All The Beautiful Things (Love & Lies Duet #2) - Stacey Lynn
“Maybe this is too much for you.”
I squeezed my dad’s hand. My fingers were cold, but like always, Dad’s hand was warm. Strong. His grip as tender as it was comforting.
“I can’t stop going. Not yet. God, Dad. The way she looked tonight. And it was her birthday.” Tears fell again like they always did the night I got back from the women’s prison in Mitchellville. I couldn’t help it. Several months ago, I started going with other women from my church to hold a church service for them. To be honest, like so many other times I set out to love and serve others, it was me thinking I was helping them. I never knew stepping foot inside a prison could alter me so much.
Fill me with so much more compassion for women behind cement walls and steel fences.
These women changed me.
And there was one who stood out more than the rest. Possibly because she was so close to my age. Possibly because I’d learned before I ever talked to her, she had been there for so long. Years.
Earlier that night, I sat with her for over an hour while she’d told me her entire, wretched, heart-breaking story. She didn’t deserve to be behind those walls.
I cried again and sank into Dad’s embrace as he draped his arm around my shoulders. “She wasn’t driving. She told me that. And I believe her. She has no reason to lie and now she’s just… in there… her life stolen.”
I shook my head. Refused to hear what I was sure he would say.
I only had so much time left. This exhausted me. It wore me out for days and stole my energy as much as it energized me. But I had to be cautious. Careful.
“Promise me, Dad. You have to promise you’ll at least look into it. You know people who can help her.”
“I don’t know that I can give you this, honey, as much as I want to, as much as I believe you. Right now, you need to look out for yourself.” He brushed his hand tenderly down my back and pulled away, carefully settling me into the pillows. His eyes had darkened with pain. I’d give anything to be able to take away his fear of what lied ahead. But I couldn’t.
And I couldn’t stop trying to do whatever I could to help this girl, either.
“I can’t.” I shook my head. Determination filled what little life I had left. “This girl has no one. If we don’t help her, who will?”
My dad sighed and rested his cheek atop my cold, bald head. I wore a wig when I went to the prison and sometimes in public, but my hair was long gone.
“I want to leave this world knowing I’ve made a difference. I need that. I need to know I helped someone. Helped her. Please, Dad.”
I begged him. I was a twenty-six-year-old woman begging her dad for help but begging and pleading and praying were all I had left. Even now I knew my prayers and those of others wouldn’t help me. I was dying. Quickly. I had months left. Maybe.
But this… in a world filled with sadness and brokenness and pain and heartache, this was one thing I could fix.
I could save this girl.
I had to.
“You need sleep.”
I laughed, a stupid sobbing laugh, and turned toward my doorway, to my brother who stood there, sounding as bossy as he always was.
After my cancer diagnosis, I moved home from the apartment I lived in and returned to my childhood room. Seeing my younger brother fill the space was shocking. We grew up here, best friends, playmates in a household that was a revolving door for children in need, whether it be for hours, days, or years. Through it all, Hudson and I were always best friends.
Now, he wore the same frustrated scowl and irritated expression he always had whenever I got back from the prison ministry. His heart was larger than most, but he gave it out slowly, over time, whereas he always teased me that I handed mine out at the first kind word or smile thrown in my direction.
I didn’t mind.
I would never regret loving people too much, and at a time when I was facing down regrets and trying to right wrongs, I was glad for that.
Hudson would learn someday. I knew he would.
“Hello to you too, grumpy pants,” I teased.
He shook his head and came and pulled up a chair on the other side of my