Hidden Lies - Lydia Reeves Page 0,1

her gaze had evaporated. “No. You’re already enrolled. But read the brochure anyway.”

She had stalked out of the room at that point, and I’d heard her car leaving the drive a moment later. She hadn’t bid me farewell, hadn’t asked what I had planned for the day, hadn’t kissed me on the cheek or even smiled. But that had been nothing new. My aunt never offered affection, and I wouldn’t have accepted it if she had. After all, only seven months earlier she’d been a stranger to me, a woman I’d met only twice in my entire life. She was still a stranger, really. She just happened to now also be my guardian.

Only for two more months.

The thought kept me going. In just a few months I would be eighteen, and I would be free to drop out of this godforsaken prep school, and then nothing could stop me from going back home to California. Well, I didn’t exactly have a home there anymore, but I sure as hell didn’t have one anywhere else. At least there I had options, in the form of the empty booth at Masterworks Ink, the tattoo studio my mom had co-owned and where I’d practically been raised. Ian—the other owner and essentially my uncle—would take me in. He had to.

I sighed, slouching down in the cramped airplane seat.

Maybe it was the fact that I’d already decided I wasn’t staying at the school, or maybe it was the fact that I was already on the plane and out of time, but rather than shove the booklet back into my bag I found myself flipping open the cover.

The first page revealed a group of smiling teenagers, all white teeth and glowing skin.

Welcome to Maine! At Lost Lake Academy, the inset text proclaimed, we appreciate you for who you are and all you can achieve.

I snorted but turned the page. More photographs. Artfully posed small groups, a pristine lecture hall, an athlete racing toward a finish line.

I skimmed the text. Strong relationships between faculty and students lead to exceptional learning…empower you to become a person of great accomplishment and character…guide our students to become the leaders they are meant to be…blah blah blah.

Yikes. It was even worse than I’d expected.

I flipped further. It was chock-full of buzzwords—prestigious, exceptional, proactive, empowering. There were sections on academics, athletics, and student life. Descriptions of the curriculum, the small class sizes, and—

I nearly choked as I turned a page and landed on the tuition and fee schedule. Holy shit. And that was for one semester?

I barely suppressed a laugh. Well, if my aunt wanted to get rid of me that badly, at least she was sure going to pay for it. I supposed I should feel bad, considering she’d already paid and I had no intention of staying past my birthday, but hey, it hadn’t been my decision.

Turning another page, I stopped at a double page spread with a collage of photos—a close-up on hands shaping a bowl on a pottery wheel, a shot of a full orchestra, a theater company posing on stage at the end of a performance, a room full of students standing in front of easels. My breath caught.

I read the accompanying text. We embrace the arts at Lost Lake. Our curricular offerings are broad, with academic classes that range from digital music to symphony orchestra, from ceramics to film and animation. We celebrate the arts throughout the year with on-campus performances and exhibits, and off-campus opportunities for artistic enrichment abound.

Now that I hadn’t expected. I’d assumed a fussy boarding school in northern Maine would be focused on academics, and wouldn’t be interested in ‘wasting’ their time and money on teaching the arts. After all, that was certainly the attitude my grandparents had embraced, if their treatment of my tattoo artist mother and painter father had been any indication. But this…well, this gave me a sliver of hope. Maybe I wouldn’t fit in surrounded by rich snobs and celebrity kids; hell, maybe a damaged kid like me wouldn’t fit in anywhere, but at least there might be something for me there to pass the time for a couple of months.

Some way to make me feel close to my dad, the man who had taught me to paint when I was barely old enough to hold a brush, and my mom, who had seen the beauty in everything. I sighed and tucked the pamphlet back into my backpack, my throat tight with a strange mixture of emotions I