My Soul to Lose Page 8

Lydia still watched Mandy, but now her features were scrunched into a tense grimace and one hand clutched her stomach.

I glanced at her tray to count her utensils. Had she swallowed her knife, or something stupid like that, while Judy’s attention was occupied with Miss Fork-in-Drawers? No, all of the silverware was there, and I could see no obvious reason for Lydia’s pained look.

Creeped out now, I stood and turned in my tray—all utensils accounted for—then rushed back to my room without looking up until I’d closed the door behind me.


“Aunt Val?” I wound the old-fashioned, curly phone cord around my index finger and twisted on the hard plastic chair to face the wall. That was all the privacy I’d get in the middle of the hallway.

My kingdom for a cell phone.

“Kaylee!” My aunt sounded bright and cheery, and I knew even without seeing her that her hair would be perfectly arranged and her makeup expertly applied, even though she didn’t have to be anywhere on the weekend.

Unless she was coming to get me. Please let her be coming to get me…

“How are you feeling, sweetheart?” Aunt Val continued, a sliver of concern denting her otherwise impenetrable armor of good cheer.

“Fine. I feel good. Come get me. I’m ready to come home.”

How could you let them bring me here? How could you leave me? She would never have left her own daughter in a place like this. No matter what Sophie had done, Aunt Val would have taken her home, made a pot of hot tea, and dealt with the issue privately.

But I couldn’t say that. My mother was dead, and I’d had no one but Aunt Val and Uncle Brendon since my father moved to Ireland when I was three, so I couldn’t vocalize the soul-bruising betrayal twisting through me like a vine choking me from the inside. At least, not without crying, and crying might make me look unstable, which would give them a reason to keep me there. And give Aunt Val a reason to drop off my clothes and run.

“Um…I was actually just about to head your way. Have you seen the doctor yet? Do you think I’ll be able to talk to him?”

“Yeah, sure. I mean, that’s what he’s here for, right?”

According to Nurse Nancy, the doctor didn’t do his rounds on weekends, but if I told Aunt Val that, she might wait for official visiting hours. Doctor or not, I was sure she would take me home once she saw me. Once she’d had a look at this place, and at me in it. We might not share the same blood, but she’d raised me. Surely she couldn’t walk away twice, right?

From somewhere near the common area, a booming male voice announced that the anger management group was about to start, then specifically suggested that someone named Brent should attend.

I leaned my forehead against the cold cinder blocks and tried toblock it all out, but every time I opened my eyes—every time I even took a cold, sterile-scented breath—I remembered exactly where I was. And that I couldn’t leave.

“Okay. I’m bringing some things for you,” my aunt said softly into my ear.

What? I wanted to cry. “No. Aunt Val, I don’t need things. I need out.”

She sighed, sounding almost as frustrated as I was. “I know, but that’s up to your doctor, and if he gets delayed…or something, wouldn’t you feel better with a fresh change of clothes?”

“I guess.” But the truth was that I wasn’t going to feel any better until Lakeside was a distant, unpleasant memory, instead of my current waking nightmare.

“They won’t let you have anything but clothes and books. Do you want something to read?”

All I wanted to read was the exit sign on the other side of the locked door by the nurse’s station. The one you had to be buzzed through.

“Um…I have a paper due next week. Could you grab Brave New World from my nightstand?” See? I’m not crazy. I’m responsible and focused on schoolwork. Don’t you want to take me home so I can live up to my true potential?

Aunt Val was silent for a moment, and that uncomfortable feeling in the bottom of my stomach swelled. “Kaylee, I don’t think you should worry about homework right now. We can tell the school you have the flu.”

Footsteps shuffled past me, headed toward the group session. I stuck a finger in my ear, trying to block it all out. “The flu? Doesn’t it take, like, a week to get over the flu?” I wouldn’t miss that much school. I wouldn’t miss any, if she’d take me home today!

My aunt sighed, and my gut twisted around the lump of dread anchoring me to the chair. “I’m just trying to buy you some time to rest. And it’s not really a lie. You can’t tell me you’re feeling one hundred percent right now…”

“Because they shot me full of enough crap to put an elephant to sleep!” And I had the cotton mouth to prove it.

“And for all we know, you might actually be coming down with a bit of the flu. I heard you sneeze the other day,” she finished, and I rolled my eyes.

“They don’t lock up people with the flu, Aunt Val.” Not unless it’s the bird flu or Stephen King’s end-of-the-world flu.

“I know. Listen, I’ll be there in a bit, and we can talk about this then.”

“What about Uncle Brendon?”

Another pause. Sometimes there was less meaning in what Aunt Val said than in what she didn’t say. “He took Sophie out to lunch to explain all this to her. This has been really hard on them both, Kaylee.”

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