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Authors: Colleen Nelson

Finding Hope (9 page)

BOOK: Finding Hope
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been avoiding Lizzie, Vivian, and Emily. There were no more invitations to sit with them in the common room or dining hall. Instead, they dipped into whispered conversations when they saw me, Lizzie and Emily throwing cold looks my way. And Vivian, frowning with disappointment. Their new recruit had failed.

“You were right about those girls being a prickly bunch,” I said to Cassie as we got ready for bed. My hair was still wet from a late-night shower and hung in long clumps down my back. I was looking for sympathy from her, maybe an invitation to join her friends at breakfast tomorrow. She ignored me.

“Cassie? What's wrong?”

Crawling into bed, she punched her pillow and looked at me with watery blue eyes. “I know what you've been saying behind my back.”

I stared at her, confused. I hadn't said anything about her.

“You told Vivian you heard me talking to my brother, telling him lies about Lizzie, about how many guys she's been with,” she accused. “Which is a total lie, because Parker and I don't talk on the phone. We only text!”

I froze, paralyzed by her words. “Vivian told you that?”

“Yeah, she wanted me to know what a backstabber you are. I guess you'll do anything to get in with them, won't you? Even spread lies about your roommate.” Cassie's eyes bulged at me, her cheeks flaming red.

Shaking my head, I tried to argue with her, my chest tightening with frustration, the need for her to believe me. “I swear, Cassie, none of that is true! They flipped everything around to make me look like the bad guy.”

She just snorted with disgust at me. I almost blurted out the truth, that I'd stood over her with scissors, on the Ravens' orders, willing to cut her hair to satisfy them. But that made me sound even less trustworthy.

I was ashamed I'd even thought about doing it.

“Cassie?” I wanted to explain, but she wouldn't look at me. It was like talking to a statue.

The Ravens had turned on me. I'd gone from their inner circle to their enemy in two days. They'd also managed to turn Cassie against me. I rolled over in bed and stared at the wall. Tears collected in my eyes and tumbled out onto the pillow. I'd only been looking for friends, for someone to spend my time with. Instead, I'd gotten so tangled up in drama, I didn't know how to find my way out.

In the dim light of the room, I searched for a pen.

Coiling under my skin

A viper waits to strike

Poisoned fangs


For now

I sit alone


Hoping it won't

Bite me first.


The words scrolled across my arm before I realized what I'd done. I stared at them, loving the way they snaked down to my wrist, the sting on my skin from the pressure of the pen. A hurt that matched how I felt on the inside.

My body, paper, walls, sheets, furniture: my poems could mark them all.


church. They'd help. Didn't they have to? I let Storm down. The rain had almost stopped—just a light drizzle sprinkled us, pinging in the puddles. Storm zigzagged around the grass, sometimes losing her footing and sliding down but then scrambling back up.

Church was a big deal in Lumsville. Not for our family, though. Mom had stopped going, even though her parents were big Bible-thumpers. Maybe that was why she married my dad so young. Wanted to rebel. Kids at school used to tell me I was going to hell because we didn't go to church, but once I got good at hockey, that all stopped. Maybe hockey players got into heaven no matter what.

There were two cars in the parking lot, but the front doors were locked. I went around to a side door marked
. A lady with grey hair and glasses, who looked like the best grandma anyone could want, spun around in her rolling office chair when I walked in.

She did a double take, blinking away her shock at my arrival. “Can I help you, dear?” She said
like an afterthought.

Storm twisted in my arms, nipping at my chin. “Sorry to bother you,” I began, not even sure what to say. “I found this dog and she's real little, just a couple weeks old. I wondered if you had something for her to drink, some milk or something.” I huddled farther into my jacket, soaked and heavy. “I'm real hungry too, but it's no problem if you just want to feed the dog. She's what I'm worried about.”

“Oh my.” The lady raised her eyebrows and looked at Storm. “Poor thing. Wait here and I'll see if we have anything in the kitchen.”

I nodded, conscious of the wet spot I'd made on the carpet. I started to shiver too, now that I was inside and standing still. Storm kept licking the rain off my neck.

There was church music playing. A choir singing sombre notes. She came back with a Styrofoam cup of steaming water and a tea bag bobbing on the surface. In her other hand was a bowl of cream. I was at least two feet taller than her and crouched down to take the tea from her hands, which were mottled with veins. They shook a little, but I think it was 'cause she was old, not because I scared her.

Storm sniffed the cream and then took a few licks.

“Here are some cookies, dear,” the lady said. The sandwich kind with icing that matches the colour of the biscuit part. She'd put them on a hard plastic tray in an overlapping row. I wanted to stuff them all into my mouth, but I didn't. Even though my stomach was twisting itself in a knot because I was so hungry, I only took four and nodded my thanks, sliding the tray back onto her desk.

“My car broke down, a ways back. I'm trying to get to the city to see a friend of mine. Do you know about buses around here?”

If she knew I was lying, she didn't show it. “No, I don't. But we have a van coming to pick up some donations for a church downtown. I'm sure Albert would give you a ride to wherever you need to go. Or I could call you a tow truck?”

“A lift with that guy, Albert. That would be great. I'll deal with my car later.” Relief washed over me. I looked at Storm, her tail wagging as she lapped up the cream. She was bringing me good luck.

For a second, a glimmer of doubt rose up. I'd be trapped alone in a car with a guy, some stranger I didn't know. What if he tried the same thing as Mike?

And then the self-hatred washed over me. My mind cartwheeled back in time, spinning through images like a merry-go-round in high gear. All the way back to the road trip in Duluth. The first time. I couldn't handle the memories this clean. I needed a fix.

The fake sweet icing in the cookies coated my stomach, sticking like tar. Sitting here would kill me. The clock ticking by, her fingers clacking on computer keys. I'd get so agitated, I'd go ballistic.

“Actually, thanks, but I'll just head out on my own. Don't want to trouble you. Thanks,” I babbled and scooped up Storm. A droplet of cream clung to her chin, caught in a stubbly whisker. The lady tried to get out of her chair, claiming it was no trouble, but I was already out the door. Happy to be breathing fresh air.

“Come on, Storm,” I said to her, more of a whisper. I could feel myself sinking. No meth for, what was it, twelve hours, maybe more? Thoughts of Coach Williams would swirl around me, squeezing me until I couldn't stand it anymore.

I needed something to feel good again.

The city was within reach. I just had to get there.



spent the day skirting the halls like a ghost. Lizzie, Emily, and Vivian had ignored me. Cassie had too, but worse, she'd told some of the other girls why she was mad at me. I had gotten evil glares in every class.

When I got back to my room at the end of the day, I tossed my books onto my desk and turned on my computer, hoping Mom had sent a message. Proof that someone was thinking about me.

I stared at the screen in surprise. Today, in bold print amid the junk mail, was a new message.

Wednesday, September 10, 4:46 p.m.

Hope Randall

Devon Huddington


My name is Devon, and I'm on the Melton-Ravenhurst Welcoming Committee. You probably figured out that Melton Preparatory Academy is the brother school to Ravenhurst. We check in with new students to make sure they're settling in okay and to see if they have any questions.

Let me know if you need anything. Where were you before starting at RH? By the way, nice profile pic. You look good in your uniform.



Profile picture? I opened the Ravenhurst websites, entered my password, and clicked on “Student Directory.” Sure enough, there was my student ID photo and contact information. I went to the Melton website and found Devon Huddington. He was cute. Like, really cute. Brown hair that flopped over his forehead and warm, dark eyes. I found myself smiling as I typed a reply.

Thursday, September 11, 9:10 p.m.




Thanks for the email. I'm from Lumsville. It's a really small town, so don't worry if you've never heard of it. I guess I'm settling in okay. I've never boarded before, so it gets kind of lonely. Have you been at Melton a long time? Do you like it?


I reread my email, frowning at the lie.
Settling in okay
. The truth was I'd never felt so alone in my life, but I couldn't admit that to someone I'd never met. Before I could overthink it, I pressed Send. A few minutes later, another email appeared.

Thursday, September 11, 9:23 p.m.




I call the place Hellton. I started in grade seven and I hate it. I'm from up north. Both my parents are doctors and travel all over the Territories for work, so I got dumped here.

The Welcome Committee actually doesn't exist. I just wanted a reason to email you. Saw your profile on the school directory and was interested. ;-) Don't be mad at me.

I'm just sick of the stuck-up bitches who go to your school.



hadn't made it to the city yet. The skyline still clung to the horizon. Without meth energy, getting there felt impossible. But I'd come too far to do anything else.

We'd spent the night in the parking lot of an amusement park. Closed on weekdays, all the metal rides sat frozen, silent. But the garbage cans overflowed with things to eat: soggy plates of fries with congealed ketchup; half-eaten hot dogs rolled up like mummies in their foil wrappers; plastic containers with barely touched salads, the lettuce brown but edible; and bottles of pop, flat, but filled with sugary goodness. Wasps buzzed around the remnants of our meal, dive-bombing like fighter pilots. We'd gone to sleep last night with full bellies.

But now, the next morning, I needed a fix.

I needed to find Hope.


BOOK: Finding Hope
3.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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