Eight hours. Eight hours of listening to Justine's eccentric tastes in music and drinking countless cups of cheap coffee after leaving his temporary job as maintenance director far behind. Vaughn drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as he took the next exit and felt his truck rumble as the pavement yielded to rough gravel beneath the tires. He resisted the urge to yawn.
"Not long now!" came Justine's chipper voice from the passenger seat. She had retained her same unerring energy throughout the drive, which only seemed to grow as they neared their destination. "In five miles, take a right on Maple Street. We should be able to see it from the road."
"Tell me again, why here? Why a middle-of-nowhere body shop in a middle-of-nowhere town?" Vaughn asked, earning a nudge for his efforts.
"Why not?" his companion replied with a shrug. "I've always liked the country. Fresh air, friendly people…"
"Less traffic," Vaughn conceded with a chuckle as he scanned the nearly vacant roadway. He stole a glance at Justine, but her cheery expression yielded none of her secrets. "So, did you use to live in the country?" It was a futile attempt to learn more about her mysterious past but, as expected, she brushed the question aside with a good-natured laugh.
"I've been here. There. A lot of places. What about you, Vaughn? City or country?"
"Hmm. I've never really given it much thought. Maybe something in-between," he mused. He turned onto Maple Street and activated the windshield wipers as the sky opened and it started to rain. Vaughn unconsciously tightened his hands on the wheel and checked his mirrors, despite the empty roadway. His anxiety was not lost on the brunette, who cast him a knowing look. His jaw clenched as he prepared to deflect her probing questions, but Justine simply turned her gaze to the window and squealed delightedly.
"There it is, Vaughn! A sign for the body shop." The slight smile returned to his face and he gave a sigh of relief.
Just two more miles. Finally.
Falcon Auto Body came into view and the forlorn building looked even more dismal in the steady drizzle. He parked the truck in a small parking lot almost as vacant as the gravel roads.
"Looks like this is it," Vaughn said. He leaned back in his seat and stretched. "Hey, Justine—" He turned to his right, but she was gone. Her Houdini act was strange, if a little endearing. "All right, I get it. I guess I'll have to do this myself." He took a breath to steady the shakiness that had begun since the rainfall and closed his eyes wearily. His – Guardian angel? Ghost? – Justine hadn't told him much about this place except that there was an opening for a mechanic and he could do some good here. His life hadn't been the same since she'd turned it upside-down…he was still on the fence whether this wasn't just some elaborate dream. Or maybe he was crazy. That was much more believable than a disappearing thirty-something who seemed to make things happen as if by magic.
Vaughn rubbed his temples to dispel his conflicting thoughts and stepped out into the muddy gravel. Rain pelted his face, the cold droplets rolling down his neck. He brought an arm up to shield his eyes as he ran toward the entrance and pulled the shabby door open. A small bell wrapped around the handle jingled, announcing his arrival. He hurriedly shut the door against the downpour and cast a curious glance around the lobby. A small, disorganized office with a somewhat neglected air was situated to his immediate left, while an empty reception desk graced the area to his right. The waiting room was clean but sparse with few adornments. The chairs in the vicinity were worn due to age, but not from frequent use. This place was going downhill and fast. If Justine thought he was going to save this shop from going out of business, she clearly chose the wrong man. A savvy entrepreneur would've been a better choice, and he would say as much when he saw her again.
"Hello?" Vaughn ventured as he made his way to the reception desk. Empty. He took a half step toward the office, debating whether or not to peer into its messy interior. "I'm here for the mechanic position." Nothing. He decided to press his luck and enter the office. "Hello?" He jumped at the sound of a voice from the back.
"I'll be with you in a sec." A young man—not much older than Vaughn—exited the office, looking slightly embarrassed as he pushed up the worn sleeves of his plaid jacket to shake his hand. "I'm sorry—I wasn't expecting applicants. I, uh, please, take a seat." Vaughn complied. The impromptu face-to-face with the owner actually came as a relief, and he felt himself ease back into the sagging chair. Perhaps this trip was all for naught, and he could soon leave this drizzly town and all the memories the rain carried with it. He watched the man with interest as he pulled up a mismatched chair of his own.
Vaughn briefly wondered why the owner was conducting business—however casual—in the main lobby instead of in the office, but he dismissed the idea with a shake of his head. No matter. He'd be driving back the way he came soon enough.
"So, Vaughn," the dark haired man began after they exchanged a round of pleasantries, "how did you hear about this position? It was taken out of the job ads a week or so ago."
"Through a friend," Vaughn replied. It wasn't exactly a lie. Justine was a friend who just so happened to have the power to wield miracles.
"Well, I'm afraid you won't find much opportunity here," the owner, Connor, continued. "I do have a mechanic position available, but I don't have the budget to allow for the salary I originally posted. It's…well, I won't lie to you. It's a big salary cut."
Vaughn relaxed even more at the words. A salary cut? He'd be a fool to accept such an offer, especially if he could drive a few towns over, find another body shop, and earn his keep as a mechanic elsewhere. However, he decided to humor the man, seeing as he drove eight hours to seek this very opportunity.
"That's not exactly a deal breaker for me. I could make it work." The look of pure relief on Connor's face almost made Vaughn cringe from the guilt.
"We could use the help," the owner admitted. "But let's start with the basics. Tell me a little bit about yourself."
The interview was an easy one. Vaughn described his past experiences serving in the Air Force and the myriad of odd jobs that followed. He discovered that Connor had recently left with an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, and the conversation quickly derailed from routine H.R. questions and into the familiar territory of life in the service.
After a half hour of swapping stories, Vaughn began to understand why Justine had guided him to this middle-of-nowhere body shop in a middle-of-nowhere town. He was here to help a fellow soldier.
As their exchange reached a natural lull, Vaughn surprised himself—and Connor—by stating what he knew in his heart to be true.
"I'll take the job." He paused for a moment, then added, "I'm pretty new to the area. Any chance there's some places in town for rent?" He hoped that the words 'cheap' and 'affordable' were implied, as he was already strapped for money.
"Well, we do have a loft above the body shop. We've been using it for storage, but it's all yours if you want, until you can get your feet on the ground. Call it compensation for the pay cut," Connor offered. Vaughn shook the man's hand a second time.
Vaughn settled on the lumpy mattress with a sigh. Rain droplets continued to fall with vigor outside, tapping the small windowpane near the bed. He drew the faded curtains shut, as if the flimsy material could block out the sound. His eyes roamed about the plain room and eventually landed on his duffel bag, which carried most of his meager possessions. It wouldn't take him long to unpack. The window let in a crisp chill, which warranted at least a light jacket. He rubbed his bare arms and shivered, but made no move toward the bag at his feet.
Vaughn appreciated the solitude the loft afforded. Connor had gone home an hour ago, as well as the handful of other employees, leaving him completely alone. He flopped back onto an equally lumpy pillow and stared at the brush mark patterns on the ceiling. His life felt so far removed from normal. How did I get here?
"With me. By truck. MapQuest helped a bit when we hit that roadblock." Vaughn, startled, jerked upward on the bed and caught a glimpse of Justine before he laid back down again with a groan.
"Do you always have to do that? Sneak up on me?"
The young woman smiled teasingly and paced the room. "Maybe I was here the entire time and you just didn't notice."
Vaughn closed his eyes and rubbed a hand over his face. He'd long ago cast out the idea that she was simply a figment of his imagination.
"So, you are an angel? Or some weird helpful ghost?" They'd been over this before; Justine happily eluded any questions like she always did. She peered around the corner to investigate the rest of the loft. Vaughn decided to try a different tactic. "You knew, didn't you? You knew that Connor served in the military." His cheery companion gave a low whistle from the next room.
"A kitchenette, living room, half bath…Not bad, Vaughn." He resisted the urge to run his hands through his sandy hair.
"How did you even find out about this job?" the former airman pressed. "Connor said he took down the ad days ago." No response. He sat on the edge of the bed and briefly wondered if Justine had simply disappeared again. He craned his neck to try to get a better view of the next room without leaving the relative comfort of the quilted bed cover. "Justine?" He jumped when the brunette turned the corner, balancing two cartons in her arms. She tossed him one with a grin.
"Chinese takeout. My favorite," Justine added. She settled cross-legged on a moth-eaten armchair adjacent to the bed and unwrapped a set of chopsticks before digging into the meal with vigor.
"Liar. Everything's your favorite," Vaughn said. He attacked his food with a stabbing motion before giving up and switching the wooden utensil out with a plastic fork.
She waved a finger at him. "Hey, just because I enjoy all types of cuisine doesn't make me a liar." He hoped Justine would allow him to eat in relative silence, but apparently she had no such plans. "So…" she said slyly once she had finished off most of her fried rice, "what do you think?"
He raised an eyebrow and studied the carton in his hands. "I'd say it's little heavy on the soy sauce."
He knew what she wanted to discuss and struggled to come up with a suitable response. Finding none, he groused, "You never answered my questions."
"Well, you never answered mine."
"Maybe because I'm still trying to figure out how you found Chinese takeout all the way out here."
"Wasn't too hard to find, if you know where to look," the brunette shrugged. Vaughn couldn't help but laugh despite himself.
"Another one of your miracles, then? Making noodles, chicken, and soy sauce in a cup out of thin air?"
"You should see my chocolate pie," she smirked and the pair fell into another fit of laughter. It was only when they resumed their companionable silence that the thought lingered, like an itch he couldn't scratch.
"But honestly…can you?" He received a playful shove for his efforts. "Hey! I'm serious! Admit it, chocolate pie sounds really good right about now! C'mon, Justine. You can't keep me in the dark forever. I'm gonna figure it out sooner or later."
"Figure what out?" she inquired as she pushed the greasy carton aside and tore open the package of her fortune cookie. Vaughn returned the shove.
"You. Whatever, well, YOU are. I admit, I was leaning toward guardian angel, but the way you changed my mind about helping Connor and accepting the position…Now I'm thinking conscience. A charismatic, out-going, semi-annoying conscience."
"Well, Pinnochio, I'd like to take the credit, but you're the one who decided to take the job and help someone in need," Justine said. "I just kept you company on the car ride. Oh—look!" She held up the fortune with an excited squeal. "It says that tomorrow I'll find happiness in an unlikely place."
"Does a run-down body shop count?" Vaughn muttered. Justine ignored his bought of sarcasm and tossed him a cookie.
"Go on, tell me what yours says!"
"These things aren't even real fortunes. They're just spit out by a machine."
"Just humor me, Vaughn! Pppllleeeaaasseee?" The man threw his hands up in surrender.
"Okay, okay. I'll take a look." He broke the cookie apart and freed the paper trapped within. "A rocky path leads to brighter destinations." He frowned. "Huh. Sounds like some ancient Chinese proverb or something. Can we switch fortunes? Yours sounds a whole lot better than mine." Justine stretched her arms leisurely above her head in response.
"Well, I should be taking off. Wouldn't want to cut in on your beauty sleep," the woman joked. She whisked the empty cartons away and made a beeline for the door. Vaughn stumbled from the bed.
"Wait a sec, Justine. It's been a month since you mysteriously walked into my life. I have to know why you're doing this, why you're going out of your way to help me so much." He sighed and looked away. "And why you even bother."
"Vaughn. If you're still asking those questions, then you already know the answer," she replied, giving his shoulder a light punch. "And I just so happen to know the perfect thing for breakfast tomorrow. Let's shoot for seven. Plenty of time before your shift starts."
"But, I—" Vaughn started, but the feisty female had already bid him farewell with an obnoxious wave as she shut the door behind her. He opened it seconds later, revealing an empty stairwell leading to the body shop below. A smile came to his lips. "All right, you win this time, Justine. But someday I'm gonna put the pieces together. And you still owe me a chocolate pie."
The airman shut the door and flopped back onto the misshapen bed. He scanned the fortune in his hands a second time and allowed his thoughts to derail. Before Justine's arrival, he'd been walking that rocky path, consumed by sadness and guilt. And now…Vaughn spared a passing glance at the covered windows while the rain continued its steady cadence. His heart ached at the sound.
Too soon. That invisible wound he carried still hurt, as raw and choking as the very day when his entire world crumbled apart. A part of him wondered if he was still stuck on that rocky path. Vaughn eventually pushed the slip of paper aside and fell into an uneasy sleep.
True to her word, Justine arrived promptly at seven outside the loft, somehow managing to bypass the front door with the bell wrapped around the handle and Connor's dated security system. She knocked on his door with vigor. "Come on, sleepyhead! If you keep dawdling, we won't have much time to eat. And breakfast is getting cold."
Vaughn shivered in response. He doubted breakfast could get any colder than he was right now. After spending most of the night fighting the window draft and this morning finding out the hot water in the shower was practically non-existent, he had slipped into a pair of heavy jeans and a lined flannel shirt. He hoped that would be enough to stave off further chills. Just his luck that he'd start a new job and get sick the first day in.
He wondered for the thousandth time why Justine had chosen him to make a difference in people's lives. Forget an entrepreneur; she should have just haunted a billionaire. Money could usually help anyone and fix anything…like dying body shops, for example. For now, though, he'd just settle for a properly sealed window and functioning hot water. "Vaughn!" the brunette called again, her cheeriness cutting through his damp thoughts like a warm butter knife. He strode over to the door and opened it cautiously, only for Justine to pull him by the collar toward the uneven staircase.
"Let's go, Vaughn! I set up your breakfast in the main entrance!" She tugged him urgently down the steps and practically skipped toward the front of the small shop. Vaughn followed in her wake with considerably less enthusiasm.
"Oh. Uh, why?"
"Because I told you I'd bring you breakfast, that's why!"
"No, I mean—well, thanks, but—I figured we'd just eat in the loft. You even mentioned the kitchenette last night!"
"But this is more fun!" she chirped. He eyed the breakfast items arrayed orderly on a tired looking cabinet sitting forlornly near the entryway. Glazed donuts, bagels, an edible fruit arrangement, a pitcher of orange juice…way too much food for just the two of them. The smell of disinfectant also permeated the air, as if Justine had done more cleaning than simply wiping off counter space for the buffet. "Why don't you sit back here and I'll grab you a plate?" she continued at a rapid-fire pace, manhandling him into a squeaky wheely chair behind the receptionist's desk. He didn't even have time to protest as she pushed a plastic plate full of donuts and cantaloupe his way. A generous cup of chilled orange juice was placed haphazardly to his right. "Eat up! Busy day ahead!"
He stared dubiously at the assortment in front of him. "You do realize the shop doesn't even open until eight."
She hummed to herself as she conjured a feather duster amidst the cleaning supplies hidden in the cabinet and began surreptitiously dusting the vinyl window blinds. "It doesn't hurt to have an early start. You do want to be a model employee, don't you?"
"Uh huh…but I didn't realize my job duties included manning the front desk before opening hours." He took a tentative nibble at one of the donuts on his plate. It was beyond delicious. Something was up.
Justine moved further down the open space, attacking unsuspecting blinds with relish. "Well, you do live here now. It'll be up to you to assist any early arrivals." His eyes narrowed at the offhand remark.
"So, you think someone's coming early today? A customer?" He wasn't prepared for this. He wasn't prepared at all!
Justine, now humming an upbeat tempo, didn't respond.
"Justine! What did you do?" The jiggling of the door handle and the ringing of the bell was answer enough. Vaughn spared a glance at the opening door before swiveling in the lopsided chair to demand Justine's assistance. The empty lobby only confirmed the predictable absence of his breakfast companion. He pushed his plate aside in mute defiance despite his growling stomach.
"What can I do for y—" Vaughn began. The sharply dressed businesswoman draped her briefcase across the counter with a snap of her wrist before he could finish.
"Plenty. Starting with my car," she replied curtly, and proceeded to drum her fingers atop the rich leather case. The woman had beautiful Asian features with dark hair pulled back into a standard ponytail. Vaughn tried and failed to sign into the outdated computer after three unsuccessful password attempts (apparently "body shop", "auto" and "tires" were inadequate choices), and was forced to switch tactics. He fumbled through the drawers of the reception desk, blinding searching for something akin to a sign in sheet. The exasperated client pressed, "Well? What do I need to get this started? I don't have time to wait around." Vaughn eventually procured a notepad and pen and tried to regain a sliver of dignity.
"Right. I'm gonna need your name, contact information, and the details of your vehicle." Her annoyance was palpable as she rattled off the information with no regard for his cramping hand.
Sharon Fox, self-proclaimed entrepreneur and owner of one customized Mercedes Benz, took in her surroundings with an air of disapproval. Vaughn discerned from her clipped responses that she'd been involved in a car accident and, instead of accepting a tow, had driven the crippled vehicle in an attempt to stay on track with her busy schedule. The car had only lasted ten miles before one of the tires blew out and she'd been forced to park in the closest lot at her disposal.
"Which just so happened to be Falcon Auto Body," Sharon concluded with enough bite to give Vaughn's favorite hot sauce a run for its money. She gave a deliberate glance at her watch with a frown. "I'm on the wire, here. Any chance we can move this along? Like, NOW?"
To Vaughn's enormous relief, the door chimed open and Connor stepped forward, a worn jacket tossed over one shoulder.
"You must be the owner of that Benz outside. Looks like it took a nasty hit." Connor extended his hand warmly and the customer accepted it after a moment's hesitation. "Name's Connor."
"Sharon," she replied flatly. Connor, unfazed, hitched a thumb over his shoulder at Vaughn.
"Vaughn and I are gonna be holding down the fort for the next half hour until the rest of our crew arrives. Until then, why don't I go outside with you and take a look at the damage?" Sharon's features softened ever so slightly at the offer before she resumed her typical grimace. She withdrew the briefcase from the counter just as her smartphone vibrated with an incoming call.
"Business," Sharon said by way of explanation and exited the small lobby to talk privately in the parking lot. As the door swung shut, Connor surveyed the assortment of food with a lopsided grin.
"I'm assuming our newest customer didn't have anything to do with this," he joked, plucking a glazed donut from one of the plates. Vaughn shook his head.
"Nope. It was an…anonymous donor." That sounded slightly more believable than a reappearing apparition. To his relief, Connor merely shrugged and poured himself a glass of orange juice.
"Well, I'm not one to pass up free breakfast and glazed donuts. Bet it was the local girl scout troop." He stole a glance at the pacing woman in the parking lot with a guilty dip of his shoulders. "Hey, Vaughn—sorry about this morning. If I would've known someone was gonna show up so early, I would've been here to man the front desk instead." Vaughn glanced around the workstation sheepishly.
"No problem. It was a good way to get my feet wet. But I might've locked you out of your computer."
"Ah. Yeah, about that. The password's 'password'. My old man never did worry too much about getting hacked or whatnot. But if you couldn't get in, heck, guess he wasn't so wrong after all." Vaughn groaned as Connor took in his expression and laughed. "We'll get you up to speed. You handled everything alright, far as I can tell. Customers can get pretty testy—" Connor stopped abruptly as a raised voice emanated from outside the entrance. Vaughn exited the receptionist's hub and peered through the dust-free blinds to catch a glimpse of the commotion. Ms. Fox was actively yelling into her phone and gesturing wildly at her mangled vehicle. Her conversation was a little distorted behind the aged glass, but Vaughn distinctly heard the words "backwater" and "slow service" regarding her first impressions of the body shop. She'd obviously forgotten about the complimentary breakfast.
"Real peach," Vaughn muttered, taken aback by the viciousness of her phone etiquette. Connor slung his jacket around one of the moth-eaten chairs in the lobby and grinned.
"Oh, now, she's just in a bad state. You never know how you're gonna act in a crisis until it actually happens." He cocked an eyebrow as their customer began another rant. The once chalky gravel, coated from last night's rain, was creating greyish muddy smudges on her otherwise spotless dress shoes. "I'd better haul the car in and see what we're working with. It's unlikely anyone else will show, but we might as well open early. Declan should be in soon, so he'll take over the front desk when he gets here." Connor shouldered the door easily, the woman's agitated tone faltering slightly as he walked toward the battered vehicle and began a cursory review of the noticeable damage.
Vaughn returned to the desk. He knew he really should log in to the computer properly and glean what information he could before this Declan showed up…but he could only sum up the energy to write down the words now looping endlessly through his head. You never know how you're gonna act in a crisis until it actually happens. How painfully true. He knew firsthand how he'd act in a crisis: not fast enough.
The vague fortune from last night came unbidden to his mind: "A rocky path leads to brighter destinations." Was this his brighter destination? Sitting in a broken down squeaky chair surrounded by donuts and a fruit display?
Well, he supposed it could be worse. A brief smile came to his lips. At least he wasn't curled up in a muddy duck pond somewhere, nursing a bruised ego and fishing his soaked phone from its shallow depths.
That had been the day he'd first encountered Justine. An unassuming Saturday, with nothing to indicate the drastic turn his life would take. He'd been running on a wooded path when he'd slipped on a patch of loose gravel and stumbled off a ravine and into a small pond. He remembered the way Justine had called out his name, pulling his thoughts away from his throbbing ankle, before joining him in the shallow water to help him to his feet. Vaughn had at first refuted her help, but she insisted in that odd, endearing way of hers, and supported him while he limped three miles back to his car. From that moment on, Justine continued to offer her help. Well, Vaughn mused, if abandoning him with an irate customer was considered helpful…
"Don't forget, I did bring you breakfast today, too. Much better than that packet of oatmeal you considered making this morning," Justine chirped from behind him. The former airman jolted in his seat and nearly tipped the wheelie chair in reply. "And I thought it was only two miles back to the pickup."
"Justine!" he sputtered. "Where have you been?" The brunette had ditched the feather duster for a soapy bucket and danced around him while she inspected the pockmarked surface of the desk. She turned to the back of the small space and gasped in delight.
"Oh, look at these pictures, Vaughn!" She grabbed him by the sleeve and steered him to a collage of pictures on the wall. Framed in handsome black lacquer, the pictures in question were almost meticulous in their placement; a far cry from the dinginess that had settled into the rest of the worn office décor. Intrigued, Vaughn peered closer.
"They're photos. These must go all the way back to when this place was first built," he mused. The biggest one showed a young boy sitting atop an older man's shoulders, presumably his father's, in front of the body shop. A time stamped date in the right hand corner prompted Vaughn to do the math in his head. He pointed at the boy in the dusty overalls. "This little kid might be Connor. The age seems about right. Huh. Looks like this shop runs in the family."
The series of photos revealed a once lively place of business, much different than the run-down shop in which he now stood. Vaughn wondered what had caused its current abysmal state. Justine, however, hummed a cheery tune while she wiped the dust from the frames. He noticed a second cloth submerged in the bucket and retrieved it. He went to work batting away cobwebs and spared his companion a glance over his shoulder.
"So…Justine." Vaughn heard her chuckle.
"So…Vaughn," she replied mockingly.
"Any family of your own? I know you have to have some sort of family." He waited for her usual dismissal, but was rewarded with a rare answer.
"A big family, actually."
Vaughn couldn't help the grin that plastered his face. Justine noticed his goofy expression and flicked some water his way, which he not-so-gracefully avoided.
"Alright, big family. As in lots of brothers, aunts and uncles, kids…?" the brunette finished scrubbing her section and traipsed toward Connor's office.
"Lots of everything, really. As for kids…well, not in the way you mean. Looking after you is pretty much a full time job."
"Hmmm." He mulled her reply over in his head. He didn't want her to spin the topic away again. "Can I meet any of them?"
"Any of who?"
"Your family, of course!" He dropped the soapy rag in his excitement, a new thought taking shape. If he could just meet someone, some real person with ties to Justine, then everything would make sense, wouldn't it? Her sudden disappearances, scarily accurate predictions, apparent mind-reading ability…a flesh-and-bone family member would be able to convince him. Maybe she could give him an address or phone number—heck, he'd even take just a last name—then perhaps—
"Vaughn." Justine had stopped her merry humming. Her gaze seemed to hold a touch of pity. "Convince you of what?"
"That I'm not crazy. I know I'm not crazy. You're real, you're here, and…and if I can just figure out where you came from, why you chose me—"
"Oh, Vaughn!" She launched herself at him and gripped him in a mercilessly tight hug. "You're the sanest man I know! You're a great person!" He took her by the shoulders and tried to pry her away, but the brunette simply pretzeled him in even closer. "And if you'd given it a fourth try, I know you would've figured out that computer password!"
Vaughn patted her back awkwardly. "Okay, I hear you. I got it, Justine. Not crazy." She loosened her grip and grinned sassily at him. "Atta boy. Never question yourself."
"But it would be comforting to have someone besides you tell me that. Any chance you have family members close by? We could drive out, make a day trip of it. Whatdya say?"
She snorted with laughter. "Unfortunately, there's no one within driving distance." Vaughn picked up his rag and re-washed it in the soapy water.
"We could call your mother or father?"
"Big nope. Father doesn't take those kind of calls."
"Okay, well, surely they have email?" She shook her head. "Wait, no one? I'm sure someone does."
"They don't use too much technology."
"Well, then what about a good, old-fashioned, hand-written letter?"
"That would work if they could receive mail. Which they can't."
"Are you making all this up? Where do they live, then, freakin' Antarctica?"
"Vaughn." Justine repeated, her voice growing softer. "You might not be able to communicate with my family, but you can trust they exist, right?" Vaughn gave a half-hearted affirmation. "Then it shouldn't be too hard to believe I exist. Therefore, you're not crazy. See? Makes perfect sense!"