Unhinged Page 83

We climb down the ladder into the garage. The overhead door is open and Dad’s truck is in the driveway behind Morpheus’s Mercedes. There will be no pretending we’ve been here all along. Even worse, Gizmo is in its spot, so Dad’s been to Butterfly Threads and knows I was there. I don’t know how he got Gizmo home or who helped him. My pulse slams in my neck, wondering what else he’s discovered and how many people are involved.

Wind carrying the scent of moisture slices through the garage, rattling old newspapers gathered in the corner. Storm clouds are rolling in, making it darker than it should be. I shiver.

Jeb takes my hand and kisses the back of it. “It’ll be okay,” he whispers and sets my backpack outside the door.

Mom steps into the living room with Jeb and me trailing behind her.

Dad’s standing at the threshold between the kitchen and the living room. The lamp next to his recliner is on, but he’s outside the circle of light. Shadows muddle his features as he holds the phone to his ear. When he sees us, he hangs up and comes all the way in, expression somewhere between relief and anger.

“I’ve been looking for you both for almost two hours,” he half shouts. “I was about to call the police. Where have you been?”

Mom rushes to him. “It’s okay. I found Allie next door.” She takes the phone and gives Jeb a pleading look.

“What?” Dad asks. “How’s that even—”

Jeb steps up. “It’s true. Al’s been with me.”

My dad frowns, giving Jeb’s clothes a once-over. “But I came by your house earlier this afternoon. Your mother said you weren’t there.”

Jeb exchanges glances with me. “We just got in a few minutes ago. Before that, we were hiding at the studio.”

“You hid my daughter?” Dad gives Jeb a look I’ve never seen him use with him—disappointment with an edge of scorn. It’s even worse than the time we got tattoos. “I left all those calls on your cell. You had to know how worried her mom and I were. I thought you’d grown up, Jeb.”

Jeb studies the floor, jaw clenched.

“So,” Dad continues, “lying, evading. Then there’s the vandalism. What’s next, robbing a bank?”

Though he directs the question to Jeb, I shake my head. “What are you talking about? Jeb had nothing to do with school this morning.”

“I’m talking about Butterfly Threads. Someone broke in through the back door. There was stuff all over the merchandise, the floor, and the ceiling. Like Silly String but more damaging. Persephone found Gizmo in the alley. What do you have to say about that?” He’s still speaking to Jeb, as if I’m too far gone to answer for myself.

I move into Dad’s line of sight, forcing him to look at me. “I was too shaky to drive. I called Jeb to pick me up there. But he didn’t set foot inside the shop.” It’s not a lie exactly. Morpheus carried him in.

Dad looks like I punched him in the gut. “Why, Allie? Persephone’s been nothing but good to you. She even helped me drive your car home and offered not to call the police. Are we making it too easy for you to act out?” His left eyelid twitches, sure indication he’s at the end of his rope. “You can forget about graduating with your class tomorrow. You’ll get your diploma in the mail. I’m not letting you out of my sight until you talk to a psychiatrist.”

Mom gasps and I clench my teeth.

“Wait, Mr. Gardner …” Jeb tries to intervene, but I catch his elbow and hold him back.

“I think you should go home, Jebediah,” Dad says, his brown eyes cold. “This concerns my family.”

My chest stings. I know Dad’s just lashing out, but those words are like knives. Jeb is family. He’s always been treated that way.

“Yes, sir,” Jeb says, his voice hoarse. He starts for the front door. Mom follows to let him out, and they talk quietly on the porch while Dad and I glare at each other.

A growl of thunder shakes the room.

Dad leans against the wall, and the wrinkles around his mouth deepen, as if the artist sketching his face went too heavy on the shading. I’ve learned so much about him today—know him better than I ever did, better than he knows himself—yet he’s looking at me as if I’m a complete stranger.

When I can’t take his accusatory stare any longer, I start for my room.

“Alyssa,” he says quietly, “your makeup is still a mess. And what happened to your shirt?”

I stall next to my mosaics in the hallway, my back to him. Cool air seeps through the wing slits in the shoulders. I shrug.

“Great. Nice answer.” His voice is frayed, and it presses along my heartstrings like an amateur cellist’s bow. “I don’t even know who you are anymore.”

I clasp the necklaces at my neck. “It’s okay,” I whisper so he can’t possibly hear. “Because I finally do.”

I shut my bedroom door. I don’t bother to turn on the light as I change into my boxers and a lacy camisole, wishing I could shed everything that’s gone wrong along with my clothes.

There’s enough strained daylight coming through my curtains for me to substitute Jen’s straight pins on my prom gown for safety pins and smooth the pleats in place to cover the metal clasps.

Following a knock at my door, Mom peeks inside.

I motion her in. “Where’s Dad?”

“He went to get some dinner. I suggested he go to cool off. When he comes back, I’ll put the sedatives in his drink.”

I nod, not feeling the least bit hungry, considering what we’re about to do. We’re going to knock out my father for no good reason. It’s the same thing my mother lived through for years at the asylum.

I can tell by her tight lips that she’s as uncomfortable as I am with the idea.

We sit together on my bed with my lights off and the aquarium glowing blue. My eels swim gracefully, like angels under water—a serene counterpoint to the emotional uproar in my head. A thrum of distant thunder echoes my unease.

“I’m sorry.” Mom fluffs my gown’s slip to a cloud of periwinkle netting. “Your father … he’s just out of his mind with worry. Once this is all behind us, he’ll make up with Jeb. I won’t let you go through what I did. He won’t send you to the asylum. Okay?”

I want to believe her, but a soul-deep foreboding is starting to wind through me. “Why can’t we reunite Dad with his memories? He would stop thinking we’re crazy all the time. And we could use his help tonight since Morpheus isn’t here.” My voice falters on Morpheus’s name.

Prev Next