Home > Chasing Spring

Chasing Spring
R.S. Grey

Prologue

I love secrets and I’m good at finding them. For the last two years, I’ve sat and waited and watched. I’ve learned to collect secrets, one by one, because secrets are flames and no place deserves to burn more than my small town.

Chapter One

Lilah

I wasn’t supposed to move back to Blackwater, Texas. I’d never agreed to it, but I still stood on the curb of my aunt’s apartment complex with my moving boxes stacked up beside me. There were five in total: three for clothes, one for toiletries, and one for books. The only two things I actually cared about—my journal and my lock pick kit—were tucked in the bottom of my backpack, hidden beneath an old sweatshirt.

The edge of the lock pick kit cut into my back as I stood waiting for my dad. I reached back to feel for it just as his old truck rumbled through the gates of my aunt’s apartment complex, ready to cart me back home.

Blackwater, Texas - Population: small.

I’d left my hometown before the start of junior year and I’d had every intention of staying in Austin indefinitely. Blackwater held nothing for me. Unfortunately, my aunt’s company wanted to transfer her overseas and my dad wouldn’t hear of me living by myself for the rest of senior year.

He pulled up in front of the curb, put his truck in park, and hopped out to meet me. The chilly air showed his breath as he brought his hands to his mouth to warm them, but stopped short when he glanced up and saw me.

“Your hair’s black,” he noted with a tilt of his head. His look betrayed no hint of disapproval. He was just surprised.

“And yours is gray,” I countered.

He cracked a smile and whipped off his Blackwater Baseball hat. “It’s salt and pepper.”

I nodded. “Well mine is just pepper.”

I felt for one of my short strands as he stepped forward and engulfed me in a tight kind of hug only dads can give. I resisted for a second before hugging him back.

When he stepped away, I realized he looked a little more worn than when I’d last seen him. He was still handsome in his early forties, but he looked grittier around the edges. The last two years had taken their toll on his warm brown eyes and despite his estimation, I spied more salt than pepper peeking out of the bottom of his hat.

He pointed at my cropped hair. “I see the blonde trying to come back.”

Not if I can help it.

We loaded up my boxes in the bed of his truck as he buzzed with excitement. He thought I belonged at home with him. He was wrong. I didn’t want to leave Austin, but the idea of uncovering my small town’s secrets made it a little easier to slide across the stained cloth seats of my dad’s pickup.

I dropped my backpack between my legs, brushed my fingers over the outline of the lock pick kit, and then straightened up to buckle my seatbelt.

“Think we’ll have a good spring this year?” he asked, pulling the stubborn gearshift down to put the truck into drive.

What a loaded question.

I offered a wordless shrug. I spent most of my time alone, and veiled small talk was not one of my strong suits.

He took a patient breath. “You know, you’re moving back home at the perfect time. I spent all week fixing up those flowerbeds out back. Everything is ready to go when it warms up.”

I had loved springtime growing up and he knew it. Flowers bloom, temperatures warm, and sunny days stretch out longer before yielding to the night. Even so, I hadn’t loved spring since leaving Blackwater, and fresh flowerbeds wouldn't change that. Couldn't.

I kicked off my shoes, brought my knees to my chest, and wrapped my arms around them. I dropped my head to my knees and envisioned the small garden that sat behind our cottage house. Every year like clockwork, my mom and I had sat out there in late January and planned what we would plant for the year. Tomatoes in barrels near the back porch. Lettuce, peppers, squash, and carrots in the first four flowerbeds. Fruit of all kinds usually took up the beds near the fence. From what I remembered, we could never master the fickle raspberry vine.

“Lilah.”

I was so entranced by the rich memory of that old garden that I didn’t hear my dad speak up until he repeated my name.

“Lilah.”

I turned toward him.

“I just wanted to say that I’ll give you a hand when it’s time to start planting. And maybe Chase can help out too.”

My heart skidded to a stop beneath my white tank top.

“What are you talking about?”

Chase Matthews was the last person I would have expected my dad to bring up in a conversation about my mother’s old hobby.

My dad sighed and flicked his warm gaze to me, only taking his eyes off the road for a moment, but shooting me a warning nonetheless. “He’s going to be staying with us for the next few months—”

“WHAT?”

“I know that it's going to be an adjustment, but it's just for a little while—’til graduation at the latest.”

He finished his sentence as if it would clear up my confusion, but it made no sense.

“Why would he need to? He has a home.”

My dad shook his head. “It's complicated, Lilah. You've been away and haven't seen...” He paused, searching for the right words. “Well, Mr. Matthews has been getting worse lately. It’s not a good situation for Chase to be in, and it's been a long time coming for him to finally admit it.”

I threw up my hands. “So that’s it? Chase has an alcoholic dad so he gets to move in with us? I don’t get a say?” I hated that I sounded like a whiny brat.

My dad dragged his teeth across his bottom lip before answering. “This is bigger than you, Lilah.”

I rolled my eyes. Right. Because I couldn’t possibly understand the gravity of the situation. I understood just fine; Chase needed to get out of his house, but that didn’t mean he needed to move into ours. Clearly my dad hadn’t thought this through.

“Where’s he going to stay? It’s not like we have an extra room,” I pointed out.

He kept his eyes on the road.

“In the bedroom across the hall from you.” He answered quickly as if he knew his words would hurt me; he was trying to counteract their effect.

I narrowed my eyes. “That’s not a bedroom. That was mom’s space.”

He sighed. “For all her faults, your mother would have offered that room in a heartbeat.”

I shot him a narrowed glance and he countered with a warm smile. “I know you’ll come around, Lil. It’ll be fine. The kid needs a stable home. I hope you’ll welcome him with open arms.”

Over my dead body. We might've been friends once, but I’d avoided Chase for the last year and a half. That wasn’t about to change just because he was moving in across the hall. If I was forced to be his roommate, I’d be a silent one.

“When is he coming?” I asked, eyeing the chipping blue paint on my nails.

“Tomorrow.”

Tomorrow?

I had less than twenty-four hours to Chase-proof my life.

My dad rested a hand on my shoulder. The comforting pressure was supposed to tell me everything would be okay, but I swallowed down a lump of emotion and turned away.

“Y’know Lilah, you should look at this like it’s a fresh start. No one wants to dig up the past.”

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