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Authors: Abigail Boyd

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Uncertainty

BOOK: Uncertainty
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THE GRAVITY SERIES

BOOK 2

UNCERTAINTY

by Abigail Boyd

Copyright 2012 Abigail Boyd

http://abigailboyd.blogspot.com

http://www.boydbooks.com

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CHAPTER 1

WET GRASS DAMPENED
the knees of my jeans, but I didn't stand. The spot above Jenna's grave had grown in, matching the rest of the graveyard's turf, with no sign that the soil had been turned over. I ran my hand over the etched letters on her tombstone.

Jenna Reed. Beloved daughter, cherished friend. You left us too soon.

I could still see in my mind the somber faces — so many faces — of the funeral goers. The obscenely colorful bouquets of flowers they tossed on top of her black coffin. The red ribbon tied around her casket wreath.

In the present, the unseasonably hot June sun beamed down, striking my shoulders around my tank top, making me too warm. A tear slid down my cheek and plummeted to the grass. The fact that I was alive to complain about the heat felt like betrayal.

"Why her? Why not you?" Jenna's mother, Rachel, had shrieked at me after the casket was lowered. The priest had barely gotten finished with Jenna's last rites before Rachel stormed up to me. She'd shaken my shoulders, almost knocking me to the hard November ground, the snow biting my ankles through my tights. "Why not you? As simple as a coin toss."

The adults had pulled her off of me. My parents told me it was just the words of a grieving parent. But it was hard to forget someone wishing you had died.

I rummaged in my pocket and retrieved a lemonade bottle cap. It was the kind Jenna always drank, especially during the summer. Sunshine juice, she called it, then laughed at her cleverness, her mouth sticky with the stuff.

Every time I visited her, I always felt like I had to bring something, an offering. She'd had enough flowers for the entire graveyard. And I didn't want to give her something that would die.

So I brought things that she would have appreciated. The picture of us as kids at the water park, fat bellies poking out of our bathing suits. A tube of lipgloss in her favorite shade. Last week it was the CD she'd been saving to buy before she disappeared. The CD had vanished, too, but I didn't mind.

A small hand rested on my shoulder.

"Are you ready to go?" Theo Weaver asked quietly from behind me. She was the friend I'd made after Jenna, someone who I had expected to remain an acquaintance. Instead, she'd become my best friend. Not filling the hole Jenna had left, but instead making her own space.

"As ready as I'll ever be," I replied. I pushed myself off the ground, and followed Theo towards her car.

We'd taken driver's training a few months ago, and the Toyota Camry had been her sixteenth birthday gift. It came from both of her parents, despite their odd living situation of being in different houses on the same street. I hated being almost a year younger than everyone in my grade, but at least my friend had wheels.

It had been seven months since Jenna's body was discovered, dredged out of Hush Lake by ice fishermen. We used to spend our summers there, sticking our toes in the gritty, muddy sand, and catching turtles. Finding her had given me no closure; in fact, it had only open up my disdain wider, into a chasm.

"Is it weird that I come here?" I asked Theo as we got in the Toyota.

"It would be weird if you didn't," she said, sliding in behind the wheel. She'd chopped her gleaming, artificial red hair above her shoulders, accentuating her pixie look along with the glitter on her eyelids.

Ten minutes later, we were sitting in the air-conditioned diner area of Dante's. It was Hell's only fast food restaurant; the zoning board wouldn't allow a McDonald's or a Taco Bell within city limits. We picked a table by one of the large front windows, overlooking the end of main street. It was full of the smell of bread baking and potatoes frying. There were only a few other tables occupied, so it was quiet.

"I can't believe this year is finally over," Theo sighed, folding our order ticket into a tiny triangle. She flicked it like a football into the corner of my booth.

"I don't know what I'm going to do with myself all summer," I said honestly, bouncing ice cubes in my pop with a straw.

"What do you mean? We'll spend it together."

"You're busy with the mural, though," I said. "I don't want to interrupt that."

"Only until the end of June. Then we'll have a whole two months to ourselves."

Theo had been showing her art at my father's gallery, Erasmus, for a while now. Her sketches had generally been well-received, and she'd even sold a few, which helped put new tires on her worn car.

Her latest project was a mural, which had been Hugh's idea. A challenge, he'd called it, stepping outside of her comfort zone. He'd already taken out ads in the local paper, setting a date for the unveiling.

"But no pressure," Theo had said sarcastically, scrubbing her hands in her hair. I knew she hadn't gotten very far, pushing herself to be perfect. One thing Theo treated with the utmost seriousness was her art.

"How's it coming along, anyway?" I asked. "You haven't updated me lately."

Our order was called, and I went to pick it up. I had the feeling the interruption was buying Theo time. When I came back to the table and distributed our trays, Theo made herself busy dipping fries in a cup of barbeque sauce.

"As far as the mural, it's..." She paused, thinking. "It's just difficult. I thought I'd be up to a new challenge, but my mind goes blank whenever I pick up a paintbrush. I'm just not as able to translate what I see in my head to paints as I am to pencil."

"Maybe you're trying too hard," I offered. "Take a step back from the easel for a couple of days."

"Maybe," Theo agreed begrudgingly. She'd ordered a cheeseburger with extra bacon, and was struggling to smush it small enough to fit into her mouth. "It's all I've been thinking about lately."

"You can't let Alex be an art widow," I teased, referencing her unlikely boyfriend. I was shocked when they started dating last year: Alex was a preppy, sarcastic class clown, and Theo could be shy and lovably weird. But they'd been going strong since then. Alex was her first boyfriend, and they seemed to be crazy about each other.

"All I've been thinking about is the trial," I continued.

"That's a wee bit more important," Theo said, holding her thumb and forefinger an inch apart.

"They keep pushing the date back. Warwick's lawyer is requesting extensions, and he put in a not guilty plea. I've given the police department all the information I know, I just don't want to have to go up on the witness stand and relieve it all over again," I said weakly.

"It'll be okay, I promise. At least you have time to prepare for it. And they'll put him away for a long time, I'm sure. That's the best way you can help her now."

"I'm just so worried about making sure my story's straight. It's all so weird," I said.

Out of the corner of my eye, a flash of blue caught my attention. I twisted my head to peer out of the window. My heart lurched in a hard, shocked beat. A little girl in a blue raincoat was standing in the middle of the street.

The one who appeared to me last year, and didn't stop until I'd discovered her body in the school basement, wrapped in a dirty sleeping blanket.

I jerked my body off of the leather seat, eyes still fixed on the girl outside. She seemed to be staring back.

"What's wrong?" Theo asked.

I turned towards her. "There's someone —" I began, looking back through the window.

A brown van obstructed my view as it drove past. When it was gone, I saw it wasn't the girl I was thinking of. Instead, I saw a totally different girl, older, who just happened to be wearing a blue coat. She ran off down the sidewalk, laughing with her friend.

"Nevermind," I said, sliding back down. My nerves were frazzled and my appetite destroyed. "It wasn't who I thought."

On Monday of the last week before summer vacation, Theo and I were walking to class at Hawthorne High. We'd just finished lunch, and were engaged in a discussion about how our finals so far had gone. Two more remained, which for me meant Honors history and painting and drawing. My skill in the latter hadn't gotten any better, despite a year in Theo's mom's class.

"If you don't stop being hard on yourself I'm going to stick a paintbrush up your nose," Theo said, giggling.

"I'd probably be able to paint better that way," I said. "And ditto to you, Miss Perfectionist."

Theo glanced ahead of us. Her vivid green eyes became round and she slowed her pace. I followed her gaze. The popular crowd was strutting towards us. They always stuck together, like models in a trendy catalog. Ready to annihilate the unfashionable and unimportant.

Henry Rhodes, my long-ago, far-away boyfriend, commanded the center. Next to him was his (I threw up in my mouth a little every time I thought about it) girlfriend, Lainey Ford. Lainey was the reigning princess of Hawthorne. Together they were like the most expensive, flashy float in a parade.

Neither of them had spoken to me since they got together, not that I was ever buddy-buddy with Lainey. But not a word from Henry, even after Jenna had been found. Not even to say, "I'm sorry your friend is dead." Not like I expected them to be decent human beings; I had too much first-hand evidence to the contrary.

I froze, unable to move. About to be swept away by a tidal wave. For the briefest moment, Henry's brown eyes met mine. I saw nothing there, no light. The eyes of a stranger in a face I had once loved. His eyes darted away.

I expected seeing him to get easier every day. But it only had to a certain point; my emotions still went haywire when I knew he was nearby. At least I didn't feel like I was going to catch on fire anymore from my blushing cheeks.

He elicited a mix of embarrassment and regret in me, and I resented him for it. I hated another person having such a strong effect on me.

Theo wrapped her hand around my arm and steered me out of the way, around the wolf pack. They didn't so much as glance at us, caught up in their own unimportant conversations.

"Let's pretend they don't exist today," Theo whispered.

"It'll be easier when we don't have to see them," I grumbled.

It would also be easier if Henry and I didn't have so many classes together. I had to pretend I didn't sense him in the back row during history and English, and he and Lainey sat together in painting and drawing, two rows in front of me. I had to bow my head in the final class the entire hour. Watching them make goo goo eyes at each other held no interest for me.

Theo and I bid each other farewell, and I went to history for my final. I still got creeped out in Mr. Warwick's old classroom, almost as if his crimes had been committed there on the floor, instead of in the basement.

A long-time friend of my family's, he had been the one to kidnap the girls and murder them. Henry and I, following a hunch, had found him trying to dispose of their bodies in the pool equipment room. It had led to a stand-off between Warwick, Henry and I, and Warwick had pointed his gun at both of us.

I still couldn't smell chlorine without retching. I didn't think I'd ever be able to swim in a pool again.

Warwick had been replaced by a long-term substitute who was his polar opposite, an ex-military man who barked his lectures. Despite this, I could still remember Warwick roosting on the edge of his desk, telling stories. A few times I imagined blood beneath the desk, then chided myself for being so gruesome.

Sometimes I had nightmares about it. Warwick would be deep in a lecture about Native Americans and the horrifying Trail of Tears. Then he would slowly drag the dead body of a girl from behind his desk, stroking her hair as she lay splayed across his lap, lifeless gaze directed nowhere.

BOOK: Uncertainty
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