Made of steel (made of s.., p.45
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       Made of Steel (Made of Steel Series Book 1), p.45

           Ivy Smoak
 

  ***

  I opened up the door to my dorm room and turned on the lights. I was hoping that Kins would be home to hang out. For some reason, the idea of being alone with my thoughts was stifling. I was about to turn around to go on the run I had planned when I noticed a box sitting on my bed.

  It definitely wasn't something I had left there. I walked over to my bed and read the mailing address. Sure enough, it said Sadie Davis and was addressed to this dorm. Who on earth would be sending Sadie Davis a package? I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut through the tape. My heart was stammering in my chest as I lifted up the cardboard flaps. There was a card with tissue paper underneath. I lifted up the card. Instead of my name on the envelope, "Turn that frown upside down," was scrawled along the front.

  Tears bit at the corners of my eyes. It was the same thing my dad always used to say to me when I was upset. No one knew about that. At least, no one still living. Had I told Mr. Crawford that? I remembered being with him for days, but I barely said a word. I was terrified and exhausted. He didn't know. I had this brief sense of hope. Was it possible that my father could still be alive? I shook away the fleeting thought. No. I remembered the devastation I felt at their funeral. I remembered it like it was yesterday. I remembered their coffins and that feeling of ice in my veins. My parents were long gone. There must have been someone else who knew about my dad saying that. A family friend I wasn't aware of? Or maybe it was a coincidence. It was a well known phrase and I was certain I had been frowning a lot recently.

  The vigilante. He had been watching me. He saw my frowns. Surely he could see that I had been upset recently. That had to be it. He seemed to know me. Maybe he knew me even better than I realized. It felt like my heart was going to explode out of my chest. Did he know me when I was young? Had he known my parents? I had this sudden spark of hope. Maybe he was trying to tell me something.

  I tore the card out of the envelope. There was no picture, just a plain, pristine white card. I lifted up the top and my hands started shaking. There was just one line inside. "Let the games begin, Sadie." My name was in quotes. I threw the note back on top of the tissue paper.

  I couldn't seem to make my hands stop shaking, no matter how hard I tried to steady them. What the hell was that supposed to mean? Who the hell was it from? I realized I was pacing in my small dorm room, but I couldn't seem to stop. I also couldn't seem to make myself lift up the tissue paper, because I was terrified that I knew who had sent it. Don.

  All week I had this eerie sense that he was getting closer. It was like this ache in my bones. He was here. He was in fucking New York! And he knew my identity. He had found me.

  No. He didn't know. He didn't know about my parents. I was going crazy. I never told Don a thing about my past. He never asked. He never ever asked. I pictured him putting his hand over my mouth. I couldn't swallow down the lump in my throat. I scratched at my neck, trying to rid the invisible hands from me. I'm losing my mind.

  I squeezed my eyes shut tight. Turn that frown upside down. I could hear my father's voice. I wrapped my arms around my stomach. I couldn't smile through this. But I could put on a brave face. That's what that saying truly meant. Mask your true emotions.

  I slowly lifted up the tissue paper. Blood. I stared down at the small bunny slippers. My bunny slippers. There were covered in blood. There was so much fucking blood.

  I put my hand over my mouth. Whose blood was that? I had left my slippers in my yard. I remember kicking them off so that I could run faster. There was no blood. I wrapped my arms around my stomach again. I remembered grass stains, but definitely no blood.

  More memories started flooding into my mind. I remembered begging my grandmother to take me to the spot where my parents' car had crashed. It wasn't like the movies at all. It was an accident, so there was no investigation, or caution tape, or officers asking question. I had been on the street a million times on the bus to school. There was only one difference. The pavement was stained with my parents' blood.

  No.

  I remembered Don putting the knife to my stomach. I'd never forget the rage on his face. I remembered biting down on his fingers as the knife sliced into my skin. I tasted blood. My mouth had been filled with his blood. And I remembered looking down at my stomach as he threw me to the floor. My blood. There was so much blood. I felt nauseous.

  No.

  How was this a game? Don had already stolen my freedom. I put my hand on my forehead. Did he want my sanity too? I couldn't let him take the only thing I had left.

  There wasn't a doubt in my mind that I was doing the right thing as I grabbed my new phone. I clicked on Mr. Crawford's name and pulled it to my ear. It went straight to voicemail.

  Damn it! I called again and again and again. How could he not answer?! I needed him.

  The voicemail beeped for what seemed like the hundredth time. "Mr. Crawford," I said. " It's Sadie Davis. Please call me back as soon as you get this. He found me," my voice trembled. "He's here." I hung up the phone and started pacing again. He'd call me back. He had to call me back.

  The sound of the door unlocking seemed to pull me out of my haze. I couldn't let Kins see me like this. I grabbed the box and shoved it under my bed. I sat cross-legged on my bed and tried to picture anything but blood. Whose blood was it? Was it someone I knew? What if I had accidently put someone in Don's crosshairs?

  "Hey, are you okay?" Kins asked.

  I shook my head and didn't look at her. "Fine, just tired. I'm going to go to bed." But I didn't move. I couldn't seem to move. Just thinking about what was under my bed made me feel like throwing up.

  "You're staring at a blank space on the wall like a total psychopath."

  I've already lost my mind. I tried to laugh but it came out forced. "I was just thinking." I tried to keep my voice as steady as possible, but I knew it wavered.

  "About the fact that Eli came back to his dorm last night in a fit of rage?"

  I didn't want to talk about last night. I didn't want to talk at all. "We got into a little fight. It was nothing." I burst out crying.

  "Oh, Sadie," Kins said as she hopped onto my bed and pulled me into a hug. "It's okay. I'm sure it'll blow over." She patted my back, trying to comfort me.

  "No," I croaked.

  "Of course it will," she said soothingly. It sounded like he almost got in a fight with another man. Who's the other guy? Try to get your mind off Eli for a minute."

  Try to get my mind off the blood. "No one." Kins would be furious if she knew about the time I had spent with Miles.

  "Oh, come on. Give me the details. You know how much I approve of you seeing more than one guy at once."

  God. I needed to get a grip and change the subject. "No, it's not that. We got into a fight because I think he's been hiding things from me." The thought of Eli lying no longer seemed of any importance. I needed to get the hell out of New York. I'd never see him again anyway.

  Kins continued to rub her hand up and down my back. "What kind of things?"

  "He's been avoiding showing me his dorm room. And I'm not sure he's been running off to boxing classes every night like he says. He's so evasive when I ask him questions." It felt good to ramble about something else.

  "Hmm."

  "But he said I could come over tomorrow night for dinner." I'd be long gone before tomorrow night.

  "I have an idea."

  "Yeah?"

  "I'm going to plan to be there tomorrow night too. It won't be a problem, Patrick always says yes to anything I suggest. But instead of actually hanging out with them, we can lead an investigation."

  I shook my head.

  "I'm serious. We can trick them in to leaving and then ransack the place."

  "Um...I don't know if that's a great idea."

  "Come on, it'll be fun. You never know what you'll find under a boy's mattress."

  I laughed. It sounded less forced this time. "As long as we put everything back exactly where we find it."

  "But how fun w
ould it be to totally mess everything up? Patrick would be so mad. Maybe he'd do unspeakable things to me."

  It was good that her mind wasn't truly focused on the investigation. I didn't want her to get her hopes up about something that would never happen.

  I must have been making a face, because Kins said, "What do you think he's hiding exactly?"

  I shrugged.

  "No, really. Clearly you have an idea if you want to ransack his place. Do you think he's cheating on you?"

  I laughed. "No. It's just..." I let my voice trail off. Why was I keeping the fact that I had met the vigilante a secret from her? Kins would be the perfect person to talk to about my feelings for him. Or maybe she'd try to steal him away. If there was one bad boy in town worth swooning over, it was the vigilante. Did crushing on a masked stranger really make me that odd? It would probably just make me fit in even better. What am I doing? I was done trying to fit in. It didn't even matter if I let anything slip anymore. I was leaving. And just the thought made me start crying again. I didn't want to leave. Kins was the first real friend I had made in years.

  "The suspense is literally killing me," she said and continued to rub my back. "Spit it out, Sadie!"

  "I met the vigilante." It felt good to tell the truth for once in my life. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Or maybe I just felt better because she had been comforting me. It was nice having someone who truly cared.

  She laughed. "Wait...really? Oh my God. Tell me everything."

  "There isn't much to tell." He's watching out for me. He knows me. I like him but I'm leaving. "We did kiss."

  "Shut up."

  I laughed.

  "Was it the best kiss ever?"

  I thought about the kiss that I'd always compare to all others. Miles. I remembered being on the roof of my grandmother's house, staring at the sky with the boy I loved. That kiss had always been the epitome of romance to me. There was something so pure about it. Something so hopeful. Thinking about it made my chest hurt. Thinking about it now filled me with this feeling of loss. Was the kiss with the vigilante better than that? With the vigilante it wasn't just romantic. It was sexy. Just thinking about it made my whole body feel overheated.

  "You don't have to say a word," Kins said. "The blush on your face says it all."

  I couldn't even argue with her logic. Thinking about the kiss I shared with Miles so many years ago made me feel sad, whereas the kiss with the vigilante made me feel alive. He pulled me into the present like no one else had ever been able to. He took away the feeling of pain. Just thinking about him dulled the smell of blood in my nose and the red seared in my mind.

  "Okay, so you think Eli might be the vigilante?"

  It was easier to play along with him possibly being the vigilante than it was to tell her that it felt more like he was the villain in this scenario. The scorching way his fingers felt on my skin made a lump form in my throat. "I have no idea. But he's definitely hiding something." I'd just never find out what it was.

  "It's okay, we'll figure it out together."

  Just hearing those words made me breathe a little easier. I wasn't alone here. It wasn't like Don could just nab me from my dorm without anyone noticing. I was in the city that never sleeps. Maybe I was safer than I realized. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to swallow down the taste of blood in my mouth.

 
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