The story begins with eighteen-year-old Anna Ryan riding home from school on her bicycle. The church she attends forbids its members from driving mechanized vehicles or getting a driver’s license, watching or owning a television set, or using cell phones. She is supposed to go home and get ready for youth service, but instead, stops at a local bar and grill and enters. She sits in a booth and looks around the room. Soon, she notices a young man. He is sitting at the bar sipping on bottles of Budweiser and eating peanuts.
Anna is attracted to him though she can only see him from behind.
To get his attention, she pretends to sneeze.
The young man looks at her and says, ‘God bless you.’
Anna replies, ‘Aww thanks.’
He begins to sip his beer again but then does a double-take. He’s very much attracted to her and begins to stare. She smiles at him and he blushes then looks away.
Anna pretends to sneeze again and the young man says, ‘God save you!
Anna replies ‘Thanks. It must be all the dust from these peanut shells that’s stirring up my allergies.’
He tells her that she has a cute sneeze and then asks to come and sit with her.
The young man remarks that he’d never seen her in this place before and that he comes here every afternoon to kill a few beers.
Anna confesses that it’s her first time there and he says how he hopes it’s not her last. He then tells her his name: Grayson Thomas.
Anna introduces herself as well, to which Grayson said how he didn’t know there were any Ryans in the town of Melody.
Anna explains that her family keeps to themselves and only associates with those at her church, which is a fragmented, mixed-race church with doctrine similar to the UPCI.
With slight irritation, Grayson remarks, ‘Oh, jee whiz, I’ve heard all about them. Your parents would probably beat the hell out of you and press charges on me if they knew we were talking right now.’
Anna explains that they would indeed beat her, but they cannot press charges on him because he’s a legal adult.
Grayson then wants to know what she is doing later that evening. Anna explains that she has youth service. Grayson tries to talk her into hanging out with him instead.
Anna says if her parents would find out they would be livid and beat the daylights out of her.
Grayson then asks her a very piercing question, “Are you happy? Do your parents really make you happy? Does that insane church make you happy?”
There’s a silence, but then Anna replies, ‘No-I am not happy at all. I am miserable. My parents only allow me to go to church and school. They beat me sometimes for a yes or a no. People at school make fun of me because of the way the church forces me to dress.’
Grayson then asks her, ‘Do you think I could make you happy? I definitely think you could make me happy, in my twenty-two years on this earth, I’ve never beheld anyone as beautiful as you!’
Anna says that it would be worth a shot.
They continue talking and getting to know each other better. Anna says how she wants to be a writer, and she does actually write but her parents would be furious if they knew exactly what she wrote, they would destroy every copy and then, of course, beat the daylights out of her.
Grayson suggests that she press charges on them.
Anna says that she would go to hell for not honoring her parents.
Grayson explains that the law is not a guide to save yourself, but rather proof that you cannot save yourself.
Anna says how she likes the way he preaches, and never thought she would hear those words coming out of his mouth because he was drinking beer. She also says how she wants to know him better as well.
Grayson explains that he is a mechanic for the Melody City Dockyard and works the 6 AM to 2 PM weekday shift. He also says how he has a cabin on his mother’s property, where he stays. He finally says that he’s been wanting someone for a long time.
Anna said she would gladly be that someone but she just has to get away from her parents.
Grayson holds Anna’s hands and says, ‘You just let me know if you need any help with that.’
His G-Shock then beeps indicating Four PM.
Anna says how she has to get ready for youth service.
Grayson convinces her to spend time with him instead.
Anna agrees and says she’ll meet him back at the bar and grill around Seven PM.
Grayson drinks several glasses of Wild Cherry Pepsi to help sober him up.
He pulls out his smartphone and searches for the church Anna attends. He finds their web page and learns the doctrines of how they are forbidden from driving, watching television, or owning a cell phone. He also read how church members were forbidden to associate with non-church members.
Anna arrives home and is sternly reminded of youth service, by her parents Sean and Janice Ryan.
After an exchange of words, she goes bathe and imagines the night she will share with Grayson.
Her mother bangs on the bathroom door and tells her that God can see everything she does, especially behind closed doors.
She then got dressed and mounted her bicycle and pretended to go to youth service. Her dad squeezed her arm and said for her not to embarrass him at the service.
She drives secretly back to the bar and grill, runs up into Grayson’s arms, wrapping her legs around him.
Grayson pays off his tab, then they leave the bar. Anna puts her bicycle in the bed of his truck then they ride to his cabin. Grayson lets Anna drive his truck in the fields on his mother’s property as the sun goes down.
He then escorts her out of his truck by the light of his Pelican 1920 penlight.
They then walk into his cabin and dance in the kitchen to music on Pandora for an hour or so.
Afterward, they go on his balcony and Grayson says how he comes here to drink beer or whiskey and contemplate life.
Anna says how she could be inspired to write all kinds of things because it’s so beautiful.
Grayson says how ‘it’s nowhere near as beautiful as you, Anna!’
They then share a kiss and begin to pet each other when Grayson’s G-Shock beeps again, indicating Ten O’Clock.
Anna says how she has to get back home before her parents become livid.
Grayson writes down his house and cell numbers on a piece of paper and says how he knows all about her church and how they forbid cell phones, but to call him whenever she can.
Anna hides the paper in her brassiere, and says, with a distressed giggle, ‘It’s close to my heart, just like where I want you to be.’
Grayson then drives Anna to her parents’ trailer, all too quickly arriving.
Anna says, ‘I know you want to get the door for me and let me out, but it’s not safe here if you’re an outsider.’
Grayson replies, ‘I understand. May I at least give you a good night kiss?’
Passionately, Anna tells him, ‘Of course, Grayson! Just so you know, I’ll take that kiss to bed with me!’
Their lips meet one final time, then Anna takes her bicycle out of the truck bed and goes inside.
Grayson drives back to his cabin, drinks a few shots of Crown Royal put his phone on to charge, then goes to bed.
Anna walks into her parents’ trailer and her dad, with a belt in hand, confronts her about not going to youth service. He tells her the pastor, Brother Darryl, called him and said she didn’t attend.
At first, Anna tries to keep silent, but her dad strikes her with his belt several times.
She then says how she’s eighteen now and it’s none of his business, to which he beats her even more.
Her mother comes out of the bedroom, smacks her across the face, then says, ‘It is our business, the church’s business, and most importantly God’s business and always will be. Now answer us!’
Anna still keeps silent.
Her mother takes a claw hammer from the kitchen drawer and threatens to knock Anna’s teeth out with it.
Anna breaks down and confesses about how she spent the evening with a young man and how’s he’s so much better than the young men at her church. She goes on to say that while they were indeed alone together, he never took advantage of her and she does have feelings for him.
Her mother flings the hammer at her toes, then says how her feelings are sinful energies, brought on by evil forces.
Anna boldly states, ‘No, they feel very right and natural. You and dad have no affection in your relationship, whatsoever. You never kiss, you never touch, you never speak any romantic words to each other. I don’t want to be subjected to such a cold marriage like that and if I marry one of the men at church, that’s exactly what will happen to me.’
Her dad slams her to the ground and says, “You have invited so much sin into your life, you’re driving and dancing, which is absolutely forbidden, and now you’re attacking your me and your mother’s marriage just because you never see us behaving lewdly in front anyone! This is all because you are very rebellious and always have been. I tell you, it is going to stop right now if you know what is good for you!”
He then tells her to go to bed because she has school.
The next morning, Grayson gets up and prepares for work.
Anna too gets ready for school, then rides her bicycle there arriving early.
At around seven-thirty in the morning, Anna goes to the student office and asks Mrs. Barabara McGregor if she could use the phone.
Mrs. Barabara agrees and Anna calls Grayson’s cell number.
Grayson takes a coffee break to talk with her.
Anna tells all that her parents did her last night and Grayson suggests once again that she press charges.
Anna then says God would punish her if she did.
Grayson says how parents aren’t supposed to provoke their children to wrath and they obviously do, because they are trying to keep her from being happy. Grayson then asks if he even makes her happy.
Anna says that he definitely does.
Grayson says that she makes him happy too and that he was lonely before her and uses alcohol to temper the sting of loneliness.
They continue to talk and flirt on the phone until Grayson’s coffee break comes to an end and other students need to use the phone.
Anna goes to a secluded area on the school campus, then fantasizes about Grayson, lapsing into a trance until the bell rings.
Meanwhile, Grayson is assigned two forklifts to repair, with a little assistance from the foreman, Mr. Jed McGregor. He works until Noon, then goes to eat lunch.
At lunch his mom, Kathy Thomas calls him over Skype wondering why he didn’t come to dinner the previous night. Grayson tells her about Anna, then explains her background. Kathy warns him about the people of Anna’s church, Grayson pulls out his Snap-On pocket knife and says, “Wait, let them try something.” Kathy warns that he would go to pen. Grayson states that Anna is worth it. Kathy says she wants to meet Anna, then goes back to work. Grayson finishes his lunch, then clocks back in.
Jed McGregor has him do a tune-up on the dockside truck as the last assignment of the day and comments how he notices Grayson is in a better mood than usual. Grayson tells him too about Anna and the whole situation. Jed says how he and his wife will pray for them. Jed McGregor and Barbara McGregor are married if you haven’t guessed that already.
Grayson does the work on the dockside truck and soon enough has it running. He drives it to the docks and tells the dock foreman how it is fixed.
Grayson then clocks out and heads home suppressing the urge to drink alcohol, since Anna might call him.
Anna is sitting in English, the last class of the day, studying the works of George Gordon Byron. She thinks of how her parents would be furious if they knew about these works, but also thinks of the previous night on the balcony with Grayson. The teacher goes on to talk about Byron’s scandalous life and early death. Anna begins to feel nervous wondering if she will die for what she is told is rebellion. However, she knows her feelings for Grayson are valid and genuine.
Finally, the dismissal bell blares and Anna goes down to the office to call Grayson. Anna asks him to pick her up from school, to which he agrees.
Mrs. Barbara asks Anna if she is serious about whomever she is talking to on the phone. Anna says how she hopes it is. Mrs. Barbara asks, “What’s his name?” Anna says “Grayson Thomas.”
Mrs. Barbara goes on to say how he works under her husband and she’s heard many good things about him except how he’s lonely and not to break his heart. Anna says how she’d never dream about it. Mrs. Barbara asks if Anna is eighteen yet. Anna says she is. Mrs. Barbara goes on to say how that’s good because if she wasn’t Grayson would be in a world of trouble [with the law.] Anna says she’s more worried about what her church members would do. Mrs. Barbara says she and her husband will pray for her and to go wait outside for him.
Anna goes out to the bicycle rack just as Grayson is pulling up in his truck. He parks his truck then gets out and they kiss with passion until the SRO makes them stop. Anna unlocks her bicycle [and puts it in the truck bed], then Grayson opens the door for her and she gets in. Grayson then gets in on the driver’s side and they leave.
As they are driving, Grayson talks Anna into secretly getting a smartphone so they can keep in touch. At first, Anna is reluctant but then realizes he is showing dedication to her and it means a lot to her.
With that, they drive to the Best Buy Mobile store in the mall…
Grayson ends up purchasing Anna a mid-grade Samsung smartphone that is on clearance. Afterward, they eat at a corn dog restaurant, use the bathroom, then Grayson partially takes Anna home, she rides her bicycle the rest of the way.
Anna’s parents confront her about being late, to which she fabricates a partially true alibi that she went to use the bathroom at the mall.
Her parents lecture her about malls being sinful, worldly places but believe her otherwise.
She then goes into her bedroom pretending to study. She barricades the door with several heavy objects, then hides in her closet whilst texting Grayson.
They fall deeper and for each other and end up exchanging those three words via text message.
Anna’s dad barges in but she quickly hides the phone in her underwear and pretends to be sleeping in her closet.
Her dad angrily yells at her and they begin arguing to which he ultimately punches her in the head, knocking her unconscious.
Grayson blows up her inbox, thinking she ghosted him, then drinks a fifth of Crown and passes out in his bed.
Friday morning, Anna comes to, uses the bathroom, and reads all of Grayson’s text messages.
She replies to him, frantically explaining all that happened.
Grayson is hungover, but hears his watch alarm and then sees Anna’s message.
He says how he is glad she still wants him, but her life is in danger and she should come live with him.
Grayson explains how he drank until he passed out when he thought she ghosted him, but he will take a personal day to sober up and then prepare his house for her. He promises her that there is no more alcohol in his cabin and that he will quit drinking at least until this situation is resolved.
They further discuss their plans via text.
Grayson calls his boss to take a personal day, then Anna’s mom orders her out of the bathroom.
She packs all of her valuables, her flash drives, and composition books, some hygiene products, and a few changes of clothes in addition to her new phone, then heads to school.
Before the morning bell rings, Anna talks to Grayson on her phone from the girl’s restroom. They further discuss their plans.
Grayson picks Anna up from school at the end of the day.
He takes her to his house and minutes later his mother shows up, stating that she is having issues with leaking oil in her car.
Grayson introduces them to each other, then fixes his mother’s car, the problem was that the oil filter was on loosely.
Afterward, Grayson washes up, then takes Anna out for shopping and dinner.
Whilst shopping for clothes, Anna’s corrupt and overbearing pastor confronts her in the mall.
Grayson stands up to him and he eventually backs down stating how Grayson has won the battle but not the war.
Anna has a panic attack, but Grayson eventually calms her down.
They then go eat out and are waited on by one of Anna’s school friends.
The night turns out very pleasant and they retire to Grayson’s cabin.
That Saturday, Grayson, and Anna decide to hang out in the park and watch boats pass from the bed of his truck.
At some point, a girl from Anna’s class begins to harass them. She makes a sexual advance at Grayson to which he sharply turns her down, then she threatens bodily harm to Anna, to which Grayson retrieves his shotgun from the box in his truck pumps it, points it at her, and scares her away.
They later go to the library, then the grocer to buy the supplies to make dinner, Shepherd’s Pie.
While shopping they see the pastor’s wife in the store purchasing collard greens for the next day’s dinner. Anna gets nervous because the woman carries a gun in her purse and would be crazy enough to shoot Grayson with it. A stocker overhears their conversation and hides them in the warehouse until the pastor’s wife leaves. The stocker is based on another infamous character of mine.
They then go home, prepare dinner, eat, watch movies then fall asleep.
That Sunday, they wake up, then sit outside and watch the sunrise from Grayson’s front porch swing. Afterward, Anna feels the urge to write, then composes a story and reads to Grayson.
Everyone at Anna’s church is angry over her leaving and they form a plan to kidnap her back and harm Grayson for revenge.
After Anna reads to Grayson, his mother calls them over for Sunday Dinner.
Anna ends up helping prepare the dinner and she learns about Grayson’s childhood.
On Monday their plan is carried out. Several longshoremen who attend Anna’s church decide to sabotage the dock crane. Grayson has to go to the top to repair it and one of the longshoremen assists him, but purposely causes him to fall.
Grayson is seriously injured and rushed to the hospital.
Anna is called to the office over threats Grayson made with a gun to a fellow student.
She is suspended from school while the matter is investigated.
Anna tries calling Grayson to pick her up, but his phone goes straight to voicemail.
Her Dad is called. He along with her pastor secure a ride and pick her up from school.
Barbara is watching the whole situation unfold and calls her husband Jed.
Jed and Barbara are talking about these events and realize that foul play is the reason why Grayson fell from the crane. They call the police, who charge the disgruntled longshoreman.
An APB is also put out on the van.
Soon it is located and stopped, Anna’s dad and her pastor are arrested.
Anna is asked to be taken to the hospital, but ironically says she wants to be with her boyfriend. A detective later informs her of all that is going on, then takes a statement from her. She is then taken to the hospital where she meets Grayson’s mother.
They along with the hospital chaplain and an unknown person pray for him around the clock.
For two days Grayson is in a coma, but then he wakes up, with Anna being the first person he sees.
Grayson ends up proposing to her…