Georgia State University is located in downtown Atlanta and is known throughout the southeast as a good school. The main problem is that it is located in downtown Atlanta which is not a great place for a woman to take a late night stroll in the dark to an unguarded parking lot. The mugger only got 20 bucks when they robbed Beth but they stole everything from Jay Branch that night. His whole life had been taken from him and for what? So some base head could get high for the night? Knowing Beth, she would have probably just handed the money over and offered to get them a warm meal if asked.
Life had robbed Jay of his faith in humanity and made him question his entire existence. Why did God let him find perfect happiness and then take it away, what had he ever done to deserve this pain? What does it all mean? What did anything matter at this point? And why should he not just become evil like the animals that had killed his wife? Then the answer came through clear as cleaned plate glass, it was Grace the amazing child that he and Beth had created together. He now at least had a reason to live, a reason not to go completely off the deep end and drown himself in a large bottle of vodka. He had known Beth better than anyone else ever had and he would be able to tell Grace all about her mother and do the best he could do to raise Grace in a way that Beth would have wanted. It was hard for an aspiring rock star /pizza boy to become a grown up overnight but he had no choice. His wife was dead and he had to man up and raise their amazing daughter all by his self.
Jay’s mother and new husband moved back to Georgia at this time so she could happily watch Grace when Jay had to work. She was also the one who would make sure that Grace got to school and was picked up right after school. Jay would never allow Grace to ride a school bus; he had a strong distaste for all things dealing with public school. Especially any point in time when there wasn’t a teacher or member of the faculty who could see where all the kids were and what they were doing. He had been a fat kid from kindergarten to the 8th grade and was a target for the horrible little demons from hell people often called school children. He refused to ever let anything like that ever happen to his daughter.
So it was going to be hard for Jay but there was no other choice he had to go on for Grace’s sake. She was his life now and he was responsible for making sure she was safe and would grow up happy and well-adjusted in spite of the evil in the world.
It was good that his mother had handled the paperwork and arrangements for Jay since Beth had always taken care of all of their bills he hadn’t even realized that she had life insurance policies on them both. It wasn’t much but Beth’s policy was just enough to pay the little well decorated crack house off making sure that Jay would not have to worry about paying on the mortgage ever again. Even in death once more proving that she was the one that had always taken care of him.
Jay’s job did not bother him while he took the weeks following Beth’s death off. The owner had known Jay since he was a teenager and had no problem coming in and taking over as manager until Jay came back. After all Dantello’s Pizza had been the only place that Jay had ever worked at since he was a teenage skate rat. He as much as anyone had made the little pizza place as successful as it had ever been.
Jay’s mother was a rock when Jay and Grace needed one the most. Taking care of all of Grace’s daily needs as well as being able to keep her son right inside of the lines of sanity. Her death from cancer only 5 years later would have given another death blow to the two of them if it wasn’t for the magnificent way that she lived out her last few months on earth. The woman once known as Lilly Branch who at the time of her death had gone by the name Lilly French spent the remaining time on earth squeezing every last ounce of life out of it. She did every single thing she had ever thought exciting but was always afraid of trying but in death she no longer found fear. She bought a motorcycle and rode it everywhere. She went skydiving at least 5 times and she even did a base jump. This followed by a month traveling in South America. Then she went to Mardi Gras for the first time in her life and came back with a very large bag full of beads; which Jay will to this day tell Grace came from a store and not from illicit behavior.