Authors: Aprilynne Pike
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I SLAM MY HAND DOWN
on my blaring alarm clock and roll back over. Silence. And not just my alarm clock. The whole house is filled with a silence that practically shouts its emptinessâas empty as it is every morning. Sometimes, if I don't hit the snooze button and go back to sleep, I can creep to the top of the stairs and hear my parents leave the houseâlisten to the garage doors clattering shut as they drive their separate cars to their separate jobs in the separate little lives we all lead.
But I haven't done that in ages.
Besides, it's Thursday. And I hate Thursdays.
So when the alarm goes off again I reach out and hit the snooze button. Again.
By the time I finally get up, I'm hella late for school. And need gas.
I stayed out way too late last night and didn't want a gas purchase to show up on my credit card at three in the morning. The credit-card statement is one of the few things in my life to which my parents pay
Plus, if I stop for gas on the way to school I can get my coffee, too. Medium cappuccino, nonfat with sugar-free hazelnut, no whip. I have a figure to maintain, after all.
I throw my shades on as I get out of the car. California is all well and good, but damn, there's so much sunshine! After last night I need my dark sunglasses for protection, at least until the first coffee is in me.
I walk around the coffee-shop-slash-convenience-store while the barista works his magic, and no one gives me a second look. My school uniform is practically camouflage. Everyone trusts a well-coiffed girl in a plaid vest and conservative black skirt. As though I would
to wear something this lame every day. I let my fingers run softly over the rows of miniature products. Single-dose Tylenol, little cans of SpaghettiOs, tiny screwdrivers. Gas stations are really just the dollhouses of grocery stores, and I love all the teeny stuff.
By the time my drink is ready, my purse is two packs of gum, one of those cool peanut-butter Snickers bars, and one Early Response Pregnancy Test heavier.
that I need the test, but it seems like a good thing to stockpile. Just in case. I mean, really, who wants to go get a test when you actually need it? Way more likely to get caught lifting stuff when you're jumpy.
And don't tell me you're not jumpy when you think you might be knocked up.
After smiling and handing a tip to the guy who pumped my gas, I slide into the driver's seat and drive around to the Dumpsters at the back of the parking lot. The far corner where no one ever parks.
I drink half my coffee before I'm chill enough to reach into my purse and, with shaky hands, pull out the stuff I stole. I always have such calm hands when I'm doing the deedâafterward, not so much.
“A pregnancy test?” I mutter. “The hell was I thinking?” Because despite the lame excuse I came up with in the gas station, this is possibly the dumbest thing I've
stolen. And that's saying something. I shove it into a wrinkled paper bag from some fast-food place and toss it into the backseat, where I can't see it. Without glancing at the gum and candy still sitting on the passenger seat, I push down too hard on the gas pedal and squeal out into traffic.
The clomp of my platforms echoes as I saunter down the pristine beige-and-sea-green hallway of Whitestone Academy. My high school is actually a pleasant place to be when it's quiet and empty like this.
empty. I turn and put on my I'm-such-a-good-girl face. “Yes, Mr. Hennigan?” Principal. Ever heard that little saying for remembering the spelling of
? That he's your pal?
Not this one.
He glares at me. “School started over thirty minutes ago.”
I nod energeticallyâvapidly, reallyâand wait for him to continue, letting the air get heavy with anticipation, letting him feel as stupid as he wants me to feel.
“And so you are very late,” he finally says.
“What? Oh no, Mr. Hennigan, I was on time.” With my trademark smile still plastered on my face, I reach into my purse and pull out an enormous hall pass, and hold it up. “I had to use the ladies'.”
Mr. Hennigan stares at the hall pass I stole from Mr. Bleekman last year when I almost got suspended due to too many tardies. If Bleekman had
the missing pass to Hennigan, things could have gone very differently. But not wanting to admit that he'd “misplaced” such a large, obvious item, Bleekman just made another oneâprobably in some lame little woodshop in his garageâand the hall pass and I have been bosom buddies ever since. Bleekman didn't report several other small items he
, either. Those little knickknacks are also my buddies, though not for the same reason as the hall pass.
Sadly, Hennigan's not completely stupid; he knows something's fishyâit just takes him a minute to figure out exactly what it is. Finally he settles on, “You're wearing your backpack.”
Like I said, not
But neither am I. “Oh, Mr. Hennigan, a girl never goes to the restroom unprepared. Are you aware that a full thirty percent of young women between the ages of thirteen and eighteen experience irregular cycles?”
Nothing throws off a single, childless, middle-aged man like menstruation.
To his credit, he doesn't make much of a fuss, but his jaw muscles clench visibly and he struggles for something to say.
“I should return to class.” I smile with as much sincerity as I can muster. I'm a pretty convincing actress, but I need to get away before he decides to check my story by escorting me “back” to class.
Fortunately, Hennigan's ego is too big. No matter how disappointed he is that he doesn't get to punish
, the only thing he hates more than being wrong is being
wrong in front of a student. He won't risk it. After a moment's hesitation, he gives me a tight smile. “Well, off you go.”
I turn and continue on my way. “Amateur,” I say under my breath. But he doesn't hear me.
But then, no one ever does.
High school is the hell I have to get through before my real life can begin. I'm smart enough to pass without even trying, and my parents are rich and influential enough to get me into any college I want. Some people might call that teen ignorance or say I have a screwed-up sense of entitlement or something, but that's not it at allâit's simply a fact. Privileged, rich white girlâthat's me. And I have no problem taking advantage of it. After all, no one else can. I fully intend to put some effort into college once I'm thereâI'm good at applying myself when it's worth my time. But when you know for a fact that what you do in high school doesn't matter so long as you don't get your ass expelled, there's nothing smart about wasting your time on perfect grades. And I am anything but dumb.
Though I can put on a damn good show of it.
When I want to.
“Lang,” I whisper across the aisle. “What's going on tonight?” I need a party. A date.
Because it's Thursday.
Langdon lifts his head from his arm, where he's been snoozing. We partied hard last night and he's wearing it like a mask. Dark rings under his bloodshot eyes, pale skinâthe works. I need to get my boy some Visine.
I, on the other hand, look fabulous, and not only because I'm Rembrandt with a blush brush. I don't actually drink that much. Of course I go to every important party that
at Whitestone throws, but it's not about getting wastedâit's about being in the right places. For me, alcohol is simply a good social lubricant. Langdon does
embrace that particular philosophy. I think he gets half his calories from Doritos and vodka.
“Dude, I can't,” he slursâI assume from being tired and not actually because he's plastered at school, though we've done that a couple of times, too. “I have practice today, and Coach is seriously going to kick my ass off the team if I skip again.”
“Tell him you're sick,” I murmur, keeping half an eye on our teacher. She's grading yesterday's tests at her desk in the front of the room while we all write proofs. Or, you know, don't. Tomorrow I'll copy from the nerd in the front of the class who's always trying to catch a peek down my shirt. I glance back at Langdon and waggle my eyebrows. “And then we'll go make you sick.”
like five times in the last two weeks,” Langdon says, sounding serious for once. “He's not going to buy it today.”
A hot spot starts to burn in my stomach. He knows how important it is for me to get away on Thursdays. He's the only person I've told. Maybe that was a mistake. “Well, he certainly
to buy it today. You look like shit.” I angle my shoulders away from him and pretend to listen to the conversation Kyndra is having with Sophie across the aisle on my other side.
I hate it when he blows me off.
always the one sober enough to drive him home,
generally willing when he just wants to hook up, and I always,
Or steal. Same thing.
He owes me big-time.
Course, getting him drunk three or four times a week so he can barely practice probably isn't the best idea, either, but I'm not
him drinkâwe just go to the parties together. I cannot be held responsible for Langdon's poor decision-making skills.
Still, maybe I should have saved my partying for tonight.
A bark of laughter, quickly muffled, catches my attention, and I look forward to see Khail laughing at the guy beside him, his hand over his mouth in a fruitless effort to cover the noise. I almost have to touch my breastbone to ease the ache that stabs my heart at the sound.
I hate that this still happens to me. That he still makes me feel this way. I should be
over him. But how many years have I watched that wavy, strawberry-blond hair from the desk right behind his? The one I
I punched a girl in the teeth when she wouldn't give it up in one of our classes freshman year.
He's never noticed.
Maybe if he had .Â .Â .
No, that's stupid. You can't just
people like that.
But I wish I could. I wish I could change a lot of people.
I must be feeling supernostalgic today or something.
Whatever; I give myself a rare moment of indulgence and keep staring. At his hair, obviouslyâwhat girl doesn't love strawberry-blond curls on a hot guy? But also those lean, muscled arms that even Whitestone's lame-ass uniforms can't hide, and his broad shoulders. The boy is perfection. He also won the state wrestling championship last year. As a
. Pretty much unheard of.
I watched. Drove out to LA and snuck into the coliseum late so he wouldn't notice. And left the second the match was over. I didn't want him to see meâdidn't want him to think I still cared. But I wanted to watch him. Wanted it so badly it was worth the risk.
I swallow hard and force my attention away from Khail. I look at the blank page of my notebook that I'm pressing my fingers against.
kind of thinking is
productive. I force my hands to relax and scribble mindlessly on the page instead, glancing up at the clock again and again as the second hand slows downâslower, slowerâuntil I swear it's not moving at all.
The bell still makes me jump.
Finally. School over for another day
I turn my back on Langdonâ
âand walk out the door with my chin held high. I don't need them.