Sorry it's late. It slipped my mind.

~Chapter 3~

June, one month later

Brandon had never been more confused in his life. He was lying in Lane's bed. He'd had planned on dropping Lane off after the graduation party and taking her out tomorrow, but Lane had insisted he stay with her. Something had been wrong—something was still wrong but he couldn't figure out what it was.

Her parents were out at a friend's house and she said they wouldn't be home until late. She'd grabbed his hand and led him to her room. She kissed him before they were even past the door. He'd tried to put on the breaks, but when she whispered "make love to me" in his ear, on her tip toes, he was done. It was unusual, but for some reason, she needed it.

Which led to the confusion. Now, she was in the bathroom crying. Also unusual. She hadn't cried since that first time. Brandon sat up and pulled on his boxers. He leaned against the door frame and for a moment just looked at her in his button up shirt. She was standing in front of the sink, slightly hunched over, a wad of toilet paper in her hand. She was sniffling and tears ran down her face. Her free hand gripped the counter top tightly.

When she looked at him, he walked to her and stood behind her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his chin on the top of her head. "What's wrong?" Brandon slid his hands from her hips to lay flat on her stomach. In the next instant Lane had twisted in his arms and was leaning back against the counter, putting what little space she could between them.

"Nothing. Just go back to bed, Brandon. I'll be in in a minute."

He closed the gap between them and hugged her even when she made it clear she didn't want him to. He rested his head on her shoulder and whispered against her neck. "Obviously it's not nothing. I love you." After kissing her there, he left her even though he wanted nothing more than to make her come back to bed and tell him about it while he held and comforted her.

o O o

The night didn't go as Lane had planned.

In the end, she couldn't break up with Brandon. Sleeping together wasn't in the plan and neither was breaking down. When faced with the task, she couldn't do it. It was selfish, but she wanted that last good thing for them. She kept telling herself it was for Brandon too, something good to remember about her and their relationship even when she was betraying him. And she knew she was. He did deserve to know, but her reasons were in his best interest. She refused to think of him hating her for this choice but it stubbornly stuck in the back of her mind. She just kept rationalizing it. How long would it be before she ran out of rationalizations? She was already outright lying to herself as it was. How much worse could it get?

Instead of telling him they needed a break, that they were going two separate directions in the fall and should end it now, she watched him sleep for a few hours and woke him up at the last possible second before her parents got home. She felt terrible when he kissed her again and told her he loved her and that he'd see her later. But what was she supposed to do? She couldn't break up with him, not after how everything played out.

How could she do this? In theory, it was what was right but was she strong enough to do it, to go through with it?

Shaking her head, Lane stood and quietly continued to pack. It didn't matter if she could do it. She needed to do it so she would. She'd prolonged it as much as possible, but it would soon be light and she needed to be gone before her father got up.

Lane stood at her desk—not sitting because she feared that if she sat, she wouldn't want to get back up—and wrote the note to her parents, trying to keep her handwriting neat and make it look as nice as possible knowing they would keep it because it was their last tie to her for a while. Her room would be there still, but this would be the closest thing to having her. It was her word, her handwriting, her voice on the paper. It would be what they cursed when they were angry with her for leaving and cried over when they were upset that she wasn't there. This letter would come to mean as much to them as she herself did.

Mom & Dad,

I need to get away. I'm going to be gone for a while. Please, don't worry. I'm fine but I need some time. I need to be by myself and start my life. It's my choice and I'd appreciate it if you'd respect that. It's nothing that you've done, so don't blame yourselves either. I love you and I'm sorry.



I'll call when I'm settled.

Please make sure Brandon knows I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt any of you.

It didn't seem adequate in Lane's mind but she didn't know how else to say it. It was going to hurt them no matter what. There would be a time period that she wouldn't be in contact. She was taking the bus out of town and would then buy a new cell phone to call them from, blocking the number. She didn't want to take the chance of them trying to talk her out of it; they would probably succeed. Her best chance was to cut off all communication until she was away from them.

Now, since she deviated from the plan earlier, Lane had another letter to write. This one would be the end of her two year relationship with Brandon.


I'm so sorry. I know you may never forgive me for this, but I need to leave. You may never understand but I'm doing it for you. I love you. Don't ever doubt that. Words can't describe how much you mean to me. That's why I'm doing this. It'll all come out eventually, in its own time.


She wiped the tears from her face, the ones that hadn't fallen and left water marks on the paper, and folded the sheet twice. Sealing not only the envelope, but her fate too, she quickly wrote his name on the front and grabbed both letters to leave on the kitchen table with her keys and cell phone and the duffel that held all she was allowing herself to take as a reminder of all she was leaving behind.

She took her time walking out of the house, taking a moment to look at the pictures hanging on the walls and remember everything she possibly could for while she was gone, but she didn't look back as she walked away.

o O o

Brandon was woken up the next morning by his phone ringing. He fumbled with the things on his nightstand until he found his cell. "Hello?"

"Brandon? Oh, dear, Lane's gone. I thought maybe she was with you. I thought maybe she changed her mind about whatever this is."

"Whoa. Mrs. Scott. She's not with me. What's going on? What do you mean gone?"

"She left. Sometime over night. There was a letter for us on the table with her keys and phone. There's one here for you too, dear. It said she was leaving. That she needed to get away, be by herself, start a life. That it was her choice and she'd call us when she was settled. You don't have any idea where she could be, do you?"

Brandon was up and pulling on a t shirt and jeans one-handed when he responded. "No. I don't understand why she'd leave. She was acting strange last night, like something was wrong but she wouldn't tell me. I'll be over. Did you try calling Michelle?"

"No. She was next."

"I'll stop by her house on the way. Calm down, Mrs. Scott. I'm sure she's fine."

"Thank you, Brandon."

"I'll be there in a little while."

o O o

"Where is she?"

"I told you, I don't know. All she told me was that she was leaving. I don't know where she went."

"Damn it, Michelle! You've known about this for a month and you didn't think to tell anybody? We could have talked her out of it. I could have talked her out of it."

"Back off, Brandon. This was what she wanted."

"Damn it! Why? Why did she do this? To her family? To me?"

Michelle's face softened. "Brandon, you need to go read the letter. She thinks she's protecting you."

"From what?"

"I can't tell you that. Please, Brandon. You need to try to understand."

"I'm never going to understand this."

"You might one day."

o O o

Brandon sank into one of the kitchen chairs when Mr. and Mrs. Scott left the room, leaving the envelope addressed to him lying on the table. He was half scared of what was in that letter. Taking a deep breath he picked it up and opened it.

o O o

Since Lane had stepped off the bus, she'd bought a new cell phone, bought a paper and went to a little diner for something to eat. Then, she realized she couldn't find a job without a permanent address and couldn't find a permanent address without a job. She'd only been on her own for a few hours and she was already lost and her life felt like it was spiraling out of control. She felt like she could cry. And a few tears did fall before she could stop them. She'd barely gotten control of her emotions before she left. How embarrassing would it have been to be bawling in the back booth at Sally's Diner.

So, she made it as far as out the door and around the corner before she broke down. How was she going to do this?

"What's wrong, sweetums?"

Lane was surprised to look up and see a slightly heavier set woman standing in front of her. Her curly hair, reddish brown and only slightly gray, was tied back in a messy bun. Wearing a long jean skirt and plain peach colored button-up shirt, the woman looked friendly enough and Lane felt oddly compelled to tell her her life story. This woman radiated warmth and caring and somehow embodied safety.

So, she spilled everything to this stranger when she refused to even tell the people she loved most.

"Well, babycakes—"


"Yes, you're no more than a baby, sweetums. Hence, babycakes. Now, don't interrupt." Lane knew this woman could hold her own. No matter how nice she looked the dark green eyes behind the glasses perched on her nose, Lane could see she could be hard, stern and commanding too. Like a mother, loving and strict, soft and strong, all at the same time. "As I was saying, you've got yourself a predicament. What's your name, babycakes?"

"Delaney Scott. I go by Lane though."

"Okay, babycakes, let's go back to the Bird's Nest."

"Bird's nest?"

"Yes. You sure do like to ask questions, don't you? It's my daycare. And you, babycakes, have found yourself a job and a place to stay. How about that? Not so bad for just stepping off the bus, huh?"

"That's not necessary, Ms.—"

"Roberta Smith. You can call me Berta."

"Berta. I can figure something out."

"Nonsense. It's not a handout. You'll be working to pay and the place to stay isn't more than a room but there's everything you'd need in the building. And you'll have free daycare when you're little one comes. Think of the work as training."

"Oh, Berta. You're too good to be true." Lane threw herself into the other woman's arms and hugged her. Berta's arms came around her and held her tight. She started saying soothing words when Lane started crying again.