Goodbyes?

Rose had said her goodbyes to her friend with a promise to stay in touch through video conferencing. She and Stacey Reynolds might seem polar opposites to some people, but their love for their girls united them above all. She could not help but think of Wanda, who had made the ultimate sacrifice for her daughters. She brushed back tears. It was still hard to think about…

Chad was double-checking that their couple of bags were secure in the back of the truck. Of course, they had not taken much with them. Certainly not for the two weeks they were away. She had been worried about the ranch and animals, but Chad had assured her that his friend Travis’s father would make sure the horses and other animals were fed and watered. In exchange for the fresh eggs and milk, of course.

She would be glad to get back to her old life. It seemed strange, but in the short time that she and Grace had been there, the place had become home. More so than that fancy house in Piney Pointe ever had been.

Of course, she worried that the reporters would find the place somehow. She knew everyone was clamoring for her story. Their story. But she still was not sure how much of the truth she wanted to share. It wasn’t just her story to tell.

Grace might know the truth about her birth now, but that did not mean she wanted the whole world to. But as Chad said, they would have time when they got home to talk about that and agree together. No more lies or keeping things from their daughter. Speaking of which, “Have you seen Grace?”

Chad nodded his head towards the fence line, where she noticed Grace talking with the other girl. “She’s gonna miss Bebe.”

Rose was worried about the other girl. She did not want to even think about the things that the girl had been through. But oddly enough, Bebe had been good for Grace, close enough in age that they could identify with one another, but neither were typical teens. What would become of her now? She knew the girl did not want to go back to her parents in Dallas, but she had overheard enough of the conversation with her cousin to know she did not want to stay here either.

Maybe…

Chad finished and came to stand beside her, looking across the field where the girls were now embracing and crying. “You know, maybe…”

“Bebe could stay with us for a bit?”

He nodded slowly, “But you heard…”

“That she’s pregnant? Yes, and I know that going to be hard. But…” She wasn’t certain how to put any of it into words. She was not even sure she understood herself, “It just feels right.”

“Our girl could use a friend close to her own age around. If she don’t want to go back to school.”

She understood their daughter’s concerns about school better than he did. Callie’s last few months at the academy had been traumatic. Discovering that people you thought your whole life were friends weren’t had left its mark. And not only would she be the ‘new girl’ in a small town where most of the kids had known one another their whole lives, but there was the notoriety of their situation. Between the whispers of gossips and not knowing who your friends were, school was not the best option for their daughter. Or for the other girl…

“You go talk to them. I’ll find her cousin and discuss it with him,” Chad kissed her forehead.

She flung herself into his arms, “Thank you.”

“Anything for my girls. And it seems I just got another one. Now go, woman. So we can get this show on the road. I want to sleep in my own bed tonight.”

Rose went up on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his lips, “I’m not promising you that you’ll get much sleep. But I’ll be glad to be back in our bed too. Bebe can have my old room.”

He laughed, “I’m gonna lose my study to your sewing, ain’t I?”

She blushed and nodded as she turned to the girls, walking slowly towards her with their arms about one another. She hoped this was the right thing. It felt like it. But still…

No, none of this was that girl’s fault or the baby’s. She could do this. She was strong. Stronger than her daddy or Gerald had ever imagined. This was the best thing. For Grace. For Bebe. And for her baby.

His baby… The man who had stolen her little girl. Who had beaten. Who had…

No, she plastered a smile on her face as the girls approached, “Are you ready to go, Grace?”

Her daughter looked down at the ground and shrugged. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”

She was back to that sullen teen. But then again, wasn’t that common? But these girls weren’t ‘normal.’ Both had been through things that others their age could never comprehend. These girls needed one another. And maybe she needed them?

Her eyes met Bebe’s, “And you? What are your plans? I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be nosey, but we couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with your cousin earlier.”

“It’s okay, Miss Rose. It wasn’t like I was whispering,” the girl’s smile was tight. “I don’t know, right now.”

She looked from her daughter’s bowed head to the young woman’s sad eyes. “We have a spare room. If you’re interested.”

Rose was almost knocked off her feet as Grace threw herself at her. “Really, Mama? Bebe can stay with us? You mean it? Daddy agreed?”

She nodded her head and looked at the other girl, “If she wants. And yes, it was your father’s idea as much as mine. What do you say, Bebe? Would you like to stay at the ranch? At least until you decide what you want to do?”

The girl looked from her to her daughter then dropped her head to the ground. “If you heard me tell Will I didn’t want to stay with them, how much of the rest did you get?”

She knew what the girl was asking, and honestly, she had been asking herself the same question since the idea came into her mind. Would she be able to do what the girl asked one bit better than her cousin? Could she watch this woman-child’s belly grow bigger? Could she be excited for the girl, knowing all she had lost? Could she forget who that child’s father was? What he had done to her? All she had lost.

All she could do was be honest with the girl and herself. “I heard. All of it. And all I can promise is to try. As that preacher said, to make peace with things as they are. I can’t promise I’m going to be perfect. That I won’t be sad sometimes thinking about the baby, I lost. But none of that was your fault or that child. I understand if you say no. But I do believe this can work. Grace has decided to continue home education rather than going to a new school. The two of you could study together.”

“But I do have one condition. I know that Stacey set you up with some counselor online. You need to continue that.”

The girl nodded, “I know. I’m going to. No matter what. For this baby’s sake.”

The girl looked from her to Grace and back again. Rose could see the indecision in her eyes. But Bebe held out her hand, met her halfway. Rose grasp it, not as a man might in a handshake, but with both her hands, she held the girl’s tightly.

She half-expected Bebe to pull away for a moment, but then the young woman looked up with a smile, “Yes, yes, I’d like to stay with you. At least for a bit. Until I decide what’s next.”

Grace gave a loud whoop and scoped them both into her arms. It seemed that group hugs might become their thing. And Rose knew that she might need lots of them in the weeks and months ahead. This reconciliation thing definitely felt right, but she knew it would not be easy. But seeing the joy on her daughter’s face was worth it.

“Chad’s gone to talk with Will. I know that he and Mercy are getting married this week. Did you want to stay for that? We could come back for you after the wedding.”

“No, I just want to leave this place. As quickly as I can.”

Rose remembered then that Stacey had told her how the sheriff had been part of the network that trafficked these girls across the border. Bebe had not said anything specifically, but it was possible this was not the child’s first time in this town. How difficult these past few days must have been for the girl?

“Okay, then. We’ll head back to Stacey’s and pack your stuff.”

“No, I don’t have anything there, really. Please, I just want to leave.”

Rose watched the girl’s bottom lip tremble. She remembered her words about no longer being a child but not being a typical teen or woman. Bebe had been through so much. But no matter how strong this woman-child was, everyone had their limits, and she realized that the girl was reaching hers.

“Then, let’s get on the road.”

Grace grabbed her friend’s hand and dragged her towards the truck, talking non-stop. She had lost a baby in Torreon. But maybe Fate had brought her something in return? Time would tell.

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