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Authors: Megan Miranda

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BOOK: Hysteria
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“It’s probably not effective if they know you have it.”

“This is preemptive,” she explained. “They see I have it and that I’m not afraid to
use it. You should get one.”

“That’s why I have you,” I said. Also, I never carried a purse if I could help it,
just stuffed my back pocket with a few dollars and hid my house key at the base of
the gutter beside the front porch.

Colleen skipped ahead, spun around, and struck some made-up martial arts pose. “You
wanna mess with this? Do ya?” Then she tilted her head back and opened her mouth,
and her laughter echoed down the alley, across the ocean, and back again.

I crossed the street and entered campus through the main gate. As I walked back toward
my dorm, I noticed a few people looking at me. I finally understood Colleen’s feeling
of power as she walked to the party that night. I could walk across campus and people
would know. They’d know what I was capable of.

And I didn’t even need the pepper spray.

A girl with long black hair, short black bangs, and thick black eyeliner put her hand
on my arm as I walked through the lounge. “Do you remember me?” she asked. She moved
a piece of gum from one side of her mouth to the other. “Chloe. Remember? You came
to my mom’s wedding. I was a bridesmaid. Orange dress. Big bow. You can’t forget something
like that.”

Her hair had been lighter and shorter, and that had been before her discovery of eyeliner,
but she was right: hard to forget an orange dress with a giant bow.

“The chocolate fountain,” I said, because that wasn’t something you could forget,
either. Especially since I got it all over my dress. Actually,
Reid
had gotten it all over my dress. Chocolate-covered-strawberry handoff gone wrong.

Chloe smiled. “Exactly. My mom told me you were enrolled this year.” I wondered what,
exactly, her mother had told her, but I could tell from the way she didn’t ask that
she already knew. “Come sit with us at Preview?”

“Preview?”

“Yeah. Fall Preview. It’s like a dinner-dance thing in the dining hall the day before
classes start every year. Kinda lame, but, you know, tradition.”

“Oh, I can’t go,” I said, because I was fairly certain I’d never go to another party
again.

She scrunched up her mouth. “All right. Well, I’m in 233.” She pointed straight up.
“Come visit sometime.”

“Okay,” I said, and Chloe left through the front door. I walked down the hall toward
my room. I wished it was that easy. Walk up the stairs to room 233 and talk about
her hideous bridesmaid dress. Be friends in that easy, simple way. Talk about easy,
simple things.

Think
about easy, simple things.

My dorm room was empty

emptied.
I guess this was just another part of consequence, like my grandma had warned me.
Everything we do has consequence. This was just another.

My bed was piled high with my stuff, but the other side of the room, where Bree had
been, was now consumed with an emptiness. Her bed was stripped. Her desktop was bare.
The lights were gone. The posters were down. The only thing remaining was the sticky
tack where the posters used to hang.

I unpacked and set up my room, trying to spread everything out so the emptiness wasn’t
so overwhelming. It wasn’t a big room, and it hadn’t felt empty when I’d first arrived.
Only after Bree came. And left. People are funny like that.

I booted up the laptop and followed the instructions to set up the Internet connection
and a school e-mail account. Then I composed a message to Colleen:

1
ex-roommate.

1
creep.

2
bitchtastic
girls.

79
days
till
Thanksgiving
break.

I hit send, pressed my thumbs into my temples, and felt this chill along the base
of my neck. I squeezed my eyes shut and thought
No
, but that doesn’t do anything either. My laptop made a tiny ping

a message from Colleen:

Miss
you
too.
Will
come
as
soon
as
detainment
is
over.

And that was just like Colleen. She didn’t send cryptic messages, saying anything
but what she meant. If she loved you she said I love you. If she hated you she said
I hate you. She said what she meant.

And she did what she wanted.

We were a block away from the party that night when she stopped walking. She’d put
her hand on my arm while I was re-tying a ponytail that I’d just undone. “You’re nervous,”
she said.

“My hair won’t cooperate.”

She reached up behind me, pulled out the elastic, and threw it to the ground. “It’s
perfect.” Then she put her hands on her hips and lowered her voice. “Mallory, it’s
no big thing. You do what you want to do and you don’t do what you don’t want to do.
No biggie.” Then she shrugged her shoulders and fluffed my hair with both hands.

Easy for her to say. Turns out Colleen mostly wanted to do everything anyway.

“Hey,” she said, her hand on my elbow. “We don’t have to go.”

“But Cody Parker.” I grinned.

“I like you better,” she said.

Then I was laughing and not as nervous anymore, which I guess was her point, and we
continued walking down the alley.

She hung an arm over my shoulders and pulled me in close for a few steps. I could
hear the smile in her voice. “Dylan’s gonna freak,” she said. “You know he dumped
Danielle last week.”

No, I hadn’t known.

People in the dorm were getting ready for Fall Preview. Whatever that meant. Were
they previewing the new kids, like some meat factory? Did they bring a pen and take
notes for later? All I knew was the bathrooms were overrun with girls spending hours
trying to look like they hadn’t spent any time getting ready.

I saw Bree skip across the hall, following Taryn into her room at the other end, near
the lounge. I guess they were roommates now. If she noticed me, she didn’t let on.
I went back to my room and made a list of things I’d have to buy at the campus store
tomorrow. First on the list: lights.

I thought about sending Colleen another e-mail about this ridiculously pretentious
school that calls their lame-ass dance a Fall Preview, but I couldn’t concentrate
enough to compose a coherent sentence. Something was scraping my outside window. A
tree branch, probably. And there were footsteps. Quiet, shuffling back and forth.
Some guy waiting outside his girlfriend’s window, probably.

Probably.

But in the back of my mind

no, in the front of my mind

I kept picturing that car. It was somewhere nearby. And if the car was nearby, so
was Brian’s mom.

My room was nestled into the corner

far enough so the noise from the hall didn’t really bother me. Also far enough so
nobody in the hall would hear me either. So I left the room, locked the door behind
me, and walked through the cluster of girls streaming back and forth down the hall.
I pushed through the door leading to the lounge and found a couch tucked away in the
back corner. I watched the people waiting for their friends to show up, or waiting
for their friends to come out of their rooms. So they could walk over together, I
assumed. Like Colleen and I would’ve done.

Krista and Bree came through the hall door, side by side. And Taryn came tagging along
right behind them. Jason barreled through the front door, pushing the wooden doors
so hard they ricocheted off the wall and bounced back toward him. He stopped them
with his open palms held out at his sides.

He stood in the entrance, scanning the room, scanning right over me, until his eyes
landed on Krista. “Lovely, as always.”

Krista curtsied and Bree smiled her nonmysterious smile.

“Who’s this?” Jason asked, scanning Bree from head to toe.

“Bree,” said Bree, even though I’d already introduced her as Bree not half a day earlier.

He looked between Krista and Bree and rocked back on his heels. “So are we going or
what?”

“We’re going,” said Krista, with Bree on her arm and Taryn trailing behind.

But as they crossed the threshold, I saw Krista reach behind her and take Taryn’s
hand, pulling her along.

BOOK: Hysteria
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