I felt my face grow flushed, and I wiggled around in my chair. “He’s an amazing singer on his own,” I said.
“Yes.” She reached out and placed her hand on top of mine. “But what’s a singer without beautiful words to sing? All I’m saying is you’re good for him, even if he pretends that you’re not. Plus, I think he cares about you, too, just from what he said when he called to ask me to stop by.”
“What did he say?”
“To make sure you’re okay. That he needed you to be okay.”
And just like that, my heart skipped a beat from Ian Parker’s words.
Holly leaned forward and placed her hands against my bruised face. “Who hurt you, sweetheart?”
I closed my eyes and took in a sharp breath. “Charlie, my mother’s boyfriend.”
“Does it hurt?”
“The bruise? A little less than before.”
“No. Your soul. Does it hurt? Does it ache?”
I swallowed hard. “Yes.”
She wiped away a fallen tear from my eye before smiling that kind smile my way. “My boyfriend before Harry used to use his hands against me. He’d bruise me in places where people couldn’t see for a long time. From the outside, we looked happy. On the inside, I was dying. It wasn’t until he left a big mark against my face that I knew I needed to stop the cycle of abuse. I felt humiliated. I wore so much makeup to try to hide the bruises; then I found a way to leave. Over time, the outer bruises healed, but the bruises on my soul took a lot longer. Then, when I found out my daughter’s husband was doing the same to her, it broke my heart. No real man would ever lay a hand on a woman, except to show her his love. I hate that someone did that to you. I hate that someone hurt you.”
“I worry so much about my mother,” I whispered, my voice shaking. “She has so many bruises, both inside and out, and I don’t see them ever healing with her so wrapped around Charlie’s finger. He’s so abusive toward her, and I hate it. I hate how he hurts her, and I hate how she stays. I hate how she falls into drugs to cover her pain. We’ve almost gotten away so many times, but she always finds her way back to his toxic ways. I hate that she’s so weak.”
“No, no, no. She’s lost, not weak. I’ve watched the drugs take over my Sarah; I watched how they changed her into someone that she wasn’t. Your mother’s mind is lost, and Charlie is using that fact to control her.”
“What if she never finds her way home again?”
“We don’t give up on people finding their way home. It’s been years since my daughter and Brad ran off together, but you know what? Each night, I keep the porch light on, just in case they find their way home again. And I’d welcome them with arms wide open. You know why?”
“Because I’ve been lost before. Just because I didn’t fall into drugs or anything, that doesn’t mean I’m any better than them. Everyone deserves a home to find their way to at some point in their lives. It might not happen as soon as you’d like it to, but if their hearts are still beating, there’s a chance it could happen.”
“What do we do in the meantime?” I asked.
“Well, sweetheart, we pray for the lost ones.” She gave me a tight smile. “And we leave the light on at night.”
She cupped my face in her hands and kept grinning. Gosh, I’d never known a smile could heal until Holly looked my way. “But please know this. If Charlie ever lays a hand on you again, that will be the end of his life.”
I chuckled and wiped my last falling tears away. “Why’s that? Are you going to fight him?”
“No.” She shook her head. “Those were Ian’s words, not mine. He said if Charlie came near you ever again, he wouldn’t live long enough to regret his actions.”
Ian Parker was standing up for me, and that was enough to make the ache in my head slowly begin to fade.
“You covered for me today,” I said as Ian walked through the front door after a long day at work. I knew he’d had a long day, because I knew the tasks that were on my to-do list.
“I did,” he replied, rubbing the back of his hand against his forehead. He looked burned out and exhausted.
I gave him a smile. “I owe you.”
“Well, actually, I owed you—for helping with the song a few days back. Even though you were sassy about it, you helped me a lot.”
“It was mostly you to begin with. I just helped where I could.”
“You changed it for the better, which brings me to the next issue at hand—and trust me, it pains me to say this: you were right.”
“I was right about what?”
“Me having a wall and needing to break through it in order to tap into my emotions better for my music. The guys agreed after hearing the song.”
A sly smile found my lips. “You performed the new song for your band?”
“Yes. They all loved it. So I need you to help me.”
He nodded. “I need you to help me create more music. Look, I know I’m an ass, and I’ve been an ass toward you from the jump, but hell . . . I’ll do anything to have you help me with this emotions shit, because I don’t get it, and it seems that you do.”