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Forgetting August (Lost & Found #1)

By:J. L. Berg

Prologue



Sound roared in my ear like a freight train as I fought against the rushing tide.

I clawed, gripping and pawing my way to the surface. Where it led, I didn't know-only that I needed to get there. Somehow.

In the distance, I heard an echo of a laugh. Soft and feminine, it  disappeared like a feather drifting and dancing in a violent windstorm.

Sharp colors and fuzzy images danced around my head, confusing me, enticing me-motivating me to push ahead.

Where was I?

The sound of a siren blared in the distance as a murky green light  seemed to move in and around me. It flowed like water and pulsated  through me like it had a purpose. The color looked so familiar. I  reached out to touch it and suddenly everything stopped, making my heart  stop in its tracks.

I need to get out of here.

The woman's voice called out once more and I instinctively chased after it, determined not to lose it.

But once again, like everything else, it faded and I was left alone in a dark tunnel with nothing but myself.

Sometime later, the soft green light returned. I watched it intensify,  swirling and changing until it morphed into a single stone. It fell to  the ground with a solid clink just as I glimpsed a wisp of red hair  around a corner.

"Wait!" I yelled. "Come back!"

My lungs heaved and my body ached as I tried to catch up.

"Don't leave without me!" I begged.

One tiny plink, then another. I looked down to find several green stones  hitting the earth. As I looked up to the heavens, it began to pour.  Thousands of stones fell from the sky like rain, filling the streets as  if they were a giant glass bowl. I tripped and stumbled over them until I  fell face forward and hit the ground. Reduced to a crawl, I still  didn't give up.

"August!" the woman yelled.

The stones piled one on top of another, surrounding me until I was  choking and nearly gagging on the dazzling brilliance as each stone  slowly buried me alive.

"Please," I cried, clawing my way to the top as the stones began to cover my head, "Don't leave me here."

My next breath broke the surface and I opened my eyes.

I was awake.

Finally.





Chapter One

Everly



I saw him again today.

It was at the mall this time.

He was wearing a grey suit and it was just seconds this time before he  disappeared around a corner and my life returned to normal once more.

It had been two years and yet I still saw him. Everywhere.

The day after that fateful night, I saw him in our neighborhood walking a  dog. Months later, he was next to me at a stoplight when I went out for  groceries. Two weeks ago when Ryan got down on one knee and placed a  dazzling diamond ring on my left hand, I swear I saw his face the minute  I said yes.

He was like a ghost-my own personal poltergeist.

I knew it wasn't really him. My therapist had reminded me of that simple  fact over a thousand times, but that didn't stop my heart from skipping  a beat or my lungs deflating of air every time I saw someone that  looked like him pass in my direction.

It could be the color of a person's hair or the way someone laughed that set my body on edge.

Today, it was simply a suit.

Tailored, dark grey with a small pinstripe. The style had been his  favorite, and even though the man who wore it looked nothing like him, I  still found myself frozen in the middle of the food court.

Still as ice, unable to move.

Because life really didn't move on from a person such as August Kincaid.

No, you simply learned to adapt and above all, you survived.

And that was what I had been doing for the last two years.

Surviving.

"Hey, you went blank again. Are you okay?" Sarah asked.

I looked around, and the world suddenly shifted back into focus.  Children cried and begged for ice cream, teenagers laughed and flirted  as they walked by us. The smell of cinnamon rolls and cheap Chinese food  mixed and mingled, as people pushed and shoved their way around to get  in ridiculously long lines. Life went on around me as I returned to the  land of the living.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I assured her. Concern was written all over her  beautiful, trim face. Her hand lifted briefly as if she were going to  offer a hug, but quickly decided against it.

"Okay," she answered, defeat clearly written all over her face. She knew I wouldn't talk about it.

I never did.

There were certain things that just didn't need to be shared.

Specific memories of my past were one of them.

She already knew I was a nutcase yet for some reason became my friend  despite this. I guess we had that specific trait in common. We'd met in  the waiting room at my therapist's office. She was a recovering purger,  or at least that's what she called it. Since the time Sarah was barely  old enough to vote, she'd been suffering from a variety of eating  disorders. She attributed her illnesses to a dance mentor who'd never  thought she was thin enough to be a ballerina.         

     



 

"When all you want to do is be the Swan Princess in Swan Lake, you make  sacrifices," she'd told me that day in the office very matter-of-factly.  Sarah was at peace with her issues. She'd gone through years of  counseling and this year would finally be the swan princess she always  dreamed of being-fully in control of what she considered her "livable  flaws."

Me?

Well, I guess we all had issues that lingered. Some had visible flaws  they could see in the mirror, touch with their hands … measure on a scale.  Others, like me, had memories that woke us from sleep and haunted our  waking hours, making normal, well-different.

I doubted there would ever be any glorious end of the rainbow moment that would somehow magically cure me of all my flaws.

But, I was working on it and Ryan had made a world of difference in my  once bleak outlook on life. Now I saw possibilities where there once was  only darkness. He brought hope to my sadness and light to my life.  There wasn't a day that went by that I wasn't thankful for his  persistence in seeking me out.

I'd been a hard one to nail down, or so he told me.

"So, are you ready?" she asked, grabbing my hand and moving away from the frozen yogurt and fried food.

"As I'll ever be," I sighed, taking one last longing look at the exit.

"Oh come on. Most girls are excited to do this. Hell, I've been excited for this day for weeks!"

"Then say you're me," I begged, as we turned the corner and my eyes  spotted the brightly lit sign at the end of the walkway. I could feel  the groan already forming, the deep rumbling sound vibrating through my  lungs as it made its way up to express my displeasure.

"Everly Adams. You will not ruin this for me! This is your day and you will enjoy it!"

"I thought my day was several months from now," I joked.

"As the blushing bride-to-be, you will have lots of days between now and then. Get used to the attention."

I groaned again, looking at the floor-to-ceiling windows that displayed more tulle and sequins than I'd seen in my entire life.

"We should have eloped."



"This is horrid, Sarah," I whined, shuffling out of the dressing room in  a gown that could only be described as a cross between the Little  Mermaid and that scary Alfred Hitchcock movie with all the birds.

"It's beautiful! And so fashion forward," she practically squealed,  clapping her hands together like a happy toddler who had just been given  a lollipop for supper. "Look at the way the fabric gathers together,  making it look like tiny feathers at the bottom of the skirt. So  dramatic."

"That," I said, pointing to my calves," is also where my legs are  supposed to be able to move back and forth. It's called walking. I look  ridiculous!"

"Walking is so overrated. Besides, how much walking are you planning to  do in this thing?" She rolled her eyes, kneeling down to play with the  skirt some more. It resulted in the tulle or whatever the puffy stuff  was called doubling in size.

"There, perfect."

"I'm not wearing this," I said firmly, trying to look anywhere but at  the three different mirrors all reflecting my ridiculous reflection.  "Pick another one. And for the love of God, pick something less … well,  less you!"

I once again attempted to walk back into the dressing room, doing more  of a waddle than a walk. Once there, I was joined by an attendant to  assist me. There was no way I could get out of this monstrosity by  myself.

"Your tattoo is lovely. Quite unique," the bridal attendant said, as she  stood behind me and removed the clamps that held the dress in place. My  thin, boy-like frame never did fit into sample sizes well. The lack of  hips and boobs kept me in sizes most women would die to wear, but the  lack of aforementioned body parts sometimes sucked. A lot.

Especially when trying on wedding dresses. Or anything remotely  feminine. I felt more like a pre-pubescent boy trying on drag than a  beautiful, curvy woman.

"Thank you," I answered awkwardly, as my hand instinctively reached  behind my shoulder to touch the piece of me that I rarely shared with  others. The walls of mirrors put my body completely on display,  highlighting every rough curve and jutted angle, exposing the harsh  black lines of the branch as it wove up my back and around my shoulder.

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