Kayla Hicks' Secrets They Never Told: A Sneak Peek
Here is a sneak peek of my latest book Secrets They Never Told
I could feel the anticipation brewing inside of me as we drove down the deserted road. The scattered trees zipping by on the rolling green landscape made me feel as if I were running on a treadmill. Everything repeating itself.
Everything finally made sense, neatly fitting into place, as if I had assembled this huge puzzle that was my life.
This quote from my AP literacy class kept running through my head by Bonnie Arbon.
‘You are a piece of the puzzle of someone else’s life. You may never know where you fit, but others will fill holes in their lives with pieces of you.’
I had never had anything describe what I was feeling now more than that quote.
“It will be all right. Once you can sit down and talk to her everything can be sorted out,” Parker said.
I looked up at the ceiling of this beat-up station wagon. The huge hunk of metal that my dad had driven around swearing it was as safe as a tank. I could see the metal tacks holding up the fabric to the ceiling as some of the loose fabric between them billowed in the breeze. I remembered how he kept popping them into the roof muttering that it was only cosmetic. I wished more than anything he would be here now to explain this all to me.
“I know.” I blew out a long pent-up breath. “I just…”
A searing pain slashed my arm as the wind whirled around me, my flying hair obscuring my view. Before I had time to process what was happening, I was flying through the air weightless and confused. When I touched the ground, I slid across the gravel-covered pavement on my left shoulder.
I gasped for air over and over attempting to pull something into my lungs. My whole body screamed in pain as my brain tried to put together what had just happened.
Parker! Where was he?
I tried to sit up and felt dizzy as my head started to throb.
My vision was too fuzzy to focus on anything. I just needed to lie down for a moment and wait for help.
I closed my eyes feeling myself slowly drift off.
My feet pounded the hot pavement to the rhythm of Frozen by State Champs. Sweat dripped off me as I ran in the nearly ninety-degree weather attempting to drown out my anxiety for my pendulum of a future.
Turning the corner, I saw our baby blue mailbox come into view. The further I ran down the sidewalk the better I could see the postman’s large boxy vehicle driving away from the curb, the smiling monkey sticker still stuck to the bumper.
In anticipation to find out my fate, I sped up. However, my anxiety crawled right back into place as I thought about the potential letters that were taunting me from a distance.
Reaching the mailbox, I leaned a hand on the warm material. My breathing now came in deep heaves as I tried to catch my breath in the humid air.
I can do this.
Opening the small door with a rust squeak, I was greeted by the sight of the last college response waiting on top of the stack of mail, the university crest neatly pressed on the corner. It was the crest of Princeton University’s ink clear as day.
Standing in front of the mailbox, I had a silent showdown with it as if doing so would will it to say ‘Yes, you’re accepted.’
Footsteps approached from behind me as some gravel kicked around from the direction of the street.
“Running again?” Parker asked.
Taking deep breaths, I nodded. “Trying to.”
“Do you need me to open it?” he asked, gesturing towards the mail stack.
I turned and cocked an eyebrow at my best friend Parker. “I am just catching my breath is all. I am going to open it.”
Parker leaned forward, quickly snatching the mail from inside and out of my reach. I swatted his arm as he easily avoided my flailing arms, and walked towards my house, holding my mail hostage.
I sighed, closed the mailbox with a light click, and followed behind him.
Parker had been my best friend since middle school when I had moved here with my parents. He only lived two houses down the street and wandered over one day saying that there were enough kids at his house and not enough at mine. Since then, we had spent every day together, which made opening all these letters to colleges that much harder. It just made me even more aware that we were just on the cusp of a new life. Truthfully, I was not ready to lose my best friend, as he had decided to go to Virginia State University.
“Parker, I can open it,” I grumbled.
He turned and leaned against the door jam, dangling the Princeton letter in front of me. It did not help he was dressed in my favorite blue t-shirt, his hair was absolutely perfect, as if he had just stepped out of a magazine. Parker oozed the term ‘don’t sweat it.’
“Fine, but I am going to stand here until you open it. I am not going to let you stew over what is inside of there.”
I rolled my eyes, grabbing the letter, and pushing the front door open, allowing a wave of cool air to roll over me from inside.
Parker walked over to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water for both of us and sat at the kitchen table.
I grabbed my water, stalling with a long sip.
Parker snatched the letter from my hand, tearing the envelope open in one swift movement. It was as if I was watching it in slow motion as I watched a single sheet of crisp white paper unfold in Parker’s hands.
I instantly felt my stomach drop to the floor along with any remaining self-esteem at the familiar sight. This had been the same sad song for all the other eleven rejections that had arrived.
“Sadi, I am sorry. You didn’t get in.”
My feet felt glued to the 80s floral print laminate flooring.
Hot tears brimmed on the edge ready to spill over.
This is not where I wanted this to happen. I wanted to sob, cry, kick, and scream alone. No one needed to see any of that.
“Can I see it?” I managed.
He handed me the letter watching me cautiously.
We regret to inform you that we cannot accept you to Princeton University as your application lacked many of the requirements needed to fulfill extra-curricular activities.
Best regards on your journey,
Office of Admissions.
Unfortunately, this was the common denominator amongst every rejection letter I had received. I had been so buried in my own sorrow and shaken circumstances that I had buried myself in tough work. I had focused my energy on AP Classes and working a part-time job to fill the time that I’d forgotten to do any extracurricular activities.
That was what colleges really wanted. Someone who could do it all without breaking a sweat. And unfortunately, I did not fit that description.
A year ago, last month, both of my parents had been in a car crash changing my life and me forever. Every rejection letter I received felt like one more failure to their memory. To a promise that I could not keep no matter how hard I tried.
My parents sat down and helped me map out every college that would fit my dream of becoming an architect. Dad had always wanted me to go to an Ivy League school to get the education he never could, his catchphrase had started becoming ‘you’re going to do great things.’
When was that going to start happening? I thought.
What would he say if he knew I had gotten rejected from every college to which I had applied? The comprehensive list we had picked together.
I threw the terrible news into the trash hoping it would help me feel better to no avail.
Parker came over, wrapping his arms around me for support.
“I’m all sweaty,” I protested.
“And pale, please do yourself a favor this summer and get some sun. It’s hot outside, who cares.”
I laughed as the tears spilled over. “Not everyone is outside working on their tan line like you.”
“Excuse me, I play football which means I have to spend a lot of time outside. Go get a shower and I will order some pizza. My treat,” he said.
I nodded and walked upstairs.
As my fingers slowly worked the soap into my hair, the only thing that was running through my head was, what was I going to do now?
Without any other close living relatives, my parents had listed my Aunt Hayley as my legal guardian. This would not have been a problem except for the fact that she was a stranger.
When the attorney read my parent’s will, he said my parents wished me to be under the guardianship of my Aunt Hayley.
Having only met her a handful of times, I knew truly little about the woman. I knew that she worked long shifts as a nurse and that she was not awfully close with anyone. After I was added to her guardianship, she worked doubles with another mouth to feed, however, I got the feeling she was simply avoiding having to connect with me.
I stepped out of the shower and dressed in a pink t-shirt and tan shorts. When I got downstairs, the growl that erupted from my stomach could have been heard for miles.
“Don’t worry your pretty, little head. The pizza is five minutes out. Now what is the plan for tonight? My treat”, Parker said.
I plopped down on the couch next to him and laid my head on his shoulder. “Eh, I’m not sure I’m up for anything.”
He opened his mouth to say something, but the doorbell caused him to pause.
To only make matters worse in the scheme of life changes, I had a major crush on my best friend. A crush on the person who was about to move onto a larger pool of girls who would instantly eat up Parker’s charm.
I had always thought of him as just my best friend until the first dance in ninth grade. All the boys were asking girls to go, and I had hoped somebody would ask me, but I was still new to these people. People who had been together since kindergarten.
Parker had asked me if I was going to go so we could dance the cotton-eyed joe song together and I pathetically admitted I did not have a date. Without a second thought, Parker asked me to the dance and then proceeded to tell anyone who would listen that we were going together.
The energy Parker brought with him, combined with his personality completely took me by surprise.
There are people from all colors of the emotional rainbow. I hope more than anything that people would think of me as a good person or at least think of me kindly. But then there’s Parker, the staple of the emotional rainbow. He is one of the people who strive to be the good in the world, or as I like to think, the sun that shines on everyone.
It’s my belief that these people have experienced true hardship. People who strive to make other people’s days brighter because they themselves know what a truly terrible day feels like.
Parker was the kind of person who made you feel as if you were the most important person in the world. The kind of person who grabbed you a gift just because it might bring a smile to your face.
Being the football team quarterback, otherwise known as the top of the popularity monarchy, meant he was the most sought-after guy in school. Yet I managed to snag him as my best friend.
Parker and I had the same group of friends before my parents passed away.
When my parents died, it felt as if a piece of me died, or the previous version of me, I am not sure. As a result, I retreated into myself and became more reserved as I attempted to cope with living with a total stranger, my Aunt Hayley.
It is interesting to see how people react to tragedy. It was not as if I’d expected my peers to understand what I was going through because it’s hard to fully understand what someone else is going through when you haven’t been there yourself.
At first, it was sympathetic and heartfelt tributes to who my parents were and then it was trying to include me in typical teenager activities. But when all they could see was this shattered version of me, it slowly became a situation they did not know how to handle.
While everyone else distanced themselves from the new shattered version of Sadi, Parker had stayed.
What we had was one of those typical movie romantic-comedy plots where one best friend loves the other but never acts on it. At the risk of losing the last person I had, I buried my feelings as deep as they could go.
He closed the door and held the pizza out with one hand.
“Pizza is served, my lady!”
I stood and followed him to the kitchen table.
“When is your aunt going to be home?”
“Not sure. Lately, she has not been home until after I’ve gone to bed. I feel like she is avoiding me.”
“I don’t know her all that well but maybe she doesn’t know how to talk to you about all this college stuff since it was something you did with your parents.”
I took a bite and thought about what he said.
“You know what? I do want to do something tonight. What options do we have?” I asked.
He pulled out his phone and started scrolling. “I think Tiffany is having a summer party at her house.”
I scrunched my nose but immediately tried to compose my poker face. It was not fair to make Parker stay away from everyone else. He had already given up so much to allow me to feel comfortable in social situations.
“Eh, it is probably lame anyway. How about we go to the drive-in theater?” he suggested.
I felt my face flush at the realization he had seen my reaction.
“If you want to go to that party we can go,” I tried to offer nonchalantly.
He scrolled through his phone again. “Maybe another time then, I see that Zombieland is playing so we need to go.”
This was why we were best friends, and I was not about to give that up. Especially because of a crush.
I hope you enjoyed the sneak peek of my newest book Secrets They Never Told, releasing in June.
There is still time to get your ARC copy!