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The Ryland Boys Chapter 21

Dipping my head lower into the water, I swam down deeper before letting out a loud and strong scream.

The muffled sound so soft.

Swimming back up, I laid my head back eyeing the stars, they seemed so much clearer here. The sky looked like it’s had glitter spilt across it, in an oddly patterned way.

I took in a deep breath letting it out and eyeing my clothes, the night gown clinging to my body and the tears falling seemed to mix with the pool water.

Letting out another breath, I walked out the pool with the ache in my chest growing in a black pit.

At eleven twenty this night, only ten minutes ago, I received the worst news I could ever imagine to receive.

I was alone.

Picturing her face, the last time we spoke, her laughter, the beautiful lie of a perfect future she fabricated. Oh mom, why’d you leave me?

I held my stomach afraid I might flatten and die in this instant, or I might hurl out a years worth of food. It hurt, it felt so miserable, so absolutely sickening.

I couldn’t save her, that’s what my aunt told me. She couldn’t be saved, that’s what the doctors told me.

Slipping on the converse, I headed out the side gate to the driveway.

Running down the driveway, I began my long run, one to cure this mess in my mind and the ache in my chest. I needed to shake these nerves.

Her eyes….

Making it two houses down, I steadied my breathing.

Her smile…

Pushing myself faster, I turned the stop sign crossing the street.

Her laughter…

Deeper breaths Norah, deeper breaths.


Running for what felt like forever, I passed by the freeway taking my bleeding heels and aching legs to the home.

It was cleared, nothing but the grass and dirt now, and I let my legs give in dropping to my knees letting the rocks in the grass scrape them.

“Mom!” I screamed so loud it felt like I’d screamed my soul out with it.

Falling to my side, I let my tired body fall into its own exhausted sleep as I cried.

At least in my dreams, I could see her face clearer.

“Norah? Sweetheart?”

“Is she okay?”

“Lenny, back up, she’s going to wake up and have a darn heart attack with your face that close to hers.”

“Should we call the cops?”

“Did any of you see what happened?”

“I told you, there was a scream and then she just passed out! Kind of like she fainted or something!”

Opening my eyes, I pushed into the grass eyeing my surroundings and looking up at the neighbors.

Lenny and Holly stood staring at me worried, beside them was Justin the other neighbor with his sister Kathy, and then Joe the man who’s wife died last year.

“I’m sorry.” I said pushing off the floor and sitting up staring between them.

Justin and Kathy helped me to my feet and I let out a shaky breath “You okay?” Kathy asked me looking into my eyes.

I sighed “No, I’m, I need to run.” I said as moms face flooded my thoughts.

“Come on forest gump, let’s get you inside into something warm and we’ll take you home.” Lenny said to me gesturing for me to go with him and Holly.

I shook my head “She’s gone, she’s dead. I can’t. I have to run. I have to forget her Lenny, I have to get her out of my head. My chest” I pressed my hands to my chest “It’s breaking, I feel my heart literally breaking Lenny! Breaking!” I said shouting through tears.

Holly shut her eyes “Your mom?” She asked choking lightly.

I nodded looking to the home “I’m sorry, I have to go.” I said wiping my tears.

Joe pulled his jacket off and slipped it on me, “It doesn’t get easier, you just learn to hide it better.” He said softly.

Hugging him tightly, I turned to the street and began my run ignoring their calls for me to let them drive me.

I took the longer way home and when I arrived at the house, I went back into the backyard shutting the gate and pulling the jacket off, jumping into the pool.

The splash washing me over, I sunk to the bottom and let out another loud scream.

Pushing the bottom I went to the steps laying my head on the cement and crying heavily, covering my mouth from the sobs.

My heart felt like it was literally dying within me, rotting and collapsing, shedding itself.

The door opened and I looked over at the small body. Lucas walked over slowly and sat down in front of me staring at me confused “Why are you up?” I asked him sniffling.

Lucas furrowed his eyebrows “I had a bad dream.” He said softly.

His finger ran over one of my tears “Why are you swimming at night?” He asked looking to my hair.

I ran a hand over his cheek, so innocent, he has no idea how cruel the world can be, how horrible the reality of death is.

“The water is so much warmer at night.” I said smiling through my tears.

He pulled his pajama shirt off and then his pants leaving himself in his little fish boy shorts.

Lucas stepped inside smiling wide at me, and I took a couple deep breaths “Tell me about your dream Luke.” I said wanting to rid the thoughts in my head.

“I was running from a huge giant and he wanted to eat me! I ran to you and you saved me.” He said proudly.

Why’d you do this to me mom? Why?

Why did I not notice? Why didn’t I see that you where ready to leave me? You didn’t even say goodbye.

Crying, I felt a small hand wipe my tears “Don’t cry Norah, you saved us.” He said happily.

I stared up at him “I didn’t save her though Lucas.” I held my mouth crying harder.

He held my head to his chest confused “Who didn’t you save?” He asked me sitting on the cement.

Sniffling, I wiped my eyes “My mom.” I said softly.

Lucas stared at me not understanding.

“Lucas.” I looked over seeing Alison, her eyes watering, “Go inside baby, let me sit with Norah okay?” She said watching Lucas get out the pool and go inside.

I laid my head on the cement looking up at Alison with tears “It hurts, so bad.” I said pressing a fist to my chest and shutting my eyes.

She walked over getting into the pool and pulling me to her chest.

I held onto her for a good hour crying in her arms until I was so exhausted from it I drifted to sleep.

“Honey, can you just carefully get her. Don’t wake her.” Alison said.

“Is she okay?” His voice asked, worried and confused.

“She’ll be okay, she just needs time.” Alison said sighing.

The sound of water came and then the scent of mint and pine. I felt so weak, so tired.

I spent the next day in my bed, dressed in my now dry nightgown and the socks on my bandaged feet.

The door opened softly, and Lucas peaked his head inside, I stared at him holding the pillow to my chest. Gesturing for him to come to me, he walked into the room climbing into the bed and curling into my chest.

I held him close, he stayed still and eventually fell asleep with me.

I woke up again, alone and with the curtains pulled leaving the room barely lit.

Eyeing my phone, I noticed the calls from my aunt.

Her text message was about the funeral. It was in an hour.

I took a steady breath before pushing out the bed and walking to my closet pulling on a black dress and black jacket with my black heels.

Going to the bathroom I stared at my reflection, my eyes swollen and puffy, face red and the look of grief swallowing my beauty up.

I headed to my purse grabbing it and tossing my phone inside.

Walking out the door, I looked over at the door slowly closing beside me.

Staring at Jax, he was dressed in all black, “I’m driving you.” He said calmly.

I nodded and dropped my stare to the front door as I headed towards it. My mind reminding me where I was headed to.

“I don’t-” I went to turn and go back upstairs but Alison was behind me dressed in black, “Come on sweetheart.” She said taking my hand and guiding me out the door.

I held my hand over my mouth crying and going to the car.

I sat in the back with Alison while Jax drove us to the cemetery. It was the same one dad, my grandmother and uncle where buried in.

Aunt Ella stood by the large tent and a couple people stood around.

Turning to Alison, she held my hand tightly and we got out the car.

We walked up the grass and I steadied my breathing and watched Aunt Ella crying before she turned to me and pulled me into her chest. “I’m so sorry Norah.” She said.

They all did, everyone hugged me and said sorry for my loss, but I feel like they lost too, the world lost such an amazing woman. It’s the worlds loss too.

Moms casket was brought by her two younger brothers and Aunt Ella’s husband and eldest son.

They lowered moms casket after a prayer and everyone tossed in a rose, I threw in a red tulip which Alison had plucked from my vase of Casper’s flowers.

I watched as they lowered her grave into the ground and I let my shaky breath steady. I could feel my heart going down with mom.

Holding myself together, the way I remember mom doing when they buried dad. I watched my Aunt Ella give me a small smile.

I looked to the grave beside hers kneeling down to dads grave.

“Take care of her dad.” I said softly placing my hand to my lips and pressing the kiss to his plaque.

Standing I watched them start moving the dirt onto the coffin and I looked over at Aunt Ella.

She gestured for me to come with her “We’re going to a small place I rented. Just her favorite foods. If you want to come, it’s that Illani place. If not, I completely understand.” She said kissing my forehead.

I looked her over “How much do we pay for this?” I asked her.

She stared at me “Your mother had the money for all of it set aside. Even purchased the spot long ago.” She said sadly.

Mom planned this, she always had it planned.

My stomach turned and I nodded “I don’t think I’ll go.” I said trying not the cry.

She nodded “I love you Norah, expect a call from your moms friend Billy, he’s going to help you get the life insurance, and home insurance. Your moms will left you with all of her belongings including your fathers and his parents money.” She said low.

I stared at her confused “Mom doesn’t have money.” I said watching Aunt Ella smile softly “She knew you’d need it. She never touched a dime of it.” She said before kissing my forehead and walking to Alison.

Staring down at my dads grave, I looked beside him to his parents grave.

God, this is where I’ll be. I’ll end up somewhere here.

I let out a shaky breath and headed to the car getting in and shutting the door but instead pushing the door open I headed to the grave.

Staring down at it, I eyed the name: Louis Bernard.

Spitting on his grave I stood under the plaque, the grave marker was cracked and vandalized by the families of the girls he’d killed. The large crack in the corner was from me, two years ago I came and hacked at the grass above his coffin with a pocket knife.

“This is him?” Jax asked staring at his grave.

I nodded and stared over at the dead grass. They’d poured bleach over the grass to make sure it didn’t grow back.

Jax spit on the grave and I smiled softly at him, his eyes moving over to me “You too tired for a run?” He asked me.

I shook my head “Sounds like the only think I can do.” I said staring up at him.

He nodded and walked us back to the car.

As he drove us to the house, we both changed into running clothes and began a long run around the town. I didn’t think he’d keep up but he did, and he didn’t sound tired either.

We ran twelve miles before stopping at a coffee shop, he bought me an iced coffee and got himself a black coffee. Sitting at the table outside the shop, I drank it lost in thought.

Jax seemed to be lost in his own thought before I leaned into the table “Tell me something, talk to me. Distract me.” I said as moms voice came into my mind saying ‘Oh this needs more sugar. What’s coffee without a pound of sugar?’

He stared down at his coffee “Why’d you call Manny?” He asked curiously.

I smiled lightly “That’s a secret. You’ll find out Sunday.” I said watching him stare at me before rubbing his leg,

He leaned forward putting his arms on the table “I was going to drop out. Doesn’t seem like the right time to be fighting.” He said gesturing to me.

I shook my head leaning onto my arms “Oh no you don’t, you’re fighting Sunday.” I said staring into his eyes.

Jax leaned back “You want me to fight?” He asked me with a confused look.

I nodded “I do, I really do.” I said calmly, just because I had a pothole in my life doesn’t mean he has to.

He looked over my face “I’ll save a seat for you in case you decide to come.” He said drinking his coffee.

We finished our drinks and ran back to the house, I showered and laid in bed sleeping the rest of the day off.

Too long of a day, too emotionally draining.

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