Home > Very Wicked Things (Briarcrest Academy #2)(5)

Very Wicked Things (Briarcrest Academy #2)(5)
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills

Squeezing my shoulder, she said, “Whoever you become is entirely up to you. Remember that.”

I blinked up at her. “Someday, I will be a dancer.”

“Will you remember me?”


Eight Years Later

THE DELICIOUS SMELL of bacon tantalized me, drawing me into the kitchen.

“Dovey, Dovey, my lovey,” Sarah sang out, smiling at me from her spot in front of the white stove. She appeared fit and alert, dressed in gray yoga pants and a loose tunic, obviously ready for her eleven o’clock toddler class. At sixty-one, she had an air about her of someone much younger, sparkling with energy, luminous like the sun.

I opened my arms wide. “Sarah, Sarah, I love you,” I sang back in a theatrical kind of way, loud and off-key. Typical morning at our house.

She showed me the burnt bacon. “Once you get a load of this, you may not love me.”

I peered over her shoulder at the black pork lying on the plate. “Love you still,” I said in between munches on a stolen piece. She smacked my hand and I grinned.

“What if I said we were out of strawberry jam?”

“Still love ya,” I quipped, propping my hip against the sink to watch her scramble eggs. Her movements were brisk and efficient, which was a good sign. And although I’d woken up with a premonition of a sucky day, perhaps today would be fine. I needed a good day.

She presented me with the overdone biscuits, their tops a few shades too dark. “Still?”

I grunted, picked one up and took a bite, the rich flavor of heavy cream coating my tongue. I closed my eyes and moaned. “Holy best biscuit ever,” I declared, talking around my chews. “It’s like eating a piece of heaven. Maybe even better than the buttermilk ones.”

Her mouth twitched. “Now, I know you’re lying or starving. They didn’t rise and they’re too brown. I swear, you’ll eat anything.” She pointed to my chair. “Sit. You have fifteen minutes before you have to get on the road for BA.”

I touched her shoulder. “Tell me what day it is first,” I said.

Her faded green eyes clouded for a moment but then slid over my shoulder to the calendar on the fridge. “February 7,” she replied. “Monday. I have three classes of ballet to teach; you have math homework to turn in. And you have a three hour session with Mr. Keller at BA to work on your audition piece.”

“Where do you live?”

“201 Channing Street inside Beckham House. With a crazy girl.” She gave me a pointed look.

I grinned, anticipating the next answer. “Who am I?”

“Katerina Dovey Beckham,” she said with a sassy look. “You’ve lived with me since your mama died. I’m your guardian and I adore you. There, satisfied?”

“No, I’m not,” drawled a throaty, Southern voice from the door. “I need a good man in a bad way, and I’m hungry.”

We both turned to see the vision in front of us. As if waiting for a camera to start rolling, Heather-Lynn posed against the doorframe, dressed outlandishly in a pair of fringed Daisy Dukes and a red shirt. I shivered from just looking at her. At least I wore thick tights with my skimpy clothes.

She breezed in carrying Ricky, her long-haired, cream Chihuahua. Her claim to fame was a tiny part in a movie in the seventies no one had seen. At sixty, she called herself a retired movie star even though she’d been a beautician for twenty something years. Sarah and I went with it. We’re all dreamers, I guess.

“Ever heard of knocking?” I said, giving her a quick hug.

“Honey, ain’t got no time to knock when fried food is calling my name.” She sat the squirming dog down and looked at the coffee with lustful eyes. “Come to mama.”

She poured a cup at the counter, stirring in cream and sugar. With a casual nonchalance, she peered at Sarah over the rim of her cup. “Okay, lady, you know the drill: tell me my name. I gotta be speciaalll, too.”

Sarah’s hand paused as she sat the eggs on the table, and my heart took a nose dive. It was too much, this exercise we did. What if…

“A pain in my ass,” Sarah said smartly. “Always barging in here unannounced with that dog and eating my food. And nearly naked too. You do know it’s cold out there, right? Now stop asking silly questions and eat. You’re both drooling anyway.”

Heather-Lynn glided over to Sarah and gave her the usual double-cheek peck, Hollywood style. “Don’t mind if I do, dahling.”

Sarah laughed and bent down to give the begging Ricky a piece of bacon.

After getting the plates out, we sat at the table, just like we had for the past eight years. I slathered butter on my biscuit, my thoughts split between my audition and on the 3:00 AM phone call I’d gotten last night from Spider. My best friend at BA, he needed to chill with the drunk dials. I needed my sleep. I had too much going on to be woken up by heavy breathing and loud music blaring in my ear.

Sarah fidgeted across from me, and because I felt wired to her every nuance, my eyes shot to her. Clutching her knife, she stared intently at the butter as if willing it to move closer. She opened her mouth to say something, but then slammed it shut.

Without a word, I nudged the butter dish closer to her. White with bright red poppies, she’d had the dish for years, given to her as a birthday present by her late husband David. I guess he’d known she loved to cook as much as she liked to dance.

I covered her hand with mine, the contrast of my younger skin against hers, slamming home the cold hard truth. We didn’t have much longer. And I didn’t know when. I didn’t know how. “It’s called butter.” I tried to smile. I think it worked.

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