Off Limits

By: Lauren Landish

Chapter 1


"And so, as our country faces the challenges of a new generation, it’s still important for us to remember the values that brought us here. Hard work. Family. And most of all, our faith, both in each other and in God."

I tried not to sigh too much. I knew that it wasn't what Daddy would want. I hated this sort of political stuff, especially since I thought that the man speaking had absolutely no idea how to lead a dog pound, let alone a higher office. Still, my sigh caught Brittany's attention. She leaned over to whisper in my ear. "Abigail, come now. Try not to fidget so much."

"Brittany, nobody's paying attention to me. Everyone's paying attention to Greg," I replied, also keeping my voice low. I may not have wanted to be there, but I still was doing my best to respect Daddy's wishes. "He's the man of the hour."

"Still, people are going to look. And I've asked you before; in public, please call me Mother," Brittany said. Actually, she wasn't my real mother. Brittany Worthington-Rawlings had married my father when I was thirteen years old. After his first marriage was cut short by a traffic accident that took both my mother and my older sister's lives when I was three, Patrick Rawlings had raised me by himself for nearly eight years before marrying again—this time not so much for love, but for what could best be termed advantage. Tired of working so hard and still being stiffed by those in established families with society connections, Daddy married Brittany Worthington. From one of the long-established families in Atlanta, she'd fallen on hard times financially when her first husband had been convicted of insider trading and sentenced to five years in jail. She hadn't signed any sort of prenuptial, so their bank accounts and estate were considered one by the IRS and the SEC, which cleaned her and her family's hundred-year-old fortune out to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

She hadn't exactly been living on the streets. People from Brittany's roots don't end up on the streets, but she had been forced into societal situations that she didn't want to be in, such as not going to the Master's Golf Tournament because she couldn’t afford to be even a basic patron.

For both of them, the marriage had been advantageous. At first, I'd been quietly opposed, because my daddy shouldn’t marry for anything but the most noble of intentions. I'd held my tongue, however, and I had to admit that as the years went on, they did seem to care for each other, even if there was never quite the amount of tenderness and affection I had seen in the old home videos of Daddy and Mom. Of course, both also got what they wanted, too. Daddy got access to the society connections that had eluded him for years, and Brittany got access to Daddy's bank account, free and clear of the government.

But, it never really seemed like she wanted to be the mother to a nearly teenage girl, and for that, she and I didn't really get along all that well. She never went to any of my school events, parent teacher conferences or anything of the sort. The only time my presence was really important was when she wanted me to grow into a young society woman that she could mold into the image she wanted. It was the last thing I wanted, but there wasn't much I could do about it.

Around the house, at least, we could avoid each other as we were three people living in a house that had five bedrooms along with ten acres of property. As long as we weren't in public, that suited both of us just fine. On the positive side, though, Daddy still kept a bit of his blue collar roots, and at least at home, he didn't mind if I acted like a bit of a tomboy. I could wear shorts and t-shirts and go hang out in the back yard however I wanted. On the weekends or when he had free time, Daddy and I would go riding our ATV's, go fishing at the river that ran through the back of the property, and all sorts of things that we both enjoyed.

In public, though, he let Brittany have a much freer hand in her critiques of how I acted. "Honey, I spent too many years breaking my back because too many people around these here parts still think who you know is more important than what you know. They'd let me build their houses, their office buildings, hell, even their country clubs, and they never let me inside, no matter how much money I had. These people have ways of doing things that I don't know, or perhaps I do, but I know that there's no way I could get through those ways on my own. Brittany does know, and she can get through, and I want you to learn from her. Because I’ll be damned if I'm going to let my daughter scrap and scrape the way I had to before you were born."

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