Chapter Twenty-Six

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Turn to Stone Pt. 2

'What are you doing here?'

I watch Elliot as he plants his duffle bag onto the sofa. It drops with a heavy thud and I try not to flinch, acutely aware of Wesley standing next to me.

I feel like a child caught with their hand in the candy jar, my cheeks flushing with heat as my brother looks back and forth from me to Wesley. When his gaze locks onto the cast on my arm, I tighten my lips.

Elliot's jaw is rigid, locked and tense. If I look carefully enough, I see a vein ticking on his right temple; this information alone is enough for me to figure out his mood. You see, whenever Mum and Dad argue, Dad also has this vein pulsing just beneath his skin. It means he's angry.

Furious, in fact.

Silently, I wonder how much he heard, clenching my fist as dead air weighs heavily between us. Elliot's the first to break it.

'Your college allows family visits,' he says. 'Did you know that?'

'No.' I shake my head, the word choking from my lips.

Adrenaline from my argument with Wesley still runs through my veins, burning like fire and making me all jittery. I fight the nausea rolling through my stomach and look up to meet my brother's sharp eyes, so identical to my own.

I watch as he ponders my reply for a second, but it isn't long before he shakes his head as if I got the answer wrong. He runs a hand over the back of his neck, another little habit picked up from Dad.

'I bet you also didn't know that Mum's been blowing up my phone with texts about how worried she is. Apparently, you haven't messaged her all weekend. Apparently, she saw an article online about the death of a girl called Mara.'

He smiles, but it isn't a friendly one.

'Oh, and that another girl – one of your friends, if I remember correctly – has also gone missing. Her name's Eden, isn't it? That was the name on the article.'

A pause. If Elliot wants me to reply, I don't.

'But it's weird,' he continues, 'because Mum didn't mention that cast on your wrist. Or the bandage, for that matter. According to her, you're absolutely fine. According to her, you didn't get attacked in the woods.'

My body stiffens and, for a moment, I'm rendered speechless.

Hundreds of questions race through my mind all at once. Why is Elliot here? How does he know about what happened in the woods? Is he going to tell Mum and force me back home?

I take a deep breath, but the air flooding through my lungs does nothing to ease my pounding heart. My senses overwhelm me all at once; it's like I'm stuck in a whirlpool drowning and nobody but me knows.

It's like I'm back in that car sinking all over again.

'Well?' Elliot asks. 'Did you know that?'

Next to me, Wesley coughs. His words penetrate right to the pit of my stomach.

'This is clearly family business,' he says, voice humming with undiluted anger, no doubt from our argument, from my accusation. 'If you don't mind, I'm going to head upstairs.'

'No, you're right,' Elliot snaps. 'I don't mind.'

I glare at my brother, eyes stinging with unshed tears. As Wesley passes me, our shoulders brush and I feel like I'm going to be sick. He pauses for a second, breathing deep and heavy.

'Your food is ready,' he whispers so quietly that Elliot can't hear. 'Eat before it gets cold.'

And then, just like that, Wesley's gone.

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