Protecting it will unleash secrets that are better off unknown
Paper Secrets
CHAPTER
1
The Name That Never Existed
My feet were quick on the concrete as I sprinted. A smile flashed across my tired face in hope to show easiness and intimidate my best friend, though wind blew against me. He was ahead of me by at least a foot.
Not for long.
All of my energy was focused on getting ahead of him as I cut a corner. The gap between us was closing right as the bridge came into view. My eyes narrowed on the bridge—that was the finish line for our daily race, and I wasn’t about to face a third loss in a row.
I could see Cryus out of the corner of my eye, and while I was now slightly ahead, I knew that he was determined to win again. I pushed towards the bridge, which felt close, but it was at least a hundred feet away.
Cryus and I were neck-and-neck, but I could already feel the win coming to me. I pushed myself farther. I reached my arm out and my fingers touched the flag. Using the little energy I had left, I pulled it up.
I had won.
Panting, I looked over at Cryus, whose flag was also up, but I had won, and we both knew it. “That was long overdue,” I said between breaths.
“Don’t get used to it,” he teased. That was what I loved most about Cryus, because he was competitive to the point where he admitted his loss and made fun out of it.
“And why not?” I asked as we started walking again, giving him a mischievous eye.
Cryus smirked. “Because I’m going to beat you tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.”
I’d like to see him try. “You’ll never be able to beat me three times in a row.”
“Says who?”
“Says me.”
“I guess I can’t argue with that.”
“No, I guess you can’t.”
We were close to the fork where we left each other to go home. I turned to him to say bye, but no words came out. My mind was focused elsewhere.
Right behind Cryus was a house that I’d never noticed before. The color was faded and the grass in the front was mostly dead, so it had obviously not been cared for at all, and there was no way someone lived there, but that wasn’t the weird part.
The name on the house was really what caught my eye—Astoria Rowe. I had lived in this neighborhood my entire life, and I had never heard of a Rowe outside of my family. I had never even heard of two different families having the same surname. Mom’s parents had died when she was little, and she had come from a family of only children, and Dad’s family was of a totally different surname.
Then who was Astoria Rowe?
“You alright?” Cryus’s voice startled me. I had totally forgotten that he was there.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I assured. “Why?”
“You stopped,” he told me. I hadn’t realized that, but houses didn’t move, so of course I’d stopped.
My eyes stayed on the name. “Look at the plaque on that house; I have no idea who Astoria Rowe is, and I don’t think you’re even allowed to have the same last name as a non-relative.”
“That’s weird, it’s probably some left over plaque or something from a long time ago or a prank,” he assumed. I understood Cryus’s reasoning, but it still didn’t seem right.
“I guess,” I said.
We came to the fork and parted ways to go home, but Astoria Rowe stayed in my mind. Who really was she, and why did we share the same last name? If we were related, why did Mom never mention her? Why had I never heard her name before, and why was her name on an abandoned house?
I opened and closed the front door and went over to my desk and got out my tablet. We were told to not waste our time on things that didn’t apply to us, and I could get in trouble if someone found out about me using my oh-so precious time—that’s what the teachers at school called it—on this, but didn’t this apply to me? After all, we both had the same last name.
I went to the ancestry website that I used for my project and typed in Astoria’s name, but all that came up was the message: SYSTEM ERROR. That had never happened before.
“Liesl? Are you home?” Mom called from upstairs. I heard her coming down and made my way to the staircase.
“Mom, who’s Astoria Rowe?” I asked. “She doesn’t come up on my ancestry website.”
Her expression was filled with shock. “How did you find out about her?” She didn’t ask about me using my oh-so precious time on her—Astoria Rowe had to be important.
“I saw her name on a plaque on a house when I was coming home from school with Cryus,” I told her. “Do you know her?”
“That was actually what I wanted to talk to you about,” she replied—how did she know what I was about to say? “She wants to talk to you.”
“She’s alive?” I wasn’t sure why that came first to mind. Sure, it was a surprise that someone lived in that washed out house, but how did Astoria know me, and more importantly, why did she want to talk to me?
“She’s very much alive,” Mom answered in a fact-type way. “You’re supposed to meet her at her house in an hour—the house you’ve already seen.” She spoke the last part with a tone I couldn’t put a name on. It was almost like she wanted to add, “Somehow.”
“Why does she want me to talk to her?” I asked.
“She probably wants to meet you, though she didn’t give any details. Please be polite, by the way. She’s been through a lot, and she is your elder, after all.”
“My elder?” Mom and Dad were my elders, but Astoria? “You aren’t saying that—”
“That is exactly what I’m saying,” she said. “Astoria Rowe is your grandmother.”

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Chapter 2

The Secret That Must Be Told

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