“Really, Shay, I don’t know why you’re just now remembering that ya left your bracelet over Mother Ophelia’s house,” Phoenix trilled from the driver’s side as she glanced out the window.
“It fell off,” Shay lied defensively. “I didn’t notice until this morning, but I know that it’s there.”
“What’s with the bag?”
Shay looked down at her satchel. “What? You don’t like it?”
“I didn’t say that. I’m just wondering why you’re bringing it. It’s not like ya need it to carry your bracelet.”
That was true, but she did need it to carry the candles and map she’d taken from the mansion. She didn’t dare mention that to Phoenix though.
Shay shrugged. “I don’t know. I just like it.”
“Alright.” Phoenix edged the Hyundai around a corner. “I guess ya couldn’t have asked Vivienne to take ya. Mother Ophelia would have had a fit.”
Well, that, Shay thought, and Vivienne would have noticed something was wrong the moment Shay got into the car. She always noticed when something was wrong.
“Thanks again,” Shay told her as they pulled into the driveway of the pink house. “I’ll grab the bus home.”
“You sure? I can wait.”
“Yeah. I think I’m going to go into town first and grab some more food. Sienna said all the frozen waffles were gone when she went in the freezer this morning,” Shay told her. “If I need you, I’ll call.”
“See ya later,” Phoenix said as Shay climbed out.
Phoenix backed the car out of the driveway and waved before she drove off down the street. Shay adjusted her satchel, and then climbed the walkway to the front porch. She knocked lightly on the door.
She rocked back on her heels as she waited.
She knocked again, more insistently this time, when no one answered.
The door was opened by Mother Ophelia, who was dressed in a fitted mauve suit with her dark hair twisted and piled into a braided updo. She narrowed her eyes when she saw Shay standing there.
“Hello. Can I help you?”
“Merry meet, Mother Ophelia. I’m not sure if you remember me. I was here a few days ago with Grandmother Clarissa. My name is Shay.”
The chestnut eyes remained narrowed. “Yes. I remember you.”
“I was wondering if you might have found a bracelet in the parlor room. I haven’t been able to find since I was here last time, and it belonged to my mother, so I’d really like to get it back,” Shay told her. Shay had experience lying, and the sentimental tale came easily to her.
“I haven’t found anything.” Her voice was clipped, unsympathetic.
“Oh. Perhaps your apprentice did . . . ?”
Mother Ophelia shook her head. “I wouldn’t know if she did. Such an irresponsible girl. She went out just yesterday and isn’t back yet.”
Well, that crossed out any possibilities of Kendall lying.
“Do you mind if I come in and look?”
Mother Ophelia sighed and glanced away. “I suppose you can.”
“Are you sure? I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”
“No, child. Now come in before I change my mind.”
Shay wrinkled her nose at the degrading label, but she made no comment as she followed Mother Ophelia into the parlor room. Mother Ophelia left Shay there with a wave of her hand, and then ventured into another room.
Shay pretended to search under the decorative pillows for a minute or so.
She glanced around and listened to make sure Mother Ophelia was nowhere nearby before she silently went around to the stairs. It wasn’t hard to find Aubree’s room, considering the door was propped open and there were multiple signs of a teenager living there.
Shay left the light off. She stepped around the clothes scattered on the carpeted floor and tried to ignore the unsettling feeling that the eyes of every poster were on her as she moved across the room. She went through Aubree’s drawers, looking for an article of clothing Aubree hopefully wouldn’t miss.
She found a plain, wrinkled blue shirt buried deep beneath stacks of neatly folded blouses. She tucked it into her satchel.
A suspicious Mother Ophelia waited at the bottom of the stairs with arms
crossed over her chest.
“Oh!” Shay jumped. “I’m sorry. I found my bracelet, but then I had to use the bathroom. I wasn’t sure where it was. I’m sorry.”
Mother Ophelia inclined her head to the side, and Shay followed it to see an open door where a bathroom clearly sat in a line of vision from the parlor room. She raised a slim eyebrow.
“Oh,” Shay repeated.
“You said you found your bracelet?” Her tone suggested that it was time for Shay to leave.
“Yes. Thank you.”
Shay went down the stairs, and Mother Ophelia stood aside, stone-faced. Shay opened the door herself, murmured another thank you, and headed for the nearest bus stop.
She found one easily. The bench and overhang were covered with advertisements and graffiti, and the street it sat on was deserted. A forest lay on one side and no cars lay in the driveways of the houses around.
She’d checked the schedules online, and the next bus to the city wasn’t due for another twenty minutes. She went around to the back of the stop where the trees and overhang blocked her from view.
She opened her bag and pulled out several mismatched colored candles. She laid them out in a circle in the grass, and then spread out the map. She lifted out Aubree’s shirt, feeling the soft material between her fingers.
Shay settled down on the ground and bowed her head.
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