Reborn Page 68
No one ever knew we were there.
IN A DARKENED HALLWAY, NICK PICKED at a locked door with furrowed-brow concentration. A second later, the lock clicked, and Nick pushed the door open.
I stepped inside Chloe\s apartment.
Only a few days had passed since we\d escaped the barn lab. Certainly not enough time for Chloe to pack everything.
Except her apartment was empty. Only dust remained, swirling in the filtered sunlight. I took a step inside, an eerie sense of déjàvu washing over me. Her bed had sat against the far wall, her dresser directly across from it. A couch had been pushed into the corner where a little TV had sat on a rickety stand. Now there was nothing.
I wasn\ sure how I remembered those things when I had a hard time remembering the girl who\d lived here. But there it was: some random, unimportant detail burbling up from the locked rooms inside my head.
Nick had told me who Chloe was. She was the mysterious girl who broke me out of the barn lab six years ago. She was the whole reason I\d been in the forest that night when Nick saved me.
But she\d also double-crossed us, delivering us to Riley so she could secure her own freedom.
I wasn\ sure how I felt about that. In some ways, I owed Chloe so much. But she owed me, too. We\d been friends for so long, and she\d never breathed a word of the secrets between us.
’’Have you heard anything from her?’’ I asked Nick.
He took a few tentative steps inside. ’’Nothing. Trev\s looking into it. Maybe find out where she\s hiding.’’
’’No,’’ I said quickly. ’’Let her stay hidden.’’
I walked to the far window. The glass was frosted and glowed silver in the light. I pulled a cobalt bottle from my sweater pocket and turned it over in my hand. The label on the front read SECRETS. A word scrawled carefully in my own cursive handwriting. A label I didn\ remember making.
The oil inside was pure lemon, and whenever I uncorked the bottle and took in a deep breath, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of being trapped, of things being buried and lost.
I set the bottle on the windowsill. ’’No more secrets,’’ I whispered, and wondered if Chloe would ever return here, and if she did, what she\d think of the message I\d left her.
’’We should go,’’ Nick said.
I nodded at no one and gave the bottle one last look before walking out the door.
FIVE WEEKS. IT\D BEEN FIVE WEEKS since I\d gone through a memory alteration. But it felt like months.
Pieces were coming back, little by little. I remembered Evan, and Merv\s. I remembered Aggie and Dr. Sedwick and the Victorian house.
But mostly, I remembered my mother, and what she\d done to me, and what I\d done to her, and I wondered if, in a cosmic sense, we were somehow even. Or if my actions far outweighed hers, and if I\d be repaying that debt for an eternity.
I took a sip from the Pumpkin Spice Latte in my hands and stared out at Lake Michigan in front of me, the wind from the lake biting and crisp. It smelled like nothing I\d ever smelled before. Something I needed to chronicle as soon as I bought some new oils and cobalt glass bottles.
A strand of hair came loose from my messy bun and fluttered in front of my face. A hand reached over and tucked the strand behind my ear, and I smiled before I looked at him.
’’Thanks,’’ I said.
’’You\ e welcome,’’ Nick said.
The others, Sam, Cas, Trev, and Anna, had gone in search of dinner. I just wanted to stare at Lake Michigan a little while longer.
Fall was coming, and the trees lining the sidewalk of the park by the lake had started bleeding with the colors of autumn. Away from the lake, the world smelled like the eventual death of the seasons, and the promise of rebirth.
It was fitting, considering my own rebirth.
No longer was I Elizabeth, the frightened girl, the crazy girl. I wasn\ her, but I didn\ know who I was yet, and I wouldn\ until all of the pieces came together.
I began to shiver from the cold, and Nick moved closer, winding his arm around me. In the weeks since we\d left Trademarr, he\d been kind and gentle, keeping his distance when he thought I needed it, but there right after, when the trauma came rushing back and being alone seemed to crush my ribs until I felt like I couldn\ breathe.
He\d kissed me a handful of times. And every time it left me dizzy and grinning like a fool. Anna said she\d never seen Nick so happy. I didn\ know the difference between happy Nick and unhappy Nick. But I hoped he\d stay just the way he was.
As if he\d read my thoughts, Nick leaned over and kissed the top of my head. I went up on tiptoes and brought my lips to his. One kiss. Two kisses. ’’Much better,’’ I said.
He smiled. ’’You taste like pumpkin pie.’’
I grinned and hoisted my coffee cup. ’’\Tis the season.’’
’’I guess so. Coffee is best black, if you ask me.’’
I let my mouth drop open. ’’Take back those words. They\ e practically blasphemy during Pumpkin Spice Latte season.’’
His smile grew wider.
Suddenly, all I could think about was returning to the house where Nick and the others lived, and curling beneath the blankets with him and feeling his body pressed against mine. Who needed dinner? I didn\ .
Nick shifted and grabbed my hand, tucking both of our hands into the pocket of his coat. ’’How are you today? I just realized I hadn\ asked yet.’’
He asked every day.