But that wasn’t trying—that wasn’t moving past this.

Running my hands down the sides of my shirt, which read I’M A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE, I pulled out the first painting like I was reaching into a box of venomous snakes.

Of course it was a painting I’d done of Charlie and me sitting together on a bench, our backs visible and the trees full of golden and red leaves.

My face started to crumble and my hand shook, rattling the canvas. What happened was so not fair, but it had happened and there was nothing I could do to change that.

Tears still fell as I dragged the box to the couch and sat down. Each painting cataloged either an event with Charlie or where I was mentally while I painted it. It was strange, seeing all the beautiful landscapes and memories of Charlie and me, and realizing that even though I held on to a lot of bad stuff, there’d been rays of sunshine in there. Like the way I saw Charlie. After the incident, I didn’t see him in a different light. He was still the most beautiful person inside and out that I knew.

It was hard going through those paintings, even worse when I placed them in my studio and then moved on to the box, picking out the framed photos of us.

I didn’t ever want to let go of Charlie. I didn’t need to. I just had to get to a place where thinking of him made me happy.

But I needed . . . God, I needed to start letting go of this ugly ball of hate, sadness, and frustration that had festered inside of me for far too long. Instead of learning from what happened to Charlie and living my life to the fullest, I’d nurtured all those nasty feelings. It was like a rotten growth that tarnished everything it came into contact with, an infection that I had to cut out.

Placing the framed photo on the table near where my easel normally was, I glanced at the open door to the hall. Before I knew what I was doing, I’d retrieved my cell phone and then walked into my bedroom, stopping in front of my closet door.

I thought about what Reece had said all those days ago when he’d talked about how hard it was to let go of everything surrounding the shooting. I knew from what he’d said to me the night of the funeral that he was still struggling with truly letting it go, but he was trying.

I knew what I needed to do to really begin the whole process of letting it go, and it would be one of the hardest things I’d ever done.


Opening the closet door, I dropped down on my knees, placing my cell next to me, and started rooting around in the clothes that I had a habit of just tossing on the floor instead of folding neatly like Reece did. I grinned as I picked up a pair of jeans and tossed them aside, thinking that if Reece and I did make that step to live together permanently, I’d have my own personal clothing folder.

Couldn’t beat that.

It took me a few minutes to find the jeans I was looking for. I had to push all the shirts hanging to the sides to clear a path to the back of the closet to locate the pair I’d worn the night Henry had come into Mona’s. Plucking them from the floor, I wondered how in the world they’d gotten all the way to the back of the deep closet.

I sat back on my butt and dug into the pocket, my fingers easily finding the business card. I pulled it out as cool air washed over my hand. Frowning, I glanced up and eyed the closet. Till this day, I could not figure out why the closet was so drafty.

My gaze flicked to the business card. Shaking my head, I couldn’t believe he had one. Really? Like, “Hi, I’m out of prison. Here’s my card!” But it was some kind of car-detailing business card, a business, I thought, if I remembered correctly, his father ran while we were in high school.

I don’t think he really meant to hurt Charlie.

Reece’s words floated through my thoughts, and for the first time in like forever, I thought about his parole hearings, I thought about his trial and everything since that night until now. It killed me to acknowledge it, but never once did Henry make excuses for what he did. Never once did he not show remorse, and not the kind when you get caught doing something bad. I remembered him crying at the trial. Not when the guilty verdict was handed down or at sentencing, but when I took the stand and recounted the events.

Henry had cried.

And back then I had hated him so much for that. I didn’t want to see his tears, couldn’t even understand how he could cry when he was the one who hurt Charlie. But now I knew it was more than that. All this time I also blamed myself and I had cried an ocean’s worth of tears. When I thought of Henry, I always thought of my role in things.

I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment and tried to picture Charlie’s reaction to what I was thinking about doing. Would he be upset? Or would he turn to me and say finally? I let out a shaky sigh. My throat felt thick. My eyes burned when I reopened them.

Then I dialed the number on the card.

My stomach twisted until I thought I’d hurl all over the clothes as the phone rang once, twice, and then five times before voice mail picked up. I didn’t leave a message, because seriously, what would I say? I didn’t even know what I was going to say if he did answer. I started to stand up when I felt the cold air again, this time stronger and steady, as if a hard gust of wind blew out of the closet.

So freaking weird.

Placing the phone on the floor, I scooted forward on my knees, pushing the hanging clothes even further back as I scanned the closet. The air couldn’t be coming from outside, because the closet butted up to where the steps used to go upstairs. Could it be from the main door opening? Stretching, I placed my hand against the wall. The surface was cool, as expected, but the wall didn’t feel . . . solid. Not like the rest of the closet. It almost felt like fake wood, the kind cheap bookshelves were made out of and would fall apart if it got wet. Upon closer inspection, I could actually see a crack, a separation between whatever kind of wood this was and the actual wall. Almost running the length of the back wall, it was about two feet wide and five feet in height.

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