The Family Journal Page 1

Author: Carolyn Brown

Genres: Romance , Fiction

Chapter One

When you come to the end of the rope, it’s time to tie a knot and hang on. Lily Anderson had reached the place where there wasn’t even enough rope left to tie a knot. She’d thought about her problem for a whole day, made a few phone calls, and now her mind was made up. She was moving her kids out of the city of Austin and to her hometown of Comfort, Texas—population a little more than three thousand.

She hated to always be the bad person, but since the divorce five years ago, she’d had no choice. A kid could find a dozen friends on every street corner, but they only had one mother. And in her kids’ case, only one parent—thanks to no help whatsoever from her two children’s father. Knowing all that didn’t make anything easier for Lily on Friday morning. Her hands were clammy and her pulse raced. She felt like gravity was pulling her heart right out of her chest. At least she owned a house in Comfort, and the move wouldn’t be difficult.

She had almost changed her mind and decided to stay, but then her daughter, Holly, gave her one of those go-to-hell looks that was meant to fry her on the spot.

“You’ve got less than twenty-four hours to pack your clothing and whatever else you want to take to Comfort.” Lily’s voice landed somewhere between a whisper and an icicle. “The movers will be here at seven in the morning. Until then, I’ll be taking your cell phone, laptop, tablet, and all the games you play on the television.”

“You can’t do that!” Fourteen-year-old Holly jumped up from the sofa and screamed at her mother. “I won’t leave my friends! You can’t make me! We’ve got parties planned this weekend, and I’m not going to miss them. I’ll go live with Daddy!”

“You should have thought of that before you took a marijuana joint into the library bathroom on Wednesday afternoon.” Lily’s finger shot out like a pistol at her daughter. “Sit down and lower your voice.”

Holly fell back onto the sofa and glared at her mother. “You had no right to come in the bathroom and spy on me.”

“So this is my fault? Do you realize what would have happened if the police had come into the bathroom instead? You’d be in jail, not moving to Comfort.”

“Why do I get punished, too?” Her twelve-year-old son, Braden, pouted. “I wasn’t the one who got caught smokin’ pot in the public library.”

“No, you”—Holly did a head wiggle—“you and your little buddies have been sneaking out at night to smoke cigarettes and drink beer. I don’t see what the big difference is between smoking pot and cigarettes.” She turned back to her mother. “If I’d gotten caught with cigarettes, you would have taken my phone for a week. But your precious little angel of a son is doing that, and you didn’t even know it. I’m calling Daddy.”

Lily focused on Braden with his dark hair and big brown eyes that, at that very moment, were trying in vain to look innocent. Surely this was a nightmare. The walls seemed to be closing in on her, and she had to lean against the back of a recliner to keep from dropping. How did things get so out of control? She was a therapist, for heaven’s sake, and she didn’t even see the signs concerning her own children’s behavior. Talk about having her head stuck in the sand.

“Is that the truth?” she asked.

He shrugged. “I only smoked a few and drank two beers. I didn’t do nothing like she did.”

“Yeah, right,” Holly almost snorted. “You and your little friends think it’s sooo cool. You strut around with them like you’re too cool for the other kids.”

“Do not,” he protested.

“Sweet Jesus,” Lily muttered. “You just lost all your techie devices, also. Both of you will have to earn them back, and that won’t happen before summer.”

Holly ripped her phone from the hip pocket of her jeans in a dramatic gesture. “I refuse to live like a prisoner. I mean it! If you force me to give up my phone, I will go live with Daddy.”

“Tell him I want to live with him, too,” Braden said.

Lily folded her arms over her chest and waited. The children thought their world was tumbling down around the toes of their cute little boots—it was about to take another major nosedive when Holly called her father, Wyatt Anderson.

“You can use your phone for one more call, but you have to put it on speaker,” Lily said.

Holly rolled her eyes toward the ceiling, hit speed dial, and laid the phone on the coffee table. Her father, Wyatt, answered her call with, “Hello, princess, did you have a good Christmas?”

“Wonderful, Daddy, but it would have been better if I could have spent some time with you.” She smirked at her mother.

“Darlin’, I would have liked that, too, but Victoria had plans for us to spend the holiday in the beach condo. It’s just not big enough to fit us all,” Wyatt said.

Lily fought the urge to roll her eyes. Wyatt could weave a lie so sweetly the angels in heaven would believe him. Why didn’t he just tell the kids the truth? He liked his new, rich lifestyle with his second wife, and she didn’t want to share him with children.

“Mama’s bein’ a bitch, so me and Braden are going to come and live with you,” Holly said.

“Add riding the bus to school for the whole semester for calling me a bitch to your punishment,” Lily said.

“No!” Braden yelled. “Daddy, she really is being a bitch.”

“That puts you on the bus with your sister,” Lily said.

“Only geeks ride the bus!” Holly whined. “You can come get us tomorrow morning at seven, Daddy.”

The silence that filled the room was so heavy that it seemed to suck out every bit of the oxygen. Even though Lily was still angry with her children, she felt sorry for them. If she’d been paying more attention to them, maybe none of this would’ve happened.

“Are you still there, Daddy?”

Lily knew what Wyatt was about to say to them and that it would almost literally break their hearts. Poor Holly’s tone was so desperate that Lily wanted to hug her, but right then tough love was the only way to get through to her children. If it kept those two out of trouble and out of jail, it would all be worthwhile.

“Honey, I’m real sorry,” Wyatt said. “But you can’t live with me. Victoria and I made an agreement about children when we married. I’ll come see you real soon, and we’ll have a day all to ourselves. Maybe in July we can even have a whole weekend while Victoria is in California on one of her business trips. If free time comes up between now and then, I’ll call you for sure.”

“Daaa-deee.” Holly dragged the word out into several syllables. “Mama is moving us to Comfort. I don’t want to live in that Podunk town,” she whined. “You just have to come and get us. I’ll die in that place. You just have to go to court and get custody of us.”

“Me, too,” Braden yelled from across the room.

“You have to understand. I simply cannot have you kids living with me and Victoria. It wouldn’t work, and you’d be more miserable here than in Comfort.” Wyatt was beginning to sound frustrated. “Put your mother on the phone, and take it off speaker.”

Holly hit the right button and tossed the phone toward her mother. Lily caught it in midair and said, “Hello, Wyatt. So no deal on helping raise your children?”

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