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Lies & Secrets

Thea:

“Ah!”

I scream when the rack of shirts I was looking through suddenly part to reveal Benny inside.

My heart races as I place a hand over it, my mouth hanging open at him. “What are you doing?”

His face looks only slightly guilty as he looks left to right before looking back to me “I’m hiding” he says seriously

I click my tongue before grabbing the front of his shirt and pulling him out of the clothes rack “you’re going to wrinkle the clothes” I grumble

I turn back to the clothes and continue looking through them. “I didn’t know you shopped at hot topic” Benny comments

I nod slightly as I hold up two shirts in front of me and inspect them, trying to choose between them. “It’s not a common occurrence”

I turn around to face Benny and turn the shirts so he can see them “which one?”

However, he’s not listening. He keeps looking over his shoulder and over mine to the front of the store like he’s looking for someone to come beat him up.

“What happened?” I ask as I turn the shirts back around to face me and I study them again

With his eyes still flitting all over the place, he answers “I accidentally spilled my coffee on some big guy and he got mad

I look up at him and raise an eyebrow “hot coffee?”

He shakes his head and plucks the shirts from my hands and finally looks at them “god no, Not hot coffee, I don’t even like hot coffee. I came straight from Starbucks with a caramel frappuccino and suddenly it’s all over some big angry guy and I’m being chased all over the mall”

I shake my head in amusement as he hands me the Billie Eilish shirt and puts back the Panic! At the disco shirt on the rack he was hiding in. “So you hid in a hot topic inside the shirts?”

He looks to me with a sly smile “well worth it if I get to see you”

I roll my eyes and smile as heat rises on my face.

I collect the things in my arms and take them to the counter to check out. Benny follows behind and I ask him “what were you here at the mall for anyway?”

His whole demeanor changes as I ask. His fingers curl and uncurl into his fists, his head reels back slightly and his foot starts tapping on the ground lightly. If this wasn’t enough to make me curious, then I would certainly wonder why his mood seems to fall from a ten to a two.

“I was here getting some things for my parents I guess” he mutters before looking at my things that the cashier is putting into a bag “what did you get?”

It’s clear he’s hiding something more in his words but it’s also clear he doesn’t want to continue so I let it be. We all have our secrets

“Shirts, jeans, hair dye, and this cute little button” I pick up the bag as we walk towards the door after the cashier tells us to have a good day. I pick up a Garfield button and show it to him and he smiles lightly

“Cute”

I put the button into the bag and shift it on my arm. Suddenly Benny’s voice goes high as he says “wait, you’re dying your hair?”

He leans over and reaches into the bag, ignoring my exasperated face “black?”

I snatch it from his hand and roll my eyes “no silly, it’s for my friend”

He relaxes, moving back to his original stance in his own space “good. I don’t think that color would suit you”

I giggle because he’s completely right “and why’s that?”

This time his hands move with his words, a habit I’ve seen from him when he’s talking passionately about something. “Well, it’s fairly simple. Your hair is like sunshine. Shiny and bright, it suits your bright personality and all the different shades to it”

When we get outside to the parking lot, I’m walking down the street, seeing how I don’t have a car quite yet, and Benny continues to follow me. Concerned he’s going to follow me all the way home, I turn to him and stop our walking.

“What are you doing?” I ask him

He looks at me confused and I continue “don’t you have somewhere to be? Or a car?”

“Do you want me to?” he asks and then it’s my turn to look at him confused

“Would you like me to go somewhere else? Not be with you?” he clarifies

My heart’s first instinct is to jump out to him. I don’t want him to leave. I love his and all the boy's company. And then I can’t help but wonder if they feel the same. Am I being a burden on them? Are they just being nice?

Nice or not, I don’t want him to leave. “No. I don’t”

He gives me such a charming smile that it makes my heart beat faster. “Well then” he starts “I suppose I'm going where you’re going”

I fiddle with my bag and bite my lip, suddenly wishing my life was just a bit more interesting “I’m not going anywhere really interesting, just my house” I say hesitantly

But he nods enthusiastically “that sounds great. Get to know a little more about you and your life”

As much I want to revel in the fact that he wants to get to know me, a part of me panics. He wants to get to know me but there are so many parts of me I just can’t tell him. How would I explain all my paintings and materials? It’s not like I’m hiding them in a closet because no one would ever come over. But now I have someone. Someone who can recognize the people from school or around town that I paint, someone who’s perceptive enough to recognize the similarities between Ethans painting and the ones around my house.

Then there’s the question I never want to answer again.

Where are my parents?


I’m sad that I couldn’t have Benny over. I wish I could, but there were too many factors playing that I wasn’t ready for. I wasn’t ready for a lot.

I roll over on my mattress hugging my knees to my chest as I remember pretending to call my parents to ask if Benny could come over. I pretended to be disappointed when they said no and I truly was disappointed when I told Benny he wasn’t allowed to come over because my mom needed my help making dinner.

So that’s when we parted ways. Him to wherever he went, and me back to my empty house.

It’s times like these I don’t know if I’ll ever finish grieving them. The times I wish I really had called them to ask about Benny, I would either introduce them to him or go back home to actually help my mom cook dinner. Not eat alone.

When I decide to stop laying in bed being sad, I get up and make my way around the house.

Each hall I pass I take the paintings down that are on the wall. I don’t want to forever sit in an empty house, one day I’ll have people over and I won’t have to feel so lonely.

When I’ve taken all the identifiable paintings to the basement, I go to the kitchen to make dinner.

I have to remember to take care of myself. I’ve worked hard to move past my grief and become stronger, but there are days that I just want to lie on the floor and do nothing for days.

But I can’t go down that path again. So when I get to the kitchen, I look through the fridge hoping to find something I can make quickly.

However, I don’t make it far in my thoughts when I’m distracted by the doorbell going off.

My eyes move to the door suspiciously. No one knows where I live. The girl scouts have disbanded a few months ago after the police found evidence of drugs being passed around between the staff, and I’m certain the little girl across the street hasn’t lost her hamster again because I found it just a week ago.

I actually had to have a talk to her parents about her taking it on walks.

So I’m understandably hesitant to open the door.

I open it just a crack, looking most likely quite silly to Benny and Alexander who stand right outside the door.

“Hello?” I question

Benny smiles a little sheepishly and waves a little “hey Thea”

My eyebrows are furrowed a little as I look around him. “What are you guys doing here? How did you even know I lived here?”

Bennys hands curl and uncurl, a nervous habit I suppose “well, when you left I went over to Alex’s house and we were there for a little while when he actually saw you coming into this house, which is supposedly yours” he laughs a little nervously at the end.

I blinked “have you guys been stalking me?”

Bennys eyes immediately bug out “no, no! He actually lives down the street a little ways..”

I’m surprised. All this time he’s been so close and yet I’ve never seen him? And if all the guys are at his house sometimes then somehow I’ve missed out on seeing them for so long.

“Alright... So back to my other question. What are you guys doing here?” I ask

He chuckles a little awkwardly “well, for one, I was curious if you really did live here, and secondly, I wanted I know how you were, you left a little distraught and if you did live here I wanted to make sure you were okay”

I smile at him, I’ve never had this kind of kindness directed at me before from friends and it warms me. “I’m alright, thank you for asking”

He looks over my shoulder into my house and I’m suddenly very glad I chose to get rid of the paintings when I did. “You mentioned your mom needed help cooking? Maybe we could help?”

Alex looks over to Benny incredulously “are you serious? Don’t sign me up for that shit”

Benny shoots him a stern look “we’re trying to make a good impression remember?”

As they continuously talk back and forth, I have to tell myself to not shut the door on them. I need to think quickly as to why they can’t come in. why my mom who is supposedly cooking isn’t anywhere to be seen.

“So what do you say, Thea?” Benny asks me and I freeze a little.

“Uh..sorry I can’t have you over” I say slowly

Alex looks over my face carefully and it takes everything in me to keep calm. “My mom’s gone out and I need to go get groceries”

Maybe not my best lie but it’s all I could think of at the moment.

Alex’s face remains blank, I can’t tell what he’s thinking or if he believes me but Benny frowns “well where’d your mom go? Do you need help with the groceries?”

I know it’s all meant innocently and it’s quite sweet of him to offer, but every question just hurts more. I want to scream out my secrets, I want to cry and tell them everything. But I just can’t.

It’s too complicated. I don’t want to admit that my parents are dead. I don’t want to talk to someone because it makes it real, it makes my life too real and I can’t put that information on someone else’s shoulders to carry. Seriously, no one wants to be friends with the girl with no one. No one wants to get close. It’s not normal.

I just want to pull at my hair in frustration. I want to be friends with them but how can I when I keep so many secrets?

Maybe I can’t.

“No thank you, I actually have a few errands to run after that so it would just be a lot of waiting around for your guys” I lie once again

Benny sighs, almost dejectedly, and salutes me “no problem Thea, see you at school I suppose”

I smile tightly and start to close the door but Alex’s hand shoots out and stops it from closing. “No,” he says with narrowed eyes “we’ll wait”

Benny punches his shoulder “Alex!”

He just shakes his head, looking at me “I don’t know what you’re hiding, but you don’t get to shut us out because of it. You don’t have any damn errands to run and I’ll bet you don’t even need to get groceries but to hell with that because we’re going to get some anyway. I won’t stand here and let you shut us out.”

I just stand in the doorway looking at him in shock. He sees through me like I’m saran wrap and it’s terrifying.

A part of me is chanting to the beat of my heart, too close, too close, too close

And then there’s that other part longing to put trust in someone, the part that looks at these two and golden fire floods my veins, making me feel like someone else completely.

I’m not the lonely girl who sits in her big empty house crying each night to the silence. I’m not the girl who paints through the pain, I feel transformed. The girl who paints for her mom, honoring her. I’m the girl who laughs and dreams with friends, the girl who lives.


Benny pulls a face at my choice of snacks. He picks up the box and examines it like it’s some strange alien species. “Hu crackers?”

I continue walking through the isles putting things in the basket with the help of Alex who is actually surprisingly quite helpful with brands and prices.

No grain?” Benny continues as he narrows his eyes at the box of crackers

“Yes, Benny. They’re healthy” I feel like a mother trying to convince her child to eat vegetables

Benny shakes his head and tosses the box back into the basket “I can’t do it. My parents are bad enough with the healthy shit but I refuse to eat anything like it when I can help it”

“Are your parents really into a healthy lifestyle?” I ask mindlessly as I look through the cereals.

In my peripheral vision, I see both Benny and Alex tense up and I feel like I’ve dug into something I shouldn’t have.

“Yeah, something like that” Benny finally says after a moment of tense silence. Alex rolls his eyes as he inspects some of the bread and I feel like I’m missing something.

So instead of pushing the topic or leaving it to become even tenser, I look back to the shopping list and giggle “alright Benny. Maybe this is more your style. How about we go get some cookies?”

He nods his head enthusiastically “hell yeah!”

I giggle and nod my head in a signal to get going. We walk alongside each other as we approach the cookies and Benny immediately rushes over and basically starts drooling over them “oh my god Oreos are the best”

I shake my head in amusement “you can get two”

Alex narrows his eyes and looks between Benny and i. He points at Benny “remember, this is for her not for you” he then points to me “and you, remember this is for you, and if he gets something you don’t want, say something. He’s pushy”

Benny rolls his eyes and sticks out his tongue “such a flipping mother and I right Thea?”

Suddenly Alex is throwing a pack of nilla wafers at Benny “little shit!” Alex basically growls at him

Benny screams and scrambles up from the ground running in the opposite direction with an armful of Oreos and milanos as Alex chases after him

I just turn the opposite direction towards the shampoo and conditioner. As I’m looking through the different scents and brands, Benny walks up with messy hair and rumpled hair and Alex follows both glaring at Benny and looking smug.

“Nice to see you” I say sarcastically as I take some shampoo off the shelf and smell it

Benny already has an armful of different products, smelling them all, even Alex takes a slight sniff at one of the strawberry ones.

Benny shoves a bottle at me and up to my nose, accidentally bopping me on the nose with it. “This one smells like sunshine!”

Alex snorts “things cant smell like sunshine”

Benny scoffs and puts it in my basket and I sigh, exasperated as I take it out of the basket and put it back on the shelf, putting an avocado and olive oil one in instead. “Well this one does” he retorts

I then move a little down the aisle and I want to laugh at how both boys scramble to put away the shampoos they were holding and stay by my side. However, they both recoil back when I take a box of tampons off the shelf.

I turn to them who are both sporting blushes and awkward poses. I throw my hands up and sigh “it’s just tampons guys. Not piranhas”

“I’d rather the piranhas” Alex mutters as he turns away and walks back to the shampoo

“Sorry Thea, it’s just, we don’t have a lot of practice with that” Benny gestures to the box and I give him a look.

“Alright boys. We’re done” I clap my hands and they basically run the register.

As the cashier puts things in bags I turn to the guy's “thanks for doing this with me” even though it was unneeded. “I had fun”

They smile at me “it was no problem Thea. I had fun too. Well, except when Alex went all grizzly bear on me”

Alex glares at Benny and I pick up the bags as we walk out the automatic doors. “That was all your fault” Alex then looks at me “but yeah, it was nice being with you today”

I blush slightly under the attention.

“I hope your mom didn’t mind us stealing you for a while” Benny smiles at me “I just couldn’t help myself”

I go ridged with his words and force a smile “I’m sure it’s fine”

“Do you want us to walk you home?” Benny asks

I shake my head, trying to ignore Alex’s scrutinizing gaze “it’s alright. Thank you though”

He nods and goes to pull Alex along but Alex marches toward me and leans in towards my ear “remember what I said?” he asks lowly and I think back.

I nod slowly “you said you’ll wait” I remember from earlier at my house when he called out my lies.

“I’m serious,” he says softly, “we’ll wait for you to tell us. We’re not going anywhere”

I look down as tears threaten to come to my eyes “thank you” I murmur

He steps back and smiles softly at me before moving back with Benny who also gives me a smile, this one less like his normal cheerful, bright ones. This one is full of sincerity and comfort.

“Bye guys” I say as I turn around and start walking away, I only turn to look back once, watching as they do the same and look back at me.

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