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To always zoom in…

I liked that more than I could express. I wasn’t the perfect person. I judged others without being aware of it at times, and that was one flaw I knew I had to work on. Just like Jackson, I, too was far from a saint. I needed to zoom in more often.

“After my dad’s accident, he turned to the bottle for a while, too. Did you know that?” Josie asked.

“No, I had no clue.”

“Yeah, we were young when the accident happened, so it’s not shocking. For a good while, he suffered from depression. People judged him hard, and if he didn’t have my mom to help him through the dark days, he could’ve easily turned into Mike Emery. And I could’ve easily become Jackson. I feel like the whole world could be Jackson or Mike, based on one left turn.”

“That’s true…” I swallowed hard. “I guess I never thought of it like that.”

“But then again, who knows? I could be wrong, and Jackson could seriously just be a total asshole who just sleeps around,” she joked. “But watching him with that dog of his is the biggest turn-on in the world to me.”

“His dog?”

“It’s an old black lab. You’ll see him in town with him. Just watch how he treats that dog, and you’ll realize more than just darkness lives in that boy.”

We spoke for a few more minutes before I found myself walking into the silent book area. As the door closed behind me, I inhaled deeply, looking around at all the beauties against the wall.

Hello, friends.

There were so many words throughout the space that I wasn’t quite certain where to even start. I loved the idea of falling into the pages more than ever now since my own story was quite a mess. I’d rather read another’s happily ever after than waste time debating my own.

As I walked through the aisles of books, my fingertips danced across the spines. I smiled at those who looked up toward me, and ninety-nine percent of the individuals smiled back, with warm, welcoming looks. But that one percent…

Jackson sat in the far-left corner of the shop. It was the darkest corner with only a small flood of light from a small window. My eyes fell to the book in his grip.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

Gosh, he was so complex. A big, muscular, mean man reading young adult novels.


Right as I studied the cover of the novel, I felt his eyes on me. I lifted my head a bit, and his eyes burned into me with a look of complete disgust. The corners of his lips stayed turned down, and he slightly grumbled before looking back down at his book and flipping the page.

Knots formed in my stomach and my nerves twisted up with confusion of the boy who seemed to despise me more than anything. I tried to understand why he was the way he was toward me. I tried my best to zoom in on him and see his true colors.

“Hey, Jackson,” I said, nodding his way.

He looked up, then back down at his book. “No talking in here,” he muttered, flipping his page.

“I know, but I just wanted to say thank you for yesterday, for when you—”

“You can’t talk in here,” he hissed once more.

A chill raced down my spine. “I know but—”

“Listen, princess, I get that you might think you’re beyond privileged, and that rules don’t apply to you, but please, just take your comments elsewhere, cuz I don’t want to hear them.”


Mean Jackson was back in full force.

“Just go away,” he told me, his voice hard and mean.

And without a single sound, I did exactly that.



As I walked up to Judy and Hank’s place after spending most of the day in The Silent Bookshop, I saw the panic in my sister before she even spoke a word my way.

She rushed out the front door, whisper-shouting, “Grace, listen, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know this would happen, and you’re going to kill me because I let it slip, but I didn’t mean to let it slip, and I’m so sorry!”

I cocked an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s Mama.”

“What about her?”

“She’s here, and she knows about Finn.”

“What? How?”

“Well, she doesn’t exactly know, but people were gossiping at the service about how they saw you and him fighting in town last night. They asked her about it, asking if you two were okay.”

Oh, great, people were already running their mouths about Finn and me. That didn’t take long.

“Mama was so thrown off, but she smiled through it all. Then she gave me a good talkin’-to…and she invited herself over for dinner. Which is happening now.” The guilt of it all swam in Judy’s eyes, but it wasn’t her fault.

I gave her a tight smile and told her it was okay. Mom would’ve found out anyway. I just wished she hadn’t learned it from random people in the church. Even though she smiled through it, I knew that being blindsided would’ve upset her.