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What Alice Did

By Caren Hahn

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Wind gusted around Sara, billowing her skirt and peppering her skin with dust. She closed her eyes against the grit and ducked her head, turning away from the tracks where a commuter train rumbled past.

She walked away from the platform’s edge, seeking refuge on an empty bench. A man watched her from the stairs, and she felt the gaze of a woman sitting nearby with her coffee and backpack. Student?

Sara searched her sweater pocket for her phone. To her relief, it was there. But it refused to activate with her touch.

Enter passcode.


Sara entered it, but it didn’t respond.

Sara’s face warmed and her fingers trembled as she tried again. She just needed to make a phone call. She needed to get away from this public place where people noticed her.

But her phone wouldn’t respond to the passcode. Alice had changed it again.

Sara clicked off the screen as a shadow passed over her lap.

“Excuse me? Can I help you?”

It was the student. She had brown eyes and hair bleached almost to silver. She had an honest face. A kind face.

“No thank you. I’m just waiting for…my friend.” Alice wasn’t Sara’s friend. At best they tolerated each other. At worst, they were…not enemies exactly, but definitely caught in a power struggle where there could be no winners.

Sara never acted maliciously against Alice, even when Alice stole money from her wallet and used it to buy pot, or took the car without permission. Sara tried so hard to be patient. She knew Alice had a tough past, and she really wanted to help. But it seemed like the kinder she was to Alice, the more Alice pushed back. The small rebellions were becoming increasingly serious.

“Do you need a ride or something? Is there someone I can call?” The student’s dark eyes were furrowed with concern. Sara wondered what she’d seen, but didn’t want to ask. It was better not to know. In the corner of her eye, she noticed the man near the stairs walking away.

That was good.

Another train approached the busy platform, and passengers gathered in anticipation. The student looked at it over her shoulder.

“I’m fine,” Sara insisted. “You don’t want to miss your train.” She tried to smile, but the student seemed unconvinced.

“Are you sure?”

“Yep. I’m just waiting for my friend,” she repeated.

The train hissed to a stop and the speakers overhead announced their location.

The student stepped away. “Okay, if you’re sure. I hope your friend comes soon.” She glanced back at Sara, but then walked with the crowd to the train and disappeared behind the sliding doors.

Sara let out a tense breath. What had Alice done to her this time? She tried to remember where she’d been and how she ended up at the station. Everything was blank. She wasn’t even sure what day it was. If it was Wednesday, she had a job interview to get ready for tomorrow. If it was Thursday…well, it wouldn’t be the first time Alice had cost her a job.

She checked her wallet and was relieved to find her bank card. At least she could take the bus home.

“Sara!”

Josie trotted toward her down the platform, dodging through the stream of passengers going the opposite way.

Sara frowned and stood.

“What are you doing here?” she asked as Josie approached.

“Looking for you.” Josie shielded her eyes against the sun and looked Sara up and down. “You okay?”

Sara shrugged. “How did you know I was here?”

“I followed your phone. I talked to Alice last night and worried she might try something. When you didn’t answer my calls, I figured I’d better come find you.”

Sara had a hard time meeting her eyes. “It’s stupid, I know. You’d think by now I would have learned—“

“Stop. This isn’t your fault. You can’t blame yourself for Alice’s choices. Come on, let’s go.”

Josie placed a protective hand on Sara’s back and guided her toward the parking lot.

Sara was caught between embarrassment and relief for Josie’s help. Josie was the only one who really knew how bad things were with Alice. Well, the only one besides Sara’s therapist. But even the therapist was at a loss of how to help the angry teen. Her main focus was keeping Sara safe, but Sara knew that she wouldn’t be safe until Alice trusted her.

“Thanks for coming to get me.” Sara said as they reached Josie’s car.

“I wish I could do more.” Josie paused before getting in, giving Sara a lingering look. “I’m worried about you.”

Sara hated making Josie worry. She hated the way the man looked at her on the platform. She hated the concern in the student’s voice. She wished she could just work things out with Alice without having to involve anyone else. But Alice was getting more and more demanding.

Sara settled into the leather seat and pulled out her phone. Tried the passcode. Sighed when it didn’t work.

“She changed the password again?” Josie asked as she pulled out of the parking lot.

“Yeah. I can’t figure it out.”

“Hmm.” Josie tapped the steering wheel in thought. “Last night she told me about some guy she has a crush on. Tanner, I think his name was?”

Sara typed in T-A-N-N-E-R and grunted when it unlocked. “Huh. It worked.”

She thumbed through the texts and deleted the threads Alice had used while she’d had Sara’s phone. Then she skipped through the apps looking for signs of mischief. A new memo was open, titled, “For Josie.”

Sara pressed play, even though she dreaded hearing Alice’s voice.

“Josie, I know you think I shouldn’t see Tanner behind Sara’s back.” Alice’s voice held an edge of defiance. Sara wished she could sound that confident. “But Tanner is the only one who really cares about me. When I’m with him, I can forget about everything and pretend that it’s just us. Is that so wrong? Don’t listen to this when Sara’s around. I don’t want her to know we’re friends.”

Josie snorted.

Sara shot her a dark look. “It’s not funny.”

“Sorry, but it kind of is. She cracks me up.”

“I really don’t get why you like her.”

Josie grinned. “What’s not to like? She’s smart and sassy and trying to make the most of a tough situation. Kind of like someone else I know.”

“What do you know about this Tanner guy?” Sara couldn’t handle Alice getting another secret boyfriend right now.

Josie’s smile faded. “Not sure. College kid, I think? I tried to find out as much as I could, without making it clear I was digging. But Alice is too smart for that.”

“I’d better tell him the truth so he breaks things off before getting too serious.”

Josie nodded. “She won’t be happy, but I don’t know what else you can do.”

Sara twirled a long strand of hair around her finger. “Could you maybe explain it to her? I think you’re the only person she trusts.”

“I’ll try.”

They drove in silence for a while. Sara wondered if Tanner knew how old she was. Had Alice lied about her age? Alice was only seventeen, so it would work to her advantage to give him Sara’s age. After all, it was Sara’s body, so it wouldn’t even be a total lie.

It made Sara’s skin crawl knowing she wasn’t in control of her own body, that Alice could take over at any moment and do whatever she wanted without Sara stopping her. Sara wouldn’t even know about it until later, when she woke up in a strange place and had to piece together where she’d been. What Alice had done. Who she’d been with.

If Alice felt the same way, it was no wonder she resented Sara so much.

When Sara thought about her relationships that Alice had ruined in the past, she knew how much it would hurt Alice when she broke up with Tanner. Didn’t they both deserve love?

“The next time you talk to Alice, tell her I’m sorry.” Sara said.

Josie’s expression softened. “I will. And I know she doesn’t say it, but I think she’s sorry too.”

Other entries by Caren Hahn

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About Caren Hahn

Caren Hahn writes relationship dramas in a variety of genres. With deeply empathetic characters and richly layered plots, readers of her fiction will enjoy an emotionally resonant experience. And have some fun along the way.

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