Page 5

If Rio answers, I never hear it. As I step out of the store an alarm shrieks out a warning. The noise is so loud it’s a live thing, pulsing into my ears and pounding on me from the inside. I’m no good with loud noises: I shy from them like a dog from fire, and if this noise were a fire it would be an inferno, thousands of degrees past what I can take. My feet meld to the floor. Then Rio pulls me back into the store, and the blaring quits, and I can hear and think again.

Before I can even figure out what happened someone grabs me by the arm, hard, and puts his face right in mine.

“Where do you think you’re going with that CD?” he says. I take in a narrow face that belongs to a tall guy in a Playlist shirt, with a nametag that says Store Manager. I look down at my hand and see that I’m still holding the CD, the one I wanted Maddie to hear. I must have tripped the alarm at the door. The CD is by Polite Convention, my favorite band, singing talk to me, girl, your words are my house and my haven and my path to your heart with the notes piled up so sweet and pure, I almost cried when I heard it.

“I didn’t mean to take’s my sister, she’s gone, I just noticed—I don’t even want to buy this, I just wanted her to listen...” Something’s not clicking between my brain and my lips. The words are coming out garbled and even I can’t make sense of them.

Store Manager guy looks at me like I’m already a felon. “I’ve been watching both of you since you walked in here. There wasn’t anyone else with you.” He flicks a hand toward the back of the store. “You just need to step over here while I call security.”