My phone is ringing.
In the morning.
The phone keeps ringing. Or not ringing reallythe Monk song I have programmed is what's playing, and the notes, the beat, sound sort of sad, sort of mournful, against the bleak-black December night. I groan and fumble around in the sheets. I like to be prepared, so I sleep with my phone beneath my pillow just in case someone calls. No one ever does, of course.
Except for now.
More fumbling, but my fingers find the phone at last. I slide it out and hold it in front of my face. My eyes are bleary and my brain slow, but what I'm seeing on the touch screen finally registers:
"Hello?" I say.
Nothing. I hear nothing.
"Who is this?"
No response, but I press the phone closer to my ear. No one speaks, but I hear something. I do. Short feral bursts of noise. Organic. Like a faint sobbing.
"Hey," I say, a little louder than before. I want to make sure that I'm heard. "I know you're there. Who're you trying to reach?"
Still no answer, and nothing keeps happening, the way nothing sometimes does. The phone line remains open, and I remain listening. The human sounds fade. They're replaced by a howling wind. The muffled blare of a horn.
I lay my head against my pillow and look up at the ceiling, shadowy and dark. Outside the house, rain falls softly. This is December in California. The phone beeps that its battery is low, but I don't move. Instead I close my eyes, and on the backs of my lids, I picture places where the wind might be blowing.
The ragged edge of the world.
I still don't move.
I fall asleep with the phone against my ear.
* * *
"Jamie," Angie says to me at breakfast the next morning. "We thought you should hear it from us first."
"Hear what, Mom?" I ask. I call Angie Mom because that's what she likes and because it's so rarely the thought that counts. That's dishonest on my part, I know, but if I had to pick one quality to define me, it's thisI can't stand to hurt other people's feelings. Not saying what I mean is sometimes the best way I know how to be kind.
From the other side of the kitchen, Angie's husband Malcolm straightens his silk tie and pours coffee into his stainless-steel travel mug. He only drinks the organic free trade stuff, which is expensive as hell, but, hey, Malcolm can definitely afford it. He even grinds the beans at home. Like it's some kind of virtue.
"It's your sister," he says.
I stiffen. "My sister?"
"What about her?"
"She's been released."
My hands go ice-cold the way they always do when I'm taken by surprise.
This is not a good thing.
"Are you okay?" Angie asks as my fork clatters to the hardwood floor. Maple syrup dots the front of my T-shirt and jeans on the way down.
"But I thought"
"We thought the same thing." Malcolm fits the lid just right onto his mug. Click. He hasn't noticed my hands yet. They're completely numb now and useless. I look down at my food, cut-up whole-grain waffles that I can no longer eat, and sort of jam my arms into my lap. It can take hours to get feeling back, a whole day evensome kind of nerve thing that even the big-shot doctors down at Stanford can't figure out after years of rigorous and invasive testing. I shake my head and try to keep breathing. This is so not what I needed.
Not when I have a full day of classes, including AP physics and digital arts.
Not when I play piano in the school jazz band and we have our winter performance tonight at the civic auditorium in downtown Danville.
Excerpted from Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn. Copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Kuehn. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Griffin. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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