Fable Page 16

“It’s not like you think. Our dates have consisted of mostly sitting at the lunch table the last few weeks of the school year, and a few movies. Then we went our separate ways the whole summer, and we barely talked, Mina. This whole thing moved really fast. I’m not really sure what to think of it.”

“Why didn’t you talk to him about it?”

“I don’t know. I mean, he woke me out of a coma with a kiss, so that means he must like me. And of course it was all really sweet the way Brody looked after me when I got out of the hospital. He pulled the chair out for me, carried my books. But we’ve only ever kissed one time after that, and I was the one who instigated it—and that was before we left for the summer. It’s been really awkward since. It’s like we’re better friends than boyfriend and girlfriend. We used to call each other every day, then it became every other day, and now once a week. I mean, it’s Friday night! Our first Friday night back together for the whole summer, so of course it means a date. But please, oh, please, Mina. I can’t go on this date alone. What if my fears are correct—what if we’re only friends?”

Nan’s words made Mina’s spirit soar and then come crashing down in a mash-up of confusion and hurt for her friend’s plight. It was what she secretly wanted to hear, but at the same time, she would never wish for this to happen to her best friend. Oh, the mixed feelings it created, and right in the middle of her own nightmarish plot of trying to save her brother. She was so torn, but she needed to get Jared on her good side and help her cross over.

“It will be fine,” Mina said, encouraging her. “If you need a quick escape, I’ll just dump my pop on myself, and we’ll have to go home early. How’s that?”

Nan’s blue eyes widened in disbelief. “You would do that for me?”

“Well, it’s a fifty-fifty shot it’s going to happen anyway tonight, so yeah, I would do that for you.”

“Mina, you are the best friend ever!” Nan hugged Mina before they headed downstairs to wait for the rest of their troupe.

Sara was sitting quietly in a rocking chair in the library, staring at a blank spot on the wall where a very obvious picture had previously hung. Mina knew from the size of the spot that it was where her father’s picture had been. Did Sara somehow know?

As Nan chatted and led the way to the foyer, Mina couldn’t help but slow down to stare at her mom. Was there a difference in her? For once she wasn’t sad; she was rocking in a chair, humming to herself. Her mom was behaving strangely, and not just since Charlie had disappeared, but over the last few months. She wasn’t jumping at every noise, threatening to pick up and move across the country. She was becoming normal. The hairs on the backs of Mina’s arms rose in trepidation. What was happening to her mom? There was nothing obviously wrong, but nothing obviously right, either.

“Mom,” Mina called, walking softly to stand by her chair. Sara was wearing an oversized gray knit sweater wrapped around her. Her brown hair had started to fall out of its bun. Something sparkled around her wrist, and Mina saw a simple charm bracelet, probably some gift they had given their mom years before and didn’t remember.

Sara’s rocking stopped, and with it her humming. “Yes, dear?”

“I’m leaving to go out with my friends. Are you going to be okay?”

Sara began rocking again. “Oh, yes, I’m thinking of all the rooms in this house that need to be cleaned. I think I’m going to start with that storage room you found.”

“No, not that one! It’s just junk in there. Why don’t you take the closets on the other side of the house? When I have time, I’ll work in there.”

“That would be nice. What a sweet daughter I have,” she intoned, and stared at the wall. “I wish I could have had more kids like you.”

Mina stepped away from her mom, tears starting to build in her eyes.

“Mom, you did. Don’t you remember Charlie?” Mina had been unable to tell her mother about the deal she’d made with Temple, for fear of getting another of the accusing looks Sara had bestowed upon Mina after the fire. It was obvious that Sara, even though she didn’t mean to, still blamed her daughter. What would happen if Mina were unable to save Charlie? What would her mom think of her then?

Sara stopped rocking once more. “Charlie? That’s a nice name. If I ever have a boy, I’ll think I’ll name him Charlie.”

“Mom, you do have a son named Charlie. Charlie’s nine years old now. Remember?”

“Hmm.” Sara closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Nan grabbed Mina’s arm and pulled her out of the room. “Mina, give her time. It will be okay.”

“Are you sure?”

“Not really, but she’s been through a lot, and she could be having a memory lapse. I’d say check on her when we get home, and if you want, I can have Robert come over and take a look at your mom.”

Mina had momentarily forgotten that Nan’s mom had gotten married over the summer to Dr. Robert Martin. That was all the reassurance she needed. She didn’t know what she would do if Sara went to the hospital and she was left in the house all alone.

“I guess a few hours will be fine. I would hate to take her to the hospital if it’s just a short spell.” The words hung in the air, and Mina’s mind began to whirl with possibilities. She didn’t have time to continue the thought further, because the silver box buzzed.

She ran to the box and hit the green button. “Hello?”

Static, and then she could hear two voices arguing in the background. “Why in the world are we pushing the button?” She recognized Ever’s voice.

“Because that’s the way they do it,” Jared’s voice argued back.

“Well, we are not like them. You’re a prince. Just wave your hand and—”

Mina quickly pushed the “open” button for the driveway gate, hoping to cut off Ever and Jared’s Fae magic conversation before Nan overheard.

A few seconds later, Jared pulled up in an orange 1969 Ford Boss 429 Mustang, which she knew was really Fae magic at work. Another car came up the driveway, and Mina was surprised to see Brody’s new car he’d gotten after the accident, a black Escalade. The driver’s window rolled down, and Brody leaned his head out the window. “You ladies ready?”

Nan smiled widely but gripped Mina’s hand nervously. “You bet.”

Mina tried to crane her neck to see who was in the car with Brody, but she couldn’t see who the passenger was. A second later, the other door opened, and someone stepped out. He was tall and broad-shouldered, with copper-colored hair and warm hazel eyes. He wore jeans, a white polo shirt, and a jacket. Mina scanned her memory of her high school yearbook and couldn’t place him anywhere. He was cute, that was for sure, and her heart did a small nervous flutter of anticipation. Now it was Mina’s turn to grip Nan’s hand really hard.

Brody hopped out of the driver’s seat, walked over to Nan, and put an arm around her shoulders. “Hey, Mina, this is Reid Stone.”

“Nice to meet you, Mina,” Reid announced.

Her head snapped up, and she responded softly, “Nice to meet you, too. You don’t go to Kennedy, do you?”

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