Chapter 55

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December 2014

Jared's full of contained excitement when he comes out of the meeting with the coaches from Clifton. He swoops down on me, wrapping me up into a hug and gives me a little spin in the air as I giggle into his shoulder.

"That good?" I ask with a smile. He breaks out into a huge grin and sets me down, but doesn't remove his arms from my waist.

"It looks good!" he whispers into my ear and I can hear the joy that he's barely able to hold in. I squeeze him tighter, elated for him.

"You did it!"

"Well let's not get ahead of ourselves. I haven't got an offer yet, but it's a good school, with a good team, and they seem interested. So who knows?" He shrugs but I can see his pride swelling.

"You did it," I repeat more confidently.

I stand up on my toes and find his lips. And there, in the middle of the day, against the swim team's trophy case for all to see, I kiss him deeply. Lost in the freedom of kissing him in public, my hands slide down his back and my body presses into his.

"You're killing me," he moans into my mouth, as he grabs my ponytail and tilts my head back exposing my neck. His mouth cuts its way down it and then back up again to my ear.

"Let's go," he orders gruffly, patting my behind. "You're gonna get me kicked out of this school before I've even gotten accepted."

The area that Jared pulls up to is expensive, you can tell by the types of cars that line the streets, and the perfectly fenced in petunias circling each well-manicured sidewalk

"Are you sure this is the right address?" I ask him for at least the third time. I look around; this is not at all what I was expecting. Tired of answering the same question over and over, this time Jared just gives me a look and nods. "Okay, okay," I surrender sheepishly. "It's the right place." He finds a spot about a block up and parks the car. Killing the ignition, he takes his seatbelt off and turns to me.

"Why don't you go on ahead? I'm going to call my dad about the 'broken' car and set up the story for tonight." He picks his cell phone up, but I don't go to leave. "Ellie? Are you okay?" Putting the phone down, he takes both my hands in his. "Do you want me to come with you?" Half of me desperately wants him to but I shake my head, knowing this is something that I have to do on my own. Jared bends over and kisses me, leaving me breathless.

"You'll be fine," he assures me. I look into his eyes seeking the confidence that I need and find it there. With one last look I open the car door and get out.

I button my jacket up, quickly losing the warmth of Jared's car as I walk up the block and begin counting down the house numbers as I go. I finally reach #117 at the end of the second block. It's a beautiful red brick apartment with a thick mahogany door that has a wreath hanging on it. I walk up the stairs, studying the names next to the apartment numbers, none of them are even remotely close to Sarah Eden's. I don't know what I was expecting, probably someone else at this address with the same name, but of course that doesn't happen. Somewhere deep down I just need confirmation. Something to tell me once and for all that all the whispers and gossip, everything I've learned over the years, is in fact true. That Sarah Eden is my mother. I look around trying to figure out what to do next, when I'm interrupted by Jared's voice.

"No luck?" he asks, as he jogs over and kisses me on the cheek. Since I'm standing a few steps above him, we're the same height, so he has to tilt his head up a little to meet mine.

"No. How about you?" Hopefully he's had better luck convincing his father of car trouble. He gives me a scheming look and sly smile.

"All taken care of." He pulls me closer to him. "And a hotel room for tonight, booked and paid for by dear old dad."

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