Chapter Ten - Breaking the Rules
“Matt, it’s Grace. You’re probably at football training right now, so you can’t pick up, but I just wanted to say that I was sorry for saying those things I said today at lunch. What I said… it was mean and I can’t believe I said those things. I’m so sorry. Can you please call me back when you get this? I wanna talk and sort things out with you. Please just… don’t give up on me. I swear things will get better. Don’t give up on me.” I disconnected and leant my head against a wall, taking in deep breaths.
I still wanted revenge against Cole and I was going to get it. One way or another. I would make Matt see my reasoning and hopefully convince him that this was a good idea. But after that phone call was made, I had to push Matt to the back of my mind. I couldn’t have any distractions for what I was about to do next, otherwise things could turn out really badly for me.
I never considered myself a law-breaker. I hadn’t ever gotten a speeding or parking ticket, I didn’t vandalise or trespass, and I had never even returned a library book overdue. I was a saint in the world of law and order. I liked it that way. I had a clean slate, and I felt like a fulfilled human being that way.
So, you can imagine how idiotic and wrong I felt breaking into Cole’s mansion. I was dressed in a black hoodie, black jeans, and my hair was tied back in a severe bun so that no hair would escape. I had on black leather gloves and black boots that I could run in if need be. The hood of my jacket was drawn over my head, casting my face into shadow and hiding my identity.
Breaking into people’s houses is not fun. It is also very tiring and it hurts. I almost impaled myself scaling the large gates that surrounded the mansion multiple times. I was pretty strong, for my size and weight, and I managed to get myself over that fence pretty well, but, heck, those things were sharp.
Please don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t endorse breaking into people’s houses. In fact, I discourage it. It is a majorly drastic action and should only be undertaken… well, never. It can result in jail and pressed charges, which was something I was desperately trying to avoid.
I wasn’t here to steal any expensive heirlooms or just to vandalise or egg the house. No, I was here to try and find something of Cole’s good enough to use against him for a prank. The way I saw it, he wanted to post photos of me online, I’d do something even worse, one-up him. Take away his dignity even more than he had done to me.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is something the old Gracie would never consider doing. Breaking into someone’s house? I used to think that was the equivalent of testing new super-drugs out on poor, innocent puppy-dogs.
But I planned for this to be the last prank. The be all and end all of our little rivalry. I think both of us were growing tired of attempting to humiliate each other. Well, I was. I’m not sure about Cole. I was going to pull a prank that he couldn’t possibly fight back on. I wanted it to stop. Just one last prank. To come out on top and leave my horrible pranking history behind, as well as Cole. I had other things to focus on, and I didn’t need this getting in my way anymore.
But things are never that easy.
“Ouch!” I cried, as I fell off the top of the gate and down into a hard hedge that scraped against my skin. I blew out a deep breath.
Slowly I stood up and looked around. Besides two startled birds, nobody had noticed me. I pulled a few stray leaves out of my hair and brushed the dirt off my jeans. I stuck close to the fence like a properly trained assassin and then slowly made my way around the perimeter, feeling like a spy of ninja. Except, unlike spies and ninjas and assassins in movies, I actually had a very good chance of getting caught and sent to jail for this.
Obviously Cole lived in a very old house, because at the back there was a door that looked like a servant’s chamber. I quickly ducked across, using a topiary ficus tree as cover. I jiggled the door knob, but it was locked. Well, lucky I came prepared for that. I’d seen enough crime shows to know how to break in to a house.
I pulled a bobby pin out of my hair and tried sticking it in the lock, unlatching the door like they did in those cool spy movies. I jiggled it this way and that, to no avail. Well, that’s just peachy. Nice little piece of fiction those movies had there, isn’t it?
Next I pulled out my credit card, and attempted the same manoeuvre they did in similar movies. Sliding it up and down the length of the door. Once again it didn’t work. All it did was threaten to break my card in half. Not good.
I leant against the door and started twisting it. That door was getting open one way or another.
I nearly fell inside as the door swung wide open and I stumbled into what was now a laundry room instead of a servant’s loading bay. I looked back at the door. I had been turning the knob the left way, instead of the right. All I’d had to do was twist it the other way, and I would’ve saved five minutes of my life and cut this mission even shorter.
“What an absolutely excellent start you’re off to right now, Grace,” I huffed to myself, closing the door as silently as I could. I walked the length of the room and peered out into a deserted corridor. I slid against the beige walls, on the lookout for a maid or sibling or parent. Cole was still at football practice, but I wasn’t sure if there was anyone else home right now.
Apparently I timed my entrance perfectly, though. There was no-one around, not a sound. There had been no cars in the driveway, no electronic devices on and no reply when I checked the voice-box at the start of the driveway, where the maid had answered it earlier.
I was going to come in the normal way and ask the maid if it was okay to wait for Cole in his room, but no-one answered. I had come prepared for that—luckily—and now I was breaking in to a highly expensive home with apparently extremely lax security and no-one around. This sounded like a horror movie waiting to happen.
Suddenly every inanimate object in the room became extremely suspicious.
I navigated the corridors and tried to remember where Cole’s room was. After fifteen minutes of strenuous searching I managed to locate Cole’s room.
Okay. Next step.
I was definitely not looking forward to the next step. Nothing screamed “fun” like searching a seventeen-year-old boy’s room. Not.
I started under the bed. Nothing there. Not so much as a dust ball. Cleaned, vacuumed, carpeted space. So much for that plan.
Next I tried the cupboard. Motorbike subscription magazines, workbooks, stationery, books and watercolour paints (circle back to that later.) But nothing that I was looking for. The most incriminating thing he had in there was a red love-heart card reading, Dear Cole. You have no idea who I am, but I watch you every day. You are the most amazing boy I have ever met. Be My Valentine. Love, Your Secret Admirer.
Half the population of school was in love with Cole. And I didn’t just mean the girls. But I found it a little endearing that he had kept that.
I checked his desk drawers. Money, watches, a mood ring, dog-eared pages of limericks, ripped out notebooks, sticky notes. But nothing else.
My patience was wearing thin by the time I reached the top drawer. It was locked. Now, this was intriguing. What did he have to hide in here?
This could be what I was looking for.
If I only had a key.
I searched in every possible hiding place. But nothing was ever going to be easy for me. Maybe it was God’s way of saying, I appreciate the effort, but this is against the law. Back away slowly.
But oh, no, I was not giving up. Not that easily.
I was wearing thin, checking in every nook and cranny, under everything. Until I caught a glimpse of something shiny in the mirror on top of his door frame. I turned around and saw the sun glinting off something silver.
I ran over and quickly ran my hand across the top, grabbing onto the small sterling key. Oh, thank you, Fate. Thank you for letting something go in my favor.
I unlocked the desk drawer and looked inside. It was completely empty except for a small camouflage-coloured shoe box. I had a pink and blue one at home, where I put all my mementos.
I sat on the edge of the bed and lifted the lid, expecting dirty magazines. But instead I found a picture lying on top of a woman standing next to Cole. She was thin and frail, about forty, with light brown hair that was greying at the roots. Her cheeks were thin and her lips were tinted blue slightly, and she definitely looked sick. She wore a billowy white dress that barely concealed the frailty of her arms. I flipped it onto the back where it said:
The doctors say that the coma could come any day now. They’ve predicted everything right so far, so I’m trusting them on this.
I want you to know that no matter what happens to me, I believe in you. Even if you give up on me, I’ll never give up on you.
You have potential with your music, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. I hope that I will wake up soon and that I will be able to go to one of your concerts when you’re famous and living in New York, just like you always wanted to.
But I hope that most of all, you won’t forget about me. That you’ll always remember me, as I know I’ll always remember you. You are so smart and beautiful. You could be anything you wanted and much, much more. I hope you make some woman happy some day.
Just remember who you are, Cole. Remember your goals, what you can accomplish. Remember that you always have people around you who love you. Remember that I believe in you.
Please don’t dwell on me. Because I’ll be back soon. Because I love you and I’m definitely not letting go any time soon. I’m not quite ready to say goodbye yet. I still have many years to watch you grow and become the man I believe you can be.
I love you, Cole. More than you can ever know.
I won’t say goodbye. Because that seems final, and that’s not what it is. So instead I’ll say see you later. That I’ll be back as soon as I can.
I love you, and I’m always here for you.
I’ll never leave you.
I read the note twice, trying to comprehend the letter’s contents. I had never heard anything about his mother. Had she fallen ill? Fallen into a coma? I had never seen her around here before.
I put the photo back inside and riffled through the rest of the box. And there, standing out like a sore thumb, was exactly what I needed.
It was a picture of Cole. You could tell it was Cole, though he looked completely different. Not like the Bad Boy Alderidge High knew so well. The guy I knew so well.
But a geeky, bookish Cole.
He had braces on, as well as boxy black glasses and pock-marked skin. His hair was gelled back and perfectly combed. He had on an orange-and-blue flannel shirt and khaki slacks. His shirt was tucked in with a brown leather belt. He was holding a trophy that said, Regional Musician Champion – Violin. Cole Adams. He was also considerably stockier compared to the young, muscly man I knew now. But there was no denying it was him.
Just then I heard the front door open, and a familiar voice call out, “Juanita? Dad? I’m home.”
I cursed silently in my head.
Cole was back.