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Pen Your Pride

Won't Get Fooled Again

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Copyright 2017 by AnnaAbner


The bedroom at the top of the stairs was exactly as Carrie remembered it. Four years hadn't improved the unicorn print comforter on the queen-sized bed or livened the gray-blue carpet. Nana hadn't changed the heavy drapes over the windows or the James Dean poster, either. Carrie took it all in, getting a strange feeling of deja vu. Nana hadn't changed a thing since the day Carrie had left to live with her mom.

"You can unpack, you know," Nana said, hovering in the doorway.

"I will." But she probably wouldn't. "As soon as my mom calls, I'm going back to Indianapolis," she said confidently, making a show of setting her backpack and rolling suitcase on the bed.

"I registered you for school."

"But I'll only be here a few days," she repeated her cover story. "Mom's vacation with her friends in Chicago is almost over. She'll be home any day." Carrie couldn't admit yet that Mom had left ten days earlier without a word and had been missing ever since.

"Either way," Nana said, pulling a box from the bedside table. "I got you a cell phone. I didn't think you had one, and I thought a sixteen-year-old girl would want one. Am I right?"

"Thank you," she said, taking the box. But she was immediately suspicious.

Carrie watched her grandmother carefully, thinking, she knew. Somehow, she'd figured out what was really happening with Mom. Or maybe she'd known all along.

"I really appreciate it," Carrie said, "but you didn't have to register me. I'm only staying a couple days."

If she knew more than she let on, Nana didn't give anything away. "It's no problem," she said. "I still have copies of all your records. It was a simple thing to register you." After a moment, she added, "I didn't want you to fall behind. In case you're going to be here longer than a couple days."

"Well, thanks," Carrie said. "That was very thoughtful."

Nana smiled kindly. "You start Monday morning."

And with the detonation of that bomb still going off in her wake, Nana closed the bedroom door behind her.

Tossing the phone box on the bed, Carrie rushed to the window that faced west and parted the heavy drapes, a waft of dust blowing over her head. But she could still see, if she looked hard, Trey Martin's bedroom window in the house next door. Their windows didn't match up. His was ten feet to her left, but if she squinted she could see a sliver of his life.

Four years ago, they'd left messages for each other on their window sills. A coffee cup right side up meant come over. The same cup upside down meant leave me alone.

There was no cup on his sill, but she could see him in the reflection of his closet mirror. No lights were on, and he was a gray shape crouched on his desk chair, his knees drawn to his chest. If he saw her, too, he made no move to get her attention. She waved limply, just in case, but there was no reaction, and she couldn't see his face.

Plugging in her new cell and quickly memorizing the phone number, Carrie hurried out, not even worrying about her flyaway hair or the chocolate milk stain on her jeans from when her car had hit a pothole on the four-hour drive from Indianapolis.

Her feet thumped down the stairs. "Nana, I'm going to Trey's!" She was out the door before she caught a response.

Walking up the two wooden steps to Trey's front door felt like old times. Back when they were kids she must have made this walk a million and one times, and her heart was fluttering like a nervous bunny's as she rang the bell.

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