Secrets That Lie Beyond the Front Door

Chapter One

“Looks can be deceiving.”

I wipe my eyes as I close the door behind me. Walking down this uneven dirt road brings back memories of when she used to skip down a sunny road with the cherubic face of a child wedged in her arms. As I keep walking towards the yellow school bus, I think about the time when I refused to go on the bus without my mother right by my side. As I walk on the bus, the whispering automatically stops. I hear kids making fun of my clothing. The hand-me-downs I wear still smell of her perfume, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle. So many years later and these are the kind of memories that still haunt me. I don’t dare say a word to the “popular kids,” so I won’t end up on the floor of the schoolyard. Not that it would be any different from the floor in my bedroom.

It all started ten years ago, on Friday the thirteenth, the afternoon my mother died. I was eight years old when I heard the gunshots that caused my mother to lay on her deathbed. My “dad” wouldn’t even speak to me for the next week. When I asked him where to put all of mom’s clothes, he threw the glass he was drinking from at the wall nearest to my head. Even to this day, if I say the name Dana, he flinches.

This morning, I was sitting on the white plush chair in my room asking my dad if I could wear mom’s dress for my eighteenth birthday. He slid the chair from under me which made me land on the somewhat fluffy rug. The next thing I knew, I had a black and blue mark on my forehead when I heard the school bus halt to a stop.

Eventually, lunchtime came, and I texted Syd and told her to come to the library (our daily meeting spot). I opened my pale purple JanSport backpack and took out my book. As I was opening to page 134, Syd walked in saying, “How surprising, Laila has her head stuck in a book.”

“Shhhhh. I am in the middle of someone getting saved from drowning.”

I took out my PB&J from my sparkly purple, black, and blue lunch bag. As she sat down, she pulled out a white and blue striped box saying happy birthday in pink letters.

“Thanks,” I said, as I pushed the gift box to the side to make more room for my book.

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

“In a second. The girl just got saved by her prince charming (cliche), but she is still unconscious.”

“Still waiting.”


As I was opening the gift, I saw black and rose gold pieces of clothing peek out of the box. First, I took out two rose gold rompers with the shoulders cut out. Then, I took out a black dress with a halter at the top.

”I wanted to ask you what happened to your forehead.”

“Oh, that. Um, I was hit with a softball… ”

“You don’t even play softball.”

“You know… um… the bus gets crazy sometimes.”

Okayyy. Anyways, I wanted to take you to a movie for your birthday.”

“Sure. What time?”

“Five sharp. I’ll meet you outside the AMC on 109th street. Okay?”

“See you then.”

The bell rings…

In break, on the phone.

“Hey, Dad. I’m going to study in the library after school.”

“You need to be home by eight and no later, or you’re going to regret it.”

“K. Bye.”

Hangs up the phone…

I’m not going to get caught. It’s fine. I’m totally fine.

After school…

“Hey. Do you want to eat something quick before the movie?”

“Sure. We have a lot of time on our hands.”

“What? Why?”

“I forgot to buy the second ticket. Then, the tickets sold out. So… now we are going at 7:30 instead of 6.”

“Okay. I don’t think that’s a problem.”

A few hours later…

“So what movie are we going to see”

“It’s called, Life Is Like Riding a Bike on Fire.

“What is it about?”

“It’s about this girl that has this crush, and he doesn’t treat her right, so she breaks up with him. Kind of a cliche, but I heard it’s good. Let’s go in. It’s going to start any minute.”

Entering the room…

“Oh my gosh. WHO IS THAT.”


“The guy next to my seat.”

“Oh. That’s Michael from our school. He’s in our grade. He’s just not in any of our classes. He’s one of my brother’s best friends. He’s like a brother to me.”

We sit down…

“Hey, I’m Laila.”

“I’m Michael. I’ve seen you around school.”

“So… did you come here with anyone.”

“No. My friends ditched me. Hey, Squid.”

“Haha. Very funny, Michelle.”

I almost forgot that Syd was next to me. It was like it was just me and him in this moment.

“Ahem. Look I know you guys are vibing, but I’m here too.”

I didn’t even hear Syd. I was just focused on his perfectly shaped, tan face. His deep blue eyes pierced into my skull. Is it bad that I was just staring at his lips. Oh my gosh. I totally forgot I was supposed to be at home right now. Have you ever felt like your heart was melting all because of someone’s gaze.

“I could kiss him right now.”

Oh my gosh. I said that out loud to his face. I just got to keep my cool. I can tell he likes confidence. All he did was smirk. He knew I said that by accident.

“I have to go now. Maybe I’ll see you later.”

I was liking this new confidence of mine. Maybe a new wardrobe would suit this new attitude. After all, I did have enough money from the job I worked at in the mall.

“Come on, Syd. Let’s go.”

I gave Michael a shy smile to go.

“Hey. I need to tell you something,” said Syd.


“Please stop crushing on Michael. He’ll just break your heart, and he’s like a brother to me, so it’s really weird. K?

“I’ll try.”

“Is that a promise.”


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