Once and Again - By Lauren Dane Page 0,1

and she’d come to Petal to find her mother a wreck and her brother at loose ends.

Her father was just fine. As if there’d be any doubt he wouldn’t be sure of that. The one person in Rodger Travis’s life who got his consideration and time was Rodger Travis. This dumb hooker he’d shacked up with hadn’t been the first, though she was probably the youngest. He’d left town and had been back exactly once to see his son.

Wasn’t like Atlanta was the other side of the earth. No, it was an easy enough commute for him to make at least once a week. Too bad he was so wrapped up in banging a girl barely old enough to have graduated high school.

It wasn’t really a surprise then, that in the wake of all this upset, her sweet little brother had started messing up big time. Things quickly got out of control. Cutting school. Bad grades and even, two weeks before, a trip to jail when he’d been busted drinking in the abandoned barn out on Summit Farm. Stupid.

Over drinks, at two in the morning, her mother had finally confessed the depth of the problem and her inability to handle Chris.

Lily had found out a number of things that night. First that her mother had turned increasingly to the numb reality of an entire bottle of wine with her anti-anxiety medication. Second, that her father wasn’t interested in the mess he’d turned his wife into or the devastation his abandonment had brought to his son’s life. When Lily had spoken to him, he’d helpfully suggested Lily take out a loan to send Chris to military school. Their older sister, Nancy, was an opportunistic, lazy bitch and would prove no help either. Which, to be fair, Lily had known since childhood.

Getting Chris back on track had fallen to Lily, even though she’d escaped Petal years ago and hoped not to look back.

She had to look back now.

Speaking of Chris… She looked at her watch. “Let’s go!” She headed down the hall where she found him on his bed with a handheld video game system and his headphones on.

“You’re not my mother,” he said sullenly.

“No, I’m not. I’m your sister and I’m here because of the wreck you’re making of your life. I love you and I’m here to put a stop to it. So. You can get up on your own and walk out, or I swear to you, Chris, I will show up in every single one of your classes and sit next to you to be sure you’re there. Moreover, I will drag you by the back of the neck from one place to the next. I am not having it. Your little vacation from reality is over. Get. Your. Butt. In. The. Car. Now.”

Grumbling, he still got a move on at last and headed toward the door. She took his book bag and gave it a look. “Take this with you. I want you to know I will be checking your work so don’t forget to bring it home each night. We’ll be sure you have all the supplies you need and all that jazz.”


She laughed, pushing him with a guiding hand on his shoulder through the house and toward the driveway.

He raised a hand at their mother. “Bye, Mom!”

Her mother came into the room and kissed Chris’s cheek. He blushed and hugged her back. He was a good kid; she knew that. He’d lost his way and now she’d help him find it again.

“Love you both,” their mother called out.

She parked in the lot, noting that it looked pretty much the same as it had a decade before when she’d attended Petal High. The same mix of cars from shiny new to beater in the parking lot. The same kids hanging out and laughing before school started.

“Chris, I’m meeting with your principal right now, and she and I are going to talk about how we can work with you to get you passing this year, all right?”

He tried to look away, but she wouldn’t let him. She took his shoulder and turned him to face her. “You can’t do this anymore. Playtime is over. You’re going to fail if you don’t take care of your business. And that’s not acceptable. If it was all you were capable of that would be one thing, but you’re a smart kid. Don’t blow it.”

“If I have to hear all these lectures, I’d rather go to class.”

She laughed and whacked him