Chapter Twenty

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"Okay, Lizzie!" Max shouted up the stairs of a stranger's house.

It was easier to not think about the families who used to live in each house anymore.

"Looks like we have all we're gonna get here! Let's pack up and move out, head back towards the Jennings'!" he called up once again.

Lizzie didn't reply, forcing Max to stamp his way up the stairs, mumbling and groaning as he did so. The girl never did as she was told.

"Lizzie?" Max screamed at the top of his lungs, now slightly worried about her safety.

"Woah, calm down big guy, I'm in here," Lizzie replied coolly, poking her head around a nearby door, sarcastically smiling to wind him up.

"Little shit," Max mumbled, walking towards the door.

"I heard that!" Lizzie yelled, still beaming.

"What are you doing in here anyway?" Max asked, now smiling to himself as Lizzie had turned away.

"I found these," she replied, thrusting out her hands, cupped together, and carrying a pile of three padded balls.

"Juggling? Really?" Max said with a smirk.

"Yeah! I've always wanted to learn!" Lizzie laughed, as she gave him her best attempt.

She threw one ball high above her head, before fumbling and dropping the other two, with the first landing on her head with a dull thud.

"Well, I won't lie, that was impressive," Max said, stifling a laugh.

"It's harder than it looks! You try then!" Lizzie challenged, lobbing the balls his way as hard as she could.

"Can't be too hard," Max stated as he dropped his bag to his feet.

He bent down, plucking the balls from the ground and weighing them from side to side. He inhaled, and threw the first ball up. Immediately he struck a perfect rhythm, throwing and catching the trio of balls in a beautiful arching motion. He kept this up for ten or so seconds before catching all three and throwing a cocky smile Lizzie's way.

"Okay, what the fuck?" she giggled.

"Yeah, I took lessons as a kid, breathe another word of that and I'll shove all three down your throat. Time to go," Max replied swiftly, chucking the balls into his backpack and hightailing it out of the room before she could reply.

Lizzie caught up with him downstairs, still chuckling to herself about the thought of Max in some kind of clown camp.

"Home time?" she asked after she had calmed herself down.

"Yeah, maybe try a few of the big houses down that street, then face the music back at the house. I'm sure they'll have come up with at least ten new reasons of why this trip was so reckless," Max complained bitterly.

The pair set off into a steady jog down the road, turning left, then right until they entered the Jennings' street.

"Maybe they'll send us to bed without dinner," Lizzie teased.

"Yeah or make us do the washing up before we're allowed any pudding," Max sniggered.

As they neared the house, they slowed to a walk before Lizzie noticed something ahead.

"Is it just me, or does that not look good?" Lizzie asked with a seriously worried tone.

Max looked dead straight, where Lizzie was pointing. The large metal gate was swinging freely, and the front door of the house had been ripped from its hinges.

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