Chapter 29 – Yuri and Adriana waited at his parents’ house for Chandler’s car to come get them.

Yuri and Adriana waited at his parents’ house for Chandler’s car to come get them. She lay on the front lawn on her stomach, toes up in the air.

“I don’t know why he couldn’t have just given us the address,” she said. “I don’t think it’s that hard to find….”

Landon laughed. “You don’t know Chandler. He’s all about the surprise. If nobody oohs and ahhs, he didn’t do his job.”

Adriana frowned. “I didn’t think he was like that. He seems more like the type who can’t keep a secret.”

Yuri grinned. “That too.”

“Man of contradictions,” Maya said.

A car pulled up with tinted windows. They got in and Adriana oohed loudly, glancing sideways at Yuri’s dad. They laughed and she sat by Yuri, putting a hand lightly on his. It couldn’t get any better, driving down the 5 with the windows down and Adriana’s fingers brushing the top of his hand.

When they pulled up, Yuri had to look twice. The house was… small. And old. It looked like it had been built in the 50s. It had an oversized yard that was the only green one in the neighborhood.

“Oh, Landon,” Yuri’s mom was saying.

His parents got out of the car, staring in shock at the house. Yuri and Adriana looked at each other and shrugged.

Chandler came out of the front door and made a flourishing gesture, like a magician at the end of his big finale.

“Chandler, it’s beautiful!” Yuri’s mom looked near tears. She took off her shoes and walked around in the grass, grinning. “How?”

“I tracked down the older couple who we rented it from. It was pretty easy, actually. They seemed surprised at how much I thought it was worth.”

Landon raised an eyebrow. “How much did you think it was worth?”

“Priceless,” Chandler said with a small smile.

“Dad, what’s up?” Yuri said.

Landon grinned at him. “We used to live here in college,” he said. “All of us.” He looked at Chandler and faltered, but Chandler waved a hand and smiled. “Your mom and I have a lot of memories here. We all do,” said Landon

Chandler went inside and they all followed him. As promised, Yuri’s parents oohed and ahhed all over the place. Yuri guessed he couldn’t blame them.

“Nothing’s changed,” Landon was saying.

“Like walking into the past,” said Maya.

Chandler pointed to the toaster and they all laughed. Yuri shrugged. Adriana squeezed his hand, smiling.

“They’re so great,” she whispered. “Like a sitcom.”

Yuri laughed and they sat down on the couch, picking up some photo albums lying on the coffee table. There were his parents and Chandler and random friends, looking young and bright. Camping, cooking, playing board games, and lots of his parents kissing. Gross.

“Oh, wow,” Adriana said, stopping Yuri halfway through a page turn. “She’s beautiful.”

She was pointing at a picture of a woman with long, golden blonde hair. The woman was laughing at the camera and waving, sitting with one hand on an upright piano.

“Who’s that?”

Landon and Maya, still in the kitchen, stopped talking and frowned. They looked at Chandler, who walked over and looked at the picture. He rubbed his chin for a moment. Then he smiled slightly.

“Her name was Ella. She was one of our roommates.”

Yuri watched him. He looked so uncomfortable. Adriana didn’t seem to notice.

“She looks amazing.” She paused and looked from Maya and Landon to Chandler. “Did you… were you guys… together?”

Chandler laughed mirthlessly. He looked out a window and rubbed his chin again, that same odd smile on his face.

“Yes, Adriana. We were.”

“What happened?”

“She…” Chandler paused. “She died.”

Yuri looked over to his parents, who both looked very serious. They glanced at each other and Maya opened her mouth. Landon quickly shook his head and she stopped and looked at the floor. The silence was unbearable.

Finally Adriana murmured, “That’s so sad. She was really beautiful.”

Chandler breathed deeply and sat down on the recliner next to them, looking at the picture.

“She was,” he said softly.

Adriana put a hand on Chandler’s shoulder and squeezed it. His shoulders tensed for a moment, and then he relaxed. They were quiet for a while. Yuri didn’t know where to look, so he just looked at the picture. Ella was tan and lean, wearing a red sundress and all made up like a beauty queen. He couldn’t help but smile just a little. Chandler would go for a girl like that.

Suddenly Yuri’s thoughts were interrupted by a crashing noise from the kitchen. He looked over and his mom had dropped a bowl she’d been holding. Her face got red and she fell to her hands and knees, reaching to pick up the pieces of the shattered glass bowl.

“Sorry…” she muttered. “I just… I’m sorry.”

Chandler stood up and waved a hand. “Fine, Maya, just fine. Don’t worry about it.”

Landon helped Maya sweep up the shards and then gave everyone a weak smile. “Should we… break out the games?”

The mood lightened a bit as they started on charades. Yuri had to laugh at Adriana’s acting. She was terrible. It took her twice as long as anyone else up there. But she was also the fastest guesser. He was thanking his lucky stars he had her on his team when he overheard his mom and dad whispering as Chandler acted out what he thought might be some kind of porpoise and Adriana yelled out guesses.

“Did you see that?” Maya whispered.

Landon shook his head. “I know, Maya. I know.”

“She looked… wow. I never realized. It was like watching them.”

They glanced at the photo album, which was still lying open on the table to the same page.

Yuri looked at the picture of the woman out of the corner of his eye. He frowned and tried to make out what they meant. Then he saw it. It was subtle. The woman’s eyes were bigger, her face fuller, her cheeks pinker. She had long eyelashes and dimples in her cheeks. But somewhere behind her eyes, she looked… hungry. He knew that expression. He knew the way she held herself, deliberate and proud. The way her smile seemed to hide a thousand different emotions. It wasn’t in her face. It wasn’t even in her body. It was in something like… her soul, maybe.

This woman looked like Adriana.

He rubbed his arms, trying to ignore the goose bumps that were popping up. Adriana was guessing “Flipper,” and Chandler was flapping his legs in a way that would normally have made Yuri laugh. But he didn’t feel much like laughing right now.

It was like reincarnation or something. He felt strange. Like Adriana wasn’t herself suddenly. Like she was someone else.

Like she was a ghost.

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