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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1) by Samantha Young|
Surry County, Virginia
I was bored.
Kyle Ramsey was kicking the back of my chair to get my attention, but he’d been kicking my best friend’s, Dru, chair yesterday and I didn’t want to upset her. She had a huge crush on Kyle. Instead, I watched her as she sat beside me drawing a million tiny love hearts in the corner of her notebook as Mr. Evans scribbled another equation on the board. I really should have been paying attention because I sucked at math. Mom and dad wouldn’t be happy with me if I failed a class the first semester into freshman year.
“Mr. Ramsey, would you care to come up to the board and answer this question, or would you prefer to remain behind Jocelyn so you can kick her chair some more?”
The class tittered and Dru shot me an accusing look. I grimaced and shot Mr. Evan’s a pointed glare.
“I’ll stay here, if that’s okay, Mr. Evans,” Kyle replied with impudent swagger. I rolled my eyes, refusing to turn around even though I could feel the heat of his gaze on the back of my neck.
“That was actually a rhetorical question, Kyle. Get up here.”
A knock at the door put a halt to Kyle’s groan of acquiescence. At the sight of our principal, Ms. Shaw, the whole class grew still. What was the principal doing in our class? That could only signal trouble.
“Whoa,” Dru muttered under her breath and I looked at her, frowning. She nodded at the doorway. “Cops.”
Shocked, I turned to look back at the door as Ms. Shaw murmured something quietly to Mr. Evans, and sure enough, through the gap in the door, I could see two deputies waiting out in the hall.
“Miss Butler.” Ms. Shaw’s voice snapped my gaze back to her in surprise. She took a step towards me and I felt my heart leap into my throat. Her eyes were wary, sympathetic, and I immediately wanted to back away from her and whatever it was she was here to tell me. “Can you come with me, please? Grab your things.”
This was usually the part where the class would ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ about how much trouble I was in. But like me, they sensed that wasn’t what this was about. Whatever news was out in that hall, they weren’t going to tease me about it.
I was shaking now from a spike of adrenaline and I could barely hear anything over the sound of my own blood rushing in my ears. Had something happened to mom? Or dad? Or my baby sister, Beth? My parents had taken some time off work this week together to de-stress from what had been a crazy summer. They were supposed to be taking Beth out today for a picnic.
“Joss.” Dru nudged me, and as soon as her elbow touched my arm, I shot back from the table, my chair screaming across the wooden floor. Without looking at anyone, I fumbled with my bag, swiping everything off my desk and into it. The whispers had started hissing around the room like cold wind through a crack in a windowpane. Despite not wanting to know what was ahead of me, I really wanted out of that room.
Somehow remembering how to put one foot in front of the other, I followed the principal out into the hall and listened to Mr. Evan’s door snick shut behind me. I didn’t say anything. I just looked at Ms. Shaw and then at the two deputies who stared at me with a distant compassion. Standing near the wall was a woman I hadn’t noticed earlier. She looked grave but calm.
Ms. Shaw touched my arm and I looked down at her hand resting on my sweater. I hadn’t spoken two words to the principal before, and now she was touching my arm? “Jocelyn… this is Deputy Wilson and Michaels. And this is Alicia Nugent from the DSS.”
I looked at her questioningly.
Ms. Shaw blanched. “The Department of Social Services.”
Fear gripped a hold of my chest and I fought to breathe.
“Jocelyn,” the principal continued. “I am so sorry to have to tell you this… but your parents and sister, Elizabeth, were in a car accident.”
I waited, feeling my chest tighten.
“They were all killed instantly, Jocelyn. I’m so sorry.”
The woman from the DSS stepped towards me and started speaking. I looked at her, but all I could see were the colors that she was made up of. All I could hear was the muffled sound of her talking, like someone was running tap water beside her.
I couldn’t breathe.
Panicking, I reached for something, anything to help me breathe. I felt hands on me. Calm, murmuring words. Wetness on my cheeks. Salt on my tongue. And my heart… it felt like it was going to explode it was racing so hard.
I was dying.
Those words were said in my ear over and over again until I focused enough to concentrate on just breathing in and out. After a while, my pulse slowed and my lungs opened up. The spots across my vision began to disappear.
“That’s it,” Ms. Shaw was whispering, a warm hand rubbing soothing circles on my back. “That’s it.”
“We should get going,” the DSS woman’s voice broke through my fog.
“Okay. Jocelyn, are you ready?” Ms. Shaw asked quietly.
“They’re dead,” I answered, needing to feel how the words felt. It couldn’t be real.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart.”
Cold sweat burst on my skin, my palms, under my arms, across the nape of my neck. Goosebumps rose up all over and I couldn’t stop shaking. A rush of dizziness swayed me to the left and without warning, vomit surged up from my churning gut. I bent over, losing my breakfast all over the DSS lady’s shoes.
“She’s in shock.”
Or was it travel sickness?
One minute I had been sitting back there. There, where it was warm and safe. And in a matter of seconds, in the crunch of metal…
… I was someplace else entirely.
Eight years later…
It was a beautiful day to find a new home. And a new roommate.
I stepped out of the damp, old stairwell of my Georgian apartment building to a stunningly hot day in Edinburgh. I glanced down at the cute, white and green striped denim shorts I’d purchased a few weeks ago from Topshop. It had been raining non-stop since then and I’d despaired of ever getting to wear them. But the sun was out; peeking over the top of the cornered tower of the Bruntsfield Evangelical Church, burning away my melancholy and giving me back a little bit of hope. For someone who had packed up her entire life in the US and taken off for her motherland when she was only eighteen years old, I wasn’t really good with change. Not anymore anyway. I’d gotten used to my huge apartment with its never-ending mice problem. I missed my best friend, Rhian, who I’d lived with since freshman year at the University of Edinburgh. We’d met in the dorms and hit it off. We were both very private people and were comfortable around one another for the mere fact that we never pushed each other to talk about the past. We’d stuck pretty close to each other freshman year and decided to get an apartment (or ‘flat’ as Rhian called it) in second year. Now that we were graduates, Rhian had left for London to start her PhD and I was left roommate-less. The icing on the cake was the loss of my other closest friend here, James, Rhian’s boyfriend. He’d run off to London (a place he detested I might add) to be with her. And the cherry on top? My landlord was getting a divorce and needed the apartment back.
I’d spent the last two weeks answering ads from young women looking for a female roommate. It had been a bust so far. One girl didn’t want to room with an American. Cue my ‘what the f**k?’ face. Three of the apartments were just… nasty. I’m pretty sure one girl was a crack dealer, and the last girl’s apartment sounded like it got more use than a brothel. I was really hoping my appointment today with Ellie Carmichael was going to go my way. It was the most expensive apartment I’d scheduled to see and it was on the other side of the city center.
I was frugal when it came to touching my inheritance, as if that would somehow lessen the bitterness of my ‘good’ fortune. However, I was getting desperate.
If I wanted to be a writer, I needed the right apartment and the right roommate.
Living alone of course was an option. I could afford it. However, the God’s honest truth was that I didn’t like the idea of complete solitude. Despite my tendency to keep eighty percent of myself to myself, I liked being surrounded by people. When they talked to me about things I didn’t understand personally, it allowed me to see things from their point of view, and I believed all the best writers needed a wide open scope of perspective. Despite not needing to, I worked at a bar on George Street on Thursday and Friday nights. The old cliché was true: bartenders overhear all the best stories.
I was friends with two of my colleagues, Jo and Craig, but we only really ‘hung out’ when we were working. If I wanted a little life around me, I needed to get a roommate. On the plus, this apartment was mere streets away from my job.
As I tried to shove down the anxiety of finding a new place, I also kept my eye open for a cab with its light on. I eyed the ice cream parlor, wishing I had time to stop and indulge, and almost missed the cab coming toward me on the opposite side of the street. Throwing my hand out and checking my side for traffic, I was gratified that the driver had seen me and pulled up to the curb. I tore across the wide road, managing not to get squashed like a green and white bug against some poor person’s windshield, and rushed towards the cab with a single-minded determination to grab the door handle.
Instead of the door handle, I grabbed a hand.
Bemused, I followed the masculine, tan hand up a long arm to broad shoulders and to a face obscured by the sun beaming down behind his head. Tall, over six feet, the guy towered above me as most tall people did. I was a smallish five foot five.
Wondering why this guy had his hand on my cab, all I really took in was the suit.
A sigh escaped from his shadowed face. “Which way are you headed?” he asked me in a rumbling, gravelly voice. Four years I’d been living here and still a smooth, Scots accent could send a shiver down my spine. And his definitely did, despite the terse question.
“Dublin Street,” I answered automatically, hoping I had a longer distance to travel so he’d give me the cab.