The secret of ella and m.., p.14
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       The Secret of Ella and Micha, p.14

         Part #1 of The Secret series by Jessica Sorensen
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Chapter 13

 

  Micha

  I'm determined to have a party tonight, even though I'm not a fan of parties. Never really have been. I just like how they block out all the noise inside my head and what I'm hoping is that tonight's will block out the sound of my dad's voice.

  Ella bailed on me when we got back to our houses, muttering something about finding her father. I offered to go with her, but she declined and took Lila instead. I let her be because I sensed she needed space. I was fine with her taking some time as long as it wasn't the space of five hundred miles.

  Ethan and I take a break from working on the car to plan the party. After a massive amount of text messages are sent out and a couple of keggers ordered by Ethan, we're good to go.

  We're hanging around in the kitchen, waiting for people to start showing up when clouds start rolling in and thunder rattles at the windows.

  "Can I ask you something?" Ethan asks abruptly.

  I take out a frozen burrito from the freezer and drop it on a plate. "Sure. What's up?"

  "Don't take this the wrong way. " He tips back in his chair. "But what is it with Ella? Why are you so fixated on her? You have like a ton of girls falling at your feet all the time and you used to totally be all into it. Then suddenly you weren't and it was all about her. "

  "I wasn't ever into the girls falling at my feet. I was just bored. " I pop the plate into the microwave and press start.

  He grabs a handful of chips from a bag on the table. "Okay, but that still doesn't answer my question. "

  I cross my arms, uncomfortable with the awkward heart-to-heart moment. "I'm not sure, but why do you care?"

  "I'm just curious because you've never talked about it. "

  "Yeah, but we don't talk about a lot of stuff. "

  He lets the chair legs reconnect to the floor. "Look, I'm not asking you to open up and spill your feelings out to me, so quit being weird. I just want to understand because I've known both of you practically forever. "

  The microwave beeps and I turn to it. "It was the night of the snowboarding incident. That's when I realized things were different. "

  "When she broke her arm?" he asks. "And you had to take her to the hospital. "

  I nod. "You remember how she fell off the roof and then didn't get up right away and certain people were yelling that she was dead. "

  "Hey, I was drunk," Ethan gripes because he was the one yelling. "And she looked dead to me. "

  "Well, that's when I knew. " I take the burrito out and set it on the counter. "Thinking she was dead was seriously the most terrifying thing that's ever happened to me. More than the idea of my father never returning. More than my own death. "

  Ethan nods, trying to make sense of my babbling. "Okay. . . "

  I slam the microwave door shut and sit down at the table. "Hey, you asked. "

  He taps his phone on the table. "What do you think of Lila?"

  "She seems nice. " I get up and grab a soda from the fridge and then toss one to Ethan. "And she seems to be into you, I guess. "

  He taps the top of the can, and then flips the tab. "Yeah, but she barely knows me. "

  Sipping my soda, I sit back down. "Everyone barely knows you. "

  He shrugs, staring out the window. "I never really understood the point of that whole get-to-know-you thing. "

  The house phone rings and our conversation ends. I inhale the rest of the burrito as the answer machine beeps.

  "Um, hi. . . this message is for Micha. " It's my father's voice.

  I freeze, gripping the edge of the table.

  "Look, Terri, I understand that he's pissed at me, but I need to talk to him. It's important, okay? And he hung up on me yesterday morning. . . I thought maybe if you encouraged him to call me?" He sounds frazzled. "I don't know. . . look, I'm sorry. " He hangs up.

  I release the table from my death grip, get up, and delete the message from the phone. When I turn around, Ethan is on his feet. The hole that I punched in the wall hasn't been fixed and I think about hammering my fist through it again.

  "We should get our shit picked up before it rains," Ethan says, staring at the sky through the window.

  I pop my knuckles and walk for the door. "Sounds like a plan. "

  Ella

  I find my dad at the bar. It's the first place I look, but it's disappointing that it was so easy. Lila waits for me in the car, because I ask her to. When I walk in, I spot him slumped over in a barstool with an empty cup in front of him. Denny, the bartender, is wiping down the counters with a rag. When he sees me in the entryway, he holds up his hand.

  "You're going to need to show me your ID, before you come in any further. " He drapes the cleaning rag over his shoulder and walks around the counter toward me.

  "It's me, Denny," I say. "Ella Daniels. "

  His eyes widen. "Holy shit. You're back. "

  I nod. "I am, but only for the summer. "

  He rakes his hands through his curly brown hair. "Where were you anyway? No one really seemed to know. "

  "In Las Vegas, going to school. " I point at my father. "I should probably take him home, I'm guessing. "

  Denny glances back at my father. "He stumbled in here early this morning. I wasn't even opened up yet, but he was already too drunk to understand when I tried to explain to him that we were closed. "

  "I'll take him home," I tell him and he lets me by. "I'm sorry he's been so much trouble for you. "

  He drops the rag on the counter and helps me get my dad to his feet. He smells like he showered in a bottle of Jack Daniels.

  "I don't mind him being here, Ella," Denny says. "But I'm starting to feel guilty about it. For the last few months, he's been showing up more and more. I think he might have a problem. "

  "He's had one for a while. " I drape my dad's arm over my shoulder and Denny does the same with his other arm.

  My dad mumbles an incoherent objection and then something about missing her and wanting it to all go away. We drag him outside and Lila hops out of the car. She doesn't say anything as Denny and I lie my dad down in the back of the Firebird.

  It's starting to sprinkle and lightning snaps across the sky.

  "Thanks for helping me get him out," I tell Denny, shielding my eyes from the raindrops.

  Denny rubs his neck tensely. "Have you ever considered getting him some help?"

  "What do you mean? Like rehab?" I shout over the thunder.

  He shrugs. "Or AA. Something that will help him get his life together. "

  I scratch my head, confused. Why hadn't it occurred to me? Panic starts to claw up my throat and guilty feelings about my mother's death consume.

  "Just think about it," Denny says, giving me a pat on the arm. "And if you need any help, you know where to find me. "

  I thank him again and jump into the car. I wait for Lila to say something, but when she opens her mouth, it's not what I was expecting.

  "My older sister was a drug addict," she says quickly. "For like a year. "

  I stop chewing on my gum. "I didn't know that. "

  "I know. Not a lot of people do. My family is very firm on keeping our dirty laundry to ourselves. " She rotates in her chair to look at my dad snoring on the backseat. "But I wanted to tell you so that you know that I understand how hard it is to watch someone you care about hurt themselves. "

  I turn the car down my street and the tires splash puddles onto the hood as they hit the potholes. "Why did you never tell me before?"

  "Why didn't you tell me about your dad?"

  "I don't know. " Who is this girl sitting next to me? "So my life doesn't scare you?"

  She arches her eyebrows and sits forward in her seat. "I wouldn't go that far, but your personal life doesn't. "

  ***

  There are three large Keggers on Micha's back porch when we pull up to my house. The garage door is wide open and his car is missing. The rain is pouring down and
flooding the sidewalk and the tree next to the house sways in the wind.

  "They must have got the car fixed," I say, unbuckling my seatbelt.

  "Dang it. " Lila smacks her hand on her knee and a smile expands across her face. "I was so looking forward to watching Ethan bent over the hood. "

  I snort a laugh. "Well, that wasn't really my point," I say when I stop laughing. "We somehow have to get him out of the car and into the house and I was going to have Micha help. "

  Lila and I turn toward the backseat, trying to figure out a way to get my dad out.

  "Maybe we could ask your brother?" Lila suggests.

  My eyes roam to the Porsche parked in front of us. "I'm not sure he'll help even if we ask him. "

  "It doesn't hurt to try. "

  "Yeah, you're right. " I sigh and text Dean to come help. He doesn't answer, but a few minutes later the back door swings open. Dean steps out, barefoot, with a hoodie pulled over his head. He doesn't say anything when he swings the door open. Lila hops out of his way and he ducks inside the car and drags our father out. I scramble out of the car and hold the back door open for him. He lets my dad lean his weight on him and he aides him to the living room sofa.

  "Where did you find him?" Dean asks me as he turns my dad to his side in case he throws up.

  "At the bar. " I place the duvet from the back of the couch over my dad and he snuggles up to it like a child. "Denny helped me get him to the car. "

  Dean presses his lips together, and bobs his head up and down. "That's where I figured he was, but I didn't want to go looking for him. "

  "You know I'm not even old enough to be in a bar, right?"

  "And I'm old enough to know that I don't want to deal with this crap anymore. "

  I open my mouth to yell at him but zip my lips and shake my head, regaining power of my temper.

  He backs toward the stairway. "I've had enough. I'm moving on with my life and you should do the same. " He leaves me in the room alone with a heavy feeling in my heart.

  I'd love to move on, but I'm not sure how. Running away to Vegas for eight months sure as hell didn't help because I'm almost back to where I started.

  ***

  Lila and I decide to go to Larry's Diner, the local fast food drive-in, to get some lunch. It's a seventies themed restaurant where the waitresses wear roller skates and skate up the cars to take orders. After they hook the food tray to the window, we eat in the car and listen to music.

  The rain is still beating down, but softer, although the roof is draining onto the front of the hood. We're chatting about the group of guys sitting on the tables underneath the canopy, when Lila focuses the conversation to somewhere I don't want to go.

  "So where did you and Micha run off to this morning?" she asks, sipping her soda and batting her eyelashes innocently.

  I dip a fry in the ranch cup balanced on the console. "Nowhere. He just chased me down the street. "

  She dumps some more ketchup onto her chicken sandwich. "Then why did both of you come back soaking wet?"

  My body tingles at the memory of Micha and me rolling around in the grass. "One of the neighbor's sprinklers turned on while we were running across it. "

  "Seems like you were awfully wet just from being in the sprinklers for a few minutes. " She dabs her lips with a napkin. "And you look really happy right now. "

  I force back a smile and pick the pickles off my burger silently.

  "If you don't want to tell me," she says. "Then you don't have to. "

  "I'm just not comfortable talking about Micha," I explain. "When I don't even know how I feel about him. "

  "Okay, well you could talk to me about it. That's how friends help each other figure things out. " She pauses, cleaning up some grease that dripped on her shirt. "Didn't you ever have a friend that you could talk to about everything?"

  I shrug and take a bite of my burger. "Micha maybe, but I can't talk to him about him. "

  She looks at me sadly. "Try talking to me then. "

  I chew on a fry, trying not to choke. Once it's out there, it's real. "I'm not sure I can. "

  "Just try," she urges. "What's it going to hurt?"

  I stir the ranch with a fry. "Micha kissed me on the front lawn. That's why we came back all wet. We were lying on the grass, getting soaked by the sprinklers and making out. "

  "Did you like it?"

  "Like what?"

  She rolls her eyes. "The kiss. "

  "I like it every time he kisses me," I say nonchalantly. "Yet at the same time, I don't. My feelings are conflicted. "

  "Because you don't know what you want?" she asks.

  "No, I think I do know what I want," I mumble, stunned by my own answer. "I just won't admit it. "

  She says, "I think you just did. "

  I continue thinking out loud. "I think I might have figured it out that night on the bridge. . . " My mind starts to drift back to that night as I stare at the rain pattering against the windshield.

  She slurps her soda. "What happened the night on the bridge?"

  "I kissed Micha. " I shut my eyes, drifting back to the memory, not on the bridge but somewhere else we went that night. We're in his car talking. He seems happy and so do I.

  She giggles. "I knew it. I knew he wasn't just a friend. So tell me the details, like what happened after the kiss. "

  My eyes open to a veil of rain on the window as the images drift away from my mind. "Nothing. I left for college. "

  She balls up the sandwich wrapper and sets it in the bag. "You just left? God, no wonder you two visually undress each other. The sexual tension between you is probably about ready to burst. "

  I start to deny it, but realize she's right. I want Micha so badly it physically hurts sometimes, however if it hurts to want him this much, then how bad would it be to lose him?

  "Speaking of the devil. " She rolls down the window as Micha's Chevelle pulls up beside us. "What are you like stalking us or something?"

  Ethan leans over from the passenger side and hollers, "How did you ever guess?"

  Micha's extremely quiet, as he reads the menu on the marquee. The waitress skates over and ducks her head into the cab of the car, sticking out her butt. Rain falls on her back as she jots down their orders and then giggles at something either Micha or Ethan said. Either way, it's annoying. I pile all the garbage onto the tray, start up the car, and rev up the engine, startling the waitress and everyone else.

  Lila gapes at me. "Ella, what are you doing?"

  "Sorry," I apologize, feeling kind of bad, and put a tip on the tray. The waitress gives me a tight smile as she collects the tray and skates off to the order window.

  Micha hops out of the car and his boots splash in the puddles. He stretches his long legs and arms, and then winds around the back of my car and to my door. He taps his fist on the window. Sighing, I roll it down.

  He crouches down so we're eyelevel and rests his arms on the seal of the window. "Do you want to explain what that was about?"

  "An accidental slip of the foot," I say, knowing he's going to read straight through my bull shit lie. "Sometimes it happens. "

  "Not with you. " His eyes twinkle like sapphires as raindrops bead down his face. "If you want my attention, just say so. "

  "I want your attention. " The truth falls from my lips, shocking us both.

  He kisses me on the forehead with his wet lips. "See, that wasn't so hard. "

  "Yes, it was," I surrender, defeated. "But I'm tired. "

  "Of being someone you're not?"

  "That among other things. "

  He lets out an unsteady breath and lowers his voice as he leans close to my ear. "Are you ready to talk about it?"

  I shake my head. "Not yet, but maybe soon. "

  "I'm here when you're ready. " He gives a soft suck on the sensitive spot right below my ear, and his tongue tastes my skin before he pulls away.

  "You want
to race home?" He wiggles his eyebrows, teasing me. "Loser owes the other one a favor. "

  I scrunch up my nose and glance over at his Chevelle. "I'm not stupid enough to think I could ever win that bet. "

  He laughs, sucking his lip ring into his mouth. "I promise I'll go easy on you. "

  A naughty feeling dances inside me. "What if I don't want you to go easy on me?"

  He's speechless, which is rare. His gaze bores into me and then he strides forward and kisses me. It's quick, but it steals my breath away.

 
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