Rayna cursed her stupidity inwardly as she turned the wipers on a higher speed—not for the first time since they’d left the house an hour earlier, bound for Deacon’s cabin. It’d been raining steadily since they’d hit Highway 65 and started north, and hadn’t let it any since. In fact, it’d only gotten worse. Visibility was at about 50 percent, at best…and if there was one thing Rayna abhorred doing—it was driving in the rain. This, of course, didn’t help her mood right then. But this wasn’t for her, she reminded herself even as she snuck a glance beside her to where Maddie sat in the passenger seat. Her eyes were closed and she had her head leaning against the glass of the window, sound asleep. It’s for her. That’s what she told herself, then sighed, turning her attention back to the road...praying that the weather cleared up soon and resuming her focus on NOT hydroplaning. And so with that thought in mind, she went back to the exchange between Maddie and herself that hour ago prior.
Rayna sighed softly as she crossed the room to a still-sobbing Maddie, wrapping her arms around her. “C’mere sweetheart,” she said, enveloping her sweet girl. “It’ll be okay,” she softly promised. She was genuinely surprised when instead of pushing her away, she clung—her arms wrapped tightly around—to Rayna. After a few minutes of Rayna’s gentle consoling and transferred comfort, Maddie dropped her arms and pulled back, looking up at Rayna.
The pain in her eyes and vulnerability in her features were not only obvious, but also her near-undoing. She hated to see her little girl so upset and hurt and so seemingly broken. She wanted nothing more than to wipe the tears and to take away the pain for her. She was her daughter, yes. But it also wasn’t her fault. It was hers…and in certain ways…it was Deacon’s as well. The decisions they’d made and their actions 14 years before—albeit made with purest of intentions—were now affecting and hurting the one she’d hoped and tried exactly to NOT hurt with those decisions. And it was THAT irony that frustrated the hell of her, considering all that had accomplished for her until then was to make it worse. Meaning all those good intentions were for naught, seeing how there wasn’t a damn thing she could do to help her or to fix it. All she could do was to stand there and just watch it happen…to watch her hurt. And as a mother, it completely broke her heart.
“What’s going to happen?” Maddie asked, her voice quivering. “What if he hates me now?” she asked, another tear sliding down her face.
Rayna looked down at her and saw the turmoil and the tortured look that Maddie was struggling with. Her expression softened and she gave Maddie a little smile. “Oh honey, nothing’s going to happen. It’ll be okay, I promise. And Deacon loves you. He always has. Your sister, too. That’s never going to change,” she said with gentle, genuine assurance.
Maddie nodded, biting her lip. “O-Okay, but I--I’m scared, Mom,” she admitted.
“What do you mean, sweetheart?” Rayna asked, her voice laced with both uncertainty and concern. “Scared of what?”
“This storm. Deacon’s at his cabin and they showed on the TV that it’s that area that’s going to get hit the worst. Deacon’s phone is off and he doesn’t have a computer or anything. He might not even know how bad it’s going to get,” she explained. “I mean, what if the power goes off or something happens? I’m really worried,” she said.
Rayna nodded. “I know you are honey, but I’m sure Deacon’s just fine. He’s a big boy. Trust me, he can take care of himself. He knows what to do. He’s been through dozens of storms like this…both home and at his cabin. He’ll be fine. Don’t worry,” she said knowingly.
Maddie shook her head still not all that convinced. Or reassured, for that matter. “But what if he’s not? What if something happens? Please, Mom…please can we just go up there and make sure? Please?” Maddie pleaded.
“Maddie, honey...I don’t think so. I mean, if the storm is as bad as you say, then us driving into it would just be plain crazy. You know that,” she said, rationalizing the situation.
“I don’t care,” was her reply. “I just want to make sure. Please? It’s Deacon, Mom. He’s do it for us,” she pointed out.
At those words, Rayna just looked down at her and felt tortured by the suggestion…primarily since she knew Maddie was probably right. Knowing Deacon—which she did, very well in fact—he’d run through fire for Maddie and Daphne. And if memory served her right, for her as well. He always had. It was one of the most endearing things that she knew she could count on…and loved him for. He had his moments and his faults and he was greatly flawed, but beneath those rough surfaces, he was a good man. Truly.
Against her better judgment and the pleading look in her daughter’s eyes that she couldn’t ignore, she finally nodded. “Alright. If you really want to go, we’ll go. But if the storm gets too bad, we’re turning around and coming back home, understand?” she asked.
Maddie’s eyes lit and she nodded anxiously. “Got it. Thanks Mom!” she said, launching herself at Rayna and hugging her briefly before running off. “I’ll get my boots!” she yelled over her shoulder as she ran into her closet.
Rayna cursed quietly at the rain that was joined intermittently by hail, calling herself all kinds of stupid for agreeing to the drive. When she was done berating herself, she then cursed Deacon for putting her in that situation. Granted, he’d had reason to get mad after their last conversation that had also included Teddy…when she told them she didn’t want either of them around Maddie for the time being. Naturally, Deacon hadn’t been too happy, considering he was just starting to get to know Maddie as his daughter and all—but she’d had to think of Maddie’s well-being before that of Deacon’s. The way she saw it, both he and Teddy needed to grow the hell up and get over themselves. All that water under the bridge and so forth. They didn’t have to be friends, but they didn’t have to be enemies either. At least not in the middle of the street in town in front of Maddie herself. It was childish and if they couldn’t see that—then she didn’t want them around her daughter. Angry or not, he didn’t have to go running off to that cabin of his…in the middle of a damn storm, of all times.
Listening to the constant pattering of the rain hitting the windows and the swoosh of the wipers, Rayna glanced at one of the mile markers that she could see, figuring she had about another hour and a half or so to get to the cabin. Sitting there behind the wheel, she seriously contemplated turning around and heading back to the house. It wasn’t just the weather or the storm. Some of her hesitation had to do with what they’d find once they got to the cabin. Chances are it was nothing and Deacon’s phone had died or the power was off…something simple like that. But there was also a chance that he’d fallen off the wagon again…as he tended to do when things got hard in his life. As badly as she wanted to believe that he wouldn’t throw away all these past months of sobriety he’d worked so hard for, she knew it was a very real possibility. That said, she really didn’t relish the chance of showing up at the cabin and she and Maddie finding him passed out in some drunken stupor. She’d seen one too many of those in the past and could do without seeing another. And she certainly didn’t want Maddie to see that. Ever. As doubt crept in, she weighed the options. Just before deciding, she stole another glance over at a still-sleeping Maddie. While she had only to turn around and tell Maddie that the weather was just too much for her to drive in when they returned home…for some reason, she couldn’t. Was it possibly because she too wanted to know if he was alright? She asked herself. Dismissing the thought, she turned the radio on low to fill the silence as she continued the drive north…