Isobel had responded immediately, texting back that she and her dad were spending the afternoon at the aquarium. After that, she’d waited, and waited, her phone never leaving her fist. She’d expected to receive some response that would let her know that Gwen had received the info and that she was now headed in Isobel’s direction. But that never came.

Isobel was starting to think that maybe she and Gwen should have planned better. Maybe she should have snuck out last night when Gwen had come to pick up her backpack. That way, they could have left together and made the drive overnight. Of course, that would have caused more commotion. Neither of them would have their current cover and both would be as good as fugitives on the run, especially if Isobel’s parents guessed they were together. At least this way, no one was looking for either of them. Yet.

“Away at last and you’re still hot-wired to home,” her dad sighed from behind the thick, plastic-coated menu. “Who are you texting with?”

Uh-oh, she thought. Sensing an impending end to her phone usage and, consequently, her only link to Gwen, Isobel typed in a quick message, knowing she would need to make it count.


She hit the send button just as their drinks arrived.

Isobel clamped her phone shut. She kept it tight in one hand, waiting for the buzz that she hoped would follow any moment.

Her father folded his menu as their waitress, a thin young woman with a straight-up-and-down figure, hovered close to the table. She wore red lipstick and a matching headband lined with silk flowers. Her dull expression reminded Isobel of the blank look the seniors got during the last few weeks before graduation.

“Do you know what you’d like?” she asked Isobel, pen poised against her notepad.

“Uh.” Isobel glanced down at the menu in front of her for the first time and flipped it open, still never letting go of her phone. “Um, what are you getting, Dad?”

He watched her from across the booth. Chin in hand, elbow on the table, he seemed to affect the exact same expression as their waitress. “Crab cake platter.”


Isobel refolded the menu and held it out to their waitress. “Same,” she said.

Their waitress tucked both menus under one arm and, without writing anything down, slid the pen and notepad into an apron pocket and zipped out of sight.

Alone with her father again, Isobel became keenly aware of his unwavering gaze. She tried to ignore it, but with her phone now disqualified as a suitable distraction, she began to feel like an ant caught in the incinerating beam of a magnifying glass.

She pulled her lemonade toward her. Taking a sip, she swirled the pink liquid with her straw. The ice clinked against her glass, the sound seeming to drown out the thrum of the low chatter around them.

She looked up and her eyes met with her father’s.

“What?” she asked.

“It’s a phone,” he said, “not a game show buzzer.” He gestured to the hand that clutched her cell. “I honestly doubt you’ll miss anything crucial if you put it away for a while.”

Reluctantly Isobel pressed the phone to the table. She had to peel her fingers back one at a time in order to force herself to relinquish it to the starched white tablecloth. It sat there, three inches from the edge, like a pink hand grenade waiting to go off.

“Okay,” her dad said, “that’s a start. But how about you put it in your coat pocket instead?”

Isobel reached for the phone again, but just as her fingers came in contact with the plastic, the cell gave a short buzz, Rattling against the table.

“Mind if I do the honors this time?” her dad asked.

She stiffened when she saw her father’s hand float toward the phone, his fingers stopping to hover just above. She had to tuck her hands between her knees to keep herself from snatching the phone out from underneath him.

“Sure.” She shrugged. “Go for it.”

Picking up the phone, he flipped it open.

His face glowed in the white light of the LCD screen.

Isobel felt her breath catch. Beneath the table, her foot began to waggle. She squeezed her knees together, keeping her hands captive as she watched his eyes narrow and his brows creep toward each other, forming an angry knot in between as he thumbed through the texts.

Oh no, she thought. This was it. Gwen had run into trouble. And now she’d made some desperate response, blowing their cover without meaning to.

Whatever the situation, Isobel knew she couldn’t stay here with her father any longer. She would have to make a run for it. She’d need to find Gwen on her own and still hope they could make it to the graveyard before midnight. Gradually, inch by inch, Isobel edged her way down the seat, preparing to bolt. She stopped, however, the moment her father’s head snapped up.

Most Popular