Storm Warning

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So Much For Bright Ideas

Rayna stood in the doorway to Maddie’s bedroom, watching her usually-so-vibrant teenage daughter sitting so despondent on her reading chaise, staring out her window with a forlorn look upon her face. Rayna knew what she was looking at. Nearly a week later, and there was still a good number of reporters camped out outside her driveway gate. It was ridiculous and at that point for Rayna, maddening as hell. She’d figured the story would run its course in a couple of days and that the reporters would give up and go looking for some newsworthy content elsewhere. Yet, there they were, still. Like a bad penny that just wouldn’t go away.

Rayna knew the fact that they were out there didn’t help with Maddie’s mood. Ever since she’d come back from Tandy’s the afternoon after that whole mess with the reporters at the gate, she’d been unusually quiet and emotionally-distant. The only time she’d really spoken up was when Rayna had suggested the girls be tutored at home for a few weeks until things settled down with the media interest in Maddie’s story. Rayna glanced at the guitar in the corner that hadn’t been touched in nearly a week, an unfortunate byproduct of Maddie’s sudden lack of interest in all things that used to make her happy.

Rayna had tried everything, it seemed, to get through to Maddie, but nothing had worked so far. Though she knew the cause of Maddie’s distress and understood that it wasn’t something that could be fixed overnight, it broke her heart to see her little girl so sad. She wanted her happy, smiling, stubborn-as-all-get-out Maddie back. And she’d do anything to make that happen. Anything.

She took a deep breath, then stepped into the room. “Hey Maddie, sweetie?”

Maddie turned and looked at her, her expression hopeless. “They’re still out there,” she said quietly, her voice filled with despair. “I don’t get it,” she said softly to herself, shaking her head as confusion etched her features.

Rayna’s heart broke. “Oh baby girl…” she cried softly as she crossed over to Maddie and sat down beside her, wrapping her in an embrace. “They’re heartless, sweetie. That’s all you need to know. But you can’t let them get to you, honey. They’re not worth it, trust me,” she tried to reassure her.

Maddie sighed sadly. “I just wish they’d go away,” she said quietly.

Rayna sighed, then a thought popped in her head. She held Maddie back. “Hey, you know what—let’s do something. You and me,” she said with a smile. “You have a long weekend starting tomorrow and your sister’s going to be at the sleep-away with Kassie anyhow—so why don’t you and I go somewhere? A Girl’s Weekend, if you will,” she suggested excitedly. “What do you think? We can go anywhere you want, “ she said, nodding.

For a moment she saw a spark in Maddie’s eyes and she felt a trickle of hope surge inside. “Anywhere?” Maddie asked.

Rayna nodded. “Anywhere you want. It’s your pick.”

Maddie hesitated, thinking, then bit her lip and nodded. “Okay. If we can go anywhere…I want to go see Deacon,” she said softly.

Oh no. Rayna’s smile faltered at Maddie’s answer and her palms grew clammy at the mere mention of Deacon’s name. She hadn’t spoken to him in the week that had passed since they’d made love in her bed and argued and he’d left. He’d texted her a couple of times, but they’d been Maddie-related and clipped. Nothing personal. Not even so much as a How are you Ray?

As it was, she’d spent countless hours replaying their conversation nee argument in her head, going over it word-for-word, trying to understand where things had gone so horribly wrong. After all, one moment they’d been basking in the glory of their lovemaking, and the next Deacon was declaring his intentions and storming out of her bedroom. She knew she’d hurt him when she’d all but came out and said that she was afraid he might not stay sober, but she couldn’t dismiss her fears as easily as she wished that she could. The truth of the matter is, she was afraid. Not so much that Deacon would throw away his sobriety again, as she was afraid that their issues would prove to be too much for them to overcome together. While Deacon insisted he’d forgiven her for her role in keeping Maddie’s true paternity from him, she feared the resentment was still there…lurking. She couldn’t accept he’d forgiven her…when she couldn’t even forgive herself.

That was the crux of the matter. The fact that every time she saw Deacon with Maddie, all she could think about was how unfair the deck of cards they’d been dealt were; how cruel fate had been. How instead of the happily-ever-after they’d both dreamed of, everything had gone so wrong. And seeing Deacon with Maddie—seeing how different he was with her—how much he’d changed and grown-up in the past year alone—it was just a bittersweet reminder of what could have been, if only she’d gone with her heart instead of her head when she’d had the choice. All those things that Deacon had mentioned—they could have had a long time before. And because of her—because of the circumstances they were dealt and decisions that were made—they never had any of that. She didn’t know if she’d ever be able to forgive herself for that. And keeping Deacon at arms-length, well in a way, that was her punishment to herself. She hated that she was hurting him, but maybe he was better off without her.

She stared at Maddie’s expectant expression and struggled with her words. “Um…sweetie, Deacon’s still up at his cabin, I think. And I really don’t think he’s up for company right now,” she said. Particularly not mine, she thought to herself.

Maddie shrugged. “I know, but I’m sure he won’t mind if it’s just us,” she insisted. “You said we could go anywhere I want. Well, that’s where I want to go.” She smiled—the first smile Rayna had seen in days. “Can I call him and ask if we can come up for the weekend? Please?”

She looked so hopeful and so happy at the idea that Rayna couldn’t say no. Whatever issues were going on between her and Deacon came second to Maddie’s happiness. No matter what. Forcing a smile on her lips, she nodded. “Sure, honey. Go ahead and ask him,” she said.

“Awesome,” Maddie said brightly as she jumped up and ran over to grab her phone off her bedside stand, quickly dialing Deacon’s number.

Anxiety coursing through her, Rayna stood and went out to stand on Maddie’s balcony so she wouldn’t have to hear the conversation. On the one hand, she worried that Deacon would turn Maddie down for the fact that he wasn’t up to spending a weekend in such close quarters with the likes of her, and on the other hand, she worried that he would say okay to the arrangement.

When Maddie practically came out bouncing with joy a few minutes later, she had her answer. Her anxiety spike as Maddie relayed Deacon’s response, telling her that he’d said it was a great idea and that he’d love to see her. Her, as in Maddie. He wanted to see Maddie, not her. Rayna’s heart broke a little at that, but she forced a smile for Maddie’s sake. “That’s great sweetie,” she heard herself say a moment later, hoping Maddie didn’t pick up on the hint of misery in her voice.

She didn’t. “I’m gonna go pack stuff. Thanks Mom!” Maddie rattled off as she turned and ran back into her room to pack.

Rayna turned back to the balcony rail and crossed her arms against a sudden breeze, closing her eyes a moment. When she opened them, the reporters at the gate were still there, reminding her that that she was doing this for Maddie. That it wasn’t about her or Deacon or the past or their complicated present.

It was about Maddie.

Just Maddie.

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