“I thought about how there are two types of secrets: the kind you want to keep in, and the kind you don’t dare to let out.” ~Ally Carter, Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover
What secrets do you have locked away, and do you dare to let them out?
Jess has a multitude of secrets concerning her that she knows little about. Hope you take a look at the third segment of my Friday reads. If you missed part one or two, you can find them at the following links. Thanks for stopping by!
Part One click here: Gifted Ones: Scarcely Human
Part Two click here: Friendship Matters: Gifted Ones: Scarcely Human
Part Three Below (rough draft):
As soon as she stepped out of the school building, she hustled around, picking up the revolting garbage other students had tossed carelessly onto the ground after last week’s Oktoberfest Celebration: empty crushed soda cans––not diet, twisted candy bar wrappers––mostly Snickers, a few chip bags with dreary, soggy remains still left inside. Everything was drenched, through and through.
Jess thought the sky must have hated her, too. Torrents of rain began to shower down, soaking her from the top of her head to the inside of her favorite Sperry’s. Tears cradled the rims of her eyes as her hair clung to her dripping face.
Who litters this much, anyway? she thought angrily. They should be the ones punished!
Jess heard a band of whistles, and some loser with a shaved head yell to her from the second story window. “You missed some trash, baby. If I come down and help, will you repay me?”
She squeezed her eyes shut, wishing with intensity that she was somewhere else.
She was about to give the guy the finger when she felt a tug at her arm. She yanked her arm back. The rain turned to sleet, pelting her face.
“Come on, let’s go,” a voice said. She looked up crossly and saw Axel with an annoying smirk on his face.
“What do you want?” Jess shouted with resentment. She turned away from Axel and the storm and bent down to pick up more trash.
“Come with me, Jess.” she had no clue he knew her by name, but the commanding hint in his tone told her she had no choice but to go with him. She looked up. Their eyes locked for a brief moment, his eyes were furnished with concern.
The simple fervor that flowed from his hand to her elbow made her feel like she couldn’t resist. “Where?“ she yelled, now curious, releasing the nearly full garbage bag back onto the sodden grass.
“You’ll see. Away from here, anyway.” He tugged on her again, meaning the word no was definitely not an option.
“Okay, okay. I’m coming!” She left the garbage bag behind. She didn’t care. She followed him to the front of the school and up to an old white BMW with a sunroof. He opened the passenger door for her. She had second thoughts and was about to protest when a zigzagging bolt of lightening and a haunting crack of thunder burst down from the sky at the same exact time. The lightning struck a pine tree across the street from the school. She watched as a tree branch plunked to the ground, bouncing before it lay motionless.
She hesitated but then jumped into the car. “I can’t believe it’s lightning this time of year. What a horrible storm!” Jess piled her drenched hair in her hands and wrung the rainwater onto the floor.
“You think?” Axel said, looking annoyed as he stared at his precious car floor where the tiny pool of water from Jess’s hair sunk into the carpeting.
He shook his head like a wet animal, sending a heavy spray sputtering around the inside of the car, including on Jess.
“Do you mind?” she glared at him.
He glanced her way but ignored her as he started the engine and peeled out of the parking lot. She was glad the rain masked her watery eyes.
Axel pressed his foot on the gas pedal and sped dangerously down the narrow, windy country road.
“Are you crazy? Slow down!” Jess cried. She gripped the door handle.
He caught Jess’s eye. “No worries. I always drive like this.” Jess thought his expression was borderline crazy, or maybe it was her imagination. How did she end up not fulfilling her detention and in the car with someone she barely knew? What was she thinking?
Jess shivered, then remembered to put on her seat belt. “Where are you taking me?” she asked again. The insurmountable trouble she’d be in because of him had more than dawned on her. Maybe she was beginning to care more about the consequences of her actions. Maybe Michael’s warnings were finally seeping through into her soul.
He didn’t answer.
“Axel,” she asked, “where are you taking me?” Her seat belt buckle clinked, making her feel safer like she could survive a mild car crash. She’d never been in one before and didn’t care to get in one now.
“I already told you. You’ll see when we get there.”
“You’re scaring me,” she said above the sound of the car and the unruly storm outside. She grit her teeth, barely avoiding a bloody puncture to her to tongue.
Axel glanced briefly her way. His hands tightened on the steering wheel. His voice softened. “You’ll see in a minute. Nothing to worry about. Okay? I promise.”
Jess noticed a tormented look in his eyes, a look that hadn’t been there before. Like a snapshot captures a moment, she swore she felt his feelings. She felt a sense of urgency emanating from him. She couldn’t understand why her heart and thoughts felt stamped by his. It made her feel less afraid of him.
The BMW flew around a few more curvy corners at rocket speed. The car’s tires stuck to the road like they were magnets. Jess couldn’t shake her mind from his insane driving. Axel swerved around a drenched black poodle that darted in to the road.
She let out a faint scream.
“Don’t worry the dog will be fine.” Axel pressed his back into the black leather seat and sat up, keeping his body straight, looking intently at the road that passed recklessly before them.
“How would you know?” she snapped, beginning to lose her patience.
He didn’t answer her again. His lips were pursed together as though he was lost in concentration. His jaw looked bony and square in the light.
When she finally gave up on any concrete answers from him, he turned left onto an unfamiliar dirt road and began to ascend up another windy road. A few minutes later he parked in a steep ditch, leaving the car tipped at about a thirty degree angle.
“Come on, let’s go,” he said, his voice gruff as he got out of the car.
Jess was situated on the side of the car that was tilted up in the air, near the embankment. She shoved her door open and climbed out, jumping the short distance to the ground. Her ankle fell out from beneath her. She winced in pain and grumbled under her breath.
The rain poured down forming a near wall of water that allowed for little visibility. Jess was soaked and cold and shivering. She pulled the hood of her dark-blue sweatshirt over her head and pulled herself tightly into a hug in a poor attempt to retain every ounce of warmth possible.
Axel took Jess’s hand. “Follow me,” he said. It’s about a half mile.”
“What’s about a half mile?” Jess asked, not trusting him.
“You’ll see in a minute. It’s pretty sweet, actually. Come on.” He pulled her forward in a sprint that made her feel like they were running away from the world, through a stretch of forest surrounded by trees, mostly pine with a sprinkle of maple and elm, sporadically placed on a rocky overgrown dirt path that looked unused, until they came to a tiny dilapidated cottage-like cabin.
The stairs of the cabin looked like they’d been worn away over the years from a lack of care. Axel scooped Jess up into his arms and gently tossed her through the doorless entryway.
“Broke again,” he muttered. “More screws and a drill will fix it.”
Once inside, he picked up the paint-peeled door and shoved it into the doorframe, keeping the outdoor elements from entering inside.
Jess took a searching glance around, trying to induce why in the world he’d brought her there. It was mostly an empty, one-room cabin with a couple of filthy six-pane curtainless windows, a desolate place in the middle of nowhere.
Not very sweet, she thought, wryly.
Jess pulled up on her hair, wrapping the wet strands on each side of her head behind her ears. Looking around, she noticed it had been somewhat cleaned and lived in. A wooden broom and plastic dustpan lying against the wall proved it. A plain, grey duffel bag stuffed underneath the bottom of a bunk bed had a couple of t-shirts and plaid boxers hanging out of it. A baby chipmunk scurried across a bed that had clean, crisp white sheets and a coffee colored wool blanket folded over on top with a large, fluffy pillow on one end.
Axel edged up behind Jess and tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped and whipped around.
“Sorry,” he said, in almost a whisper, close enough that she could feel the warmth of his breath brush across her face.
Jess shivered and found her voice. “That’s okay,” she answered, taking a step back, distancing herself from him. Her face grew warm. She looked away, hoping he wouldn’t notice, then turned back toward him and cleared her throat. “Who lives here?”
In between the dark blond curls that hung down in front of his face, she noticed specks of blue, green, and pale tan flicker in his eyes, as though a magician’s wand controlled them and they could magically change color. “Me. It’s my stuff. I come here when my aunt and uncle don’t want me around.”
“What? Why? Don’t you live with your parents?” Jess asked.
“No.” Axel squeezed his eyes shut and ran his fingers through his hair. When he opened them, he stared through Jess like she was transparent. “My parents died when I was two, in a car crash. I don’t remember them. My dad’s brother took me in. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s okay.”
“I didn’t know. I’m so sorry,” Jess said softly. She had her own pain, but at least she still had her mother. She wondered whether he’d heard about her father like everyone else. She felt the tingle of growing goosebumps on her arms.
“I didn’t bring you here to talk about me,” he shrugged. “Are you cold?”
Jess stepped back. “Uh, uh.”
“Then why are you shivering? You must be cold. You’re soaked from the rain.” Axel walked over to the duffel bag and grabbed a plain, grey hoodie and tossed it to her. He shooed the chipmunk away.
She unzipped her clinging sweatshirt, revealing the navy spaghetti strap tank top she was wearing underneath.
His gaze held hers for a moment. Then he twisted his body away from her. She breathed a sigh of relief. She slipped out of her tank top and sweatshirt and pulled his on over her head. “Thanks,” she murmured.
Axel turned back toward her, his face thoughtful and intent. “You’re welcome.” The corners of his mouth curved up in an inviting smile. Jess couldn’t tell what he was thinking but felt unnerved by her inability to shake away his stare.
“What about you? Aren’t you cold?”
“Yeah.” Axel pulled another sweatshirt out of the duffel bag. “Do you mind?” He made a circling motion with his fingers for her to turn around.
“Seriously? You want me to look away?” She pointed her right foot outward and leaned on her left leg. She folded her arms. “You’re a guy. I don’t really care if you change your shirt in front of me.”
He circled his fingers again. “I turned around for you.” He raised his brows and lifted his shoulders.
Jess rolled her eyes and swung around. She gave him a few seconds before she positioned herself facing him again. “Now we’re both warm, and I want to know why you brought me here.” She started wringing her hands together. Despite the cold, her palms began sweating.
His eyes met hers as though no one else on earth existed. He kept his voice low, like he had the most guarded secret to tell. “I do have a reason, but first aren’t you going to thank me for getting you out of that mess back at school?” He broke into a full smile, shook his head, and started to laugh.
***If you read to the end, thank you! Have a wonderful weekend! Hope to see you next Friday for my #fridayreads