"Excuse me.... Are you all right?"
A soft voice echoed through her head. Eve turned to face the wide-eyed woman standing next to her.
"Are you okay? You've been standing here staring at your reflection since I entered."
Eve glanced around. A row of bathroom stalls and a pair of paper towel dispensers on the wall. A public bathroom.
"Oh. Ah. Yeah, I'm fine." Maybe a little dizzy and confused, but otherwise fine.
"Are you sure?" The wide eyes narrowed into slits as the woman's forehead crinkled.
"Yeah." She watched the water pouring from the faucet she stood in front of. "Um, where am I?"
Okay, maybe not completely fine.
"We're at the Pizza Barn." The woman stared at her the way you might look at a stray dog, with equal parts concern, compassion, caution, and fear.
"Oh, right. Got it, thanks." The Pizza Barn? When had she come to the Pizza Barn? She smiled, hoping that would appease the woman's concern.
No such luck. The woman continued to stare.
Eve turned her attention to the task of washing her shaking hands, trying to convey normalcy. Move along, please. Nothing to see here. It's totally normal for a teenage girl not to know where she is. Happens all the time.
The strategy worked. After another moment of intense scrutiny, the woman left.
Eve's gaze travelled from the closing bathroom door to the mirror. Yikes. No wonder the woman had stared—she bore a disturbing resemblance to the Ghost of Christmas Past. That would make anyone nervous. Stark lighting might work for those born with a warm complexion, but harsh lights are not a friend to pale skin and reddish hair. Light freckles stood out like bright red cactus blossoms against pale desert sand.
The cold water she splashed on her face sent a shiver down her spine. What happened? Why couldn't she remember coming here? Could dehydration cause confusion? Better order a large glass of water.
She threw away her wadded-up paper towel. She pushed through the bathroom door, and her empty stomach lurched at the mouth-watering aroma of hot pizza.
As she walked through the dining area, an odd déjà vu sensation passed over her like she'd been here and done this all before. Not too surprising. All Pizza Barn locations across the country were the same: the kitchens in the back corner, the walls all painted the same bold red, the enlarged photographs that decorated the dining area were the same, the booths and tables all identical. Even the bathrooms were always located in the same spot. She knew the layout well, as she'd spent a lot of time at the Pizza Barn in her home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico, before she moved.
There was one difference though—Nick. Her heart fluttered when she spotted him at a booth along the wall, his back to her. His head, with that thick dark hair, bent forward as he scanned his phone. Before joining him, she paused at the juke box. Just like in New Mexico, this one was full of '50s songs. Shaking off her unsettled feeling, she inserted a coin and chose their favorite Elvis tune. She'd never understood why most teens didn't like this kind of music. They were classics for a reason.
As the King of Rock and Roll began his serenade, she couldn't help but smile, thinking how blessed she was to now live in this new state with a new boyfriend who appreciated her. She and Nick had an amazing connection—they just "got" each other. She said a silent prayer of thanks, then slid into the booth, transfixed by his hands. She reached out and wrapped her fingers around his.
The hands flinched and jerked free of her grip.
Startled, she looked up and peered into the eyes of a stranger.
She recoiled in shock as she glanced around the nearly empty restaurant.
"Can I help you?" The boy, who was most definitely not Nick, watched her through wide, startled eyes.
Eve stared back, unsure how to answer.
His eyes narrowed. "Are you all right? Are you sick?"
Maybe. She wrapped an arm around her abdomen as a wave of nausea washed over her. She had felt certain that this boy was—
"Where's Nick?" The words barely made it out of her dry mouth.
"Sorry, I don't know anyone named Nick." Not-Nick glanced over his shoulder. "Um, my takeout's ready now."
Before she could think of anything else to ask, he slid out of the booth, leaving her alone.
With trembling fingers, she eased back the red-checkered curtain from the window and gaped at the cars in the parking lot. They all bore New Mexico license plates. A quick scan of the street, and she knew her location—Albuquerque. She grasped the edge of the table, afraid she might faint. Why was she in Albuquerque? She and her family had moved. Hadn't they? The wonderful aroma of cooking pizzas turned her stomach. Suddenly, she wasn't sure of anything.
When she closed her eyes, she could see Nick smiling at her. She pictured him reaching for her hand and them strolling along, fingers laced together.
But who was Nick?
YOU ARE READING
Where You Lead by Leslea Wahl (First Chapter Only)Teen Fiction
Sixteen-year-old Eve Donahue's lonely existence changes in an instant when visions of a mysterious stranger haunt her. Certain God is calling her for a mission, she bravely says yes and begins her quest to meet this young man. Thousands of miles aw...