The Missing Piece (Excerpt)

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Chapter One

The doors to the Cedar Heights Police Department fly open and sunlight floods the room. Without even thinking about it, my hand shoots up to shield my eyes from the sudden, blinding light.

When did the sun rise? How long have I been sitting here?

My thoughts stop as I notice the man fuming in the doorway. I’m almost certain I can see puffs of smoke coming from my father’s nostrils like Ferdinand the bull getting ready to charge a red flag. The difference is Ferdinand is just pretending to be angry, whereas my father is always a simmering pot of rage. He takes three gigantic strides before stopping directly in front of me.

I am the red flag.

“Dammit, Emily! What were you thinking? You can’t keep pulling stunts like this.”

I can’t bring myself to look at him. It’s not that I feel ashamed for what I did because the thing is: I did absolutely nothing.

Yes, I broke curfew again and went to a party where there was alcohol, and yes, the cops came to said party, but I didn’t drink anything. Beer is disgusting, and I’m smarter than that anyway. I was just hoping something would get his attention and make him see me, make him understand that I don’t want to leave.

Apparently, sneaking out and breaking curfew isn’t enough to convince him I’m fine; he considers it burdensome instead.

My head snaps up as footsteps approach.

“Charles. “Officer Bullock shakes my father’s hand. “Since Miss Stone here wasn’t intoxicated we aren’t going to put it on her permanent record. We’ll let her off with a warning.”

My father clasps Officer Bullock’s shoulder. “Thanks, Mark. I really appreciate that. I just wish I knew what’s gotten into her.”

I squeeze my hands together, balling the into tight fists.

Is he really that oblivious to my presence?

I’m so sick of him acting like I don’t exist. Rage bubbles up inside of me like a pack of Mentos dropped into a bottle of Coca-Cola and I lose it.

I leap to my feet. “I’m sitting right here. And, you know why I’m doing this! Mom is dying. She’s dying and you’re sending me away like it doesn’t even matter.”

“We’re not discussing this here.” His glare cuts through me like steel, his clipped tone like ice chilling me to the bone. “Go to the car.”

I grit my teeth, clenching my fists again. I want to kick and scream and yell at my dad, but what’s the point if he won’t hear anything I say anyways?

Before I turn away, I notice Officer Bullock’s face reddening. He pulls nervously at his collar and then clears his throat.

“Um, like I was saying there are no charges being pressed, so, umm, if you could just sign this, then we can release her.”

Shortly after I climb into the car, my father joins me. Swearing under his breath, he runs his hand through his hair. “Why do you keep doing this?”

“Doing what?”

“This,” he says, gesturing with his hands to the police station in front of us. “What are you trying to prove?”

My throat feels tight like a razor blade is lodged inside of my esophagus. I name Disney princesses off in my head to calm myself, but my reply still sounds whiny and desperate.

“I’m not trying to prove anything.”

He turns on to our street. “I don’t believe that for a second, there has to be a reason you’re acting out. Whatever it is, my decision is final, you are going to Los Angeles whether you like it or not.”

The thought of flinging the door open and jumping out of the car runs through my mind.

Maybe then he’d notice me.

I push the thought from my mind as I tug at my hoodie string. My nails dig into my palms, an attempt to control my anger, but my voice only comes out as a whisper. “Maybe if you didn’t resent me so much, you wouldn’t send me away.”

My father glares daggers at me and I feel like I’m walking across broken glass. “I’ve had enough of this nonsense, knock it off or I will give you something to complain about.”

The moment my father pulls into the driveway, I swing my door open and storm inside. What gives him the right to shake up my whole world like a snow globe?

I am not a snow globe.

My life isn’t glittery and perfect, despite what he may think. My fingers clasp the elephant pendant, my boyfriend, Mason, got me last summer. He’s moving to Africa with his parents, his father got a promotion and will now run the One Hope Orphanage.

I just want something familiar to hold onto, at least, for a little bit longer. Like the tattered baby blanket that I used to carry everywhere or the smell of Cedar Heights after a thunderstorm.

There is so much about this small town that I’m going to miss. I wish I could bottle all of it up and bring it with me the way I used to collect sand in empty water bottles when my family went on vacation to Myrtle Beach.

I’m still fuming as I make my way upstairs towards my bedroom. I push open the door and halt. “Mads?”

She’s sprawled out on my bed, flipping through one of my many Disney Mania magazines, blowing giant pink bubbles with her gum. She glances up. “Hey! Your mom let me in. Did your dad budge?”

I slump down on the bed next to her and shake my head. “He doesn’t care that I want to stay here and nothing is going to change his mind.”

“What a jerkwad! Can’t he see that you’re grieving?”

I shrug my shoulders, a sign of defeat. “Oh, I’m sure he knows. He just doesn’t care.”

Mads walks over to my Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal collection and pulls Eeyore off the shelf. “Em, what would Eeyore say if he was in your situation?”

My throat feels tight like I’m on the verge of tears, but I smile anyway. “It never hurts to keep looking for sunshine.”

“Exactly! It sucks that your dad is sending you to LA, but there has to be some sort of silver lining, some thing to make all that suck worth it.”

“Yeah, I guess.” I start rummaging through my closet, looking for my suitcases. “I wish you could come with me though.”

She walks over to me and puts her arm around my shoulder. “Me too,” she says resting her head against mine. “You know you’re going to do just fine though.”

“What if there’s another Brenda Jones?” A shiver runs through my body.

Freshman year Brenda pretended to befriend me and convinced me that Stephen Jacobs wanted to go to the spring dance with me. I was so excited; my mom took me out to buy a new dress and everything. Only when the time came for Stephen to come pick me up, he never showed, but Brenda did. She told me I was stupid for even thinking Stephen could be into me when he had her. She laughed in my face and walked away, leaving me alone and unwanted.

“I can’t promise that you won’t meet another ‘Brenda Jones,’ but I can promise that you’ll be able to defeat every single one. Em, you once told me, ‘You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.’ I know you are. Now you just need to believe it too.”

“We’re leaving in an hour,” my father bellows up the stairs.

Mads gives me a sympathetic look and whispers, “I’ll see you later.” Then she heads to the door, leaving me to deal with my empty suitcases sprawled out before me.

I haul my most prized possessions (the stuffed Eeyore Mads bought last summer, my Walt Disney biography and the photo of Mads, Mason and I at Cedar Point) across my room and into my suitcases.

After I have the essentials packed, I stare at my wardrobe and start pulling clothes off the hangers. My fingers brush against my orange tank top with the lace ruffles and flowers at the bottom. I’m tempted to throw it in my suitcase as well, but then Mason’s voice sounds loudly in my head.

Why are you wearing that? You look like Bert swallowed a carrot and spit it backup. It’s not very flattering.

I drop my hand, sighing. Instead, I pull the brown tunic dress off a hanger and carry it over to my suitcase. The tunic is large, baggy and doesn’t compliment my figure at all. I don’t know why Mason loves it so much.

My little brother, Sammy, runs into my room as I’m zipping up my suitcases. He launches himself around my legs. Sammy is seven and is possibly the cutest little boy, except when he’s getting into my makeup. He has our mom’s dark brown hair, brown eyes, and that same ridiculous laugh that always ends in snorting fits. Not to mention, he’s completely obsessed with Batman, but who am I to judge? My room is covered in everything Disney.

“You can’t leave, Emilyyyy.” He whines, arms hugging me tightly as if he’ll never let go. I pat my bed and motion for Sammy to climb up and sit next to me.

He scratches his knee and whispers, “I don’t want you to leave.”

“I’m going to talk to you every week.” I scoop him up in my arms and put him in my lap.

He takes my face in his hands, something he does whenever he’s serious, and says, “That is not the same.”

When did he grow up?

“Tell you what, how about we talk on the webcam. We could do that every Sunday.” My voice catches in my throat.

His face brightens. “Can we really do that?”

I ruffle his dark brown hair and then cross my fingers over my heart. “I swear on the Batcave.”

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