Two Can Keep a Secret(10)


“Ellery, hi!” I almost drop my phone, and when I don’t answer the voice doubles down on its cheerful urgency. “It’s me!”

“Yeah, I know.” I lower myself stiffly onto my bed, gripping the phone in my suddenly sweaty palm. “How are you calling me?”

Sadie’s tone turns reproachful. “You don’t sound very happy to hear from me.”

“It’s just— I thought we were supposed to start talking next Thursday.” Those were the rules of rehab, according to Nana: Fifteen-minute Skype sessions once a week after two full weeks of treatment had been completed. Not random calls from an unknown number.

“The rules here are ridiculous,” Sadie says. I can practically hear the eye roll in her voice. “One of the aides is letting me use her phone. She’s a Defender fan.” The only speaking role Sadie ever had was in the first installment of what turned out to be a huge action series in the ’90s, The Defender, about a down-on-his-luck soldier turned avenging cyborg. She played a sexy robot named Zeta Voltes, and even though she had only one line—That does not compute—there are still fan websites dedicated to the character. “I’m dying to see you, love. Let’s switch to FaceTime.”

I pause before hitting Accept, because I’m not ready for this. At all. But what am I going to do, hang up on my mother? Within seconds Sadie’s face fills the screen, bright with anticipation. She looks the same as ever—nothing like me except for the hair. Sadie’s eyes are bright blue, while mine are so dark they almost look black. She’s sweet-faced with soft, open features, and I’m all angles and straight lines. There’s only one other trait we share, and when I see the dimple in her right cheek flash with a smile, I force myself to mirror it back. “There you are!” she crows. Then a frown creases her forehead. “What’s going on with your hair?”

My chest constricts. “Is that seriously the first thing you have to say to me?”

I haven’t talked to Sadie since she checked into Hamilton House, the pricey rehab center Nana’s paying for. Considering she demolished an entire storefront, Sadie lucked out: she didn’t hurt herself or anyone else, and she wound up in front of a judge who believes in treatment instead of jail time. But she’s never been particularly grateful. Everyone and everything else is at fault: the doctor who gave her too strong of a prescription, bad lighting on the street, our car’s ancient brakes. It didn’t fully hit me until just now—sitting in a bedroom that belongs to a grandmother I barely know, listening to Sadie criticize my hair through a phone that someone could probably get fired for giving her—how infuriating it all is.

“Oh, El, of course not. I’m just teasing. You look beautiful. How are you?”

How am I supposed to answer that? “I’m fine.”

“What’s happened in your first week? Tell me everything.”

I could refuse to play along, I guess. But as my eye catches the photo of her and her sister on my bookcase, I already feel myself wanting to please her. To smooth things over and make her smile. I’ve been doing it my entire life; it’s impossible to stop now. “Things are just as weird as you’ve always said. I’ve already been questioned twice by the police.”

Her eyes pop. “What?”

I tell her about the hit-and-run, and the graffiti at Lacey’s fund-raiser three days ago. “Declan Kelly’s brother wrote that?” Sadie asks, looking outraged.

“He said he just found the paint canister.”

She snorts. “Likely story.”

“I don’t know. He looked pretty shocked when I saw him.”

“God, poor Melanie and Dan. That’s the last thing they need.”

“The police officer I talked to at the fund-raiser said he knew you. Officer McNulty? I forget his first name.”

Sadie grins. “Chad McNulty! Yeah, we dated sophomore year. God, you’re going to meet all my exes, aren’t you? Was Vance Puckett there, by any chance? He used to be gorgeous.” I shake my head. “Ben Coates? Peter Nilsson?”

None of those names are familiar except the last one. I met him at the fund-raiser, right after his stepson and I reported the sign vandalism. “You dated that guy?” I ask. “Doesn’t he own, like, half the town?”

“I guess so. Cute, but kind of a tight-ass. We went out twice when I was a senior, but he was in college then and we didn’t really click.”

“He’s Malcolm’s stepfather now,” I tell her.

Sadie’s face scrunches in confusion. “Who?”

“Malcolm Kelly. Declan Kelly’s brother? The one with the spray paint?”

“Good Lord,” Sadie mutters. “I cannot keep up with that place.”

Some of the tenseness that’s been keeping me rigid ebbs away, and I laugh as I settle back against my pillow. Sadie’s superpower is making you feel as though everything’s going to be fine, even when it’s mostly disastrous. “Officer McNulty said his son’s in our class,” I tell her. “I guess he was at the fund-raiser, but I didn’t meet him.”

“Ugh, we’re all so old now. Did you talk to him about the hit-and-run, too?”

“No, that officer was really young. Ryan Rodriguez?” I don’t expect Sadie to recognize the name, but an odd expression flits across her face. “What? Do you know him?” I ask.

Karen M. McManus's Books