Lost and found sisters, p.21
Lost and Found Sisters,
about us not being sisters.” She paused. “You really lost your sister?”
“One of them,” Quinn said quietly and gave a very small smile. And then, as if she knew Tilly was hungry for more information but didn’t want to ask for it, she went on. “Her name was Beth. She was eleven months younger than me, and my mom—” She stopped, gave another small smile. “—the mom who raised me, always said we were like twins. But it’s not true. Beth was better than me at just about everything. She died unexpectedly in a car accident because she loved music and had to fiddle with the radio while she was driving and wrapped herself around a damn tree.”
“You miss her,” Tilly said softly.
“Very much.” Quinn drew in a deep breath, her expression telling Tilly that it hurt to breathe while thinking of her loss, and for the first time, Tilly looked at her as a real person. With problems not all that different from what she was facing.
“Listen,” Quinn said slowly. “I’m more than willing to give this a try, and I get that you have no reason to believe me or even trust me, but I want you to know I’m not quick to judge or get rid of people or things lightly.”
Tilly wasn’t ready to believe her, but she didn’t really see an option other than to nod. Her phone buzzed with an incoming text and she looked at the screen.
She hadn’t heard a single word from him since last night and it hurt deep in her chest to see his name. Unable to ignore him, she swiped her phone and read his text.
“So can we do this?” Quinn asked. “Can we go inside and . . .” She shrugged. “Do whatever normal families do?”
“What do normal families do?” Tilly asked as she texted Dylan back with: Are you okay?
Quinn let out a low laugh. “Honestly? I have no idea.”
Tilly lifted her head from her phone. “What do you mean? You came from a normal family.”
“You think so?” Quinn asked. “My adopted parents lied to me for thirty years. How is that normal?”
“You’re thirty?” Tilly asked, shocked.
Quinn laughed a little. “You don’t have to sound so horrified.”
“I didn’t realize you had one foot in the old people’s home is all.” Tilly looked down at her phone when it buzzed.
I need another job to help my mom pay for the two windows my dad broke, but other than that I’m great.
Tilly looked up at Quinn. “Hey, do you think there’re any job openings at the café?”
“Yeah, we’re looking for a short-order cook. And Greta says we need a part-time table clearer for some evening and weekend shifts. Why?”
“Like a busboy?” she asked hopefully.
Quinn looked at her. “Or a busgirl.”
Okay, so Quinn thought she was asking for herself and she maybe felt a twinge of guilt at that, but this was Dylan, and he needed her. “So can we tell Greta the position is filled?”
“How about a trial run?”
“What is it with you and trial runs?”
Quinn just looked at her and Tilly sighed. “Okay, fine. A trial run. On everything. Duly noted.”
A few minutes later she and Quinn stood in the kitchen staring at the threadbare fridge that held some condiments, a container of expired lemonade, and a half-empty bottle of vodka in the freezer.
“My mom liked a little lemonade with her vodka at night,” Tilly said. “It’s a Lemon Drop, but she always called it a Lemon Ball. No idea why . . .” She saw the way Quinn looked a little horrified and felt the need to defend her mom. “She wasn’t an alcoholic or anything.”
“I didn’t say she was.”
“Good. ’Cause she wasn’t. She just worked really hard . . .” Tilly felt her throat burn. Out of all the things she wished, one of them was that she could talk about her mom without wanting to cry. “She always said she wanted to give me the moon, but I didn’t need the moon. She was everything I needed.”
Quinn nodded, her own eyes looking suspiciously bright. “I know.”
“She didn’t even tell me she was terminal.” Tilly turned away from the fridge. “If she had, then maybe I could have helped, or—”
“No, Tilly,” Quinn said with such gentleness in her voice that Tilly had to close her eyes. “Nothing you could’ve done or said would have changed what happened.” She paused, spoke carefully, like she knew the truth of the words deep in her gut. “Some people aren’t meant to stay in your life. But that doesn’t mean you can’t carry a piece of them in your heart.”
Tilly refused to be moved. Or at least to admit it. “Whatever, it’s over now.” She opened the cupboards. “People helped clean out everything in here when I had to move to Chuck’s so that nothing would go bad. Which leaves us with saltines.”
“I could go to the store, stock up, and make us something,” Quinn said, still way too gently for Tilly’s comfort.
“I don’t need charity.”
“I didn’t say you did. It’s merely an alternative to saltines.”
“I like saltines,” Tilly said. Actually, she hated saltines. But hell if she was going to admit it. “There’s also peanut butter and jelly.”
“And you’d rather eat PB and J and saltines than have me cook us something?” Quinn asked.
“Fine. Works for me.”
Tilly craned her neck and eyeballed Quinn for sarcasm but didn’t see any. She’d only been kidding, and maybe testing Quinn just a little bit because she knew Quinn came from a different world. Where jeans didn’t come from Walmart and food came cooked all fancy. Normally Tilly would just walk over to the café and Greta or Trinee would load her up with enough food to take home for Chuck too. “You want peanut butter and jelly on crackers,” she said, heavy on the doubt.
“Why not?” Quinn asked. “You do.”
“Have you ever actually had peanut butter and jelly on crackers for a meal before?”
Quinn laughed ruefully. “No. But to be fair, that’s because I do a lot of cooking.”
“You cook,” Tilly repeated, also doubtfully.
“It’s my job. I’m a sous-chef at a restaurant in L.A. called Amuse-Bouche.”
“It is. And my co-sous-chef is a complete asshole. But I still love it.”
“When I say asshole at school, I get detention.”
Quinn winced. “Who did you call an asshole?”
“Evan. He’s a dickwad, cheater asswipe in my math class who copies off me because he’s stupid.”
Quinn raised a brow. “Maybe we should start a swear jar.”
“For both of us. It’d keep you out of detention, even if the dickwad asswipe is an asshole.”
Tilly didn’t want to admit it out loud but she was pretty impressed with Quinn’s potty mouth.
They had peanut butter and jelly on stale saltines in front of a TV marathon of Friends.
“I used to have a thing for Joey,” Quinn said after a few episodes.
“Ew. He’s old,” Tilly said, even though she’d always had a thing for Joey too.
Three episodes in, Dylan texted Tilly to meet him at the park so they could do homework. Her heart started pounding because he wasn’t sounding like a guy who’d told her they were no longer friends. It was further proof that he’d only told her that to get her to leave last night before she got hurt, and she quickly stood up. “I’m going out.”
“Where to?” Quinn asked.
“You’re fifteen,” Quinn said.
“It’s not like it’s going to be at a strip club or anything like that.”
“So where will it be?” Quinn asked.
“I don’t know yet.”
“How long will you be gone?”
“I don’t know that either.”
“Uh-huh.” Quinn was looking unimpressed. “Who are you going with?”
“Gee, Tilly, I’m starting to feel pretty stupid for overreacting . . .”
Tilly blew out a sigh. “A friend needs help with homework.”
“Have that friend come here.”
“We’re going to meet at the park.”
Tilly stared at Quinn, using her best resting bitch face.
Quinn gave it right back to her.
Tilly blew out a sigh. “Fine, whatever.” And she stormed off to her room, and for good measure, slammed the door. Two seconds later she got a text.
One time when I was fifteen and I slammed my door, my dad took the door off the hinges. Just FYI.
Tilly laughed in spite of herself. She didn’t answer. In fact, she deleted the text. But she was still half smiling when she climbed out her window and went to the park to meet Dylan.
He was a lone dark shadow sitting on a swing, his foot down and anchoring him to the sand beneath.
Feeling shaky with relief, Tilly sat next to him. She wanted to soak him up, but instead mirrored his position, head tipped back, staring at the stars.
“Tilly . . .” He blew out a sigh and she heard him shift and felt the weight of his gaze. She didn’t look. She was very busy counting the stars.
“Tilly,” he said again, voice low. Tense. Anguished. “I’m sorry.”
Her heart squeezed. Dammit.
“I hate that you saw me like that,” he said roughly. “I hate . . .” He paused and when he spoke, the words sounded like he had to drag them over shards of glass. “I hate that you know what my life’s like.”
Now her heart seemed swollen, unable to fit in her rib cage, and she turned to him, reaching out for his hand.
He hesitated and then took it in his bigger, callused one.
“And I hate it for you,” she whispered.
They sat like that for a long time, just watching the sky.
“I’ve got to go,” she finally said reluctantly, wanting to get back before Quinn found her missing and called in the Coast Guard. “My sister . . .” She paused, shocked by those two words she’d just uttered. Her sister. God. Crazy. “She doesn’t know I left.”
Dylan nodded. “I’ll walk you back.”
They stood and walked through the grass and stopped short at the lone car in the parking lot, lights off, engine running.
It was a Lexus, Quinn behind the wheel. She got out of the car. “Hi,” she said. “How did the homework go?”
Coincidence? I think not.
—from “The Mixed-Up Files of Tilly Adams’s Journal”
Quinn looked at the tall, lanky kid standing next to Tilly and had to sigh. “Dylan, I presume?”
He nodded and upped her opinion of him when he shook her hand, held eye contact, and said, “It was my fault. I needed to apologize to her.”
Tilly shifted. “Dylan, no. You don’t have to—”
“For letting her put herself in danger for me when she came out to my dad’s house last night,” Dylan said over Tilly.
Quinn looked at her sister.
Tilly looked right back at her. “I’d do it again,” she said with such fierceness that Quinn knew she was missing more than a few pieces of this puzzle. She took in the fading bruise on Dylan’s face and filled in some of those pieces herself.
She drove them all to Carolyn’s house and waited inside while they said their good-byes, because Dylan insisted on walking home from there. When Tilly finally came in, she had a chip on her shoulder the size of the planet.
“Don’t start,” Tilly said.
“You could’ve just told me the truth about who you were meeting.”
“Right. And you’d have let me go?”
“Well, you’ll never know now, will you?” Quinn asked.
Tilly tossed up her hands and went to her room, once again slamming the door.
But they were both in the same house, relatively unscathed, so Quinn decided to consider Day One a success. She fell onto the couch, exhausted, and looked at her phone when it vibrated with an incoming text.
What are you up to?
Aren’t you supposed to ask what I’m wearing?
I should’ve let you lead. Yes, what are you wearing?
Far too many clothes. You know, I don’t think I’m going to like being thirty.
I could show you otherwise.
She had no doubt . . . He was a great distraction, one she dreamed of regularly. But he was also something else. He was dangerous to her heart and soul, and she knew it. She didn’t have the capacity to give a relationship with him what it deserved, and more than that, she didn’t want to.
Or, more accurately, she was working on not wanting to.
THE NEXT MORNING, Quinn took Tilly to school and then went over to the café. Greta was in the kitchen waving a frying pan and swearing in German, giving Quinn a bad flashback to Marcel.
“How can I help?” Quinn asked.
Greta gave her a long look. “Well, let’s see, I can’t send you out for eggs because you’ll cry, and I don’t dare ask you to go check the garden for fresh tomatoes because you’re allergic to bees, so—”
“Greta,” Trinee said from the other side of the counter. “I told you to drink your damn coffee before you try to masquerade as a human.”
“Fine.” Greta sniffed. “I’m sorry,” she said to Quinn. “She’s right. I need caffeine.”
“Go take a break,” Quinn said. “I’ll bring you a coffee.”
“That’d be super,” Greta said gratefully. “I’ll also take scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, crispy hash browns, and sourdough toast. Oh, and don’t bother with any of that ridiculous garnish.”
“You mean fruit?” Quinn asked dryly.
“That,” Greta said.
Lost and Found Sisters by Jill Shalvis / Romance & Love have rating 4.2 out of 5 / Based on42 votes