Authors: Riley Redgate
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been applied for and may be obtained from the Library of Congress.
Text copyright Â© 2016 Riley Redgate
Book design by Maria T. Middleton
Published in 2016 by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS. All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher.
Amulet Books and Amulet Paperbacks are registered trademarks of Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
Amulet Books are available at special discounts when purchased in quantity for premiums and promotions as well as fundraising or educational use. Special editions can also be created to specification. For details, contact [email protected] or the address below.
115 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011
the stories we've written,
the ones we've lived,
and the superheroes
in them all
“ALL RIGHT,” I SAY, “EITHER THE FURNACE IS ON OVERDRIVE,
or we've descended into the actual, literal fiery pits of hell.”
“I feel like âboth' is the answer here,” Juniper says. “Assemblies, eternal damnation .Â .Â . same basic concept.”
“Correcto.” I wipe sweat off my face, feeling as if I'm melting. “God, this is horrible.”
Other kids stream past to our right, flooding the overheated auditorium's aisles, filling the seats ahead of us. Juniper ties back her hair, looking clean and sweat-free, like those airbrushed girls in deodorant ads who are always prancing through blank white voids. I'm used to it. Juniper is the kind of beautiful that we regular human folk can't quite connect to. With guarded gray eyes, blond hair swept back, and the barest touch of blush, she's a cautiously assembled girl. Always has been.
A noise from across the aisle catches my attention, a noise that could be either a violent throat-clearing or a cat being strangled. Looking over, I catch a glare from Andrea Silverstein that could level a building.
“Oh, good Lord, not this again,” I mumble, sinking down in my seat.
Seriously, though, can someone explain why they call it a “personal life” when it's the one part of my life everyone knows? Today alone, I got three death stares in the hall, two whispers accompanied by averted eyes, and one
face of recognition. Why do I even have a branded face of recognition?
Okay, granted: Andrea maybe has license to get defensive, since it was her brother I hooked up with. But the rest of the world can shove it up their collective ass.
Andrea's eyes burn into the side of my skull for a straight minute. Finally, Juniper leans forward and gives her a cool, uninterested look. Andrea stops glaring at once.
I've been friends with Juniper since third grade, and I'm still waiting for her to pull out the magic wand she obviously owns. Something in her composure makes people stare; when she talks, she holds attention like a magnet. Juni chews on her words before saying them, as if she's parsing the sentences in her head, ensuring they'll come out perfect.
“Shit. Do you see Claire?” I say, looking around the auditorium. “I said I'd find her.” With the fluorescent lights bathing us all in sickly green, Claire's red hair doesn't pop out of the crowd as usual.
“Maybe she's skipping,” Juniper suggests with a wry smile.
I snort hard enough to kill off a few brain cells. Claire skipping anything school-related would be the first sign of the apocalypse.
With one last scan of the auditorium, I give up my search, and preoccupation sneaks into my head. God knows what percentage of the student body skips assemblies, but I see a hell of a lot of
empty seatsâand I can't help thinking that my sister's supposed to be in one of them.
We keep getting calls at home about my sister skipping class. It's the most bored-sounding voice mail of all time: “This is a recorded message from the Republic County School System. We are calling to inform you that Katrina Scott missed one or more classes today. Please send an excuse note within three days.”
The messages baffle me. What is Kat doing when she skips? She doesn't have a car or as far as I know friends she could skip with. Not that I know much about Kat these daysâshe seems determined to delete me from her life by whatever means necessary. If it keeps going this way, I should watch out for snipers.
The lights dim, and the auditorium doors clank shut at the back. Teachers close in, standing guard on either side of the exit, as if they're trying to discourage a revolutionary uprising. The stage lights glow as Principal Turner approaches the podium.
It's a nice gesture, the podium and the microphone and all, but Ana Turner doesn't need any of it. Our principal is a pearl-laden Air Force veteran in her mid-thirties, with the glare of a guard dog and the bark to match. Every time she opens her mouth, everyone under age twenty within a mile has a minor panic attack.
She clears her throat once. Silence drops like a bomb.
“Good afternoon,” she says, wearing a weirdly upset expression. I say “weirdly upset” because Turner has always done a stellar job of convincing the school that she does not, in fact, feel feelings.
She folds her hands on the podium. “Faculty and students, I've called this assembly to address a serious issue that has been brought to the administration.”
“This ought to be good,” I whisper to Juniper, rubbing my hands together. “You think they caught the guy who's been pooping in the third-floor old wing?”
Juniper grins, until Turner says, “We've received word that a teacher at Paloma High is having romantic relations with a member of the student body.”
I blink a few times before it registers.
I look over at Juniper. Her mouth has fallen open. Noise swells back to life around us, and Principal Turner clears her throat again, but this time, the chatter doesn't subside. Appearing to resign herself to the chaos, she talks over it. “The message we received was anonymous, submitted via our website. While it didn't include names, we take such accusations seriously. If you have any information whatsoever about the matter, please come forward to myself or a guidance counselor. In the meantime, we've mailed a letter to your parents. It should arrive within two to three days.” The talk buzzes higher. Her voice booms out to compensate: “These measures are for the purpose of complete transparency. We can and will resolve this matter soon.”