Changing Lanes: A Novel

Free Changing Lanes: A Novel by Kathleen Long

Book: Changing Lanes: A Novel by Kathleen Long Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kathleen Long
that my new, nonboring life would be ready to share with him when he was ready to return.
    On Monday afternoon, Mom knocked on the edge of my bedroom door. “Abby, go get Frankie, please,” she said, standing just inside my room. “Mrs. Pierce will be here any minute.”
    Isabel Pierce had been giving piano lessons since the Paris forefathers had been tying their horses next to the Paris Inn.While that might have been a slight exaggeration, it wasn’t much of one. And Madeline Halladay believed a cultured woman was one able to perform a piano concerto at the drop of a hat. I’d sat through years of Mrs. Pierce’s lessons, and, as much as I’d never admit it, I was glad I knew how to play.
    Frankie, however, sat through her piano lessons with Mrs. Pierce and then raced back to her secondhand guitar as quickly as she could.
    “She’s probably over with Mrs. O’Malley,” Mom said. “Tell her she has five minutes.”
    “Why does she spend so much time with Mick’s mom?”
    Mom’s eyes turned soft. “They have a special bond.” She smiled. “Mrs. O’Malley loves your sister for exactly who she is.”
    Mom walked away, but I hesitated momentarily, wondering if her words had been meant for me. Did I even know who my younger sister was these days?
    I slid off my bed and headed downstairs.
    Dad had left his favorite red-white-and-blue plaid fedora on the credenza in the hall beside the cab keys, and I grabbed it. I shoved the hat on my head, hoping to disguise the fact I hadn’t brushed my messy hair that morning.
    I covered the ground between houses as I always had—by cutting through the gap in the O’Malleys’ hedge. I headed for the back door to their kitchen, remembering how pots of bright impatiens and daisies once framed the brilliant cobalt-blue door.
    The pots sat empty, save for what remained of the forgotten soil, now spotted with patches of green moss.
    When no one answered my knock, I pushed inside as I’d done so many times before.
    I leaned into the kitchen, the smell of burned coffee pungent in the air. “Hello?” I called out. “Mrs. O’Malley? Frankie?”
    I tried again, stepping inside and pushing the door shut behind me. “Mick? Mrs. O’Malley?”
    A lone picture hung on the face of a battered Frigidaire, anchored by a smiley-face magnet, and I moved closer. In the snapshot, a preteen Mick, his mother, and father stood beneath the old maple outside, their forced smiles belying their linked arms.
    Stop snooping
, I thought to myself. I headed for the center hall and called out again, “Frankie? Time to head home.”
    Nothing but the soft sound of music, coming from the slightly ajar door to the basement.
    I followed the sound, hesitating at the top step.
    Even though I’d spent much of my youth inside this house traipsing up and down these basement steps for tree house supplies, I was no longer a child, and Mick was no longer my favorite diversion.
    I pulled the door open a bit wider and peered down the old wooden steps. Strains of Little Feat came from below.
    I was fairly certain the music selection had little to do with Mrs. O’Malley and everything to do with Mick.
    I took a step nonetheless. “Frankie?”
    The wooden steps creaked beneath my clogs as I descended, my focus zeroing in on the old Formica table sitting against the far wall. I cleared the bottom step and hesitated, taking in the sight of the smooth, marbled top, illuminated only by a single bare bulb dangling from the beamed ceiling above.
    I remembered when this particular piece of furniture held a place of prominence upstairs in the O’Malley kitchen. Mick and I had spent hours at this table crafting No Adults Allowed signs for the tree house.
    I ran my fingertips across the surface, remembering how we’d built our first science project together there—a working volcano that erupted two blocks from school when the ingredients shifted.
    I’d sat at this table with my parents and Mrs.

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