Read Hidden Online

Authors: ML Ross

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BOOK: Hidden
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CHAPTER 11

 

 

Amy

 

    Laney
is overwhelming.  She talks fast and loud.  She draws images with her
hands as she talks.  She’s colorful.  Her clothes are bright.
 She wears a lot of makeup and her hair is long with different shades of
browns and reds.

    “So,
I thought we could go into town and visit the salon.  We can grab a coffee
and get our hair and nails done.  Then we can browse the book store.
 Dillon told me you like to read too.  Then I thought we could hit
this cute boutique.  You’ll love it.  Then we can have lunch.”

    “Slow
down Laney.  You’re scaring the shit out of her,” Dillon says over
his bowl of cereal.

    “No,
it’s okay.”  I’m really excited.  This will be my first day out with
a girlfriend.  Ever.

    “Get
a phone while you’re out.”  He lifts his hips from his chair to dig his
wallet out of the back of his pants, I’m not sure exactly why, but I feel a
buzz in my belly watching him.  He passes me a green plastic card.

    “No,
you don’t have to do that.”  I try to hand it back but he glares at me.

    “I
want to. I’ll feel better knowing you have a phone.”

    “Thanks.”
 I don’t argue.

    “Get
whatever you need.  Clothes.  Girl shit.  Whatever.”

    “Thanks
Dillon.”  I fight back the tears starting to surface.  He barely
knows me and he’s done so much for me.  Thank you just doesn’t seem like
enough.

    “Be
careful!” he yells at us as we head for the door.

    “We
will!” Laney yells over her shoulder then giggles while pulling me out the
door.

As we drive away from the
ranch, my stomach tightens, it is like a sick tightening.  My heart is
beating fast and my body starts trembling.  I think I might be having some
of sort of panic attack.  I try to take a few deep breaths to calm my
breathing but it’s not working.

    “Are
you okay?” Laney asks.

   “I think
I’m just a little panicky.”

    “Try
to relax and breathe.  Think about something calming, like soothing sounds
or maybe the horses.  That always works for me.”

    “You
have panic attacks?”  I turn toward her, surprised.

    “I
have.  I had a lot of anxiety as a teenager. I think a lot of people do.
 It’s normal.”

    Normal?
 Nothing I do feels normal, but she acts as if it is.  I already feel
better just talking to her about it, but I continue to breathe and I think
about Dillon.  I think about our day yesterday and how he made me smile
and laugh.  By the time we pull into the parking lot in town, I feel
better. It looks like an old western town.  Rows of little storefronts
line the streets with people scattered all around the sidewalks carrying
shopping bags and ice cream cones as they go in and out of each one.  We
grab a coffee at the cutest little cafe and then Laney suggests we sit outside
and just take in the views around us for a little while.  She’s being
great. She’s patient and gives me time to adjust to my surroundings.  She
tells me she does this all the time.  She told me that she ‘people
watches’.  I thought that sounded so strange, but as we sit there and
watch the people walking by, I understand.  Everyone is so different.
 Each person has a story.  Some people are dressed very fancy,
talking into wireless devices and giving orders.  Some people are wearing
comfortable clothes like they just got done running and they are grabbing a
bite to eat.  There are moms with strollers and couples holding hands.
 I imagine their stories in my head.  I don’t feel too out of place.
To them, I probably just look like a normal girl shopping with her friend.

    After
finishing our coffee, I feel so much more comfortable, but then Laney takes me
into the salon.  My head starts spinning.  I’m overcome with the
noise and people in the small space.  The music is loud.  Phones are
ringing.  People are tapping their fingers on tiny handheld computers.
 Flat TV screens hang from the corners of the rooms with different
programs playing on each.  I hear blow dryers, water running, and the echo
of the tap of high heels on the tile floor.  I want to cover my ears, but
I don’t want to draw attention to myself.  Laney gives me a reassuring
smile and once we’re called to the salon chair, she gives the stylist instructions
while waving her hands over my head.  It’s all happening so fast.  I
watch the stylist grab my long drab hair into his fist and I have to close my
eyes to chase the memory of my mother away.  I start to hear her voice in
my head but I push it away.  I think about Dillon holding me last night
and I let myself sink into the chair and start to relax.

    The
stylist cuts my hair, brushes it with colors, wraps foil around the strands,
and then I sit and wait.  Laney’s still with her stylist getting her hair
done, so I pick up a magazine and browse through the pages.  I don’t know
anything about the people in the magazines, I’ve never had any of the products
and I don’t know anything about fashion.  I start to feel a bit anxious
again, so I set the magazine down until the stylist calls me back to rinse,
blow dry and style.  Once he’s finished, he spins my chair around so I can
face the mirror and my mouth drops open.  I haven’t really looked in the
mirror much.  I never liked what I saw.  I look like a different
person now.  My dull stringy hair is now different shades of blonde and
layered to my shoulders.  It’s soft and silky.  My face even looks
different, not so gaunt and drawn.  I’m pretty sure I’ve gained some
weight since I came to the ranch and I look healthier.  My eyes aren’t so
vacant, they actually look shiny and bright.

    “Amy!
 Oh my God!  You look so different.  You look absolutely
stunning!”  Laney screams and runs over to my chair.

    “Thanks
Laney.  I look so normal,” I say as I look at the stranger in the mirror.
 I move my head side to side, admiring the colors in my hair.  “I
really like it.”

    The
cheerful salon lady with bright red hair and lipstick leads us over to the nail
station next.  We sit side by side and get our nails painted.  Laney
talks nonstop.

    “I
met Caiden at college and when I graduated, we moved in together.  When he
finished medical school, we got married.  He was lucky and was offered a
position right out of school with the hospital where I was already working
part-time as a nurse, and then we got pregnant right away.  Daisy is three
and she’s cute and all but I never get out of the house.  Caiden works a
lot, so I cut my shifts so I can be home with her more.  I go a little
crazy sometimes, ya know?  Being in the house all the time….”  She
slaps her hand over her mouth.  “Oh shit, Amy.  I’m sorry.”

    “It’s
okay.  It’s nice to know other people are a little crazy too.”  I
laugh.  She makes me feel like maybe I’m not so different after all.

    “Well,
anyway.  I’m so glad to have a day out to do girl stuff.”

    “Thanks
for bringing me out.”

    “Dillon
really wanted you to have someone to talk to.  I know you don’t know me,
but he filled me in and I know your mom is sick and you’ve been through some stuff.
 You don’t have to tell me anything, but as a nurse, if you feel like you
need help controlling your moods or you need something to help you sleep, I can
help.  There are even things over-the-counter that are natural that can
help.  Vitamins and things.  You should really consider seeing a
doctor.  Just a regular woman’s doctor.  I can help set that up for
you.  As a friend, I am here for you for anything you need.
 Seriously, Amy.  Any questions you have, I can try to answer.
 Dillon told me you’ve been pretty much isolated your whole life and I
would love to help you experience those things that you’ve missed.  When
you’re ready of course.  You know, the girl stuff.  I know you like
to read and Dillon told me you’ve been borrowing my books.”  She laughs.
 “He asked me what the hell is in those books, but don’t worry.”  She
shushes herself with her finger over her lips.  “I didn’t tell him.
 It’s between us girls, Right?  So, what have you read?  What’s
your favorite?”

    “Um.
 I think I’ve read about five of them already.  I like the ones about
college and stuff since I didn’t get to go.  They’re different than what
I’m used to.  I read a lot of text books and the required reading for high
school, then just recently, I read Pride and Prejudice.”

    “I
love that book!  Those books in my room are really old.  We’ll go to
the bookstore and get you some new ones.  I get all mine electronically
now.”

    “Electronically?”

    “Yeah.
 It’s called an e-reader.  I can download all my books and then read
them on a computer.  I like reading the old fashion way too.  I love
the smell of books.”

    “I
do too.”

    “Your
nails look so pretty.” She says taking my hand after the lady puts the last
coat on.

    “Yours
too.”  I smile as I look at my nails.  It’s amazing how different I
feel.  I feel pretty.  I feel normal.  I feel like there’s hope
for me.

    We
leave the salon and enter a cell phone store.  Laney helps me use the
green plastic card to pay for an iPhone, and then the technician takes it out
of the box and does all of the activation stuff on it for us.  Once he’s
done, he hands it to me.  I have no clue what to do with it.  I put
it in my pocket and then follow Laney out of the store.  We decide to grab
some lunch at a sandwich place and sit outside on their patio so we can ‘people
watch’ some more.   Laney and I both order chopped chicken salads and
iced tea.  The taste of the food is amazing.  So different than what
I’m used to.  I have to remind myself to slow down and have manners.

    “So,
anytime you need girl time, you can call me with your new phone,” she says,
bouncing up and down in her chair.  

    I
guess when you have a three year old, you have to have a lot of energy.

    “Yeah,
after I figure out how to use it.”  I laugh.  Laney talks super-fast
and she talks a lot.  I’m exhausted and way over-stimulated.

    “It’s
super easy.  I’ll show you.  You’ll pick it up fast.  Give me
your phone.”  I dig it out of my pocket and hand it to her.  She
presses a bunch of buttons and swipes her finger across the screen a bunch of
times.  “I programmed my number and Dillon’s.”  She goes through a
quick tutorial of how to turn it on and off and how to make a call.

    “So,
to text, you just click on your contact and press the little icon for text.
 This one.”  She leans over to show me.  “Let’s send one to
Dillon.”  She uses her thumbs to type a message, but before I can see what
she types, she sends it. “There.  When he sends a message back, it will
ding.”  She hands the phone to me just as it dings.

    “What
did he say?” she asks enthusiastically.

    I
look at the message scrolled across my phone.  “It says, I miss you too.”

    “Aaawwww….
That’s so cute.  He has your number now.  I told him it was your new
phone.”

    Oh
no.  She told Dillon I miss him.  Actually, I told Dillon I miss him.
And he misses me back or maybe he felt like he had to say it back.

    “You
can do everything on that phone.  You can go on the internet.  You
can Facebook, FaceTime, tweet, email….”  She’s waving her hands wildly in
the air and then stops.  “You have no idea what I’m talking about do you?”

    “I
know what the internet is.  I had some technology textbooks.  They
were a little over my head so I don’t know much but…”  I shrug.
 “It’s okay.”  Who is going to send me email anyway?

    After
we finish our lunch, we roam around an old warehouse that has been converted
into a bookstore.  I feel like I’m in heaven.  I’ve never seen so
many books in my life.  It’s quiet in the bookstore, so I feel a bit more
relaxed.  Dark, wooden bookshelves line the deep red walls and are stocked
with old tattered books as well as new ones from floor to ceiling.  There
are comfy leather couches and chairs grouped throughout the store.  The
floors are wooden and creaky.  I love the smell, a bit musty with a tinge
of forest.  Laney drags me over to the romance section and starts pulling
out a bunch of books.

    “Try
this one!” she exclaims, thrusting a book into my hands.  Another
shirtless couple on the front. “You’ll love it.  Promise!”

    “Laney,
you don’t have to buy me any books.  I can’t pay you back.”

    “Oh
stop!  I want to.  This is fun.  We should read the same book.
 Have our own little book club,” she says, bouncing on her toes with her
hands clapping rapidly in front of her face.  She grabs the same book she
handed me and we head to the checkout line.

    Laney
pays for the books and we continue down the strip to a cute boutique decorated
in all pink and black.  It’s full of colorful, expensive clothes.  We
browse for a while and then I see her walking towards me with her arms full of
clothes.

    “You
have to try these on!”

    “No,
that’s okay.”

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