Raveling you, p.4
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       Raveling You, p.4

         Part #2 of Unraveling You series by Jessica Sorensen
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  “I still don’t get why we’re looking this stuff up.” I skim read the paragraph on the computer screen. “Everything we’ve found out about your brother’s case online is the same stuff the police have told you, right?”

  “Yeah, but it seems like there’s something else,” Ayden mumbles, clicking the mouse on the Page Back arrow. “Like why would he even go so close to the house in the first place. It doesn’t make any sense. Either he had to be kidnapped or his body was placed there for a reason.” His voice cracks and he quickly clears it.

  “Maybe he was just there revisiting his past… Did he have amnesia like you?” I rest my chin on his shoulder then immediately regret it when his muscles constrict.

  “Not that I know of.” Ayden taps a few keys. “But I didn’t really see him after we were taken out of the house. We went straight to the hospital and placed in the system not too long after.”

  “I’m sorry,” I say, unsure why I feel the urge to apologize over something that has nothing to do with me.

  “Sorry for what… it wasn’t you’re fault.” He twists around, causing my chin to fall off his shoulder. “You shouldn’t be apologizing for anything.” He sketches a finger across my cheekbone.

  An evanescent contact of skin to skin, but my body still flushes with heat. I lick my lips—I don’t even know why. It’s not like I’m about to kiss him in the living room in front of everyone.

  His breath hitches in his throat. “Maybe we should—”

  “Hey, it’s my turn to put the star on the tree!” Fiona shouts, causing Ayden and I to blink. She plants her hands on her hips and glares at Everson. “You did it last year.”

  “Liar. You did it last year.” Everson is holding the silvery star and reaches his arm up high. Fiona, being on the short side, jumps to get it, but misses by at least a foot.

  “Everson! Give me that star.” Fiona moves to tackle Everson and he dodges out of the way, laughing.

  “Everson, you did put the star up last year,” Ayden intervenes without looking away from me. “Give the star to Fiona.”

  Everson curses under his breath, shoves the star at Fiona, and stomps toward the doorway. “Whatever. She’s too short anyway. She’ll never get it up there.”

  “I will, too!” Fiona shouts after him, glancing from the star to the tip of the tree.

  Ayden sighs, sets the computer down on the coffee table, and gets up from the sofa. “I’ll go get you a stool,” he tells Fiona. “Hang on.”

  After he leaves the room, Fiona reels around and faces me with a haughty bob of her head. “So, what are you guys doing on the computer anyway? Just seeing what was up with Ayden’s brother.”

  “Sort of.”

  “Well, you’re not going to find anything on the computer,” she says, chipping at a chunk of glitter on the base of the star. “Ayden’s just going to have to remember.”

  Fiona’s always been on the strange side, so I don’t put too much thought into what she said. Instead I reach across the sofa to steal a handful of popcorn from the bag on Kale’s lap because I’m starving. With how tipsy the adults are, I’m guessing this night is going to end with takeout.

  Kale’s eyes instantly pop wide as I bump his leg on my way back to the side of the sofa.

  “Whoops. Sorry.” Curious to why he looks so terrified, I add, “You okay?”

  He mutters a “yes” then tosses the bag onto the table and bolts out of the room like it’s on fire.

  “What was that about?” I stuff a few pieces of popcorn into my mouth.

  Fiona shrugs. “He’s just weird. Like Ayden. We all are really.” She ravels a strand of her long hair around her finger as she gazes at the lights flashing on the tree. “I’ve always kind of wondered if Lila and Ethan did it on purpose.”

  “Did what on purpose?” Ayden inquires as he enters the room carrying a stool, along with two cans of soda.

  “If Lila and Ethan purposefully adopted weirdoes.” When Ayden places the stool in front of the tree, Fiona climbs on and stretches her arm toward the top. With a slight sway of her balance, she gets the star on then jumps backwards off the stool. “There. Look at how pretty it is.” She admires the tree with a tip of her head.

  Ayden returns to his place beside me, but doesn’t pick his computer up. He hands one of the cans of soda to me then pops the tab on the other. “I think I’m getting tired of researching.”

  I tap my finger on top of the can before opening it up. “We can take a break, if that’s what you need.” I take a swig of soda, the fizz tickling my nose. “Anything you want to do in particular?”

  “Want to go get your guitar?” he asks. “Then we can go upstairs and play for a little while.”

  I grin a goofy grin. “You know the way to my heart, Shy Boy.” He really, really does.

  I just wish I knew the way to his.

  The next morning as I lie in bed, staring up at the ceiling as the sun begins to rise and warm up my room, I try to think of a good present to get Ayden, one that will cheer him up. Last Christmas I got him a signed album, but this year I want to get him something special. Something that will make him smile like he made me do yesterday when we’d spent over four hours last night jamming out to our favorite songs. It was a nice. I wish we could do that more often.

  Knock. Knock. Knock.

  “Lyric, I need to talk to you,” my mother says through the door with another soft rap. “Are you decent?”

  “Yeah, you can come in.” I sit up in bed and stretch out my arms as she opens the door and enters.

  She’s sporting a holey pair of jeans and a faded black shirt splattered with neon pink, yellow, and green paint. Her auburn hair is pulled up, and her phone is clutched in her hand.

  “Man, since when did you become an early bird? You know that’s a sign of getting old,” I joke, glancing at the clock on my nightstand.

  She smiles tiredly. “I have to get some pieces done for the art show in a few weeks. And I’ve been up all night, so technically, that doesn’t make me an early bird.”

  I plant my feet onto the floor. “Nope, it just makes you a crack-head.”

  She sighs her oh Lyric sigh.

  “What?” I ask innocently. “Too early for jokes?”

  “Or too late.” She sighs again. “Lila and Ethan had to take Ayden to the police station this morning, so you’re going to have to drive yourself to school today. And you need to take Kale with you.”

  “Oh.” I fight back a frown. Ayden and I always ride to school together, and we stop by this little coffeehouse that has the best cappuccinos ever. Usually, he drives us in one of the Gregorys’ cars, although my parents occasionally allow me to borrow one of theirs when they’re feeling particularly awesome. It’s our morning ritual and I love it, just like I love seeing him. “Do you know when he’ll be back? I mean, will he be at school at all today?”

  “I’m not sure. They weren’t sure how long they’d be there.”

  “Do you know why they’re there? What they wanted to talk to Ayden about?”

  “I didn’t ask.” She sits down on the bed beside me. “I figure it’s really none of my business unless Lila wants to talk to me about it.” Her stern expression presses that it should be none of my business, either, unless Ayden wants to talk about it with me.

  Sometimes I feel like she knows more about Ayden than I do. I’ve overheard Lila whispering stuff about his past to my mom. I’m not sure what since they either shoo me away or leave the room themselves when they noticed I’m listening, and prying it out of my mother was impossible.

  “I’m his best friend.” I pick at a loose string on the hem of my pajama shorts. “He should want to talk to me about it, but he never seems to want to.”

  She pats my leg. “Unfortunately that’s not how it always works. Sometimes even best friends need to keep stuff from each other. At least until they’re ready to talk about it.”

  “Did you keep stuff from Dad? I mean, back when you were best friends.”

/>   Traces of remorse haunt her eyes. “There was a lot of stuff I didn’t tell him. I kept more from him than I wish I would have.”

  I hug my knee to my chest. “Then why did you do it?”

  She shrugs, uncomfortable. “I was afraid of what I would feel if I said stuff aloud. Afraid that your dad wouldn’t love me anymore if I told him everything about me.”

  I rest my chin on my knee. “Just what kind of secrets did you have, Mom? You sound super sketchy right now.”

  She shrugs again and her eyes well up. “It doesn’t really matter anymore. What’s in the past is in the past.” Sucking back the tears, she stands up. “You can drive my car to school if you want to, but you’ll have to gas it up.” She starts to leave, dabbing her eyes with her fingertips.

  “Mom, wait.” I spring from the bed and hurry over to her. “I’m not sure if I need to tell you this, but it kind of feels like I should, since I’m worried Ayden himself might not tell Lila or Ethan.”

  I quickly tell her about the guy standing outside the house, giving her the details of what he looked like, and giving her the sketch I drew of guy the night I first saw him. I omit that Ayden snuck out for a while, not wanting to get him in trouble. He still hasn’t confessed what he was doing and I’ve given up on trying to get the information out of him. For now anyway.

  “I’m glad you told me,” my mother says when I’m finished. “I’ll make sure to mention it to Lila. She’ll want to know about it.”

  “You don’t think he’s bad, do you?” I gather my hair into my hand and fasten it into a ponytail with an elastic from my dresser. “Like maybe one of those people the police are looking for?”

  “I doubt it.” But concern masks her face. “But it’s better to be safe than sorry.” She glances down at the phone in her hand. “You should get ready for school; otherwise, you’re going to be late.” She walks out of my room and closes the door behind her, leaving me to stew in my own worry.

  I decide to text Ayden to make sure he’s okay; something short and simple, knowing that he’s probably stressed out from being at the police station.

  Me: Hey! If u need anything, give me a holler.

  Then I put my phone down and get ready for school, waiting for him to respond and trying not to stress out when he doesn’t.

  Chapter 4

  Lyric

  Three hours and one silent ride to school with Kale later, Ayden still hasn’t given me a holler¸ which should be a good thing, right? Means the visit with the police went okay?

  Doubt resides in the back of my mind, though. Knowing Ayden, his silence could mean he’s shutting down. Like my mother told me this morning, even best friends keep secrets from each other.

  While I attempt to remain understanding, it still makes me sad. I barely know what’s going on with him at the moment. If he’s hurting while dealing with his brother’s death, and what on earth he was doing when he snuck out of his house the other night.

  “Earth to Lyric. Have you heard anything I’ve said at all?” Sage waves his hand in front of my face, interrupting my thoughts.

  Startled, I jerk back in surprise and chuck the pencil in my hand. Our desks are facing each other, so the pencil ends up zipping by his head, missing his eye by an inch. Thankfully, we’re in fourth period English, and the teacher, Ms. Reltingly, loves doing group projects, so most of my classmates are distracted and don’t notice my crazy ninja reflex reaction.

  Sage, of course, does since he’s the one who caused it.

  He cautiously raises his hands in front of him and leans back in his seat. “Jesus, Lyric. You don’t need to get all crazy and try to stab my eye out.” He leans over his desk, scoops up my pencil, and flips it through his fingers like a baton before handing it to me.

  “Sorry.” I check the time on the wall clock. Holy shit! Lunch is in ten minutes. “How long have I been zoned out?”

  Sage shrugs as he flips a page in his textbook. “For about twenty minutes.”

  I casually glimpse around at the rest of the class; everyone is partnered up and working on the assignment. “Dude, I suck. I’m like the worst partner ever.”

  Sage fiddles with a silver barbell in his brow. “It’s just class, no biggie.” He releases his piercing and starts doodling skulls on the top of his notebook. “Do you want to talk about what’s bothering you, though?”

  I peek at the page he’s on and turn to the same one. “Who said anything was bothering me?”

  His brow cocks. “Lyric, you’ve been staring at the wall for the last twenty minutes and haven’t said a word. Something definitely has to be wrong for you to remain that quiet.”

  I press my hand to my heart, pretending to be offended. “Are you saying there’s no way I can just be quiet without something being wrong?” When he presses me with a look, I sigh. “Okay, you’re right. But I promise it’s nothing. I’m just waiting for Ayden to text me. That’s all.”

  “Yeah, where the hell is he today? We were supposed to meet up before school to chat about something, but he totally blew me off and ignored my text, too.”

  “He had an appointment or something, and I think he must have forgotten his phone,” I lie because I have no clue what to tell him. No one outside of the Gregorys and my own family knows what’s going on with Ayden and the police. They don’t even know about his brother’s death.

  “Yeah, if he’s not texting you, then he’s definitely forgotten his phone. What’s going on with you two, anyway? You seem a little,” he rubs his jawline, “offbeat lately.”

  “Whoa, nosy much?” I squirm, something I’m not a fan of doing. Usually, I’m comfortable in every situation.

  “I’m just curious what’s going on with you two ... for the band’s sake.” He shrugs and waits for me to answer his question. “You know, the last thing we need is some sort of lover’s quarrel that causes us to split up.”

  I shoot him a dirty look. “Ayden and I aren’t lovers.”

  “You sure about that? Because I can never tell with you two.”

  “Hmmm, let me think,” I sarcastically say, thrumming my fingertip on my lip. “Well, there was that one time when we kissed under the bleachers and I nearly swooned on the floor. It was so magical.” I roll my eyes. “What are we, gossiping girls?”

  “Hate to break it to you, but you are a girl.” He scans me over, his gaze remaining a little too long on my chest.

  I cross my arms and decide to put him on the spot. “Okay, so why were you two meeting up before school? Because I’d really like to know for the band’s sake. I mean, for all I know, you two could be having a bromance quarrel.”

  He stares at me blankly, clearly unimpressed. “You’re too clever for your own good, Lyric Scott.” He tucks his pencil into the spiral of his notebook then leans back in his chair with a lazy grin on his face. “And I’m not telling you my secrets unless you tell me yours.”

  I scrunch my nose at him. “Well, this game isn’t fun if you’re not going to play.”

  “Sorry.” He seems very unapologetic. “Besides, I don’t want to talk about this with anyone until I chat with Ayden first.”

  “You’re being very cryptic.” I examine him intently. “You’re not thinking about springing the band, are you? I know we haven’t gotten any gigs yet and everything, but working my magic takes time.”

  “I know it does.” He reaches into his pocket for his phone. “And it’s not that. Trust me, I’m way too comfortable with you guys to ever start over with a new band.” He reads something on the screen of his phone then smiles. “Well, looks like our boy got his phone back.”

  “Ayden just texted you?” I lean over my desk to look at the screen of his phone, but Sage quickly presses it to his chest.

  “Dude, that’s private shit right there, Lyric.” He stuffs his phone into the pocket of his blue hoodie. “I know you and Ayden don’t have boundaries and everything, but seriously, you can’t just read people’s phones whenever you want.”

  “Sorry.” I
’m not, though. I’m actually really curious to read what’s on his phone, more than I was before.

  “It’s cool.” He shuts his book, giving up on us finishing the assignment. “We should probably finish the project up after band practice or something since we wasted so much class time.”

  “Sounds like a plan.” I close my textbook and shove it into my bag.

  For the next seven minutes, I mentally chant the lyrics of an angsty song I wrote during first period, trying to cool off and not get jealous over the fact that Ayden texted Sage before me.

 
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