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The Ones Who Got Away (The Ones Who Got Away #1)(6)
Author: Roni Loren

   But after prom night, the four of them had ended up in a support group together. Overnight, they’d become members of the same club—a club no one would ever want to join. After what they’d been through, their differences and cliques had fallen away, leaving nothing behind but the bond of knowing no one outside the group could ever understand them like the ones in it. They’d made a promise to keep in touch. And they’d made a pact to live their lives to the fullest to honor those who wouldn’t get the chance. Then they’d stuffed those promises into that freaking time capsule, outlining exactly how they would do that.

   Liv didn’t remember what she’d written on that piece of paper that was all folded up and tucked inside the jar, but she didn’t really care. Whatever dreams she’d scrawled on that page were silly teenage fantasies of what it’d be like to be grown up. Easily dismissed. But as much as she’d been tempted to, she hadn’t been able to turn down the invitation to meet up and do this. She didn’t know these women anymore, but they’d gotten her through the worst year of her life and she wasn’t going to break her word to them.

   “I think we should just open the thing,” Liv said finally. “Get it out of the way so we can relax the rest of the night.”

   “Amen, sister. I’m with you. It’s ruining my buzz.” Kincaid reached for the jar. “Let’s open it, and we can each read someone else’s letter out loud.”

   “Wait, what?” Rebecca’s blue eyes went wide, her faint childhood freckles seeming to flare in opposition. “No way. It’s private. It’s—”

   “If we read our own, we’ll edit. This is about honesty.” Kincaid grabbed her napkin and draped it over the rusty metal lid. “No one outside of this group is going to share anything about the letters. And we can burn the things afterward if we want, close the past for good.”

   The sound of the rusted lid grinding against the glass gave Liv a layer of goose bumps, and her palms went clammy. Visions of the night they’d buried the thing flickered through her head, dragging her back in time. The night had been humid, the scent of lemons and fresh-cut grass heavy in the air. None of them had cried. They’d been out of tears by then. They’d kneeled in the dirt and lowered the little jar into the ground together like it was some kind of religious ritual. Four lost girls making a plea to the universe, begging for the future to be better than the present, burying seeds of dreams and hoping they would grow.

   Now they would see if they had.

   Liv fought the sudden urge to reach out and grab the jar, throw it into the creek out back, leave that stuff buried. Her fingers curled against the table. But none of the women stopped Kincaid as she set aside the lid and fished out the pages.

   Without ceremony, Kincaid looked at the names on the letters and then handed one to each of them. Liv ended up with Rebecca’s. Kincaid kept Liv’s.

   The paper felt brittle in Liv’s fingers, the blue lines of the loose-leaf faded. But when she unfolded it, the writing was still clear. Neat, looping green handwriting filled half the page.

   “Liv, why don’t you go first?” Kincaid suggested. “Put Bec out of her misery.”

   Rebecca winced at the suggestion, and Liv hesitated. “Hey, if you don’t want me to read it, I won’t. Seriously. It’s up to you.”

   There was no love lost between her and Rebecca, but she wasn’t going to torture the woman. These were her secrets to keep or share.

   Rebecca stared at Liv for a moment, a few different emotions flickering over her face. Bec was an attorney now, and Liv imagined she was having some sort of courtroom battle in her head, but finally she pressed her lips together and nodded. “No, go ahead. It’ll be embarrassing, but I’ll just make sure y’all drink enough not to remember this in the morning.”

   Liv smirked. “That may happen all on its own. But okay, let’s do this.” She smoothed the paper on the tabletop and began to read. “On this day, August first, I, Rebecca Lindt, promise the Class of 2005 that I will not waste the second chance that I have been given, that I will honor all the people we lost by living my life to the fullest. Professional goals: I will get a law degree and graduate at the top of my class. After practicing law for a few years, I will run for political office and will fight for better gun control laws and more mental health interventions for teens. I will make a difference in the world. Personal goals: I will stay a virgin until I’m married. And I will marry Finn Dorsey in a Paris wedding. We’ll have two kids, preferably one boy and one girl, and a dog named Bartholomew, after my grandpa. I will be a good friend, wife, and mom. I will be happy.”

   “Oh God.” Rebecca put her reddened face in her hands and groaned. “That was worse than I remembered. I hate you, teenage Rebecca.”

   Taryn pressed her hand over her mouth but couldn’t contain the snort.

   Rebecca turned and sent her an oh-no-you-didn’t look.

   Taryn grimaced and lifted her hand. “Sorry. The dog name got me.”

   “Not the virgin thing?” Kincaid said with a grin, bumping Rebecca’s shoulder with hers. “You really were rocking the good-girl life, Bec. You don’t do things halfway.”

   Rebecca shrugged and took another sip of her drink. “Well, I never said I didn’t go halfway.”

   The others burst into laughs at that, the margaritas and awkwardness of it all making everyone a little silly. But Liv only gave a distracted smile as her gaze ran over Finn’s name again. Rebecca had never known about Finn and Liv’s secret relationship or where he’d been that night before he’d jumped in to save her. Finn had said there was nothing between him and Rebecca but friendship, but clearly Rebecca had felt differently.

   “Finn, huh?” The words slipped out before Liv could stop them.

   Rebecca looked up, her smile faltering a bit. “Yeah. He’d been my neighbor since we were little. And after my mom left, things at home were…not great. So he’d let me escape to his house to get away from my real life. I think I loved him from fourth grade on, and I got pretty close to his family. So when he saved me at the school, I figured it was fate.” She stared down at her drink, a far-off look on her face. “But I don’t think he ever saw me that way. It was all very Dawson’s Creek in my head. I just didn’t realize I was Dawson.”

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