Home > The Mismatch (Bad Bridesmaids #3)

The Mismatch (Bad Bridesmaids #3)
Author: Noelle Adams

 

prologue

 


TAYLOR HAD BEEN RUNNING to the same spot under a big tree next to the creek for months now. Every time her parents fought.

It was almost every day now.

As soon as she’d hear their raised voices, she’d grab her shoes and hurry outside. If it was raining, she’d take her bright green raincoat, but she didn’t really mind getting wet. Better to be wet than to stay in the house and hear her parents hating each other like that.

She liked this spot under the biggest tree in her neighborhood. The roots came out of the ground, forming a shape like a seat. Sometimes she brought a book with her to read, but today the yelling was so loud she hadn’t wanted to go upstairs, so instead of reading, she stared down at the steep drop into the shallow creek.

This creek was big. It looked like a river to her, but her dad had explained it wasn’t one. The water only came up to her thighs. There was a section of an old rock wall nearby. All summer she’d been dreaming about climbing up and walking from one end of the wall to the other.

She hadn’t done it yet. It wasn’t a smooth surface. There were a lot of loose rocks. And though the wall was only a few feet tall, the opposite side was close to the drop into the creek.

It was too scary. She might fall. Bust open her head or break her neck.

Maybe her mom and dad would notice her then.

Maybe they’d stop fighting.

Her eyes hurt the way they did when she was about to cry, but she wasn’t going to do it. Crying was something other girls did. Ri cried a lot. And Amanda did sometimes. But not Taylor.

She didn’t cry even when she wanted to.

It felt like she could still hear her mom and dad yelling even though she was far away from the house.

They were probably never going to stop.

She was going to walk across that wall today.

She wasn’t scared.

She was big enough.

She wasn’t going to cry.

She was going to do it.

She pushed herself up to her feet, her hands feeling damp and a little shaky as she slowly walked over. The wall came a little higher than her waist. It wasn’t tall. Only a baby would be too scared to get up on top of it, and Taylor wasn’t a baby.

She wasn’t sure how best to climb up. First she tried to sit on it, but she wasn’t tall enough. So she grabbed the top and started to pull herself up, but one of the rocks came loose and she stumbled backward.

She snarled at the wall. It wasn’t going to win. She turned backward and jumped. When her bottom missed the edge, she had to try again. This time she made it. She was sitting on the top of the wall.

All she had to do was pull her legs up and rise to her feet.

It seemed easy until she was standing. Nothing to hold on to but open air. She didn’t think she was scared of heights, but she felt wobbly up here. Her knees folded, and she dropped down into a crouch so she had something to grab.

She looked to her right, trying to catch her breath. There was grass there. Soft green grass. She could fall onto it right now, and she wouldn’t hurt herself at all. She had jumped down from a lot higher than that many times.

But on the other side, there was nothing but the creek. It was really far down. A steep, rocky slope leading down to shallow water. If she fell that way, she might die.

“What are you doing?” a voice called out, sounding bossy and demanding.

Still crouching, she turned her head to scan the woods she’d run through to get here and saw someone at the end of the trail she’d just taken.

Charles Kensington. Ri’s older brother. He was kind of cute, but Taylor had never liked him. He was always studying and reading and writing in a notebook and trying to tell them what to do.

“None of your business,” she snapped. Her voice was a little shaky because she was nervous.

“Get down!” He walked closer. He had brown hair and dark blue eyes the same color as Ri’s. Today he wore shorts and a blue shirt with a collar. “You’re going to fall and break your neck.”

“I am not, and you can’t tell me what to do.”

She’d been on the verge of climbing down, but she wasn’t about to do that now. Not with Charles trying to boss her around. She stood up again. Swayed slightly as she started to walk.

She went slow because this was very hard. She tried not to look down at the drop into the creek. She carefully moved one foot, made sure it had a secure placement, and then moved the other.

“Taylor, stop.” This time Charles was almost whispering. He didn’t sound loud and indignant. He sounded nervous.

The tone of his voice made her feel weird, so she looked over at him. She shouldn’t have done it. She lost her balance. Almost fell to the left but jerked her body to the right in a desperate effort to fall in the safe direction.

It worked. She ended up in an awkward, painful heap on the grass.

On the grass. Not on the rocks at the bottom of the creek.

“Taylor!” Charles came running over.

She’d gotten the wind knocked out of her, so it took a minute before she could breathe and blink through her blurry confusion. When she did, the first thing she saw was Charles’s face peering down at her.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m okay. You made me fall!”

“I did not make you fall. You fell by yourself, and you’re lucky you didn’t break your skull and make your brains spill all out into the water.”

She gasped in outrage and sat up. It was a mistake. The whole world spun around her.

“Did you hurt yourself?” he asked in a different voice.

“No.” It wasn’t true. Her shoulder hurt. And her bottom hurt. And her wrist hurt the most. She moved it carefully, making a circle with her hand to test it out.

“Did you break your arm?” he asked.

“I didn’t break my arm! It just hurts a little bit. I’m fine. I would have done good if you hadn’t come along and bossed me around.”

“You were stupid. Don’t ever do it again.”

She wasn’t going to do it again. The sheer terror she’d felt as she’d started to fall was enough to keep her from ever stepping onto the wall again.

“What are you even doing here?” he asked. “Isn’t it your suppertime?”

“How do you know when my suppertime is?” She lifted her chin. He was stuck-up and annoying. He thought he was so smart all the time. He always carried that dumb notebook around. He had it tucked under his arm even now.

He didn’t answer the question. “Your mom and dad must be looking for you.”

“They aren’t. They’re too busy fighting to think about me.”

She hadn’t meant to say that. She hadn’t meant to tell him anything.

“What are they fighting about?”

“They always fight.”

“What about?”

She shrugged and stared down at her aching wrist. She could move it. It hurt, but not enough to make her cry. It wasn’t broken no matter what Charles said. “They fight about everything. Mom did something bad.”

“What?”

“I don’t know. They never say. But now they fight about everything.”

“Are they going to get divorced?”

She winced at the word. She didn’t like to even think it. But something about Charles’s tone gave her the courage to admit, “I think so.”

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