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Author:J.B. Salsbury

I’d never tell them, but Nash and Cody Jennings are the closest people I have in my life. They helped me out when I had nothing, and although it doesn’t seem like much, this little powwow is considered a pretty deep conversation for us.

“I need you to take a guy to the Wilson homestead and get as much of the wood you can fill in your truck.”

Cody pulls off his work gloves and shoves them into his back pocket. “Wilson place? Why?”

“Hippies from the valley. They want as much repurposed woodwork as we can provide. Wilson property is owned by the bank; they said we could take what we want since they’re gonna level it all anyway.” Nash pulls the blueprint and rolls it up.

“Can’t take my truck.” He throws a thumb over his shoulder. “They’re unloading the siding and have to go back for more.”

“Take Lucas and his truck. See what you can salvage.” His tone implies this is not a suggestion.

“Sure thing.” Cody sets his black eyes on mine, so different from his father’s, which makes me wonder what his mother looks like. From the little I’ve picked up in the two months I’ve lived here, she’s not part of either of their lives anymore. “You ready?”

I pull out my keys and we move to my navy blue pickup. It’s an older model, nothing fancy, but it’s full-sized and built for hauling.

Luckily the Wilson homestead isn’t far, so I won’t be forced to talk much. Between Nash and Cody, the younger seems to be the most talkative of the two. Although he gave up asking me about anything personal after only a few days of knowing him.

It’s better that way.

Too much sharing would lead to stories of the past.

Stories would lead to feelings.

Can’t hold back the blackouts unless I stay numb.


Ain’t this a bitch.

Sitting outside the old double-wide portable office with the Jennings Contractors sign slapped on the side, my stomach ties in knots. It’s not facing off with one of Payson’s most respected citizens, which isn’t saying much for a town with a population of 15,000, and it’s not my dad’s disappointment I’m nervous about either. It’s the satisfaction I’ll be giving him once he sees he was right.

“Good luck makin’ it out there on your own, Shy. You don’t belong out there. You belong here in town close to your momma.”

“Pretty sure she doesn’t give a crap where I go, Dad, seein’ as she’s dead. Besides, she left home when she was my age, found you. Don’t be a hypocrite.”

I cringe at the memory of our last conversation the morning I left town, his glare practically shoving me out the door along with the parting words that sliced through my gut.

“You’re nothing like your momma.”

He’s right.

She was strong, resilient, walked away from her childhood home and never looked back.

I came crawling back just as he always said I would.

“Fuck!” I slam my open palms against the steering wheel. “Ouch!” Gasping in pain, I shake out the nerve sting, willing myself to calm down.

Almost two hours in the truck that included a very long lunch break at an old café just outside of town and I still haven’t perfected my speech, which I managed to put together in my head without even a sliver of suck-up to the Great Nash Jennings.

“I’m back, but it’s only temporary. I’d love a place to stay while I get back on my feet. I’ll find a job, save some money, and then I’ll be out of your hair.”

He’ll have to torture me to get me to beg or admit I screwed up. He can’t know how close I was to making it big only to make an even bigger ass out of myself on live television.

A tiny part of me whispers that maybe he already knows. He wouldn’t get my old news channel here in Payson, but he’d get the Phoenix feed. Shit, how many people in town saw me make a complete fool out of myself and will know when they see me that I’ve been fired?

I swing out of the truck and go to wait inside. Chances are the old man forgot to lock the door.

The familiar feeling of rocks and dried pine needles crunch beneath my feet as I drag myself up the steps. A gust of crisp, dry mountain air whirls through the tall trees and I can’t deny the comfort I find in it.

Reminds me of when my mom would walk me through the forest and tell me old Navajo stories about the tricky coyote who slayed a giant or the boy who became a god. She always made it easy to believe I was capable of becoming so much more than a small girl in a small town.

I reach for the door handle, but it’s locked. I’m about to drop down on the steps and wait when the roar of a truck engine and spinning of tires in dirt sends my stomach plummeting.

Pulling together every bit of pride I have left, which isn’t much, I square my shoulders and watch my dad’s truck jerk to a halt.