Things to do in Freehold

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Chapter Seventy-two:

Joey Grace ( Late night of September 13, 1991)

I will always hear people say that the sounds of rainstorms are supposed to help you sleep, but those people must be the same ones who can sleep through hurricanes. I had been lying awake in my bed for an exact half-hour before I heard a knock at the front door. At first, I thought it was just my imagination, but then I heard it a second time. Who in the world could be knocking at this hour?

As I headed out into the hallway, I quickly noticed Addie, standing outside her bedroom. “Dad?” She uttered, tiredly rubbing one of her eyes.

“Go on back to bed, Sweetheart; I’ve got this,” I told her, walking down the stairs. Opening the door, a gust of cold air blew onto my face and the smell of wet asphalt filled my nose. The mysterious stranger who’d been knocking was no stranger to me, by any means. In fact, I’d know those long, brunette locks anywhere, even with the raindrops. “Amy?” I called out to her before she could make it down the steps.

From the very moment she turned her head halfway, I immediately got the sense something was off about her. “Hi, sorry if I woke you. I don’t know what I was thinking; I shouldn’t have come here,” she said, coming more into the porch light. It was then I could see the giant gash above her left eyebrow.

“You’re bleeding,” I pointed out, stepping towards her. Although it seemed as though every time I’d get closer to her, she’d take a step back.

“Oh, that?” Her smile felt remarkably insincere as she went to gently touch her wound. “I just had a little accident. It’s nothing, really.”

“It doesn’t look like nothing,” I noted, reaching out to brush her wet hair out of the way. She pulled away the moment I got close, though. “C’mon, at least let me clean it up for you. You don’t want it getting infected now, do you?”

Before she could even answer, I took off and draped my robe over her shoulders, then led her inside. She took a seat on the couch while I ran upstairs to fetch the first-aid kit from the bathroom. When I came back down, I saw that she was now standing by the bookcase, examining it closely. Entering the room, I cleared my throat to get her attention. However, she only glanced over her shoulder, briefly. “You read all these books?” she asked as I perched myself onto the sofa.

“Only a couple,” I answered, opening the kit, then spreading the supplies I needed out onto the coffee table. “Most of them were Liv’s.”

“Oh,” she uttered, looking down at the hardwood floor. For a split-second, the mood in the room shifted.

“C’mon over, let me have a look at you,” I told her, signaling her over to the couch. As she sat down next to me, I poured some rubbing alcohol onto a cotton pad. “Now, this might sting a bit,” I warned, before gently pressing it into her forehead, making her flinch. “But just trust me.”

“Only stings a bit, huh?” I could sense some sarcasm in her tone.

“Ah, quit being such a baby,” I scoffed. We both then smiled at each other. “So are you gonna tell me what happened or am I just supposed to die wondering?”

She sighed. “I’m a little embarrassed.”

I reached over for one of the band-aids on the table. Luckily for her, she didn’t need any stitches. “You can tell me.”

“Okay, don’t laugh, but I sorta tried to get back into rollerblading.”

I raised my eyebrows at her. “Rollerblading? In the rain? At this hour?”

She nodded, then chuckled. “Not my brightest idea, clearly.”

I could tell that she was lying to me; I could always tell. She never makes direct eye contact with me and her voice tends to get shaky. However, I wasn’t about to pressure her into telling me something she wasn’t comfortable confiding me in. When Amy lied, which was rare, it usually pertained to her not wanting to admit the truth to herself.

“So are we done here because I really should be heading back?” Without waiting for an answer, she stood up from the couch.

“Yeah, we’re done,” I said, standing up as well and walking her to the foyer.

“Oh, here’s your robe back, by the way,” she announced, handing it back to me. “Thank you for letting me borrow it.”

“No problem,” I replied, watching her make her way to the door. “Hey, Amy?”

“Yeah?” Before she could open said door, she turned back to look at me.

“Why did you come here tonight?”

Slowly, she walked towards me, then placed both hands on my jawline and pulled me close. She kissed me and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I mean, I liked it and was flattered, but I was also confused. Where is this coming from? Why now? Afterward, Amy took a step back and smiled, crookedly, up at me. “Goodnight, Joe.”

No further words were exchanged after that. The moment I snapped back into reality, she’d already left. “Huh?” I muttered to myself, touching my lips. As I turned around to head back up the stairs, I instantly noticed Addie, standing at the top of them. Although she didn’t say anything, the expression on her face told all: she was not pleased.

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