17 Chapter 17

My mom came to pick me up a few hours later. By then, I had gotten over the initial shock of realizing my parents had allowed some strange man to come into my house and brainwash me into thinking the death of my sister's friend was no big deal, but I was still miffed. And confused. Why in the world would my parents want me to think that Drew's death was just a blip in my existence and not something to worry about?

Something very strange was going on, and I had no idea who I could talk to about it. If my parents were part of the conspiracy, then I couldn't trust them. My grandmother also allegedly knew these people, though I wasn't sure I could trust that either. As hard as it was, I decided to wait it out. My sister was supposed to return the next day. Maybe when she came home, she'd spew out some acceptable explanation for all of this weirdness and life would go back to normal.

I wasn't holding my breath.

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Saturday night, I tried to watch a movie to keep my mind off of everything, but I couldn't pay attention and ended up going to bed early. Every creak and groan of the house had me on edge, though, and it was either really late or really early when I finally fell asleep, depending upon how you wanna look at it.

I am usually a morning person, but Sunday, I was dragging. Sometimes we go to church; sometimes we don't. My mom wanted to go that day. She thought it would be a nice show of support for Drew's familyeven though they didn't go to our church, and my parents would be attending the funeral the next day. (They had decided I was too young, which I thought odd since Drew wasn't much older than me, and unfortunately, she was going to be there. But I didn't argue. I wasn't too excited about attending anyway.)

A lot of people were crying at church, and our pastor delivered a lovely message about cherishing those we hold dear. I looked around for any of my sister's friends. Most of them didn't go to church at the same place, but Jack did. He wasn't there, though. I saw his parents, Alice and Steve, sitting toward the back. They both looked extremely upset, and I guessed that was because Jack was probably distraught. Who could blame him? Who knew what he actually saw the night Drew diedwhether she really fell down a cliff and cut her neck open or if something more sinister had happened.

I was leaning toward the sinister theory, especially after having spoken to Lucy and Emma the day before. Lucy made a copy of all of my notes, just in case I forgot again, which was a good idea. She said she was going to do some research. I don't know exactly what she was intending to do, but I was eager to see if she could come up with something. She said to make sure I sent her a text every time something unexplained happened so she could write it in her own notes, and I agreed to do so.

After the last song, my parents solemnly trudged the length of the pew and down the aisle. I could tell by the way my mom kept looking at Alice that she intended to stop and speak to the Cooks if she had a chance. While Alice looked determined to get out of the church before too many people bombarded her, she gave my mom a small smile, sort of a kinship recognition, I think. They were both moms who were sharing in another family's tragedy, one that touched too close to home. I silently wondered if any people dressed in black had visited the Cook residence.

My mom didn't catch up to her while we were still in the building, but once we were outside, we saw Alice and Steve standing near their car, which wasn't too far away from Mom's minivan.

"I'm going to go speak to Alice," my mom said, touching Dad lightly on the arm.

"Me, too," I said. My mother turned and looked at me questioningly. "I want to make sure Jack's okay," I said with a shrug, and she nodded. I knew that my mom understood that Jack was very important to me, and while I felt bad using our relationship as a means to potentially exploit information, I didn't see that I had any other choice.

"Hello, Liz," Alice said, her voice small. She has poofy blonde hair that is usually styled a bit like she has forgotten it is no longer the 1990s and doesn't mind floral prints and mom jeans. Her husband Steve used to be an athlete, like Jack, and sometimes I think they don't quite match, but it's always very clear that they have a solid marriage.

"Hi." My mom's greeting was a sigh. "How are you holding up? Jack hanging in there?"

"He is," Steve nodded. I heard footsteps behind me and realized my dad had decided he was obligated to come along. He shook hands with Steve and hugged Alice. "How is Cadence?"

My mom's lips pressed together in a thin line. "She has been at her grandmother's trying to get some rest. She should be back later today. I know she's struggling."

Alice dabbed at her eyes with a tissue that looked like it was the only one she'd ever possessed in her whole life. "Jack is as well. He goes from being nonchalant about the whole thing to paranoid." She said the last word like it was a secret, and I saw a shift in my mother's eyes.

"Paranoid?" she repeated, her forehead crinkling up. "About what?" As soon as she asked the question, I could tell she regretted it. She glanced at me and looked like she was going to tell me to leave right then and there, but that might seem odd to everyone who didn't realize there was something she was trying to keep from me, so she didn't.

"It's hard to explain," Alice replied. "He just keeps looking out the window. I ask him what's going on, and he either says he doesn't know, or he's afraid someone is watching the house. There are times when he seems to think someone is after him."

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