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|Melody of the Heart(Runaway Train #4) by Katie Ashley|
Tears welled in my eyes as I surveyed the empty porch. Only the ghosts of happy memories resided there now. If I stopped by the personal care home, Granddad wouldn’t know me. After Nana’s sudden death from a stroke two years ago, he had lost his mind. Once the light of his world had been extinguished, he gave up the will to live and retreated into his own shadowy existence where he didn’t have to live without his love.
Even though I was only twenty four, I realized more than ever that you could never truly go back home—at least not literally. Sometimes home had to simply reside in your heart.
Easing down on the accelerator, I passed my grandparents’ house and headed on to Lily’s. Cars lined both sides of the road, and I had to park on the curb a few houses down. I drew in a deep breath to try to prepare me for what I was about to face. I had to worry not only about the suffocating panic that always filled me around death and grief, but also, the fact that I might be met with open hostility by Lily and her family.
I started up the hillside. Even though the funeral wasn’t until tomorrow, people still were all outfitted in black. While conversation filled the air, it was silently muted and reverent. I made my way across the yard and pounded up the porch steps.
Craning my neck, I searched the crowd for Lily. As I walked down the length of the porch, my skin burned from the stares of people I’d once known. When I dared to meet some of their expectant gazes, I simply bobbed my head and gave a tight smile. At the moment, I didn’t give a fuck if they were thinking I was some sellout for leaving town and not looking back. All that mattered at the moment was finding Lily.
“Brayden?” a voice questioned behind me. I whirled around to see Lily’s younger sister, Kylie, staring at me with wide eyes.
“Yeah, it’s me,” I replied lamely.
“I didn’t expect to see you. I mean, with the way things were left with you and Lily, I didn’t think you’d have any reason to come…” She shook her head. “Shit, that came out all wrong.”
“It’s okay.” As I cleared my throat, I desperately tried to find the right words. “I had to come if just for Paul. He was...” My voice choked off with emotion. “Paul was a good man. I loved him very much.”
Tears shimmered in Kylie’s blue eyes—eyes that were so much like her sister’s. She reached out for me, and I wrapped my arms around her. “Thank you,” she murmured into my ear. After I pulled away, she gave me a sad smile. “He loved you, too. I don’t think he ever gave up hope that you would patch things up with Lily.”
Kylie’s words caused the ache in my chest to grow. The memory of going to him and asking his permission to marry Lily flickered through my mind. The emotions were so strong that I staggered back from the pain. To try and get a hold of my emotions, I asked, “How’s Lily?”
Kylie grimaced. “Not well. She hasn’t slept or eaten since we got the news. She’s refused to see or talk to anyone.”
The enormity of Lily’s grief didn’t surprise me. “Where is she?”
“Holed up on the back porch in Daddy’s favorite rocking chair.”
“I need to talk to her.”
“Good luck with that,” Kylie replied. She then motioned me with her hand. After we got into the house, we started weaving our way through the maze of mourners. I spoke to a few familiar faces. When we got to the kitchen, Kylie led the way over to the door that led to the back porch. Kylie took a key from her pocket and unlocked the door.
“Hey, sis, there’s someone here to see you,” Kylie said.
Lily’s body shuddered. “Not now. I don’t want to see anyone,” her voice, hoarse from crying, croaked.
Glancing at me over her shoulder, Kylie gave me a look like she had tried. When she started to push me back into the house, I shook my head. I’d come too far not to see her.
“Lily,” I said softly.
Her gaze jerked from staring out at the yard to mine. Her hand flew to her mouth. The range of emotions that went through her face ran from agony, to hurt, to anger, to elation.
Scrambling out of the chair, she then raced down the length of the porch to meet me. She threw her arms around my neck, burying her face in my shoulder. Her body shook so fiercely with her sobs that my body trembled as well. I wrapped my arms tight around her, cocooning her against me.
“I’m sorry, baby. I’m so, so sorry,” I whispered into her ear. I said the words for so many reasons. For the loss of her father just as much for the asshole I was to let her go. As she continued to weep, I couldn’t stop feeling so helpless. I didn’t know what to say or do. I just knew I needed to do something to ease her suffering. “Lils, I want you to know if there was anything in the world I could do right now to take your pain away, I would.”
“I know,” she murmured against my chest.
I rubbed small circles across her back, anything I could think of to give her some comfort. Her crying slowly started to ease. Then she slowly lifted her head to stare into my eyes. “I can’t believe you’re really here.”
“I had to come. Your dad was always so good to me. I considered him a good friend who was taken too fucking soon.”
“It would have meant a lot to him. You know, that you came so far just for him.”
I shook my head. “It wasn’t just for him. I came for you, too.”
“Of course, I did.”