The dimple in Jamie’s cheek deepened. “Let me guess. A certain unkempt bastard with a panty-dropping smile?”
Jamie nodded. “That blush of yours tells me it is decidedly so.”
“Maybe,” I said casually.
“So you’ve met Shaw. What did he say?”
I wondered why Jamie was so interested. “He’s an asshole.”
“Yeah, you mentioned that. Now that I think about it,” Jamie started, “that’s what they all say. And yet that boy is drowning in pu—”
“All right class, take out your problems and pass them to the front, please.” Mr. Walsh rose, and wrote out an equation on the blackboard.
“Nice visual,” I whispered to Jamie. He winked, just as Anna turned to glare at me.
My second day passed in a sea of dreary mundanity. Lectures, homework, bad teacher jokes, homework, in-class assignments, homework. When it ended, Daniel was waiting for me at the campus perimeter and I was glad to see him.
“Hey, you,” he said. “Walk faster so we can have a prayer of getting out of here before the cars clog up the only exit.” When I complied, he asked, “Second day any better than the first?”
I thought about yesterday. “Mildly,” I said. “But can we not talk about me? How was your day?”
He shrugged. “The usual. People are the same everywhere. Not many stand out.”
“Not many? So some people actually stood out?”
He rolled his eyes at me. “A few.”
“Come on, Daniel. Where’s that Croyden enthusiasm? Let’s hear it.”
Daniel dutifully gave me the rundown of his senior class, and was in the middle of telling me about a brilliant female violinist in his music study when we arrived back home. The news blared from the living room, but my parents weren’t home yet. Must be the little brother.
“Joseph?” Daniel shouted over the din.
“Daniel?” he shouted back.
“She went out to get dinner; Dad’s coming home early tonight.”
“Did you do your homework?” Daniel rifled through the mail on the kitchen table.
“Did you?” Joseph asked, without looking up.
“I’m about to, but nevertheless, I’m not the one engrossed in—what are you watching?”
Daniel paused. “Why?”
“They recap the day’s market trends,” Joseph replied, without missing a beat.
Daniel and I exchanged a glance. Then he held up an incredibly thick envelope with no return address. “Where did this come from?”
“Dad’s new client dropped it off like two seconds before you got here.”
A look passed over Daniel’s face.
“What?” I asked him.
And then it was gone. “Nothing.”
He made his way to his room, and after a minute, I made my way to mine, leaving Joseph to face the consequences of being caught watching television before doing his homework. He’d charm his way out of them in about five seconds.
Some time later, a loud knock startled me from the depths of my Spanish textbook, which I’d decided was my most hated subject. Even worse than math.
My dad peeked in through a crack in my door. “Mara?”
My father walked into my bedroom, obviously tired but not at all rumpled despite spending the day in a suit. He sat down on the bed next to me, his silk tie catching the light.
“So how’s the new school?”
“Why does everyone always ask me about school?” I said. “There are other things to talk about.”
He feigned bafflement. “Like what?”
“Like the weather. Or sports.”
“You hate sports.”
“Ah, but I hate school more.”
“Point taken,” my dad said, smiling.
He then launched into a story about work, and midway through telling me about the lambasting of a clerk for wearing “hooker heels” by a judge today, my mother called us in for dinner. It was so much easier to laugh with my dad around, and that night I drifted off to sleep easily.
But I didn’t stay asleep for long.
I opened one eye when the pounding on my window grew too loud to ignore. The figure in my window brought his face up to the glass, peering. I knew who it was, and I wasn’t surprised to see him. I buried myself under the warm covers, hoping he’d go away.
He knocked on it again. No such luck.
“I’m sleeping,” I mumbled under my blanket.
He pounded on the glass even louder, and the old window rattled in its wooden frame. He was either going to break it, or wake my parents. Both scenarios were undesirable.
I inched over to my bedroom window and opened it a crack.
“I’m not home,” I whispered loudly.
“Very funny.” Jude opened the window, shocking me with a jet of cold air. “I’m freezing my ass off out here.”
“That problem has a simple solution.” I crossed my arms over my tank top.
Jude looked confused. His eyes were shaded under the brim of his baseball cap, but it was obvious that he was scanning my nighttime attire.
“Oh my God. You’re not even dressed.”
“I am dressed. I am dressed for bed. I am dressed for bed because it’s two in the morning.”
He looked at me, his eyes wide and mocking. “You forgot?”
“Yeah,” I lied. I leaned out the window slightly and checked the driveway. “Are they waiting in the car?”
Jude shook his head. “They’re at the asylum already. It’s just us. Come on.”
I WOKE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT WITH A scream in my throat and an anchor on my chest, soaked in sweat and terror. I remembered. I remembered. The flood of recognition was almost painful. Jude at my window, there to pick me up and bring me to a waiting Rachel and Claire.
That was how I got there that night. The memory wasn’t frightening, but the fact that it existed almost was. Or maybe not frightening—maybe thrilling. I knew with everything in me that my sleeping mind hadn’t invented it—that the memory was real. I probed the edges of my consciousness for something more but there was nothing, no hint of why we’d gone.
My veins were flooded with adrenaline and I could not fall back asleep. The dream—the memory—kept replaying itself on a loop, disturbing me more than it should have. Why now, all of a sudden? What could I do about it? What should I do about it? I needed to remember the night I lost Rachel—for her sake. For mine. Even though my mother wouldn’t agree; my mind was protecting itself from the trauma, she’d say. Trying to force it was “unhealthy.”