Authors: Heather Sunseri
“Why are you running so hard from
“I’m not running from him,” I said
like it was the most absurd thing ever.
“You always run. The minute someone
looks your way, you do something to push them in the opposite direction.” She
balanced the box on her hip while I bent down to unlock the garage-like door. “I
don’t know what you’re going to do this time, little Lexi. I’ve got a feeling
about this one. I don’t think he’ll back away as easily as the others have.”
“Jack is not at this school to fall
in love, Dani, any more than I am.”
“Who said anything about love? I
didn’t say the l-word. Did you say the l-word? Oh…I do believe you did.”
I puffed hair out of my eyes and
glared at her. “Doesn’t it scare you that he already knew who I was when he
“Your father and his are friends. I
think you’re looking for trouble where there is none. As usual.”
“Let’s just find these journals my
dad mentioned.” I pushed the door up overhead.
“What’s in these journals, anyway?”
I grabbed the box from Danielle. “I
don’t know.” I only knew what I hoped would be in the journals. Truth. “But my
dad made them sound pretty important. And Jack knew about them, so—” I lost all
train of thought when I faced the storage unit.
Danielle and I just stood there for
a moment. I stared at the ten by twenty-five foot space. My mouth fell open.
The contents of the drawers were emptied out on top of the desk and on the
couch beside it. Tables were turned on their side.
“What a mess,” Danielle finally
said. “I’ve never thought of you as a slob before, but…”
I cocked my head sideways at her. “I
didn’t do this.” But who did? My dad? He’s the only one I emailed the new
address to. Had to be. He must have been in quite a hurry.
I entered and sat the box on top of
the desk. “Well, let’s find these journals and get out of here.” Danielle
pushed up her sleeves. “It’s starting to get dark, and the deserted feel of
this place is starting to freak me out.”
I eyed Danielle for a minute. She
had an intense fear of the dark, and I didn’t want her phobia to kick in while
we were here. Though the sun was setting, there was still enough light to work
I surveyed the room. Something told
me the journals were no longer here, but sheesh. Dad didn’t have to destroy the
Since we were there, I decided we
might as well have a look. Where to begin...
All I had done when the other
storage place closed was have a moving company move everything from one
location to another. I hadn’t unpacked any boxes or cataloged the content.
Nevertheless, as I climbed over
furniture and studied the content, I knew one thing for sure—someone had
removed some of the stuff. Then they’d made a mess of the rest.
The boxes were labeled: dishes, kitchenware,
towels, bedding, Christmas decorations, books, photographs. I opened several of
the boxes, including the one labeled books. None of the boxes included
journals. I found a set of bookshelves in the back. Empty.
Danielle looked through drawers of
furniture, every once in a while looking up to ask, “Anything?”
I shook my head.
The room grew darker. I was in the
very back of the unit with a flashlight, while Danielle worked by the remaining
light from outside.
Finally, I stopped, wiped the
perspiration from my forehead, and decided the journals weren’t there. “Let’s
just go.” I turned off the flashlight, relying on the minimal light coming from
outside, and tucked it in the waistband of my jeans. “I’ll just have to keep
calling my dad until I reach him.”
I started working my way back
toward the front. Danielle faced me.
I climbed over dressers and tables,
moved around stacks of chairs.
A loud banging noise came from just
outside the storage unit.
I jerked my head up.
“What the…” Danielle whipped
The garage door slid down and the
room grew dark.
“Shit. What was that?” I asked. I
couldn’t see my own hand in front of my face.
“The door just closed.” She sounded
“Obviously, Dani. But how?”
The room was dead quiet. I reached
for my flashlight, but before I had a chance to turn it on…
“Lexi!” Danielle screamed.
I turned the flashlight around,
feeling for the on/off switch. “Dani, answer me.” My breath caught in my
Finally, I found the flashlight
switch and flipped it on. The fluorescent light lit up the place, and I shone it
toward Dani. She stood frozen and wide-eyed.
I scrambled around the furniture
and boxes separating us.
When I reached her, I ran my hand
down her arm. “Dani, sweetie.”
Her body shook. Her eyes had glazed
over with fear.
“Hold this.” I pressed the
flashlight to her hand and closed her fingers around it. “I’m going to open the
door, okay.” I darted toward the door, knocking my hip into the corner of a
desk as I did. “Ow.” My hand flew to the spot of the pain.
I bent down and lifted the door
open. What light remained illuminated the front of the room. A car’s tires
screeched and scuffled in the gravel at the end of a row of units.
When I reached Danielle again, I
put my arm around her and thought hard.
Push away the fear, Dani. You are
bigger than this phobia of the dark. You can squash it.
I led her outside into the fresh
air. She sucked in a deep breath and pushed it out slowly. Twice. Any minute
she would drop into a dolphin pose.
“Better?” I asked.
She nodded. “Better.” She sucked in
another cleansing breath. “Oh, honey, your nose is bleeding.”
I touched the skin under my nose. “Oh,
it’s no big deal.” I ran to the passenger side of the car and dug a tissue out
of my bag. When I returned, I said, “I’m sorry about that. I don’t know what
“All I know is when that door
closed, I had visions of Anthony Hopkins eating my tongue. You know, like in
of the Lambs
.” She tilted her head side to side. “And it didn’t help that I’m
already terrified of the dark. But inside a storage unit of all places. You
know what was weird?”
I shook my head while continuing to
squeeze the bridge of my nose.
“I was terrified when that door
fell, but the most amazing peace came over me when you put your arm around me.”
She kicked against the gravel in front of her. “You have such a knack for
soothing people, Lexi. You’re going to make a great doctor some day.”
“Oh, stop it. I’m just sorry I
dragged you all the way out here.”
“Did you know there are people
actually scared of things that are yellow?”
When I raised a skeptical eyebrow,
she said, “I swear. It’s called Xanthophobia.”
I gave her a sideways hug again and
leaned my head against hers. “I love you, Dani.” She was perfect evidence of
how serious phobias could be.
“Love you, too. We’re family, you
She stood, allowing all fear to
drop away from her face. “Anyway… Can we get out of here?”
“Absolutely.” Especially since what
I was looking for wasn’t here.
I entered the student center at a
little before nine p.m. Curfew on a Friday night was ten, and I had to take it
seriously if I didn’t want to get kicked off the swim team.
The scent of coffee pulled hard at
me from Common Grounds, but a good night’s sleep was more important the night
before a big meet.
I cut through the crowd in the
basement game room. That’s where I found Jack draped over a pool table shooting
eight ball. Briana leaned against a stick in the corner. She was so busy
watching him that she didn’t see my approach.
“Hi, Briana. Who’s winning?” I
crossed my arms and watched Jack sink a striped ball in the corner pocket. He
glanced over his shoulder when I spoke.
“Why are you always hanging around,
Lexi? You’re starting to look desperate and pathetic. Can’t you just face it?
Jack’s not interested in you.”
My heart sped up, and I told myself
it was because I fought the urge to start a catfight with Briana, not because
her words sliced deep. “Funny. I was thinking the same thing about you.”
Briana threw her stick down and
took two steps toward me. She had six inches and at least a full cup-size on
I also told myself that it didn’t
bother me that I had found Jack down here playing pool with Briana. Of course,
that was a lie. I stood as tall and strong as someone my height could stand
against Briana. The fury in her eyes should have scared me.
“Whoa.” Jack stepped between us,
his back to Briana, but his face to me. His smirk reached all the way up to his
I stepped over to a table and began
pulling at napkins inside a metal dispenser, preparing for a full-on nosebleed.
Jack cocked his head in an is-that-necessary sort of way. He handed his stick
to one of the other guys. “Sorry, Bree. Raincheck?” he said more than asked.
The disappointment on her face reminded me of those commercials—priceless.
Jack glided toward me, grabbed my hand,
and led me from the basement. “Aren’t you a little small to be picking fights?”
We exited the building. It was a
pleasant night with a perfect breeze—not too cool, not too warm. I looked
sideways at him. “Sorry to break up your game.”
“No, you aren’t.”
I grinned. Okay, fine. I wasn’t.
But why was she always around?
“Where did you go earlier?” he
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, please. You think I bought all
that crap about you needing supplies from the store?”
Still holding my hand, he pulled me
toward the multi-purpose field again. Only this time it was dark.
He dropped my hand, and I watched
him walk out onto the field.
“People will see us out there.”
“So.” His lips twitched. “I would
think you would like that. Out in the open where I can’t hurt you. Not without
“I’m not trying to be funny, Lexi.”
He stopped and faced me. “You think I can’t sense your fear of me? It’s one
thing that you don’t trust me, but I honestly think you’re scared to be alone
with me.” He walked close, standing almost a foot taller than me. He lifted his
hand and brushed hair off my forehead. “I am not here to hurt you,” he
whispered. “Quite the opposite, really.”
A chill danced down my spine. His
touch lingered long after he pulled his fingers away.
He took a few steps backwards and
then lifted his head to urge me to follow. I did. As nervous as I was around
him, I was even more curious to know him. To know who he really was and why he
was at Wellington. I was drawn to him in a way I didn’t understand—beyond
wanting more information about our fathers.
When we reached the middle of the
field, I turned in a circle amazed at how vulnerable I was out in the open. As
if Jack would see inside me and see everything—my flaws, my scars, my hopes, my
fears, everything that made up the true me.
He sat down on the grass,
stretching his legs in front of him and leaning back on his elbows. “So, why
did you interrupt my game? To tell me what you bought at the store?”
I wrung my hands, then crossed my
arms. How could he always be so relaxed when I had so many questions? “No. But
I also didn’t interrupt just to break up whatever it is you have going on with
Briana.” Finally, I sat down and crossed my legs. “Just want to make sure we
have that clear.”
He scooted closer and leaned his
head toward mine. I felt the tickle of his breath against my cheek. For a brief
moment, I thought he might kiss me. “I’m glad you cleared that up.” He
retreated, and his smug grin returned.
That arrogance lit the fire inside
my veins that threatened every time I neared Jack DeWeese.
“Why did I think I could have a
conversation with you? Everything’s a joke to you.” I moved to stand, but his
fingers quickly laced around my forearm.
“Why not, Jack? You think this is a
game. You’re right, I am scared of you. I don’t know what you’re trying to
accomplish by being here. Or what you’re hiding. I’m just… I’m scared.”
“I’m sorry.” He loosened his grasp
on my arm and rubbed his thumb across my skin, sending electric pulses along my
arm. Some level of sincerity warmed the eyes that made my heart skip beats.
What was he doing to me? I couldn’t
think around him. One minute I wanted to run and the next I wanted to melt
beneath his touch.
I needed Jack, though. His father
was the only one to have had contact with Dad since the dinner, and I
desperately wanted to talk to him—to give Dad the chance to explain to me what
or who I was. To ask him if he took the journals from storage.
“I had Danielle take me to my
family’s storage unit to find Dad’s journals.”
Jack’s eyes widened. “And?”
“And nothing. They weren’t there.”
He seemed to let out a large breath
when I spoke. Why did that relieve him?
“What would I have found, Jack? Do
“How am I supposed to know what’s
in the journals?”
“I think you’re lying.” I glanced
at my watch. Five minutes until curfew. “But I don’t have time or even the
energy to argue with you tonight.”
“Lexi. I don’t know what we’re
going to find in those journals. I hope we find the truth to all of our
questions.” His voice was different. There was no hint of humor when he spoke
now. “I just wish…”
“What? You wish what?”
“I just wish you wouldn’t try to
find the answers alone.”
“I wasn’t alone. Danielle was with
“And you’re going to share with
Danielle whatever you find? What if our fathers broke the law? What if the law
is after them, or even some bad people who want this information?”