Chapter 34

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"No way!"

Bethany and Candy each stared at me slack-jawed; Candy shook her head in disbelief.

"You're joking, right? How could you believe the guy? He's psycho."

Bethany nodded earnest agreement with Candy. "If Viccy and Toney find out, you're dead. Or actually he will be."

Candy and I turned and looked at her in confusion, "Viccy...he actually lets you call him that?"

Bethany flushed shifting in her seat; we were seated outside on the veranda at the B.A.M bookstore (Books-a-million). "He actually told me, to only call him that in private. Anyway, we aren't discussing me but Corrine's latest insane decision."

I rolled my eyes, "It isn't that shocking, he isn't all that bad just...weird in expressing himself." Okay, I was really under-stating all the weird things he did.

Bethany leaned forward, her face skeptical. "So. Why did he ignore you for like two months?"

I was glad then and there that I hadn't told her half of what he'd said to me that day in the library.

"We had a small tiff, and now it's resolved. And it's all thanks to you; your bragging to him about my date saved our love."

Bethany's expression became smug, "Of course, I am the love guru."

Candy scoffed choking on her chocolate frappe, "Yeah, right. I mean of all the names out there, Viccy? You could have chosen Vincento-you know, something Italian and manly." Bethany huffed as we both laughed.

After work, I rushed out eager to get home and get ready for my first night out with Nate. I felt giddy like a high- school girl.

But I guess the poets had it right, about love, I mean—how it can make you feel insanely happy, and then sometimes it can take you to a dark place you never thought you could go over another person.

I made my way past the bank and headed towards Strawberry alley, I needed something sweet to get rid of the bitter taste in my mouth.

"Corrine...Corra!"

I looked over my shoulder and there was Tex, waving at me like a crazy person. He waited for a car to pass before he ran over to me. He grabbed both my arms, and shook me. "Tell me it's a lie. Tell me you're not dating that psycho dude. If you are, I know a good mental doctor that will fix you right on up, real quick."

I laughed as he shook me, placing my hand on his chest to make him stop, "I am sorry Tex; I can't kick it with you down the aisle."

His hands dropped, his face look devastated, he sighed, "My Shorty is growing up."

I laughed, as I turned away from him, "Want to talk about it over coffee?"

He nodded, following me as I made my way inside, "Get Some Coffee." I asked if he wanted anything, but he said no. We lightly bantered as I waited for my drink, after I got it we went to the sitting area outside. The leaves had begun to fall, and the down town was completely covered in them. Reds, golds, and browns decorated the cobble-stoned ground.

I turned my attention towards Tex who had just come back from the restroom.

He shook his head, flopping down on the chair next to me. He'd managed to find me on this back ally street; he must have been hunting for a while.

I shifted in my seat. If he'd come to investigate me, I wasn't going to give. Anyway, he was going to have to work for it. So I waited for him to start on his own, I sipped from my coffee cup.

Finally gaining some sense he spoke again, his blue eyes concerned. "Do you really like him that much, Corrine?"

I thought over my answer. Crossing my ankles, I watched traffic go back and forth.

"I've never been in love before, and, even now, I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing. Are my emotions supposed to be so intense? I'm surprised, myself. I mean, I've just turned twenty-one and I still have two more years of school before graduation unless I compress classes. Will this relationship last that long? I'm not sure. Maybe it's all a dream; I'm just playing some character in someone's head."

Tex reached over and grabbed my hand, his eyes filled with a gentle understanding, "Don't worry. We'll always have your back no matter what happens."

I smiled and thanked him, our talk turned towards his game last week and issues with Allison.

***

The next day I received a call from my father, I was surprised considering that he had been so busy with his cases.

"What's up Pop?"

"Corrine, we have a problem. Bethany's seems to think that Bethany is missing. Her mom called me, and told me she'd been on her way this morning from school, but she hasn't been able to reach her since. I told her I would check with you, what's going on?"

My heart stopped. Bethany always answered her mom's calls, or she'd text back immediately. "How long has it been since she hasn't been able to reach her?"

My father's voice grew gruff, "Her mom has not spoken to her in two days, Bethany's last call came day before yesterday, and she hasn't been able to get a hold of her since then, she called me around...lunch time, I told her not to panic."

We all hung out a few days ago, but we have missed each other here at the apartment because of work schedules and late study nights. I thought she headed to class ahead of me this morning." My thoughts had been on Nate so much that I did not realize we had not been together for a whole day. Dad told me more information as I walked around my apartment grabbing my jacket, purse, and keys. I walked towards the door, when a sticky-note on the counter caught my attention. "Alright, Dad, I'm going to go check out some of our hanging spots. I think her phone might have died or something." I picked up the note, and read quickly; my eyes froze on the last line. "Hey, Dad I'll call you back, uhmm, later."

I let my arm drop to my side, the note wasn't too complicated to understand. The writing was slightly sloppy:

"I have your friend, and I want your life in exchange for hers. Meet me at the old mill house, on Needmore Road. You have until midnight tomorrow, we are getting along very well for now."

I didn't move, trying to think of who could have written it. My heart nearly stopped beating. With sudden clarity, I rushed out of my apartment, only to slam into Nate's chest. His arms came around me, "Hi there. Where are you going in such a rush?"

I looked into his eyes, and wondered why I'd forgotten him, the one who'd promised to protect me with his life, wouldn't that extend to my friends tonight? I showed him the note.  

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