Page 19 of Don't Look Back

“Yeah, it’s a good place to get away and think.”

“Maybe that’s why I came here.” I shrugged.

“Can I ask you a question?” he said. When I lifted my eyes, he was close again. I nodded, and he reached out, catching a piece of my hair the wind had blown across my face and tucking it back behind my ear. His hand lingered for maybe a second, but I felt it in every cell of my body. “What happened at lunch?”

Spell broken, I moved to the edge of the observation deck. “Nothing.”

Carson scooted forward, giving me no place to go. “Something happened.”

There was no way I was going to tell him what I’d seen. Having my mom think I was crazy was one thing, but a boy this incredibly hot? Yeah, not going to happen. I shook my head. “Nothing happened. I was…tired.”

He looked doubtful. “I’m just trying to help, Sam.”

I started to tell him that I didn’t need his help, but then I had an idea. And once it took hold, it wouldn’t let me go. “You really want to help me?”

“I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t.”

“Okay.” I took a deep breath. “Do you know where Cassie lives?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Why?”

“I think seeing her stuff might help me remember.” It was a long shot, but it was something. “Can you take me there?”

Carson stared at me for a long moment and then nodded. “I can do it. Next Saturday, if you can wait that long? I have practice almost every day until then.”

I didn’t want to wait that long, but I also didn’t want to ask anyone else. “I can wait.”

Mom and Dad read me the riot act when I returned to the house, and I did feel bad. Considering that I was gone for four days, the last thing I should’ve done was to disappear without any warning. I apologized and meant it.

Dad looked so surprised I was worried he was going to have a heart attack.

There were several missed calls and texts from my friends and Del. I sent a mass text, telling them that I was okay. When Del responded with a phone call, I felt terrible for vanishing. The concern that tainted his voice pulled at my heart.

“I want to come over,” he said, and I could hear a door shutting behind him. “I have to see you.”

I dropped down on the edge of my bed, staring at the music box. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea. My parents are pissed.”

A heavy sigh came through the phone. “But your parents love me.”

“I’m not sure they love me right now.” I chewed on my lip. “Can you come over tomorrow after school?”

“Yeah, of course.” There was a pause, and then the sound of a can popping open. “What happened today at lunch? Veronica said you were acting really weird, and then you got up and sat with your brother. A few minutes later, you just ran out of there without saying anything.”

“I was just tired.” I flopped onto my back. The stars were glowing. “Do my friends hate me now?”

“No.” Del laughed. “Don’t be stupid, Sammy. They know you’re going through a lot.”

Don’t be stupid? I frowned.

“And you’ll be back to your old self in no time. They understand,” he said. Another door shut. “Look, I’ve got to get off here. I’ll see you tomorrow at school.”

“Hey, wait a sec.” I sat up and swung my legs off the bed. “Mom said something today about pictures of me. Do you know what she was talking about?”

He was quiet so long I thought he’d hung up. “Who knows? You probably weren’t wearing any makeup or something. You know your mom.”

Not really, but it sounded like her. I let him go after that, and even though it was late, I opened my laptop and tried again to access my e-mail. There had to be personal stuff in there. Something that could help me remember. Mrs. Messer said there’d be triggers.

I needed a trigger.

But I couldn’t answer the damn personal-verification question. Who is your childhood friend? I’d already typed Cassie. Didn’t work. Veronica. Nope. Lauren. No chance. I then tried Julie and still couldn’t get in. Frustrated, I got up and went to my brother’s bedroom door. I knocked on the door.

Bedsprings creaked, followed by the sound of clothing being hastily dragged on. Oh no…I started to step back from the door, but it swung open.

Scott was pulling his shirt down his flat stomach. Over his shoulder, Julie sat on his bed with a book in her lap. The book was upside down, and I grinned. He cleared his throat, cheeks flushed. “Are you okay, Sam?”

“Uh, yeah.” I averted my gaze to the poster of the Phillies above his bed. “I was wondering if you can answer a question for me.”

Julie looked up, a curious expression on her pretty face. I smiled at her, and she responded with a tentative smile.

“Sure.” Scott leaned across the door frame, crossing his arms. “I’m a fountain of knowledge. Ask away.”

I felt really stupid for asking this. “Who was my childhood friend?”

Scott stared at me.

My cheeks burned. “I’m trying to change my password so I can check my e-mail.”

“Oh, that makes sense. Try Carson.”

Shock immobilized me. “Carson?”

Scott nodded. “You guys were closer than he and I were growing up. He’d be my best bet.”

Carson was my best childhood friend? I couldn’t believe it, given the initial animosity he showed toward me. “Why aren’t we friends anymore?”

“Cassie and Del,” Julie answered, closing the textbook in her lap. “You started hanging out more and more with them, and, well, your old friends just didn’t make the cut.”

“Including you?” I asked, remembering what Scott had said.

“Oh god,” Scott muttered, rubbing the heel of his palm down his face. “Sam, after today, maybe you…”

“I should what?”

Julie set the book aside. “We were friends up until the beginning of junior year.”

“What happened then?”

She hesitated. “I wanted to start dating your brother, and you told me we couldn’t be friends if I did. And I put it to the test. You weren’t joking.”

Wow. I was seriously starting to believe I was the Antichrist. “I’m sorry,” I said. Then I spun around and speed-walked down the hall. I made it halfway before I heard Julie’s voice.