Into the Deep Page 1

Chapter One

“Did you go food shopping yet? Is the food expensive? Do you understand what half of it is?”

I swallowed my laughter. “Mom, I’m in Scotland, not the Amazon.”

“I know but they eat things we wouldn’t dare eat.”

She sounded so horrified I couldn’t help my dry retort. “They’re not cannibals.”

A spray of soda shot past my eyeline and I twisted to see my best friend Claudia choking on Diet Coke as she listened to my side of the conversation. We were sitting in the kitchen of our student apartment, our butts on the comfortable, but still weird, waiting room chairs that had been supplied in our common room/kitchen. Our backs were to the wide floor-to-ceiling window that looked out over the courtyard of our building, the sun hitting the glass and prickling our skin with its heat. Everything about the room was clean, fresh, and hardwearing. The accommodation was basic but it was warm and safe and a million times better than I’d been led to believe it would be.

“So dramatic, Charley. I’m just saying, the food is a little different,” Mom continued. “I want to make sure you’re eating right.”

Whether I was in Edinburgh or back home in Indiana, my mom always wanted to make sure I was eating right. This was because I couldn’t cook. Delia Redford was an awesome cook and baker, as was her oldest daughter, Andrea, so she took the fact that her youngest (that would be me) couldn’t so much as boil pasta without screwing it up as a personal failure on her part. Luckily for me, I could read and work an oven so frozen dinners kept me from starvation.

“Mom, they eat pretty much what we eat mostly because … you know … they’re people.”

“Except their chocolate is better,” Claudia muttered, nibbling on a bar of Dairy Milk.

I frowned at her. “That’s a matter of opinion.”

“What’s a matter of opinion?” Mom asked curiously. “Is Claudia there? Is she eating right?”

My lips twitched. “Mom wants to know if you’re eating right?”

Claudia nodded and mumbled around a mouthful of chocolate. “Never better.” She waved her fingers and swallowed, “Hi, Delia Mom!”

Mom laughed. “Tell her I say hi back.”

“Mom says hi back.”

“Your father told me to tell you that the two of you have to check in every day.”

I grimaced. “You didn’t make Andie check in every day when she was in Dublin.”

“We didn’t have to make Andie check in every day. You, however, have always got so much going on it’s a wonder we hear from you at all.”

“Well, it’s not like I’m smoking crack, Mom. I’m studying and organizing sh—stuff.”

Her tone turned sharp. “Were you going to say shit?”

“Would I, a grown woman of twenty years old, dare to curse in front of my mother?”

She harrumphed.

I sighed. “Mom, we’re not calling you every day. It’s too expensive. And I don’t have time to Skype with you every day. I’ll send emails when I can during the week and we’ll set up a Skype chat once a week, okay?”

“You don’t have to make it sound like a chore.”

“Momma, I love you. It’s not a chore. I am going to miss you too … but I’ve been gone two days. Please give me a chance to miss you.”

At her soft chuckle, I relaxed. “I’m just worried. You’re my baby and Claud is my adopted baby.”

“We’ll be fine. But we’ve got to go. It’s induction week and Claudia and I have some things we need to do before classes start. I’ll email you soon.”

“But you didn’t answer my question about food.”

“We went food shopping. Our fridge, our freezer, and our cupboards are packed full.”

“With what?”

“Food, Mom.”

“What kind of food?”

I threw an exasperated “help me” look at Claudia and she instantly cried out in mock pain.

“What was that?”

“Got to go, Mom. Claudia is going into sugar shock.” I hung up and grinned at my laughing friend. “I should switch it off before she calls back.”

We jumped as the phone buzzed in my hand but when I looked down, it read, “Andie Calling.”

“I cannot catch a break. Hello,” I answered.

“Hello to you too,” Andie said. “You’ve been gone two days. You don’t write, you don’t call …”

“I just got off the phone with Mom two seconds ago.”

“Right. How’d that go? Did she give you the food chat?”

“Did you get that too?”

“When I did my study abroad? Yeah. I think she thinks non-Americans aren’t from Planet Earth and that they somehow subsist on weird alien food that our bodies can’t process.”

“Yeah, I’m getting that.”

“So? Do you like Edinburgh?”

“So far. It is weird being so far from home, but it’s a beautiful city.”

“How’s Claudia?”

“Enjoying the chocolate.”

“It’s not as good as ours.”

“That’s what I said!”

“You’re both wrong,” Claudia interjected as she got up to put her chocolate wrappers in the trash. “Now can you tell your sister you’ll call her back? If we stay here any longer, I’m going to smash your phone.”

“I heard,” Andie said. I could practically hear her rolling her eyes. “I need to get to work anyway. It’s early here, remember. It’s early and the first thing I do is phone my baby sister to see how she is and it’s an expensive long-distance call but does she care?”

I laughed. “I care. I do. I just don’t have time to fully appreciate it. Claudia has an abnormal hatred for our perfectly nice apartment and I brought her back here for lunch. I’m pretty sure she’s going to break out in hives.”

“Well, we wouldn’t want that. Speak soon, Supergirl.”

“Later.” I switched off the phone and gave Claudia a look. “That was rude.”

“This,” she gestured to the room, “is not an apartment. It’s a common room with a hallway outside that leads to five identical rooms with fire doors that lock.”