Who Will Save Your Sou l: And Other Dangerous Bedtime Stories by Skye Warren

WHO WILL SAVE YOUR SOUL




Skye Warren


Emily’s a pathological liar. When her life is at stake, will anyone believe her?





CHAPTER ONE





Before I tell you what happened, there’s something you should know.

I’m a pathological liar.

That means I lie all the time. I’m not even sure I know the difference between a truth and a lie. Not anymore. What if it’s a small lie to make someone feel better? Or what if it’s a huge lie to keep my family safe? What if I can’t even trust my own thoughts?

There’s a boy outside, trimming the vines with clippers and a ladder.

In this case it’s the word boy that’s the lie. He’s not young. Even from across the lawn I can tell he’s older than me, with broad shoulders and muscles that pile on top of each other.

The word man isn’t right either. He’s nothing like the portly men wearing suits who visit my father for glasses of port and backroom deals. He stands on the second step from the top, long limbs and hard muscles straining to reach the stray leaves, the one that part from the smooth surface of plant, because imperfections aren’t allowed around here.

He’s something else, an alien walking on my own little patch of earth. I’m not really supposed to talk to the gardeners. Not even supposed to notice them, but how could I not see him?

When you lie enough it’s impossible to keep the truth straight. Secrets work their way around me, vines as lush like the kind that climbs the brick wall out back.

Breaking me down inside but holding me together, too.

Which is why I’m watching him from my bedroom, the filmy white bed-curtains hiding me from the door in case anyone comes in. Talking leads to accidental confessions. It leads to lies, which is why I should keep my mouth shut. I should be studying or doing laps in the pool. Mama wouldn’t even be shocked to find me doing drugs, or as she calls them, the things kids have to stay skinny these days.

I can do a lot of things from within these four walls, but I can’t spy on the new gardener. Can’t strain to see the way his forearm shifts and shadows as he works.

And I definitely can’t watch his ass in those jeans.

He snips the last stray leaf from the back wall and climbs down the ladder. I think he’s going to move the ladder to the side wall, but he leaves it there. When he heads back toward the house, the sun lights up the sweat on his forehead, the wide dark stain of it on his shirt. Coming toward me, toward me…

Before I can think I’m tumbling into the hallway, the same one where I did cartwheels in a different life. Down the stairs that I’ve climbed a thousand times. Through the nondescript white door that leads to the back kitchen.

And stop, because it’s empty. There’s no gardener getting a drink of water. Only large stainless steel appliances gleaming spotless even though they’re used every day.

Disappointment rushes to fill the empty space in my chest, a dark well that’s best not examined. I should be relieved that I didn’t see him. Didn’t feel the slickness of his skin.

Didn’t tell him any lies.

The knot in my throat makes it hard to swallow, too much denial and self-loathing to possibly fit in such a small space. I should wash it down with something refreshing, like maybe sparkling water from the Swiss Alps mixed with SkinnyFuse powder, berry banana flavor.

Except when I enter the main kitchens, I’m not alone.

There’s someone already there. The boy. The man.

The something else.

He stands at the larger island, beside imported granite and hand-carved cabinets. There’s a glass in front of him. Crystal. And inside, fresh lemonade. Hand squeezed by Maria in the back kitchens and then carried in a Royal Copenhagen pitcher to the front. What really puts it over the top are the round ice cubes in his glass, because rectangles are so gauche. Everything smoothed and perfect in this room, except for the gardener standing in the middle.

God, he has no idea there’s a back kitchen for the help. And I find I can’t possibly tell him, my lips unable to form those words, any words, as he turns to face me.

Dark eyes widen. “Oh, hey.”

Hey. Like he belongs here. It makes my breath catch. “Hi.”

His hair is dark, spilling haphazard and sun-glossed over his forehead. He has the kind of skin that starts tan and turns a deep golden brown after hours in the sun. There’s a line, across his forearm, where you can see the divide where the gloves go. But even with that glove line his hands are marked by a thousand scratches and cuts, a landscape of physical labor. A million reasons he doesn’t belong here.