Home > Between Us (Renegade Saints #3)

Between Us (Renegade Saints #3)
Author: Ella Fox

This book is for my amazing readers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking this journey with me.



Age 7


I started playing guitar at the age of four. People often commented about my skill level being incredibly advanced and I ate it up. It made me feel special to know that I could do something most people couldn’t. Whenever I picked up a guitar, it felt as though it was an extension of me—like it belonged there. My parents jokingly said I should’ve been born with one in my hand. I could lose myself when I played, and I loved it.

The worst day of my life had started off like any other. I’d been practicing with the new acoustic guitar Flynn’s parents, Todd and Rachel, had given me for my birthday. Rachel had picked it out herself, something that made it priceless to me. She’d been sick by then for about two years, so it wasn’t like she could just drive to the closest store to pick out a gift.

It was a sweet guitar. The smell of the finish on the maple hadn’t even worn off yet. As young as I was, I took care of my equipment. My three other guitars were lined up against the wall on stands. The rest of my room was a typical seven-year-old mess, but those guitars were gleaming. I took extra special care of the acoustic because Flynn’s mom had picked it out.

I was maybe two or three more run-throughs away from nailing the opening to Bob Seger’s “Night Moves,” and couldn’t wait to play it for my dad. As I was about to play it one final time, my dad called out, “Cole, we need you to come downstairs.”

After setting my guitar carefully onto its holder, I thundered down the carpeted stairs and skidded excitedly into the living room where my parents were sitting side by side.

“I almost got it, Dad,” I announced. “You won’t believe the difference the acoustic makes! I told Todd as soon as I had it down, I’d go over so I could play it for Rachel…”

My words faded away when I realized my mom and dad were both crying. Before either of them said a word I realized why, and I wanted to throw up. Their tears could only mean one thing: she had died. I looked to my dad for answers.

“Dad?” I questioned with a squeak.

He was crying so hard it took him several seconds to be able to answer.

“Rachel is gone,” he said through his tears. “She’s in heaven now.”

Instantly, tears of my own started pouring down my cheeks. I shook my head desperately, hoping to make the words less true.

“No, no, no,” I wailed. “She can’t be gone! She just can’t be! I prayed…Flynn prayed—everyone prayed. Why doesn’t Flynn have a mom anymore?”

My mom sprang from the couch and pulled me into her arms. She held on tight as she rocked me back and forth while I sobbed.

“Flynn will always have a mom,” she assured me through her tears. “Rachel will be watching over him, watching over all of us, from heaven.”

Her answer only made me cry harder.

“But we won’t see her,” I whimpered, “and we can’t talk to her. She’s gone.”

I was never going to see my best friend’s mother, the woman I thought of as my second mom, again. The pain was unbearable. I wanted to know why God would take someone so good away? I didn’t understand it at all. The entire time she had been sick, I’d never believed she would really die. Not once had my faith waivered.

Losing Rachel changed everything because, for the first time, it made me doubt.

My parents and Rachel had tried to prepare me for what might happen but I’d stubbornly refused to believe it would. I’d believed in miracles and happily ever after, until I got a glimpse behind the curtain to how fragile life really was.

Not long after they told me, my parents and I walked next door to see Flynn and his family. The house had once been happy and cheerful, but it seemed like everything faded away as Rachel got sicker. The air smelled like whatever antiseptic the cleaners used on their most recent visit. Everything about the house was off. Never had it felt less like a home than it did in that moment.

Everyone was crying but Todd looked especially terrible, almost as bad as Rachel did when she’d gotten really sick. I found Flynn sitting in the living room with a photo of his mom clutched in his hand. My mom and dad both got to him before I did, and they hugged and kissed him before spending a few minutes talking to him in quiet voices. When they finished, they left the two of us alone.

We weren’t huggers by nature, but it seemed like everyone else had done it, so I should, too. Sitting down next to him on the couch, I gave him a sideways hug. When he started crying, I felt bad. I was upset and didn’t know how to deal, but Rachel was Flynn’s mom. He had worshipped her, and I couldn’t even imagine how badly he was feeling.

Through his tears he said, “Don’t think I’m a baby because I’m crying. I feel so stupid. I just want my mom back so much.”

I wanted Flynn to have her back so desperately. It twisted my stomach and made my heart ache.

“I swear on my guitar, I’ll never say a word. I’m crying too… your mom was special, and I’ll miss her every single day, forever.”

Sniffling quietly, he whispered, “She went this morning. I woke up when I heard my dad…he was crying so hard, I thought he was going to die. He was begging God to either bring her back or take him, too. I don’t wanna lose my dad, Cole. I’m scared. I’m never gonna see my mom again, I can’t lose my dad now, too.”

My heart pounded against my chest frantically as a rush of fear swept through me. I thought back to how my parents had started talking in hushed whispers around the time Rachel got really sick. I’d overheard them discussing what was happening with Todd, and it left me fearful and anxious afterward. I almost threw up when I heard my mom tell my dad she understood how Flynn’s dad felt. Mom told Dad if something ever happened to him, she wouldn’t know how to go on. She cried and cried when she admitted that, and it was the scariest thing I’d ever heard. Was life really so fragile? I didn’t understand why people got married if it made them so weak. The world was a lot less secure than I ever realized. Why would anyone choose to be made weak?

Looking over Flynn’s shoulder into the other room, I saw Flynn’s Gram and Pop sitting on either side of Todd on the couch under the front window. His head was buried in his hands, his body racked with sobs as my parents and his tried to comfort him. He really didn’t look good, and I wondered if maybe Flynn was right to worry. I was afraid Todd might actually die of a broken heart.

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