YA Science Fiction Romance
No More Lies
Tonight the lies would end.
No matter what lame excuse Claire threw out, I’d had enough of her weird, cryptic crap. No more secrets. No more arguments. No more dodging questions. I was going to confront her and demand the truth. Something I should have done months ago, the first time she lied.
My headlights splashed across the back of my sister’s baby blue Beetle. I slipped my Corolla into the narrow space next to her car, claiming the last spot in the small parking alcove by the creek. Slammed the gearshift into park. Ripped the keys out of the ignition. My hand strayed to my pocket, my fingers brushing the soft denim of my jeans.
Get a grip, Kate. It’s a piece of paper.
A piece of paper with some pretty damning words—written in Claire’s loopy handwriting.
An engine turned over with a loud roar and the car at the end of the lot backed out onto the street, flipped on its lights, and drove away.
My heart jumped twenty stories, paused for what felt like forever, and then dropped even faster. I slapped my hand over my chest and pushed against the quick thud, thud, thud.
Why couldn’t my sister pout at Starbucks or the nail salon? Somewhere bright and safe where finding her didn’t require a Mag light?
The twilight sky began a slow slide into night—the horizon a hazy pink, growing duskier by the minute. Thanks a lot, Claire. Stupid—At creek. Need you—text. You couldn’t have needed me before it got dark?
I checked my phone again. Ten unanswered messages sat in my outbox in response to the one she’d left twenty minutes ago. I tossed the phone on the dash and opened the glove compartment. Owner’s manual. GPS. A half-empty pack of Trident. And a tiny red flashlight. Nothing that made me feel even a little bit okay about getting out of my car. I grabbed the flashlight and shoved open my door anyway.
Right into the car next to me.
Crap. It was a nice car, too. I glanced around and then checked out the paint. Even under the dimming street lamp, a small beige smudge showed up, marring the black shine on the passenger door. Now I had to find Claire and get back here before Sleek and Sporty’s owner returned and wrote down my license plate.
I let my sweatshirt sleeves fall over my hands to warm my fingers. Even mid-December, the winter chill hadn’t quite hit Texas, but the sun’s disappearance lowered the temperature another ten degrees and the breeze brought a bitter edge.
Claire’s sanctuary under the wooden bridge wasn’t too far down the winding creek—just past the huge tree that twisted and bent and practically fell into the water.
I’d try there first.
Dead leaves and grass crunched underneath my boots. Long strands of hair whipped across my face. I brushed them back.
Something snapped behind me.
I whirled around, clenching my fingers. My heart sped again. The loud pounding echoed across the water and got lost in the blackness. A tight knot curled in my stomach. If something happened to me out here, I was going to kill my sister.
What would they say when they found me disemboweled and hanging from a tree a la Scream? Probably—stupid girl came out here all alone, she deserved it.
I quickened my pace. There were other more pressing things to deal with. Real things. Claire things. Crazy things. Things my head couldn’t process that should immobilize my heart more than the thought of some psycho hiding in the trees with a machete.
That slip of paper burned the proverbial hole in my pocket. But then again, exaggeration? Claire’s specialty. I just needed to find her, before it got any darker, and we could talk about this in the car. With the doors locked. Or at Saxby’s over a latte.
Whatever this was, we could work it out together like we always did. Nothing ever turned out to be as life-ending as she made it out to be. And all the sneaking around? What did she think she had to hide? From me? Up until school started this fall, we’d never kept secrets from each other.
My stomach twisted. One secret. I kept one secret. No point in sharing what couldn’t be fixed.
The bridge loomed ahead, a tall arching structure made of wood and metal that connected one side of the creek to the other. The barely-there-sliver of a moon might as well have been MIA.
I switched the tiny flashlight on and pointed it toward the platform, shining it from one end to the other. Empty. Not her favorite place but I’d hoped she’d be hiding there instead of huddled under the metal supports, against the stone wall, because that meant I had to climb down there.
“Claire?” I whispered, angling the light toward the shadowy place where I expected her to be, but the dim light and distance made everything look black.
What if she wasn’t down there, but someone else was? Why couldn’t she have met me in the parking lot, while I waited in my locked car?
The wind picked up, rattling the trees. Oh yeah, perfect slasher setting. Dumb blonde. No common sense. Armed with a penlight. I could almost hear the people in the theater screaming, “Run Kate! Don’t go down there.”
“Claire?” I boosted my volume. “Not funny, okay? Let’s pick up a pizza and go home. I’ll pay.”
I glanced over my shoulder at the deserted street, then back to the creek. A copse of dense trees moved in rhythm with the breeze. A sliver of ice skipped across my spine, wrapped around my middle, and took up residence low in my gut. Why didn’t I tell Dad like I’d threatened? Then he’d be out here instead of me.
The third time I said her name, my voice hit the bottom end of yelling and came out a shaky warble. “Claire?”
I stuck the end of the flashlight in my mouth and worked my way one careful step at a time down the steep sloping bank, holding onto to trees and rocks, my hands trembling along with my breath. “Oh, Claire, you’re going to owe me big time for this. Do you hear me? Work shifts. Bathroom cleaning. Dog poop duty. All yours.”
Almost to the bottom, an old gnarled tree bent and hung over the water, attached to a flat, narrow ledge. I tripped on a giant root and barely saved myself from falling the three feet off the edge and into the icy water by grabbing a low-hanging branch.
The flashlight fell out of my mouth and landed in the mud, pointing across the creek.
“Don’t text me to come here and then be a jerk, Claire. Whatever’s going on, you don’t need to be mean.” If I could have hissed the words, I would have. “I’m going home.”
After I snagged my only source of light.
The ground evened out below the tree and I slid down the rest of the slope—mostly on my butt—until my feet hit the dirt, putting me in reaching distance of the flashlight. I followed the narrow light with my eyes. The edge of the beam lit up a dark shape in the water. A log? A broken tree? A psycho killer stalking me crocodile style?
Whatever. I was done here. I loved my sister, but I was tired of being pulled into her craziness. Dad could deal with her.
I snatched the flashlight, most of it covered in mud, and prayed Croco Killer wouldn’t jump out of the water once I turned my back. I kept my eyes forward and climbed up the bank, chanting, “Horror movies are made up by sickos with freaky imaginations that get off on scaring people to death. They’re not real.”
But it didn’t do much to stop that sliver of ice in my gut from multiplying and spreading to the rest of my body.
“One more glance over my shoulder,” I whispered. “I’ll know I’m alone and then I’ll run back to the car.”
I turned with the flashlight, pointed it at the log one more time, and froze.
That dark shape wasn’t a log. It was my sister.