free read Lock and Key
CHAPTER ONE And finally Jamie said as he pushed the door open we come to the main event Your room I was braced for pink Ruffles or uilting or maybe even appliu Which was probably kind of unfair but then again I didn t know my sister any much less her decorating style With total strangers it had always been my policy to expect the worst Usually theyand those that you knew best for that matterdid not disappointInstead the first thing I saw was green A large high window on the other side of which were tall trees separating the huge backyard from that of the house that backed up to it Everything was big about where my sister and her husband Jamie livedfrom the homes to the cars to the stone fence you saw first thing when you pulled into the neighborhood itself made up of boulders that looked too enormous to ever be moved It was like Stonehenge but suburban So weirdIt was only as I thought this that I realized we were all still standing there in the hallway backed up like a traffic jam At some point Jamie who had been leading this little tour had stepped aside leaving me in the doorway Clearly they wanted me to step in first So I didThe room was yes big with cream colored walls There were three other windows beneath the big one I d first seen although they each were covered with thin venetian blinds To the right I saw a double bed with a yellow comforter and matching pillows a white blanket folded over the foot There was a small desk too a chair tucked under it The ceiling slanted on either side meeting in a flat strip in the middle where there was a suare skylight also covered with a venetian blinda little suare one clearly custom made to fit It was so matchy matchy and odd that for a moment I found myself just staring up at it as if this was actually the weirdest thing about that day So you ve got your own bathroom Jamie said stepping around me his feet making soft thuds on the carpet which was of course spotless In fact the whole room smelled like paint and new carpet just like the rest of the house I wondered how long ago they had moved ina month six months Right through this door And the closet is in here too Weird right Ours is the same way When we were building Cora claimed it meant she would get ready faster A theory which has yet to be proved out I might add Then he smiled at me and again I tried to force a smile back Who was this odd creature my brother in lawa term that seemed oddly fitting considering the circumstancesin his mountain bike T shirt jeans and funky expensive sneakers cracking jokes in an obvious effort to ease the tension of an incredibly awkward situation I had no idea other than he had to be the very last person I would have expected to end up with my sister who was so uptight she wasn t even pretending to smile at his attempts At least I was tryingNot Cora She was just standing in the doorway barely over the threshold arms crossed over her chest She had on a sleeveless sweatereven though it was mid October the house was beyond cozy almost hotand I could see the definition of her biceps and triceps every muscle seemingly tensed the same way they had been when she d walked into the meeting room at Poplar House two hours earlier Then too it seemed like Jamie had done all the talking both to Shayna the head counselor and to me while Cora remained uiet Still every now and again I could feel her eyes on me steady as if she was studying my features committing me to memory or maybe just trying to figure out if there was any part of me she recognized at allSo Cora had a husband I d thought staring at them as we d sat across from each other Shayna shuffling papers between us I wondered if they d had a fancy wedding with her in a big white dress or if they d just eloped after she d told him she had no family to speak of Left to her own devices this was the story I was sure she preferred that she d just sprouted all on her own neither connected nor indebted to anyone else at all Thermostat s out in the hallway if you need to adjust it Jamie was saying now Personally I like a bit of a chill to the air but your sister prefers it to be sweltering So even if you turn it down she ll most likely jack it back up within moments Again he smiled and I did the same God this was exhausting I felt Cora shift in the doorway but again she didn t say anything Oh Jamie said clapping his hands Almost forgot The best part He walked over to the window in the center of the wall reaching down beneath the blind It wasn t until he was stepping back and it was opening that I realized it was in fact a door Within moments I smelled cold air Come check this out I fought the urge to look back at Cora again as I took a step then one feeling my feet sink into the carpet following him over the threshold onto a small balcony He was standing by the railing and I joined him both of us looking down at the backyard When I d first seen it from the kitchen I d noticed just the basics grass a shed the big patio with a grill at one end Now though I could see there were rocks la.
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O work I d gotten used to this though the same way I d adjusted to us rarely if ever having a phone and if we did having it listed under another name Ditto with my school paperwork which my mom often filled out with a fake address as she was convinced that creditors and old landlords would track us down that way For a long time I thought this was the way everyone lived When I got old enough to realize otherwise it was already habit and anything else would have felt strangeInside the yellow house was sort of odd The kitchen was the biggest room and everything was lined up against one wall cabinets appliances shelves Against another wall was a huge propane heater which in cold weather worked hard to heat the whole house whooshing to life with a heavy sigh The only bathroom was off the kitchen poking out with no insulated wallsmy mom said it must have been added on there d probably been an outhouse initiallywhich made for some cold mornings until you got the hot water blasting and the steam heated things up The living room was small the walls covered with dark fake wood paneling Even at high noon you needed a light on to see your hand in front of your face My mother of course loved the dimness and usually pulled the shades shut as well I d come home to find her on the couch cigarette dangling from one hand the glow from the TV flashing across her face in bursts Outside the sun might be shining the entire world bright but in our house it could always be late night my mother s favorite time of day In the old one bedroom apartment I was accustomed to sometimes being awoken from a dead sleep her lips close to my ear as she asked me to move out onto the couch please honey As I went groggy and discombobulated I d do my best not to notice whoever slipped back in the door behind her At the yellow house though I got my own room It was small with a tiny closet and only one window as well as orange carpet and those same dark walls but I had a door to shut and it was all mine It made me feel like we d stay longer than a couple of months that things would be better here In the end though only one of these things turned out to be trueI first met the Honeycutts three days after we moved in It was early afternoon and we were getting ready to leave for work when a green pickup truck came up the driveway A man was driving a woman in the passenger seat beside himMom I called out to my mother who was in the bedroom getting dressed Someone s hereShe sighed sounding annoyed My mother was at her worst just before going to work petulant like a child Who is it I don t know I said watching as the couplehe in jeans and a denim work shirt she wearing slacks and a printed topstarted to make their way to the house But they re about to knock on the doorOh Ruby She sighed again Just talk to them would you The first thing I noticed about the Honeycutts was that they were instantly friendly the kind of people my mother couldn t stand They were both beaming when I opened the door and when they saw me they smiled even wider Well look at you the woman said as if I d done something precious just by existing She herself resembled a gnome with her small features and halo of white curls like something made to put on a shelf Hello there I nodded my standard response to all door knockers Unnecessary verbals only encouraged them or so I d learned Can I help you The man blinked Ronnie Honeycutt he said extending his hand This is my wife Alice And you are I glanced in the direction of my mother s room While usually she banged around a lot while getting readydrawers slamming grumbling to herselfnow of course she was dead silent Looking back at the couple I decided they probably weren t Jehovah s but were definitely peddling something Sorry I said beginning my patented firm shut of the door but we re notOh honey it s okay Alice said She looked at her husband Stranger danger she explained They teach it in schoolStranger what Ronnie said We re your landlords she told me We just dropped by to say hello and make sure you got moved in all rightLandlords I thought That was even worse than Witnesses Instinctively I eased the door shut a bit wedging my foot against it We re fine I told them Is your mom around Ronnie asked as Alice shifted her weight trying to see into the kitchen behind meI adjusted myself accordingly blocking her view before saying Actually she sRight here I heard my mother say and then she was crossing the living room toward us pulling her hair back with one hand She had on jeans her boots and a white tank top and despite the fact that she d just woken up about twenty minutes earlier I had to admit she looked pretty good Once my mother had been a great beauty and occasionally you could still get a glimpse of the girl she had beenif the light was right or she d had a decent night s sleep or like me you were just wistful enough to look for itDessens best since This Lullabyit will captivate all readers VOYA highlighted reviewAll the Dessen trademarks are here Publishers Weekly starred review.
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Id out in the grass in an oval shape obviously deliberately and again I thought of Stonehenge What was it with these rich people a druid fixationIt s gonna be a pond Jamie told me as if I d said this out loud A pond I said Total ecosystem he said Thirty by twenty and lined all natural with a waterfall And fish Cool huh Again I felt him look at me expectant Yeah I said because I was a guest here Sounds great He laughed Hear that Cor She doesn t think I m crazy I looked down at the circle again then back at my sister She d come into the room although not that far and still had her arms crossed over her chest as she stood there watching us For a moment our eyes met and I wondered how on earth I d ended up here the last place I knew either one of us wanted me to be Then she opened her mouth to speak for the first time since we d pulled up in the driveway and all this whatever it was began It s cold she said You should come inside Before one o clock that afternoon when she showed up to claim me I hadn t seen my sister in ten years I didn t know where she lived what she was doing or even who she was I didn t care either There had been a time when Cora was part of my life but that time was over simple as that Or so I d thought until the Honeycutts showed up one random Tuesday and everything changedThe Honeycutts owned the little yellow farmhouse where my mom and I had been living for about a year Before that we d had an apartment at the Lakeview Chalets the run down complex just behind the mall There we d shared a one bedroom our only window looking out over the back entrance to the JK Cafeteria where there was always at least one employee in a hairnet sitting outside smoking perched on an overturned milk crate Running alongside the complex was a stream that you didn t even notice until there was a big rain and it rose overflowing its nonexistent banks and flooding everything which happened at least two or three times a year Since we were on the top floor we were spared the water itself but the smell of the mildew from the lower apartments permeated everything and God only knew what kind of mold was in the walls Suffice to say I had a cold for two years straight That was the first thing I noticed about the yellow house I could breathe thereIt was different in other ways too Like the fact that it was a house and not an apartment in a complex or over someone s garage I d grown used to the sound of neighbors on the other side of a wall but the yellow house sat in the center of a big field framed by two oak trees There was another house off to the left but it was visible only by flashes of roof you glimpsed through the treesfor all intents and purposes we were alone Which was just the way we liked itMy mom wasn t much of a people person In certain situationssay if you were buying for instanceshe could be very friendly And if you put her within five hundred feet of a man who would treat her like shit she d find him and be making nice before you could stop her and I knew because I had tried But interacting with the majority of the population cashiers school administrators bosses ex boyfriends was not something she engaged in unless absolutely necessary and then with great reluctanceWhich was why it was lucky that she had me For as long as I could remember I d been the buffer system The go between my mother s ambassador to the world Whenever we pulled up at the store and she needed a Diet Coke but was too hungover to go in herself or she spied a neighbor coming who wanted to complain about her late night banging around again or the Jehovah s Witnesses came to the door it was always the same Ruby she d say in her tired voice pressing either her glass or her hand to her forehead Talk to the people would you And I would I d chat with the girl behind the counter as I waited for my change nod as the neighbor again threatened to call the super ignored the proffered literature as I firmly shut the door in the Jehovah s faces I was the first line of defense always ready with an explanation or a bit of spin She s at the bank right now I d tell the landlord even as she snored on the couch on the other side of the half closed door She s just outside talking to a delivery I d assure her boss so he d release her bags for the day to me while she smoked a much needed cigarette in the freight area and tried to calm her shaking hands And finally the biggest lie of all Of course she s still living here She s just working a lot which is what I d told the sheriff that day when I d been called out of fourth period and found him waiting for me That time though all the spin in the world didn t work I talked to the people just like she d always asked but they weren t listeningThat first day though when my mom and I pulled up in front of the yellow house things were okay Sure we d left our apartment with the usual dramaowing back rent the super lurking around watching us so carefully that we had to pack the car over a series of days adding a few things each time we went to the store or t.