BEN BURGESS JR
BEN BURGESS JR
This was no longer home to a fearless girl who had more love for Olivia than she deserved. This would now become a place of nightmares for her daughter. Would she ever be able to sleep in this room again? Would she ever want to sleep alone? Would she ever feel safe?
Olivia struggled to come to terms with what Melanie’s life would be like if she survived this. She hadn’t done anything to deserve this. Alexander wasn’t without his faults, and neither was Olivia, but Melanie was so young, so pure, so innocent. Now, at far too young an age, she would be jaded by the cruelties of the world.
Would she ever see her smile again?
Would she ever hear her carefree laugh?
Would she ever feel her unconditional love as she flung her arms around her?
Bleakness invaded Olivia right down to her core as she fell onto Melanie’s unmade bed. Sheets that were once warm from her presence had grown cold, and Olivia could no longer keep it in. She wasn’t just watching a made-for-TV movie about a successful, semi-famous family losing their daughter. She was living the nightmare. wishing with everything she had that this would all be over soon, that it wasn’t real.
“Wake up!” Olivia screamed, slapping her face as relentless tears streamed down her cheeks. She curled into a ball, the torment growing inside her becoming unbearable. It felt like someone was ripping her open with sadistic apathy, the pace languid and sluggish, taking pleasure from each strained breath she struggled to capture. Her skin prickled with the heat of a thousand branding irons. No matter how loud she screamed, it wouldn’t dull the pain.
“Wake up, Olivia!” she bellowed again, louder and more desperate. Nothing worked. No matter what she did, no matter how loud her cries, nothing would wake her from this nightmare.
Sobs wracked through her body as she fought for air. She tried to gain control over her body and tears, but it was useless. She was no longer in command of her own destiny. Even the seemingly innate task of inhaling and exhaling had become arduous and complicated. Melanie was her lifeline, her reason for living. Without her, Olivia’s heart gave out, her lungs refused to work, her body shut down.
Suddenly, a pair of familiar, strong arms cradled her, lifting her off the torturous bed, cocooning her in a shelter only they could provide. They comforted her sobs, giving her exactly what she needed. She cried into her husband’s chest, a hundred tears falling for every regret. No words were spoken. Lowering himself to the floor, he simply held her in his lap, wiping her tears, providing her with warmth in this cold, hateful world.
She didn’t know how many minutes ticked by as he remained there, silently assuring her with his presence that they would get through this, that everything would work out. Still, she knew they would never be the same. This had shaken their family to its core. There was no returning to the way things were before.
Olivia cried harder.
She cried for all the time she should have spent with her daughter instead of working tirelessly for one charity or another. She cried for all the times she told her no when she should have said yes. Yes, we can have pancakes for dinner. Yes, we can go feed the ducks at the pond. Yes, we can make Christmas cookies in July.
Exhaustion set in as her cries subsided and she closed her eyes. The last thing she saw before drifting off was Melanie standing alone in a dark room, a blank expression on her pale face.
T.K. Leigh, otherwise known as Tracy Leigh Kellam, is a USA Today Bestselling author of the Beautiful Mess series, in addition to several other works. Originally from New England, she now resides in sunny Southern California with her husband, dog, and three cats, all of which she has rescued (including the husband). In late 2015, she gave birth to her first (and only) baby. When she’s not planted in front of her computer, writing away, she can be found training for her next marathon (of which she has run over fifteen fulls and far too many halfs to recall) or chasing her daughter around the house.
T.K. Leigh is represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. All publishing inquiries, including audio, foreign, and film rights, should be directed to her.
Lili Mahoney is the author of Young Adult Novel Barefoot Pastures. She was born and raised in Texas, where she went to Texas State University, and lives with her high school sweetheart and their three children. When she isn’t running kids from one activity to another, she’s feeding animals, doing laundry, and wishing she was writing or reading instead. Or eating ice cream.