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Authors: Sophie Littlefield

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BOOK: Unforsaken
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And then he kissed me and it was like the first time, the day we’d left Chicago, when we’d stolen a private moment in the shadow of his mother’s garage.

It was like the first time but it was also different. That time had been about the newness of our relationship, innocent and tentative. That day had been a sweet little break from what had come before and what would come after, and it was almost like an illusion—we both knew it couldn’t last but we were willing to pretend.

This kiss was something else. It started gently enough, like the first one had; Kaz brushed my lips with his. But then it changed.

The first time we’d kissed, Kaz’s tongue had lightly caressed my lips and I had been surprised to discover I liked it. I’d thought about it a thousand times since. I’d wished I had been brave enough to take it further. I wanted a do-over; I wanted to kiss him forever.

And now it felt like that was what I was doing. From the second our lips met, it was like I was tasting him, only the more I tasted, the more I wanted, and things moved so fast and were so hot I couldn’t keep track and I didn’t want to. I didn’t even know who started it—only that neither one
of us was resisting. There was fear and danger in it—and also longing and need.

This is passion, was what I was thinking when we finally stopped. We opened our eyes, and I was embarrassed and about to look away when I saw the intensity in Kaz’s expression. We were locked in a moment when time seemed to stop. We stayed that way for a long time—or maybe it only felt like a long time, maybe it was a half a second—and then we did it all again.

When Kaz finally pulled me against him with a low groan, I realized that it was night. I glanced down the path and saw a pair of middle-aged women watching us, their expressions amused, and I blushed. We were in public, in the middle of the city, and I had forgotten that, had forgotten everything, including—if only for a moment—Chub and Prairie.

I had practically forgotten my own name.

“Hailey,” Kaz whispered, almost like he was reading my mind. “I’m glad you’re here.”

I nodded, not trusting myself to speak.

“It’s cold,” he said after a while, and gently pulled away from me. “Do you want my sweatshirt?”

I hadn’t even noticed the cold until that moment, but it was true; my arms were covered with goose bumps. I started to say no, that I was fine, but Kaz unzipped his sweatshirt and held it for me while I put my arms into the sleeves and the sensation of his warmth wrapped around me.

“We’ve got to get going,” he said gently.

“And we should probably get a good night’s sleep,” I said. “Before … we figure out what’s next.”

“Yeah. Uh. The thing is, we can’t go back to my house.”

“Well.” I stared at a spot in the middle of his chest. He had on a Tar Heels lacrosse T-shirt and I focused on the twined
N
and
C
. “We could, um, there’s motels, I guess. I mean, unless we want to find a shelter or something. I don’t have much money, probably about sixty dollars.”

“I’ve only got about thirty-five.”

I did a quick calculation. The motels I’d stayed in with Prairie had cost close to a hundred dollars. And even if we did have enough, that wouldn’t leave anything for food. Or a toothbrush. Or anything at all.

Unless …

“I do have a debit card.” I rooted around in my backpack, came up with the designer wallet I’d talked Prairie into buying for me—right then I wished I had the cash she’d spent on it instead—and took out the cards that were part of my fake identity, the ones we had been planning to destroy, the ones I was now glad I’d kept. There was an ID card that identified me as a sophomore at Green Valley High, where I’d supposedly gone to school until my parents’ tragic car accident. And then there was the debit card. It was set up so the money came out of Prairie’s account—her fake account, registered to Holly Garrett.

Kaz knew of a motel not too far away. We started walking, holding hands like we were any other young couple on a date. The cracked sidewalk was littered with broken glass and
trash. It wasn’t a great neighborhood, I could tell, but people sat out on their porches, enjoying the spring night, and lights shone brightly inside little grocery stores and restaurants.

I remembered my first day in the city. It had been only a few months earlier but it felt like forever ago. I tried to remember a time when I hadn’t known how the night sky looked when the stars competed with the lights from all the buildings. I tried to remember the sky over Gypsum, the way the stars looked almost like mist, there were so many of them.

I saw it clearly when I closed my eyes. I wasn’t a Seer, like Kaz, and I didn’t know what the next day would bring or how we were going to solve any of the problems we were facing. But when I shut my eyes, Kaz’s hand warm around mine as we waited for the light to change so we could cross the busy street to the motel, the whole world sparkled.

T
HE BED DIDN’T FEEL NICE
.

Chub lay as quietly as he could and made himself small. The covers were scratchy and they smelled wrong. This was not like his new big-boy bed in the room next to Hailey’s room. That bed was soft and the covers were fuzzy. And they were blue and there were airplanes with
propellers
and
wings
.

These were new words, words he could say now instead of just thinking them.

He could say words now because of Hailey. Before, words didn’t come out right, but then a lot of things happened and Prairie came and Gram was gone and he and Hailey went to live with Prairie and now he could say words. He missed Hailey, but it was okay because she would come soon. Chub knew that for sure because he saw it in his mind-pictures.

And yesterday he saw a mind-picture of the tall man with
the beard and he was scared of the man, and he told Hailey but Hailey was making his waffle and she didn’t hear him. But he should have told Hailey again. Because the jacket men came when he was at school and he was scared and one of the jacket men was talking to Miss Goode and the other one, the other one went sneak sneak sneak and then he picked him up and ran and his arm got twisty and there was shouting. Then push and shove and
ow
—get in the car, big glove hand on his face push hard fall on seat, and then nothing
no talking
something smelled funny and then he slept a long time and then he woke up and they went in the building and he had to go with the lady with the brown glasses and where was Prairie? And where was Hailey?

All day today the glasses lady had been trying to make him talk, but Chub knew about not talking and he was better at it than she was at making him talk, and he stayed quiet.

He could tell that made the lady with the brown glasses kind of mad. But she didn’t do anything about it except try harder to play with him. But she wasn’t very good at playing. She had square cards with pictures on them. Apple. Bell. Truck. On a table there was a hiding thing, and on the floor in a box were an apple and a bell and a truck and lots of other things. The lady with the brown glasses would take something out of the box and put it on the table, but it was behind the hiding thing so he couldn’t see it. Then she would ask him which thing was on the table.

He didn’t know. He couldn’t see behind the hiding thing.
He could have told her that, but that would mean he would have to say words and today he wasn’t saying words.

For lunch there was a sandwich but not like Hailey made them. Chips with bumps. Chub only liked plain chips. He drank his milk and ate his sandwich. He didn’t want to make the lady mad. She didn’t eat with him but she watched him eat. He wished she would stop watching him. He started to miss Hailey more and he almost let the words out but then he didn’t. He wanted to go outside bad and almost told the lady but then he didn’t. After lunch it was the table with the hiding thing again.

He got sleepy but the lady didn’t know about taking a nap, so she didn’t let him take a nap and he didn’t tell her. At dinner he cried a little even though it was a good dinner, a hamburger with ketchup. The lady with the brown glasses came back with a man Chub hadn’t seen before and that was scary. For a minute he thought maybe the lady was mad and brought the man to spank him but he didn’t, he just asked Chub the same things the lady asked him, did he know where Hailey was, but Chub kept the words inside extra tight, he didn’t know where she was but he was afraid the words would come out anyway, he kept them inside.

The lady with brown glasses gave him a new pair of pajamas, the ones from yesterday were gone, he didn’t know where they were. Yesterday’s pajamas had lions on them. Today’s pajamas had stripes on them. He liked the lions and he liked the stripes but he did not like the way the pajamas
smelled. Chub cried. But quiet, so the words couldn’t get out, and then he went to bed and was very quiet and the brown-glasses lady left after a while.

But now he had woken up and there was a small light in the corner in the shape of a star, enough to see that there was no one in the room with him, just the bed and shelves and the desk with the hiding thing, but the lady had taken her toys away with her.

Chub knew it was okay to cry because Hailey said it was fine to cry if he felt like it but he was too scared right now. He closed his eyes and squeezed himself even smaller and made a mind-picture of Hailey’s face and then Prairie and Anna and Kaz. These were his very own mind-pictures, the ones he made himself, not the ones that just opened up bright in his head sometimes.

Chub couldn’t help being very scared. But Prairie was somewhere near. He knew that. And Hailey and Kaz were coming because a mind-picture of them popped in between the ones he was making by himself, Hailey and Kaz right here in this room.

There was one other mind-picture he’d seen a few times. But he didn’t like this one at all. It was Monster Man.

Monster Man lay in a bed with things stuck in him, white looping lines that went into machines. Monster Man was covered up mostly with white covers and there were lights coming from the machines but they weren’t very bright. Where Monster Man’s hands should have been were giant white pillows. And his face … his face was broken, red and
black and pink where there weren’t more white bandages. He didn’t have any hair, just shiny red skin. His eyes were regular except crazy crazy and there was a bandage where his nose went and a hose thing that went into his mouth hole. But his mouth hole wasn’t a mouth. It was red and it was a hole and the hose went in it, and even though the mind-pictures didn’t have sounds, he could tell the Monster Man was screaming almost all the time, the mouth hole shaking and the eyes going up inside his head.

Chub wished he didn’t have to see that mind-picture.

A long time ago he was a baby and his name was Jacob and he lived in a room with a lady who slept a lot and she was broken and he was always hungry. Then he went to live with Gram and she talked too loud and she was broken too.

But then there was Hailey. Chub wondered how long it would take her to get there. Until she came he would be very small and he would wait.

I
WOKE UP WITH THE SUN
in my eyes. I blinked and for a moment I couldn’t remember where I was, couldn’t identify the boxy room with strips of sunlight slanting in on the two beds and the plain brown furniture.

But then I saw Kaz, adjusting the blinds, dressed in the jeans he’d had on yesterday and a worn gray T-shirt that fit him snugly, showing off the muscles in his arms and back.

Then I remembered.

“Good morning,” I said, stretching and yawning.

“Hailey.” Kaz turned from the window, took a step toward me. Stopped, looking self-conscious, and jammed his hands in his pockets. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up. I brought you some coffee. Bagels.”

“What time is it?” I ran my fingers through my hair, hoping
that it wasn’t doing that sticking-up thing it had been prone to since Prairie had cut and dyed it pale blond.

Remembering that haircut brought all my guilt back. The makeover was only the first of many things Prairie had done to try to protect me.

“Nearly nine. You slept in.” Kaz picked up one of the coffee cups sitting on the desk, peeled back the plastic lid and handed it to me. I held it under my chin and let the steam bathe my face.

BOOK: Unforsaken
3.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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