After her mother's plane went missing over the Indian Ocean, seventeen-year-old Sienna Jones gave up everything she loved about living in California. No more surfing. No more swimming. No more ocean, period. Playing it safe, hiding from the world, is the best call.
Until her dad throws down the challenge of a lifetime: spend a week with his humanitarian team in Indonesia, working with orphans who lost everything in a massive tsunami.
The day they arrive, Sienna meets a mysterious boy named Deni, whose dark, intense eyes make her heart race. Their stolen nights force her to open up and live in a way she thought she couldn't anymore. When she
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Four Weeks Before
It's always the same dream, but it's not her plane. It's mine.
The downward spiral of the airplane thundering toward the sea like the death-drop roller coaster at the beach boardwalk but worse, because there's no happy ending to the ride — no cotton candy waiting once the scary part is over. Just a deafening crash and seaweed. Freezing water and foreseeable death. I float down, down, down, and then land with a silent thud on the ocean's murky floor. My eyes are open, but I can't see. Drowning in darkness, I scream bubbles until someone shakes me awake.
"Sienna, can you hear me? Sweetie? Wake up."
I jerked upright, gasping for air, grabbing for my dad. "Did I scream? I'm sorry."
Dad nodded, his glasses framing worried eyes. "It was just a dream. No harm done," he said, patting my arm. "When you get dressed, come on downstairs. I have a surprise for you, birthday girl."
Birthday girl. Great.
"Okay. I'll be right down," I said, knowing I had no other choice.
For a motherless girl, birthdays were the worst, but I went through the motions for Dad, blowing out the candles, feigning smiles.
I yanked on the nearest clothes and twisted my blond hair into a ponytail. What did my dad have planned? Obviously there wouldn't be a surprise party at 8 a.m. — my friends were still sleeping, enjoying their first day of summer vacation. Nobody but my best friend, Bev, would come this early, but she was on a road trip with her parents, likely driving most of the way to Yosemite herself. Her parents weren't overly protective. She'd gotten her license the day she turned sixteen, unlike me, who still only had a permit.
Such a joke.
I made my way down the stairs, my fingertips skimming along the chipping banister. I carefully skipped the uneven bottom step that Dad swore he'd fix years ago and headed for the breakfast nook.
"Here she comes. Siennnnnaaaamerica!" a familiar voice boomed as I rounded the corner.
Imagine Hagrid from Harry Potter with red hair. Now add an MD and faded Hawaiian clothes, and you get my dad's best friend, Big Doctor Tom.
My groans turned into awkward laughter as my godfather pulled me into a bear hug. "Stop. Please. Can't. Breathe."
"Seventeen years old. Mama mia!" Tom rubbed my hair like he was trying to start a fire. I slapped his giant hand away and plopped into my usual seat around the farm table, retying my ponytail. Maybe he had my present? Please be a car, please be a car.
"All grown up." Tom shook his head. "Can't believe how fast the time goes. You're the spitting image of her now."
Her. Mom. Any hope for a normal morning crashed to the ground.
"Where's Oma?" I asked.
As if on cue, the sliding glass door opened and my grandmother slipped into the house, bringing the usual California coast morning fog with her. Oma moved into our granny unit three years ago to help Dad with me, or, like she insists, "To keep us company."
My grandmother smelled like pink jasmine as her silver hair grazed my cheek. "Happy birthday, sweet Sienna," she said, giving me a kiss.
My grandmother caught sight of Tom and eyed him suspiciously. "I'm surprised to see you here, Thomas. I thought you were in Africa," she said, something deeper than curiosity stretching across her brow.
Tom shifted in his seat. He'd been scared of Oma since he and Dad were fifteen and he crashed his mom's station wagon into Oma's garage door.
Glancing at Dad, Tom said quickly, "I was in Africa, Mrs. Jones. Just in last night."
Then everything got quiet.
Talking about Tom's continuing international mental health relief work was sort of like talking about Mom. You could do it, but you'd regret the silence that followed.
I tapped on my juice glass, looking around the room to avoid making eye contact with anyone. No decorations. Nothing to remotely hint that it was my birthday celebration. Just some silverware and plates stacked on the counter buffet style. Everyone knew birthdays reminded me my mom was gone, so they toned it down.
Dad cleared his throat and asked Tom, "Jet lag bad, old man?"
Tom thumped his chest. "Nah. I'm made of steel." His voice lowered a tad. "Like falling off a horse, Andy. Gotta jump back in the saddle if you're gonna relearn to ride."
I rolled my eyes. It was way too early in the morning for clichéd horse metaphors.
Oma frowned, stirring a mint tea bag into her mug. I watched it swirl around and around as the lines on my grandmother's face deepened. I guessed what she was thinking.
After Mom's plane disappeared somewhere over the ocean, Dad stopped working abroad to stay home with me. He joined a private psychiatric practice here in El Angel Miguel, our little beach town south of San Francisco. I guessed he thought I couldn't handle the chance of him vanishing, too. But I was fine now. Or at least sort of. I spent a lot of time pretending I was, anyway.
"How was the beach, Mom?" Dad asked, his eyes dodgy.
"Lovely," she said. Her voice was crisp and curt as she wiped her hands on her jeans. "The fog's starting to break," she added. "And I found many new birthday shells for my favorite girl."
Oma set a bowl filled with sandy seashells in front of me. I eyed the stairs, considering going back to bed. No offense to Oma — I did love shells — but this was my surprise? Shells?
Then she walked through the door.
The insides of my stomach stretched like a rubber band about to snap.
Why in the world would Dad invite Vera to my birthday celebration?
"Morning, everyone. Sorry I'm late. I stopped for bagels!" Vera, dressed from head to toe in a hot pink tracksuit, strode into the kitchen, holding up a white bag. "Please tell me you have coffee, Andy. I have the worst headache coming on!"
"You addict," Dad deadpanned, but his eyes were smiling. "Let me put on a fresh pot."
"My hero," Vera cooed before turning to me. "Happy birthday, Sienna."
Vera was my former therapist. Key word: former. I quit after five sessions.
"Thanks," I mumbled into my juice. "Can I grab a mug, too, Dad?"
"You drink coffee, kiddo?"
I blinked at him. Really? "I have for a few years, but who's counting?"
Leaning over me in her typically intrusive fashion, Vera grabbed a handful of blueberries off the table and popped them into her mouth. I tried not to stare at the white stripe running down the middle of her frizzy brown hair.
"How are you doing, Sienna?" she asked, laying a manicured hand on my shoulder.
Vera's words transported me back after Mom's plane went missing: Me sitting across from her in her office. That same practiced, compassionate voice asking me the same. Exact. Thing. How are you doing, Sienna?
I remembered my twelve-year-old self, desperate for her mother, staring at the banana tree in the corner, counting its waxy leaves, trying not to cry.
"I'm fine," I said, after a beat.
I'm fine. I repeated in my head. The same lie I told her then.
It wasn't until Dad handed her a steaming cup of coffee in the mug I gave him last Christmas that she smiled. And then it was an overly grateful display — bleached white teeth and all. I mean, it was just coffee. Then she took an unnecessarily long sip to prove how much she appreciated it.
"Great blend, Andy. Ethiopian?"
"Fair trade Indonesian, actually," Dad said with a wink.
"Ahhh. To mark the occasion," Vera sing songed back.
Icy chills ran down my spine. What occasion? My birthday? Fair trade coffee hardly seemed like a birthday thing.
"Can you believe it, Andy?" Tom said, redirecting the conversation. "Our girl, all grown up."
At five-five, I was the same height as my mom had been. I had her light blond hair and blue-green eyes, too. What I didn't have was her.
Dad set a plate of fluffy pancakes on the table. They were sprinkled with powdered sugar, exactly how I liked them, but I wasn't hungry anymore. Something strange was going on, and I didn't like it.
"Birthday girl gets first pick," Dad said, but his mouth sat at a strange angle. Seriously, what was going on? I examined him more closely. Somehow I'd missed that he was sporting a dress shirt tucked into ironed pants, looking more like a prep-school kid than the ancient hippie that he was. He usually wandered around on Saturday mornings in Mom's old robe clutching a cup of coffee, looking sort of lost.
I liked that old robe.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"I was going to wait until after breakfast, but ..." He smiled broadly. "Happy birthday, sweetie." Dad reached inside a drawer and handed me a white envelope with a big red bow on the top. "It's really from the whole group. We're so happy to invite you onto the team!"
The team? What could possibly be in an envelope that had anything to do with "the team"? Unless it was a pink slip for a car — maybe even the old Jeep I wanted — I couldn't imagine what they'd given me.
Heart racing, I slowly opened the envelope.
Instead of anything car related, an airplane ticket slipped out.
I scanned the type in disbelief.
PASSENGER: Ms. Sienna Hope Jones
Flight 13003 departs San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Yogyakarta (JOG)
June 10, 12:00 a.m. Arrives 5:00 p.m.
CHINA AIR connect in Taipei, Jakarta
But my eyes weren't reading anymore. The words blurred together.
"What is this?"
Everyone stared at me.
"It's a plane ticket. For you," Dad said. He rubbed his temple, watching me with what looked like fear. Like I was teetering on the edge of a cliff and he wasn't sure which way I'd fall.
Oma pushed her chair back from the table and leaned in to read the ticket over my shoulder. "What is this about, Andrew?"
Dad cleared his throat again. "We'd like Sienna to join us for two weeks at an Indonesian orphanage." He turned back to me. "We think you could really help us with the kids who survived the tsunami, honey. Many of them suffer from nightmares and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and our goal — well, one of our goals — is to restructure the dormitories into a family-style system, with an older girl acting as a 'mother' or 'big sister' figure for the younger trauma survivors to improve their well-being ..."
His words spun into gibberish.
Dad wanted me to go on a plane?
A plane over the ocean.
This was my big birthday surprise?
I dropped the ticket like it was on fire.
"You should have talked to me about this first," Oma said, slicing through the silence. "You think that's an appropriate place to take Sienna? Aceh, a dangerous disaster zone." Oma's usually calm face flushed, her eyes angrier than I'd ever seen them. "You know how afraid she is of flying. I'm shocked you would do this."
"Especially after the way Hope was killed."
I tried to shove away from the table but only managed to knock my mug over. Coffee spilled all over the table, dripped over the edge, and splattered onto my lap. I didn't flinch until I felt the burn.
Vera quickly grabbed a dishrag and wiped up the mess. Tom handed me a napkin. I tried to mop up my lap with that and failed miserably.
As if there wasn't coffee everywhere, Dad glared at Oma. "Sienna's my daughter, Mother. I know what's best for her. And Banda Aceh was the epicenter of the tsunami. We aren't going there. We're traveling to Java. We'll be perfectly safe."
How could Dad promise we'd be safe? He'd said the same thing five years ago.
He came home and Mom didn't.
All the air got sucked out of the room. How dare he make that promise again?
"Sienna, are you okay?" Oma asked. "Andrew, get her some water! She looks like she's going to faint."
Their voices drifted into echoes, like they were arguing from opposite ends of a tunnel. A horrible knot grew in my throat that I couldn't swallow away. My hands shook. My heart raced faster than I knew it could. I could not go on a plane over the ocean. No way. Zero chance.
"I ... I'm not thirsty. I'm not going. I'm not going anywhere with you ..." The bright kitchen morphed into black and then dotted with flashes of white spots like a psychedelic planetarium show. Alternating shocks of heat and chills coursed through my body. I had to get out of there.
Stumbling up the broken stairs, I headed toward the only thing I needed to see. My hands shook as I held the worn postcard and leaned against my locked bathroom door, watching the sea turtles swim carefree in blue-green water. Gently outlining their hard shells, I dared to flip the card over and read the familiar handwriting, faded and streaked from my old tears.
Dear Sweet Sienna,
I hope you and Spider are having a great time at surf camp! We can't wait to see your new moves when we get home. Daddy and I miss you so much. We spotted two giant sea turtles today that looked just like the ones on this card. They are two of the ancient ones that live to be a hundred. We swam together, the four of us, wishing you were with us. See you soon to celebrate your birthday!
Mom (and Daddy)
I swallowed back tears. The postcard had arrived five years ago on my twelfth birthday in a mix of other cards and junk mail. A week after Dad came home from Thailand without her.
I never even told my dad I got it, because it was ours. Hers and mine. The last secret I shared with my mom.
Carefully, I tucked the card back into my old journal and splashed cold water on my face. I stared at myself in the mirror, the counter cool marble on my palms. The glass was clear. But five years later, I still didn't look like me.
My bedroom felt wrong in that walking-out-of-a-matinee-movie way when the pinging started.
Sighing, I got up off my bed and pushed aside my window curtain.
Bev's twin brother and my long-lost other best friend stood under my window, just like he did when we were twelve and didn't have a care in the world.
I blinked to make sure my eyes weren't teasing.
He waved up to me, his sandy blond hair still wet from the sea. I cracked open my window, and a cool, foggy breeze rushed in.
"Are you throwing rocks at my window?" I asked.
"Shells. I heard you locked yourself in your bedroom."
"Really? Who told you that?"
Of course she did. After I gave her the rundown earlier, their whole family probably knew.
"Figured if you're in solitary, it wasn't a good time for me to knock on your door, but you might let me harass you from down here." He grinned confidently. Everyone was always happy to see Spider, and he knew it. He had that easy way about him that guys who'd never had anything bad happen to them seemed to possess.
Lucky him. Lucky Spider. If he could bottle it up, I'd ask for that for my birthday.
I frowned. "Why aren't you in Yosemite with your family?"
"Big wave weekend. Competition at the break."
The waves on our part of the coast were so huge, the neighboring town hosted an international surfing competition.
Fearless Spider was that good?
"I wish. Trying to get qualified. No small task. Want to come down and try the girls' wave?
He was joking, right? I hadn't surfed since ... before.
As if he could read my spiraling emotions — of course he could, he'd always been able to read me — he stood up straighter and cleared his throat. "So I found something of yours the other day. And since it's your birthday, I figured it was the perfect time to give it to you."
He remembered my birthday? I hadn't talked to Spider one-on-one in forever. Whenever I saw him, it was in passing at his and Bev's house, or at the beach surrounded by his posse of surfer bros and female groupies. It had been years since he acknowledged me at school when we walked past each other in the halls, and now he showed up at my house all nonchalant remembering my birthday?
"Really? What is it?" I asked.
"Not telling. You'll have to come over and find out. It's in my closet, waiting for you."
I felt my face flush imagining being in Spider's house, in Spider's room, alone with him after all this time. After what happened the last time.
Not going there.
Apparently, neither was he. We just stared at each other until I couldn't take it anymore.
"So, um, Bev probably told you about my birthday 'surprise.'"
I nibbled on the rough skin next to my index fingernail. "I don't fly."
"I know," he said without missing a beat. Of course he knew. He was there when it all went away. Sienna doesn't fly anymore. Sienna doesn't surf anymore. Sienna doesn't do anything anymore.
Sienna just doesn't.
Excerpted from "Where I Found You"
Copyright © 2017 Heidi R. Kling.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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