Before

9 1 0
                                                  


Life with Beck was perfect. And I know I sound like one of those love-struck idiots who falls too fast and wakes up with their life in shambles, but this wasn't that. Not in the slightest. "Order up!"

"I'm telling you, Kelsey, he's great." I grabbed the plate of food from the window and set it on my serving tray, alongside the two refills already poured and waiting to be delivered. A cherry Coke and a diet. Diet on the left, cherry on the right. "He's sweet, he's funny—"

"He's a great kisser," she added with an obnoxious wink.

That he is. "I mean, it's hard to believe it's already been a month. Feels like it's only been a few days."

"That's what love does," Kelsey said, flipping her head of hair and angling out from behind the server line. "It makes you lose time."

Love. It was a small word with a big impact. The last time I'd told someone that I'd love them, they'd died, smashed to bits along with the car they were in. It wasn't that I was afraid to say those three words—I'm a firm believer in 'if you love someone, don't waste time'—but I wasn't sure how I felt yet. Like I'd said, it's only been a month. Way too soon to know for sure.

"Sunny-side-up eggs for you with some extra crispy bacon and hash browns," I said as I laid the plate in front of the elderly man, his glasses slipping low on his wide nose. "Would you like some more coffee with your meal?"

The man looked up at me, his watery blue eyes squinting just a little. "I'd love some...Jonas? Dear, I think you have a boy's name tag."

"I get that a lot. I'll be right back with the carafe." I moved onto the next table, laying the sodas down in front of the customers. Diet on the left, cherry on the right. "Your food's coming right up."

Kelsey leaned up against the soda machine when I came back to the server line, ducking down behind the half-wall to take an obscured drink of my water. "Speaking of the L word, have you two said it yet?"

I choked on the breath I took in. Mind reader much? "No, we haven't. It's—it's way too soon."

"Says who?"

"Says me. And probably a dozen teen magazines out there."

Kelsey snorted. "I told Jacob that I loved him on our second date."

"Were you drunk?"

Her silence was the only answer that I needed.

I swiped up the metal carafe from the countertop, cracking open the top to make sure steam still billowed out. "I'm used to being by myself," I reminded her, heading back to my table. "It's going to take me time before I'm saying those three words to anybody."

The man was slowly cutting into his hash browns when I came back, and I swiped his cup from the table, angling it away from him just in case some of it splattered. "How's the food look?"

"Very yummy, dear," he replied shakily, glancing my way. One of his white eyebrows pinched low over his eye, creating a line in the middle of his forehead. "You know, your name sounds familiar. Jonas. You aren't, by chance, Doug Verandez's daughter, are you?"

Immediately, I froze at the mention of my father's name, trying to coax myself back into movement. Incredibly, the only outward sign that I was having an internal freak-out was the shakiness in my fingertips. "I was—I am."

"A sorry thing that happened," the man said, oblivious, and shoveled a forkful of hash browns into his mouth. "I'd never seen anything like that storm the night they crashed. I remember it, too. The sky was purple. Purple. Thought we were going to have a tornado or something fierce."

I remember the night they crashed, too. They were coming home from the movies, a movie I almost went to see with them, but I wasn't feeling good. They didn't realize how bad the weather was—they couldn't have, or else they wouldn't have driven in it. And they were driving, until they weren't. "Something fierce indeed," I responded, setting his cup of coffee down a little harsher than necessary. Some coffee toppled over the rim of the ceramic, dribbling down the side. "Enjoy your meal."

In a town like Grisham Falls, curiosity was normal. Encouraged by the local gossips, even. I got that. But it's been over a year since everything happened. Almost eight months since I moved out of my temporary placement home in the next town over because after they died, the state couldn't let a seventeen-year-old live by herself. It felt like it was finally settling behind me.

Until it wasn't.

"What's wrong?" Kelsey mouthed to me on her way to deliver a tray of food, but I hurried past her as if she hadn't spoken. My gait was quick-paced, my shoes squeaking slightly on the floors as I ducked into the back. The grill cook gave me a funny look as I moved past him, not used to seeing me behind the scenes, but I barely gave him a second look.

Once I got to the staff bathroom, I closed myself inside it, slumping against the wall. I could see my reflection from the corner of my eye in the mirror, but I made sure not to look at it, holding my breath until my head started to swim. And then I released it, huffing it out loudly. Breathe, Jonas, just breathe. The words came in my mother's voice, like her whispering in my ear.

I didn't think of them often, my parents. I found that thinking of them did more harm than good. More pain. How could I think of the two most important people in my life—people who had been the only two in my life for so long—and know that they just...ceased to be? Because that's what happened. They were gone. They no longer existed.

The mere idea of talking to Beck about my parents made me feel like I could've broken out in hives. How was I supposed to mention them to him when a complete stranger mentioning them sends me to the bathroom to hide? How was I supposed to share that part of my life when it was so dark, so lonely? And what if it sent him running?

I gripped my arms tightly, digging my fingers into my skin. Was the mere mention of my father's name really going to send me into a near panic attack? Of course it is, my internal thoughts said, tone a little on the harsh side. That's what happens when you push everything down.

The door to the staff bathroom jarred suddenly, a fist connecting from the other side. "Jonas." Kelsey. "Open the door, Jonas. I know you're in there."

I took several quick breaths at once, swiping my palms along my cheeks. They were dry, thankfully.

"Jonas," she called again. "What happened? What'd that guy say?"

I opened the staff bathroom door, finding Kelsey's arms crossed over her chest, her lips pulled downward. "What?" I asked, narrowing my eyes. "I had to go to the bathroom."

"Oh, really?" Her voice was skeptical.

"Really." More or less. Maybe life wasn't as perfect as I thought. "Is my order up?"

The Day the Sky FellWhere stories live. Discover now