How far would you go to keep a promise? Told from alternating points of view, Hidden Truths is a story of changing friendships, the lies we tell, the secrets we keep, and the healing power of forgiveness.
Dani and Eric have been best friends since Dani moved next door in second grade. They bond over donuts, comic books, and camping on the Cape.
Until one summer when everything changes.
Did Eric cause the accident that leaves Dani unable to do the one thing in the world she most cares about? The question plagues him, and he will do anything to get answers about the explosion that injured her. But Dani is hurting too much to want Eric to pursue the truth—she just wants to shut him out and move on. Besides, Eric has a history of dropping things he starts. Eric knows that and is determined that this will be the one time he follows through.
But what if his pursuit brings him into direct conflict with another friend? Where does Eric’s loyalty really lie?
An Excerpt fromHidden Truths
I didn’t know today would matter.
I didn’t know it would change everything.
I thought what mattered had already happened.
I was wrong.
I squeeze the baseball in my hand and squint through my mirrored sunglasses at the sea of boys swirling around me. McKinnon stretches his long ostrich legs as he throws lefty to Braden. In the outfield are Billings, Henry, and some kid I don’t recognize with a mouth full of red braces.
I stand on the pitching mound and close my eyes. I hear a lawn mower somewhere and breathe in a mix of grass and dirt, hoping it will calm the nerves marching up my spine. Today I find out if I made the baseball team.
I open my eyes and slide my left hand into the baseball glove I named Betty. The leather’s worn and it molds around my fingers. I exhale and hear the buzz of boys talking and laughing, but I don’t say a word. I can’t. I don’t want to jinx it.
Tryouts were held the morning I left for baseball camp. It had just rained, and the air was sticky. It was me and a pack of boys. All boys. Like always. But that day my arm was fire. Fastball after fastball landed smack in the catcher’s mitt. I stand on the mound now, hoping that was enough.
Coach Levi said he’d be at the field by ten.
I swallow hard and look at my phone. It’s 10:05.
I slip my phone back into my pocket and squeeze the baseball. The stitching feels good against my palm.
Then I see Coach Levi walking across the field. My stomach flips.
As he gets closer, the kids scattered around the field move like a swarm toward the dugout.
Please let this be good news.
“Well, hello, everyone,” Coach says, taking off his cap and running his hand over his buzz cut.
The clouds roll in front of the sun, and I move my sunglasses to the top of my head.
He claps his hands together. “I asked you all to the field because I wanted to congratulate you on making the Mapleville fall baseball team.”
The words linger in the air. Shock floods my brain, followed by a tidal wave of happiness.
After years of blah, blah, blah--“You’re good for a girl, but not good enough to make the team”--I finally did it!
Coach talks about the game and the practice schedule, and when he finishes, everyone erupts into cheers and high fives. And I’m part of it.
I quickly text Eric the news.
Then the team lines up and Coach hands out our uniforms. I toss my new navy-and-red Mapleville shirt over my tank top and stuff my long brown frizzle of hair into my team hat. Coach talks about working hard and supporting each other, and then says he’ll see us for practice next week.
My first official team meeting is over, and my heart is dancing.
When I look up, Eric’s leaning his mountain bike against the fence by the field.
I run over. We haven’t seen each other since I left for baseball camp a month ago. I got back this morning, just before Coach sent the email telling us to meet at the field.
“Welcome home!” he bursts out, his dimple showing.
I smile. “Thanks,” I say, glancing over my shoulder at my team. “Can you believe it? I finally got picked!”
“Totally believe it,” he says, taking something out of his backpack. “Your fastball’s a beast.”
“Yeah, but that’s never been enough. At least until now!” I pause as a neon-green Frisbee flies across the next field. “I’m excited you’re here. You look taller.”
He flexes his skinny arms. “And stronger.”
I laugh. “I didn’t think you’d come to the field. I mean, I’m seeing you later for our camping trip.”
“I know, but since you made the team, I had to bring donuts to celebrate.” He swipes his floppy curls to the side and holds up a bakery box.
I’m about to reach for a Boston cream when I hear McKinnon call my name. I turn around.
He’s standing in front of the boy pack, waving me over. “Team’s going for pizza.”
“Oh,” Eric says, rapid blinking. “Yeah, I mean, you should go with them.”
I look at my team in their Mapleville shirts and caps, and then back at Eric. I yell to McKinnon, “I’ll meet you there.”
Eric stares at me. “Go. It’s cool, I’ll see you later.”
“Will you save me a donut?” I ask.
He tilts his head and raises an eyebrow. “No promises.”
I laugh. “That’s fair.”
Eric hops on his bike.
“Hey, thanks for coming and for the almost-donut and for understanding how big this is.” I talk fast like I might explode with joy. “You’re the best!”
“After this team thing, I’ll pack super quick and meet you at your house for the camping trip,” I tell him. “I want to hear about all the things I missed while I was at baseball camp.”
He gives me a thumbs-up.
“I made the team!” I shout as I wave good-bye. “I can’t even believe I finally get to say those words!”
I’m still floating from the news when I get home. Pizza with the team was kind of awkward at first, then mostly normal and fun. I didn’t know that good news could make my brain feel fizzy like cream soda. I race up to my room to pack. I promised Eric I’d be speedy.
The sun slides through my shutters. It hits my yellow shag carpet in the perfect rectangle. My golden retriever, Casey, wags her tail and stretches her giant fluff of a body across the sun-filled spot. She watches as I crank up the music, dance around my room, and open my duffel bag.
Thank goodness she’s a dog and can’t record any of this on a phone.
When the song ends, I toss in Betty, a pair of flip-flops, my super cute striped bathing suit, the SPF 80 sunblock and bug spray Mom’s forcing me to bring, a rainbow beach towel, my Mapleville baseball sweatshirt, a deck of cards, and a few other random things for my mostly annual camping trip with Eric. We skipped it last year. My grandma Gigi had died that spring, and instead of fishing and swimming and being eaten by mosquitoes the weekend before middle school started, we hung out in Eric’s tree fort reading comics, eating donuts, and talking about forever people.
I think he could tell that my heart was heavy--and not because he didn’t get that Mystique was actually the greatest comic book character of all time, but because good-byes are hard. That was the day I learned that donuts and comic books and friends can’t fix everything.
I look in the full-length mirror dangling on the back of my closet door, smile at my team gear, and twirl the coin in my pocket.
Eric gave it to me that weekend in the tree fort. He’d just devoured his glazed donut in two bites and was doing a terrible job convincing me that Iron Man was the best superhero ever. Then he reached into his pocket and handed me the coin. He said I should have it, that it always brought him luck--and that he was sorry it was sweaty.
I flip the coin one more time. It’s over a year later, and I still like having it with me.
I glance around my room, making sure I didn’t forget anything for the camping trip. I tuck in the corners of my quilt one more time so they’re just right. Straighten the home run baseball that sits on my yellow desk next to the fake plant that Mom got for me after I killed two real ones and a cactus.
I grab my duffel. As I walk past the skinny glass table where Mom dumps her keys, I see my favorite photo of me and Eric at the Red Sox game eating hot dogs with heaps of relish.
Happiness floods my brain, and I realize how much I missed my friend with the skinny arms and the terrible taste in superheroes.
“Eric, you’re late.” Dad’s gravelly voice echoes up the wooden stairs.
I hop off my crossword app, stuff the dirty clothes scattered across my floor into my bag, and put the sadly unfinished superhero comic on the shelf in the back of the closet. My Avengers T-shirt passes the smell test, so I throw it on. It swallows my arms even though I’ve been doing push-ups all summer.
I sprint downstairs. Dani and her dog, Casey, are already in the kitchen, surrounded by one of Mom’s worst decisions: the pink-and-orange paisley wallpaper. I run over and give Dani a giant congratulations hug--something that was definitely not happening at the field in front of the guys--and realize she’s got more freckles and smells different. Like flowers. Or something fruity.
I’m about to ask her what it is when she says, “Thanks for understanding before.”
“Yeah. No problem.” I turn around, stuffing away any leftover crumbs of disappointment, then spin back toward her. “The real question is how much you missed me while you were away!” I laugh.
She stretches out her arms.
“I knew it!” I say, grabbing a banana from the ceramic fruit bowl on the counter.
Dani smiles. “Baseball camp was pretty awesome, though. And then coming home and finding out I made the team was epic!”
We break into the victory dance we’ve been doing since we won rainbow popsicles in second grade for coming in first in the neighborhood’s Fourth of July potato sack race.
We’re still dancing around the table when Mom walks in. “Nice to see that nothing’s changed,” she says. “Happy you’re back, Dani. We’ve missed you around here, and congrats on making the team!”
“Thanks,” Dani says.
“You guys ready?” Dad’s holding a white foam cooler and a grocery bag I’m hoping is full of chips.
“Maybe double-check your bag to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything,” he says, walking out the front door.
“Nope. I’m good.”
“You brought your glove, right?” Dani asks, petting Casey, who’s trying to nose her way closer to an open jar of peanut butter.
“Why do I need my glove? Thought we were just fishing and swimming, like always. I even perfected my cannonball while you were gone.”
“Coach says I should practice every day.”
“Okay, but you remember what happened last summer?”
She makes a face. “That was an accident.”
After her Gigi died, Dani didn’t want to do much of anything but play baseball. So one day I dragged her giant red bucket of baseballs to the field and told her she could pitch to me. That was the day I learned about hand-eye coordination. And how I don’t have any.
I dart upstairs and dig my baseball glove from the wicker basket in the corner that still smells like the turkey jerky I accidentally left in there last week. As I’m leaving my room, I run into my five-year-old sister, Zoe.
“I’m going to miss you.” She wraps her arms tight around my waist.
“I’ll miss you too, Peanut,” I say.
Then I grab my bag and race out the door to meet Dani and my dad in our white-and-brown camper. Dad got it like a month ago. Said it was in mint condition, with only twenty thousand miles on it.
“This is so cool,” Dani says, running her fingers along the countertop. “Whoa! It has a refrigerator and a stove and a bed and a bathroom.” She pauses. “Have to admit, I’m pretty happy there’s an actual toilet and not a porta potty, like we used on our other camping trips. Those stink worse than rotten cheese and vomit together.”
I laugh. “And check this out.” I hold up a white-and-brown mini remote-control version of our camper. “Dad found it at Big Al’s Consignment Shop.”
“Right? I just need to charge it.” I plug the remote-control camper into the outlet in the back and point to the bench by the kitchen table. “There’s also this cool diner booth in one of the many shades of brown.”
Dani glances around at the brown counters, brown kitchen cabinets, and brown flowered seat cushions. “Yeah, what’s with all the brown?”
I shrug and throw my backpack onto the bench. “At least our sleeping bags are blue.”
Dad gets behind the wheel and glances back at us. “Seems we’re missing a passenger.”
Dani and I look at each other and yell, “Find me!”
In two minutes, Casey’s jumping into the camper with muddy paws, searching for the cheesy dog treat Dani’s holding behind her back. We crack up as we pull out of the driveway.
After an hour and a lot of Dani texting the baseball team, we get to the Sagamore Bridge. We both open our windows. The Cape Cod air floods the camper, and the canal stretches below us. Casey sticks her head out the window, feeling the breeze as we drive across the bridge. I take a giant breath in.
This is our favorite part.
The moment we cross over.
Like a Good Secret
The dirt road to our campsite is long and winding and anchored by a line of pines and oak trees that salute us like soldiers as we pass. The camper rattles and sways as the tires kiss the potholes left over from the snowy winter. Feels like we’re driving to nowhere. Like we’re lost. But I know we’re not. I stare out the window, and behind the mass of trees is the campground and then the lake--tucked away like a good secret. I inhale deep.
Eric knocks my flip-flop with his sneaker. “Ready for the best weekend of the year?”
I nod and smile.
Mr. Stein finds our campsite and parks. “We’re here!” He stands and stretches and his mostly bald head nearly hits the top of the camper. “I need to check us in at the camp office. You guys are in charge of hanging the lanterns and gathering firewood for tonight.”
“Got it,” Eric says. Then to me, “Swim first?”
“Yep, let’s do it.” I take out my phone. “I just need to send this pic of Casey with the two baseballs in her mouth to the team chat. They’re picking a mascot.”
Eric doesn’t say anything, which is a little weird, since he’s the one who actually took the photo.
I hit Send and grab my bathing suit from my bag.
“Reminder, sunblock and bug spray before either of you go out, or I’ll be in big trouble with both moms,” Mr. Stein says as he leaves the camper.
I douse my body with the required block and spray, then hop into the bathroom to change. It’s small and everything is the color of mud, but it’s private. I slip into my new one-piece and put my team hat back on, and when I look in the mirror, I’m happy from my head to my flip-flops.