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Authors: Teresa Mummert

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BOOK: Perfect Lie
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“Well, it must be a family trait. You’re not so bad at arguing yourself,” I teased, and was thankful when he gave me a half smile. I patted the bed, and he nodded as he sat down and turned to face me.

“When she left for college, it was like she sucked all the happiness out of the house.”

I sat up and pulled my knees to my chest, resting my back against the wall. “So what happened? You’re talking about her like she—”

“She died. Yeah…” He cleared his throat, and a single tear rolled down his cheek. I wanted to reach out and wipe it away, but I didn’t move. “She loved college. She was popular, just like in high
school. She was always calling me from parties and telling me how much I was going to love it when I went there.”

“You planned to go to college?”

“I did. That was before.” Brock shook his head and looked down at his hands. “I worked my ass off to get good grades. You wouldn’t have believed it if you saw me.”

“What happened?”

“One night Laurie called me. She was at some frat house but was sober; she was the designated driver. I blew her off. I was pissed about a fight Dad and I had gotten into. She was the person I always talked to about Dad. No one else really knew what kind of guy he was, but I didn’t want to ruin her night. She said she’d call me in the morning to make sure I was OK.” His eyes met mine, and I wasn’t sure he was going to finish. I slid to the edge of the bed next to him, letting my legs dangle over the edge. “So the next day she didn’t call, and I tried her cell a million times, but she wasn’t answering.”

“You can tell me.” I placed my hand on his arm as he took a deep breath.

“She was in a car accident after she left the party. They said they tried to revive her, but she didn’t respond.”

“I’m so sorry, Brock.”

“They found drugs in her system. My sister barely ever had a wine cooler, let alone touched drugs. She wouldn’t have. Someone had to have slipped her something.”

“Did they try to find out who it might have been?”

He shook his head and looked off at the open door. “They didn’t believe us.”

“I’m sorry about earlier. I had no idea.”

“I know you didn’t.” He put his hand over mine and smiled sadly. “I don’t want to be your friend because I think it’ll somehow change my past. After Laurie died I stopped caring about anything, including myself. When I saw you sitting there looking so sad and alone, I realized you’d given up too. I
saw it in those big brown eyes of yours.” He lifted his hand and ghosted the pad of his thumb under my eye and slipped it into my messy long hair. “For the first time in a long while, I cared about something. I wanted to make you smile.”

I grinned at his confession as his fingers tangled into my hair.

“I don’t want to fix you, Bird. I want you to fix me.”

I sucked in a ragged breath as his face slowly moved closer. His forehead pressed against mine as his strong arms wrapped around me, and he hugged me as if I were the last breath of air and he were struggling to keep his head above water. My arms slipped around his sides, and my eyes fell closed as his body shook and he cried silently into my neck. His hot tears slid over my collarbone as I ran my hands over the muscles of his back, trying to soothe him.

“You really do suck at games, Bird. Next time I’m picking.”

I laughed as his arms squeezed me even tighter, making it difficult for me to breathe, but I didn’t care as long as he didn’t let me go.

“How did it feel, hearing about his past?” Marie asked, and my gaze snapped back to her, sadness weighing heavily on my chest.

“It broke my heart. Brock came off as this tough guy. I had no idea.”

“You think because he was tough that he didn’t experience pain?”

I shrugged, not wanting to think about Brock anymore, but I knew Marie wasn’t done.

“You can be rather sarcastic,” she continued. “Do you think you use that to keep people at arm’s length?”

“I guess.”

“Is that because of what you’ve been through?”

“You tell me. You’re the one sitting on that side of the table.” I rolled my eyes, and Marie sat back in her seat.

“Brock was the same way,” she said. “He used intimidation to keep people out. You have a lot in common with him. It makes sense that the two of you would be drawn to each other.”

“Moth to a flame. Somehow we both got burnt.”

“You did great today, Delilah. This is the most you’ve shared with me about your past. You’re making progress.”

“It doesn’t feel that way. It doesn’t feel good to talk about it.”

“It’ll get easier. That’s the point. One day at a time.”

I gave Marie a weak smile as I pushed myself up from my seat and made my way to the door. My hand was on the knob as I looked over my shoulder at her. “You should consider some fake plants.” I nodded to the sad pink flower on the sill that strangely now appeared wilted and dead. Perhaps I’d been here longer than I’d thought.

Maria laughed as her head shook slightly. “I’m not very good with living things. Better a flower than a house cat,” she joked.

“Thank you,” I said. I knew I didn’t make it easy on Marie, but her taking the time to listen to me really did help.

She smiled back at me, and I left, needing to get as far away from this place, the truth, as possible.

Chapter Two

Escape

I managed to make it to my psych class today, but my mind was so focused on the session with Marie that I didn’t absorb anything the professor said. As I sat around waiting for Trish to make it back to our apartment, I grabbed my cell phone and called my uncle, who I’d lived with when I’d first left Mississippi.

“You never call anymore. I thought you forgot my number,” Uncle Greg joked, but his laugh turned into a hacking cough. I pictured his overgrown salt‐and‐pepper hair, his body doubled over as he struggled for breath. He was a good fifty pounds heavier than he’d been when I was a child.

“I’ve been busy.” I sighed audibly as I dug through my closet for a shoebox I kept hidden away with keepsakes from high school.

“You know I worry about you, Delilah.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I’m really liking college.” My tone was positive as I found the box and pulled it onto my lap. I flipped off the lid, and my fingers ran over a photograph of Brock from the shelter.

“I’m glad. You deserve to be happy. You’ve been through a lot this past year. No one would blame you if you took a year off.”

“Everyone blames me for everything.” My teeth dug into my bottom lip as I looked at Brock and me together. We were so happy.

“That’s not true,” Uncle Greg said.

“I want to go see him,” I said quietly, as I stared down at Brock’s face.

“That’s not a good idea, Delilah. He told you not to come back. You said yourself that Florida was a new start for you.”

I heard the front door to our apartment open and close, and I knew Trish finally had returned. I put the lid back on the box and quickly hid it under a pile of clothes.

“I know. I’m sorry…I have to go. My roommate just got home, and we’re going out tonight.”

“Be safe.”

“Always,” I replied, as I hung up my cell and made my way into the living room. Trish’s eyes met mine, and she smiled as she dropped her bag onto the couch.

“You ready?” she asked, as her eyes looked me over. I had changed into a jean skirt to show off my long legs but kept my tank top on. I wasn’t much for getting all dressed up.

“Yeah, I just need to grab my purse.”

“I’m going to change, and then we can get some food on our way to the party. Don’t want to be seen eating like a pig in front of all the hot guys.” She smirked as she wandered off to her room. I groaned but didn’t make a comment. This was the world I’d chosen to throw myself into, and I’d never be accepted if I fought Trish on everything.

She was ready to go in only ten minutes and looking like she’d just stepped off the cover of a slutty magazine. I hated how effortless it was for Trish to be beautiful. Her long blond curls seemed to move around her like she always had her face in the wind.

“How do I look?” she asked, her perfect white smile spread from ear to ear.

“Like a slut,” I joked, and she smacked my arm. “I’m kidding. You know you’re beautiful.”

Her smile changed, and it looked more genuine, not like the cookie‐cutter Barbie doll I was used to. “Ian loved it when I wore this skirt.”

I glanced down at her short, black, pleather skirt that barely concealed her underwear. I gave her a hard look as I pulled open the front door and let her walk out before me.

“Don’t look at me that way, Lie. As soon as I’m out of college, he and I are getting a place together.”

“He’s your stepfather, and last I checked, paying someone off to keep them a secret isn’t exactly a declaration of love.”

“How would you know, virgin?”

“I’m not a virgin.” I rolled my eyes as we made our way to Trish’s black 300S parked along the busy street.

“Oh, right. I forgot about your precious Brock,” she joked, as she smiled over the roof of her car. I opened the passenger door and slid in, ready to call this whole thing off.

“Brock is a completely different situation.” I tried to hide the anger in my voice. Trish didn’t know about my past. I knew I looked like a love‐sick puppy to her.

“I know. I’m sorry.”

Trish pushed the button on the dash to start the car, and we pulled out into traffic as she sighed loudly, her brow furrowed.

“What?” I asked her.

“I just wish you’d open up to me more. I told you about Ian. That’s not exactly something to be proud of—I know. Anyway, I’m here for you.”

I’d like to think that a friend offering to listen to my problems wasn’t shocking, but Trish was as deep as a frying pan. I knew, under all that mascara and bleach, that she cared, but she never let that side of her slip out. I envied the way she could lock her real self away from others.

“Besides, you know how I love to gossip.” She actually giggled. My faith in humanity was lost again.

I never expected a deep, meaningful friendship with Trish. In fact I loved her for her lack of empathy. I didn’t want anyone to care, to ask me too many questions. I wanted to start my life over and become a new person.

We drove through Orlando and sat in traffic until the sun sank below the hotels as I let my mind wander to the past.

I picked at the tattered shoelace of my white Chucks, wishing I knew how long my mother was going to keep me locked in this dump. It was a joke. They treated us like prison inmates, and just three floors below was a YMCA. Did the people down there know that dozens of teenagers were being held against their will right above them? The boys were housed on the third floor, but they came up to the fourth with the girls to eat, learn, and hang out throughout the day.

“Keep looking sad, and they’ll take those shoes from you,” a thick, familiar accent called from above me. I glanced up to see Brock standing over me, his lips turned up in a grin.

“Why would they take my shoes? Can’t they let me have anything that distracts me?”

“They’ll think you’re a runner, and I’m here to distract you.” He winked as he sat next to me, his back pressed against the pea‐green wall, and nodded across the room. “See that douche bag over on the couch with the fucked‐up hair? They took his shoes the day I got here. Said he shoved one of the guys who guards the door and threatened to burn this place down.”

“How would he burn it down?” I asked, as my eyes scanned the lanky boy who sat quietly by himself across the room.

Brock shrugged as he brought his knees up and rested his arms across them. “Fuck if I know. This place doesn’t matter anyway.”

“Do you know when they’ll let you out?”

He turned to look me in the eye, the playful smirk gone and no hint of humor in his voice. “This is much better than what’s waiting for me out there, and they say it’s up to our parents. How fucked up is that? My dad would let me live here until I turned eighteen if he could.”

“Better than being in school.” I focused on my shoes again, and Brock was quiet beside me for a moment. “What about your mom?”

He shook his head, and the muscles in his jaw jumped as he clenched it tightly. “She does whatever Dad says. Kind of how it works in my house. You go to Natchez High?”

I nodded as I glanced up at one of the workers, who was watching me play with my shoe. I dropped the lace and pulled my legs underneath me.

“Good. It’ll be nice to know someone when I start.”

For the first time since I could remember, I was looking forward to going to school, and I beamed at the thought.

“So why don’t you like school?” Brock asked me.

“Does anyone actually like school?” I retorted, but I knew he wasn’t going to drop it. He had opened up to me, and now it was my turn.

“Nah, I guess you’re right.” He laughed and shook his head. “I always skipped.”

“I wish I could, but it’s nice to have a meal in the middle of the day.”

“You call that food? I should cook for you sometime. I make a mean spaghetti.”

“You’re kidding? You cook?” I made all my food for myself, but we never had anything that wasn’t microwavable.

Brock shrugged. “Not really, but I can teach you how to make spaghetti.” We both laughed, and my shoulder bumped against him. “Everyone in here is pissed off at the world. It’s nice to see you smile. Gives me hope.”

“It’s nice to be happy for once.” I ran my teeth over my lower lip, and he used his thumb to pull it free.

“Careful. I’ll tell one of the guys in charge that you’re trying to hurt yourself. Now tell me why you hate school.”

I sighed as I looked at all the throwaway kids who surrounded us. We’d all been tossed aside for one reason or another. We all struggled to find a place. But it wasn’t so bad here, especially with Brock by my side. “People kind of hate me there.”

BOOK: Perfect Lie
9.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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