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       The Prelude of Ella and Micha, p.1

         Part #0.50 of The Secret series by Jessica Sorensen
 
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The Prelude of Ella and Micha


  The Prelude of Ella and Micha (The Secret, #0.5)

  Jessica Sorensen

  All rights reserved.

  Copyright © 2014 by Jessica Sorensen

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

  No part of this book can be reproduced in any form or by electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without the permission in writing from author. The only exception is by a reviewer who may quote short excerpts in a review.

  For information: jessicasorensen.com

  Cover Design and Photo by Mae I Design

  http://www.maeidesign.com/

  The Prelude of Ella and Micha

  The Secret (#0.5)

  By Jessica Sorensen

  Table of Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  About the Author

  Prologue

  Ella

  I remember when I was younger and everything seemed so simple. Not that my life was ever simple, but there was a time when I didn’t have to worry about the future or how my life would end up. Only the day ahead of me mattered. As long as I knew the sun would rise in the morning and set in the evening, everything would turn out okay. There was a sense of freedom in that, in the lack of concern in what lay ahead.

  “If you beat me through the sprinkler,” my best friend Micha shouts from across the front lawn of his house, “I’ll let you have the last piece of cake.”

  “But my mom said not to get wet!” I holler back, inching across the grass. “I don’t want to get grounded again!”

  “Where’s your daredevil side?” Micha yells back, leaning over as if he’s on a track, getting ready to race.

  Water rains across the grass between us, daring me to do it, daring me to get wet even though I know I’ll get in trouble.

  “Fine!” Without warning, I sprint across the grass, water soaking my bare feet, shorts, shirt, and hair.

  Micha laughs as he runs into the spray with me. “You cheated!” he calls out, chasing after me as I dance around in a circle, staying just outside the sprinklers’ reach. “That’s not fair.”

  “No way!” I laugh. “It was totally fair and now you owe me a piece of cake.”

  We laugh as we keep running around, chasing something that can only be seen by our childlike minds. There’s an invisible sense of freedom, with no regard to the consequences of what will happen after I have to go inside and show my mother that I disobeyed.

  That freedom was something that stuck with me for at least a year or two.

  But then I got older.

  Wiser.

  The complications of life that I was blinded to at such a young age became painfully visible. It didn’t happen slowly, but as quickly as the beat of a heart, like a blindfold had been ripped off my eyes. Suddenly, I could see that bad choices sometimes equaled irrevocable outcomes, and I spent a long time blaming myself for what happened.

  Looking back, I realize the painful events I went through weren’t in my control. Sometimes things just happen, and we can’t change them. Nor was it always my fault. But at seventeen years old, my mind wasn’t ready to grasp the concept. If it had, maybe things would have been a bit easier. Perhaps I wouldn’t have fled and left everything—everyone—behind.

  In the end, I did run, and it irrevocably altered the entire course of my future.

  Chapter 1

  14 years old…

  Ella

  I trudge home from school an hour early with a dark, bluish-purple bruise splattered across my cheek, a thin cut across my bottom lip, and a pink detention slip inside my backpack. It’s not the first time I’ve been sent home over a fight, and I’m sure it won’t be my last. I have a knack for fights. Not because I’m a bully. In fact, I’m the polar opposite and tend to get into fights with the bullies whenever they’re picking on someone. I’m not trying to be a hero or anything. I just have a vast dislike for people getting picked on. Plus, I like the rush that comes from jumping in and doing something instead of standing by and watching.

  There are always consequences for my actions, although not usually from my parents. By the time I get home, my mother will probably be sedated from the intense meds she’s on for her Bipolar Disorder. And my dad will either be at work or at the bar trying to drink away the fact that my mother has a mental illness. Neither of them will care about the condition of my face or the detention slip.

  No, my ass is going to get reamed by Micha Scott, aka my best friend since forever. Aka my best friend who thinks I’m his responsibility for whatever reason.

  I still have a couple of hours before school releases and he shows up at my house so when I arrive home, I decide to de-stress after chores. The first thing on my to-do list, though, is a painkiller to alleviate my headache.

  Going into the kitchen, I drop my backpack on the table, grab a bottle from the medicine cabinet, and pop two pills into my mouth. Then I fetch some ice from the freezer and place it on my eye, holding it there while I hurry and pick up the week’s worth of garbage littering the floor. Most of the contents that end up in the trash bag are empty bottles of vodka, tequila, and beer. I do find some stale takeout wedged between the fridge and the counter along with a few pots and pans on the table that are caked with month old grease. The fridge was open when I entered the kitchen, probably left that way by my mother. Thankfully, there’s hardly any food inside that could have spoiled.

  After I shut the fridge, I sort through the past due bills I collected from the mailbox and try to figure out which ones to pay this week. Then I make out the checks, leaving the signature line blank for my dad to sign whenever he gets home. It’s exhausting thinking about money, and the process makes me kind of regret getting sent home early.

  So much for de-stressing.

  Once the kitchen is polished and the checks are filled out, I lose the ice pack and peek in on my mom in her bedroom. She’s sprawled out on the mattress, snoring, with her arm draped over the edge of the bed and a bottle of pills next to her. Tiptoeing to the bed, I pick up the bottle and count how many pills there are inside. Three less than from this morning, which means she’s okay and hasn’t taken too many.

  Keeping track of the pills is something I’ve had to do for a couple of months now, ever since she accidentally took too many and ended up in the emergency room. After they pumped her stomach, the doctors and nurses put her on suicide watch for twenty-four hours, even though my mother insisted the overdose was accidental—that she’d forgotten she’d already taken her dose in the morning. The doctors didn’t seem to believe her, but I do because there’s no way she’d intentionally want to die. How could she? She’s my mother.

  I put the medicine bottle in the bathroom cabinet then leave the bedroom and wander into my room. The purple walls are freshly painted with black skulls thanks to Micha, who decided the other day that my room was too girly for him. It’s cool, though. I dig the skulls. Plus, I’m not a girlie girl at all. My typical outfit is holey jeans and a dark T-shirt. Sometimes I wear a hoodie. I never wear makeup and almost always put my auburn hair up in a ponytail because doing anything else with it is a pain in the ass. Sneakers are my choice of footwear. Right now, the pair of shoes I’m wearing match my walls.

&n
bsp; Collecting my sketch book and pencil from the dresser, I flop down on my bed and attempt to unwind by getting lost in my art. But, after a while, the silence of the house gets to me, so I turn on my stereo that’s about twenty years old. I cruise the radio stations and choose a classic one because my only other options are country and heavy metal. Then I situate myself on my bed again and continue working on the sketch that’s for my art class. A vase. So boring.

  Finally, I decide to take a break and flip the page to one of my own projects, one of Micha that I will never, ever show him, because it’s embarrassing. I have no idea how he’d react if he knew I was drawing him, and I never want to find out. But I can’t seem to stop—he’s always stuck in my head.

  Ten minutes later, my hand moves mindlessly across the crisp page, creating sharp angles, soft curves, dark shading. The portrait creation goes on for what seems like forever, and when I finally blink back to reality, I feel more content than I have all day.

  Deciding to stop for now, I shake the cramp out of my hand and get up and stretch before cranking up the music. “We Got the Beat” by The Go-Go’s blares through the speakers. I stand up on the bed and rock out, jumping up and down on the mattress and spinning in circles. Mid chorus, I tug the elastic from my hair and start head banging, really getting into the beat. If I was musically talented, I would so be a drummer or a singer, but art is my forte. Music is Micha’s talent. He can play the guitar like a pro, and his voice is the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard in all my fourteen years. Of course, I don’t tell him this. He'd tease me and call me a silly girl if I divulged the sappy side of me.

  As I’m in the middle of a very awesome air guitar solo, I notice a gentle breeze has fluttered into the room.

  “Dammit,” I curse, knowing what the chill means. What I don’t know is whether it’s better if I just continue dancing until maybe Micha leaves or stop and face the embarrassment. Then again, I really don’t want him to leave, never do.

  Pressing my lips together, I stop shaking and shimmying, plaster on my best smile, and turn on the bed to face him, trying to appear all sweet and innocent, like he didn’t just catch me rocking out to 80s rock.

  His tall, gangly figure lingers near the window, the place he always enters my room by climbing up the tree just outside. He’s sporting black jeans and a matching T-shirt decorated with a red skull and crossbones, and his sandy blond hair is a little on the longish side, hanging across his forehead and in his eyes. Micha’s eyes are actually super intense, a fierce aqua blue color, similar to the ocean.

  “Hey.” I casually wave, plopping down onto the mattress with a bounce. Then I lean over to turn the radio down.

  His gaze instantly darts to the fresh shiner on my cheek “Did you have fun today?” he asks, folding his arms and reclining against the wall as his stare bores into me.

  I shrug, scratching my injured cheek. “You know how I love to dance.”

  He shakes his head, but his lips quirk, a smile threatening to slip through. “I’m not talking about the dancing.” He stands up straight and crosses the room toward my bed. “I’m talking about you getting into a fight today with Diana Rollinson.”

  “Oh, that.” I stand up and square my shoulders, hating that I have to tip my head back to look at him. It’s not like I’m short or anything. Up until about three months ago, I was taller than him. But, almost overnight, he shot up and now has me by about six inches. “Look, I know you hate it when I get into fights, but Diana was being a bitch to Sandy, who barely says two words to anyone.”

  “So you were defending someone’s honor. By getting punched in the face.”

  “Hey.” I cross my arms and glare at him. “I got in quite a few swings before this thing happened.” I point at the bruise on my cheek, “Which, fyi, came from when she pushed me into the lockers, not from her fists. She can’t even punch, total hair puller.”

  He’s struggling not to laugh while remaining my fourteen-year-old voice of reason, more mature for his age than most guys. “What about the cut on your lip?”

  I elevate my hands in front of me and make scratching motions in the air. “She’s a total clawer, too.” I sigh when he continues to stare at me without so much as a tiny grin. “Look, I’m sorry, okay? But it’s not that big of a deal. I only got sent home early today.”

  His head slants to the side as he gently brushes his finger across the tender area on my cheek. “You’re going to ruin that pretty face of yours if you keep this up.”

  I stick out my tongue as my cheeks heat. I loathe compliments, even when they’re meant sarcastically. “Ha, ha, you’re a freaking riot, Micha Scott.”

  He presses his hand to his chest, giving me an innocent look. “I call you pretty, and you stick your tongue out at me? Seriously, Ella May, you just broke my heart.”

  And, just like that, the tension breaks after only a minute of chatting.

  Always does.

  Which is why I need Micha in my life.

  Even if he tries to be my voice of reason.

  “I’m sure I did,” I retort sarcastically with an eye roll, which he seems to find more amusing than anything. “Okay, I’m sorry I got into a fight and got my pretty”—I roll my eyes again— “face ruined. But I won’t promise that I’m not going to do it again, because I don’t make promises I know I won’t keep.”

  “One of these days, you’re going to get into trouble.” His gaze drifts over my shoulder to my bed. “You know that.” His forehead creases as he studies something behind me.

  I twist around to see what he’s looking at and realize I left my sketchbook out on my bed, opened to the page displaying the detailed sketch of Micha sitting under a massive oak tree. His head is tipped down, he has a pen in his hand, and there’s a notebook on his lap that he’s scribbling lyrics into.

  “Oh, shit.” I leap for the bed and snatch it up, pressing the drawing to my chest.

  “What was that?” he asks as I roll over on my back, hugging the book to my chest as I look up at him.

  “Nothing,” I say quickly, which is clearly a mistake.

  He kneels down on the bed, putting a knee on each side of me, like he does whenever we wrestle. “Come on, Ella May, let me see,” he says in the sweet voice he only uses whenever he’s trying to get his way.

  “That voice doesn’t work on me.” I attempt to slide upwards on the bed and out from under him. “It only works on girls like Diana.”

  He chuckles, but doesn’t budge, and I continue to wiggle, fighting to get out from underneath him.

  “Come on. Let me go,” I plead.

  “Not until you let me see whatever it is you’re hiding from me.”

  “No way.” My grasp tightens on the book. “My drawings are private. You know that.” Which is kind of a lie. Only drawings of him are private.

  He considers what I’ve said then, with a sigh, he climbs off me. “Oh, fine. You win.”

  “I always win,” I say, shooting him a cocky grin.

  “Well, if you’re going to act that way.” He dives back on me and starts tickling me until I drop the sketchbook.

  “You are the meanest boy ever!” I laugh so hard tears stream down my cheeks.

  He grins as he releases me and backs up off the bed. The smile slips from his face as he catches sight of my sketchbook and the drawing I was trying to hide from him. His expression is unreadable—confused and kind of … flattered?

  “You’re drawing me?” He looks at me with curiosity written all over his face.

  My cheeks erupt with heat as I flop back on the bed and stare up at the Chevelle poster on my ceiling. “I was bored, okay? The art class projects are too cliché, and I needed to work on improving my life drawings.” Liar, liar.

  I wait for him to call me out because he knows me well enough that he can.

  He leans over and picks the sketchbook up off the floor. “You want to go to the park with me and hang out for a bit?” he asks as he tosses the book onto my dresser.

&
nbsp; I prop up on my elbows and arch my eyebrows at him. “What? No snarky remarks about how my drawing means I’m secretly in love with you? Or that I think you’re so dreamy?” I make a joking swoony face then gag.

  He snorts a laugh then waves me off. “Nah, I don’t need to repeat something we both already know.” When I pinch his arm, he laughs. “Come on. Come to the park with me.” He pouts out his lip. “Pretty please. It’ll be fun.”

  I roll my eyes but easily give in, knowing he’ll keep looking at me like that until I do. Besides, I’m never one to pass up the opportunity to get out of the house.

  “Fine,” I surrender, sitting up. “But only because I have nothing better to do.”

  Grinning like a goof, he offers me his hand and hauls me to my feet. He doesn’t let go, slipping his fingers through mine as he leads me out of my room and down the stairs.

  The holding hands gesture is nothing new. Ever since we became best friends ten years ago, he usually either has his arm around me, is holding my hand, tickling me, or touching my hair. Sometimes, I think he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. Renee, this girl that I sometimes hang out with, thinks it’s because Micha has a crush on me and is secretly in love with me. I laugh whenever she tells me this because Micha isn’t in love with me, at least, not like the way she means it. He’s already kissed like three girls, and I don’t see him ever trying to kiss me. Well, except for maybe on the cheek.

  “So how bad did Diana look after the fight?” Micha asks after we’ve exited my house and entered the neighborhood we’ve both grown up in. “I’m guessing you got her pretty good.”

  “Of course I did,” I reply as we start up the sidewalk lined with rundown homes. It’s late afternoon and most of the area appears like it’s sleeping. But that’s typical for Star Grove. Around ten is when the yards and houses will be flooding with loud noises of parties taking place. “Both her eyes were swollen.”

 
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