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Authors: Mary G. Thompson

Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee

BOOK: Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee
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G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

Copyright © 2016 by Mary G. Thompson.
Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

G. P. Putnam's Sons is a registered trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Thompson, Mary G. (Mary Gloria), 1978– author.

Title: Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee / Mary G. Thompson.

Description: New York, NY : G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2016.

Summary: “Amy and her cousin Dee were kidnapped six years ago,

and when Amy finds her way home, she's desperate to

protect the ones she loves at any cost”—Provided by publisher.

Identifiers: LCCN 2016008732 | ISBN 9781101996805 (hardback)

Subjects: | CYAC: Kidnapping—Fiction. | Secrets—Fiction.

| Guilt—Fiction. | Cousins—Fiction. | Friendship—Fiction.

Classification: LCC PZ7.T37169 Am 2016 | DDC [Fic]—dc23

LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016008732

eBook ISBN: 9781101996829

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product ofthe author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Cover image: Clayton Bastiani/Trevillion Images

Cover design: Irene Vandervoort

Version_1

For Linda
Heurgué

I AM THE LAST ONE
off the bus. It was only half full to begin with, of shaggy-looking young men and older ladies and one mother with two rowdy kids. The mother is the last to go before me. She yells at the older boy in Spanish and then turns around and rolls her eyes at me. I smile back without even thinking about it, sharing a moment with this woman who I've never seen before, sharing something just because we're women. Because she saw something kindred in me. My smile fades, and the kids race away from their mother toward the gas station/convenience store that serves as a bus stop in this tiny town.

I watch the drizzling rain roll down my window. This is it. I've been on the bus for hours, and I haven't had a chance to pee, and I'm starving. And if I don't get off in the next ten minutes, the bus will start going again, and it will take me away from Grey Wood, Oregon, and on to the next town. And
maybe that's where I should go, anywhere but here. Anywhere but Amy's home.

“Isn't this your stop?” says the bus driver, a burly man with a gut spilling over his eighties jeans. He wears big plastic glasses and smells like cigarettes even from back where I am, in the middle.

“Yeah,” I say.

He stands, raises his arms, and stretches, making a yowling sound like you make when you've just woken up. “Wish we'd finally get some sun,” he says. “It's frickin' June, right?”

I don't answer. I stand up and grab my cloth Safeway shopping bag, which contains everything I own in this world.
Come on, Chelsea,
I think.
Move.
If I stay on the bus, where will I end up? How will I live? I have no money and no identification, and I'm only sixteen years old. There's no way I could pass for older, with my mismatched old clothes and the haircut I did myself.

An old lady climbs back on the bus. The driver has to sit down in his seat to let her pass, and I know I can't wait any longer. I walk straight, past the driver, and down the steps.

“Good luck,” he says from behind me.

“Thanks,” I say. I'm shivering, and not because I'm suddenly being pelted with good old-fashioned Oregon drizzle. I walk toward the convenience store. I remember this as a 7-Eleven, but now it's something else, a “Publik Mart.” Amy used to come here to buy candy on the days when she went with her mom to work. As I look past the store, I can see the cross street where the post office was, where Mom worked. I wonder if she still works there, if she's there right now. But
today is Sunday, so no, she wouldn't be there. She'd be at home. Assuming home is in the same place.

“Getting back on?” a voice says.

I jump. It's the lady with the two kids, who are already running up the bus stairs.

“No,” I say. “This is my stop.”

“Ah, happy landings, then.” She smiles at me.

“Safe travels.” I try to smile back, but I'm not used to talking to people, and I'm afraid it looks more like a grimace.


Gracias.
” She gets on the bus.

I take a few steps away, and I watch as the doors close and the bus turns on and exhaust spits out the back. The bus driver waves at me, and then the bus huffs and puffs and pulls out of the parking lot. I'm standing here, right where Amy used to stand, and there's no going on or going back.

THE JACKET THAT I'M WEARING
isn't mine. It's too big, and I'm drowning in it as I trudge down the sidewalkless side of River Road. It probably makes me look even younger than my homemade haircut. Also, it's pink, because pink is Stacie's color. Purple is my color, and that's why I'm wearing a purple T-shirt, and my jeans have little purple patches on the pockets. My shoes are a dark red, because I guess Kyle couldn't find any purple shoes at Walmart or wherever he went the last time he bought us clothes. That bothered me at first, but I've been wearing them a while now. Maybe red is kind of my color, too. Is it okay to have more than one color? Amy had lots of colors, I remember. Amy used to go down to the river, right there where I'm passing, and she used to wear khaki shorts, just like her dad's shorts, and she loved blue. Blue shirt and khaki shorts and white sneakers. That's what she was wearing that last day, when she and Dee went to wade in the river.

Did I just happen to walk by here, or did I come here on purpose? This is the way home, so I must have known it was coming. There's a little path from the street down to the creek, and there are people down there. I can see them through the trees, which are so thin. I don't remember them being thin. I remember them being large and green and hiding us when we wanted to pretend we were in another world, a world with just us and the ducks and the crawdads. And aliens. I dreamed up aliens that landed on that rock in the middle of the water. Without letting myself think about it, I walk down the little path. I stand at the end of it, watching the man and the boy on the left who are trying to fish, even though my dad used to say this spot was terrible for fishing. There are also two girls feeding the ducks to the right.

I stare at the rock, and my hand goes into my Safeway bag, and I pull out the doll. She has blond hair, and she's wearing a pink skirt and a pink shirt. She's gotten beat up over the years, so there are scratches on her face, and her hair sticks out from her head at a weird angle. But she still has her blue eyes, larger than life, staring at me. I hold her against my chest, feel her hard plastic press into my breastbone.

I remember Amy and Dee sitting on that rock together. It was a struggle to fit them both, but they did it. Whenever there was only room for one, whatever it was, they always made it work for two.

One of the girls sees me. She holds out a piece of bread. “Want to feed the ducks?” she asks. And as she looks straight at me, I see that she has big blue eyes. My chest seizes, and
I shove the doll back into the bag and push it down beneath the clothes.

“No. Thanks anyway,” I say. I turn and push my way back down the path. I'm not looking where I'm going, and I get scraped by a big blackberry vine. As I make it back to the street, a car whizzes past, and I almost scream. I'm not used to nearly stepping into cars. Because nobody used to come where we lived. There didn't used to be anyone but us.

Always
us
, never me. I'm not supposed to be here without her, anywhere without her. But I can't stay here on the edge of the street, so close to the river, with nothing but my Safeway bag. I can't stay, so I keep moving.

I run my hand through my hair, which is getting soggy with the drizzle, and adjust the bag on my shoulder. I keep as far to the left of the road as possible and walk in the mud of the shoulder, listening to the creek flow beside me. It's weird walking down here, because we used to always ride our bikes. So it feels like it takes forever to get to the turn in the road, where it curves away from the creek and heads to the right, and then it seems to take even longer, like hours and hours, to walk two more blocks, to where River Road crosses with Oak Street. But once I turn the corner onto Oak, it takes no time at all. I'm in the driveway, and it has the same mailbox, the one shaped like a tiny house, and it's tilted a little on its post just like it always was, and it has the name across the bottom in carved wooden letters: MacArthur. Amy drew little toenails on the
A
's feet, and the outlines of them are still there.

There's a car in the driveway, but I don't recognize it. It isn't new, just different. It's white like our old one, but it's smaller. Like it wasn't meant for a family of two parents and two kids.
Maybe they're not here,
I think. But if they moved away, why would the mailbox still say MacArthur? I stand in the driveway, staring at the house. It's painted light blue, a fading blue that hasn't been redone in a while. I don't remember it looking that shabby before, but I can't be sure what I remember. It seems smaller to me now, too. I picture the insides, the living room, the hallway with all the bedrooms: first Jay's, then Amy's, then Mom and Dad's. I picture the cream-colored carpet that Mom just put in, that she was so excited about. That she saved up for. That she argued with Dad about over the cost. Only she didn't just put it in, did she? She might have changed it again by now, and inside, the house might not be anything like I remember.

The living room curtains flutter, and a face peers out.

My heart leaps. Suddenly it's beating fast, a million times a minute. Sweat soaks my T-shirt. Is it her? I can't tell if it's her from here. I have to move closer.
I could still run away
, I think. I could get on another bus. Except that I have six dollars left, and six dollars won't buy me dinner. My stomach twists, and I'm glad I haven't eaten all day, because I don't know if I could hold it in. I walk forward, and the face leaves the window, and it's as if the driveway is a magic portal, because suddenly I'm standing in front of the door, and I hold up my fist as if I'm going to knock, but I don't. I stand there with my fist in the air and my stomach twisting into knots.

The door opens, and she's standing there. She's cut her hair, too, and it's part gray now. But it's her. She has dark brown eyes, just like mine.

“Yes?” she says.

I open my mouth, but nothing comes out.

She stares at me. She folds her hand around the doorknob, as if she's about to close it.

“Mom,” I choke out, “it's me. It's . . .” Her name is on the tip of my tongue, but I can't say it. It's like the name has been erased from the world, like it's gone.

She stares at me, and her hand leaves the doorknob. Both her hands hang in the air. Her fingers twitch as if she's grabbing on to something that isn't there.

“It's . . .” I choke on the name. It won't come out.

“Amy,” Mom says. “Amy. Amy! Amy! Amy!” She grabs me, pulls me into a hug, hangs on to my back. “Amy! Amy! Amy! Amy!” She can't stop saying it. She's sobbing. She holds on to me. She's squeezing me so hard that I can't breathe, but there's nothing I can do about it. My arms are around her back, too, but I don't squeeze; I let them lie there. I can feel the bones of her back beneath my fingers. The bones of my mother's back.

“Amy, Amy, Amy,” she sobs.

“Mom,” I say. Because that's one name that's easy. That's one name that was never gone.

BOOK: Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee
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