Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Knowing You_The Cursed Series Part 2, Page 2

Rebecca Donovan

  “Keep the door open.”

  I shoot a strained smile at the cop standing guard outside my door, biting back a comment about what he can do with the doorknob and a certain body part. “Sure.”

  “You have fifteen minutes,” he tells Nina and Tori before they enter. It comes out as a directive, like he’s straight out of boot camp.

  "What’s with the babysitter?" Nina asks, winking at him.

  Tori blatantly ignores him, too focused on the half-packed bags splayed out on my floor. “Why are you packing?”

  “Are you seriously going to stand right there?” I bark at Officer I-Still-Live-With-My-Mother, making a point to fold a pair of lacy thongs that don’t really need folding. His face flushes. He takes a few steps into the living room, out of view, as I knew he would.

  “They’re sending me away, as part of my plea agreement,” I explain, continuing to pack—more to keep from having to look at them than to rush to get out of here. I haven’t seen or spoken with either of them since I was arrested over three weeks ago. I wasn’t allowed contact with anyone other than my mother and the lawyers. It was honestly the fastest court process ever. It usually takes months to go through what Niall made happen in just a couple of weeks. I’m grateful, but I’d also rather not be packing my bags right now.

  “Where are you going?” Nina asks, slowly scanning the disarray in my room.

  “Some private school.” I shut the empty drawer and open the one below it.

  “Stop.” Tori takes the stack of clothes from my hands and tosses them on the bed. “What the hell's going on? We haven’t seen you since that night, and every time we asked your mother, she'd say your lawyer was taking care of everything. This was supposed to be for possession. So, what is this?” Tori holds up her hands to present the disaster that is my room being packed away. “Because it doesn’t feel right.”

  I let out a long breath, my eyes tracing the floorboards before facing my friends’ worried expressions. “The charges were …complicated. The police tried to get me to talk, and I wouldn’t. Not without making a mess of everything. You would’ve been charged just for being there. I couldn’t let that happen.” I look from Nina to Tori. “I pled to obstruction and aiding and abetting. Niall arranged to have me sent to a private school instead of juvie. The judge said it’s an opportunity to straighten out my life, away from bad influences.” I roll my eyes. “I wasn’t given a choice.”

  “For how long?”

  “Where’s the school?”

  The girls ask in unison.

  “I don’t know. They haven’t told me where. I’m due back in court in six months, so I hope they’ll let me come home by Christmas.”

  “This is bullshit,” Tori proclaims through gritted teeth, collapsing onto my bed. “I cannot believe you covered for that asshole. He’s the one who should be sent away. Not you.”

  “We would’ve told them who he was if you let us.” Nina stops flipping through the hangers in my closet long enough to connect with me. She looks away and selects a pink fur jacket to model in front of the full-length mirror on the back of the door. I know she’s avoiding, finding a way to focus her anger by doing something menial. She forgets that I know her and can easily see that she’s just as pissed as I am. But emotions aren’t her thing. I wish they weren’t mine.

  “I know. This was the only real option,” I tell them, having already accepted whatever fate awaited the night I was arrested, convinced it was worth protecting my friends. But I never expected to be sent away to a new school. It feels much more permanent than a stint at an anger management or some other state run program. “I’ll tell you where I am once I’m there.” I start packing again, resigned.

  Niall prepared me. I knew that he was going to request to have me transferred out of juvie, but he didn’t say anything about a private school! It’s so much worse than I could’ve prepared for. How is this the best thing for me? I’ve already raged through anger and frustration, screaming at Niall in the halls of the courthouse this morning. I felt betrayed. I actually thought he wanted to help me. Now, I’m too spent and defeated, the anger simmering in my gut. Packing is the only thing I can do, or else, I was told, that it’ll be done for me by Officer Dickhead. And the last thing I want is for him to pocket a pair of thongs while he shoves only sweats and T-shirts into a bag.

  “Your mom has to know where you’re going,” Tori says, keenly watching me pack just about everything I own. “We’ll find out from her.”

  I shrug. “I guess.”

  Tori stands and blocks my way to the closet where Nina’s buttoning up a blouse she stole for me for my birthday last year.

  “Why are you acting like this? Like you don’t care?” she demands passionately, the only one of us who has no issue displaying her fury.

  “So I won’t cry.” I bite my lip to keep it from trembling. There’s an ache that won’t let me go. I slowly meet her eyes. “I’m afraid that I’m never coming back. I don’t know why. I just am.” I’ve experienced so many emotions the past few weeks, I can feel them fighting to get out. Right now, I can’t stop the tear from drawing a line down my cheek.

  Tori closes the distance and wraps her arms around me. “No one’s going to keep you from us. It doesn’t matter where they send you. You understand? You’re our girl. We will find you. Hell, we’ll break you out if you need us to.”

  I release a choked laugh into her shoulder, holding her just as tightly, knowing they would.

  “None of this ‘I’m never going to see you again’ bullshit,” Nina says from over Tori’s shoulder, hands on her hips. “Alright?”

  I nod, swiping the moisture from my cheeks, and force a smile. But there’s more to it than just missing my friends. I hate thinking about what might happen while I’m away. How can I keep the promise I made to make sure Tori graduates? And who will have Nina’s back when her need for respect gets the better of her? Then there’s my mom …

  “Can I have this?” Nina asks, swirling in a yellow empire dress that still has the tag on it.

  “Go for it,” I reply, my voice thick with emotion. “Yellow isn’t my color.”

  I grip Tori by her shoulders so she can see how serious I am. “Promise me you’ll graduate.” She rolls her eyes. “Promise me.”


  Her answer isn’t convincing, so I make sure mine is.

  “I’ll never forgive you if you don’t.”

  “I’ll graduate,” she drones with a heavy sigh. "But you'll be here. So stop. Okay?” I nod slightly. “I'll make Lincoln do my work while you’re away.”

  I grin. I can already see it, Tori painting her nails while Lincoln patiently tries to explain the Pythagorean theorem. Good luck, Lincoln.

  “And you,” I say to Nina, who is pulling her shirt back on. “Don’t put up with anything less than you deserve. Not in men, or in life. Please, get out of this soul-sucking town.”

  With a mischievous gleam in her eye, Nina promises, “We’re not going anywhere without you.”

  “Stop worrying about us,” Tori says dismissively. “We’ll be fine. Just do whatever you have to do to get back to us.”

  I’m zipping up my last bag when a knock draws our attention. Niall fills the doorway dressed in a dark suit. His presence stills the room. “Girls.” Niall nods politely to Nina and Tori before directing his attention to me. “Are you ready, Lana?”

  I shrug.

  “Why don’t you go ahead and say goodbye. We need to get on the road.” He steps away, giving us privacy.

  “Holy fuck, they are all perfect,” Nina exhales. “I still can’t believe he’s your lawyer.”

  “Me neither,” I reply bitterly, still feeling the sting of betrayal.

  “Text as soon as you get there,” Tori says, pulling me into another suffocating hug.

  When she lets go, I look between them. “While I’m gone, can you check in on my mom?”

  Tori avoids my gaze. But Nina nods. “Of course.”


  I don’t watch them leave. I can’t. Instead, I busy myself with double checking my drawers, so they don’t see that I’m fighting to hold it together. They’re the only friends I’ve ever had, and they’ve always been there for me, especially every time things got bad. I can’t shake the feeling crawling around inside me that I won’t see them again. And I didn’t want the fear in my eyes to be the last thing they saw before they left.

  I’m surprised to find the cop gone when I drag my bags into the living room. In his place is a tall, military looking guy standing by the door dressed in a black suit and a pressed white button-down.

  “Jax will take your bags to the car,” Niall tells me as the man approaches. Reluctantly, I step aside to allow him access to my belongings. He easily slings the four bags and my backpack over his shoulders before disappearing down the stairs.

  My mother rises from the couch, wearing an overly wide smile to conceal the tears shining in her eyes. She opens her arms and I step into her hug. She squeezes me tight. We’ve never been an overly affectionate family, so I savor this moment for as long as I can, inhaling the jasmine scent of her hair.

  I step back and look at her, pleading. “Please go to your doctor’s appointment next week.” She smooths away the tears on my cheeks. She rescheduled the appointment a few weeks ago, making some excuse about needing to work or be at my court appearance. “Please tell me you’ll go?”

  “I’ll go,” she says softly, her eyes flickering to meet mine briefly before fussing with my hair. She’s lying.

  I open my mouth to tell her … so many things. To protect herself. Not to let anyone break her heart. To pay the gas bill that’s due next week. That I’ll be back as soon as I can. But I don’t say any of the thousand thoughts that rush through my mind. Instead, I look into her shimmering translucent blue eyes and smile, trying to silently reassure her that we’ll get through this—that she has nothing to worry about—because I can’t force the lies through my lips.

  I turn toward Niall, who’s waiting by the door. He smiles gently at my mother. “I’ll take care of her.”

  “Thank you,” she says, her voice a rasp of emotion.

  I walk down the stairs with Niall behind me. I don’t look back. I can’t. Seeing her fragile and tormented face is not what I want to hold on to as I leave her behind. I have to believe she’ll be okay. That she will go to the doctor, and he’ll figure out what’s wrong and fix her. That she will become a strong, independent woman who realizes she doesn’t need a man to be happy. That true love is an illusion, and she’s better off surrounding herself with loyal friends, ending her search for him. I know none of this will ever happen, but I’d rather hold on to the delicate stem of hope.

  I step out into the bright June sunshine and exhale, releasing the emotions that have stormed through me all day. That’s when I see the shiny black sedan parked in our pitted driveway. I truly thought I’d be transported to the school in a police car, so I’m not expecting Niall Harrison’s Jaguar and Mr. Crew-Cut standing beside it holding the back door open. I hesitate just a moment before entering, glancing around the neighborhood, absorbing its chaos as if for the last time. Then I duck my head and crawl inside, letting Jax block it all out with the click of a door.

  Niall enters on the other side. There’s plenty of room on the expansive leather, so it doesn’t feel too awkward sharing the backseat with him.

  “How long is the drive?” I ask.

  “About four hours.” Niall pulls papers out of his briefcase.

  "Do you have my phone? I was told they gave you my personal property bag when we left court today."

  "I do, but not with me. I'll be sure to bring it to you when I come by on Sunday."

  Which means I won't have my phone the entire weekend. I cross my arms in annoyance and slump against the door. “When can I come back?”

  “I’ll try to arrange a visit for Thanksgiving.” My mouth drops in protest, but he cuts me off. “You’re still a person of interest in the Pixley case. It’s best if you aren’t in Sherling during the investigation. We don’t want to draw any more attention to you. Hopefully they’ll do their jobs, start looking at the evidence and stop relying on some anonymous phone call.”

  I clench my jaw in silent defiance, instead of complaining about being sent away to begin with. Instead, I redirect my attention out the window, watching the town I grew up in, the only place I’ve ever been for nearly sixteen years, disappear. I won’t miss it. But I don’t want to be forced to leave. At the town line, I feel a shift in the air as if we’ve driven through an invisible barrier. And then it’s gone. My life. My friends. My family. Everything that was mine is no longer.

  I’m on my own.

  I press my head against the cool glass and close my eyes. I don’t open them again until I hear Niall’s low voice. “Lana, we’re here.”

  I blink awake, my neck sore from the awkward angle it was bent while I slept. The door opens and I look up at G.I. Jax, who stares down at me expectantly. I unbuckle the seatbelt and step out of the car. Looking around, I have no idea where I am, but I’m definitely not prepared for this.

  Thaylina wasn’t like most girls. She had a gift. At times, she even considered it a curse. She possessed the power to see beneath the mask of anyone she met—straight into their hearts, detecting their deepest desires and true intentions. All she had to do was peer into their eyes.

  The first thing I notice, standing outside the car, is how quiet it is. The shuffling of my feet on the gravel drive as I make a slow turn and the birds chirping in the trees are the only sounds I hear. Silence makes me uncomfortable, like I’m waiting for something to happen. And that something is usually unexpected, which is never good.

  The next thing I notice is that I’m surrounded by nothing. Behind me is a long driveway leading to a scrolling iron gate that is much too tall to climb and a guard booth monitoring everyone who comes and goes. In front of me is a huge campus with a sprawling lawn that goes on for so long that I cannot see its end, only hints of other buildings spread across it. On either side of this massive campus are wrought iron fences that keep us protected from whatever is hidden in the dense forest on the other side. All that can be seen are endless rows of trees that eventually fade to black.

  Finally, I focus on what I can no longer avoid. I tilt my head up to take in the floors upon floors of stone topped by severely angled eaves, pointing dramatically to the sky. The building is grand and impressive while feeling cold and confining at the same time. Tall rectangular windows mirror the grass and woods below and the clouds and sky above, obscuring what’s hidden behind them. I cup my eyes and squint against the glare to focus on what looks like a person standing in front of a window peering down at me from an upper floor. But with a blink, they’re gone. Or maybe they were never really there.

  The yawn of the large, intricately carved wooden doors swinging open draws my attention. Revealed within the massive arched frame is a woman in a white tweed skirt-suit with a black silk blouse beneath, the collar tied in a large bow on the side of her neck. The vintage attire reminds me of one of Niall’s suits, tailored to fit her perfectly.

  “Welcome to Blackwood,” she announces with a blinding white smile that makes me want to shield my eyes like I did when looking up at the windows.

  “Lana?” Niall beckons, waiting for me to join him on the walkway.

  “I’ll make sure your bags get delivered to your room,” Jax tells me, encouraging me forward with a nod of his head.

  I let out a breath and force my legs to move.

  “Good Afternoon, Dr. Kendall,” Niall says when we reach the petite woman with the neon smile. He offers her his hand, which she cups in both of hers.

  I study her with fascination and abhorrence. There isn’t a wrinkle on her suit … or her face. She doesn’t have a hair out of place on her fiery red head. And that smile—that fabricated smile that just won’t quit—never reaches her eyes. And that’s all that I need
to know without her saying a word.

  She’s a liar.

  “Mr. Harrison, it’s always a pleasure to see you.” She flutters her fake lashes at him, the smile a permanent fixture on her face. I feel myself instinctively step back when she redirects her attention my way. “Lana, it’s so wonderful to have you with us at Blackwood. I know you’re going to find your experience here transformative.”

  “I doubt it,” I mumble. I haven’t even entered the building, and I already want to get back in the car and drive away.

  If she heard me, she doesn’t react. “Let’s get you settled in. There are only a few other students here right now. The rest arrive on Sunday for the summer session, so it’ll be quiet around here this weekend.” We follow her into the foyer, which triggers thoughts of Hogwarts with its enormous stone staircase wrapping around the towering foyer in a progression of angles. In the center, an elaborate, three-tiered chandelier is suspended, as if floating. The walls are adorned with Renaissance style paintings and tapestries. It feels like I’ve stepped into a medieval castle, not a private school.

  We enter a pair of French doors to the left of the foyer and step into the administration office. A large wooden counter separates the waiting area from the three empty desks on the other side—each in front of a corresponding dark, wooden door. It’s disturbingly pristine, with every piece of paper and pen in its place. I fight the urge to scream to prove this isn’t some twisted nightmare.

  “Usually, your introductory meeting is performed by your life advisor, but he doesn’t arrive until Monday. So I decided to personally welcome you. This is a big adjustment for you, Lana, and I want to impress upon you that we all want you to succeed. Don’t we, Mr. Harrison?”

  Niall clears his throat, taken off guard. “Yes. Of course.”

  The warden, dean, headmistress, or whatever the hell they call her, pauses in front of the door closest to the windows. “There’s no need for you to stay, Mr. Harrison. I’m sure you are expected elsewhere. Lana and I can get along perfectly from here.”