Reading Between the Lines

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Chapter 2

Halfway through the day I figured it was going to be a long, but tonight was taking it to a new extreme. When I ventured into the backroom at noon, I saw stacks of new books that hadn’t been cataloged and put on the shelves. 12 hours later, it was midnight and I was just finishing up. I had never hated myself more than I do tonight.

After locking up the shop, I began walking down the cobblestone road. On night’s like this when the weather was just right, I liked walking home. I didn’t work too far from home, so it wasn’t super dangerous.

I took in the sights around me as I began walking down the street. The leaves on the trees had just started to turn orange, giving our small town a fall atmosphere. The weather had also recently taken a cold turn which I’m sure everyone is thankful for. It wasn’t often I got the time to stop and admire the beauty around me.

I began to space out as I did quite often when I took these walks. It was one of the rare moments I feel I can. With the direction my mother’s been heading in health-wise, it’s hard for me to hold onto faith that everything will be ok when it seems like I’m the only one doing so.

I was brought out of my trance at the sound of footsteps slowly approaching me from behind. I’m usually the only one that walks these streets this late so who the hell was following me?

I quickened my pace as I continued down the road. My breathing became labored as I kept my eyes forward. Within a few seconds, the footsteps came closer towards me. Welp, this is not how I pictured my death to go.

Keeping my eyes closed, I expected death to rear its ugly head and take my life, but it never happens. The only thing I felt was a tapping on my shoulder.

Turning around I saw a man standing behind me. His hands raised in defense as a panicked expression crossed his face. He seemed like he was in his late 20’s or early 30’s. Honestly? He kind of reminds me of Shawn White, the snowboarder.

“This fell out of your pocket by the bookstore.” The man held up a $50 dollar bill. Shit, that was grocery money. How had I not realized I dropped it?

“Thank you, you literally just put food in my stomach for a week.”

“Glad to be of assistance.” Giving the man a smile, I stuck the money in my pocket before continuing down the road. When I looked up from the ground, I noticed the guy matched my pace and had begun to walk beside me.

“My name’s Ethan, in case you were wondering”

“I’m- “I stopped short of telling him my name. The last thing I need is a possible stalker knowing my name. “I own the bookstore you saw me drop the money outside of.”

“Read Em’ and Weep? I love that place. Then again, I love anything to do with books.” As we continued talking, I was able to get more of a sense of who Ethan was. He seemed normal but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off about this guy.

The feeling kept gnawing away at my stomach, intensifying with each step. After a few minutes, I had to stop walking and lean against the side of a nearby building. I pressed the blade of my hand into my stomach, desperate to ease the pain coursing through my body.

“Hey, are you ok?” Ethan came towards me with a concerned look on his face. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a familiar black Camaro coming towards. This might be the only time I ever say this but for the love of god will Samuel please stop?!

God must have answered my prayers because the Camaro pulled to a stop in front of us.

“What seems to be the problem here sir and- Ms. Gilbert?” Samuel asked, climbing out of his car and making his way towards us.

“It’s nothing to worry about just- not feeling well at the moment.” Ethan’s face grew increasingly worried, all while Samuel looked at me with a raised eyebrow.

“Why don’t you head on home sir. I’ll make sure Ms. Gilbert here gets home safely.” Ethan nodded his head, taking a few steps back from us.

“Right, thanks officer.” With a panicked expression still on his face, Ethan went back the direction we came from. I could just make out Samuel muttering “It’s detective, asshole.” As he cleared his throat before turning towards me.

“I pegged you as a better liar than that Cassandra.” With the pain easing, I was able to straighten myself against the building. “Who was that guy?”

“Honestly? I have no clue. He just kind of showed up.” Samuel rolled his eyes before setting them back on me.

“Are you ok? He didn’t hurt you, did he?” His eyes turned a lighter shade as concern began to shine through.

“There’s not a scratch on me that was caused by him. Did I see- concern shining in those eyes of yours?”

“Despite what you and this entire town may think, there are people in this world that I care about.” He began walking back to his car, whistling the entire time. “Come on, I’ll give you a ride home. I’m heading that way myself.”

I didn’t move from my spot as he now stood by the driver’s side door. Samuel looked back and once again rolled his eyes when he saw I hadn’t moved an inch. “Would you put your hatred for me aside and just get in my car? There’s a creep out wandering the streets and I’d prefer to not have you hurt by him.”

Knowing he wasn’t going to give up, I sighed and walked to his car. A smirk rose on his face as he watched me climb into the passenger’s seat.

“I knew I’d get you to change your mind.” Within a few seconds, we both were buckled in and off down the road. Instead of going in the direction of our houses, Samuel turned the car around and headed in the opposite direction.

When Samuel looked over and saw the panicked expression on my face, he chuckled to himself before turning his attention back to the road.

“I figured before I took you home you could use someone to talk to.”

“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” I spoke with a blasé tone to my voice. “He was just some harmless guy who probably wasn’t going to do anything.

“But you don’t know that Cassandra. You don’t know what people are capable of.” Samuel took a deep breath, pinching the bridge of his nose simultaneously.

I waited for a few moments before speaking. “Are you done with the stern talking to?”

“Yep, I think I’m good Cassie.”

“Did you seriously just call me Cassie again?”

“I did. You know Cassandra, Cassie suits you. It’s- cute.” My cheeks became flushed as I kept my eyes straight ahead. Thankfully the car was dark otherwise I’d never hear the end of it.

“Sorry about reading you the riot act. It comes with having a younger sister.” I didn’t realize until now that Samuel had turned the car towards the neighborhood and had pulled onto our street.

“I’ll have to take your word for it considering I’m an only child.”

“Let me be the first to say you’re lucky.” The car slowly pulled to a stop in front of my house. “If you want, I can take you into work since your car is still at the shop.”

“That’s ok. We’re supposed to have good weather tomorrow, so I’ll just walk.” Opening the door, I got and began walking up to the house. I got halfway up the walkway before turning back towards the car.

“Hey, Sam?”

“Yeah?” He asked as he rose a curious eyebrow.

“Thanks for everything tonight. You didn’t have to- but you did.” A half-smile rose on Samuel’s face as he glanced up at me.

“Hell must have frozen over because the great Cassandra Gilbert is going soft on me.” For what was probably the 100th time that day I rolled my eyes as I turned my back on the car.

“Good night!” I called out, raising a hand in the air as I continued walking up to the front door. I didn’t hear anything in response except the roar of an engine as I opened the front door, walked in and let it close softly behind me.

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