I nodded slowly as I climbed off the bike, my eyes taking in the white exterior and red shutters. Nothing stirred inside me.
“We can knock on the door whenever you’re ready,” Carson said.
As much as I appreciated that, I knew I needed to do this now. Smiling at him, I headed up the front steps and knocked on the door. Carson’s warmth pressed against my back, and I wondered if he’d ever know how much that meant to me.
A few seconds later, the red door swung open. An older man appeared, wearing dress pants and a wrinkled shirt. Heavy creases spread out from faded blue eyes that darted from me to Carson.
I drew in a shallow breath. “I’m Sa—”
“I know who you are,” he said. “I was wondering when you’d come by.”
A chill snaked down my back.
“Mr. Winchester,” Carson said, inching forward so he was in front of me. “Samantha doesn’t—”
“Remember anything?” he interrupted, his eyes never leaving my face. “That’s what the detective has told us.” A deep, unforgiving line appeared between his brows. “If you’re here to see Cassie’s mother, she’s in bed and not taking visitors.”
I had no idea who this man was, but he seemed too old to be Cassie’s father. “I’m not here to see her mother. I was hoping that…I could see Cassie’s room.”
“And why would you want to do that?” He glanced at Carson, his nose twitching.
“I was hoping that it would help me remember her—what happened.” I think I knew what was up with the look. “We aren’t here to steal any of her stuff.”
“I can stay outside,” Carson suggested, voice flat. “It’s no problem.”
The old man huffed but stepped aside. “Not that I expected that either of you would steal her stuff. I don’t imagine you remember which room is hers?”
Relieved, I stepped inside. “No. Sorry.”
Carson sighed. “I do.”
If that surprised Mr. Winchester, he didn’t show it. “You have ten minutes, and then I must ask you to leave. Please be quiet.”
Not wasting time, Carson wrapped his hand around mine and led me around the old man. We went up three flights of stairs and down a hall.
“Who was he?” I asked in a hushed voice.
“Cassie’s grandfather. Not a very friendly man.” He flashed a quick grin. “So don’t take that welcome personally.”
I glanced down at his hand around mine. “Where’s her dad?”
“As far as I know, he wasn’t in her life and never had been.” Letting go of my hand, he stopped in front of a door that had three large daisies with pink petals drawn on it. “This is Cassie’s grandfather’s house. Her mom is pretty young, a good ten years younger than your parents. Between that and there being no daddy…”
“I bet that caused a scandal.”
“Knowing you rich people? Probably,” he said, and his jaw tensed. “You ready?”
Carson opened the door, letting me step inside first. A rush of cool air brought a peachy scent that tugged at me. I inhaled deeply, waiting for more but finding only a distant sensation.
Her room wasn’t much different than mine, but as I walked over to her desk, running my fingers over her notebooks, I felt like I was walking inside a tomb. Shivers ran up and down my spine.
Carson remained by the door, silent and watching. I stopped in front of a stack of photos. Going through them, I kept waiting for a memory to spark. There were pictures of us together on a beach, at school, and at a ski resort. We wore matching outfits—pale pink. Some of the pictures were with our other friends. One I recognized from New Year’s Eve because of the dress she wore.
She was in Del’s lap. Both had huge, sloppy smiles on their faces.
Making a face, I showed it to Carson. “I have no idea who took this picture. Me? Trey?”
Carson’s brows rose. “I don’t know.”
Her arm was around Del’s neck, her check pressed against his. Del’s hand was on her hip. “Awful comfy, these two,” I murmured.
“Jealous?” he asked.
“No, not really.” I sighed, putting the photos back on her desk. Beside her bed was a table painted bloodred. Interesting choice in color, but it was the music box that caught my attention. Walking over to it, I picked it up and turned to Carson. “I have one of these in my bedroom. It plays the same song.”
“A lot of girls have music boxes, right?”
“Yeah, but it’s identical.” I set it down, weirded out by that. “Was I friends with Cassie when I was little?”
“No.” He dragged his hand through his hair. “I mean, everyone grew up in the same circle, but you really didn’t get close to her until you were, like, eleven or so.”
Did we get matching music boxes then? Seemed like we’d be a little old for that. I picked up a stuffed unicorn that carried the scent of honeysuckle and then checked out her closet.
With each passing minute, my frustration mounted. I’d probably been in this bedroom a million times, and nothing about it was familiar. My hands curled into fists as I moved to the center of the room, staring at the red comforter that belonged to the best friend I also couldn’t remember.
I threw the unicorn on the bed. Tears pricked my eyes. The swamping hole inside my head remained the same. Empty. Vast. All my memories were gone, stolen. It was like being violated, but there was no one to pin the crime on. My mind spun in circles.
“I don’t remember a damn thing.” My voice came out a dry, hoarse whisper.
“It’s okay.” He placed his hand on the small of my back. “It might take a little time.”
A tremble ran through my body, and I hated it. Weak. Helpless. Lost. I spun around, pushing the loose strands of hair out of my face. “What if I never remember? Do I live the rest of my life like this? One foot in a past I can’t remember?”
His eyes widened slightly as he tilted his head forward. “I know this is hard for you to swallow right now, but if you never remember, you get to do something that most people never get to do.”
“Like what?” I folded my arms. “Have a bunch of second firsts?”
“Yeah, that.” Carson placed his hands on my upper arms, his eyes searching mine intently. “You get to start over. Experience all those things again. While everyone else is wishing for a do-over, you get to have one.”