Chapter Six | Hurt

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For the first time, Zoë didn't reach for her absent phone when she woke up the next morning, just stretched in the sunlight filtering through the blinds. She absently brushed the spot on her cheek Adam had kissed the night before.

He'd even looked good in wet hair.

She rolled over, staring at the digital 8:43.

They'd been together nearly two of their allotted three weeks and the most action she'd gotten was a kiss on the cheek. He spent time with her, which was more than she could say about everyone lately, but maybe she hadn't been what he was hoping for.

Every day he showed up at nine, before work.

Zoë unbedded herself and washed up so he wouldn't catch her looking gross.

Since most of her recent plans had involved cutting ties rather than forming them, it had been a few years since she'd had a boyfriend. Moving away from her family had been so damned important to Zoë, but as she rinsed out her mouth, she couldn't quite picture her new country. Her apartment had been small, no furniture, and she lived alone. No friends. No family. Not even a job.

Like Dorothy in her magical land, she'd wanted to get back to her real life right away, but now couldn't understand why.

She finished getting ready, but while she made a false pretense of looking for breakfast in the kitchen to appear busy, he didn't show up. His car wasn't parked in the driveway, nor was he on the patio furniture in the backyard or on the porch swing or loitering against any part of the building.

Nine thirty came and went.

By ten, she dug out a plain bagel from the fridge and ate it uncut and cold over the sink.

At times, Zoë longed for the quiet being unplugged from the internet. Being connected to friends and family and work was all well and good for making the world smaller, but it never gave a moment's rest or privacy. Without it, though, she couldn't track Adam or message him. There was no Googling him to be sure he wasn't a serial killer, and no profiles to check who his ex-girlfriends had been or if he'd had a problematic past.

Zoë brought down a battered copy of the Whitepages from one of the kitchen cabinets nearest the phone and searched Welles.

It was too early to be upset.

The first Adam Welles she called sounded like an old man. The next two didn't pick up, although a novelty answering machine answered one, and she couldn't get a feel for the guy's real voice. The other rang a full minute before Zoë gave up.

Her fingers hovered over the phone book pages.

What if ...?

Without letting the question fully form, she flipped to the Bs.

Benton.

She didn't need the listing, though. Her family never lived in Washington Township. Because her phone number was something she learned early enough in her childhood, the memory was baked into her.

501-555-0194

She dialed into a crackling line.

A child answered, "Hello?"

"Is Zoë there?" Zoë asked, her heart pounding and pathetic.

The girl on the line put the receiver on the kitchen counter, probably, and shouted for her sister to come to the phone. "I think it's mom," she said.

But what could she say to her past self that wouldn't come across as creepy? If she were really in the past, able to talk to herself, she wouldn't be able to convince herself of anything. Any words of praise or encouragement would be coming from a stranger.

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