12 Chapter 12

A knock at the door interrupted what would've been a pretty good buck-toothed rabbit face my dad was constructing on a short stack. "I'll get it," my mom said, pulling herself away from blueberry eyes. I could tell by the way she looked at my dad that she was reluctant to see who had come calling. They exchanged nervous glances.

Something twisted inside of me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Have you ever had something really terrible going on in your life, and for a few moments you lose track of it, like it's not consciously on your mind, but then it starts to creep in, and before it even registers in your brain, your stomach starts to hurt, like a sharp knife has been plummeted in from the side, a sneak attack? It was like that. I looked at my dad and he offered a small smile before he, too, pushed back his chair. "Go ahead and eat, Cass. We'll be back in a few minutes."

I nodded, and he exited the dining room, heading to the adjoining living room. There was no door between the two rooms, just a doorway, and I could hear my mother's voice as she opened the front door, though I couldn't make out what she was saying.

The voice that replied to her sent shivers down my spine. That Aaron guy was here again. Whatever he wanted, it couldn't be good.

I didn't think they'd let me stay in the dining room and eat while they were talking in the living room because it could be too easy for me to overhear. I fully expected to be sent back to my tower prison upstairs, but instead, my parents must have thought they would just speak quietly because I heard the groan of furniture as they took their seats. I listened intently to try and determine if Dr. SandersonElliott--was there a well. Now that guy, I liked. But I didn't hear him.

At first, all three of their voices were very hush hush, and I was struggling to hear anything at all. But the more they talked, the louder my parents became, and before too much time had passed, I could hear a word or two, despite my attempts to cover up my eavesdropping by occasionally clanking a dish or scooting my chair. I had no idea if they would even notice that I was moving around, but I wanted to give them the impression that I didn't care what they were talking about, even though I did.

I'm not sure why, though. I had completely moved on from Drew's death, and I really didn't even care where my sister was or what was going on with her. Still, just the presence of this strange man in my house made my senses go on full alert. And the stabbing pain in my side reminding me that I forgot something important was also a pretty good reason to pay attention. So, I tried.

All I gathered from the brief conversation was that my sister was sleeping, some procedure had gone well, and "we" hoped she'd be back tomorrow. I heard a few names I hadn't heard beforeEliza and Christian. And then my mom kept saying "Jamie." I remembered having heard that name before, though I didn't know why. It's very hard to care about something and not know why. I felt like what I was hearing was important, but couldn't figure out why I felt that way.

Aaron was only there for maybe ten minutes when I heard them all stand up and walk toward the door. I thought I heard him say my name, but his voice was so quiet and calm, compared to my parents' anyway, I wasn't sure. Whatever he might have asked about me, I heard my mom say, "Cassidy is fine now." I found that odd. When had Cassidy not been fine?

My parents were still talking to each other after the door closed. I heard footsteps coming my direction, though they didn't seem to be in too big of a hurry. Still, I realized I hadn't taken a single bite in the whole time they'd been gone, and if I was going to make them think I'd just kept eating my breakfast like I wasn't trying to overhear anything, I needed to do something fast. I cut a huge wedge of pancake, which was three high, and crammed a giant bite into my mouth. Syrup began to drip down my chin as I chewed for all I was worth. I knew I'd need to swallow at least most of what was in my mouth so they wouldn't wonder why in the world my mouth was stuffed full, but pancakes are chewier than one might think. By the time they entered the room, I had managed to choke down most of what was in my mouth, but I think they could tell by the way I was out of breath what I was up to.

"Cass, are you all right?" my mom asked, pausing beside me on her way to the other end of the table.

"Om fon," I said, still chewing. I forced a smile and picked up my napkin to try and wipe away the syrup from my face, but it just stuck to my skin. My mom shook her head and took her seat.

Whatever Aaron had told them seemed to make them both a little less anxious than they had been before. Their smiles seemed slightly less strained. I finally swallowed the last bits of the bite I'd crammed into my mouth and took a long drink of milk.

"You not hungry, honey?" my dad asked, looking at my plate. "I figured you'd be done by now."

All of that effort and my parents still were not thwarted. "My stomach hurts a little bit," I replied. It wasn't a lie.

"Oh, sweetie," my mom said sympathetically. "Aaron was just telling us your sister is just fine. She should be back tomorrow."

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I raised an eyebrow. I wasn't sure at first how my stomachache was supposed to relate to Cadence, but then I realized my mom thought I was upset about her being gone. Which begged the question: should I have been? They seemed to think so. "Oh, good," I said, exhaling loudly, still picking pieces of napkin off of my chin. "That's great."

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