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The foundation series bo.., p.21
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       The Foundation Series Box Set, p.21

           Kira Adams
 
“So…” I began after the pizza had been delivered and we were both finished eating, “what incident were you wanting to write about?”

  Felix shrugged, without a glance.

  “Well I was thinking about the Martin Luther King speech—“

  “I have a dream?” Felix asked through what appeared to be gritted teeth.

  I nodded.

  “Overdone.” He tossed it out without another thought.

  “Okay then, tell me something better,” I tested him.

  “Did you forget the Batman shooting in 2012?” Felix asked incredulously.

  “Not exactly. That was a pretty sick and twisted thing the shooter did.”

  “And wouldn’t it be fun to find out why?” His lips curled up into a mischievous smile.

  “Now you seem like the sick and twisted one,” I cracked a smile.

  We were finally getting along to some extent. If his idea for a project would keep him in good spirits, I was all down for it.

  After we decided on the Aurora shooting in 2012 for our project and had mapped out how we planned to execute it, Felix headed home for the night and it was just Peyton and me alone in her house. Her parents were visiting Kayleigh in California, at her dorm.

  “I don’t know how I feel about you two studying here again,” Peyton approached the topic lightly.

  “Excuse me?” I basically choked on my surprise at her bluntness.

  “It’s not you—“

  “It’s me?” I cut her off, not able to feign a smile.

  “Oh shut up,” she whispered, then threw her arms around my neck from behind my chair. She tilted my face up and lowered her lips to mine in a sweet kiss. “He gives me the heebie jeebies.”

  “Oh, come on…he’s just socially awkward. He could use a friend.” I wasn’t sure why I was defending him, but I went with it.

  “Really? Did you miss the part about how much ‘fun’ it was going to be to find out the killer’s motive?” She used air quotes at the mention of fun.

  “You caught that…” I mumbled quietly.

  “Caught it? It’s been playing on repeat on my head since he said it!” Peyton exclaimed.

  “Come on babe, don’t be so dramatic. Like I said, he’s socially awkward. He isn’t such a bad guy—you should cut him some slack. Remember, innocent until proven guilty.”

  “I still don’t trust him.” Peyton pulled out a chair at the table, taking a seat next to me.

  “You don’t have to.”

  “Let’s change the subject, I have goose bumps all over,” Peyton suggested, making me chuckle.

  “How’s Brooklyn doing in Atlanta?” Peyton loved talking about her friends, so I figured it could help lighten the mood. “Is she enjoying it?”

  “She loves it. Well, besides the weather which she says is like a sauna most days,” Peyton laughed. “She wants me to come visit.”

  “You should. It would be nice to get out of Ohio for a bit and you know how much fun you two have together.”

  “But you would be stuck here,” she pouted.

  “Time apart isn’t always a bad thing…” I tucked a few strands of her long brown hair behind her ears.

  She shrugged. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. And there’s no way my parents would let me go for longer than a week.”

  “Then it’s settled. Ask your parents. Brooklyn will be so excited to have you around, even if it’s just temporary.” If there was one person in the world Peyton loved more than me, it was her best friend. Those kinds of bonds were unbreakable.

  Peyton pulled my chair out from the table and sat down on my lap. “How did I ever get so lucky?”

  I shrugged smiling. “I don’t know. You must have won the boyfriend lottery or something.”

  “You’re ridiculous,” she giggled, gleaming.

  “I got you to smile though, didn’t I?”

  She nodded. “I can’t help it when I’m with you.”

  “Okay, who’s being the cheesy one now?” I stuck my tongue out at her. “Did you finish my song yet?”

  “Who said I was writing a song about you?” Her silly expression gave her away.

  I squeezed her sides playfully, making her jerk all over the place. “I’m going to keep tickling you until you tell me the truth.”

  She was panting heavily, gasping for breath. “Okay! Okay! It’s almost done.”

  “I wanna hear it.” I stopped tickling her.

  “You will…when it’s finished.”

  I scooped her up in my arms, causing her to squeal out in surprise.

  “Where are you taking me?” she questioned, giggling.

  “Your parents come home when?” I asked with her still suspended in the air.

  “Tomorrow.”

  “Then we have some trouble to get ourselves into tonight,” I replied, grinning mischievously as I carried her up the stairs.

  * * *

  I wasn’t sure why I took the west wing that day. It wasn’t my normal route and would only consume more time, but something pulled me there. I heard the loud commotion before I even rounded the corner.

  “Serial killer!” a boy yelled.

  “Murderer!” another boy chimed in.

  I had had enough. I rounded the corner faster than my feet could manage and came face to face with a gang of guys surrounding Felix; bullying him.

  “What’s going on here guys?” I chose my words carefully as I approached them slowly.

  All of them turned around with the same look of disdain on their faces.

  “Mind your own business,” one of the bullies ordered me.

  “This is my business,” I replied, not holding back.

  They were in my face in a flash, attempting to intimidate me, but I never flinched.

  “Why are you defending this freak?” one of my peers asked me in a disgusted tone.

  “Why are you playing the bully? It’s not a good look on you.” In the end I won because they left after a few choice words to the both of us.

  “Why did you do that?” Felix asked me.

  “Because what they were doing was wrong,” I answered the only way I knew how.

  Felix still looked shocked. “Thank you.”

  “No problem. You okay?” I handed him his backpack which was lying on the ground.

  He nodded, his long dark hair bouncing with each nod. He took his backpack from me, dusting it off. “They’re not going to come back, you can leave now.”

  Yep, definitely Felix. “Okay, see you after school right?”

  He nodded without saying anything else.

  I turned around and began to walk away. I was more than ten minutes late to my film acting class which I conveniently had with Peyton. I knew she was going to have questions.

  I rushed to the east wing as quick as possible and made it to my class merely seventeen minutes late. Thankfully Mr. Hunt was a talker. Every class he would go into at least three extended monologues that took up significant parts of our class, but he knew what he was doing; it was intriguing.

  Unfortunately because it was an audition day, Peyton and I didn’t have a chance to talk until the very end of class. I could tell she was upset with me; she was acting stiff and hardly looking me in the eye.

  “Hey,” I said softly as she packed up her belongings at the end of class. “Are we okay?”

  “I don’t know Jace…you tell me. I just can’t help but feel like you’re hiding something.” I couldn’t blame her—she was right, but I never planned to keep this from her.

  “They had him cornered,” I said softly, making sure others couldn’t eavesdrop.

  “Had who cornered Jace?” Peyton asked in a confused tone as we made our way to the entrance of the theater.

  “Felix.”

  “Felix Porter?”

  Nod.

  “Oh God, what did you do?” she cried, her eyes bulging out of her head.

  “Why do you always assume the worst of me?” I joked. “I just stopped the madness.”

  “Jace
the hero. Definitely fitting,” Peyton smiled slightly. “So, do tell the hero’s tale.”

  “They were bullying him and I stepped in, end of story.”

  “Are you guys like friends now?” she asked in a distressed tone.

  “I don’t know, but we’re definitely not enemies.”

  “Great, you are frenemies…even better,” Peyton muttered under her breath as we continued walking.

  Four: Confusion & Confessions

  Something was up. Something was off. It had been a week since my last beating and unusually easy to come home as he’d been conveniently gone every night of the week. For someone so lazy, it was very unlike him. It could really only mean one thing—he found someone to pay for his addiction.

  The thought angered me that he would put anyone else in jeopardy with his unhealthy lifestyle. The poor individual had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

  After a week of the same suspicious activity, I skipped school solely on the hope that he would return home during that brief time slot. I had been right, although I hadn’t anticipated him bringing his new sugar mama.

  I cracked my bedroom door open and pressed my ear up to it, straining to hear their conversation downstairs.

  “So this is your home,” a female voice said.

  “I told you darling, nothing special.” Frank sounded unusually…sober.

  “No, I like it, very quaint. Is this your son?” My heart began doing double time as I was positive I had been caught. Only, they were still downstairs.

  “Yeah, that’s my boy.” I heard my father’s voice again. Since when have I ever been his boy?

  “What’s his name?” Curious one, she was.

  “Jace.” Just hearing my father use my name was like a thousand metal rods through the heart; he didn’t deserve a son; especially not me.

  Slowly, I began to shut my door, but one of my deadbolts came loose and rattled loudly.

  My heart was in my throat as I raced against time to get to each and every lock.

  “Jace, is that you?” My father’s voice carried from the downstairs. Again, oddly sober sounding. “I have someone I want to introduce you to.”

  I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or hallucinating — , but my father was not trying to murder me. I wasn’t used to it.

  Knock. Knock.

  There were polite, friendly rasps at my door. I wasn’t prepared for any of it. I wasn’t sure what my father’s intentions were and I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out.

  “Jace,” the female’s voice sounded through from the other side of the door. “Your father has told me so much about you. Open up and let’s talk.”

  I gulped, stalling. Is this a trap? Is he trying to lure me out so I’m easier prey? I was conflicted.

  I opened my door slowly, without any more pauses, coming face to face with my cleaned up father and a middle-aged woman.

  My father had swapped his disgusting and smelly threads for a blue button down and slacks. I hadn’t seen my father look so professional since I was fifteen.

  The woman he was with was stunning for her age. Definitely a looker. As it turned out, she was half Mexican, half Italian. Her name was Samina.

  I wasn’t sure how he did it, but without much effort I ended up seated at the dining table for dinner with the two.

  “I hope you like spaghetti,” Samina smiled as she dished the pasta and passed around the plates.

  I nodded as I grabbed my fork and began to dig in. If this was my last meal, it was well worth it. “It’s very good, thank you Samina.”

  She took a seat at the table and then addressed me again. “So, what grade are you in, Jace?”

  “I’m a senior.”

  “Oh, wow,” she said sweetly. “A senior? Have you decided where you want to go to college?”

  I knew she only meant well, but the college question could only disrupt the flow of the evening, so I avoided it entirely…which seemed to work in my favor. “So, what do you do Samina?”

  “I’m an artist.”

  “Oh, like you draw?” I asked, naively.

  “More like I paint,” she giggled, looking over at my father. “That’s actually how your father and I met—at a craft store. I told him what paintbrush to buy.”

  “Really?” I couldn’t hide my suspicion. Was he shopping for his next target there?

  “Do you have any children?” I continued my digging.

  “Yes, actually.” She put her fork down, her face brightening up. “I have a daughter. She’s around your age.”

  “What’s her name, maybe I know her?” I asked curiously.

  “Gia.”

  My job seemed to be getting more complicated by the second. Originally, all I had to worry about was myself—now Samina and her daughter, Gia? My head was spinning. I wanted to tell them to run for the hills, that it was all an act, but I had no idea what to think.

  * * *

  After the odd and confusing dinner conversation I had with my father and his new love interest, I stealthily slipped out of the house unnoticed. I couldn’t bear to put up with his façade any longer and it pained me to see Samina buying into his every word. It was like she was manipulated by him to the highest degree. I was curious to how many nights they had spent together before he brought her home to our house.

  It wasn’t difficult to decide where to head after I left. Peyton was working late in the studio with Capiche and I was able to slip in virtually unnoticed. She was sitting at the control panel, playing back what appeared to be a newly recorded track.

  I didn’t want to listen

  To anything they had to say

  It’s my life-my choice

  I’m gonna live it today

  Nothing’s gonna stop me

  I’ve waited too long

  This world has changed me

  Hear the message in this song

  I’m so inexperienced, yet I’m so hungry

  I’d drop everything to live my-my dream

  I’m so close, yet I’m so-so-so far

  Excuse me while I boost this car

  I glanced over at Peyton amazed by her undeniable talents. I hadn’t even noticed Capiche in the recording booth—but his flow spoke all for himself.

  Frozen, he’s jonesing

  Explosions in his mind

  He gots me choking

  This reality he feeds

  Is so-so atrocious

  I don’t know, but know this

  I blinded myself

  From my true inner calling

  Destruction in itself

  Step it up, step it up

  And trust your gut

  You’ve got nothing else

  I hit the microphone button once they stopped recording. “You guys are on fire. What are you on?”

  “A lot of happiness man, and that’s for real,” Capiche answered before hanging up his headset.

  Capiche was on the hunt for a poker tournament, so he quickly said his goodbyes. “You good to lock up?”

  Peyton nodded at him as he walked away.

  “So, how was your day? I noticed you were conveniently MIA at school today. You didn’t answer or return any of my texts or calls either—what’s up?” I caught the hostility in her voice.

  “My father is what is up. It was like an episode of the Twilight Zone today. I don’t know what he’s up to, but I’m going to find out,” I vowed.

  “Just be careful,” Peyton warned, her face crinkled with worry.

  “Always am,” I lied, inching closer to her. I swiveled her chair around so she was now facing me and lowered my lips to hers in a short, sweet kiss. “How’s my song coming along?”

  The look on her face gave her away.

  “You finished it?” No one had ever written anything about me before. The idea that she went through all the trouble was fascinating.

  She nodded, attempting but failing miserably at hiding her grin.

  “I want to hear it,” I demanded.

  “Now?”


  “Now. I’ve been waiting forever!” Okay, to be fair, it had only been a week, but I was anxious.

  “You’re making me nervous. What if you don’t like it?” Her hesitation was endearing.

  “Not possible.”

  She took a deep breath in, exhaling slowly. “Okay.”

 
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