Liv sat up and rubbed her eyes, yawning. “Where are we?”
“We’re at a cabin that belongs to your mom and uncle Brian.” Her eyes widened. Apparently this was news to her. “So you’ve never been here, huh?” She shook her head. “Well, that makes two of us. I guess we’ve got some exploring to do. Let’s go check it out.”
We got out of the Jeep and walked together toward the stairs, each of us carrying our overnight bags. A warm breeze blew through the tops of the nearby cottonwood trees, immersing us in their whispery rattle. The lawn, which consisted mostly of green weeds and dirt rather than actual grass, had been recently mown. Brian’s work, I assumed. And as we climbed the stairs of the deck, to our left, the lake came into view. “Wow!” Liv said. “Can we go swimming?”
“I think the water’s probably too cold, Liv. Anyway, we don’t have suits.” We’d reached the deck at this point, and looking at the dock that stretched out onto the water, a thought struck me. I dropped my bags and squatted so that I was eye level with her. “Liv, you know how you hid from me in the park?” She nodded her head, her mouth downturned. “I want you to listen to me very carefully. You cannot do that here. It would be very easy to get lost in these woods, and I don’t know them. There are probably snakes. Maybe even bears. Things that would eat a little girl like you for lunch.” She looked solemn and a little scared. Good. Sometimes it’s smart to be afraid. “It’s okay to explore, but not on your own. Not till you’re older. Okay?”
The door handle and lock looked worn, but the key Laura had given me appeared almost new. At first the lock didn’t seem to want to let us in. After a little jiggling, the deadbolt drew back with a thunk, and I pushed the door open. As I stepped in, I reached out to the right for a light switch, found one, and flipped it. The light that came on revealed a living room with a couch, coffee table, and a few other chairs and tables, wood-paneled walls, and a fireplace. We set our bags down on the coffee table and began to walk through the house.
Directly opposite the living room—really a part of the same big room—was a kitchen. As Laura had promised, there was a refrigerator, a gas stove, a sink, and a coffee maker, as well as a small round table with four chairs. A hallway next to the kitchen revealed a bathroom and bedroom. Above the bedroom, reachable by a ladder, was a loft with two twin beds. “Oh, cool,” Liv said, and I had to agree. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. Maybe everything would just work out.
After putting the groceries away and making us some sandwiches, I picked up the phone and dialed the number Laura had given me. No one answered, so I left a message. “Hi, my name is Rachel. I’m—I’m a friend of Laura’s. I have Liv, and we’re at the cabin. Please call me when you get this.”
I had just told Liv that we weren’t going to step outside the cabin until he called back when I heard the crunch of gravel in the driveway.
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