Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part twenty-seven)
Several days had passed since the girls were found.
Ciel was finally out of danger from her head injury though the double vision lingered. She had three cracked ribs, an elbow fracture, and a multitude of bruising that continued to bloom across her pale skin in varying shades of yellow, blue, and purplish-black.
Susan and Brett took turns watching over their daughter and keeping unwanted visitors away. After a reporter dressed as a nurse tried to question Ciel, the police posted an officer by the door of her private hospital room.
Ciel shifted in the bed, crying out at the sudden burning pain that flared along her left side. When she could breathe again, she opened her eyes, surprised Susan wasn't hovering over her. She blinked, focusing on her dimly lit surroundings, and realized the double vision had almost been resolved.
Brett sat in one corner of the room, reading a magazine. He glanced up at Ciel and winked. It was hard for Ciel to express how much she appreciated her father's laid-back approach. Her mom had been driving her nuts, and Ciel feigned sleep a number of times to avoid being smothered by Susan's well-meant doting.
A soft snore drew Ciel's attention to the chair by the window. Jason was sprawled in the uncomfortable-looking vinyl chair with one gangly leg tossed over the arm and his head tilted at an odd angle, mouth slack. She contented herself to watch Jason sleep peacefully.
“He's been here a lot,” Brett spoke into his magazine.
“Jason practically lived at our house while you were . . . gone.” Brett swallowed, laying the magazine on his lap and swiping a thumb across the corner of one eye.
“Really?” A warmth rushed through Ciel, settling over her cheeks.
“He's a nice boy.”
“Where's Mom?” Ciel asked with trepidation.
“I sent her home to get some rest. I know she's been driving you nuts, but you have to understand, honey, what it . . . did to us.” He passed a hand over his face. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No. Therapy will be hard enough. I still don't even know what happened after I passed out!” Ciel's eyes filled with tears of frustration.
“Think I may have something that will help. Be right back.” Brett left the room.
Ciel settled back against the pillows and looked over at Jason. No longer asleep, he watched her with concern deep in his eyes. “Hi,” she said.
Jason pushed up from the chair and perched on the side of the bed, cupping Ciel's face in one large palm. “You look so much better today. I—I was so scared.”
Ciel smiled, nuzzling her face against his calloused skin. “My mind is clearer, and the double vision is almost gone.” She grabbed his free hand and squeezed it. “Jason, I need to know what's going on. My mom keeps hiding shit from me.”
The door opened, and Joanie rushed in. “Ci! Oh my God.” Joanie slapped a hand over her mouth for a few seconds, her big brown eyes widening behind her glasses when she spotted Jason at Ciel's side. “Um, hey.” She flapped a hand Jason's way.
“You must be Joanie, the protective best friend.” Jason grinned, which brought out his dimples. “Do you want me to give you two some time alone?”
“No, that's okay. We can share her.”
They chatted for a few minutes about mundane things like school and a recent storm that had blown through the area. She knew Joanie was doing it as a distraction; it was one of Joanie's defense mechanisms.
Ciel grabbed Joanie's hand. “Jo, I'm okay. Really.”
“Good. It's been really lonely without you.” Joanie hugged Ciel.
“Guys, what happened? To Janice and her aunt and Professor Jeffries?”
Joanie and Jason looked at each other across the bed, and an awkward silence filled the room. “We're not supposed to—” Joanie faltered.
“Is Janice okay?” Ciel pressed.
“What about Professor Jeffries?”
“Suspended while they investigate, and that crazy wife of his is in the psych ward.” Joanie gritted her teeth.
Jason snorted. “They both belong in jail, but I heard Janice isn't cooperating.”
The door slammed shut, startling them.
“What do you know about anything, Greene?” Janice stood there glaring, a mere shadow of her previous self. The clothes virtually hung on her gaunt frame, and the hollows beneath her cheekbones had deepened to purplish slashes. “Everybody out. Ciel and I need to talk.”
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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook