Allison spent the next few minutes assuring her that she and Charlotte were healthy and happy, purposely avoiding any mention of their aunt and uncle.
Just before she ended the call, Suzanne said, "I want you to know how much we loved your mother and father, and how much we wanted you."
Allison laid the phone down and sat on her bed, rigid with anger. She couldn’t scream for fear of alarming anyone who would hear-but oh, how she wanted to. She knew her aunt and uncle were selfish, angry people, but how could they have been so cruel? She remembered being afraid when she was a little girl. If she didn’t behave . . . if she was too loud . . . or if she cried . . . there was always the possibility in her mind that she would be separated from her sister. And all that time there was a loving family who would have taken them.
She was about to explode from the fury building inside her. She couldn’t sit still. She stood and paced around her room, hearing Suzanne’s words echoing in her head: ". . . we wanted you."
A tear slipped down her cheek and then another. All the years of hurt suddenly erupted, and she fell onto her bed, sobbing uncontrollably. She didn’t know how long she’d cried, but she stopped when she heard voices below. Her roommates and their friends were gathering downstairs. She couldn’t stay there. She had to get away. Wiping the tears from her face, she went to her closet for her overnight bag and threw a few things in it. She’d drive to Jordan’s house and spend the night.
When she came down the stairs, a group was standing in the kitchen talking. Dan peered around the corner. "Hi, Al."
She didn’t look at him. If she did, she knew he’d see her swollen, tearstained face. Instead she kept her head down and called, "I’m sleeping at Jordan’s. I’ll see you tomorrow."
She opened the front door and came to an abrupt halt. Liam was standing there.
One look at her and he could tell something had happened. He pulled the door wider and said, "Let’s go." Grabbing her bag, he took her hand and pulled her along.
"How did you know?" She whispered the question and really didn’t expect an answer.
"Know what?" he asked, glancing down at her.
That I was in trouble, she thought but didn’t say. She shook her head, then said, "That I would be home."
"I didn’t." He opened his car door for her, then put her bag in the trunk before getting behind the wheel. "Where are we going?" he asked.
"Just away from here. I don’t have a destination in mind."
Liam pulled into the street and was turning the corner when Allison spotted her aunt’s car speeding toward them. Allison was certain her aunt hadn’t seen her. She quickly dug her phone out of her purse and called Dan to warn him.
"Don’t let her come inside," she said. "Just tell her I’m out of town for the weekend. And please don’t be polite." She looked over her shoulder in time to see her aunt’s car come to a screeching halt in front of her house.
"What was that all about?" Liam asked.
"I don’t want to go into it now."
"But you will tell me."
He wasn’t asking a question; he was stating a fact, and she knew eventually he would coax it out of her.
"Maybe," she said. She dropped her head back against the seat and closed her eyes. She had no idea where they were going, and she felt too weary to care.
He drove to a restaurant on the water called Jim’s Shack. "Have you ever eaten here?" he asked as he parked the car.
"No," she answered.
The exterior of the building looked as though it should have been condemned years ago. The wood was weathered and splintered, but inside it looked brand-new. Bright lights on the pier reflected off the water and gave the dining area a glow. The bar wound halfway around the restaurant. It was crowded, but they didn’t have to wait for a table. Turned out, Liam knew the owner, Jim, who personally escorted them to a little alcove overlooking the water.
Allison stared out at the serene view of the gentle waves lapping against the pier, and the tension that had coiled inside her began to unwind. A waiter took their drink orders, and as soon as he left, Allison said, "How do you know the owner?"
Liam shrugged. "Who didn’t you want Dan to be polite to?"
Two could play this game, she decided, so she shrugged in answer and smiled at him.
Recognizing her stall tactics, he laughed before answering, "I know the owner of this establishment because I came here with Alec last year, and as it turned out, Alec went to school with him, so, of course, they had to catch up. Jim sat and drank with us. Okay, now it’s your turn."