Raveling you, p.3
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       Raveling You, p.3

         Part #2 of Unraveling You series by Jessica Sorensen
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  “Because of this.” She flicks the back of my hand.

  My expression sinks. I didn’t have my phone or any paper when I met Rebel Tonic, and he wanted to leave me with his private phone number. I found a pen in my pocket and jotted his phone number on my hand with every intention of transferring the digits to paper when I got home, but then I got sidetracked with rushing over here and forgot to wash the number off.

  “God, I just made things super awkward, didn’t I?” Lyric mutters with a disheartened sigh. “After being like the coolest person ever, I’ve resorted to an awkward, unsure girl.” She stretches her fingers out, focused on her hands. “Can we pretend I didn’t just act like a jealous weirdo? It could be your early birthday present to me.”

  My heart thuds deafeningly from inside my chest as I hook a finger under her chin and tip her face up. “You’re not acting like a jealous weirdo. You’re acting like a normal person. I’m the one who’s been the weirdo, shutting you out like I have. It’s not fair.” My heart rate quickens even more as she wets her lips with her tongue and briefly glances at my mouth.

  God, if I could just kiss her without freaking out...

  I’d kiss her all the time.

  “So, just to be clear,” my voice wobbles embarrassingly, “I’d never go on a date with someone else. I don’t want to date at all. I mean, I do want to date, but I just can’t yet. I don’t think so, anyway.” I clear my throat. Nothing I’m saying is coming out right. “Okay, let me try that again. I don’t want to go out on a date with anyone other than you. I just don’t think I can handle dating right now.” I roll my eyes at myself. Man, I am the least smooth person ever. “See, now I’m the one who just made things awkward.”

  “You didn’t make things awkward.” She searches my eyes, her own sparkling, a sign that my cheery Lyric is about to emerge. “So, my dad had a band cancel for his opening.”

  Her abrupt subject change throws me off, but I latch on to her offering. It’s one of the reasons I love her so much…

  Love her?

  I shake my head at my thoughts, and Lyric’s face twists with perplexity.

  No, I like her.

  A lot.

  I don’t even know what love is.

  I can’t.

  Can I?

  “Did you offer up our help?” I absentmindedly twist a strand of her hair around my finger, shutting down my thoughts before I freak out.

  “Well, duh.” She rolls her eyes then grins. “Of course I did.”

  With each soft tug of her hair, her eyelids flutter and her lips part.

  And, with each eyelid flutter and lip part, my pulse throbs.

  I don’t stop.

  I don’t want to stop until it becomes too much for me.

  “And what’d he say?” My voice is surprisingly husky.

  She moans, and that’s when I finally lose it, when I push my emotions too far. Images start to creep into my mind; a brush of hair and caresses of fingertips I don’t want touching me.

  I untangle my fingers from her hair as a breath falters from my lips.

  Lyric frowns disappointedly but doesn’t say anything. “The same old, same old.” She makes a flapping motion with her hand as she pulls a face, pretending to mimic her dad. “He yammered about my mental stability, said I needed more stage preparation, and that he needed more preparation for his daughter to freakin’ rock the socks off a bunch of people.”

  My lips twitch in amusement. “And what did you tell him?”

  “I told him we rocked, and if he heard us, he’d beg us to be in his lineup. I gave him something to really think about.” She winks at me. “Now, we should probably go practice for when he asks to see us play.” She laces her fingers through mine, rises from the bed, and then pulls me up with her.

  “You really think he’s going to?” I question as we head for the door.

  “Oh, yeah. I could see it in his eyes.” She points at her own. “He was totally wondering just how talented his daughter really is. In fact, I bet by tomorrow he’ll be asking to hear us play.”

  “You really think we’re ready, though?” I ask as we descend the stairway toward the main floor of the two-story home. “I mean, we don’t even have a band name yet.”

  “I have a few ideas for that.” She peers over her shoulder at me, her eyes sparkling mischievously. “Have a little faith in me and my awesomeness, would you?”

  “I have a ton of faith in you and your awesomeness. It’s the rest of the band I’m worried about.”

  She squeezes my hand reassuringly. “We’re all doing well. Granted, Nolan’s a little less motivated than you, Sage, and me. Do you ever get the feeling that his interest in the music industry is solely based on getting laid?”

  “I’ve thought that a lot,” I reply as we enter the dimly lit kitchen that smells like vanilla with a hint of cleaner.

  A plate of cookies Lila sent over this morning is on the countertop along with a stack of neon pink flyers for the opening of Infinite Bliss, Lyric’s dad’s new club.

  “He’s so old school,” Lyric remarks as she picks up a flyer.

  “He didn’t do any other promoting?” I steal a cookie off the plate.

  “No, he did after I made a suggestion that flyers don’t work that well anymore.” She drops the flyer back onto the stack. “See, he totally owes me.” She grabs two cookies off the plate then steers us out the back door and to the driveway. “I just wish he’d realize that.” She puts the cookies in her mouth so she can open the garage door without letting go of my hand.

  The night sky is lit up by the moon and the countless stars and matches the illuminated neighborhood covered with Christmas lights and decorations. I’ve lived here for over a year and still can’t get over how different it is from all the other homes I stayed at. So bright, cheery, welcoming. All the other homes were full of despair and were energy draining.

  “Who is that?” Lyric suddenly asks.

  I track her gaze to a man wearing a tracksuit with a dog on a leash. He’s slowly walking down the sidewalk with his attention on my house, specifically focusing on the second story, right on my bedroom window.

  “I don’t know. He’s probably just some neighbor wondering why we have a half-deflated Santa near the front door of the house.”

  My thoughts laugh at me, whisper another story, remind me that it was my neighbors who took me into their home and broke my brother as well as my sister and me.

  Sharp objects, have you forgotten?

  All those days forced into restraints.

  All the blood spilled across the carpet.

  The stench of rust hanging in the air.

  Trust. Trust. Trust.

  How can you still be so naïve?

  Lyric looks at me with concern. “Yeah, I guess so … but he’s not even looking at the front door. And I think I saw him earlier, too, and he looked like he was staring at your window.”

  I squint through the darkness to get a better look at him: middle-aged, going bald, a beer gut, and what looks like a scar on his jawline. For a brief moment, I pause, trying to connect the guy to my past. But my effort is worthless. The people who kidnapped me are buried in the darkest parts of my mind along with the memories of what they did to me.

  “He looks like almost every other guy who lives on the street.” My inner voice laughs at me again. “I’m sure it’s nothing.” Even I don’t sound that convinced by my words, though.

  “Maybe.” Lyric sounds doubtful. “Ay, I don’t want you to be upset with me for bringing it up, but… I was thinking about how those detectives said that maybe Aunt Lila and Uncle Ethan should keep an extra eye on you until they can figure out who was behind…” She anxiously waits for me to say something. When I don’t, she tacks on, “Maybe we should mention something to them, just in case.”

  My eyes wander back to the man and I realize the he’s looking right at us. I instantly stumble back into the shadows and pull Lyric with me. Then I position myself in front of Lyric t
o protect her from being seen.

  “Do you think he can see us?” Lyric whispers, fisting the bottom of my shirt as she peers over my shoulder.

  “Not now.” My body convulses with spasms as her knuckles graze my lower back, but she doesn’t appear to notice, too preoccupied by the man. “But I’m sure he did before we ducked back here.”

  I observe the man from around the corner of the garage. He continues to stare in our direction, before finally fixing his attention back on my house. Then with a jerk on the dog leash, he scurries down the sidewalk toward the end of the block and out of sight.

  “That was weird.” Lyric steps around me, the absence of her warmth leaving me oddly cold inside. “We should definitely mention it to Aunt Lila.”

  “Yeah, I guess we should. If you think so, anyway.” When I face her, she scowls at me. “What?”

  “Not you guess,” she scolds. “You will tell her, or I will. I don’t care if it’s nothing. After … what happened, I’m not going to risk it, risk something happening to you.”

  “There’s no use arguing with you, is there?”

  “Nope. Not about this.”

  “All right. When we get home from band practice, I’ll make sure to bring it up to Lila. Only for you, though. I’m not worried.”

  Liar, liar,

  all the time.

  Worry dances in your mind,

  round and round,

  a broken record.

  A song stuck on repeat,

  singing through veins

  as you lie restlessly in bed.

  Liar, liar,

  all the time.

  Always worrying they’ll return,

  and death will burn your skin again.

  A few minutes later, when we’re satisfied the man isn’t going to return, we pile into Lyric’s dad’s 1969 Chevelle since the Challenger her dad bought her a little over a month ago is nowhere near ready to drive yet. Then we buckle up, turn on the radio, and Lyric slams the gas pedal down. The tires squeal as she backs down the driveway and onto the road.

  “If you’re not careful, one of these days, someone is going to call the cops on you about your driving,” I tease as I relax back in the seat. Just being with her gives me a little bit of inner peace sometimes.

  “If it happens, it happens.” She cranks the wheel and fishtails the car onto the main road with an up-shift. “I mean, what are my parents going to do, get mad at me? My mother’s gotten more tickets than I can count.”

  “True.” I pick up the iPod from the dock and start browsing through the songs. “But they could—”

  My phone vibrates from inside my pocket. I fish it out and swipe my finger over the screen to read the text message.

  Lila: We need to talk about something important when you get home.

  Me: Okay. What’s it about?

  I grow anxious that perhaps she found out I met with a hacker tonight. I haven’t been punished very much by the Gregorys—I’ve tried to stay out of trouble as much as possible ever since they adopted me. I’m guessing with something as severe as illegal hacking, their relaxed approach at parenting would disappear.

  Lila: I really just want to talk to you about it when you get home, not on the phone.

  Me: Okay. I’ll be home in a few hours. Can you at least tell me if I need to be worried?

  Lila: No, no need to be worried.

  I start to put my phone away when another text comes through.

  Lila: I don’t want you to worry all night, and knowing you, you will. It’s about the police. They want to talk to you again about your brother. Please don’t panic. I’m sure it’s nothing.

  I probably should respond to her message, at least to tell her I’m okay, but I can’t think of what to say.

  “Everything okay?” Lyric asks.

  I concentrate on the song list again. “Yeah, of course.”

  She watches me instead of the road. “Who was that text from?”

  “Lila. She just wanted to let me know she needs to talk to me about some stuff when I get home.”

  “Are you sure that’s all she wanted?”

  I nod, unable to look her in the eyes, knowing she’ll see right through my lie.

  Liar, liar, alone in the dark,

  Hide the truth from your heart.

  Lock your soul in a box.

  Melt the key.

  Set the box on fire.

  And burn in into oblivion.

  Let the ashes scatter the ground.

  And never utter a sound.

  Liar, liar, alone in the dark.

  Lyric’s chest rises and falls, as if she’s struggling to breathe. “If you don’t want to tell me, then that’s fine. But just say so. Don’t lie to me, please.”

  God, I’m the biggest asshole ever. I really am.

  “The police want to talk to me.” The words are difficult to say.

  Her gaze glides to mine and her grip tightens on the wheel. “When do they want to talk to you? Tonight?”

  I shake my head. “I don’t think so, but Lila didn’t say.”

  “Are you… Are you going to be okay? I mean, with talking to them.”

  “I don’t know,” I admit honestly. “I guess it depends on what they want to talk about. She said something about my brother, but I’m not sure if it’s details about his death or my”—I swallow hard—“memories.”

  I think I already know for sure, though. Lila warned me the morning after we learned the news of my brother’s death that the police may want my help in solving his murder by remembering what happened those weeks we spent with our captors. They believe if I can remember than maybe I can help identify them.

  If that’s what they want me to do… Well, I’m not sure I can handle it. I locked up the memories for a reason.

  Dying flesh.

  Ruptured heart.

  Scars searing.

  Flaming soul.

  The touch of death

  burns through my skin

  and strikes at my bones.

  Resuscitated and revived,

  but not without sacrifice.

  Close up my mind.

  Forget what I saw.

  What I heard.

  What was done to me.

  Remember and give up my soul.

  Remember and submit to the pain.

  Remember and wither away

  into nothing.

  Chapter 3


  It’s been two days since I saw the strange man hanging out in front of Ayden’s house, and I’ve been working on a drawing of the guy just in case it’s needed. I don’t know why, but I have the strangest feeling that the man was more than a just a neighbor passing by.

  I’ve been having trouble sleeping the last couple of nights because of the man. Every time I close my eyes, I see him in the tracksuit with his dog. The twisted part is that his outfit sometimes transforms into a cloak and the dog shifts into a scythe, and I’m suddenly staring at the Grim Reaper.

  No more horror movies for me for a while.

  I debate whether or not to tell Ayden about my dream. In the past, he’d have found it amusing, but with everything going on, I doubt he would anymore. He still hasn’t spoken to the police, nor does he know when he’s going to, only that it’ll be someday this week.

  My family and all the Gregorys get together every year to decorate the tree. After we’re done, we’ll all go over to my house and do the same thing. It’s a strange little tradition that started during my first Christmas ever. Back then, though, Uncle Ethan and Aunt Lila hadn’t adopted any children yet.

  The massive tree Ayden and I picked out sits in the center of the Gregory’s living room, trimmed and decorated with shiny silver and red balls that glimmer against the glow of the flames burning in the fireplace. Our parents are drinking eggnog in the kitchen and have already exceeded the tipsy point. Kale is eating popcorn and watching a Christmas movie while Fiona and Everson fight over who gets to put the star on the tree. Ayden and I sit in front
of the computer doing a little research on his brother, ignoring the commotion going on.

  He’d been so reluctant to even speak his brother’s name that I was honestly surprised when he brought out the computer and said he wanted to look up stuff on him. But I wasn’t about to ask him, too concerned I’d hit a nerve.

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