Two Lethal Lies(6)By: Annie Solomon
“It’s a book my dad read to me. In it, a prince and a beggar who looks like him switch places.”
Sara Jean drew her legs up under her nightgown and leaned back against the tree trunk. “You’d have to dye your hair red.”
“You’d have to dye yours black.”
Sara Jean smiled. “My mother would hate that.”
“My dad’s eyes would pop out of his head.”
They started giggling, but a voice called from the house.
Sara Jean stopped laughing and put a finger to her lips.
Mitch stuck his head out the back door. “You okay out here?”
“You’re talking to yourself.”
“No, I’m not. I’m talking to Merlin. He wants to turn me into a turtle.”
“Not on my watch.”
“See? That’s what I told him.”
Mitch glanced at the twist of rope over her head. “You’re going to make yourself sick.”
He shook his head. “Just don’t upchuck all over the Blunts’ yard.”
“You need me, I’ll be in the laundry room.”
When he’d disappeared back into the house, Julia gave Sara Jean the all clear.
“I think your dad’s right,” Sara Jean said when she’d crawled back out. “There’s always too many people knowing your business. Especially when you’re a kid.”
Julia didn’t say anything. Truth was, she didn’t mind it at all.
“Who’s Merlin anyway?”
Sara Jean laughed again. “You’re even weirder than me. So… you going to unwind or what? Bet you throw up all over the mums.”
Sara Jean pointed to the flowers edging the patio.
“Bet I won’t.”
Sara Jean giggled. “Give you ten dollars if you do.”
Julia grinned. And let the swing go.
Mitch had hoped his little foray outside would have dislodged Hannah, but she was firmly planted in his way when he came back. Tommy and Bitsy were still hovering together, and it didn’t look like rescue was coming anytime soon, so he tried another tactic. “I’m just going to”—he backed toward the laundry room—“see if my clothes are ready for the dryer.”
But Hannah followed, blocking the doorway while he transferred the clothes into the dryer.
“On the phone, Bitsy said Sara Jean fell into the river. Is that what happened?”
“Look, you talk to Mrs. Blunt—Bitsy—about it, okay? Up to her to tell you what she wants you to know.”
“She’s my niece. You can feel free to tell me what happened.”
But Mitch had already broken his promise to Sara Jean once. He wasn’t going to do it twice. “If it’s all the same to you, I’ll just let her parents handle that now.” He opened the lid of the top-loading washer, turned his back, and buried his arm inside. Maybe she’d take the hint and leave.
She didn’t. “So, Mitch Turner, what do you do?”
He hauled out the wet clothes, chucked them into the dryer.
Lie or don’t lie? He took the ambiguous route. “Whatever comes my way.”
“Got a place to stay?”
“Got my truck ’til we get to where we’re going.”
“Oh?” She smiled, but it didn’t feel as innocent as it looked. “Where to?”
This was all beginning to sound more like an interrogation than a conversation. “South.”
“No permanent residence, then?”
“Like I said, we’re in transition.” He punctuated his answer by slamming the dryer door closed.
“What about your daughter?”
He traded her stare for stare. “What about her?”
“She should be in, what, fifth or sixth grade now?”
“When we have to, we homeschool.”
“Don’t you mean truck school? Or on-the-road school?”
“We do fine, Ms. Blunt.”
“Hannah. And I’m sure you do. But children need stability.”
“Yeah? Where’d you hear that?” He took a stab in the dark. “You have any kids of your own?”
“So your opinion is based on, what, hearsay?”
“Well, you don’t see Julia jumping off any bridges, do you?”
He realized his mistake instantly, and she went for the kill. “Is that what happened to Sara Jean?”
Damn. “I told you to talk to—”
She smiled. “I will. You can bet I will. In fact, I’ll just go and check on Sara Jean now.”
She swept out of the room, and he realized he was sweating. He’d been leaning against the dryer, and the thing was damn hot. Except it wasn’t the machine that made him uneasy.