Cherished:The Mountain Man's Babies(9)

By: Frankie Love


I'd be dead if Jonah had taken as bad a beating as I had.

But we were broke and had nowhere to go. Too terrified to go back where we came from—knowing our skulls would be smashed right through, were we to ever return.

I yelled to the sky, demanding justice. Begged for a sign. I reached in my pants pocket, not finding any dollar bills, but my fingers found Cherish's guitar pick.

It is the only sign I ever needed.

Her.

Mine.

"What now?" Jonah asked.

"Now we make a plan to get back to where we belong."

Jonah shook his head. "No way in hell. I wanted out, but was scared to run in case they decided to find me. Now I’m free, no way am I ever going back there."

I nodded, understanding. I wasn't going back there to stay.

I'd only return once.

To get what was mine all along.



And a year later I'm ready. The time is now.

Jonah is older, and of course, we all are, but he was 18 when we left the compound, and in that time, he's grown into his skin. He's taller, stronger, ready to take life by the horns.

I'm glad because when I leave here, I'm not coming back. But Jonah is gonna be okay here on his own.

We've worked hard this past year, scraping by, living on the street until I got cleaned up enough that the two of us could stay at a homeless shelter. Thankfully the freight train stopped in Miami, and so roughing it isn't as hard as it might have been in, say, Boston. We got through the winter without starving, so that's something.

Eventually, we started working construction jobs, it took some convincing to get hired on sites without any references, but once we had a tool in hand, our work spoke for itself.

We made enough to get an apartment and work is steady now that we have a solid place on a crew. But I keep socking all my money away, knowing that when I return to Idaho, I'm gonna need enough money to start a life with Cherish.

Knowing it might be hard to get her out, but I'm not stopping until my woman is in my arms.

At the bus station, Jonah claps me open my back. "Feel good to ride back in a Greyhound instead of the way we came down here?"

"Damn straight." I pull Jonah into an embrace. I owe him my life. He and I have fought to stand on our own two feet, and I know that we're never going back to where we came from. "You keep your chin up, Jonah, you hear me?"

"You sound older than a twenty-four-year-old, fucker, you know that, right?" he asks.

I pull back, grinning at the mouth on this kid. A year in the real world hardened us up real damn fast: if we weren't real men before, we sure as fuck are now.

"I expect to hear from you, understand?" I raise a brow at him, trying to remain stoic, but inside I'm fucking torn up. Saying goodbye to Jonah is saying goodbye to family.

"Yeah, I'll text you," he tells me. "And you better let me know where you are, all right?"

"Don't go doing something stupid, you hear?" I tell him, waving goodbye as I board the bus, duffel bag slung over my shoulder.

"Go get your woman," he hollers as I walk down the aisle to my seat.

I cock my head out the half-opened window, and shout, "I love ya, bro."

He raises his chin, salutes me, and the bus pulls out.

I'm gonna go get my woman all right.

And I'm not letting anything keep me from her again.





Chapter Seven





The whisperings grow to a roar and I know what I need to do.

What I should have done a long time ago.

After James died and Honor left—leaving a scandal in her wake—police officers began knocking on doors. CPS reports were filed and everyone at the compound knew we needed to leave.

The men were the only ones who knew where we were going.

But I know I can't go with them.

As my sister-wives help George prepare for our new start—canning vegetables, packing trucks with tools and equipment—I prepare for my own departure.

There's a twelve-passenger van that I keep loading with dry goods, and extra pots or pans, linens, and of course all the baby gear.

Because it isn't just me leaving. My triplets, who are three months old, are coming with me.

This year has changed my life … and that is the understatement of the century.

I fill up milk jugs with water and stow them in the van, with bars of soap and toothpaste. I take a little of everything as discreetly as possible. Thankfully, everyone is so preoccupied with leaving that they don't realize what I am doing.