Second Chance

Sabrina Hall-Jackson has just been hit with the biggest change of her life, the loss of a loved one. Forced to leave her successful and growing life in New York and return to her hometown in Georgia, she finds going home isn't always easy.

With her heart yearning for the life she’d lost, she finds solace in an old flame, while a tall, dark stranger shows her there is life after death.

Her heart healing, Sabrina finds herself having to make a difficult choice: guard her heart, or allow herself to love again.

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1. Undone

Chapter One

Undone

 

 

I stared out the dingy bus window at the landscape whipping past, a blur of muted colors. The setting sun cast out a last-ditch effort to grant color over the land. It didn't matter though; my world was full of black, white, and grey.

The glass of the window was cool against my forehead and soothing in a way. I closed my eyes and exhaled slowly, my breath fogging the glass. I felt as if I’d been on this bus for days, but in reality it was only one. Unlike my fellow riders, I was not looking forward to reaching our destination.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the soft voice of the driver came overhead, rousing many passengers from their sleep. “Just wanted to let y’all know we’ll be in Athens in about, oh, thirty minutes. We know you have choices in traveling, so thank you for choosing Greyhound.”

The system clicked off with a crackle of static, and silence ruled once more, punctuated with the muffled sounds of coughing and people readying to disembark.

Sighing, I straightened in my seat and looked around the dim bus before my eyes strayed back to the window although all I could see was the darkness beyond. In thirty minutes, I would step off this bus and be back in my home town of Athens, Georgia.

New York had never felt as far away as it did in this moment. I swallowed back the burning of tears and fingered the eternity circle at the hollow of my throat, letting my fingers slip over the slightly rough texture of the diamonds.

It’s called an Eternity Circle, which makes it perfect. Because, Sabrina, my love for you will never end.”

I barely bit back the sob that choked my throat as his voice echoed through my mind. Not yet. I couldn’t fall apart yet.

Before I was ready, the bus pulled into the Athens station. As the driver put it in park, the overhead lights flicked on, all but blinding me with their brightness after the peaceful velvet blackness of the night. I shifted and reached between my legs to bring my purse up from the floor, my stiff muscles protesting my movements. My sneakers pulled against the tacky floor as I shuffled forward, zombie-like, the New Yorker in me kicking in and preparing me for the long wait to get off the bus.

The bright lights of the station blinded me just like those of the bus had. Blinking, I lifted my hand to shield my eyes. The humid, August air instantly made me wish I’d opted for a lighter jacket.

I’ve been away from Georgia too long, I mused as I moved through the crowd.

Instinctively, I held my purse to my chest. I kept my eyes lowered as I passed through the press of bodies milling about the disembarking area.

“Sabrina!”

My mother’s voice rang out above the din of conversation and greetings. She wasn’t hard to miss, her arms above her head and fingers wiggling in the air with a huge smile spread across her face. Stoic as ever, my father turned his head toward me as I made my way to them.

My parents stood side by side, haloed in yellow light. My mother was light against my father's dark. Both were filled with joy at my arrival.

“Mama,” I smiled, stepping into her open arms and returning her hug after quickly shifting my purse.

My mother’s features were soft, delicate and classically beautiful. I took after her in those respects, as well as in hair color. Hers was blond and cut into a short bob that flirted just below her earlobes. Blue eyes sparkled with delight at seeing me. At forty-six years old, she was still slender.

“Sabrina,” her tone was soft as she folded me into her embrace, holding me tight while stroking my hair. I smiled at her as I pulled away, turning toward my father.

“Daddy.”

His bright, hazel eyes, exactly like mine, stared down at me with love and concern. The wrinkles around his eyes had deepened, only adding to his handsome face.

“Hey there, baby girl.” The rumble of his deep voice made me smile a bit wider and I moved to hug him as well. It was no secret that I had been a daddy’s girl when I was younger, and I was still one to this day. Some things never changed. I breathed deeply as I pressed my face into his shoulder. Hay, leather and tobacco. The last had me pulling back, my brow furrowed in disbelief.

“Smoking again, daddy?”

“Been a stressful time, baby girl.” The look he gave me was apologetic as he stepped back and wrapped an arm around my mother’s waist.

I felt a pang, deep in my gut, as I looked at them. Their love for one another was apparent to all who looked upon them, shining like a beacon in the night. Giving myself a mental shake, I pointed in the direction of the bus.

“I, um, only have one bag on the bus. Everything else will be delivered either this week or next.”

My father nodded and moved off toward the luggage area to find my bag. My mother stared at me, her eyes full of sympathy.

“Would you like to go wait in the car, honey?”

Nodding, I forced a smile. She touched my arm and guided me toward the car. She had questions, I knew, but I appreciated her silence as we crossed the parking lot. I paused as a sleek sedan came into view and looked toward my mother.

“Where’s the truck?”

“We still have it, don’t you worry. Your father wouldn’t part with that old thing for nothing.” She chuckled and opened the back door for me. “Your daddy bought me this for our anniversary. He only grumbles a little when he has to drive it.”

I smiled once more, climbing into the back at her gesture. I’d just buckled up and settled into the back when dad popped the trunk and stored my bag.

As he got in, I caught the secret smile he shared with my mother and heard her faintly giggle, “Roy,” before I tuned them out and turned my eyes toward the window.

As our sleepy town passed by, most of the sights were familiar to me though some were new. Man made lights soon gave way to starlight as we left the city proper. I cracked the window and inhaled the sweet scent of fresh country air. How I loved that smell; I’d missed it deeply while living in New York. Now I missed the smell of the city.

The combination of the car’s vibration and the cool air soon had me drifting off.

“Sabrina? We’re home, honey.” My mother’s soft tones woke me and I straightened, blearily looking around. For a moment I didn’t recognize a thing, but then I remembered where I was.

Unbuckling, I exited the car and looked up at the house. The porch light shone a soft buttery-yellow just as it had done every night of my childhood. Darkness hid most of the more recognizable traits, but a smile tugged at my lips nonetheless. I jumped at the soft touch to my arm, looking at my mother before moving forward at her urging.

“Roy, you want some coffee, hon?” my mother asked, stepping into the house and setting her purse down on the side table in the foyer.

I tuned them out as my father, hauling my bag once more, answered and came into the house. I briefly thought of thanking him, but when I turned to do so he just smiled at me and kissed my forehead.

“Your mama’s making coffee. Want some? Or a biscuit?”

I shook my head, tucking my hair behind my ear. My father nodded and moved past me as he headed up the stairs with my bag.

“Anything I can get you, honey?” Mom asked from where she stood in the doorway to the kitchen. Her eyes full of questions and sympathy again.

“No, Mom, I think I’m just going to go lie down. I’m pretty beat.”

Nodding, she walked toward me and wrapped her arms around me. “You need anything, you holler, all right?”

I nodded mutely as I gently pulled away from her. I couldn’t do this right now. I couldn’t bear it. It was just too much.

All I wanted was to disappear and so, I did. Wrapping my arms around myself, I climbed the stairs, noting the scuffs and wear on the banister.

The door to my room stood open, welcoming me in. Mom had redone a few things, but it was still mine. The full-sized bed, covered in a comforter with a dark-grey and yellow chevron pattern, sat against the left wall. To the right of the bed stood a nightstand with my old lamp atop it and at the foot of the bed was the chest of drawers. I smiled as my eyes trailed over the spots of lighter grain where my cheerleading trophies had once stood.

My gaze moved over the pale-beige walls, and modern furniture. I didn’t think I could deal with bright, sunshiney colors right now. I sat on the bed and took another look around the room.

A small, sleek desk had replaced my old, oak one and sat flush with the wall across from the bed. My mother’s touch, I was sure. She’d always hated the oak one; she said it took up too much space.

Silence reigned as hot tears, begging for release, burned my eyes. I had cried so much lately that I didn’t know how I had any tears left. Stretching out on my side, I pulled one of the decorative pillows to my chest, longing for comfort I would never have.

It hurt. Oh, how it hurt. The pain hadn’t lessened a bit although more than a month had passed. Had it really been four months? It didn’t seem possible, and yet it felt like a lifetime. Every morning I woke expecting it all to have been a horrible nightmare. If it was, it was one I couldn’t wake from.

“Trevor,” I sobbed, pressing my face into the pillow. Tears streamed down my cheeks, dampening the pillows surface.. Rolling onto my back, I gasped for breath and clutched at the pillow, still holding it tightly to my chest, as pain lanced through me. The pain of his loss was so great, I was sure it would kill me. Some days I wished it would.

Slowly my hysteria calmed and I was able to draw a full, though ragged, breath. My face felt tight and raw from my tears and I had the pattern of my ceiling memorized. My fingers tracing the embroidered flower design on the pillow as my breathing leveled out. Finally I sat up and brushed my hair from my face, tucking the blond strands behind my ears, staring  at the wall opposite me; the empty desk, my bag sitting on the floor, memories crowding  my brain.

Trevor was dead. He was dead and he wasn’t coming back. I closed my eyes as another wave of tears threatened to overwhelm me. We’d been married a year—only a year—before he was snatched away.

Car accidents happen to everyone.

The doctor on call that night had the gall to say those words after informing me of my husband’s passing.

Sitting in silence, I listened to the house settling around me as I spun my wedding band round and round my finger. My parents must have gone off to bed as I no longer heard the low murmur of their conversation. Rising from the bed, I moved toward my bag, lowering to my knees to unzip it.

I searched around a moment before pulling forth a pair of sleeping pants, tank top and fresh underwear. Holding my clothes to my chest, I crept to my door and slipped down the hall toward the bathroom, hoping a shower would help to relax me enough that I could sleep. The door to the bathroom squeaked as I opened it.

It was just the way I remembered it; pale gold walls with a cream and rose striped chair rail.. Toeing off my sneakers, I set my clothes down on the counter and bent over the tub to flick on the taps. I ran the water hot. I undressed quickly and avoided looking in the mirror as I stepped under the spray. Hot water sluiced down my body, heating me from the outside in and withdrawing a soft sigh from my lips.

Closing my eyes, I rolled my neck side to side, letting the beating pulse of the water work on my stiff and tight muscles.

What was I going to do now? I’d come back to Georgia because I couldn’t bear the thought of living in the condo alone. But now that I was here…and what was I supposed to do with the condo? I couldn’t sell it. It’d been our first purchase together.

Take it one day at a time, my mind answered. That’s what my grief counselor had told me. Live for the day. Keep moving forward. Set goals. It was all bullshit.

How was I supposed to move on when the most insignificant thing could set about hysterics? When even the subtle scent of his cologne could remind me of the gaping hole where my heart was supposed to be.

I closed my eyes and rested my forehead against the tiled wall, trying to focus on my breathing. I stayed like that until the water ran cool. Washing quickly, I stepped out and wrapped one of the large, fluffy towels around me. Mom usually reserved those for guests, but right then, I didn’t care. I finger combed my hair, dried myself off and dressed before exiting the bathroom. The shower had done exactly what I wanted it to. Exhaustion washed over me, causing my feet to drag a bit as I walked down the hall.

Closing my door, I knelt once more beside my bag, searching through the contents until I found what I was looking for. I pulled the shirt free and held it to my face, inhaling deeply. The scent of him washed over me and through me, filling all those empty holes inside. My shoulders quaked as dry sobs wracked my body. I was cried out. I was miserable. And I was alone.

Rising slowly, I turned and stepped toward the bed, climbed into it and pulled the covers up. I tucked Trevor’s shirt over the pillow, then, leaned over the bed, reached for my purse and fished around inside it. I pulled out my phone and its light illuminated the room as I rolled back onto the bed. A few clicks and taps and I accessed my phone’s voice recordings. Setting it to speaker, I rolled back onto my side and set the phone on my nightstand.

“Hey, baby. You’re probably sleeping right now. Actually, I’m sure you’re sleeping, but I just wanted to tell you I missed you, and I was thinking about you. I’ll see you in the morning. Love you.”

My heart clenched as his voice filled the silence. I pressed my face into his shirt and breathed deeply once more.

I miss you too was my last conscious thought before exhaustion won over.

 

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