Hush - Anne Malcom Page 0,2

remain alive. Who else am I gonna watch Charmed with?” April continued, and she let out a huff.

“I’m so screwed,” Ri said, hating her best friend a little in that moment for ripping her out of this dream. She eyed Maddox, a pout forming. “I don’t want to leave,” she admitted. “Today, all of this was just . . . perfect.”

A gagging noise came from the direction of the back door as April slid it open. “Okay, I’m going back inside now. I can’t witness this nonsense or I might puke.” April shook her head. “Get home, so you don’t get grounded, Ri. I wanna hang out tomorrow, but don’t think I’m not still pissed!” April said with a little scowl, before storming inside and sliding the door closed hard behind her.

Maddox put his arms around Ri, the gesture already natural, right. He wasn’t hesitant, nervous. No, he touched her like he had been doing it for months. “Don’t worry about her. You know she’ll forget why she’s angry by the time you get home.” He kissed her forehead. “It’ll all work out.” He said it with such assurance that Orion wanted to believe it, wanted to pretend things worked out for girls like her. To pretend that bad things weren’t waiting in the wings to tear it all down.

She almost fell for it. She wanted to. But she didn’t have a perfect life, and she had plenty of real worries. She did not have experience in everything ‘working out.’

Maddox saw her worry, her confusion, maybe not the depth of it, because he didn’t have the ability to read people too far beyond the surface—not yet anyway—but he saw enough to know her mind was running, her thoughts a storm.

So he kissed her again.

“Trust me?” he asked, cocking his head.

It was a big question to a girl like Ri. She didn’t know how to trust because she always had to be on guard, on the defensive. Really, she didn’t even know what trust meant, but she wasn’t about to tell him that. She wasn’t about to let him in on how messed up her thoughts were sometimes, how self-degrading.

“I trust you,” she muttered, her chest tightening, the hurt of having to leave feeling all too real.

He took her in for one last hug, kissed the top of her head, and whispered, “I won’t break that trust, Ri.”

They were the last words she’d hear him say for ten years.

She thought about him the whole ride home. She was happy. Hopeful, even. Energized enough not to worry about a grounding or a beating. Enamored enough not to notice the van following her.

How could she have noticed it? She was imagining a future with the man of her dreams. The wedding. The house on the rich side of town. The cars, the babies. No thoughts of jobs, bills, or practicalities. Girls weren’t plagued with the details of reality, not after their first kiss anyway.

The bike ride home from the Novaks wasn’t too far for Orion—a fifteen-minute trip at best—and she had done it so many times before that she could do it in her sleep. But along the way, as she got closer to home, the area grew more derelict—smashed streetlights, long abandoned industrial buildings, and very few homes, which were rundown and unsightly themselves. Orion had always ridden extra fast through these parts, but this time she was too distracted, too lost in her thoughts, too immersed in a world where she lived life as Mrs. Orion Novak.

By the time she noticed the van behind her, it was too late. Its bumper clipped the rear tire of her bike and sent her flying over the handlebars, hurtling her onto the front of a rusty Civic that was parked on the street. She bounced off the windshield and landed with a jarring thump on the road, the breath heaving from her lungs. Her whole body stung, muscles seized, hot blood dripped from her nose.

It wasn’t a pretty crash.

It was ugly.

Just like the rest of her life was about to become.


As a child, Orion was a force to be reckoned with. She talked back. Complained. Refused to cry. Did just about everything an overdisciplined child of abuse shouldn’t do. It was her way of taking back control. Of fighting back against the beatings, the despicable words, the ugliness of life itself.

When she didn’t give her father the tears he desired, he’d zip-tie her hands, duct-tape her mouth, and make her sit in a closet