Partners for over twenty years, the two business moguls are now placing the blame on each other, both claiming to have no knowledge of the illegal practices uncovered during a recent investigation.
I read another.
Clark Nash cleared of charges. Company co-chair, Brett Wynwood, sentenced to fifteen years for fraud and embezzlement.
I make it to the second page of search results when the battery light begins to flash on the laptop. I open the drawer, but there’s no charger. I look everywhere. Under the bed, in the closet, in my dresser drawers.
The laptop dies during my search. I begin to use my phone to research, but it’s about to die, too, and the only phone charger I can find plugs into a laptop. I keep looking because I need to know exactly what happened to make these two families hate each other so much.
I lift the mattress, thinking maybe the charger could be stuck behind the bed somehow. I don’t find the charger, but I do find what looks like a notebook. I slide it out from under the mattress and then take a seat on top of the bed. Right when I open it up to the first page, my phone vibrates with an incoming text.
Charlie: How are things with your father?
I want to learn more before deciding what I want to share with her. I ignore the text and open the notebook to find stacks of papers stuffed into a folder. Across the top, the papers all read “Wynwood-Nash Financial Group,” but I don’t understand any of them. I also don’t understand why these were hidden beneath my mattress.
Clark Nash’s words from downstairs repeat in my head—I know you don’t think she took those files from this office, Silas, but I know she did.
Looks like he was wrong, but why would I have taken them? What would I have needed with them?
Who was I trying to protect?
My phone buzzes again with another text.
Charlie: There’s this really neat feature on your phone called, “read receipts.” If you’re going to ignore texts, you should probably turn that off. ;)
At least she put a winky face.
Me: Not ignoring you. Just tired. We have a lot to figure out tomorrow.
That’s all she says. I’m not sure if I should respond to her effortless reply, but I don’t want her to be irritated if I don’t respond.
Me: Goodnight, Charlie baby. ;)
As soon as I hit send, I want to retract it. I don’t know what I was going for with that reply. Not sarcasm, but definitely not flirtation, either.
I decide to regret it tomorrow. Right now I just need sleep so I can make sure I’m awake enough in the morning to deal with all of this.
I shove the notebook back under the mattress and see a wall charger, so I plug it into my phone. I’m too exhausted to keep searching tonight, so I kick off my shoes. It isn’t until I lie down that I notice Ezra changed my sheets.
As soon as I turn the lamp off and close my eyes, my phone vibrates.
Charlie: Goodnight, Silas.
Her lack of endearment doesn’t go unnoticed, but for some inexplicable reason, the text still makes me smile. Typical Charlie.
It is not a good night.
The trapdoor to the attic is in the closet I share with my sister. After I text Silas goodnight, I climb the three shelves—which are bursting with fabric—and push upward with my fingertips until it shifts left. I glance back over my shoulder and see that Janette hasn’t looked up from her phone. This must be normal—me climbing into the attic, leaving her behind. I want to ask if she’ll come with me, but it was exhausting just to get her to come to dinner. Another time, I think. I’ll figure out how to fix things between us.
I don’t know why, but as I hoist myself through the hole and into an even smaller space, I picture Silas’s face; the tan, smooth skin. His full lips. How many times had I tasted his mouth and yet I can’t remember a single kiss.
The air is warm and stuffy. I crawl on my knees to a pile of pillows and press my back to them, straightening my legs out in front of me. There’s a flashlight standing atop a pile of books. I click it on, examining their spines; stories I know, but don’t remember reading. How odd to be made of flesh, balanced on bone, and filled with a soul you’ve never met.
I pick up her books one by one and read the first page of each. I want to know who she is—who I am. When I’ve exhausted the pile, I find a larger book at the bottom, bound in creased red leather. My immediate thought is that I’ve found a journal. My hands shake as I fold open the pages.
Not a journal. A scrapbook. Letters from Silas.
I know this because he signs each one with a sharp S that almost looks like a lightening bolt. And I know I like his handwriting, direct and distinct. Paper-clipped to the top of each note is a photo—presumably one that Silas has taken. I read one note after another, pouring over words. Love letters. Silas is in love.
He likes to imagine a life with me. In one letter, written on the back of a brown paper sack, he details the way we will spend Christmas when we have our own place: spiked apple cider by the Christmas tree, raw cookie dough that we eat before we get the chance to bake it. He tells me he wants to make love to me with only candles lighting the room so that he can see my body glow in the candle light. The photo paper clipped to the note is of a tiny Christmas tree that looks like it’s in his bedroom. We must have set it up together.
I find another written on the back of a receipt in which he details what it feels like to be inside of me. My face grows warm as I read the note over and over, reveling in his lust. The photo paper clipped to this one is of my bare shoulder. His photos pack a punch—just like his words. They take my breath, and I’m not sure if the part of me I can’t remember is in love with him. I feel only curiosity toward the dark-haired boy who looks at me so earnestly.
I set the note aside, feeling like I’m snooping on someone else’s life, and close the book. This belonged to Charlie. I’m not her. I fall asleep surrounded by Silas’s words, the sprinkling of letters and sentences swirling around in my head until…
A girl drops to her knees in front of me. “Listen to me,” she whispers. “We don’t have much time…”
But I don’t listen to her. I push her away and then she’s gone. I am standing outside. There is a fire burning from an old metal trash can. I rub my hands together to get warm. From somewhere behind me I can hear a saxophone playing, but the sound morphs into a scream. That’s when I run. I run through the fire that was in the trash can, but now it is everywhere, licking the buildings along the street.. I run, choking on smoke until I see one pink-faced storefront that is free of flame and smoke, though everything around it burns. It is a shop of curiosities. I open the door without thought because it is the only place safe from the flames. Silas is there waiting for me. He leads me past bones and books and bottles and takes me to a back room. A woman sits on a throne made of broken mirror, staring down at me with a thin smile on her lips. The pieces of mirror reflect slices of light across the walls where they jiggle and dance. I turn to look at Silas, to ask him where we are, but he’s gone. “Hurry!”