Hide Away

After becoming the black sheep of her suburban town, seventeen year old Rory’s Dad agrees to send her to Lake Placid for her senior year. Rory makes friends fast, especially with the sweet, sexy baker Felix and his dorky friends. Even though she can’t get enough of Felix’s gooey cinnamon buns, Rory's afraid of getting too close. She got too close to a guy before, and that’s why she’s in this mess to begin with. But the more time she spends with him, learning how to swirl the perfect amount of cinnamon and brown sugar together, and beating him on his old Nintendo, the harder it is to keep her distance.

But when her best friend comes to visit her, the past catches up. It didn’t take long for her small town to turn their backs on her. If people find out the truth behind Rory’s move to Lake Placid, they might turn their backs on her, too. That's the last thing Rory wants.

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1. Chapter 1

 

I will always walk tall, I hold my loneliness up like a medicine ball

I come out of the wilderness to lay by the waterfall, lighten my load

-          Cold War Kids, Out of the Wilderness

 

 

Chapter One

 

            Dad wrapped me into bear hug, squeezing like I was a tube of toothpaste, and he had just wolfed down some onion soup. His strong arms kept me locked tight for a full minute before he released. I could breathe again.

            “Promise me that you’ll call at least every week?” His hands stuck to my shoulders, still squeezing.

            “I’m not going off to Iraq, Dad.” I scrunched my face and tried to pull away.

            Dad sighed. “Are you positive this is what you want to do?” He waved around at the house in front of us, with its chipped grey paint and cracked sidewalk. Little flowers sprouts from between the cracks. Somehow no one stepped on them. Even the mailman.

            I flattened my shirt against my round stomach. It grumbled appropriately. “This is what’s best for now. I’ll see you at Thanksgiving and Christmas, okay? And you can visit any weekend.”

            Dad’s brown eyes watered, and he tried shaking it off. “I’m sorry it had to come to this. I should have done a better job looking out for you.” He turned to head to his Buick, but I reached to grab his elbow.

            “You know you didn’t do anything wrong, right?” I squeezed. “I had to get away from everyone. I couldn’t take the dirty looks, or the whispering anymore.”

            “I know, Rory.” He shut his eyes. “I know it’s for the best, I just wish it didn’t have to be this way.” When he reached the Buick, he paused. “I don’t mean… I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t have done what you did.”

            I held up my hand, with mauve polish, more chip than paint. “I know. It’s fine.”

            As Dad started the car, the door opened behind me, and clacking heels on the stepping stones followed. Aunt Ashlyn joined me, dropping her hand on my shoulder. “You all right, Rory?”

            Biting my lip, I nodded. Seeing Dad pull away wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I knew he couldn’t stay any longer. He had to get back to Buffalo. He could barely stand to be away from work for a few hours, let alone the three days he’d taken off. His Buick disappeared down the winding street, behind the full trees crowding the sides of the road. A light breeze rustled the leaves, like Dad whispering and quiet “Goodbye.”

            “You want to help me with dinner? I could use a pair of strong hands to peel these potatoes.”

            I smirked. “If by ‘strong hands’ you mean any hands other than yours?”

            She pulled me into the house, snatching the mail before the storm door clanged closed behind us. She tossed it on the counter, not bothering to look at the contents. “It’s fine if you want to go unpack some more. I won’t need the potatoes peeled for another hour or so. I thought it’d be better to distract you from your him leaving.”

            “I figured.” I grabbed a can of pop from the refrigerator. “Call me when you need me.”

            Even though I’d only been living at that house for a few days, I could make my way to the guest room – now my bedroom – with my eyes shut. Dad and I visited my Aunt and Uncle all the time. It’s the reason they all thought I could move there without any trouble. It wasn’t shipping me off to live with a bunch of unfamiliar faces in a weird place, and everyone agreed I could do without that to begin with.

            Boxes formed a line from the door to my bed. You never think you have that much until you’ve got to pack it into boxes – then you’re suddenly on the floor, sweaty and exasperated, wondering how you own ten pairs of the same color leggings.

            I got to hanging up my clothes in the walk-in closet, separating my dresses and nicer clothes on one side, boring school clothes on the other. I never bothered to get too dressed up for school, at least not since middle school. Most people looked right past me, to the gorgeous drummer on my arm.

            My stomach clenched. Will Grimsby and I spent three years together, and it ended with me having to leave the city.

            Totally, completely unfair.

            To distract myself, I dropped my leggings and hopped on my computer to look at the list of people on-line. My friends list dwindled over the past few months, but that was the least of my worries. A couple of them made fake names to try and get me riled up. They didn’t think I could tell who they were, but Lisa Petrucci was the only girl in our grade who still couldn’t bring herself to type out the word “bitch.” Within seconds, a new chat popped up.

Melissa.Kowal: I thought you’d be busy!! I’m so glad you’re on. How long?

Aurora.Perez: hour?

Melissa.Kowal: Let’s get on video chat. I miss your face!

Melissa.Kowal is calling you. Answer with video?

 

            When my webcam blipped on, I cringed. I hadn’t bothered to look in the mirror before hitting the “accept call” button. Not like it mattered. Melissa and I knew each other since we were toddlers. She’d sat next to me when I had chicken pox. Messy hair wouldn’t be a huge deal.

            She squealed and clapped her hands, big blue eyes filling the screen. She’s pushed her bangs back with a red headband, honey-blonde hair hanging to her shoulders. The only thing missing was her signature cat’s-eye style eye liner.

            “You look so good,” I said, trying to flatten my hair. The little box with my cam feed played the image of a sleepy girl with smudged make-up and hair straight out of the 80s. With no elastic in sight to put it up, either.

            “I’d say so do you, but I’m not that much of a liar.” She squinted and got closer to the screen. “Is that the corkboard I see behind your bed?”

            I looked over my shoulder, at my bed. The first thing I’d done was hang up my corkboard – it had all of my favorite pictures, and the best memories attached to it. I couldn’t bring everything from my house, but I had to at least bring that.

            “Did you pull anything off before you packed it?” Melissa asked. “Like… the picture I see of you and Will from the junior ball?!” She pointed and clapped her hand over her mouth. “Rory! Take that down right now.”

            My face burned. Melissa didn’t understand. I couldn’t just take the pictures down. I still had a picture of Greg Putts, the boy I fake-married in kindergarten tucked in the bottom corner, and we didn’t even go to the same school anymore.

            “By the way,” Melissa said. “I ran into Will and Demi. He’s still going on and on with that whole wounded puppy act. She was all over him, too.” She turned up her nose.

            “I’m not surprised. The last time I saw them, they were attached at the hip. Then the mouth, then the hip again….” I sighed and looked out my window. “ Hey, did I show you the view yet? It’s pretty cool.”

            “Show me!”

            I picked up my webcam and pointed it out the window. The image on the screen adjusted to the light, and the gorgeous, lush grass and trees came into view. I could see the houses further down the hill, and even the shopping plaza a few miles down.

            “Wow. That’s going to look fabulous when the trees start to change.” Melissa sighed. “I wish you were home. It’s so boring without you. Already!”

            “I know.” I looked away, at my stack of textbooks. I had to change the subject. I couldn’t keep talking about home. “Did you get your course load yet?”

            As Melissa went on and on about her classes, and who she already knew she had them with, my thoughts drifted. I didn’t know anyone here. That was the whole point, but I never thought about the little things. Who would I partner with during group projects? What if I needed a partner for gym class? People back home never picked on me for running out of breath on the five minute warm-up jog, but what if my new school was full of star athletes?

            “And it looks like I have Mr. Vrees for English again. He’s cool. Remember that time he let me skip class and go to the library because I didn’t finish reading the assignment the night my Dad left for Iraq?”

            “Yeah. He’s awesome. You’re lucky you’ll get him again. I think he lets the seniors just do super vague papers all year.”

            Melissa clapped again. “Sweet! It’ll make up for Calc. Hey, what about you? What classes did you get stuck in?”

            “I haven’t even looked. Let me grab the schedule.” I stood and grabbed my purse, rummaging through the 7-11 receipts from the little trip with Dad. We’d gone to the school first thing to make sure I’d been signed up, and to make sure all of my classes would add up to graduating on time. They assured me it’d be no problem over the phone, but Dad had to see it with his own eyes. I didn’t blame him.

            “Here it is,” I said, pulling out the yellow sheet. “The only thing that’s weird on here is a college-level Math class, and I guess ceramics.”

            “Ceramics? Like you’re going to paint statues and stuff?” Melissa squinted again.

            “Maybe it’s like pottery or something. Who knows?” I tossed the schedule to the side.

             “Cool. So hey, have you met anyone in town yet?”

            “Dad only left a little while ago.” When we’d stopped into the store to load the pantry for my Aunt and Uncle (Dad said it was the least he could do), I tried to look for people my age. With all the visits over the years, I could recognize some of the older people, but none of the younger ones. The only girl I think I recognized was one of the girls bagging groceries at the front end. She had bushy hair and the biggest brown eyes I’d ever seen, like a baby deer or something. But I could have been wrong.

            “Well what are you doing, talking to me? Go exploring! Go meet some people. I know school does start for a few more days, but you should get into a pattern.”

            I couldn’t help but laugh. Melissa was the orderly one of us – or at least, she tried to be. All of her efforts to be on-time and collected and put together went to waste when she stopped taking her meds. You wouldn’t think someone with such a mild case of ADD would fall apart without a few doses, but Melissa did. She learned to manage it better than when we were younger, but she needed that extra bit to keep herself in line, otherwise she’d wind up starting the same History paper six times, with six different opening paragraphs.

            “Don’t laugh,” she said, scowling. “Everyone could use a little more order.”

            My wide grin filled up the tiny box of my webcam’s feed on the screen. When I glanced, I dropped the grin and tried to look as cute as possible.

            Melissa’s Mom walked into the room without knocking, and bent in front of the screen. “Is that Rory? Hi, sweetie! We miss you around here. We can’t wait to see you for Thanksgiving.”

            I waved, feeling pathetic. “Hi Mr. Kowalski. I miss you guys too.”

            She crossed her arms. “I still can’t believe you moved. It’s senior year! You should have fought back against those awful brats. This is your home town too, you know.”

            My stomach dropped again. I didn’t want to talk about it. Not again. “I think I’m going to go, you guys. I’ll talk to you soon!” I waved, and before either of them could protest, clicked out of the video chat box. My webcam went dark. All anyone wanted to talk about was why I left. I spent months living it. I didn’t need to remind myself.

            I leaned in my chair, eyes to the ceiling. None of the other girls from home had spoken to me since I left. Not even the ones from Mock Trial. But I didn’t try talking to them either. I reached for my cell and sent out a few messages, a casual “Hey, how’s it going?” to the ones I thought might actually speak to me again. After I put it in their hands, I would know if they wanted anything to do with me anymore.

            Downstairs, Aunt Ashlyn already finished peeling the potatoes, and was working on chopping them into uniform pieces. A bit of her tongue stuck out to the side as she moved the cutting board around to get the right angles. She heard me coming and looked up, long brown ponytail sliding down her back. “I heard you talking to someone, so I figured I wouldn’t bug you.”

            “Oh.” I grabbed a raw potato and popped it in my mouth before Aunt Ashlyn could protest. She didn’t. Dad never let me snack from his meal prep. He said it contaminated the vision. “Do you need help with anything else?”

            She looked behind her, surveying the piles of vegetables and chicken. “Can you run down to the bakery? We’re out of dinners rolls. I don’t have the stuff to make more.”

            “I don’t think I remember passing a bakery. Where is it?” I popped another raw piece of potato in my mouth and looked around for my satchel.

            Aunt Ashlyn gave me directions, and I left, screen door clanging behind. I couldn’t see myself getting used to it. But I could definitely get used to the sweet, lush smell of the trees. They carried that late-summer scent, with a breeze of a woodsy fire somewhere down the road. Did everyone in town have a wood-burning stove?

            My bicycle, a cheap department store thing, leaned against the house. I unchained the wheels and hopped on. Aunt Ashlyn didn’t object to me driving her car around, but I didn’t know my way around yet. With my luck, I’d turn a corner and fly into the lake.

            Once I got off the dirt road, the ride smoothed out underneath me. The breeze blew through my hair, sending a chill across my neck. Battling cars for space on the road was second nature to me, but in Lake Placid, I had more than enough room. The shoulders were wide, and cars didn’t crowd me. Hardly any passed by. No one leaned out the side of their window and screamed out fat jokes, either, which was a huge plus. Be a chubster in the city, and all passersby are sure to accuse you of the inexcusable crime of leaving the house while fat. I ran out of names to call them in return, and stuck to peddling faster.

            Aunt Ashlyn’s directions should have been easier to follow, but I took a wrong turn and wound up somewhere near a gas station. I popped inside, and the young blonde at the cash register was happy to point me in the right direction. She had thick hipster glasses and a piercing on her lip, and when she walked from beyond the counter to show me which road to go down, I was instantly jealous of her skinny legs.

            “You must not be from around here,” she said, eyeballing my bicycle. “I can’t think of a harder place to get lost. Even some of the tourists know the place better than me.”

            “I moved here a few days ago.”

            She tilted her head. “Post-summer, pre-fall? That’s weird. Where are you from?”

            “Buffalo.” I stood with the cross-bar angled between my legs, ready to make my get-away.

            The girl’s nose wrinkled. “You going to school here?”

            “Yeah. Do you?”

            “I graduated. I’m on my way out in a few days. Let me give you a piece of advice – don’t go into the woods without someone’s that’s lived here for a long time. Lot of people get hurt that way.”

            “Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.” Not that I had a huge desire to go gallivanting in the woods anyway. I’d seen that horror movie before.

            She waved me off, bony arm and pointy elbow rising.

            I didn’t mind being chubby, really. I didn’t pick apart my body in front of the mirror, and hardly anyone ever made a big deal out of it. That must have made me lucky, because I read horror stories on-line, from kids my age who had been bullied for even being 10lbs overweight. But every now and then, I’d see a girl with the sexiest legs, or the strongest arms, and even I’d feel a tinge of jealousy. It’s hard to avoid falling in love with strong women.

            As I pedaled further into town, I shook off the jealousy. If I was in Buffalo, careening toward the piles of broken glass and dull, grey buildings, swerving around everyone’s trash in the street, I might feel bad.

            But this wasn’t Buffalo. Thank God.


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