SAMPLE CHAPTER 5 of 7
About an hour after the phone call and radio incident, Will finally said we were almost at Aunt Mil’s. I could already feel my new bed beckoning me, and I hadn’t even seen it yet. Addison and Will continued to happily talk about anything, and at one point, played a game of “I spy”. They asked if I wanted to play, but I declined. The closer we got to my old town, the more familiar the roads got, and the more all over the place my thoughts became.
The car came to a halt at a stoplight, and I took in what was around me. Nothing ever seemed to change in our little town of Anadale. We passed our single grocery store, and a little up the road I could see one of our two gas stations, which meant in about another two minutes you would find our other gas station, Lou Ann’s Diner, and Roosevelt High.
The nostalgia I felt was overwhelming.
“Wow, when did that happen?”
I turned my head towards Will, who was staring at the dashboard. “I must’ve missed the gas light coming on because of the radio. Is it alright if I stop up there really quick?”
As much as I wanted to say no and just get home, I said, “We need gas to get home, right?”
When the light turned green, Will pulled into the gas station. He put the car in park at one of the pumps and got out. “Do you guys want anything?”
Both Addison and I shook our heads. He nodded and left us alone.
My sigh of relief as I rested my head back against the seat was a lot louder than I intended, and it quickly morphed into a groan.
Addison giggled. ”Someone can’t wait to get to Aunt Mil’s.”
I grunted again in response. At this point, I would just walk to Aunt Mil’s from here. I felt restless and antsy. Sitting there, feeling trapped in the car, I could gradually feel it get worse and worse.
“I need some air.” I swung open the door and jumped out of the car. When I got outside, I tried to take in a deep breath, but it wasn’t easy. Don’t think about it. You’re fine. You’re fine. You’re fine. You’re almost home. You’re not going to panic.
You are not going to panic.
The mental pep talk wasn’t working as well as I thought it would. I needed to avert my attention to something else.
I could hear Addison yelling to ask where I was going as I nearly ran into the bed of a truck parked at the pump in front of us. Immediately after I entered the convenient store, I turned right and ended up in front of the candy. There wasn’t anything in particular that I was looking for, but the process of scanning each one and giving my brain something else to do was offering some relief.
“Excuse me, sorry.” Somebody came out of nowhere and stood next to me.
Barely acknowledging them, I stepped to the side. “Yeah, sorry.”
I watched as their hand went to grab a bag of peanut M&M’s. They had the right idea. Grabbing something chocolatey didn’t sound too bad right now.
Just as I was bending down to grab a bag of regular M&M’s, I caught Will coming towards me in my peripheral.
“Brittany, what are you doing in he—oh, Fields?”
My brows were knit together when I fully turned to look at Will. His focus was on the person behind me.
I spun around slowly, and it felt like someone dropped a rock in my stomach.
For the first time in three years, I was face-to-face with Adam.
He’d certainly filled out since I last saw him. His once lanky frame was now muscular, his shoulders broad. Our height difference was so much greater now. If I leaned forward, my face would be directly in his chest. His dark hair was a perfect balance between that terrible buzz cut and equally bad long, floppy cut he had sported when we were kids—just long enough so that it did that thing where it curled at the ends.
“Hey, what’s up?” Adam greeted Will with a smile.
It was just as bright as it always had been, and his dimples were just as deep, just as sweet, and probably worked just as well as they always did to get what he wanted. His voice was low and smooth; it didn’t crack the way it used to when we were fourteen. The only word going through my mind was handsome. As much as I hated to admit it, Mother Nature did a pretty good job with him.
For a second, I just forgot everything.
For a second, I didn’t hate him.
I didn’t feel angry. I didn’t even feel anxious. I just felt. . . sad. Because this was Adam—my Adam—but it wasn’t.
I didn’t have an Adam anymore.
Will’s hand coming down on my shoulder was enough to jolt me out of my trance. “I was just doing a pick up for my neighbor. This is Brittany. She just moved here.”
Adam’s eyes met mine, and his features faltered for a second. I held my breath, half expecting him to realize it was me, but if he did, he didn’t say it. The corner of his lips ticked upwards. “Well, welcome to Anadale. I’m Adam.”
Any words I was planning to say were caught in my throat.
I never knew how I would react to seeing Adam again. I always thought that maybe I’d punch him. Maybe I’d cuss him out. But right now, I could barely get over the shock of seeing how much he’d changed, really feeling how long it’d been. Every day, every hour, every minute.
And then I finally got angry with him.
I fought to keep a grimace off my face. “Brittany.”
Adam didn’t seem to catch onto any of my hostility. “Nice to meet you.” He jerked his thumb towards the store window. “Well, I gotta get my sister to trumpet practice, so I’ll see you guys around.”
I looked out to where Adam was pointing, and my jaw went slack. “That was your truck.” The words tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop them.
Adam let out a confused laugh. “Uh, yeah it is.”
Staring at the vehicle felt bittersweet. He’d always wanted a truck since we started talking about our dream cars as kids. Granted it was a monster truck before I’d brought him back down to Earth and advised him that most likely wasn’t legal.
There had been years of excitement leading up to one of us getting a car, years of anticipation. It was one of those “life’s moments” we couldn’t wait to experience together. It was all that mattered to us. Then suddenly, it just. . . didn’t.
Something in Will’s demeanor changed, and he quickly drew the attention from me. He told Adam he’d probably see him at the gym later, and then Adam went to pay at the register.
I never tore my gaze away from the window until Will asked, “Are you getting something?”
“Uh, no.” I didn’t even care about the candy anymore.
As the two of us made our way outside, I caught a glimpse of Adam waiting in line, where an older guy had greeted him enthusiastically with a handshake and started to talk to him about who-knows-what. My stomach churned. Walking away from him, acting like complete strangers, even after everything, felt. . . wrong.
Will must’ve caught on to the fact I was looking at Adam, because he let out a scoff when we were outside. “Don’t get caught in that hype too.”
The distaste in his tone took me by surprise. “What?”
“Fields, the town’s other ‘pride and joy’, don’t get caught up in it.”
Then he went to his gas tank and started to fill his car, leaving me standing at the hood, more thrown by the sudden shift in mood than I thought possible.
Addy cried out in relief when she jumped out of the car and onto the pavement of the sidewalk in front of Aunt Mil’s. She fell to her knees and slammed her hands to the ground before clasping them together. “Finally, finally, finally!”
I stepped out of the passenger seat and deeply breathed in the air around me. I’d never been so relieved to see my aunt’s house.
Will had opened the trunk to get out our bags, and I went to help him. We had about three each, plus my guitar, which definitely wouldn’t be enough if we were staying for a while. But Mom had said before we’d left that we’d go shopping with Aunt Mil to add some more “frumpy” clothes to our wardrobe.
Now was as good a time as any to ask Will why he was so against Adam and what he’d meant by “don’t get caught up in the hype”, but at this point, I just wanted to go lay down in my room.
Approaching the green door of Aunt Mil’s made my stomach tie in knots. It was so familiar yet foreign, which I guess, summarized this whole experience for me.
I was the first to reach the entrance while Addy and Will lagged behind because one of her bag straps was caught between two seats. My faint reflection in one of the tiny windows set in the door took me aback. For a moment, I thought it was someone different on the other side.
And then I realized it really was.
I screamed at the moving pair of eyes and nearly toppled down the cement steps. My chest was heaving as I let go of my suitcase and brought my hand to my pounding heart. Thankfully, I didn’t drop my guitar. The front door swung open, and Aunt Mil stared at me with excitement. Then her features fell.
“What’s up with you, Evelyn?” She leaned against the door frame, continuing to gaze at me like I was crazy.
Reeling and resting my hands on my knees, I didn’t bother to comment on the fact she’d just called me Evelyn, hadn’t said hello, and was wearing an outrageous leopard print pants and tiger sweater combo.
It was crazy how different she looked compared to my mom. Where my mother was small and petite and her skin a deeper olive hue, Aunt Mil was tall and sinewy and had a more medium tone. Though, their eyes were identical. They were big and a bright brown color, almost golden. Mom hated her eyes, because they were apparently the same as their father’s.
“You scared the crap out of me!” I said.
She caught a glimpse of Addy and ignored me. She started waving. “Oh, Addi—”
I propelled myself forward and covered her mouth with my hand, successfully cutting her off. I knew it was incredibly rude, but considered it necessary.
“It’s Reagan.” Her eyes widened in realization after I reminded her. I fell from my tiptoes, since Aunt Mil was at least six inches taller than me. “And I’m Brittany.”
“Right.” She waved again. “Reagan!”
Addy had already been looking up at us since my scream and was now trudging her way to the door with Will in tow. “Hi, Auntie!” She dropped one of her bags—on my foot, I might add—and hugged our aunt.
I winced, but brushed off the pain. My only priority now was getting in the house and getting Will to leave so I could rip off my wig and unwind. I fake-yawned. “Well, I’m beat.” I slipped past Aunt Mil and into the house. “Thank you for driving us, Will. Maybe I’ll see you around at school on Monday.”
Will eased the bags he was holding onto the floor. “Yeah, definitely. I’ll track you down, or call you.” He took out his phone. “I just realized I never got your number.”
I took the device from his outstretched hand and stared at it. So there was hope that Will wanted to talk to me again after today. Even if he didn’t seem to be a fan of the actual me, Brittany could’ve at least been gaining an ally.
After a few seconds, I noticed everyone watching me intently, and I flushed. I almost started typing my real phone number, but quickly corrected myself. “Here you go.” I started backing further into the house. “Alright, I’ll see you later. Bye!”
“Brittany, don’t be rude!” Aunt Mil turned to Will with an apologetic look. “Ignore her. You can stay for dinner if you’d like.”
“No problem, Ms. R. I actually have to help my mom and drive Morgan to basketball in an hour, so I wouldn’t really have time to, but I’ll take you up on that offer sometime soon.”
I felt an invisible weight press down on my shoulders. That offer had better not come into effect at any time during my visit here. Will didn’t seem too bad to hang around, but this house was my safe haven. The only place where I could just. . . be.
Suddenly my eyes began to water, and I coughed. I turned in the direction of the kitchen where I was greeted by a mass of grey smoke.
“Aunt Mil.” I plugged my nose with my fingertips. “Is something burning?”
Gasping loudly, Aunt Mil sprinted towards the kitchen. “My chicken!” The fire alarm started to wail, and Addy and Will took off too.
I stayed put, surveying my surroundings. Aunt Mil’s foyer was littered with odd artwork depicting various ecosystems. Deserts, rainforests, tundra. There wasn’t a picture showcasing our family in sight, not even in what I could see in the living room. Aunt Mil wasn’t someone who wanted people to know her business. It was why it always surprised me when Mom told me Aunt Mil used the money we’d gifted her to buy this house rather than moving into a nicer one in an area that wasn’t so close-knit.
A frantic scream erupted from the kitchen, followed by some laughs and a crashing pan. It didn’t look like I’d be escaping upstairs anytime soon. I mentally prepared myself before heading down the corridor.
If the events earlier and what was happening right now were any indication of how the rest of my time in Connecticut was going to go, I should’ve booked my flight back to L.A. yesterday. And to think, in two days, I’d be arriving back at Roosevelt High, and it would probably only get worse.