Author: Tijan PM
She'd left five years ago because her sister took away someone she loved. It had always been like that. Her sisters were adored while she was ignored. Now she's back, but she's different. She had changed and now sought healing in a cold and torn home.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - Chapters: 40 - Words: 167,372 - Reviews: 815 - Favs: 1,115 - Follows: 210 - Updated: 12-21-07 - Published: 07-31-07 - Status: Complete - id: 2397666
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I survived the flood that demolished Craigstown of 2007. Julia and I both survived it and Jonah found us. It was an awakening experience to see the bubbles break the surface as the first diver pulled himself upright onto our bank.
I knew it was Jonah before he even showed his face. And it wasn't that I recognized his body or how he moved—I just knew it was him. The first bubble bore his name and I blinked back tears of gratefulness.
They weren't tears that I was happy to be alive. I was grateful to him for so many reasons.
You see—this story wasn't about falling in love or reuniting with my estranged sister. It wasn't even about me realizing that I'd been cheated by myself and others from Erica.
This story was about me. I came home, haunted that the first storm had missed me, and I fought through the second storm.
I realized that I wanted to fight.
And Jonah had been the first to spark that fight inside of me.
I was grateful for that—more than I could ever put words into.
Julia had wept that she was alive as Jonah peeled off the face-mask, but his startling keen eyes found me first.
He ignored my hysterical sister as I stood calm—and a petty side of me loved that.
Jonah caught me in his arms and wouldn't let go for more than two minutes.
Julia had grown silent, a bit miffed—if you asked me, but how do you gripe to a pair of lip-locked lovers?
Her brush with death had given her some maturity, but I knew then—Julia would always want the attention. That'd never leave her because that was just my sister.
And then Jonah gave me a second gift. He whispered that Mae was alive and my tears broke free at that moment. A fist curled helplessly against his chest and he merely held me longer.
My knees were unsteady. My knees were always unsteady around him. I'd grown used to it, but my knees gave out in that moment.
Jonah swept me up and carried me to a private corner.
Julia huddled with a blanket and watched for more bubbles.
We stayed there as two more divers popped up and they readied Julia with the right equipment before all three of them dove back in.
Jonah held me against his chest with his arms around my front. He whispered into my neck, "I—I thought you were gone."
"I thought I was supposed to go." I confessed, broken and yet strong.
His arms tightened.
He dropped a kiss to my shoulder and whispered, "There's a lot that I want to talk to you about, but before I lose the chance to say it—I'm falling for you."
The magic of dancing herbs and magical spices burst forth in me.
"Thank you." I whispered.
Jonah laughed and commented, "Not the response I was going for."
"No, I mean—thank you."
I had hope.
Jonah had helped me get that back and it wasn't something I could tell. It wasn't a feeling that could be expressed in a mere conversation.
I'd left home with no hope and I had needed to return home to get that hope again.
I had it now and it took a demolished home to realize it was there—inside—the whole time.
"Thank you." And this time, I spoke to my momma and my sister.
They were around. They had told Julia to go south, even though Julia would never admit it—ever.
In times of crisis, all sorts of channels will open and that's when belief can come flooding in.
Belief that can give us more hope.
Jonah and I swam back out and were welcomed with warmed blankets. Jake grabbed me in a bone-crushing hug before he sat me back down and returned to Julia's side. And I knew that my sister had been changed when she offered me a smile—an actual smile and looked contented as Jake wrapped his arms around her once more.
Later, Julia would tell me that she'd received a phone call.
Aunt Kathryn had died nineteen minutes before the first wave crashed into Craigstown.
I've thought about that quite a bit since then. And the way I envisioned it—she merely closed her eyes, contented, peaceful, as the first wave took her body. It was natural and beautiful and it was the right way to go, for anyone.
Through the rest of that summer and into the fall, Craigstown was slowly rebuilt.
I was hailed a hero, but this time I didn't run. This time—I didn't want to run and I knew that whatever was broken inside had healed.
You see—I was my own monster. When you don't have hope, something can grow inside of you that will just keep hurting, biting, snarling, and you can sink farther and let that monster overtake you.
Some people don't fight back. They might hurt others, hurt themselves, or just—relinquish the fight for happiness.
I can't explain what happened or how it happened, but learning my family's secrets helped me learn who I was inside. That helped me gain perspective and realize—it wasn't me. I wasn't the one who screwed everything up. I wasn't the 'defect.'
It was them. It was the lies that tore apart my family, that kept my sisters and I from banding together.
We stood no chance as children, but now that I know everything—God help me. I was piecing my home back together.
Julia and I started slowly, but by the last brick that cemented Craigstown—she stood at my side. We'd taken awhile, but we'd even visited our grandmomma together. Mae still won't go, but that's her fight with her own momma.
I just know that if my momma were alive, nothing would keep me from her side. Not anymore.
Boone returned to his own home and to his own story. He did me a favor and took his family with him.
A part of my heart had wanted to reach out to him, but the truth was that I hadn't had a heart to give him before. And now that I did—Jonah had already claimed ownership. If it hadn't been Jonah, if I'd never survived the first storm and returned home—I couldn't tell you what would've happened between Boone and myself. All I know, his name will always be Boone for me and a part of me will always wish that I could've loved him as he deserves to be.
That just meant that someone else is meant for him. He'll fit with her how Jonah fits with me. How Jake and Julia seem to fit. Aiden and Bubba. Kate and Robbie. And how Mae confessed that she fit with Jeffries.
Yeah—that's one of my last revelations.
Mae always knew that he'd been my father. He'd loved my momma, but he'd folded under pressure and married his wife. He had the dolphin emblazoned on his wedding ring because he'd truly wanted to make his marriage work.
He had tried and failed and my momma had been around the corner. Mae was the one who explained it, but she didn't need to. I was fully aware that life's never simple, especially in adult years.
His story is meant for another time, but it ended sadly and bitterly because when he'd left his wife—my momma had undergone her last round of chemotherapy. He'd arrived to her hospital room to see her fingers fall lifeless as they were curled with mine.
I'd been sleeping, but I woke up.
I never noticed the big man in our doorway. I just noticed how my momma wasn't there anymore.
Mae had told him that the secret was out, that the daughters he'd loved from a distance now knew.
Later, Jeffries would tell me that he'd kept quiet because he didn't want to do any more damage to another human being. And his daughters were the very last little souls that he would want to ruin.
I was learning that that's my dad for you, but again—another time and another story.
I always liked to remember that my first words to him as I shuffled into Mae's new bar and took the perch beside him were, "So you've been here the whole time."
Apprehension, love, nervousness, caution, all those emotions were rolled together as he stared at me, but all I saw was the love. A father's love and I'm slowly realizing that it's a special entity on it's own.
I have my right to anger, the right to call him a coward, but—I'd just been given a rebirth to life—I wasn't holding grudges.
I didn't have time for that anymore.
It still took me awhile to visit her. The cemetery had remained intact and the headstones stood upright strongly.
I thought about that too and envisioned that mass of water the crushed everything else—hadn't touched what lay buried on holy ground. The tombstones stayed in place, contented, and watched everything become uprooted above them.
The thought still gives me the shivers—somehow, but I try not to focus too much time on it.
I sat with my back resting on her tombstone and I read the letter she had left for me. She'd known that I was coming back. Somehow—I felt right that she had been the one to know. A bird nearly crashed into me, but after I folded up her letter, I just looked up and grinned. I said faintly my hello to her and thought 'I love you too' before I turned and left.
Jonah was waiting for me to paint our new house.
…And with the monster gone, the child raised her delicate hand as it was enfolded with an angel's to walk by her side.