living in the moment.
Well, trying to at least.
Hitting a bump in the road, my head slams against the window. Startled, I jerk awake and look around. I’m still on the bus. Rotating in my seat, I rest my aching legs across the empty spot beside me and shake my head lightly to clear away the confusion. Judging by the amount of sunlight, I’d say it’s about midmorning which means that I’m almost to town. Thankfully, I slept through most of the drive. The man who was reading the Bible before the bus drove into the station smiles at me and wishes me a good morning.
Again, I try to smile at him, but can’t.
“I’ll pray for you, dear,” he tells me. Nodding, I look back out the window. I doubt even prayers can get me out of this funk I’m in.
We’re almost there. I’m almost back to the house I grew up in—almost back to the little farming town in Iowa.
It’s just another chapter, Lainey. I tell myself. Just another chapter.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Groaning, I roll over and hit the snooze button. It’s summer. I shouldn’t have to wake up this early anymore. I push myself up and run a hand through my hair. I promised Dad I would help him out this summer at the hardware shop. I haven’t worked there since senior year, but when he offered to pay me…well, I can’t turn down an opportunity to make a few extra bucks.
Since I’ve moved into this apartment, I haven’t spent much time with my parents. I should probably feel bad about that, but I don’t. Things have been tense between us for a while. I started pushing away. I know they’re worried about me but I just don’t know how to make things right anymore.
I walk over to my dresser and grab a pair of dark jeans and a black t-shirt with sleeves long enough to cover my tattoo. Dad hates the tattoo and says it doesn’t look professional enough for a work place. It’s a freaking hardware store. It’s not like it’s a high-end office building.
Once dressed, I head to the bathroom to brush my teeth. While brushing, I walk out to the kitchen to feed Ace, my mutt. This apartment is one of the few in the area which allows pets inside. Ace was a stray I saw limping on the side of the road. I picked him up and brought him to the vet. When no one claimed him, I took him in. We’ve been together for two years now. He raises his head when he sees me walk into the kitchen.
I spit the toothpaste out in the sink and reach for the container of dog food on top of the fridge. Ace hops off the couch and runs to my feet. I have no idea what kind of dog Ace is. He has the coloring of a German Shepherd, but he’s much smaller than that. The vet believes he could be some sort of corgi mix. I pat his head and move toward the door to grab my shoes. Glancing at the clock above the stove, I see I still have thirty minutes before I have to be there.
I guess I can stop for coffee. Stepping into my shoes, I grab the keys and head out, locking the front door behind me. I step into my old Dodge and pull out of the parking lot. The sun is just at the annoying point where I literally can’t see anything in front of me. I reach forward and search through my glove compartment for my sunglasses, pulling down the visor as I put the glasses on.
I stop at the only light in town and watch as the bus drives past after stopping at the one bus stop a few blocks back. The bus always stops here, but rarely anyone ever gets off here. Most people leave this town and don’t come back. They don’t stop here. Ever.
My cell phone starts ringing and I look down at the caller I.D. It’s Annabeth. Without thinking about it, I answer the call.
“Good morning,” her voice sings on the other end. I can’t help but smile. She’s always in a good mood. I don’t know how she does it. “I was wondering if you wanted to do breakfast or something in a few?” she asks. Annabeth and I have been in an on-again-off-again relationship for the past year, and I’m not sure where we are at right now.
“I can’t,” I tell her as the light turns green. I press on the gas and slowly start driving. Since I’m in the residential district, the speed limit is 20 mph. “I promised Dad I’d go into the shop this morning.”
“Oh, that’s fine.” I hear the disappointment in her voice. I’ll have to talk to her soon. I don’t want to lead her on anymore. She deserves way more than that.
Saying goodbye, I hang up the phone and return my attention to the desolate road in front of me. My eyes slowly shift from the paved dark road and land on the sidewalk. I take my foot off the gas and let my car cruise down the street.
That’s odd. Why would someone be out walking at this time of the morning? The closer I get, the more I can tell that, whoever this girl is, she’s nervous. She has a small duffle bag on her shoulder with the strap in a death grip as she walks forward, staring at the ground. Her hair is blocking her face, so I can’t tell if anything else is wrong. I slow down and am about to pull over to ask if she needs help when she looks up at me. I freeze as a pair of bright blue eyes glance in my direction. Without showing any sign of recognition, she looks back down at her shoes and continues. I hit the brakes and stop in the middle of the road.
She looks way different than she did when I last saw her, but it’s definitely her. When I hear a car honk behind me, I snap out of my haze and pull my car over to the side of the road, parking it in front of a house. Looking out my back window, I watch her stop in front of her Mom’s, confirming her identity for me. She just stands at the end of the driveway, staring at the house before her.
Running a hand through her long hair, she waits there. She told me she probably wasn’t going to come back.
I thought she was gone forever.
I grip the car handle, debating on whether or not to get out. She obviously didn’t recognize me earlier. Like she has, I’ve changed a lot in the last two years. My hair is longer. I’ve gotten even taller than before. I’ve been working out. I have a large tattoo across my right bicep that goes onto my back and wraps around my neck. I’ve traded my checkered shirts for dark t-shirts.
Lainey’s done exactly the opposite. Her once black hair is now back to her natural light brown. Her dark clothes are gone. In fact, she’s wearing white shorts right now with a green tank-top. Her pale skin is now tanned and toned. From the brief look I got earlier, I can tell she isn’t wearing her signature dark make-up either.
She’s still standing at the end of the driveway.
But she’s no longer my Lainey. The Lainey I knew died when Gregg hit her on her birthday two years ago.
I can’t believe I’m back here. I can still turn around and leave. There’s still time.
Despite all these thoughts running though my mind, I don’t turn around. I keep moving forward. I keep walking toward my Mom’s house. That building is no longer my home. In fact, I don’t think it ever was my home. A home is a place where you’re supposed to feel comfortable. You’re supposed to want to go back there at the end of the day. That house was not my home. It was a place I was supposed to go to after school because I was under eighteen and by state laws, I was a minor.
I couldn’t think, feel, act, or speak on my own. I wasn’t in control of my life. Now I am. Now I’m free. I’m a free person returning to purgatory. Any sane person would turn around and walk away. They’d never look back. They would put the past behind them and move on. The only positive thing about this situation is that Lucifer no longer reigns. All that is left in the house is an angel with broken wings.
Gripping onto the duffle bag, I continue walking. It’s still pretty early, so there isn’t much traffic or people around. I don’t know how many people I knew back then are even still in this town. It’s summer break, so I bet most won’t be hanging around much. With each step I take toward the house, I feel the anticipation building. I don’t know what to expect. Will Mom be happy to see me? Will she be sad? Mad?
I didn’t talk to her. When I received her message on my answering machine, I didn’t know what to do. I froze. I don’t know what I would have done if Randi wasn’t there. Randi is literally one of two people who know my story. I had to tell her everything when I moved in. I saw the way she looked at the tattoo covering the scars on my wrist. Once Randi convinced me to come back, I called. When Mom picked up the phone, I hung up immediately. I didn’t want to talk to her right then. I stared at the phone for a few minutes before picking it up and calling again. Mom must have known it was me calling because she didn’t answer. She let it go to the answering machine. “I’m coming,” was all I said before I hung up again. I didn’t give her any details.
I glance down at the tattoo wrapping around my small wrist. It was one of the first things I got when I left. I look down at the rose that wraps all the way around my wrist with the words NEVER FORGET entwined in cursive writing into the stem. It cost nearly all the money I brought with me, but I don’t regret it. I need that reminder.
Hearing a car, I briefly look up and spot an older vehicle driving down the street. The car looks familiar, but I don’t recognize the driver. He doesn’t look too much older than me, so he must be new around here. I look back down at my shoes and continue toward the house. I can see it in front of me. It doesn’t look any different. In fact, nothing in town looks any different. I’m the only thing different around here.
After a few steps, I stop. Do I go up to the door and knock? What if she’s not awake? I didn’t tell her I was coming today. She probably doesn’t even know I’m here.
So much has happened in this house. Despite all the bad memories I have here, there are a few good ones. Before my dad died and Mom married Gregg, I loved coming home. After Dad died of a heart attack when I was twelve, everything started going downhill. Mom married Gregg two years later. I could tell she never loved him. I think she was just lonely. She didn’t know how to be alone because she and Dad were together since high school; she didn’t know anything else.
This was stupid. I should have told her I was coming today. I should have done something else. Dropping my head, I step back and turn to leave when I hear the front door open. Mom is standing in the doorway staring at me. Seconds go by while neither one of us move. It’s been two years since we’ve seen or talked to one another.
“Lainey?” she whispers. I can barely hear her, but I nod anyway. With tears streaming down her face, she runs off the porch and heads straight toward me. I drop the duffle bag, but don’t move. Mom barrels into me and I take a few steps back from the sudden force, somehow maintaining my balance. I wrap my arms around her as she cries into my shoulder. “Oh, I’ve missed you so much.”
“I’ve missed you too,” I tell her. I really did miss her, but I knew I couldn’t come back here.
Mom steps back and frames my face, looking up at me. One of the few things I got from my dad was my height. Mom is nearly half a foot shorter than me. I can tell she’s recently lost weight too. Her skin is tight around her cheekbones and the dark circles under her eyes give them a sunken appearance. She looks so frail. “Look at you,” she says. “You’re so beautiful.” I bite my lip. I don’t want to cry, but I know something is wrong with her. “Come in, I’ll make breakfast.”
She bends down and grabs my duffle bag. I try and take it from her, but she insists. Slowly, I follow her into the house. At the last second, I look over my shoulder and see the old car that passed me earlier parked on the side of the road with the driver watching us.
Mom closes the door behind me before I can get a better look at who is behind the wheel.
I'm really nervous about publishing this book, but so far all responses from those who have read it have been positive. This book was really emotional for me to write, and it is the longest book I've ever written to date with over 108K words.
I hope you all will give it a chance when I publish it!
Thank you for stopping by my blog today, and I apologize against for my long disappearance.