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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2. Chapter 2

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

            The bakery sat on opposite side of where Aunt Ashlyn said. The front had a gorgeous, hand-painted sign with BAKE MY DAY in curly purple letters. A strand of white fairy lights twisted around the purple awning. I always figured when I got my own place, I’d have Christmas lights up year round. Mostly because I wouldn’t be bothered to take them down.

            I leaned my bike against the side of the building, not bothering to lock it to anything. I’d be able to see someone if they tried to steal it, and I doubted anyone would want it in the first place. As I entered, the door chimed. A few of tables sat against the windows, one of them high, and bolted to the ground, like a bar stool. Running next to them was a long counter, and a display case full of cute little cookies and pastries. Better than all of that was the smell – the second I opened the door, warm cinnamon and sugar enveloped me, pulling me along like a puffy cloud.

            As I approached the counter, a guy came from the back room. He smiled at me and did a half-wave, long fingers spreading out wide. He looked about my age, with fluffy brown hair cut to curl over his eyes unless he brushed it away. When he turned and reached for a wet rag, I swore I could see his back muscles pose for me as he bent across the back counter and reached a wet rag.

            “Hey, what can I do for you?” he asked, deep voice startling me. He wasn’t tall enough, or bulky enough, for such a warm voice.

            I looked at the display case, like I had no idea why I’d come in. “Um, my Aunt sent me for something.”

            “Well, we definitely have a lot of something. Any something in particular?” His brown eyes sparkled. He must have thought he was the funniest guy ever.

            I crouched, getting eye-level with some pastries that looked nothing like the others. They were round, domed with shell-patterned toppings in different colors. The only other time I’d seen them was when Mom brought me down to Texas to meet my Grandma.

            “You have conchas,” I said, pointing. He wouldn’t be able to see my finger.

            He did a little skip and crouched on the other side of the display case. “You know what those are?” He sounded amazed. “You’re the first person to come in here who knew what those are on the first guess.

            We stood at the same time. “My Grandma made them when I visited. I’ve only ever had them once. But you never forget the first time.” I licked my lips, remembering the sweet crunch of the slightly overcooked one I’d loved.

            “Mom will be amazed someone knew.” He looked me over. “I’ve never seen you before,” he said, narrowing his eyes a bit. “Are you in town for a visit?”

            My arms crossed against my chest. “Yeah. Well, no. I just moved in. I’m going to school for the year. Senior year. Then I’m off.” I pushed my arms ahead of me, like a dance.

            “You moved here for senior year?” His eyebrows raised, and his forehead wrinkled. “That’s special. They kick you out of your old school?”

            I brought my shoulders up to my ears and looked away. “No, not exactly. It’s a long story.” I looked into the display case for an answer on what to say next, but came up with nothing. But when I breathed in deep, the answer went right up through my nose. “Are you baking cinnamon rolls?”

            The guy’s face lit again. “Yeah. They’re almost ready to come out.”

            “I’ve always wanted to learn how to make those.” I smiled to myself. I didn’t really want to learn to make them as much as I wanted to eat one. “But every time I look up a recipe, it says it takes like four hours. Who has that kind of time?”

            “No one. That’s why they all come here.” His smile was crooked, and when I looked closer, could pick out the stubble along his chin. “So what did your Aunt send you for, anyway?”

            “Dinner rolls.”

            Recognition lit the guy’s face. “Is your Aunt Ashlyn Perez?”

            I stood straighter. “How did you know?”

            “I could set our timers to her. She never remembers to make them on her own, or so she says. I think she just likes ours better.” He smiled and leaned to look into the back room. “I’ll go grab you the fresh ones.” As he walked back, a timer’s ding sounded.

            I took a seat on the barstool and peeked at my phone. Melissa already wrote on my profile wall, a cheery “MISS YOU SO MUCH!!!!” Girl needed a serious pep intervention. As I shoved my phone into my purse, I gazed out the window. Not many cars drove by, and the ones that did crawled at a pace slower than some of the people walking by. As much as I hated being away from home, I couldn’t wait until fall. It would be beautiful, I could already tell.

            “Are you being helped?”

            My head swiveled. A tall, skinny woman with wide hips and bright red lipstick leaned against the doorway between this room and the back. Her tanned skin went so well with the creamy walls of the bakery, I wondered if they’d painted especially to compliment her.

            “The… guy who was just out here is helping me.”

            She nodded. “Felix? He’s getting the cinnamon rolls out of the oven.”

            I frowned and looked at my phone for the time. I didn’t know how long Aunt Ashlyn expected me to take, but riding uphill on the way back would take longer. I hopped off the stool and pulled my shirt down, taught against my belly. When I released it, it settled just above the top of my jeans, like usual.

            “You’re Ashlyn Perez’s neice?” she asked, cocking her head. “She told us you were moving in. Said you needed a break from the city.”

            “A break from everything, really.”

            The woman nodded, and looked over her shoulder, into the back room. She eyeballed my body, appraising my worth like a gem. “We’re happy to have you here. Tell your Aunt I said hi.”

            I didn’t know her name, but whatever. She disappeared, and a minute later, Felix appeared with a white box in his hands. Cornmeal clung to his apron and arms. He opened the box and tilted it so I could see inside. Eight rolls sit in neat rows, with another box, this time smaller and squat, in the corner. “Her usual order is 6, but I figure she and Raul don’t eat all of them, so I only tacked on two more. Is that okay?”

            “What’s in the little box?” I asked, pointing.

            Felix’s lips widened into another crooked smile. “That’s my welcome-to-town present to you. By the way, what’s your name? So I can tell everyone I met the new girl first.”

            “Aurora. Rory. Whatever you want to call me. Most people call me Rory. Actually, I think everyone calls me Rory.” I reached inside the box and flipped the smaller lid open, revealing a fat, thick cinnamon roll. My mouth watered. “I don’t know if I can wait until I get home to eat that.”

            Felix laughed. “The longer you wait, the sweeter it’ll be. No, really. They’re good when they’re fresh, but when you warm it up again later, it’ll be even better. Trust me.” He winked, thick eyelashes fluttering in time with the butterflies dancing in my stomach.

            “You’re the guy in the apron.”

            His smile faltered, and his eyebrows knitted. He looked down and punched some buttons on his register.

            Did I say something wrong? He became all business, and as I paid him for the dinner rolls, he didn’t smile again.

            “Thanks for the cinnamon roll,” I said. “That was really sweet of you.”

            Felix’s lips cracked into a faint grin. “Any time.”

            “Maybe you can teach me how to make my own, some time?” I asked, scooping the box into my arm.

            His eyes lit, softening his cheeks. “Stick around long enough, and I might just.”

            When I returned to my bike, outside, the breeze blew with a crisp feel to it. Warm cinnamon and sweet sugar scent clung as I left the bakery. Better than Febreeze. After stuffing the box into my basket, I headed back to Uncle Raul’s. The cool breeze crept up my back again, tickling my neck and the loose hairs I hadn’t swept into my usual bun. Having long hair is great in theory, but knots in practice.

            The long, grueling uphill ride took twice as long. I’d have to work on that so I didn’t look like a fool in front of people at school. When I got home, Aunt Ashlyn popped the rolls into the oven to keep them warm, and we sat in the living room, watching TV and talking while we waited for Uncle Raul to come home.

            “We don’t eat together every night,” she said, during a commercial. “But when we have time, we do. If you’re at school, don’t feel like you need to make it home. There will always be something waiting for you, or sandwiches you can make.”

            “That’s good to know.” I hugged a pillow, breathing in the powdery, fresh smell. Everything in Lake Placid smelled fresh and clean.

            “I know Miguel always cooks,” she continued. “So if you want to pitch in, you can.”

            “Dad taught me how to flip a mean burger.”

            She smiled at me, beige teeth behind pale lips. I don’t think I’d ever seen Aunt Ashlyn wear make-up, aside from a few weddings. She didn’t need it. “I forgot to ask your Miguel if you had a curfew.” She cocked her head. “Did you?”

            The fact that she thought I’d need a curfew was sweet enough alone. Between homework and Mock Trial, I barely had enough time to hang out with Melissa, or go on a date with Will. Well, back when Will and I were dating, at least. When the homework calmed down, and I didn’t have to worry about pretending to be a lawyer, Dad didn’t care where I went, so long as I didn’t come home reeking of pot and booze.

            “We didn’t have anything established.”

            Aunt Ashlyn considered this. “Let us know if you’re going to be out later than midnight,” she said. “Just keep us in the loop in general.”

            When the commercial break ended, Aunt Ashlyn got up to check on dinner. Uncle Raul came home, patting me on the head while he passed into the kitchen. They kissed – adorable, not gross – and Uncle Raul’s head popped into the living room.

            “Did the baker’s kid give you the cinnamon roll?”

            I nodded. “Touch it, and I’m going to have to kill you in your sleep.”

            Uncle Raul chuckled, corners of his eyes crinkling. “Good to see my brother’s raising his daughter with the right priorities.”

            As plates clacked in the other room – Aunt Ashlyn setting the table – my stomach knotted. It’d been a long time since anyone said anything like that to me. After months of listening to people call me all kinds of names and speculate about my “morals,” it was nice to be around people who didn’t think they knew everything based on one or two little details.

            “Dinner’s up!” Aunt Ashlyn called.

            When I sat at the table with them, my stomach clenched again. It would be a while before I got used to eating dinner without Dad. His stupid anecdotes from work kept our conversation flowing, and without him, I settled for chewing the dry roast chicken in silence.

* * *

            After I finished helping Uncle Raul with the dishes, I retreated to the guest bedroom – my bedroom. I had to stop thinking like I was a guest. None of the boxes magically unpacked themselves while I was out, and I needed to rummage through to find my clean pajamas. I found the thick, comfy snowflake ones buried underneath my pile of plain-colored v-necks, which I shoved into the dresser.

            My new bedroom had its own bathroom attached. The other one down the hall had a huge claw-footed tub and a shower stall. Mine had the shower stall, which would be good enough – even if there was barely enough room for me to bend over and reach my ankles. I’d have to shave my legs with my feet propped on the toilet or the sink. Or stop shaving them altogether. I liked that idea more.

            After I’d washed the bike ride and lingering scent of thyme and garlic from dinner from my hair, I hopped on my computer. No e-mails, and no new messages anywhere else. I peeked at my cell, hoping at least someone might have responded to my texts. Still nothing. But it’d only been a few hours, and a bunch of them would be at farewell parties for last year’s seniors, or out school shopping for new clothes.

            I checked Twitter out of curiosity. The ones who hadn’t blocked me, or turned their accounts private, were still talking up a storm. Ignoring me. I sighed and flipped my phone face-down. They’d come around eventually.

            But that’s the thought I’d had all this time, that they’d come around, and everything would go back to normal. I told everyone – Melissa, Dad, my Aunt and Uncle – that it would be a matter of time.

            Yeah, I was lying to myself. The overwhelming silence on all other fronts wouldn’t end just because I ran away. I knew that when I’d agreed to relocate.

            I couldn’t waste any more time thinking about it.

            I flipped on some music, a dainty woman with a strong voice like chiming bells and late-summer rain. It filled the room, and by the time I finished emptying the last moving box, I’d made my way through her latest album. As the music started for the first song of her first album, I folded my arms and looked around, eyes settling on my corkboard.

            One by one, I lifted the pictures, setting them on my dresser in a neat pile. I didn’t need them anymore. Melissa was right – she’d be thrilled to know it, too. When I unpinned the very last picture, me and Will from the Junior’s Ball, I set it face-down on top of the rest. They could stay in a box on the shelf. I had to make room for new pictures.  

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