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Sunday morning


Emily was the one who answered the phone when Aunt Aggie called Sunday morning. She was back at work on her poems, but they were all coming out like overblown crap, and she was glad to throw down her pen and go for the phone.

“Oh my god, Emily? Where are you?” her aunt sounded borderline frantic. “No, scratch that, I know where you are. You’ve just answered the phone, but why are you there? You’re supposed to be with your mother. You were supposed to have met me half an hour ago for breakfast.”

Emily was totally confused. “If you didn’t think we’d be here, why did you call?”

Aunt Aggie took a deep breath and let it out slowly, as if counting. “Emily,” she said fake-calmly, “can you answer my questions, honey?”

Aunt Aggie hadn’t answered hers, but she supposed her aunt had asked first. Her heart was starting to squeeze. If her mother had reached out to anyone or gone anywhere but her new apartment, it would have been to her only sister.

“Mom came Friday, but then she and Dad had a fight and she left,” Emily said. “She didn’t call you?”

It was clear enough, but she had to be sure. Now she was really, really worried about Mom. More scared even than hurt. She hadn’t felt right since yesterday. After the relief of hearing from Mom, the pain had swamped her. Dad hadn’t made it up. Mom really had left them. She wouldn’t even call or text them back. And despite her begging, Dad said he wouldn’t chase Mom down, even if he knew where to look. She hadn’t given him her new address.

“She didn’t call,” Aunt Aggie said. “She didn’t answer any of my texts, not even to confirm breakfast this morning. I just figured she was busy with you and Jared and that I’d see you at the restaurant, but none of you showed, and now you tell me you never even left.…” Her voice was starting to go sharp. “Emily, please put your father on the phone.”

Emily’s heart started to flutter. “Aunt Aggie, what’s wrong? Something’s going on, isn’t it? I know you don’t want to worry me, but I’m already worried.”

“Please, let me talk to your father. Maybe we can figure this out.”

The sick feeling in the pit of her stomach grew to swallow her whole. She’d heard Dad moving around in his room, but he hadn’t yet come out. He wasn’t going to like being disturbed for this. Not that it mattered. Mom came first.

“Emily?” her aunt asked.

“Just a minute.”

She brought the cordless phone to Dad’s door and used it to tap, forgetting it would hurt Aunt Aggie’s ears.

“What?” he asked, and not happily.

“Aunt Aggie’s on the phone. She’s looking for Mom.”

“Tell her your mother’s not here,” he called through the door.

“I told her that. She’s worried. Mom was supposed to meet Aunt Aggie for breakfast this morning. With us.”

Dad growled, and she took two steps away from his door. She heard Jared’s door open behind her and knew he was there too, listening to everything.

Dad was suddenly looming in his doorway, reaching out one big paw for the phone. “I’ll talk to her,” he said, grabbing the phone out of Emily’s hand and shutting the door between them.

Emily glanced back at Jared. “What do we do?” she asked.

“We listen,” he said quietly.

Her heart jerked in fear. “What if he catches us?”

Jared’s eyes burned. “I’ll listen. You go to your room or something. I’ll fill you in.”

Emily was frozen with indecision. She wanted to hear, even though she knew Dad wouldn’t like it. She couldn’t let Jared take the brunt of things. But he would anyway, wouldn’t he? He always did. But … Too many buts.

“No, I’m in.”

Jared shrugged, and they both approached Dad’s door, silently pressing ears to it.

“All I know is she’s not here,” Dad growled, but quietly. So quietly Emily stopped breathing to hear. She tried to time her breaths for his pauses.

“You tell me. Where would she go? Did you check her place?”


“And?” Dad asked.

There was a longer pause this time, before he said, “I don’t know, maybe she’s got a boyfriend socked away somewhere. Maybe she’s off with him. Or a girlfriend. Who knows?”

Emily’s chest squeezed until she couldn’t have taken a breath even if she wanted to. A boyfriend? But Dad couldn’t be right. She wouldn’t have chosen some guy over them. Or girl. She just wouldn’t.

“No, I don’t think that. Look, an adult has to be gone for, what—twenty-four or forty-eight hours before they can be considered missing? She’s missed one breakfast. I don’t think we should call out a search party just yet.”

Emily gasped when her air ran out, and Jared threw a hand over her mouth and backpedaled her away from the door. It seemed extreme, but she didn’t want to kick up a fuss Dad would hear.

“Quick,” he whispered, letting go of her mouth but grabbing for her hand and making a run for the kitchen.

They’d just hit it when Dad’s door opened. Emily’s heart was pounding so hard she thought it would explode.

“Do something,” Jared whispered.

Emily went for her notebook, which she’d left on the kitchen counter, and Jared headed for the fridge.

Dad came quietly after them and replaced the phone in the cradle on the wall. He didn’t say a word, but stood there breathing, watching the phone like it might do something interesting.

Emily wanted to ask a million questions—wasn’t he worried? Shouldn’t they do something, like maybe call the police?

But she didn’t dare let on that they’d heard.

“What’s going on?” Jared asked, and Emily blessed him silently.

“Nothing,” Dad answered, turning back toward them and making eye contact with each in turn. “Your aunt is all worked up because your mother didn’t tell her she was taking off. It will blow over.”

“Aren’t you worried?” Jared asked. “If no one’s heard from her—”

“You heard from her,” Dad cut in. “Yesterday. Emily showed me the text.”

Jared bit his lip. To keep from saying something else, Emily thought. He cut a glance toward her, but she couldn’t interpret it. Was he afraid to say something that would get Dad worked up or did he have something to say he didn’t want her to hear?

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