Black Tangled Heart by Samantha Young

Part I

The Past

1

JANE

Thirteen years old

The smog was a pain. Willa sometimes let me go with her when she drove into the city, but it was a bad smog day, which meant we were staying at our apartment in the nice complex in Glendale. I was bored. Willa was too busy with my younger foster siblings to care about my boredom. Flo was eighteen months old and fascinated by sockets and switches. Tarin was three and interested in destroying everything in sight.

His screaming and Flo’s yelling was not fun.

“Can I help?” I asked from the hallway.

Willa waved me away as she lifted Flo up into her high chair. “It’s the summer, kid. Go be with your friends.”

Willa and Nicholas Green were the nicest foster parents I’d had. I’d been with them for over two years, and I hoped I’d get to stay with them until I was eighteen. That was five years away, so I knew I should get used to the constant nerves in my belly, waiting for my social worker to turn up and tell me I was being moved again.

Hoping Willa and Nick would keep me around, I tried to be as helpful as possible.

They were kind of busy with the younger kids, which was why Willa still hadn’t realized I didn’t have any friends. But they didn’t drink, they didn’t cuss at me, and they’d never hit me.

“Are you sure?”

My foster mom shot me a flustered smile. “You’re not hired help, Jane. It’s summer vacation. Go be a kid.”

Nodding, I turned toward the small bedroom at the back of the apartment. Nicholas worked as a production manager for one of the big film studios, which was why we lived in a nice apartment. It was one of the bigger three-bedroom units. The little ones shared a room and I had the smallest room.

Willa and Nick might not give me a lot of their time, but they buy me books and art supplies. Grabbing my sketch pad and a tin of charcoals, I swiped a bottle of water from the refrigerator and stepped outside. It was like walking into a bubble of heat, the air sticking to my skin as I wandered along the balcony. It overlooked the pool, and I saw a few neighbors on loungers while some kids from school splashed around in the water.

Those kids weren’t my friends. I’d never been very good at making friends.

As I passed my neighbors’ apartments, I could hear loud voices coming from the last unit by the staircase. They had interesting accents, like they might be from Boston, and they were shouting to be heard over their music playing.

I noted their door was wide open.

“Lorna, we haven’t finished unpacking. Get up, Lor. I want this finished by dinner. You can park your butt on the couch for the rest of the evening once it’s all done.”

I slowed. She said “park” like “pahk,” which was definitely Bostonian, right?

“I’m bored unpacking,” a girl replied in the same accent. “Can we take a break?”

“But once it’s done, it’s done. Your brother has already unpacked all his stuff.”

They continued to argue while I sat down on the first step and opened my sketch pad. Their conversation became background noise as I sketched my neighbors at the pool.

Like always, I zoned out. Sketching made everything else go away. The loneliness. My fears. The separation I felt from almost everyone else. Drawing was my way to connect, but from a safe distance. I liked the rasp of the charcoal against the vellum, the way it smudged my hands. The freedom of using the smudge to create interesting shadows and curves. It gave life to the kids splashing around in the pool. Movement. Energy. Made me feel as if I were a part of them.

So lost in creating, I didn’t hear her approach until she was sitting down beside me on the step.

“You’re wicked talented.”

I jumped, startled, and a charcoal line scored through my drawing.

“Sorry about that.”

I looked at the girl, who wore an apologetic wince. She had eyes the color of the ocean and short, light brown hair.

“Your drawing.” She pointed to it. “It’s wicked good.”

“It was okay,” I murmured as I tried unsuccessfully to rub out the charcoal line.

“Where did you learn to draw like that?”

I shrugged because, truthfully, I didn’t learn. I just … drew.

“What’s your name?”

“Jane.”

“Jane. I’m Lorna McKenna.” A hand appeared above my sketch.

The small hand had stubby fingernails painted with a bright pink, glittery polish. I smiled and looked up at