I was the first one into the mirrored room at Peak Academy of
Dance. We call it PAD. I put my stuff in the corner and started
stretching. The last couple of days Mom had spent a lot of time on the
phone, I guess with Sam. I had no idea where he had gone. Leigh
stayed away from Bryce and me. It was all so mysterious.
Only Dylan was normal. When he gets a scratch anywhere on his
body, he puts Band-Aids over it. Today he put three on his right arm,
four on his left, one on his forehead, and even one in his hair. It was
the first time I'd seen Mom smile in days.
Mom told Bryce that Sam would be back by Saturday, but Bryce
didn't seem to care. The two of us hadn't talked much about Sam's
confession, but I'd written several pages in my journal.
What do you do when you find out your stepdad is the reason you're
miserable? What do you do when the man your mother chose to marry
says he's responsible for the death of the father you loved?
Bryce and I had moved to Colorado from Illinois with our mom
and little brother. Our real dad had died in a plane crash-the news
said it was terrorists, but now .
A year later Mom met Sam at a memorial service for the victims.
Sam's wife and daughter were killed in the same crash. Mom and
Sam fell in love and were married.
Sam adopted us and we took his last name. A year after that, Mom
got religious on us. We thought it would pass, but it didn't, and soon
Bryce and I both became Christians.
Sometimes when things like this are going on, I walk through life
in a daze. Dancing helps me focus. It's kind of like my mom's writing,
I guess. I get into another world. The music and the movement
take over, and for an hour I go someplace else in my mind.
I didn't want the hour to end. When it did, Mrs. Gunderson came
in. She's the head of the academy. She had us all sit down and explained
that this would be the last week for candle sales for PAD.
"You know how important this is," she said with a smile, "so I'm
expecting big results. And the one who sells the most will win these."
She produced a pair of ballet shoes like the professionals wear.
I looked at my own ratty shoes and my heart sank. I had sold only
one candle, and that was to Mom. The girls around me squealed and
whispered how many each had sold, which made me even more depressed.
While we packed up our stuff, parents peeked in the window,
whispering to each other, then escorted their kids outside. Weird.
As I walked through the lobby past the front desk, I found the door
"We'd like you to wait inside for your mother, Ashley," Mrs.
"But I always meet her in the parking lot."
"Tonight's different, dear."
I got a drink of water and noticed one of the dance teachers
guarding the back door.
"What's going on?" I said to my friend Hayley.
She shrugged as she changed into her tennis shoes. "Place is on
lockdown. Maybe somebody stole something."
"They'd be going through our stuff if that happened," I said.
"There's your mom."
Mrs. Henderson rushed in and hugged Hayley, something I had
never seen her do. People whispered everywhere, and I was relieved
when Mom pulled into the parking lot and hurried in.
"What's wrong?" I said as we headed out.
"Something terrible, Ashley."