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Reign of Brayshaw (Brayshaw High #3)
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“Trust only those who earn it.”
A sentiment I follow without direction but holds more consequence than ever before.
One decision, five lives, three futures.
One night, one choice, four broken Brayshaws.
Unless I stop it.
I have to remind him of what he’s chosen to forget.
My town. My choice. 𝘔𝘺 ending.
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“Boy,” Ms. Maybell calls, patting the seat beside her on the porch. “Come. Sit.”
I listen. I always listen when she asks me to do something, if I don’t, she might decide she doesn’t want to stay here with us and go away like our moms did, like Dad says he has to soon.
She pulls some candy from her sweater pocket, handing me a piece.
She grins, moving her fingers to her lips. “Don’t tell your brothers.”
I smile at her and quietly unwrap the caramel, popping it in my mouth.
When Ms. Maybell’s smile slowly goes away, she turns, looking out at the big trees all around our home.
We asked Dad if we could cut them down once so we could see if there were other kids around who might want to play with us, but he said no, that the trees were there for our protection. Like the high walls to a king’s castle, they protect us from others.
Nobody ever comes here.
It was us, our dad, Ms. Maybell, and the guy that loves to drive us around.
Maybe after tomorrow, our first day at a real school, that would be different. We could make more friends and ask them to come over. We could swim or teach them how to play basketball.
When Ms. Maybell sighs beside me, I look up at her.
“Boy,” she says quietly. “Have you ever heard the tale of the Wolves?”
I shake my head and she glances my way.
She smiles a little. “You want to?”
She stares at me for a few seconds and I almost wonder if I somehow got candy on my face, but then she starts talking.
“Wolves are fast and strong, they hunt and eat creatures three times their size. In their world, they’re the predator.” Her eyes slide between mine. “And all others, bigger or smaller, are their prey.”
“Really?” I ask, turning all the way toward her. “Did you know we’re gonna be wolves, Ms. Maybell? When we get to our school, at Brayshaw High, we’ll be wolves!”
“You will,” she says quietly, lowering her head to mine.
“Wait, Ms. Maybell, if wolves are predators, and if they’re faster and stronger than others who are bigger, does that mean people fear them?” I ask. “Will they fear us when we’re wolves?”
“Yes, boy.” She nods. “They will, but not all will fear you.”
“Even though we’re the strongest?”
“Because wolves? They don’t work alone. They have a helper, one who leads them, helps them to their prey.”
She smiles again but brings her finger to her lips and I clamp my hand over my mouth. “Yes.”
“Who?!” I shout in a whisper.
My head pulls back, my nose scrunching. “A bird?” I laugh.
But Maybell doesn’t laugh. She nods. “A beautiful, black bird.”
“A black bird…” I think out loud, snapping my finger when it comes to me. I look back to Maybell.
“Yes,” she whispers. “A raven.”
“But… why wouldn’t a raven be afraid of a wolf?”
“A wolf may be stronger than a raven, but they need each other. The raven will call on the wolves. Where she flies, the wolves will follow. What she can’t touch, the wolves can. Where she’s too weak, the wolves are strong.”
“So… they’re a team?”
“They are.” Maybell looks to the sky. “Ravens are very special.”
“Some say they’re godlike creatures.”
She laughs, bumping her arm against me. “Maybe to you, child, but you’ll understand it one day.” She turns to me then. “One thing to remember about a raven, is they only have one mate in life.”
“A mate?” My face scrunches up. “Like a husband or a wife?”
“Yes.” Ms. Maybell nods. “Just like that. Once they choose, that’s it, for the rest of the raven’s life. Then, the two pick a territory where they stay and defend, fighting off all those who are seen as a threat to their home.”
“Just like Dad says we will defend ours when we’re big.”
Ms. Maybell’s smile is sad. “Yes, boy, just like that.”
“I can’t wait to tell my brothers. They’ll like this story.”
“Oh, I bet they will.” She pats my knee, turning to look at me again. “But, it’s no story. It’s fate, just you wait and see.”
My father’s eyes turn a shade of dark I’ve never seen.
All these years we have followed his every move, stood tall with his presence in mind and fought for all he taught us to believe in.
Family are the ones we chose.
Loyalty is given where gotten.
Trust only those who earn it.
His words were engraved into our bones before we even understood the meaning, and we’ve lived and breathed them ever fucking since.
Only one free pass was ever given, and without realization.
Instinctively, fully. With every fucking inch of who we are we believe in the man standing in front of us.
Bad move on us?
As if sensing my thoughts, our father’s eyes tighten with his form.
I swear we stare at each other for a solid five minutes before he so much as blinks.