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I wondered what else she had, flipping open a few cabinets. I left every single thing behind, all my clothes, my toothbrush, everything I owned except my laptop and backpack, which had been in my car when I took off from the funeral. I had started over literally from scratch, but Corabelle had retained the detritus of our lives together.

I couldn’t find anything interesting, so I picked up the trash bag again, jumping back when a wet drop hit my shoe. A green liquid oozed from several holes in the bottom of the sack. Cheap bags. I opened her pantry and searched for a box of them to double bag it so I didn’t leave a trail through her apartment. I found a neatly folded stack of them, and tugged the first one off the top, snapping it open.

As the sack fitted over the other, I realized it, too, had holes. What was that all about? I examined them, realizing they were perfect punctures, done on purpose. I returned to the pantry and pulled another one from the stack. Also riddled with them. Every bag had been tampered with.

Attached to the door was one of those stick-on closet organizers designed to hold plastic grocery bags to be reused. It was stuffed full of sacks. I pulled one out and held it up to the overhead light.

Holes.

I pulled out bag after bag, and they were all the same. Careful punctures at the bottom of each one.

What was Corabelle doing? She didn’t have a cat to get tangled in one and suffocate. Obviously she didn’t have a child. And either way, it was an obsessive thing to do.

I stuffed the sacks back in the little bin and folded the trash bags as best I could. I wiped up the floor with paper towels and held the bag sideways to keep the worst of it from dripping.

As I walked around the building looking for the dumpster, I decided to put this from my mind for now. Corabelle could tell me about it later, when she was stronger, when we had some miles under our belt and could talk about hard stuff. Whatever was going on with her, and whatever quirks came out of it, probably led back to me. If I wanted us to be together again, I had to accept all the things about her. So I would.

6: Corabelle

My parents were going to drive me crazy. They’d sat around my bed all day, talking about the most inane things. Knitting. Football. Construction in my hometown.

“You guys are in one of the most beautiful cities in California,” I said. “Go out and see the sights.”

Mom shook her head. “While you are still recovering? Of course not.”

Every time the door opened, my anxiety rose that the social worker would return and my parents would want to stick around for the interrogation. They had no clue that I’d been kicked out of New Mexico State, only that I had decided to finish out my degree at the school I had originally applied to. They also didn’t know I had forfeited my scholarships and was going into debt.

But Miss Cat-Eye Glasses probably knew all of that.

I poked at the new phone Dad had brought, wishing my old one would turn on so that I could at least get a contact list. Neither Jenny nor Gavin had called or texted me, both thinking mine was still defunct. I vowed to memorize their numbers from now on, so I’d never be out of contact again. I felt cut off from the world.

“I’m surprised Gavin hasn’t tried to connive his way back to your room today,” Dad said. “I’m looking forward to kicking him out. I already talked to the staff and they said if he isn’t family, he can be asked to leave.”

I felt the hairs on the back of my neck start to hackle. “Dad, I’m over eighteen, and I want him here. You can’t turn him away on my behalf.”

“Don’t you remember those days after he left?”

Mom looked up from her knitting, her reading glasses low on her nose. “Arthur, let’s not go there.”

Dad paced the room. “You were devastated. I wanted to find that boy and pulverize him.”

I tugged at a loose string on the hospital gown. Dad had changed. He never would have said things like this before Finn.

“And now look at you. He no more comes back and here you are in the hospital.” He whirled around. “I am convinced he was responsible for this.”

“Now you know Gavin was the one who pulled her out,” Mom said.

“So obviously he was there when she went in!”

I set the phone down by my leg. “I’m right here, you know.”

Dad came forward and sat by my feet. “Tinker Bell, you were doing so well before. I can’t help but think all the upset is what got you in this situation.”

“What situation is that? I got a little wet, and I ended up sick. I’m better now, and I’ll be out of here soon. All this will be behind me.” Why wouldn’t he let this go?

Something moved in the doorway, and I looked to see Gavin standing there, his face red with fury.

“Do you have something you want to accuse me of…sir?”

Dad twisted on the bed. “Oh, good.” He reached across me to push the nurse call button.

“Don’t do that!” I shouted. “This is ridiculous!”

“No, him being here is ridiculous,” Dad said. “Baby, why won’t you listen to reason on this?”

Gavin moved through the room with coiled energy, like a panther. He took my hand. “How are you feeling?”

I hung on, watching my father glare at Gavin’s back. “I’m getting around today.”

He set my backpack on the floor. “I brought you the notes from class today and your books so you could catch up.”

I looked around him at my dad in an “I told you so look,” but he was heading for the door. I didn’t like this. “Dad, where are you going?”

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