Ryder sat in her car for a while after she turned off the engine. The sound of rain hitting the metal cab of her truck soothed her nerves. Outside was a storm, the trees bending and swaying in the wind. It matched what Ryder was feeling.
The thought of going inside and facing her family scared her. After what had happened yesterday, all she wanted to do was hide in a hole. They had seen her at her weakest, seen her reduced to a puddle of tears just by her mothers word.
When she had woken up this morning, she had left the house as soon as possible. Ryder wasn't quite sure what had actually happened after her altercation with her mother. She remember going to her spot in the woods and seeing a huge, majestic wolf. But her only memory after that was waking up in her bed, which made her think it was only a dream.
A crack of lightning illuminated the house before her. The lights were on and she could see the shadows of people moving around. The Clearwaters were probably over and Sue had no doubt told them about what had happened the day prior. Even without her saying anything, the bruise on Ryder's face would have done the talking.
It was a vibrant purple and blue, forming the shape of a hand. Ryder had done her best to cover it with some concealer but it had come off during work. She looked up into the rear view mirror. The bruise covered half her face and there was no hiding it.
Ryder let her forehead drop against the steering wheel. She didn't want to face them. She was a coward. She didn't want to see Caroline. Ryder knew it wasn't her mothers fault. She didn't blame her, but stinging reality of her mother using Ryder's deepest secret and insecurity against her made Ryder want to never look at Caroline again. It plagued her to this day and having someone know about it just made Ryder feel even more vulnerable.
They were her family, Ryder reminded herself. Even if they knew the truth, they wouldn't use it against her. They loved her, not like Carter, but really loved her. She knew she could trust them.
With a shaky sigh, Ryder flipped her hood up and dashed out of the car. The rain was coming down hard, and she could barley see the ground in front of her. Her foot hit a rock and she almost fell, but caught herself on the pillar of the porch. Under the cover of the rotted wood, Ryder pulled off her jacket. She shivered at the cold, moist air but made no move to go inside to the warmth. What if they were all waiting for her, to tell her they didn't want such a weak person to weigh them down? That what Caroline said was true and they didn't want such a whore in their house?
Ryder steeled her shoulders and opened the door. Immediately, the warmth of her house greeted her. The smell of roasting chicken and rosemary filled her senses and she furrowed her brows. That had been her moms famous recipe.
Harry and Leah sat at the counter, playing a game of cards with a yellowed deck. Sue was sitting in an arm chair, darning a pair of socks while Seth sat beside her, working on homework. But that wasn't what made Ryder drop her jacket onto the floor. That wasn't what made her think she was hallucinating.
At the central dining table, Violet and Jackson sat on either side of a frail woman. They were cutting shapes out of construction paper, big grins on their faces. Carved pumpkins sat a few spots away, with trays of pumpkin seeds drying. The woman laughed and Ryder stumbled backwards.
Caroline turned her head at the sound, her smile growing as she caught sight of her eldest daughter. The older woman's hair was pulled back into a messy braid, thanks to Violets braiding skills and her cheeks were rosy with laughter. She looked healthy, despite her hollowed cheeks and thin frame. Her eyes danced with a gleam that Ryder hadn't seen for years.
"Ryder!" Caroline exclaimed. The aimless chatter of the family stopped and they all turned to look at the girl. She was stunned, staring at her formerly almost comatose mother. Harry was on his feet first and he was ushering Ryder out of the house before she could blink.
"Hey, honey, welcome home." He shut the door behind them, steering them away from the lively indoors. "How was your day?"
"I- um..." Ryder was at loss for words. "What?"
"Look, after you left this morning, your mother came outside of her room." Harry held onto Ryder's upper arms, forcing her to look at him. "She's talking, Ry, and laughing. Shes acting like nothing ever happened."
"Wha- how?" Ryder was sure she was dreaming, that she'd wake up and Caroline would be back in bed. She pinched herself, but nothing changed.
"It's a miracle." Harry grinned. "I thought you should know. She doesn't seem to remember being in such a bad spot so we think it should be better if we act like nothing's out of the ordinary."
"Yeah, okay." Ryder nodded, not believing any of it. How? Caroline hadn't left her bed for months, she'd barely talked. But now she was up and about, hanging out with her children as if nothing had happened.
"How's your bruise?" Harry's voice became thick with sympathy and Ryder looked away.
"Fine." She didn't want to talk about it. No doubt Sue had told him what Caroline had said. "Can I see her?" Harry, sensing her noncompliance to his questioning, nodded. With a quick smile towards him, Ryder went back inside. She ignored how wth Clearwaters watched her with bated breaths and instead sat down next to her family.
"Hey guys." She smiled softly, not sure what to expect. Jackson and Violet clambered over Caroline, clinging tightly onto Ryder.
"We missed you so much!"
"I missed you guys too." Ryder grinned down at them. "Do you want to go get your drawing from the other day to show to mommy?" They nodded enthusiastically before jumping down and bolting into their shared room.
"Hey, sweetie." Caroline grinned at her daughter and Ryder's spirits soared. Could her mother really be okay? "The kids and I were just making som decorations."
Ryder looked down, smiling over the Halloween decor. Garlands of black bats and white ghosts littered the table and she thought back to when her mother had done the same crafts with her. It had been during one of her clean streaks, when she had been pregnant with Violet and they were living with Stan. The decorations hadn't made it until Halloween though. Stan had set them on fire. Ryder and Caroline spent Halloween in a homeless shelter.
"They're beautiful mom." She met eyes with Caroline and offered a small smile.
"Oh, darling you're getting so beautiful." Caroline placed a hand on Ryder's head, brushing back her hair. Ryder's heart almost exploded from happiness. "Oh no, Ryder, what happened to your face? Was it that boy aga-"
"No, mom." Ryder cut her off quickly, jerking out of her mothers grasp. She shared a quick look with Sue. "I, uh, fell at work." If Caroline didn't remember, then there was no need to bring it up.
"Honey I'm so-" Caroline was cut off as Jackson and Violet came back into the room, waving their drawing around excitedly.
That night, Ryder let them stay up past their bed time. Long after the Clearwaters had left, the four Kane's stayed up. They curled up in Ryder's bed watching movies until they fell asleep.
Ryder had never fallen asleep more at peace.
YOU ARE READING
"She slept with wolves without fear, for the wolves knew a lion was amongst them." -Robert M Drake He howled at the moon to bring him peace. Instead it brought him a tornado with ocean eyes and a hear...