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Before the dawn, p.1

Before the Dawn, page 1


Before the Dawn

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Before the Dawn

  Table of Contents

  Before the Dawn (An Orchard Grove Christian Women's Fiction Novel, #2)










































































  Request your 3 free novels when you join the Alana Terry Readers’ Club!

  It wasn't supposed to turn out like this.

  We had a storybook romance. So why am I hiding in a shelter for battered women?

  Especially since he never hit me.

  The worst part is worrying about my daughter. Does she know she still has a mommy? Does she have any idea how much I love her?

  And will I ever see her again?

  Praise for Before the Dawn

  by Alana Terry

  “THIS STORY STAYED WITH me long after I finished the book.” ~ Diane Higgins, The Book Club Network

  “A gut-wrenchingly honest story.” ~ Marie Pinkham, Book Reviewer

  Before the Dawn

  a novel by Alana Terry

  Note: The views of the characters in this novel do not necessarily reflect the views of the author.

  The characters in this book are fictional. Any resemblance to real persons is coincidental. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form (electronic, audio, print, film, etc.) without the author’s written consent.

  Before the Dawn

  Copyright © 2017 Alana Terry

  October, 2017

  Cover design by Victoria Cooper.

  Scriptures quoted from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


  I wasn’t always like this, you know. Wasn’t always such a mess. Back in high school — you might have a hard time believing me — but back then I was this big overachiever. Straight As, college scholarships, you name it. But you’re not here to talk about the glory days, are you?

  You asked for the details, the gritty, hideous truth, the shame-filled reality of my past that’s too difficult to speak of. Which explains why I’m writing it all out. You said you wanted to understand better. Figure out why I’ve made the choices I have, as much as it hurts us both. So here I am, baring my entire soul to you.

  I’m ready.

  I just wonder if you are.

  When I asked you what I was supposed to write, you answered with a very cryptic, “Whatever you think’s important,” and I’ve spent the past week trying to figure out what that means. You already know a lot of it. How long ago did we first meet? Time feels a little weird to me lately. I’m never really sure what day I’m in. There’s old Halloween candy on discount in the stores, but I’d have to consult a calendar to tell you if we’ve had Christmas yet or not.

  But that’s all irrelevant. It has nothing to do with me or you or the daughter I’ve lost. You asked about the past. About the things that led up to where I am today. I guess you’re trying to figure out how someone like me ended up where I am.

  Where did it all go wrong?

  I could tell you about the first crash. I mean, when it comes down to it, that’s when it technically began. But that’s like starting Les Misérables in the chapter where Fantine’s already walking the streets and dying from tuberculosis. If you don’t know how far she fell, you don’t care how low she ended up, right?

  Anyway, you didn’t ask me about Victor Hugo. You asked about my history. So here it goes.

  I’m going to start with school, because you know what? It’s the last time I can remember being truly happy.

  Who would have thought it’d be hard to write about those days? Seriously, though, who wants to admit they peaked at the age of seventeen, and everything went downhill from there? Still, sometimes it’s comforting to remember what you once had. Even if the memories themselves are torture.

  Which they are.

  Chris and I, we met all the way back in junior high when his family moved to central Washington. I guess technically we may have even known each other in kindergarten, because his family used to live here then. But I don’t remember him, and he doesn’t remember me, so even if we might have been around each other when we were just starting out school, I have no memory of meeting him until seventh grade. That’s when his parents moved back to Orchard Grove.

  It’s a long, complicated story — his family’s, I mean. His mom was a migrant worker, fell in love or had some sort of fling with the son of an apple orchardist — Montague and Capulet stuff, seriously, except without the poison or the well-meaning albeit horrifically meddling friar. Which maybe explains why both of Chris’s parents are alive today.

  Anyway, Chris was born in Orchard Grove, moved away for a while, then came back halfway into our seventh-grade year. I was on the pom squad then. Think cheerleader but it’s more like dance, not standing there yelling and doing a few toe-touches. I was co-captain at that point — the first Chinese co-captain in the history of Orchard Grove, as my mom would always boast. (Apparently she’s forgotten that the only other Chinese-American student who ever walked the halls of Orchard Grove was my older brother who graduated ten years before I did, so it’s honestly not that huge of an accomplishment.) Well, part of my job was to show the new kids around. I don’t know. I guess the guidance counselor thought it’d be a nice way to boost school spirit, which is really what the pom squad was all about. That and the dancing, of course.

  So when Chris moved back to town in the middle of the year, it was my responsibility to make sure he could find all his classes, sit with him the first few days at lunch if he was by himself, help him out with his locker if he couldn’t get his combination working right. That sort of thing, and that’s how our relationship started. Call it cheesy if you want. If this were all written out in a book, I wouldn’t read another page. It’d be like those trashy teen love series that do nothing but prepare little girl
s to grow up and devour bodice-ripping romances. But I’m not writing a piece of literature here. I’m writing my story, so you don’t get to tell me if it’s an overused motif or not.

  Chris and I dated officially for five straight years. Six if you count seventh grade, where technically neither one of us was allowed to date, but we were already mushy-gushy at that point, even if the kissing and stuff didn’t come until later.

  But that’s just the thing. With Chris and me, it wasn’t the physical. Not all of it. We were both active in youth group at the time. Chris, he was Mr. Sunday School through and through. Knew better than to go messing around too much. A lot of people wouldn’t believe us because it’s not like we made it this big announcement or anything, but we both graduated high school virgins. I’m only telling you this because some folks see a couple where things go bad, and they immediately ask, Well, what did you do wrong? and the whole sex before marriage thing comes up a lot, especially if you grow up in a church as strict as Orchard Grove Bible.

  I’m not saying we were perfect. I just want you to know we had something more than hormones between us. Young love gets such a bad rap these days, you know that? Sometimes I think, yeah, that’s probably for good reason. Then every once in a while I wonder if that’s because all the old people are jealous.

  But I’m getting ahead of myself. A lot happened those first two years after we graduated. A lot. It’s too much to write about in one sitting. This is going to drain my energy, I know it. Way more so than I initially expected. Just this little rambling introduction, it’s taken me two days, and I swear I could lay down for a five-hour nap right about now.

  I’m sure as I keep on writing, I’ll be tempted to skip over some of the more difficult parts. Jump to the good stuff. Because hard as my life’s been lately, it’s been sprinkled with blessings as well. So please don’t start feeling sorry for me. I couldn’t stand your pity on top of everything else that’s passed between us.

  Just like good old Robert Frost had to pause where those two roads diverged into that yellow wood, and he couldn’t transport himself to the end of his journey without explaining to us why he stopped there to wrestle with his destiny, I’ve got to tell you everything. Got to be thorough. So help me God because he alone knows how hard this is going to be.

  He alone knows all the secrets I’ve been carrying around like that sack on Christian’s back in Pilgrim’s Progress. Except unlike John Bunyan’s hero, I’m still waiting for my Evangelist, my messenger to tell me where to get rid of these burdens. Who knows, maybe that’s why God brought me here to talk to you.

  One could always hope, right?

  So don’t worry, I’ll tell you everything. Well, at least the parts I’m able to get out. I don’t make promises beyond that. I’m like Tolstoy. He said he could sum up everything he’d learned about life in just three words. I may not be as experienced as some, but I’ve walked through more despair and heartache than my burdened soul knows what to do with. Like Tolstoy, I can also summarize everything I’ve learned about life as concisely as he did:

  It goes on.

  Life goes on. In spite of the secrets we’re destined to carry to the grave, heavy and cumbersome though our load may be.

  In spite of the squalid human condition, the wretchedness that pierces your soul until you imagine you’re staring at some phantom or demon in the mirror and not yourself at all.

  In spite of the excruciating sadness, the grief that can consume you for weeks, months at a time, until you don’t just lose track of the days but of the seasons and years, too.

  In spite of it all, life goes on.

  And all you have to hold onto is the hope that maybe, by God’s grace or some miraculous intervention on your behalf, you’ll find release from your burdens.

  You’ll find peace for your soul.

  I pray that I will. I hope that I will. Because sometimes, truth be told, it’s tempting to think about giving up. Just like Frost said, the woods are lovely in their darkness and depth. It’s tempting to think of staying here forever, but I have promises to keep.

  Promises to myself. Promises to my daughter.

  I can’t fail. Not again.

  But I’m so tired. So bone-weary, soul-draining tired.

  With miles to go before I sleep.

  And miles to go before I sleep.


  I’ve found that I have unconventional tastes when it comes to literary match-making. Rhett Butler? Ok, so maybe he and Scarlett deserve each other, but I certainly don’t mean that as a compliment.

  And Mr. Darcy? Awkward, eccentric introvert? Umm, excuse me, but exactly what does he have going for him? Other than his fortune, I mean. If I wanted to read billionaire love stories, I’d find them a dime a dozen in the erotica section.

  And what’s up with Rochester? I don’t mean that rhetorically either. I seriously want to ask Jane Eyre and her myriad fans what’s the deal with him.

  I suppose I’m more of the boy-next-door kind of girl. Which is why when I read Little Women, I rooted for Laurie, the quintessential (and literal) boy next door. And Jo turned him down and married the professor. Seriously? I threw the book against the wall. Still refuse to reread it.

  I’m not much of a Lord of the Rings fan, but I worked my way through the entire series. I’d read Austen and Bronte and all the others by then but didn’t experience my first literary crush until I met Samwise Gamgee.

  Now there’s a boy next door for you.

  So I’ve been thinking about Chris a lot. Not Chris, the reason my entire life’s turned into one giant train wreck, or Chris the man who destroyed my faith in happily ever afters. Not Chris, the reason I’ve been spending my nights in and out of different battered women’s shelters. I’m thinking about Chris as he was back then.

  In that time in the not-too-distant past when he was everything.

  Chris the football kicker, because he was destined to be a star in our small town, but he wasn’t big enough for defense or fast enough for offense. Chris the homecoming king, because he and I were on court all four years of high school, so it would have been basically an impossibility for us not to get ourselves crowned as seniors.

  And maybe you look at all that, you see me with my pom-pons and him in his football uniform, you walk through Orchard Grove High School and see the framed pictures of us in our homecoming crown and sash, and maybe you think we were that shallow, flighty couple you meet in teen romances or whatever.

  Maybe you see him as Chris the jock or Chris the kid who probably peaked in high school and wouldn’t ever go on to do anything else of significance in his entire life.

  But I see Chris, the boy who sprinted across the street to the gas station in between second and third period to buy me an emergency supply of pads. Chris, the boy who planned a scavenger hunt that stretched across the entire town to celebrate my sixteenth birthday and who graffitied his next-door neighbor’s broken-down shed (with permission) to invite me to our senior prom.

  Sure, we were both athletic, but guess what? We worked our butts off on the school newspaper, too. We kept going to youth group, and when he was a senior, Chris even helped out with this junior high Bible study just for boys at his church. When he and I got together Friday nights, it usually wasn’t to party. It was to talk about our AP literature class or to work on layout for the school paper. We even started writing a play together. Never finished it, but that’s not the point. The point is we weren’t just some flaky high school power couple.

  That’s why it’s so hard to remember, you know? Remember what we used to have. People say memories are supposed to comfort, but they’re wrong.

  Dead wrong.

  Chris was my Gilbert Blythe, and I was his Anne Shirley, so convinced, so confident that wherever our future would bring us, we would be together.

  He was Count Vrosnky, and I was Anna Karenina, and our love was just as fierce and passionate, except it wasn’t tainted. It wasn’t taboo.

  It should have tu
rned out so differently.

  Which is what makes it so hard to talk about.

  I didn’t just lose a high-school crush. I didn’t just lose my first love.

  I lost my stinking soul.


  I’m like a time bomb these days. I really am. Like I can feel the next crash creeping up on me centimeter by deadly centimeter. I look back and think about those days when I was happy, those days when Chris and I would stay up until one or two in the morning, working on the school paper, laughing at our stupid typos, talking about all our plans for college and beyond. That’s the worst of it. I can remember when I actually felt like a person. A person with a life to live. A reason to exist.

  At least the suicidal side of it is gone. I know it’s no reason to boast, but I never actually made an attempt, even when things were at their worst. Through it all, I’ve maintained a shred of my dignity. The irony is the only reason I didn’t try to kill myself was because I was too tired to form any sort of cohesive plan. But I did think about it.

  A lot.

  You don’t need all the details, I’m sure. Even now, I can’t believe how much I’m already telling you. I spent two full months in bed. I didn’t technically sleep that entire time, but I was about as mentally useful as a coma patient. I still remember the way it felt. Heaviness. Brain smog. That thick, pea-soup mental fog. It doesn’t just sap your strength. It feeds on your exhaustion. You’re so sluggish, which is exactly how it wants you. So your thoughts aren’t your own, because you don’t even think anymore in words or pictures, just in primitive sensations. Sensations of tiredness. Of nothing. Of death.

  I was still a mess when I returned to Orchard Grove. It was Christmas break my sophomore year of college. Daddy was a saint. Got me audiobook after audiobook, and he’d sit by my bedside listening with me so I wouldn’t feel lonely. Mom thought I had mono. It was easier to explain it that way. Explain why I didn’t just refuse to get out of bed, I literally couldn’t lift my legs off the mattress.

  She clucked and fretted. Mom’s like that, you know. Chiding me in English, then muttering to herself in Cantonese. You want to know about my relationship with my mother? I swear all you’ve got to do is read an Amy Tan book. It doesn’t even matter which one. In Mom’s professional opinion, mental illness isn’t illness at all. It’s not caused by a germ, and therefore it doesn’t exist. And on top of all her quintessential Chinese-American mothering tactics, she goes to Orchard Grove Bible Church, so she’s got theology on her side backing her up.

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