Violet Ugly(The Granite Harbor Series Book 2)(7)

By: J. Lynn Bailey


“Ruthie walked by last week on her way downtown and said Dubbs was screaming at Ryan. Screaming nonsense. So, Ruthie marched up to the door, but no one answered. The screaming stopped. Didn’t stop her from calling the state police,” Pop says.

Mom takes a sip of her tea. “And they couldn’t do anything?”

Pop shrugs. “Ryan said it didn’t happen.”

“You know good and well it happened if Ruthie Murdock heard it.” Her lips were in a firm line.

Pop nods.

The stupid floor creaks as I take another step closer. My parents look to the doorway to the kitchen.

“Mer, what are you doing up so late?” My dad, still in his uniform, beckons me to him.

I crawl up into his lap. So badly, I want to tell Mom and Pop what I know. What I’ve seen.

My dad pulls my hair back and kisses my forehead as I put my head to his chest.

“Were you guys talking about Ryan?” I ask.

Mom looks at Pop and takes my hand. “Yeah. We’re worried about him.”

I don’t say anything, but if my stomach could talk, I’d scream out my anger and my hatred for Dubbs Taylor and what he does to his son when no one’s looking.

Ryan does a really good job of covering up the bruises, so no one sees them. Except for Eli and me. We lie to protect his safety. Our safety.

A web grows in my throat, and my heart stops the truth from coming out. I don’t want Ryan to die, and I know every ounce of what Ryan said about his dad killing him would happen.

“Do you know anything about what’s happening at his home, Mer?” Pop asks in his slow, calm game warden voice. The leader of our family. “Has Ryan said anything to you and Eli?”

I can’t tell.

I won’t lose his trust.

I can’t lose Ryan.

So, I tell the best lie I know. Not out of spite for Dubbs, not out of hurt for Ryan, but out of fear. “No.” I look down the hallway, too scared to look my parents in the eye, and I see Eli standing in the darkness. A tear streaming down his nine-year-old cheek, he eases back into the darkness.

Sometimes, there are secrets we keep so deep that our minds forget, not wanting to remember what the quiet chaos feels like against our hearts. But I’ll keep this secret. I will hang on to it if it’s going to keep Ryan safe.

Safe from his own secrets.





Three





Merit


San Francisco International Airport


Present Day


“All right, Mer, remember, no talking to strangers, and call me when you get there.” Abbey slaps me on the shoulder and then winces. “I’m sorry. I’m no good at this.” She pulls me in for an awkward and stiff hug. She whispers, “This is the right decision. It might not feel like it, but whatever you and Ryan need to work out, I think you’re getting a sign that it’s time to get in the weeds.”

I curl my lip. “Get in the weeds?”

“You know, like get to work.”

Eddie pulls me in for a side hug. He drove me to the airport since Abbey doesn’t drive. “We’ll be fine. Just go. Jesus H. Christ, family is family.”

“This isn’t a vacation,” I clarify. “This is an act of guilt, Eddie.”

I can’t believe I let my brother talk me into this. I haven’t spoken to Ryan, if I could help it, since the day I left Granite Harbor when I was eighteen. When he shattered my heart. So, maybe this isn’t an act of bravery. Maybe it’s stupidity.

Eddie’s silvery hair glimmers in the open light the airport provides. “Give ’em hell, Mer. Give ’em hell, sweetheart. And don’t let the octopus get you.” His eyebrows rise.

“The octopus?” I ask quizzically.

Eddie shrugs. “Means, don’t get wrapped up in it. Just ride it out. Those tentacles will let go eventually. You just need to slow down, ride it out.”

Of course, he uses an analogy like this.

Eddie doesn’t know the story. Neither does Abbey. Nobody does. Nobody needs to know. But, somehow, Eddie’s words slow my heart down a little bit, which allows me to breathe, expand my lungs.

“Remember to text me when you get there, Merit.” Abbey bites her thumbnail. “You’re flying all the way across the United States.”