Home > Every Single Lie

Every Single Lie
Author: Rachel Vincent




I drive onto the Clifford High School campus at the end of sixth period, armed with a slim jim and an ironclad hunch. Jake always parks near the gym, so I bypass the main student lot, then the staff lot, and I continue into the one on the far side of the school, which is reserved for athletes and band members.

Jake Mercer is a baseball player, a liar, and a cheater. As of last night, he’s also my ex-boyfriend.

His ancient Camry is in its usual spot at the back of the lot, so I pull into a space in the next row, then I get out of the car and grab my backpack, rolling my eyes at the reindeer antlers clipped onto his front windows. There’s also a puffy red “nose” wired to his front grill. Last week, he lost a bet with my brother, so he has to keep his car dressed up like Rudolph until New Year’s Eve.

Two and a half weeks to go. Not that it matters to me. I don’t have to ride in it anymore.

Shivering in spite of my jacket, I take the small cardboard box from my back seat, along with my slim jim, a flat strip of metal used to pop the lock on a car door.

Jake’s Camry is old enough that the rubber window seal is already dry and cracked, which makes it easy to slide the slim jim into his door, hook end first. It takes me a second to feel around in there, but then I snag the latch and give the thin strip of metal a sharp tug.

The lock disengages with a satisfying thunk. I withdraw my tool and pull his front passenger’s side door open, but before I can get in, a black-and-white pulls into the lot and stops behind Jake’s car. Clifford is too small a town to be able to afford a full-time police presence at the high school, so the patrol officers take turns keeping the peace. I roll my eyes when I see who’s in charge of campus security today.

Doug Chalmers gets out of the patrol car and walks around the hood, one hand propped on his duty belt. “Beckett Bergen. Getting a head start on a life of crime?”

“Hey, Doug.” I give him an innocent smile. “How’s your mom?”

Doug grew up across the street from me. He graduated when I was in middle school and made it through a semester and a half of Clifford County Community College before deciding that higher education—higher than high school, anyway—wasn’t for him. So my mom got him a job with the Clifford PD. He’s been patrolling our three square miles of small-town glory ever since.

“That’s Officer Chalmers to you, Beckett.”

He doesn’t answer my question about his mother, but that’s okay. I already know she took a turn for the worse last week.

“Sorry, Officer Chalmers.”

“Isn’t this Jake Mercer’s car?” he asks, but he knows damn well it is.

A few weeks ago, Doug moved back home to help take care of his mother, who has stage three lung cancer—the inevitable yet tragic consequence of a three-packs-a-day habit. Which means he’s seen this Camry, reindeer antlers and all, parked in front of my house on countless occasions.

“You tryin’ to steal Jake’s car?”

I can’t see his eyes through his dark sunglasses, but his arched brows practically dare me to deny it.

“I wasn’t trying to steal Jake’s car.”

Doug pulls off his sunglasses and tucks them into his shirt pocket as his gaze finds the slim jim dangling from my right hand. “You are aware that you’re still holding the evidence, right?”

“I’m holding a slim jim, yes. But you’d have to have superpowers to leap from there to ‘grand theft auto’ in a single bound. For all you know, I always carry a slim jim, in case I lock my keys in my car.”

“I just saw you pop Jake’s lock.”

Okay, that part’s harder to defend.

“What’s going on?” an achingly familiar voice asks from behind me.

I close my eyes and exhale slowly, taking a second to compose myself before I respond.

“Hey, Jake,” Doug says, and I spin around to find my brand new ex frowning at me, waiting for an explanation.

His backpack is slung over one shoulder, his crimson and white Clifford High hoodie stretched taut across his broad shoulders. He looks good. Not at all like he’s upset about our breakup.

“I just caught Beckett breaking into your car.”

“I wasn’t—”

Jake’s focus drops to the tool in my hand, and I give up on my denial. “How do you even know how to do that?”

I shrug. “My mom’s a cop.”

Fact-Check Rating: True, but misleading.

My mother is a cop, but she refused to teach me how to break into a car when I decided I needed that bit of knowledge a few years ago. Fortunately, unlike parents, YouTube has never once disappointed a mischievous seventh grader.

Doug crosses his arms over the front of his uniform. “In the state of Tennessee, entering a passenger vehicle without permission from the owner constitutes burglary.”

“But, Officer, I haven’t entered his car.” I spread my arms to emphasize that I’m still standing in the parking lot. Outside of Jake’s beat-up old Camry.

Jake snorts. “Looks like your slim jim entered my car.”

Doug nods. “That counts.”

“Actually, it doesn’t, unless I entered the vehicle with intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault. And since I had no such intent”—I shrug, and my tool bobs with the motion, drawing their attention again—“no crime has been committed.”

Jake groans. “Tell me she’s wrong.”

“Well, technically . . .” Doug scowls at me. “What the hell were you doing breaking into his car, if you weren’t going to take something?”

“I was going to leave something.”

“You were gonna—?”

“Here, hold this.”

I hand my slim jim to the nice police officer, and he accepts it out of misplaced courtesy a second before it occurs to him that he’s now holding the tool of my criminal trade. I’m pretty sure that counts as tampering with evidence. He really should have known better.

Before he can object, I pick up my cardboard box. “Jake and I broke up last night—”

“She dumped me.”

“—and I was just returning the things he left at my house.”

I hand the box to Jake, who takes it because it’s evidently human nature to take whatever someone hands you, before you think better of it.

Doug glances into the box and coughs to disguise a laugh. “Is that . . . ?”

“Jake’s copy of Sex for Dummies? Yes.”

It was a Dirty Santa gift he stole from his cousin. We spent hours leafing through it, highlighting and laughing at the instructions, tips, and suggestions. Secretly vowing to try them.

Jake’s face flames, and I realize this may be the shittiest thing I’ve ever done to someone, exposing a vulnerable, intimate moment from our private relationship to the light of day. And to Officer Doug Chalmers.

But I can’t feel too bad about that, because what Jake did to me was way worse.

It wasn’t anything sudden or explosive. I didn’t catch him in the act. In fact, I’d been ignoring the signs for a couple of weeks, because I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. But then last night, we were cuddled up on my bed, streaming a cheesy holiday movie, when he got another text that made him tense up and swipe the notification away before I could read it.

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