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Cursed Hadley, Page 2

Jessica Sorensen

  I remember how happy she was when he gave it to her, the way her eyes lit up. That necklace was one of the pieces of jewelry I had to pawn the other day. I asked my dad beforehand if it was okay. He said he didn’t give a shit, then took off to the bar.

  Life is so fucked up. Sometimes, I can’t even stand it. But I’ll never admit that aloud, being the glue that holds this family together. Although, I sometimes feel like the really shitty, cheap kind of glue.

  After I hotwire Dad’s truck, he briefly bitches me out for doing so before climbing in. He looks awful—pale skin, bags under his bloodshot eyes, and he smells like a guy who spent all night doing shots of whiskey with his buddies at the local bar, which I’m sure is exactly what he did.

  “You think he’ll be okay to drive?” Londyn asks as the four of us pile into my Chevelle. “He’s super hungover.”

  Payton and Bailey slide into the back seat, and Bailey instantly rests her head against the window and shuts her eyes, refusing to speak to me.

  “I tried to convince him to let me drive his truck, and you could drive my car, but he’s in one of his asshole moods.” I shut the door and turn on the ignition, firing up the engine.

  While my car needs some bodywork, the engine is in excellent shape. It was actually a project car my mom and I were working on before she passed away. It was supposed to be finished a long time ago, but without much extra money or time, I haven’t been able to work on it as much as I want to.

  “I say we follow him for an hour or so, and then, if he looks like he’s struggling, we’ll say we need to make a pit stop, and then I’ll make him let me drive.”

  “And how are you going to do that?” Londyn fastens her seatbelt. “You know how stubborn he can get.”

  I smile wickedly. “I’ll un-hotwire it and refuse to start it up again until he agrees.”

  She only frowns. “What if he throws a fit? I hate when he does that, especially when we’re in a public place.”

  True. Our dad can throw the biggest tantrums. He didn’t used to be like that. I think all the drinking makes him temperamental or, well, when he has to stop drinking. And since he’s sober right now … well, there’s a good chance he’s going to cause a scene if we try to say he can’t drive.

  Still …

  “I’ll handle his temper tantrum. It’s better than letting him drive when he’s too tired.” I put my own seatbelt on then back out of the driveway.

  “I wish he’d stop acting like a child.” Londyn stares out the window.

  And I really hope she stops wishing so much. Maybe then she wouldn’t seem so disappointed all the time. I’m not about to tell her that, though.

  The four of us sink into silence as I pull out onto the dusty road and follow our dad’s truck toward the main part of town. Halfway there, Payton asks for her phone, and I hand it to her only after she promises to behave. Then we all get quiet again, the music from the stereo filling up the silence. It’s not our usual MO to be so quiet. Maybe it’s the whole silent treatment thing, or perhaps we’re all just fed-up with moving and are sinking into our own depressed thoughts.

  Sure, this town was shitty and the trailer we lived in smelled like skunk half the damn time, thanks to a skunk spraying it while it camped out underneath the trailer. But I’m sure the place we’re going to won’t be any better. It will be just as rundown, and more than likely, we’ll be doing this same thing six months from now. When I really analyze it, everything feels so hopeless, which is why I never try to analyze it.

  Shit. I need to get everyone out of their own heads.

  I start to suggest we play a road game, when Bailey lets out a heart-skipping squeal.

  “What the hell?” Payton says, nearly jolting out of her skin.

  Londyn jerks, too, her eyes blinking wildly.

  “My guitar!” Bailey shouts, pointing out the window at the local pawnshop on the corner of main street. “That’s my guitar in there.” She pats the back of my seat. “Hadley, stop the car.”

  I pull over near the curb in front of the store and shove the shifter into park. Sure enough, positioned in a stand in front of the shop’s window is Bailey’s guitar. I know that for a fact because she had Payton paint her initials on the front in fancy script.

  “We have to go in and get it, Hadley.” She pushes on the back of my seat. “Come on, let’s go before someone goes in and buys it.”

  I internally grimace. If the shop is selling the guitar for more than ten bucks, which I’m sure it is, I won’t be able to buy it for her.

  I trade a worried glance with Londyn before getting out. Bailey immediately jumps out, and Payton puts her phone away and runs after her. The two of them hurry inside, Londyn and I slowly trailing after them.

  “What’re you going to do?” she whispers as I open the door. “We can’t afford to buy it.”

  “I’m not sure yet.” I send my dad a text that we had to pull over and that he should stop at the gas station at the edge of town and wait for us. When he doesn’t respond right away, I worry he may have lost his phone, too.

  Shit. I really should’ve checked.

  A frown forms at her lips. “Don’t do anything stupid.”

  I stuff my phone into the back pocket of my shorts. “Like what?”

  “Like give something up to get her guitar.”

  “I don’t even have anything to give up.”

  She gives me a pressing look. “That’s because you give everything up.”

  I mirror her look. “Then I guess we don’t really have a problem.”

  She sighs before walking over to the glass countertops that are filled with old jewelry. I make my way over to the window where Bailey is scooping up her guitar and Payton is sifting through a stack of paintings.

  “It’s mine for sure,” Bailey announces as she strums the strings. “See? My initials are on the front.”

  “Yeah, I see them.” I swallow hard as I note the price tag.

  One hundred freakin’ bucks.


  Bailey plucks a couple of chords as she hops down from the window, ready to go, but I stop her before she walks out the door.

  “You can’t just take it, Bay,” I say with a bit of remorse.

  “Why not? It’s mine.” She hugs the guitar to her chest. “For all we know, the shop owner dude was the one who stole it.”

  Doubtful. And even if he did, there’s still not much we can do about it, except go to the police. But considering they weren’t very helpful when our trailer was broken into, I doubt they’re going to be much help with this.

  Back in the day, our dad would have known what to do, since he used to work as a detective. Now he rarely helps us out, especially with anything related to the past. Plus, he also hasn’t replied to the text I sent him early, so who the hell even knows where he is.

  “Can I help you?” The store owner, a fifty-something-year-old guy with thinning hair and wearing a floral, button down shirt and board shorts emerges from the back room. He eyeballs us warily, then his gaze zones in on Bailey. “No touching the merchandise unless you plan on buying.” He points to a sign hanging behind the counter that basically states what he just told us.

  I open my mouth to say, well, I’m not sure yet, but Bailey speaks first.

  “We don’t need to buy this. It belongs to me. You stole it.” She lifts her chin and gives the storeowner a defiant look.

  The storeowner rolls his eyes. “Yeah, like I haven’t heard that before.”

  “It’s true.” Bailey steps toward him, flipping her long, brown hair off her shoulder. “It was stolen from me a few months ago. I think you already know that, though.”

  “I’m not a thief, so shut your trap, kid. That guitar was brought in here, and I gave the person cash for it.” He crosses the room, pushing past me, and reaches to take the guitar from Bailey. “I don’t steal things.”

  Bailey’s nostrils flare. and her hands curl into fists. While I’m not straight-up sure if she’ll punch the sto
reowner dude, she has been known to get into a few brawls and was even arrested for one once.

  Not wanting to go down that road again, I jump between them, facing the storeowner with my arms crossed. “Look, I don’t think you’re a thief, but what I do know is that guitar is hers. Someone stole it from our house. And now it’s here, and we’d really like it back, so if you could help us out, I’d greatly appreciate it.” My tone comes out firm, but polite. I hope it’ll be enough to win him over. I’m not holding my breath, though. This guy seems like a straight-up douchebag.

  “Yeah, I can help you out.” He leans in, and I try not to cringe at the foul, rotten egg stench emitting from his breath. “Give me two hundred bucks and the guitar’s yours.”

  I open and flex my fingers. “The price tag says one hundred.”

  “Yeah, and I’m adding on a fee.” He smirks. “For having to deal with this shit.”

  I grit my teeth. I will not hit an old dude. I will not hit an old dude. “That’s called false advertisement, you prick.”

  “So? What’re you going to do about that?” He folds his arms, his smirk growing.

  “I could report you,” I say. “I highly doubt that guitar is the one thing you’ve got in here that’s stolen.”

  He lifts his shoulders. “Go ahead. Report me. Like I give a shit.” He casually leans against the counter, as if he has all the time in the world. “Newsflash, sweetheart, we live in one of the trashiest, high-crime towns in the state. No one gives a rat’s ass whether I sell stolen goods or not. The police have way bigger problems to worry about.”

  Fuck, he’s right, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let him charge us two hundred dollars for the guitar.

  “I’ll give you eighty bucks for it,” I say, and Londyn shakes her head.

  “Two hundred and fifty,” he counters with that stupid smirk on his face.

  I usually try to avoid fights, but this dude seriously needs to get punched in the face.

  He must see the urge written all over my expression and in the twitch of my hand, because he says, “Go ahead and hit me. Like I fucking care. It’ll be like getting hit by a kitten.”

  He may say that now, but he hasn’t been punched by a Harlyton sister before. Sure, we may not look tough—our builds are tall and slightly gangly—but that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to throw down a proper punch.

  We all started taking self-defense and kickboxing classes the moment our dad first made us move, and we learned how to toughen up quickly. The first move was only a couple months after our mom died when Dad sold the house because, according to him, we needed a fresh start. Apparently, the fresh start meant moving to a rundown house in the middle of the sketchiest area in the city where robberies, drug dealings, and every illegal activity imaginable took place. When I asked my dad why we couldn’t rent a place in a better area, he told me we couldn’t afford it. It made no sense—still doesn’t—since he made a decent profit off our house. What he did with the money is beyond me. He still refuses to tell us.

  Anyway, back to punching this little shithead storeowner in the face. I may want to do it, but we’re pressed for time, so I’m not going to.

  “Can you take Bailey and Payton out to the car?” I ask Londyn, gently prying the guitar away from Bailey.

  Londyn’s gaze flicks between the storeowner to me. “I’d rather not leave you alone with Creepy Creeperson over here.”

  “Who the hell are you calling creepy?” The storeowner glares at her.

  “You, obviously, since I’m staring right at you,” Londyn quips with a smirk.

  She rarely gets this sassy. I think I might be wearing on her, or maybe the move is.

  “I’ll be fine,” I assure Londyn when the storeowner’s face starts to turn bright red. “You can wait right outside the door if you want to. I just need to talk to him for a moment.”

  Shaking her head, she walks by me and signals for Bailey and Payton to follow. Payton strolls briskly out of the store, making me wonder what the hell she’s up to, but Bailey refuses to budge.

  “I’m not leaving without my guitar.” She folds her arms and gives me a defiant look.

  I lower my voice. “I’m going to get the guitar, but I need to make a bargain with this guy, and it’ll be easier if you’re not in here, okay?”

  Her gaze drops to the guitar then back up to my face. “You swear you won’t walk out of here without it?”

  “I swear to the moon and back,” I utter the words our mom used to whisper whenever she made an unbreakable promise.

  With a small nod, Bailey walks away, giving me one final glance before pushing out the door.

  Letting a slow exhale ease from my lips, I face douchebag McGee. “All right, here’s the deal. I don’t have two hundred and fifty bucks on me, nor am I planning on giving you that much cash for something that’s worth about a hundred bucks.” I don’t bother mentioning the sentimental value is worth way more than that. He’d just use that against me. “I will, however, give you this in exchange.” Gently setting the guitar down, I fumble as I reach up and unclasp the necklace hanging around my neck.

  On the end of the chain is a silver heart-shaped locket that has a small diamond in the center. My mom gave it to me for my ninth birthday, telling me her mom gave it to her when she turned that age. It’s not extremely valuable in terms of dollars, but it’s priceless to me.

  “I’m sure you can get at least two hundred bucks for it.” I hold up the necklace for him to see.

  He squints at the locket. “Is that a real diamond?”

  “Yeah,” I manage to say in an even voice.

  “Hmmm …” He runs his finger along the diamond before looking back at me. “I’ll give you fifty bucks for it.”

  I clutch the chain. “You’ll give me the guitar for it. And I know you will because the necklace is worth more.”

  He studies me for a moment before he snatches the necklace from my hand then rounds behind the counter. “I’m going to make sure it’s a real diamond before I make the trade.”

  “Sounds good.” I lean against the counter and wait, tears burning my eyes. I suck them back, knowing if I ever let those tears out, I’ll probably drown in them.

  Five minutes later, the storeowner hasn’t finished checking the diamond in the necklace. I think he’s taking his sweet time on purpose to piss me off, and I have to bite down on my tongue to keep myself from telling him to hurry.

  Growing impatient, I wander around the store, browsing the shelves and display cases. Most of the items are garbage, except for a few musical instruments, art pieces, and jewelry. One item captures my attention. A small, square mirror with a thick, black frame that’s smooth to the touch and sparkles in the florescent lighting of the store. What really captures my attention is that the mirror is tinted iridescent green and gives my reflection a glowing illusion.

  “Wicked cool.” I brush my fingers along the surface, and my reflection ripples.

  Strange. Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen something bizarre, though. Like when my mom died. But during that instance, no one else saw what I thought I saw.

  Thought I saw.

  Thought I saw.

  Thought I saw.

  I had to see a therapist after my mom’s death, and the words “thought I saw” were thrown around a lot.

  I wonder if anyone can see the mirror rippling?

  I trace my fingers along the mirror again, entranced by the rippling effect. Of course, when my fingers reach the frame, in typical Hadley style, a piece of it chips off.

  “Why, oh why, am I always breaking things?” I mutter as I pick up the broken piece.

  “It means you’re cursed.” The storeowner appears behind me.

  Yeah, tell me something I don’t know.

  I turn around, clutching the broken piece and hoping he doesn’t notice. “What does?”

  He points at the mirror. “The lady who brought that in said, if you look in the mirror and can see your reflection glow a
nd ripple, it means you’re cursed. Honestly, I thought she was batshit crazy at first, but after what it just did to your reflection, maybe she was saner than I thought.”

  So, he can see it?

  I glance at my glowing and rippling reflection. “It’s just the trick of the light.” I line my palm to the mirror, surprised by how warm it is. “Caused by the weird iridescent greenish tint.”

  “Maybe.” He rubs his jawline, considering something. “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you take it?”

  I lift my brow. “What’s the catch?” There’s no way in hell this guy is going to give me anything for free. Plus, I’m never lucky enough to get free stuff.

  “There isn’t one.” He hands me a receipt. “I just want that thing gone. It freaks me the hell out, especially at night. Plus, you just broke it, so I can’t sell it now unless I fix it.” He gives me a dirty look, then glances worriedly at the mirror before turning back toward the counter.

  I look over at the mirror again. I don’t have much use for it, but I’d be insane to turn down the free offer. Besides, I’m sort of curious to see what the storeowner gets freaked out by at night.

  Ten minutes later, I’m putting the mirror into the trunk then climbing into the Chevelle with Bailey’s guitar in my hand. I’m feeling pretty shitty about the whole necklace exchange, even if I did get a free mirror, but then Bailey’s eyes light up for the first time in months and I feel a bit better.

  “Thank you, Hadley.” Bailey leans over the seat and gives me a hug. “You’re the best big sister ever.”

  I hug her back, ignoring Londyn’s accusing gaze boring into me. “You’re welcome. I just want you to be happy.”