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“I’m just looking for anything that might give us something to help find her.”
Della didn’t know what that something would be, but being here felt right, almost as if the ghost had led them here. On top of a dresser was a picture of a man. Dark hair, slanted eyes. Della was almost certain it was the same man in the family photo that hung in the hall.
Funny how Natasha looked more Asian than her own father. Luck of the draw, Della thought, remembering how she hardly looked Asian.
All of a sudden, behind the soft music and lyrics, came the sound of a car moving down the road. “Someone’s coming,” she said.
“I know,” Chase said.
By the time they got to the window, the car was pulling into the drive. “Shit,” Della muttered.
“No problem,” Chase said. “We’ll wait until he unlocks the door, then we’ll jump out this window. It’s going to be okay,” he said, as if sensed her near panic.
Sensed it correctly. Della’s adrenaline pumped like crazy. The thought of being caught sent bolts of fear coursing through her veins. And then she heard it. Not the driver in the car outside who had cut the engine off. The car was the least of their problems. What Della heard were footsteps. Footsteps moving up the steps from inside the house.
Someone was already inside the home. Had been there the entire time. Had they heard them? Were they coming to check?
Chase, obviously hearing it as well, looked back out the window.
“He’s not out of the car yet.” His voice barely reached her ears.
“So what do we do?” she replied in the same low voice.
“Plan B,” he said.
“What is it?”
He paused one second. “I don’t have a friggin’ clue.”
“Shit,” Della whispered again.
The footsteps thudded closer, down the hall, almost in front of the bedroom door. Nothing but a thin piece of wood stood between them and being caught as intruders.
Never had Della been this envious of Kylie’s gift of turning invisible. But wishing was going to get her nowhere—she needed a plan. She needed one fast.
“The closet.” She latched her hand around his arm and pulled him inside.
They had barely gotten the door closed and sunk down amongst a few shoes and clothes that had fallen on the floor, when the footsteps stopped. Stopped right outside the bedroom door.
Della pulled her knees to her chest. Darkness filled the small space. Her shoulder pressed against Chase’s. Needing more air to attempt to deal with the panic gripping her lungs, she took fast, and hopefully silent, breaths. The smell of perfume and shampoo, obviously Natasha’s, filled the air. Then Chase’s scent, spicy male soap and outdoors, filled Della’s senses. While she could barely see anything, she still shut her eyes. Tight. And prayed.
Don’t let them come in here. Don’t let them come in here.
The door clicked open and the footsteps entered into the room. Soft footsteps sounding like a woman. What came next? If the person belonging to the footsteps had actually heard them, wouldn’t she check the closet? Oh no. Why had Della chosen the closet?
Della’s insides knotted with the thought of having to explain to her parents why she’d broken into someone’s home.
Damn! Damn! She and Chase were going to get caught and this was going to be bad. Really, really bad.
The footsteps came farther into the room. Eyes still forced shut, she heard the person inhale, deeply. Chase’s lips came against her ear.
“If they open the door, we fly right through the window. Just keep your head down and watch out for glass. If we go fast, they won’t be able to describe us to the cops.”
Della opened her eyes. Light snuck through the small space where the door didn’t meet the wood floor. That, or her vision had adjusted to the dark and she could make out things—the clothes on the floor, the pair of worn tennis shoes in the corner. She shifted her gaze back to the door, preparing herself to run like hell if it opened.
She counted to three, thinking that was about the time a person would need to decide to check the closet.
The door didn’t open.
The sound of the bed’s mattress sighing with weight added another layer of sadness to the song playing in the background.
Then came the heartfelt sob. A feminine sob. Not part of the music, but so much more emotional. It sounded like pain. Pure. Raw.
“Why do I keep hearing you?” the woman said. “Are you here, baby? Why can’t I accept that you are gone? Can you hear me? I love you. I miss you. Miss you so much.”
She’s not gone, Della wanted to say. Tears filled her eyes. While she ached for Natasha and her mom, Della couldn’t help but wonder if her own mother missed her.
Did her own mom ever walk into her room and cry?
Della didn’t realize she still held Chase’s hand until his fingers, laced with hers, gave her a light squeeze. Was he hurting for the woman, too? It felt as if he was trying to communicate to her that it would be okay.
But how could it be? The woman’s grief grew thicker, the air, even in the tiny closet, felt heavier. The feeling of injustice, of grief, wiggled its way into Della’s chest and made her insides feel crowded.
The music suddenly stopped and the sound of a phone ringing piped over the intercom.
The ringing became replaced with an electronic voice announcing: Call from Miao Hon.
Della’s breath caught. Surely she’d heard it wrong. But the message repeated. Call from Miao Hon.