Frayed Page 98

He\d told me all about it, but nothing could have prepared me for how beautiful it is in person. I look over at him. ’’This is supernice.’’

’’Thanks. I haven\ lived here that long, but it really feels like home.’’

A sadness washes over me when I see the waves rolling onto the shore.

’’Where are you going?’’ he yells.

’’To see the beach up close.’’

He chases after me around the side of the house and down to the back.

I kick my shoes off as soon as I hit the sand and look out into the calmness of the sea.

He catches up with me and grabs my hips. ’’You\ e crazy.’’

’’No, I just love the beach. My dad used to take us all the time when we were kids. He\d put the Beach Boys on in the car and sing along and eventually we all joined in.’’

He dips his head and skims the skin of my neck with his tongue. ’’Do you miss your dad?’’

’’Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don\ . The good times blend with the bad and it\s hard to figure out which were more real.’’

’’I\m sorry for what you had to go through when your dad died. My dad died when I was really young too and I don\ really remember that much either,’’ he says.

I look up at him and that\s when I see it in his eyes. The same look I\ve seen before but haven\ been able to place. I think it\s a longing for family. The thought makes me even sadder.

’’How do you know how my dad died?’’ I\m not upset, just curious. I really never talk about it.

He scratches his head. ’’I did some research earlier this year for Aerie.’’

’’What kind of research?’’

His silence has started to alarm me. ’’Ben, what kind of research?’’

’’You know what? I think you should talk to your mom. I shouldn\ have said anything.’’ He says it delicately, not angrily, but his refusal to tell me something about my own family still stings.

’’Ben,’’ I plead. ’’Tell me now.’’

He grabs my hand. ’’Come on, let\s walk and I\ll explain.’’

I nod and try to hide that my heart is beating abnormally fast with worry.

He leads us up the steps to a deck that looks out onto the ocean, offering a perfect view. I take a seat in one of the lounge chairs, pulling my legs up and tucking my chin on my knees, and he does the same.

Ben squints into the sun. I can tell he\s teetering on whether to tell me what he knows or not.

’’Ben, please.’’ I say his name softly, prompting him to tell me what he knows.

He takes a deep breath. ’’I was investigating Sheep Industries\ finances for a story Aerie had me working on after I left the paper this past summer and I came across books for Little Red Records.’’

’’My father\s label before they let him go?’’

’’Yes Little Red is one of the holdings of Sheep Industries. Anyway, what we found proved the sales records had been severely altered and that he was let go under false pretenses.’’

’’So who altered the records? Damon Wolf?’’

He sits up and leans toward me with his arms on his thighs. ’’Yes.’’

’’Because he was jealous of my father?’’

’’I don\ know the answer to that.’’

’’Does my family know?’’

’’S\elle, I don\ really know who knows what. I only know what Damon told me the day I yanked Sound Music from his hands.’’

I stand up and head toward his glass doors. ’’How about a tour?’’

He pulls me onto his lap, his arms banding around me. ’’Hey, what\s going through your mind?’’

I swallow a few times as I start to cry. ’’That my father spent his whole life chasing the dream of being famous, and he thought he lost his chance, but in reality he never lost it. Someone stole it from him. Why would anyone do that?’’ My cries grow louder.

He cradles me in his arms. ’’Because so many people in the world don\ understand what it is like to be good.’’

I bury my face in his neck. ’’I failed him, you know?’’

He lifts my chin to look into my eyes. ’’What do you mean?’’

’’The day he killed himself all he wanted me to do was get better at playing the guitar. I hated playing. I was never any good at it. He picked me up early from school that day. Xander always got me. When I asked him why he was there, he had a haunted look in his eyes. He told me he wanted to have more time for us to practice, but I knew something wasn\ right. Then when I couldn\ do what he wanted, he made me do it over and over. Xander came home and heard me crying, saw my fingers bleeding from strumming the strings over and over. My father and Xander argued and River brought me to the neighbor\s house. All I knew after that was that my father had shot himself. My brother blamed himself for the longest time and I think he still might but if I hadn\ failed my father they wouldn\ have fought and my father might still be alive.’’

He holds me, rocks me, soothes me but doesn\ judge. ’’S\elle, what happened is not your fault. Your father was in a bad place.’’

I shake my head no. Why couldn\ I just do what he wanted?

’’Hey, look at me.’’ His voice grows louder. ’’There is nothing but good inside you. You should never think anything different. Your family loves you so much. It\s evident by the lengths any of them would go to protect you.’’

He holds me for the longest time. Silence fits comfortably between us as the only sounds I hear are the ocean, the sky, and his breathing all of which calm me down. I know he\s right. I\ve been through this so many times. I\m sure that\s why my family didn\ tell me. I\m not even upset that they didn\ . I know Xander and River and my mother must feel the burden of the information and they didn\ want me to carry it too.

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