Chapter Seven

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            As it turned out, I couldn’t stay away from the gym longer than a day.

            I spent the entire afternoon cooped up in my room, going back and forth with myself about whether to call Aunt Shelby. Part of me longed to hear her voice, to catch up on whatever progress might’ve been made in the short time we’d spent apart, but each time I held the phone in my hand I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to hear the inevitable news: that nothing had changed, and an escape from my mother’s house back into circus life looked as unlikely as it had ever done.

            The confinement was already getting to me by the following morning, so I pulled on a pair of sweats and was out of the door by seven thirty. My mother was already up; I could hear movement on the other side of the bathroom door, but made a point to escape before there was any opportunity for conversation.

            I felt bad about it, really. We were years too late on properly meeting, but surely what we’d been given now had to count for something? I knew I should’ve been more grateful for the chance to salvage what had been left of the bond, but that didn’t make it easier to deal with on a day-to-day basis. We were the closest of relatives, and yet somehow complete strangers, all at the same time.

            A quick Google search brought up the address for Kim’s parents’ gym; it was only a ten minute walk. I moved swiftly through the streets of Sherwood, my sports bag bumping against my hip with every step.

            The houses of Umber Court were all relatively similar to the one I’d moved into, but once I ventured into the other streets, the properties seemed to rapidly increase in grandeur. This trend ended with a flourish at the end of a road I’d taken a shortcut through; the house I found myself eyeing up was huge, situated comfortably at the end of a lavish front yard. Obviously the oldest in the neighborhood, it stood tall against the others, its brick contrasting sharply against the wooden panels of its neighbors. A large porch was supported by ornate stone pillars, while a couple of attic windows jutted out from the roof itself.

            On the driveway sat a large Everett Real Estate van, but there was no evidence of any movement pertaining to the house itself. In fact, everything was eerily still.

            Suddenly, a figure appeared on the porch, jolting me from my mild stupor. It was a tall man, somewhere in his forties, with a pressed pinstripe suit and a cell phone clamped to his ear. Whoever was on the other line, he didn’t look happy with them; his creased brow seemed to quiver with the effort of restraining himself from losing it completely.

            He marched down the porch steps, barely pausing to unlock the door, before climbing into the van. The cell phone remained at his ear as he backed up quickly, turning into the street before speeding out of sight.

            It wasn’t like I knew anything about this man, nor did his interest concern me in any way. And yet, for a reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on, I found myself watching this swift departure as if it would be of later importance.

            The last few minutes of my journey were uneventful; I found the gym with little trouble, pushing through the revolving doors at seven forty-five. I half-expected to find Kim at the front desk, tapping away at the computer while simultaneously scribbling plans for her beloved Welcoming Committee, but instead was faced with a skinny blonde who looked as if her entire functioning depended on the cup of Starbucks in her hand.

            My mother had left her membership card on top of my dresser; I’d found it when I woke up that morning. I could only guess she’d noticed the way pent-up energy seemed to be radiating from my entire body. The card swiped easily through one of the automated machines, and I went straight in, greeted instantly by the sound of whirring equipment and hectic babble I’d been craving for two weeks.

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