Page 29 of Coercion

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A warm, sunny beach.Breeze in my hair.My bathing suit fits just right.It smells sweet, like a bakery might be nearby.A little citrus, too.Similar to the shampoo I buy but more expensive.This is a luxurious beach, completely safe.Waves roll on the shore.Someone laughs.Mia, I think.

It drifts away slowly, which is considerate, and I roll over onto my back and stretch.

I feelsogood.

It’s such a specific feeling that at first I think it’s from the dream.What was it, again?Luxury oranges must have played a role.Do those exist?

No…it’s more than the dream-oranges.It takes me a minute to place this warmth.This security.

It’s what home feels like.

What home is supposed to feel like, anyway.I think it must’ve felt this way to me once, a long time ago, when my mom was still alive.The familiar heartbreak of missing her rolls in like a wave, but a shallow one.She’d be happy for me, I think.Glad that I got to wake up in such a nice bed.

I take a deep inhale.A nice bed, with the scent of bacon and eggs in the air.A note of Eggo waffles, too, and Will’s coffee.Luxury oranges might not exist, but his coffee definitely does.It even smells smooth and delicious.

No idea what time it is, none at all, but I can’t bring myself to worry too much about it.Will said I wasn’t going to work today.Good thing, because I’m still tired.In the bathroom I brush my teeth and twist my hair into a bun.I should check in with the twins, see how they’re feeling about school.

A pair of Will’s sweatpants is folded up on the ottoman at the foot of his bed, along with one of his T-shirts.I put them on and pad down the hall.

“No, you can call.”That’s Will.

Mia says something too quiet to hear.

“Tell her to email me, then.I’m not worried about it.Do you have your water bottle?”

“I might have to make up math homework.”Ben says it like he’s adding it to a list.

“Do you have to stay at school for that?”Will asks.


“Plenty of time to do it here.”

“Can we play Minecraft first?”Mia sounds…a little sly.

“Can you play Minecraft?What kind of question is that?I thought you had an elementary school degree.”

Mia laughs at Will.“They don’t give us a degree.Only a diploma.”

“Justa diploma?That’s a disgrace.Show it to me.”

“I don’t have it yet.Not until the end of this year.”

“Then you can play Minecraft for fifteen minutes.Then it’s homework.You can’t slack on your degree.All set to go?”

I move past the kitchen and find all three of them in the foyer.Will stands in front of the open door.A man and a woman in business casual wait in the hall.

The twins are dressed.Backpacks on.Both of them have a shiny new water bottle in their backpack’s mesh pocket.

“Bristol!”Mia rushes over and hugs me, Ben arriving a second later.“We’ll see you after school.”

“What?I thought—”

“We have a ride.”Ben pats my arm in a reassuring gesture, then heads for the door, taking Mia with him.

“With who?”

Will ushers the twins past him.“With Heather and Drew from my security firm.Heather, Drew, this is Bristol.”

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