Home > The Temptation of Lila and Ethan (The Secret #3)(2)

The Temptation of Lila and Ethan (The Secret #3)(2)
Author: Jessica Sorensen

“Fine, we’ll send her,” my mother says abruptly, with her chin tipped low. “I’ll set it up first thing on Monday.”

“What!” I know better than to raise my voice at the dinner table, but this has to count as an exception. I shove my plate forward as I place my hands on the table. “You can’t do that! I’m not going anywhere!”

My dad overlaps his hands on the table and finally speaks to me. “I will do whatever the hell I want. You are my daughter, you carry my last name, and therefore you will act how I want you to and go wherever I send you. And if I say go to boarding school, then you will go.”

It feels like there’s no room left between the walls and the table and myself. I’m going to get smashed between them if I don’t get out of there. I push my chair back from the table. I know better than to act like this, but I can’t seem to stop myself. “What about my friends? School? My life here? I can’t just leave that all behind.”

“Your friends aren’t suitable for you,” my mother says. “They’ve got you missing school and getting into trouble.”

“They have not,” I protest. “I’ve barely done anything and what I have done is normal for a teenager.”

“Sit down,” my father demands. “You will not get up until you’ve finished your dinner.”

Shaking my head, I step back from the table. “This is such bullshit!” I’ve had only a few outbursts like this and every one resulted in my being punished by a very long lecture about how insignificant I am to this family.

He scowls at my mother. “Take care of your daughter.”

She quickly stands up, placing her hands on top of the white linen tablecloth. “Lila—”

I hurry out of the dining room, heading for the stairs, but at the last second, I turn for the foyer, taking long strides, eager to get the hell away from this place, just like my sister, Abby, did. I want to run away from them. Disappear. She used to do it all the time until one day they sent her away and she never came back to the house again.

I hear my mom yell and her high heels click across the marble floor as she chases after me. “Lila Summers, don’t you dare leave this house!”

I throw open the front door and the warmth and sunshine surround me. The house alarm also goes off, but I don’t turn back to turn it off. I sprint down the brick-paved driveway and press the code for the gate to open. I can hear my mother shouting, but I run through the gate and down the sidewalk, seeking freedom. I want to get away from them and their rules. I can’t go to boarding school. I have a life here. I have friends who care about me, and without Steph, Janie, and Cindy, I’ll have no one. I’ll be alone.

The idea is frightening and the fear sends an adrenaline rush through my body. My legs and arms move quickly, carrying me down the block. I don’t stop running until I reach the bus stop a couple of miles down the road where the neighborhood changes from massive, eccentric mansions to ordinary, less appealing suburbs. I’ve ridden the bus only once, but I think I can handle it, and right now I have no other option. I don’t have my phone on me so I can either wander around, go home or take the bus to my sister’s place and stay there for a little while. Reaching into the pocket of my pants, I take out a twenty dollar bill. Then I sit down on the bench and wait for the bus that goes downtown to the main street in the city.

It takes a while for the bus to arrive and I’m kind of surprised that my mother doesn’t show up by the time I’m boarding, although the idea of her endeavoring to this area seems implausible. I try to pretend that it’s not a big deal, even though it is. I’m glad she didn’t show up so I don’t have to hear her lectures. But if I admit the truth to myself, the painful, ugly truth, I wish she had shown up because it’d mean that maybe she cared about me enough to look for me.

The bus ride takes forever and the seat I end up in has a funny smell to it, like unwashed socks mixed with a very overwhelming floral scent. It’s crowded, too, and some of the people look really sketchy. Like the guy across from me who keeps licking his lips as he stares at me. He has his shoelaces unlaced, there are holes in his jeans, and he looks only a few years older than me. He’s not ugly but the scars and slightly bumpy skin would make my mother instantly deem him unworthy of the finer things in life. Only the beautiful deserve to be rich. (I actually heard her say this once to my grandmother during one of their drunken heart-to-hearts.)

“You got any cash on ya?” he asks, sliding to the edge of his seat, rubbing his unshaven jawline.

I shake my head and turn my knees toward the wall. “No.”

“You sure?” He eyes the pockets of my pants while he keeps licking his lips.

“Yes, I’m sure.” I scoot toward the window, while he continues to stare at me like a creeper.

“You are f**king fine. You know that?” he asks and for a second I feel flattered, but in an uncomfortable way. “Are you lost or something?” he wonders and when I don’t answer, he puts his hand on my knee. “If you want, I can help you find your way back home.”

“Don’t touch me,” I utter quietly, my pulse accelerating as he glides his hand up my leg.

“Why, sweetheart?” he asks, his hand reaching my thigh. “It’s okay, you know that.”

I don’t move right away. It takes me a minute to sort through the confusion in my head, because my head and my body are saying two different things. It’s not like a guy hasn’t touched me before, but for some reason this guy’s hand on my thigh makes me feel special. Human contact, skin to skin. I hate that I feel starved of it and there’s a slight bit of enjoyment his touch brings, which makes me feel ashamed and dirty, yet at the same time wanted. And I rarely feel wanted.

Working up the courage, I fling his hand off my leg. He starts laughing at me, but doesn’t say anything else, and finally he gets off the bus, making a remark about me going with him so he can show me a “real good time.”

I unstiffen a little once he’s gone and try to stay focused on the outside as the bus passes street after street, the sun dipping lower on the horizon until it vanishes altogether. My reflection stares back at me through the window nearly the entire ride: my deep-set blue eyes, shoulder-length blonde hair, and my fair complexion that’s so smooth everyone thinks I wear makeup but I don’t. Beauty. I get told I have it all the time and people seem envious of it, yet it never gets me what I want. Love. Affection. To feel whole inside instead of so empty.

It’s dark by the time I reach my destination and the air has gotten chilly. The neighborhood my sister lives in doesn’t help either. It’s in the rundown section and there are a lot of people roaming up and down the sidewalks littered with garbage. There’s a man passed out on the bench at the bus stop, along with a group of guys standing in a circle shouting in front of a vacant building with boarded-up windows. One of the guys notices me when I step off the bus and he nudges the guy to the side of him, saying something in a low voice. They both look at me and I don’t like the expressions on their faces or the fact that they’re three times my size.

I veer to my right, even though my sister’s place is to the left, just to avoid walking by them. I keep my head tucked down, wanting to hide what I look like, because, like I’ve experienced before, my looks can cause trouble.

“Hey, where you goin’, baby?” one of them shouts out, his eyes following me. “Come back here and play.”

I take off and don’t slow down until I’ve rounded two of the corners on the block, practically making a U-turn. Finally, I reach a quieter area of the sidewalk, which borders a chain-link fence around a junkyard. I continue walking with my head tucked down, walking swiftly, until I reach my sister’s apartment a few blocks down.

I remember when I first visited her, how shocked I’d been. She’d just been kicked out of the boarding school for drug possession and my dad wouldn’t let her move back home or give her any help financially. She’d left home a loudmouth who liked to speak her mind, and rebelled every once and while, but nothing major. When she returned, she was subdued, addicted to drugs, and barely acted like the sister I remembered. This was the only place she could afford and I’ll admit it’s disgusting. Most of the windows on the outside of the three-story brick building are either broken or boarded up and there are people sleeping on the stairway. My mother calls it a crack house where trashy, unwanted people live, and she tells me she’ll never, ever visit my sister. I manage to make it to Abby’s floor without any confrontation from the people sleeping on the stairs or the woman shouting obscene things to a man who lives across the hall from her. It takes five knocks to get my sister to answer the door and as soon as I see her, I can tell she’s blissfully high.

“Hey, Lila,” she says dazedly as she blinks her blue eyes. “To what do I owe the honor of your being here?” She’s wearing an overly large gray sweatshirt and cutoffs, something my mom would disown her for wearing, although I guess my mother already kind of has so it doesn’t really matter.

“Hey.” I wave idiotically, feeling uneasy.

She opens the door wider so I can step inside. “I bet it was Dad, right?” she jokes disdainfully as she shuts the door behind me. “He must have sent you here to check up on me and make sure that his dear daughter is doing okay and isn’t dead in a ditch somewhere.”

“I just needed some place to go to clear my head,” I tell her, drawing a deep breath as I turn in a circle, taking in her living room that’s the size of the foyer in my house. The air smells smoky and kind of like garbage and there are all these eccentric glass vases everywhere and a lot of alcohol bottles. “Mom and Dad don’t know I’m here,” I say, facing her. I think about giving her a hug, because I really need one right now, but she looks so fragile, like if I hug her too tight, she might crumble.

She looks so much different from the last time I saw her and it’s been only six months. Her blonde hair looks greasy and thin and her pores are huge and she has a few sores on her skin that look like pimples she’s been picking at. Her lips are really dry and she has a couple of cold sores. She’s lost a lot of weight, which isn’t good since she was already too skinny to begin with.

She blinks her eyes at me and then motions to a tattered plaid sofa that fills up the narrow living room. “You can have a seat if you want,” she says, flopping down in the sofa herself.

I brush some crumbs off the cushion and take a seat. There’s this weird-looking lightbulb on the coffee table, sketched with colorful art, and I reach for it. “What is this? Art?”

“Don’t touch that,” she snaps, slapping my hand away. “That’s not art, Lila.”

“Oh, sorry.” I’m starting to regret coming here, since she seems unhappy to see me and is completely out of it. “Maybe I should go.” I start to rise to my feet, but she grabs my arm and pulls me back down.

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