Finding Forever

By: Melody Anne

“That’s not true, Ally. I loved your mother and father more than anyone else in the world besides you and your brother. And I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt — it would break their hearts to know you were sad. They were never happier than when you and your brother smiled.”

“But if we keep on living and are happy, we’ll forget about all the time we had with them,” the little girl said, sounding so much older than seven years old.

“Don’t think that. Of course we keep living and we continue to build memories, but we never forget all the time we had with them before they were taken … far too soon. That’s why we keep pictures, and, even better, we lock images of them in our minds and our hearts.”

“I’ll try, Aunt Whitney,” Ally said. “For you.”

“I want you to try for yourself, too.”

After that, they lost themselves in mixing and baking. When the smell of the cookies didn’t bring Brayden out of his bedroom, Whitney decided it was time to face him again.

The boy was lying on his bed with his headphones cranked up so loud she could hear the thumping of the bass from the doorway. Sighing to herself, she stepped into the room and sank down onto his bed. He tensed, but didn’t turn off his music or acknowledge her presence.

Whitney waited. She knew he would switch it off in a little while; he was simply making sure she knew he was still in a brutal mood. She was way in over her head with the two kids, but she had always felt that the sun and moon rose on the two of them. After a few minutes, he did shut down his iPod and remove the headphones, but he still refused to look at her.

“I know how angry you are with the world right now, Brayden. I also know things haven’t been fair for you or your sister. But it’s almost Christmas and for your sister’s sake we need to make it as special as possible.”

“What’s the point? Mom and Dad are gone. Why should we celebrate anything anymore?”

“I would trade my very life for them to be here with you,” she told him in all honesty. “But they are gone, and now we have to live our lives so they can look down on us and feel proud.”

“I wouldn’t want you gone, Aunt Whitney. I love you, I just miss them so much it hurts.”

She had to pull him into her arms — she couldn’t help herself. He let her hold him without resisting, but she knew that wouldn’t last long.

“I love you, too, Brayden. I wish we could all be together, but sometimes we have to work with what we’re given. For now, we really need to do whatever we can to protect Ally.”

“I know. I’m just so mad all of the time,” he told her in a rare moment of weakness. “But I really am sorry.”

“Can you come downstairs and join your sister and me?”

“Okay,” he mumbled.

For the rest of the evening, there were no more problems, but Whitney wasn’t foolish enough to believe the rough days were over. No. If anything, they were only just beginning.

Chapter Two

Is this true?”

“Yes, sir. The letter came in today. It was verified. Your son’s attorney sent it to you, and we’ve checked the death records. Vincent and the woman he married after he moved away from here, died at the same time. The instructions were for the letter to be delivered one year from the time of his death. I’m so sorry for you loss, sir.”

“Why a year?”

“In his last will and testament, he states that in the event that he and his wife die at the same time, his wife’s sister, a Miss Whitney Steele, will gain full custody of the children. He instructed his lawyer in writing that he didn’t want you or your other son notified for a full year. He hoped that you’d have less chance of contesting the will.”

Frederick Felton was heartbroken that his older son had still thought his father so horrible a person, even after all these years. But why wouldn’t he? When Vincent left home, Frederick had been a different man. Not a good man at all.

“I … this can’t be,” Frederick finally gasped as the words began to sink in more and more, and he leaned back into his chair and held his face in his hands. “We were supposed to have more time. Time to make everything right.”

“Would you like for me to call Liam in here?” his assistant asked.

“Yes. Please do.”

He was grateful when his assistant walked from the room. Frederick could barely speak.

He’d begotten two sons, and when their mother died twelve years earlier, his oldest child, Vince, had left home, saying that his father was too cold and too stubborn, and that he was the reason his mother had taken her own life. Vince hadn’t returned.

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