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All The Things You Didn’t Tell Me
Hi! I'm Hannah, and I'm in eighth grade. Writing is my favorite thing to do, and I'm so excited for you to read my first piece of published writing! I actually wrote this as a school assignment in my ELA class a few months ago and got really good feedback, so I hope you like it!
“And here’s that lucky number you’ve all been waiting for, folks!”
An interminable series of numbers appears on the screen. Marscilla drops her crossword puzzle and jerks her ticket from the old wooden table before her ratty couch. The first three numbers on the archaic TV screen are 186, and they match those on Marscilla’s ticket. Her heart thuds in her chest— the heart that had been broken time and time again. The next three numbers match hers, too, and the three after that.
She rereads the numbers on her ticket over and over again, her amber-colored eyes as wide as grapefruits. Can it be true? She wonders.
At that moment, the clouds appear to part from above, bathing the yellow field of grass outside in a ray of sunshine. Marscilla’s lonely world starts spinning again as she squeals, hopping up and down. She never knew that a poor woman who lost her family long ago could become the richest person in Valley View in a mere instant. Her heart swells with dignity, and her eyes shine with joy as she rushes out the door of her run-down farmhouse. It’s not even hers; her grandmother bought it, abruptly abandoned it, and she moved in before anyone noticed. Now, all she wants is to be noticed. Marscilla won thirty-five million dollars, and she can’t contain her enthusiasm.
That’s enough to buy a car, a better home, and anything else she could ever wish for. Marscilla wants a dog, maybe a golden labradoodle. Yes, she will be satisfied once she has a canine companion to roam the vacant fields outside.
The thought makes her leap in the air, crying out the words, “I won!” to the world.
People strolling down the sidewalk behind her farmhouse gather in close, exchanging envious murmurs. Never before had a crowd gathered around Marscilla. A smile crosses her face, and she waves her lucky ticket high in the air. Of course, she is unsure what her future holds, but she knows it will be worth the wait.
It was an electrical malfunction, they say.
Marscilla Anne Willis was killed in a fire, one caused by an electrical malfunction. The disappearance of the money in her account was merely a coincidence. As long as the police stick with this excuse, Anastasia Novak will never once see a prison cell. Somehow, she believes it will not be all so easy.
Several more police cars whiz past her, blowing her long, dark hair into her eyes. They park just outside the little house sitting in the big field. Smoke stains its windows, and its roof is no more. As she stands on the sidewalk watching the police investigate the scene, she scowls, eyes narrowed. Under her breath, she mumbles the lyrics to her favorite song: “And worst of all, you never call, baby, when you say you will…”
It was the only song her mother ever taught her.
She clutches the check tightly in her hand, still incredulous. It all happened so quickly, in a matter of seconds. Black smoke still stains the sky, turning the air a blunt gray. Anastasia did that all by herself, and now, she is going to vamoose. The police will never know what hit them.
The autumn wind is brisk and frigid, sending goosebumps racing up her arms. The police all crowd around a car passing by, and Anastasia knows her opportunity has come. Her casual stroll down the sidewalk rapidly evolves into a sprint. She shoves the check in her scarf and starts for the vacant field the town recently transformed into a park. Although the weather is rather unpleasant, the grass maintains a glossy emerald shine. Thirty-five million dollars is all hers. What will she do with it?
“Although you’re untrue, I’m attracted to you all the more.” The singer’s voice is distant but clear as glass. It stops Anastasia short, freezes her like an ice sculpture.
A man sits under a tree, skimming a newspaper article. Unaware of her presence, he continues reciting the lyrics, those Anastasia knows by heart. Up until this point, she thought she was the only one. Vigilance in her every step, she approaches him, unsure what all he knows. When he catches sight of her, a tinge of pink flushes his cheeks.
“My, my. Where’re you off to, gorgeous?”
She slaps him across the face, teeth tightly clenched. “Never, ever call me that.”
“Youch, feisty there?” He winces, rubbing the spot her hand struck. “I see now, you’re one of them. My apologies.” The man doesn’t wink but makes the type of expression that goes with one.
Anastasia finds herself edging towards him, more offended than flattered. She narrows her icy eyes. “That song. Where did you learn it?”
The man stands, tossing the newspaper aside. “Once upon a time, it was a real hit. The Foundations. Ever hear of them?” Anastasia’s expression remains impassive as if her face was chiseled out of stone. The tree’s wide branches above cast a shadow over her face, causing the man to take a couple of steps backward. “Not much for little tête-à-têtes, eh? I hear you.”
“My mother taught me that song. It was her favorite.” She shifts her gaze to the tall, yellow grass below her. Although there is no one around, she feels like the entire world is staring at her, watching her every move like a hawk.
Her father grew up in Russia, lived a troublesome life until he met Raynie, Anastasia’s mother. Raynie lived a cakewalk life in America until the accident. It was a catastrophic car crash, right beside a bank. She was right there, seated in the car’s passenger seat, rambling on and unintentionally distracting Raynie. Anastasia witnessed it all. She blames herself for the death.
That bank only lasted a couple of days longer.
“No matter what happens, you’ll always be my little princess, Anastasia,” her mother used to say, tucking a stray strand of Anastasia’s hair behind her ear. Her words echo in Anastasia’s mind as she keeps her gaze fixed on the ground, arms wrapped around herself, keeping her upright.
“I don’t want to be a princess,” she would reply, arms crossed.
“Okay. What would you like to be, then?”
An international criminal? A liar? A manipulator?
The man hesitates for a moment before picking up her use of past tense, scratching the back of his head.“Oh… I, uh, I’m sorry.”
Silence hangs between the two of them for a long while, louder than any noise could ever be. Anastasia can almost feel it. Reflecting on her mother’s death always results in something lethal. Last time, it destroyed a local bank. This time, a woman lost her life and fortune. Forgiveness is a virtue Anastasia sorely lacks.
If she could ever forgive herself for what happened that day, she would feel no need to escape the town.
“You never call, baby, when you say you will. ” The man looks Anastasia in the eye, but she backs away. “But I love you still.”
That’s when an idea strikes her like lightning, putting her brain to work. The secret to concealing her stolen fortune, her murder, and her entire criminal record stands before her. “Who even are you?”
“Will Stephens. I’d ramble on about my fascinating career if I had one.” He runs his fingers through his messy brown hair and smirks. “You?”
“Nobody,” she cuts in, a little too soon. When Will frowns, she realizes there aren’t enough hiding places in the world for all of her secrets.“Anastasia Novak. Pack your bags, William. We leave tomorrow evening.”
Then, without another word, she turns and walks away. Will tries to stop her, but she’s gone.
Leave for what?
Will wants so badly to trust her, to ask her out for dinner at the local Italian restaurant that supposedly makes phenomenal lasagna. Perhaps if she had given him more than a name, he would have given her his heart. There was something suspicious about that woman, something flattering. He paces back and forth beneath the tree.
Anastasia has found her getaway car, and nothing is stopping her.
Will gazes out onto the horizon. It’s that time of evening where nobody’s out. The sky glistens a radiant orange as the sun settles into its hiding place. He strums his grandfather’s old guitar, a million song lyrics racing through his mind. What rhymes with Anastasia?
“Hey.” Then she’s there, standing behind him. Her dark hair casts an ominous shadow over her face. There’s a glint in her ocean blue eyes, one that either insinuates affection or trouble. Before Will can decide, three words fly out of her mouth, words that will change everything. “Time to run.”
He raises an eyebrow. “Wha—”
“Listen, William. There are people who want me dead. I need to get out of this town, and you will come with me.” There’s a dazed, almost disturbed look in Will’s eyes that he can’t suppress. No, he will not trail after a potential criminal… will he? “Today, not tomorrow.”
Anastasia grabs Will’s arm and drags him across the street like a dog on a leash. He attempts to wriggle free, biting his bottom lip anxiously, but Anastasia’s grip is too strong. A million questions race through his mind simultaneously, ones he has no time to keep up with. Soon, they’ve traveled a block, then two blocks away from the park. Wherever she’s taking him, she’s determined, but she’s not the only one.
Will wants this girl, and he will get her. At the same time, he has no idea how many secrets lay beneath the surface.
Finally, he pulls away. “All right. What’s the occasion?”
At this, Anastasia spins on him. “Do I need to spell it out for you? If I remain in this town much longer, I’m going to die.”
“And you need me because…?” He wonders aloud, his voice falsetto.
“Because you’re the only one I can trust, William. You know my song.”
Will freezes, solid as stone. Anastasia has already said too much.
This girl has done something horrible, but Will remains oblivious as to what it is. He shouldn’t trust her. He can’t. For all he knows, she could have committed a murder, and he could be next up on her list, circled and underlined in a gruesome-colored pen. Trusting Anastasia could ultimately result in his death.
She’s good, he thinks to himself.
Without another word, the two of them proceed down the street, eventually reaching a car. It’s shabby and run-down, entirely blanketed in a layer of mud. The tires all appear flat and dirty. The car’s hood is practically annihilated. Will is pleasantly stunned when Anastasia opens the door.
Her voice is sharp and menacing, not giving him much of a choice. The back seat creaks when he leaps in— a noise he never knew a car seat could produce. His mind travels to the kidnappings he witnessed on channel eleven news, and he begins to fumble with his fingernails. All of the trees surrounding the car seem to tilt at a precarious angle towards the car as if a mere gust of wind could knock them down. Anastasia’s words linger in his mind like a disease: you’re the only one I can trust.
He’s the only one.
When she starts the car, the engine rumbles, reluctant to start up. It’s old, several decades old. If her father knew she was stealing his beloved 1949 Cadillac Series 62, what would he think? He cherished it more than anything, perhaps more than her mother…
Anastasia throws the thought away like garbage and starts the engine up again, gaze locked on the vacant street before the car. Her family is an aspect of the past. At last, the engine wakes from its slumber, and the car takes off at a perilous speed. It still accelerated like it was nothing, even after all these years.
He’s going to find out, a tiny voice whispers in her mind. He’s going to peel all of the secrets off you, layer by layer until he reaches the core.
Anastasia shakes her head, hoping Will doesn’t notice. She is headed to Dallas— a populous Texan city where she can hide in plain sight. Nobody will suspect what she has done, who she is underneath her coat. If luck takes her side, Will won’t find out, either.
However, some secrets were meant to be exposed.
“You mean you’ve never been to a hockey game before?”
“I hate sports,” Anastasia confesses with a scowl. “Too loud.”
“But you’ve never been to a game with your’s truly, have you?”
She hesitates, a frown crawling across her face. “Are you asking me out on a date, William?”
He shrugs modestly. “Depends on what you see it as.”
“It had better not be.” A heavy sigh escapes her purple-painted lips. “Don’t make me regret this.”
Skyscrapers surround Anastasia and Will in every direction. Anastasia never thought she would be here instead of a prison cell. Her plan is working.
The two of them enter a building together and purchase tickets. It’s massive, likely thirty stories at least. As Will hands the woman at the front desk his credit card, a pang of guilt hits Anastasia in the gut. There’s something about him that makes her snatch the card from his hand.
“Tickets on me today.” She’s the one who dragged him out to Dallas as part of her getaway plan.
“Fine,” he sighs with a reluctant smile, “but I’m paying for the pizza.”
At the mention of pizza, Anastasia quickens her pace as she proceeds into the stadium. She can only imagine devouring a soft flatbread slathered in crimson sauce and topped with stretchy, gooey cheese. Her mother bought her a pepperoni pizza once, and the two of them shared it at a park in—
No. Anastasia will not reflect on that moment.
Fans already crowd the stands, dressed in green from head to toe. Despite the massive sheet of ice that stretches across the floor, it’s warmer inside the building than outside. Will dashes off to the concession stand as she finds seats. When Anastasia realizes she’s alone, she pauses for a moment, staring at the crowd. There are so many people…
The entire top corner of the stadium is empty. Perfect.
As she sits down, her world begins to spin in a direction that she never thought it would. Loneliness swells inside her, nearly choking any false enthusiasm she had left in her. She curls up into a ball, arms wrapped around her knees. There’s something about this man, Will, that she finds peculiar, maybe even charming.
Anastasia Novak, an international criminal, wasn’t supposed to be charmed by anyone.
She chose a seat in the far corner. Will should have seen it coming.
After huffing and puffing his way up three flights of stairs, he announces, “I got the food.”
Sitting atop the two pizza boxes is a tub of blue cotton candy. He figured Anastasia wasn’t much for pink.
Then she smiles gratefully, an action Will never knew she was capable of. “Thank you,” she whispers, grabbing the pizza box on the top.
For several moments, the two of them eat in silence. Without realizing it, Will gazes into her icy eyes. He wants to know everything that lay behind them, but fears everything may be too much. At this point, he’s beginning to wonder if it matters.
“Anastasia, you’re unlike anyone else I’ve ever met, you know?”
She doesn’t slap him again. That’s a start, he thinks. Instead, there’s an unfamiliar darkness in her eyes, one that seems to darken all of her features. “Please. You have no idea who I am.”
“I think I know exactly who you are,” he says with a smile— a serious, no-nonsense one, “and I think I love you.”
He shouldn’t have said it. Will knows he shouldn’t have said it, and he grimaces a bit afterwards. Nevertheless, he did, and he regrets it a whole lot less when Anastasia says:
“I know you do.”
But does she feel the same? He wonders. There’s so much he wonders about her, so many answers he knows he will never receive. When she looks back up at him, there’s a caring, almost sad glint in her eye.
“Now, then.” Will adjusts his glasses, pushing his last words aside like they never happened. “Tell me more about yourself, Miss Novak. Where’d you grow up? What’s your life like? You got a job? Tell me…” he pauses, carefully considering his words, “tell me all the things you didn’t tell me.”
When Anastasia meets him at a vacant local park, she realizes she was looking forward to it.
If she hadn’t been, she wouldn’t have made the effort to go to the hair salon the moment it opened, before Will was even awake. The hairstylists wouldn’t know who she was, anyway. She wouldn’t have asked them to tie her hair on top of her head, getting it out of her face for the first time in forever. She wouldn’t have bought him a coffee. Maybe Anastasia merely intended to use up some of her money.
Maybe she was beginning to fall for him.
She sits on a park bench, anxiously scanning the streets. Many of the pedestrians resemble him, but none of them wear his anomalous purple plaid knee-high socks. In the end, Anastasia finds it funny. She originally came to Dallas to escape and hide from the police, using a fake boyfriend to decrease their suspicions. She never thought she would find a life that truly made her happy.
If she was trying to get him not to notice how vague her answers were, she desperately failed.
Will spent the entire night last night seated at the desk in his hotel room, writing lyrics to a song he knew he would never sing. His mind was putting together all of the pieces Anastasia gave him, but they weren’t coming together. Then he got the call asking him what was taking so long, and for about an hour, all he felt was nothing.
It’s like the nothing he felt last night carried over to today.
When he spots her in the park, he says, “Anastasia, I—” then he stops short.
Her hair is out of her face for once, and at last, he can admire all of her features. Will’s heart stops for a moment, Anastasia and him alone in the world. How he wishes it could stay that way forever.
He crosses his arms. “Why am I the only one you can trust?” When he decides not to compliment her for how she looks, to not thank her for getting him coffee, her eyebrows furrow as if she was slightly hurt. “Tell me the truth this time, okay? You don’t have to tell me anything else. Please.”
She stands from the bench. “I like you, William.” Her expression softens to a genuine smile, and there’s a warmth to her tone that Will cannot ignore. “Really.”
He stares into her eyes for a moment too long. They are blue like the ocean shore, the sky above, a luminescent sapphire. Each time he glances towards them, his world seems to spin faster and faster. If she had been any other girl, he would have fallen for her instantly.
But she’s Anastasia Novak.
“Well, well, well.” His smile vanishes instantly. “You are a delight, Anastasia. I’d kiss you, but then I’d be arrested, too.”
Anastasia knows she is supposed to laugh. She knows he’s messing with her, cracking a joke, but it’s not amusing in the slightest.
It’s even less funny when Will pulls out the taser. “I really didn’t want to have to do this, but orders are orders. Put your hands up and I won’t have to worry about my lack of experience with these things.”
She takes a couple of steps backward, eyes nearly bulging out of their sockets. She stares at Will like he’s a monster, and in a way, he thinks he just might be. “I don’t know what you find funny about this, William. What are you talking about?”
He inhales deeply. No longer can he hold it in. “My name is William Stephens, an intern at the Sanger Police Department. Anastasia Novak, you are under arrest for murder and robbery.”
Tears well in her eyes. “Will, I…”
Will. She called him Will.
For a moment, he considers dropping the taser and running away with her. Although his time with her was cut short, it was one of the best times he’d ever had. Before meeting Anastasia, Will never knew anyone else who knew the lyrics to “Build Me Up Buttercup” by heart. However, if he ran away with her and was caught, the consequences would be drastic. The internal turmoil associated with this decision was almost too much for him to bear.
His eyes grow glassy. “I don’t want to do this, Anastasia. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t. Please, I’m begging you, surrender and make this easy. Well, not easy, but less difficult, I guess. Please.” When she doesn’t budge, he adds, “I’ll plead to the judges to give you mercy. Please, Anastasia, please.”
When she first met him, Anastasia was concerned about all the things she didn’t tell him. Now, she realizes just how many things he didn’t tell her.
Will hums to himself as he strolls down the sidewalk. He tries to imagine what a life would feel like spent in prison. It’s not a life, he decides. Then he wonders what his life would be like if he hadn’t quit his internship a couple of days ago. Where would he be?
“A little time, and I’ll make you happy…”
The stunning voice drifts through the air from an open window of a coffee shop. Inside sits a girl sipping on a cappuccino, blonde hair tied atop her head in a bun. It’s the same hairstyle Anastasia wore on that last day. Normally, he would stroll over to her and strike up a conversation.
Instead, she comes to him.
“Hi,” she giggles, waving clumsily. “I… noticed you. You’re alone.”
“Yeah.” His voice is more blunt and lifeless than ever before, his expression impassive. “And?”
Her cheeks flush a rosy red, complimenting her maroon sweater. “Um… there’s a party coming up at the park just outside town hall, and—”
“Sorry,” he cuts in without hesitation. “Plans.”
“Oh. Um, okay.” With that, the girl sulks away, and relief swells inside Will’s soul as he continues down the sidewalk.
Never again will he be able to look someone in the eye the way he did hers. Never again will he go anywhere near blue cotton candy. He pulls the piece of paper out of his pocket. It’s full of song lyrics that were never sung, never intended to be written in the first place. A gust of wind sweeps past and takes the paper from his hand, dropping it in a puddle of water off the side of the road. It’s over, a voice whispers in his mind. No matter how many times he says it, Will still can’t get his mind to believe it. He fears he may never.
Never again will he come across a woman like Anastasia Novak.