Torin (Hope City #9) - Maryann Jordan Page 0,2

lived there as well. But he soon moved out to bunk with friends or at the firehouse and now had a place of his own.

It wasn’t that she didn’t want to move, but she was saving every dime for her education. Plus she’d been so physically and emotionally lethargic when she got out, it had just been easier to stay in her old room.

Her thoughts continued along random paths, much like her feet leading her along the streets. The dark night still blanketed the neighborhood, but she wasn’t afraid. There was no threat out there that could come close to the real-life nightmare she’d lived through. She sometimes wished that a mugger would approach her, giving her the opportunity to beat the shit out of someone, physically hurting them the way she had felt emotional pain.

Snorting again as she ran, she wondered what Tara would say about that. Her sister had finally convinced her that she needed to see a professional besides just her, and for the past several months, she’d worked with a counselor who specialized in working with veterans.

As she continued pounding the pavement, the fresh, early morning air filled her lungs, and her mind began to clear. I am alive and healthy. I have a big, loving family. I have a life. Not the one I expected, but a life, nonetheless.

She slowed her pace as she made her way back to her street, sifting through memories of her oldest brother, Sean, patiently teaching her how to ride a bike and scooping her up when she wrecked. He’d give her a hug, then have her get right back on and try again, usually with her other siblings and the King kids next door cheering her on. Kyle would shout for her to keep her eye on the road, not on her pedaling feet. Tara would cheer while keeping an eye on their sister, Caitlyn, and Bekki and Brianna King. Rory would hop up and down, alternating between shouting encouragement and riding circles on the street with Blay King.

Her pace continued to slow as she turned onto the driveway, finally walking as she approached the front door. After her post-run stretching, she entered, appreciating the scent of coffee that wafted by. It didn’t take long to shower and dress, then she made her way downstairs to the kitchen where she found her parents in their usual breakfast places. Her dad was at the table, the newspaper laying to the side as her mom placed a bowl of oatmeal in front of him.

As she approached, she stifled her grin at the expression of long-suffering her dad had on his face as he stared at the oatmeal. He wouldn’t complain; after his heart attack that caused his early retirement from the FBI, her mom took his diet seriously and he loved her for it.

Erin walked over and bent to kiss his cheek as he looked up with affection. Her mom approached from the other side and offered honey, blueberries, and granola for him to add. Her dad’s expression morphed into delight, and she laughed. “Looks like your oatmeal just got more exciting.”

She turned and accepted a hug from her mom before going over to fix her breakfast, ignoring the watchful eye her mom had turned toward her.

“Good run this morning?”

“Yeah, it was nice outside. It felt good to stretch my legs before starting my day.” She had no doubt her parents knew of her nightmares, but they didn’t prod, for which she was grateful. She filled her bowl with oatmeal in a show of solidarity with her dad and couldn’t resist the berries and granola. Sitting down at the table, she smiled at her mom. “I just hope our mild early spring weather holds for a while.”

While her parents began discussing the weather and new shrubs they wanted to plant soon, she relaxed while eating. It was nice to have a normal meal with her parents, not like the ones she had when she first came back from the Army and barely nibbled while her mind heard the multitude of unspoken questions and worry pouring from her family. At least now I can share a meal and not itch to stay hidden in my room. One of the posters on the wall of her counselor quoted from a Chinese proverb: “To get through the hardest journey, we need only take one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping.” Rinsing out her bowl before heading to work, she let