He slams the door and begins walking in the direction of the school. I grab Charlie’s phone and head inside.
I couldn’t find her in the halls, so I went to my first two classes. I’m headed to my third now, still with no word from her. I’m sure she just slept late and I’ll see her when we have class together fourth period. But still—something doesn’t feel right. Everything feels off.
She could just be avoiding me, but that doesn’t seem like something she would do. She wouldn’t go out of her way to let me know she doesn’t want to speak to me. She’d throw it in my face.
I go to my locker to find my third period math book. I would check her locker to see if any of her textbooks are missing, but I don’t know the combination to her lock. It was written on her schedule, but I gave that to her yesterday.
I turn around to see Andrew fighting his way through the crowded hallway like a fish swimming upstream. He finally gives up and yells, “Janette wants you to call her!” He turns and heads in the opposite direction again.
I find her name in the contacts in my phone. She answers on the first ring.
“Silas?” she says.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“Is Charlie with you?”
I close my eyes, feeling the panic begin to settle in the pit of my stomach. “No,” I reply. “She didn’t come home last night?”
“No,” Janette says. “I normally wouldn’t be worried, but she usually tells me if she’s not coming home. She never called and now she’s not responding to my texts.”
“I have her phone.”
“Why do you have her phone?”
“She left it in my car,” I say. I close my locker and begin to head toward the exit. “We got into an argument last night and she got in a cab. I thought she was going straight home.”
I stop walking when it hits me. She didn’t have lunch money yesterday—which means she wouldn’t have had cab fair last night.
“I’m leaving school,” I tell Janette. “I’ll find her.”
I hang up before I even give her a chance to respond. I sprint down the hallway toward the door that leads to the parking lot, but as soon as I round the corner, I stop short.
Shit. Now is not the time for this. I try to duck my head and walk past her, but she grabs the sleeve of my shirt. I stop walking and face her.
“Avril, I can’t right now.” I point to the exit. “I need to leave. Kind of an emergency.”
She releases my shirt and folds her arms over her chest. “You never showed up during lunch yesterday. I thought maybe you were running late, but when I checked the cafeteria, you were there. With her.”
Christ, I don’t have time for this. In fact, I think I’ll save myself any future trouble and just end it now.
I sigh and run a hand through my hair. “Yeah,” I say. “Charlie and I…we decided to work things out.”
Avril tilts her head and shoots me an incredulous look. “No, Silas. That isn’t what you want, and it’s definitely not going to work for me.”
I look left, down the hall, and then right. When I see no one’s around, I take a step toward her. “Listen, Ms. Ashley,” I say, taking care to address her professionally. I look her directly in the eyes. “I don’t think you’re in any position to tell me how things are going to be between the two of us.”
Her eyes immediately narrow. She stands silently for several seconds as though she’s waiting for me to laugh and tell her I’m only kidding. When I don’t falter, she huffs and shoves her hands against my chest, pushing me out of the way. The click of her heels begins to fade the further I sprint away from her—toward the exit.
I’m knocking for a third time on Charlie’s front door when it finally flies open. Her mother is standing in front of me. Wild hair, wilder eyes. It’s as if hatred spews from her soul the moment she realizes I’m standing here.
“What do you want?” she spits.
I try to glance past her to get a look inside the house. She moves to block my view, so I point over her shoulder. “I need to talk to Charlie. Is she here?”
Her mother takes a step outside and pulls the door shut behind her so that I can’t see inside at all. “That’s none of your business,” she hisses. “Get the hell off my property!”
“Is she here or not?”
She folds her arms over her chest. “If you aren’t out of my driveway in five seconds, I’m calling the police.”
I throw my hands up in defeat and groan. “I’m worried about your daughter, so can you please put your anger aside for one minute and tell me if she’s inside?”
She takes two quick steps toward me and pokes a finger into my chest. “Don’t you dare raise your voice at me!”
I push past her and kick open the door. The first thing I’m hit with is the smell. The air is stale. A fog of thick cigarette smoke fills the air and assaults my lungs. I hold my breath as I make my way through the living room. There’s a bottle of whiskey open on the bar, sitting next to an empty glass. Mail is scattered across the table—what looks like several days’ worth. It’s like this woman doesn’t even care enough to open any of it. The envelope on the top of the stack is addressed to Charlie.
I move to pick it up, but hear the woman stalking into the house behind me. I make my way down the hall and see two doors to my right and one on the left. I push open the door to my left, just as Charlie’s mother begins screaming from behind me. I ignore her and make my way into the bedroom.
“Charlie!” I yell. I glance around the room, knowing she isn’t here, but still hoping I’m wrong. If she isn’t here, I don’t know where else to look. I don’t remember any of the places we used to hang out.
But neither would Charlie, I guess.
“Silas!” her mother yells from the doorway to the bedroom. “Get out! I’m calling the police!” She disappears from the doorway, probably to retrieve a phone. I continue my search for…I don’t even know. Charlie obviously isn’t here, but I keep looking around anyway, hoping to find something that could help.
I know which side of the room is Charlie’s because of the picture of the gate above her bed. The one she said I took.
I look around for clues, but find nothing. I remember her mentioning something about an attic in her closet, so I check the closet. There’s a small hole at the top of it. It looks like she uses her shelves as steps. “Charlie!” I call out.
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