Raveling you, p.2
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       Raveling You, p.2

         Part #2 of Unraveling You series by Jessica Sorensen
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  “Okay, but you have to promise me one thing,” he says with reluctance. “That you won’t mention your band at all during the conversation.”

  “My lips are sealed.” I drag my fingers across my lips, pretending to zip them up.

  His mouth is set in a firm frown, as if the last thing he wants to do is discuss whatever he’s stressing about. “It’s about one of the bands I had lined up for the opening.” He waits for me to go back on my word and react, and I almost do, but forcefully smash my lips together, instead. “The lineup’s pretty cool, but one of the opening bands backed out at the last second, so my big plan to carry it out all day isn’t going to be possible. I mean, I still have a lot of good ones lined up.” He reads over a scribbled list of band names. “I just wanted seven total.” He flips the page, muttering nonsense, while I struggle not to put my two cents in. “It really isn’t a big deal, except that it is since the flyer and advertisement said there’d be seven bands.”

  I raise my hand in the air like I’m in grade school.

  “And it’s too late notice to find someone else. The opening is less than three weeks,” he carries on, ignoring my raised hand. “I’m already in the lineup, and I’ll be way too busy making sure things run smoothly to try to take on two sets.”

  I bounce up and down in my chair, waving my hand in front of his face. “Hello? Can’t you see my hand?”

  “I can.” He closes the notebook. “And I know what you’re going to say. The answer is no, though.”

  My shoulders slump as I plant my ass back in the chair. “No to what?” I fake pout. “You haven’t even heard what I’m going to say.”

  “But I already know what you’re going to say.”

  “How so?”

  “Because we share the same musical DNA, and twenty-five years ago, if I’d been sitting in your spot, I’d have asked the same question you want to ask right now.”

  I jut out my lip. “You’re cruel.”

  “No, I’m being a good father.” He shoves his notebook aside and rests his elbows on the table. “There’s no way I’m going to let my seventeen-year-old daughter and her band play at a club with a bunch of hardcore rock bands.”

  “FYI, I’m almost eighteen.” I cross my arms and slump back in the chair. “You haven’t even heard us play yet. Maybe we’re as good as those hardcore rock bands.”

  “It’s not that I doubt your ability, Lyric. I’ve heard you play and sing behind closed doors. You’re fucking talented.” I start to beam. “But…” he adds, and I frown—there’s always a but— “it takes a lot of prep time to play onstage. And I’m not just talking about practice time, but mental prepping.”

  Aw, my parents and their concern for my mental stability. The worry seems to be expanding, too, ever since Ayden went into his depressive state, as if they believe we’re so in sync I’ll shut down with him.

  I narrow my eyes, getting defensive. “Hey, we’re ready. More than ready. We fucking rock.”

  “Yeah, but I’m not sure I’m ready for you to grow up that fast yet.” He scoots the chair away from the table to stand up. “The environment at these things … it’s intense.”

  “You played when you were my age,” I argue. “Maybe not at clubs, but I’ve heard the stories about the parties you and Mom went to back in the day.”

  He gapes at me. “When did you hear stories?”

  I rise from my chair. “Every time you, Mom, Uncle Ethan, and Aunt Lila get drunk, you sit in the living room and reminisce about the good old days. And you’re really loud drunks.” I snatch up another cookie and stride for the doorway.

  “Lyric, please don’t be upset,” he pleads. “This has nothing to do with your ability.”

  “Of course it doesn’t.” I pop a chunk of the cookie into my mouth and raise my chin in confidence. “You’ve never really heard me sing. And I mean really sing. Because, if you did, you’d be overlooking your overprotective father thing you’ve got going on right now and let me own your opening.”

  He opens his mouth to say something, but no words come out. I’ve struck him speechless, which was exactly what I was hoping for, even though I’m totally being overconfident. Our band doesn’t even have a name, at least one we all agree on, and we haven’t played anywhere other than inside the four walls of Sage’s garage. But confidence can carry you a long way. Believe in yourself, and other people will, too. At least, I’m hoping that’s where this conversation goes.

  “And P.S.,” I add, “a fantabulous Christmas tree is waiting in the back of Uncle Ethan’s truck for you.”

  I walk out of the kitchen, leaving my father to stew in his thoughts, and go upstairs to take a shower. Afterward, I blow-dry my long, blonde hair straight, apply some kohl eyeliner, and then tug on a pair of black torn jeans and a red shirt. It’s nearing eight o’clock by the time I finish getting ready.

  I glance out the window at Ayden’s bedroom. The lights are on, with the curtains shut. He’s kept them consistently closed for the last week, and I often wonder if he’s hiding something behind them. I could be overanalyzing his distant behavior, but I don’t know... There have been moments since his brother died when he’ll suddenly announce he has to go home, even if we’re in the middle of a movie or at band practice. He always goes into his bedroom and locks the door; at least, that’s what I heard Aunt Lila whispering to my mother the other day.

  “I’m getting worried,” she said while they were unloading Christmas presents from the car, “about what he’s doing in there. Like, maybe drugs.”

  They didn’t know I was listening from the garage, but I stepped out and gave them my input. “He’s not on drugs. You guys are overreacting. He probably just needs his space.” I didn’t bother mentioning that Ayden and I technically get high on secondhand smoke every other night at band practice since Sage insists he plays better when the garage is being hotboxed.

  As I’m gazing out the window, I suddenly notice something odd on the sidewalk below. A middle-aged bald guy with a beer gut and a gnarly looking scar on his jawline is walking his dog. He pauses in front of the Gregorys’ home and stares at the house. He could easily be gawking at the freshly hung twinkling lights and decorations, but his attention lingers on Ayden’s bedroom window for far too long in my opinion. Then the man scurries away, tugging his dog along with him.

  I make a mental note to mention the guy to my mother when I see her later tonight. I’m sure he is just some random dude being a gawker. But, with how worried everyone’s been lately and with the police telling Lila to keep a closer eye on Ayden, it feels imperative to at least bring it up.

  After the guy vanishes, I turn from the window and collect my phone from my dresser to text Ayden.

  Me: U about ready to get this funfest on the road?

  Ayden: Yeah, I’ll be over in like ten. I’m in the middle of something.

  Even though we’re already running late, I don’t push him to hurry his butt up. I slip on my leather jacket, tuck my phone into the pocket, and pop in my earbuds. I crank up a little “For You, And Your Denial” by Yellowcard and flop down on my bed with my notebook I jot lyrics in.

  Despite how collected I am around Ayden, my composure crumbles and splatters across the pages the moment I pick up a pen. Penning lyrics has become my outlet and my sanctuary, a time when I feel okay not being so cheery and smiley.

  Can you hear me crying?

  Silent agony that will completely vanish.

  A scorch in my heart,

  Singeing into embers.

  My veins char to ash.

  Hardly a flicker of fire left

  To ignite life into me again.

  Eventually the cold settles

  Through my skin into my bones.

  The embers drown with mourning,

  Stealing the last breath of air.

  And that silent cry dies,

  Takes its final breath of air,

  Caves to the chill.

  Nothing is left, left, left.

; Fading, withering, dying.

  I pull the pen away. Okay, maybe my parents do need to worry about my mind.

  I scratch my head as I reread my gloomy and slightly morbid lyrics. I don’t know why, but I kind of like them.

  Feeling satisfied, I tuck my notebook away then turn to the window again to check on Ayden. His bedroom light is off, so he has to be heading over. Down in driveway, Uncle Ethan and my dad are sawing off the bottom of a tree. Kale and Fiona, Uncle Ethan and Aunt Lila’s other adopted children, are with them, gathering the stray tree branches and carrying them inside the Gregorys’ home to make wreaths like they do every year.

  Ayden is nowhere in sight.

  Me: Dude, where are you at?

  He doesn’t respond.

  About a minute later, I spot him hurrying up the sidewalk from the direction of the main road with the hood pulled over his head. Instead of cutting across the front lawn, he hunkers down behind the neighbor’s fence then climbs over it into his side of the yard. With his back pressed against his house, he inches toward the front door like a ninja, clearly trying to go unnoticed. But why? And where was he for the last ten minutes or so?

  To make the situation sketchier, the instant he slips into the house, he texts me back.

  Ayden: Just got out of the shower. Be over in a couple.

  “That little liar,” I utter under my breath.

  I wait near the window until he exits through the backdoor. He waves to my dad and his, then jogs around the fence to my yard. Like always, he knocks on the door before walking in.

  My dad turns to him from the driveway and hollers, “Ayden, you can just go in!”

  I pull my earbuds out and wait for him to walk into my bedroom. When he strolls in with damp hair, as if he actually took a shower, my jaw ticks with irritation.

  “All right, buddy.” I stare him down hard. “What are you keeping from me?”

  He averts his gaze to the floor, ruffling his hair into place. “What are you talking about? I’ve been at my house.” He scratches at the corner of his eye, and I notice a phone number on the back of his hand.

  What the hell has he been up to tonight? And, better yet, who has he been with?

  And why is he lying to me?

  Chapter 2


  She has a very un-Lyric like expression on her face when I walk into her bedroom. She’s upset, maybe with me. After a week of being extra nice and agreeable, her determined attitude instantly throws me off. Then she bluntly calls me out on keeping something from her, and I know it’s only a matter of time before I spill my secret, because upsetting her will quickly wear me down.

  “What do you mean?” I mess with my damp hair. Since I texted Lyric that I’d just gotten out of the shower, I actually had to get it wet in the bathroom sink before I headed over. I ended up getting the collar of my shirt wet in the process, making the back of my neck cold.

  “Don’t ‘what do you mean’ me, looking all innocent.” She strides across the room then pokes me in the chest. “You know, usually I’m cool with you not telling me stuff, but when I see you creeping up to your house all ninja style then lying to me about where you were, telling me you were taking a shower,” she rolls her eyes, “that’s when I start pressing for info. So, tell me, where’d you sneak off to tonight?”

  “I…” I trail off as she elevates her brows at me.

  For the last two weeks, I’ve spent night after night wondering if my brother’s death was a murder caused by the people who held my siblings and me captive three years ago. His body had been found near the house we’d been held hostage. If it was the same people, I worry they’ll eventually try to kill my younger sister and me. My sister who I wish I could see again, if for nothing other than to know she’s safe.

  Fear, toxic fear,

  driving me insane.

  Flooding me with rage.

  Fear, toxic fear,

  I wish you’d just disappear.

  Leave me alone.

  Get the hell out of here.

  But I know you’ll never go away,

  let me breathe again,

  until I know my sister’s safe.

  Until I know the demon has paid.

  On day five of barely sleeping at all, I decided I’d had it with the constant worry and started searching around on the Internet. I’d stumbled across a hacker and met the guy tonight in the park near my neighborhood because he refused to have business meetings over the phone or computer. Not the smartest thing to do on my part, but I’m getting desperate.

  Of course when I met him, my worries of whether he was a serial killer or not dissolved. Rebel Tonic—an online name—is a gangly guy younger than me. If he tried anything, I could have taken him if I had to.

  He insisted he can find my sister’s whereabouts by hacking into the social service’s records. His fee is more than I have stashed away, so I’m trying to figure out where to come up with the money, and if I can even trust him not to screw me over.

  “I can’t tell you.” I offer Lyric an apologetic look, wordlessly begging her to please be understanding like she normally is.

  Her mouth plummets to a hurt frown. “Why not? You know I’ll keep whatever you tell me a secret.”

  “I know you will… that’s not the problem.” I tangle our fingers together and guide her to the bed, drawing her with me as I sit down. “Trust me, it’s not because I don’t want to tell you. I just don’t want to get you into trouble if I get caught. It’s better if you don’t know what I’m up to just in case our parents find out… It’s better if you’re in the dark, at least for now.”

  “You’re worrying me. Is it…?” She bites on her bottom lip. “You’re not doing anything illegal or dangerous are you? Like… drugs?”

  “What! Drugs… do you really think that about me?”

  She looks shamefaced. “No, but… I heard Aunt Lila whispering it to my mom the other day. I think she’s worried about you because you seem so… depressed.” Caution creeps into Lyric’s voice, probably worried she’s crossing a line with the remark about my emotions.

  “I know she is.” And I feel bad. The last thing I ever want is for anyone to worry about me. I wish I could be happier so my family could relax, but I feel so depressed all the time. “I’m not doing drugs, though.”

  “I figured you weren’t, but I had to ask.” She intently studies me with her green eyes then her bottom lip juts out into a full-on pout. “You really won’t tell me what’s going on?”

  It’s difficult to tell her no when she looks as adorable as she does right now. I just want to kiss her lip, suck it in my mouth…

  “Lyric… I…” Her pout deepens and I sigh. “You know, when I first met you I thought you used to do the whole pouting thing unintentionally.” I tuck a strand of her long, blond hair behind her ear, highly aware of how badly my fingers tremble and the way her breath hitches in her throat. “But now I’m starting to wonder if you know exactly what you’re doing.”

  “So does it work?” she asks, hopeful. “Does it mean you’ll tell me where you were?”

  “Not yet… but soon maybe. If I feel like it’s safe to.”

  “How soon is soon, though? Because you’ve got me really, really worried about you, to the point where it’s hard to think about anything else.”

  “I don’t want that. You don’t need to put so much… effort into being my friend all the time, especially with how much of a burden I’ve been lately.”

  “Like I could simply just quit.” She shakes her head and her smile brightens. “You’re my favorite person. And it’s hard to just stop thinking about my favorite person. But think of it this way, the sooner you tell me what’s up, the less time I’ll have to spend stressing.”

  “I wish I could tell you now.” I withdraw my hand from her hair as the compassion in her eyes becomes unbearable. The way she looks at me sometimes, like I’m everything to her… No one has ever looked at me that way, and it feels unnatural. “I just don’t k
now if it’s okay yet.” Safe yet.

  “So vague.” Her gaze drops to my hand as I flex my fingers. “Can I just ask one more thing, though?”

  I nod. “Of course.”

  “You’re … You’re not seeing anyone, are you? Like dating someone or something?” She angles her head forward, her face blocked by her hair.

  “Huh?” I’m so confused. I haven’t shown signs of wanting to heat up our friendship boundaries again, but that doesn’t mean I’ve shown signs of wanting to be with anyone else. “No. Again, what’s with the weird assumption?”

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