Chapter Nine

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Everyone notices the rig parked in front of the Kingston house that evening, just like its absence yesterday morning was noticed. It was there again yesterday afternoon by the time Merritt's truck was there to join it in the driveway. Everyone on our street—myself included—studied the strange occurrence with more interest than anyone has watched that house in months.

This morning, it is nowhere in sight.

It's not quite 9:00; I don't work today so I slept in a little later than usual. I've gone to my bedroom window twice to look at their house, because I can't get rid of the nagging feeling in the back of my mind. Like something isn't quite right.

I make a quick breakfast of buttered toast, then go back up to my room. The nagging persists.

I brush my teeth and change into a sweater and jeans, grab my phone and keys, and leave. It's a chilly morning, with frost on the ground so thick it almost looks like snow. The road is slick under my boots but I keep walking, past the edge of the Kingstons' driveway and right up to the door.

This is probably stupid. They don't need me interfering with their lives—

The curtain shifts on the other side of the window. A moment later, the doorknob turns and Nash is standing there in his pajamas.

"Hey, Nash."

"Lydia!" He greets me with a tight hug, like he hasn't seen me in ages.

"Are you—are you here by yourself?"

He nods. "I woke up and Merritt wasn't here. Neither was Dad."

"Do you know where they are?"

"Merritt had to go to work."

But he wouldn't have left him here alone. "Let's go back inside, okay?"

The living room is messier than usual, with dirty dishes on the coffee table and a couple of napkins on the floor by the couch. The room smells faintly of cigarette smoke.

"Have you eaten breakfast yet?"

He shakes his head.

First things first, we'll take care of that. Merritt probably doesn't know about this, and I'd rather calm Nash down first before letting him know. As far as I can tell, he's fine. A little scared, but otherwise okay.

Once he's settled at the kitchen table with a bowl of cereal and a glass of milk, I go into the living room and plug up the tree. It could just be me, but the glow of the glow of the lights is sort of calming. Maybe it will be the same for Nash.

I text Merritt, asking him to call me when he gets the chance, and start stacking clean dishes in the cabinets.

My phone chimes from the counter.

"I'll be right back, okay?"

"Okay."

I step into the hallway and answer the call. "Hey, Merritt."

"Hey," he says slowly. "What's up?"

"I—I just wanted to let you know that I'm here with Nash." There's no way to be honest with him without making him worry. "I noticed your dad's truck was gone, and yours too, so I came over and knocked on the door. Nash was here."

It's quiet for such a long moment that I check the screen to make sure he didn't hang up. "Merritt?"

"I'm here. I just—I'll be home as soon as I can. Just let me talk to my boss. Would you...would you stay with him until I get there?"

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