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Home > The Secret of Ella and Micha (The Secret #1)(11)

The Secret of Ella and Micha (The Secret #1)(11)
Author: Jessica Sorensen

"That's what he does." I open the window letting in the gentle breeze. Loose pieces of my hair dance around the frame of my face. "Oh, no."

Lila stretches her arms above her head. "What's wrong?"

I reluctantly look at her. "I think someone might have confused your car for a canvas."

She jumps out of bed and elbows me out of the way to get a look at the damage done to her beautiful, nearly brand new Mercedes. "My poor baby!"

I pull a skirt and a pink tank top out of my duffel bag. "Get dressed and we'll go check out the damage."

She pouts, looking like she might cry. "I can't drive it home like that. My parents will kill me."

"I know plenty of people who can fix it for you," I say, opening the door. "Or I use to, but I'm sure it's all the same."

She nods and I go to the downstairs bathroom to change, avoiding the upstairs one. I turn on the shower so the mirror will fog up and hide my reflection. I comb my hair until it flips up at the ends naturally. Then I apply a light shade of lip gloss and head out the door, but run into my dad on the stairway.

"When did you get here?" His breath smells like gin and his eyes are red. His cheeks have sunken in over the last eight months and his skin is wrinkled like leather with sores. He's in his late forties, but looks like he's pushing sixty.

"Last night," I tell him, taking his arm and helping him up the stairs. "I was in bed before you got home."

He offers me a pat on the back. "Well, I'm glad to have you home."

"I'm glad to be home," I lie with a smile as we reach the top of the stairs.

He moves his arm away from my hand and rubs the back of his neck. "Do you need anything? Like help carrying in your boxes?"

"I think I can handle it on my own, but thanks." I decline, sticking my arm out as he teeters toward the stairs.

He nods and his eyes drift to the bathroom down the hall. He's probably thinking about how much I look like her. It hurts his eyes, at least that's what he told me the night I went to the bridge.

"I guess I'll talk to you later then. Maybe we could go to dinner or something?" He doesn't leave me time to answer as he zigzags down the hall to his room, slamming the door shut behind him.

My dad started drinking when I was about six, a few months after my mom got diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. His drinking habit wasn't that bad back then. He would spend a few nights at the bar and sometimes on the weekends, but after my mom died, beer and vodka took over both our lives.

When I return to my room, Lila is dressed in a yellow sundress, with her blonde hair curled up and there is a pair of overly large sunglasses concealing her eyes.

"I feel like crap," she declares, putting her hands on her hips.

"This place has that effect on most people." I grab my phone, noting the flashing voicemail as I slip on my flip flops.

We go outside, leaving the smoky air behind and step into the bright sunlight, surrounded by the scenery of rundown homes and apartments. The neighborhood is filled with motorcycle engines revving and far in the distance are the sounds of a lovers' quarrel and Micha is nowhere to be seen.

A long time ago, it felt like home, back when street racing and running wild felt natural, but now I just feel lost.

Lila starts biting at her fingernails as she gapes confoundedly at her car. "It looks worse up close."

I circle her car with my arms folded, assessing the damage. It looks like a fruit basket, only instead of being filled with fruit it's crammed with innuendos and colorful words. I'm on the verge of laughing for some reason. "They got you good."

She shakes her head. "This isn't funny. Do you know how much it's going to cost to fix this?"

Lila's dad is a big shot lawyer over in California. Her parents are always sending her things like clothes, money, cars. She has never worked a day in her life and gave me a hard time for my waitressing job at Applebee's, begging me to take time off to go to parties.

"So what do we do?" She chips at some green paint on the headlight with her fingernail.

I point up the street. "There's an auto body shop not too far from here."

She glances down the road, which is covered in potholes and lined with filthy gutters. "But this is a Mercedes."

"I'm sure painting a car, no matter who the maker is, is all the same."

"But what if they do something to it?"

"Like spray paint it again after they paint it?" I say sarcastically and she scowls. "Sorry. We'll find someone, okay? We can take it to someplace in Alpine. It's a little nicer over there."

"I can't drive it when it looks like this," she complains, motioning at the car. "It's hideous."

"I'll drive it, then," I offer my hand out for her to give me the keys.

"Are you joking?" She pats the hood of her car. "This is my baby. No one drives it but me. You know that."

"I think your baby is in serious need of some plastic surgery." Micha strides off the porch of his house and onto the driveway. He's changed into black jeans, a fitted grey t-shirt, and his blonde hair hangs in his eyes. Using his long legs, he jumps over the chain-linked fence between our yards. "I know the perfect place to get it fixed and it's here in town, so you won't have to drive it so far." He gives Lila a wink. "I'm Micha, by the way."

"Hi, I'm Ella's roommate or old roommate anyway," she says with a warm smile and slides her sunglasses down the brim of her nose. "We're not sure if we're sharing a dorm room next semester."

He presents her with his player grin. "Sharing a room with Ella? That had to be tough." He shoots me a mischievous look, trying to get a rise out of me.

She laughs and returns her glasses over her eyes. "No, she's a pretty great roommate, actually. She cleans and cooks and everything. It's like having my own house maid."

"Ella was always good at that stuff," he agrees, knowing the real reason why. Even before my mom died, she was never good at taking care of the house. I had to learn how to take care of myself at a very young age, otherwise I'd have starved and rotted away in a rat-infested house. "So do you want me to take your car to that shop I was talking about? Like I said, it's really close."

"Yeah, that sounds great." She shuffles her sandals against the concrete. "I'd rather go someplace close."

I mentally roll my eyes. Leave it to Micha. He can get any woman to contradict herself if he wants to.

He swings his arm around my shoulder and kisses me on the forehead. "But I have to take pretty girl over here to see an old friend first."

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