Here I am, my dear diary, about to confide in you again. About to spill my guts, as I always do, only to you. This is the only place I can open my heart and talk about what I really feel. How many ballpoint pens have helped me share my story with you? How many late nights have I nodded off, my head drooping over your opened pages, my hand still clenching the pen, as if I could write my thoughts in my sleep?
Of course, my parents don’t understand why I spend so much time bent over my desk, scratching away line after line, baring my soul when I could be doing a million things for fun. But you do, my friend. Sigh—
Okay. Shall we start today with some details? Since this is a new diary, I’m going to begin at the beginning. I’m Caitlyn Donnelly. I’m seventeen, a senior at Shadyside High. I’m not terrible looking. I’d say I’m a seven.
I have nice wavy blondish hair that falls nicely down my shoulders. I’m average height and weight. I have an okay smile although my two front teeth stick out a little. My friend Julie says my eyes are my best feature because they’re so round and dark and serious.
I’ve lived in the same house on Bank Street, two blocks from the Shadyside Mall, my whole life. It’s just my parents and me. Jennifer, my older sister, moved to LA to be a screenwriter.
Jen is the talented one in the family, but so far, she spends most of her time waiting tables at a taco joint in Westwood. I think I spend more time writing than she does, but I know she’ll get a break one of these days. She’s very sophisticated and clever, and everything comes so easy to her.
Jen and I were never that close, I guess because she’s almost six years older than me. But she was someone I could talk to when I had things on my mind. Like, always. And I miss her a lot.
We FaceTime every few weeks, but it isn’t the same. It’s always kind of awkward, I think because Jen feels she’s been out in LA for nearly a year and hasn’t come close to getting anyone interested in her writing. And she’s the kind of person who hates to fail.
I don’t care if anyone ever sees my writing, Diary. Truth is, I don’t want anyone to ever see it. I think I’d totally freak if someone read my true thoughts and learned what a weirdo I am. That’s why I keep the book locked and wear the key on a chain around my neck.
Private. Keep Out. This Means You.
Actually, I don’t think I’m a weirdo. I just don’t fit in with my family. They’re all so driven and ambitious and serious about life, and I mainly want to have fun. Sigh again.
Life is so short. I’ve learned that the hard way. You know all about it, Diary. You’re the only one.
No one else knows the true story. No one would believe it.
Since Blade died, my life is only sadness. And fear.
I don’t think I’ll ever get back to the cheerful, funny, fun-loving person I was. My parents and my friends are desperate to pull me from my black mood.
But how can they? It will never happen.
Blade and I were perfect together. Perfect … from that first night we met.
That night … It wasn’t a perfect night, Diary. I ran into Deena Fear that night.
I’d lived in Shadyside my whole life and never spoken to anyone from the Fear family. And now my hand is suddenly sweaty and it’s hard to grip the pen, remembering … thinking about Deena Fear and all the darkness she brought with her.
And poor Blade. My beautiful Blade. Did I have any way of knowing he would be with me for such a short time? Any way of knowing he would die such a horrifying death?
I have to stop. My tears are smearing the page. And I’m gripping the pen so—tightly now. I want to use it to stab … stab … stab.…
It seems like a long time ago, but it was only a few weeks, Diary. Julie and Miranda and I were squeezed into a booth at the back of Lefty’s. That’s the cheeseburger place across from the high school. The food at Lefty’s isn’t bad, but we mainly go to see who else is there. It’s a hangout. That’s what they’d call it in all those cornball teen movies.
It was a little after nine on a Friday night. Just about every booth was filled with kids from our high school. A few grumpy-looking adults were huddled by the front counter waiting for a table. They probably didn’t appreciate the loud voices and constant laughter.
I think adults generally hate teenagers. Because they’re jealous. They’d rather be teenagers than what they are.
A loud crash made us all jump. A waitress had dropped a tray of glasses. The restaurant went silent for a few seconds. Then everyone burst into applause.
I turned back to Julie and Miranda. “What was I talking about?”
“You were talking about yourself, of course,” Miranda said. She’s the sly one with the dry sense of humor.
“Well, it is my favorite subject,” I replied.
“You were telling us about the little boy who dropped his popcorn,” Julie said.
“Oh. Right. Well, I’m not allowed to replace it. Ricky, the manager, says no free popcorn for anyone. But I waited till Ricky stepped away from the popcorn counter, and I gave the kid another bag.”
“Big whoop,” Miranda said. “That’s your best story for tonight?”
I grabbed her wrist. “You didn’t let me finish,” I said. “Then the kid dropped the second bag, too.”
Julie laughed. “That’s so sad.”
Miranda rolled her eyes. “Caitlyn, you have an exciting life. My heart is totally pounding. Tell that story again.”
“Okay, okay,” I said. “So, working the popcorn counter at the Cineplex isn’t a thrill a minute. What did you do today that was so exciting?”
Miranda sighed. “Believe it or not, this cheeseburger is the highlight of my day.” She raised it to her mouth and took a small bite. The tomato slid from the bun and plopped onto her plate.
“You have to learn how to work a cheeseburger,” Julie said. It wasn’t that funny, but all three of us laughed.
Julie and I have been friends since ninth grade, although we’re both very different. She’s always sarcastic and rolling her eyes and making funny remarks. I’d say her sense of humor is kind of nasty, actually.
I’m not a rah-rah cheerleader, but I try to see the bright side of things. I get into things. I’m enthusiastic. I can’t help it. I don’t hold myself back. I even try to enjoy things other people might find boring, like my after-school shifts at the popcorn counter.
I’m impulsive. And emotional. I cry at movies and TV shows all the time. It doesn’t embarrass me.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Miranda cry. Or get very excited about anything, either. She’s always standing off to the side, making jokes. She’s not shy. She’s just all locked-up inside herself, I think.
Miranda could be really attractive if she lost a little weight and did something with her stringy brown hair. Also, her glasses have to go. The red plastic frames make them look like swim goggles.
Julie and I keep telling her she’ll look so much better with contacts. But she says she doesn’t want to stick sharp little things in her eyes. Stubborn.
I’m not judging her in any way, Diary. I’m just trying to describe her. She’s a good friend. She’ll never see what I write here. No one will. But I want to be as accurate and honest as I can.
Julie doesn’t eat meat, so she had a grilled cheese sandwich, and we shared a plate of fries. She and I look like we could be sisters. Her hair is pretty much the same blonde as mine, and we both have serious, dark eyes. She likes to wear bright red lipstick, which makes her face more dramatic than mine.
We’re the same age, but I think she looks older. Maybe because she’s about two inches taller than I am. And, I admit it, she dresses better. Her aunt is always sending her these awesome designer tops and skirts from New York.
Julie is very practical and even-tempered. Her last name is Nello, and I call her Mellow Nello. She’s always warning me not to jump into things and to be careful about different guys and to take it easy and not be so emotional.
I always accuse her of being too timid and not taking chances, of always being predictable. Of course, she thinks being predictable is a good quality. We may look alike, but our personalities are way different.
Miranda leaned close and gave my hair a long sniff.
I squinted at her. “Are you getting weird?”
“No. Your hair smells like popcorn,” she said. “It’s a great smell. Someone should make a popcorn perfume.”
“A million-dollar idea,” Julie said. “I’d buy it. And how about bacon perfume? We could make a fortune.”
“I thought you were a vegetarian,” I said.
She frowned at me. “I don’t eat bacon. That doesn’t mean I can’t wear it.”
I sighed. “When I get home, I shampoo my hair twice. But I can’t get rid of the popcorn smell.”
Julie shook more salt onto the plate of fries. “Do you ever eat any of the popcorn while you’re waiting for the next customer?”
I grinned. “Ricky would like to keep count of each kernel, but he can’t. I help myself to a handful or two when he isn’t looking.”
Miranda rolled her eyes again. “Are we going to talk about popcorn all night? Doesn’t anyone have any good gossip?”
I gave her a gentle push. “Get up. I have to go to the bathroom.”
She edged out of the booth and climbed to her feet. I slid out behind her. “Don’t say anything interesting till I get back.”
“Not a problem,” Miranda said.
Lefty’s has a single bathroom across from the kitchen door. I had to wait in line behind two other girls I knew from school. They were talking about a metal band concert they’d seen at the Arena in Martinsville. They thought it was awesome. They sat in the third row, and the ushers passed out ear plugs to keep everyone from going deaf.
Then the girls started talking about what the warm spring weather was doing to their hair. “Extra conditioner,” was one solution. “I use half a bottle of the stuff every morning.” Interesting idea.
When I came out of the bathroom, I walked right into a girl with long straight black hair, dark eyes, and black lipstick against pale skin. She was carrying a white take-out bag of cheeseburgers.
The bag slipped from her hand when I bumped her. We both bent over to pick it up, and we cracked heads.
“Sorry,” she said quickly, in a tiny voice. “Sorry.” Even though it was my fault.
I handed her the bag.
I knew who she was.
I didn’t know that my life was about to change forever.
Deena Fear wore huge round black-framed eyeglasses. Her dark eyes appeared to bulge behind them, making her look like an owl. She wore a long-sleeved black crew-neck sweater, despite the warm night, over a short straight black skirt and black tights. I noticed her earrings—small silver skulls. She had a silver skull in her nose, too.
“I’m sorry,” I said awkwardly. “I wasn’t watching where I was going. I—”
“That’s okay, Caitlyn.” I felt a quick jolt of surprise. I didn’t think Deena knew my name. Her eyes went down to my wrist. “I like your bracelet.” She gazed at the silver bracelet my parents had brought me from their vacation in the Bahamas.
To my surprise, she reached out and wrapped her hand around my wrist and the bracelet. Her hand was warm and dry. Her fingernails were divided down the middle, each one half-black, half-white. She held my wrist for a long moment. “Does it have powers?”
She spoke in such a soft voice, I wasn’t sure I’d heard correctly. “Powers? The bracelet?”
She nodded. Her straight black hair fell over her forehead. She let go of my wrist to brush it back.
“I … don’t think so,” I said. I laughed. Was she making a joke?
She shifted the cheeseburger bag to her other hand. “I’ve seen you at the mall, Caitlyn,” she said.
I nodded. “Yeah. I work at the Cineplex some afternoons.” I turned and glimpsed Julie and Miranda watching from the back of the restaurant. “I’d better get back to my friends. See you around, Deena.”
Her owl eyes locked on mine. I wanted to turn away, but they seemed to hold me there. “Sometimes I see things,” she said. “Sometimes I know things about people.”
I didn’t know how to reply to that. A waitress carrying a tray of cheeseburgers over her head wanted to squeeze past us. I used it as an excuse to get away. I gave Deena a little wave and walked away. For some reason, my wrist felt all tingly where she had handled my bracelet.
Miranda climbed up so I could slide into the booth. I sat down in time to see Deena Fear walk out of the restaurant, her long hair sweeping behind her back.
“Since when do you know her?” Julie asked.
“I don’t,” I said. “I almost knocked her over. So we started talking.”
“She takes Goth to a new level,” Miranda said.
“She gives me the deep creeps,” Julie said.
“She isn’t so bad,” I said.
Miranda shook her head. “Just because she’s in the Fear family, does she have to wear all black clothes and have black lips and black nails and creep around like some kind of witch? Why doesn’t she rebel? Wear hot colors? Be a cheerleader? Run for Prom Queen?”
“She seems really shy,” I said. “She’s so awkward. Think she has any friends? Ever see her hanging out with anyone at school?”
“I don’t remember even seeing her in school,” Julie said.
“She doesn’t try to have friends,” Miranda insisted. “We were at the same birthday party once. I tried talking to her. But she’s obsessed with ghosts and the paranormal and the walking dead. She kept talking about these movies I never heard of. At least, I think they were movies.”
“Maybe she doesn’t have a choice,” I said, not exactly sure why I was defending Deena Fear. I guess I always like to side with the underdog. Or maybe I just like to argue with Miranda. “Coming from that family—”
“She’s like a total Fear Family cliché,” Julie chimed in.
My bracelet still tingled, as if it had been electrified somehow. I ate a few fries. They were cold now. I turned to Miranda. “Are you having a graduation party?”
She didn’t hear me. She was staring at a table near the front of the restaurant.
“Miranda has to have the party,” Julie said. “I can’t have it. My house is too small.”
“We could have it in your backyard,” I said. “My parents aren’t even going to be in town. They’ll be in South Africa for two weeks on a business trip. Do you believe they’re missing graduation?”
“Then we should have the party at your house,” Julie said. “No parents. A total blowout.”
Miranda still had her gaze on the table at the front. She bumped my shoulder. “Who’s that guy gawking at you over there? Do you know him?”
I followed her gaze. A blue-uniformed waitress began to clear a table, blocking my view. “What guy?”
“See him?” Miranda turned my head. “The guy in the red hoodie? He’s been staring at you like he’s hypnotized.”
“Hypnotized by your beauty,” Julie said. I couldn’t tell if she was making a joke.
I finally spotted the guy, by himself at a small, square table, sitting sideways in his chair, ignoring his food. And yes, his eyes were on me. He was kind of cute looking. A dark shirt under the open, red hoodie. A wave of black hair falling over his forehead. “I don’t recognize him,” I said.
“He thinks he knows you,” Miranda said.
I squinted harder. “No. I’ve never seen him. I don’t think he goes to Shadyside.”
“He hasn’t blinked,” Julie said. “Maybe he wants to have a staring contest with you.”
“I’ll find out,” I said. “I’m not shy.” I gave Miranda’s chubby arm a shove. She obediently climbed to her feet so I could slide out.
Julie raised her hand to her mouth. She does that a lot. She’s so easily shocked. “Are you really going over to him?”
“What’s the big deal?” I muttered. I squeezed past two girls who were just sitting down at the table across from us, and I strolled over to Mr. Red Hoodie.
He had amazing gray-green eyes, and they grew wider as I stepped up to him. I placed my hands on my waist. “Hey,” I said. “How’s it going?”
He shrugged. “Not bad.” He had a nice smile and a tiny crease of a dimple in one cheek.
“Were you looking at me?” I demanded.
He snickered. “Do you always think people are looking at you?”
“Answer the question,” I said. “Were you?”
He shrugged again. “Maybe.” I liked the way those incredible gray-green eyes crinkled up when he smiled.
I smiled back. “Why were you looking at me?”
“Because you have a piece of lettuce stuck on your chin.” He reached up, tugged it off, and showed it to me.
Well, yes, Diary, I was expecting something a little more romantic. Of course, I was embarrassed. But I didn’t want to turn and hurry away. Something about him—not just his cuteness—drew me to him.
I crossed my arms over my chest. “What’s your name?”
“No. Really,” I said.
“Really. It’s Blade. My parents wanted me to be sharp.”
I laughed. “Bet you said that line before.”
“It’s the truth,” he said.
“My name is—” I started. But he raised a hand to cut me off.
“Let me guess,” he said. “I’m good at guessing names. I have a talent.”
I slid past him, pulled out a chair, and sat down across from him. I glimpsed Julie and Miranda in our booth in the back. They were both watching the scene intently. “Shoot,” I said.
His eyes burned into mine. He studied me. “Your name is Tabitha,” he said.
I nearly choked. “Tabitha?”
He nodded. “What do your friends call you? Tabby?”
I nodded. “Yes. They call me Tabby. How did you guess my name like that? That’s amazing. Did somebody tell it to you?”
His cheeks turned pink. “No way. I told you. I have a talent for guessing names.”
I leaned across the table and flashed him a teasing look. “And what else do you have a talent for, Blade?”
He shrugged. “What’s your real name?”
“I thought so. That was my second guess.”
A few minutes later, after some definite first-class flirting, I said goodbye to my two friends and walked out of the restaurant with him. Where were we going? I had no idea. I only knew that after just a few minutes, I felt totally comfortable with him. More than comfortable. I was definitely attracted to him, and I wanted to spend time with him.
Is this what love at first sight is all about?
Hard to believe, but the question actually flashed through my mind as we stepped out into a warm April night, a soft, cool breeze brushing my hot cheeks, the fragrant aroma of Lefty’s cheeseburgers in the air, a bright half-moon overhead in a purple sky.
I know, I know. It sounds like some kind of bad Lifetime movie. But sometimes life has to imitate that strange unreal happiness you usually see only on TV.
And this was definitely one of those times.
Blade put his hand on my back as we walked. It seemed totally natural. As if we’d been walking together for years. I found myself wondering if he felt the same way.
We strolled along Division Street, past the high school, the yellow moonlight reflected in its dark windows, and along the houses that stood across from Shadyside Park.
What did we talk about? I hardly remember, Diary. We talked about school. Blade’s family moved to Shadyside last fall, and he goes to The Academy. That’s the private high school across town. He talked about his old house in Shaker Heights and how he hated to leave his friends back there.
He said he plays keyboard and guitar, and he is in a jazz quartet at school. He’s pretty sure he can get into Oberlin. But he was sick for a semester, so he can’t graduate with the rest of his class in June.
I told him I was accepted at Middlebury College in Vermont, which is where my sister Jen went. But my parents hadn’t been able to work out a student loan for me yet. I said I’d tried for a Creative Writing Scholarship, but the competition was too stiff. I didn’t get it.
He turned those awesome gray-green eyes on me. “You like to write?”
I was about to answer when something across the street caught my attention. I heard blaring dance music and saw the bright lights in a large house across the street. Through the front window, I could see a crowd of dancing people. The crowd spilled out onto the broad front porch. Voices and laughter.
And I had one of my ideas. I grabbed Blade’s arm. “Hey, Blade,” I said. “Let’s do something crazy.
He narrowed his eyes at me. “How crazy?”
“Let’s crash the party,” I said. “You know. Hang out. Dance for a bit. Get something to drink.” I motioned to the front window. “Look. It’s so crowded. No one will notice two more people.”
I held my breath, waiting for his answer. This was definitely a test. Would Blade pass it?
A grin spread over his face. “Love it,” he said. He grabbed my hand and started to pull me across the street. “Let’s do this thing. Party time.”
That’s when I knew Blade and I belonged together.
We raced up the front lawn. Two beds of tulips stood on either side of the front porch. A soft wind made the tulips bob and sway as if greeting us. We made our way past the people on the porch, nodding and saying hi, acting as if we belonged.
They seemed to be college age, maybe in their early twenties. They were casually dressed, not quite as casually as Blade and me. But we didn’t really stand out. They were drinking wine from paper cups, talking in small groups, glancing at their phones as they talked.
We slipped through the screen door and stepped into the living room. It was hot in there, so many bodies jammed in. Electronic dance music was cranked up to full volume. The room buzzed and vibrated to the beat.
The lights were turned low. It took a while for my eyes to adjust. Blade held my hand and we crossed the room to the drinks table. Three or four couples were dancing. But the room was too crowded, and they kept bumping people clustered on the sides.
Blade and I grabbed bottles of beer. I don’t really like beer. I guess I was trying to impress Blade. On the next table, I saw big bowls of tortilla chips and salsa and a tray of pigs in blankets.
I turned and gazed around the room, squinting into the shadowy orange light. I didn’t recognize anyone. They were all definitely older than Blade and me.
I pressed my face close to Blade’s ear. “I wonder whose party this is.”
He gazed around. “Beats me.”
We clicked beer bottles. “This is very cool,” I said.
“Best party ever!” Blade joked.
A young woman with very short blonde hair, shaved on one side, and pale blue eyes, dressed in faded jeans and layers of blue and green T-shirts, bumped me, nearly spilling her wine. “Oh. Sorry,” she said. “No room to move.”
“No problem,” I said. “Awesome party.”
She nodded. “I’ve never seen you here before. How do you know Hannah and Marty?”
“Just from around the neighborhood,” I said.
She moved on. Blade and I enjoyed a good laugh.
And that’s when I saw her. Deena Fear. My breath caught in my throat. She was so unexpected, so out-of-place.
Deena sat at the bottom of the stairway that led upstairs. Dressed in black as always, she had her pale hands clasped tightly in the lap of her skirt. Her black hair fell loosely around her face.
I peered at her through the railings in the banister. Did she see me?
Yes. Her eyes flashed behind her owlish glasses. She jumped to her feet.
I nudged Blade with my elbow. “That girl who’s coming over—”
Blade squinted through the crowd as Deena approached. “Do you know her? Is she a friend of yours?”
“No,” I said. “I mean—”
Deena stepped through a dancing couple to get to us. Her face was even paler than usual, and her lips were covered in a neon purple lipstick. She stepped up to me, a few inches too close. I mean, she didn’t give me any space at all.
I nodded. “Hey, Deena.”
She swept her long hair behind her shoulders with one hand. “Caitlyn, do you know Blade?”
“Well…” I hesitated. How did she know Blade’s name? He didn’t go to our school.
I glanced at Blade. He was studying her intently, like she was another species or something.
“How’s it going, Blade?” Deena asked.
“Not bad,” he said. He squinted at her. “Do I know you?”
She didn’t answer him. Instead, she startled me by grabbing my wrist, wrapping her fingers around my silver bracelet, just as she had at Lefty’s. I felt a shock of warmth travel up my arm.
“Great party, huh?” Her eyes peered into mine, as if searching for something. I tried to free my arm, but she held on.
She squeezed my wrist, so hard the silver bracelet cut into my skin. Then she brought her face close to mine. I felt her hot breath on my cheek.
“I saw him first,” she whispered.
I blinked, my mind suddenly whirring. I knew I hadn’t heard correctly. The music … the voices … It all seemed to grow louder, as if I was swimming in sound. Drowning …
I didn’t say anything. I guess I was too stunned to react. And, I just wanted to free my arm from her grip, to get away from her.
“We should get going,” Blade said, his eyes on the front door.
I tried to turn, but Deena held on. She raised my hand close to her face, puckered her bright purple lips, and blew on the silver bracelet. Blew a puff of hot breath onto the bracelet and my wrist.
Her breath felt damp, almost sticky, on my wrist. I gasped and tugged my arm free. The bracelet tingled, then grew burning hot. “Hey, Deena—” I called out.
But she had already spun away from us. She bumped a few startled people out of her way and disappeared out the door, her long tangles of black hair swaying behind her.
I held my wrist, waiting for it the bracelet to cool.
Blade’s face was twisted in confusion. “What was that about?”
“Dunno,” I murmured. “Seriously. I don’t have a clue.”
“She is weird with a capital weird,” he said.
“Her name is Deena Fear,” I told him, stepping out of the way of a young man carrying a large pizza box to the food table. “She is a Fear. Do you know about the Fear family?”
He shrugged. “Not really.”
“I’ll tell you about them sometime. They’re famous here in Shadyside.” I stepped back to avoid another pizza box coming through. “Do you want to leave?”
He grinned at me. “So soon? I think our hosts would be hurt if we left this early.” He put a hand on my shoulder and guided me toward the food table. “I’m hungry. I didn’t get to finish my cheeseburger, thanks to you.”
Blade folded a slice of pizza in his hand and started to eat it hungrily. We talked to a couple across the food table. The woman was studying to be a vet. The guy said he was working on a blog and a YouTube channel. They asked us if we knew a place to go sky-diving in Shadyside.
That’s kind of a laugh, if you know Shadyside.
I caught a tall red-haired woman watching Blade and me from the kitchen door. She had a puzzled expression on her face, like she was trying to place us. I wondered if she was Hannah, one of the hosts.
The front door swung open and several more couples arrived. The red-haired woman hurried to greet them. There was a lot of hugging and cheek kissing.
Suddenly, I had another idea.
Did I want to show Blade how crazy and bold I could be? Did I want to see if he was as impulsive and crazy as me?
He was pulling a string of pizza cheese off his fingers. I tugged him close. “Blade, I have another idea. How about this? It could be a riot,” I said. “How about we stand in the middle of the living room and start kissing? You know, like we’re really into it. We’re all over each other. Kissing like we should get a room somewhere.”
He nodded. His eyes flashed. “That could work.”
“It would be a way of thanking our hosts,” I said, grinning. “You know. Give them a little entertainment.”
He pulled me into the center of the room. “Caitlyn, I like the way you think.”
He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me to him. He was stronger than I’d imagined. He held me so tight, I struggled to breathe.
And then he lowered his face to mine, and we began kissing. A long kiss. It made me even more breathless. I wrapped my hands in his hair, then lowered them to his back. We both had our eyes wide open, watching each other, enjoying the joke. Enjoying the kiss … Enjoying …
I glimpsed people moving out of our way. Couples stopped dancing, their faces twisted in surprise.
Blade and I ground our lips against one another’s, being as showy as we could. I soon realized it wasn’t just a joke, not just a way to shock people. We were kissing each other for real, with real feeling.
When did the joke end and the true emotion kick in? I don’t know. I only know there wasn’t enough time to enjoy it. Because the pounding dance music cut off suddenly. A hush fell over the room. And then I saw the red-haired woman striding toward Blade and me, her face tight with anger.
“Who are you?” she called. “Do I know you? Who brought you here?”
Blade and I clung to each other for a few seconds more. Then we broke apart and watched her approach, her hands balled into tight fists at her sides.
“Who are you? Do you belong here?”
“Oops,” I said. “Sorry.” I couldn’t think of anything better to say. But then I added, “Awesome party.” Then Blade and I took off, barging through some startled guests. Out the front door. It slammed behind us.
We ran down the driveway, laughing, shrieking, stumbling. As giddy as I’d ever been in my life. Was it the greatest night of my life? Probably.
We held hands and ran full speed till we reached the corner. No one was coming after us. I stopped and hugged a streetlight to catch my breath.
Blade was bent over, holding his knees, gasping for breath. “Awesome party. Awesome party.” He repeated my farewell line. He shook his head. “I can’t believe you said that. That was classic.”
“Ow.” I felt a stab of pain at my wrist and realized my silver bracelet still felt hot. I backed away from the streetlight and raised my arm to the light.
“What’s wrong?” Blade straightened up and walked over to me.
“It’s my bracelet,” I said. “This is so weird. It’s burning me.”
“Well, take it off,” he said.
I moved the fingers of my other hand to the clasp. I’d never had any trouble snapping the bracelet off. But now I was having trouble finding the clasp.
I smoothed my thumb and pointer finger around it. The bracelet seemed solid. A solid band of metal. “This is impossible,” I murmured. “I … I can’t find the clasp.”
Blade took my arm. “Let me try.” He held my arm high, lowered his face, and eyed the bracelet closely.
“Turn it over,” I said. “Spin it so the clasp is on top.”
He tried to turn the bracelet. “Ow!” I cried out again. He tried to spin it in the other direction. Pain shot through my hand and up my arm.
Blade let go of the bracelet. He raised his eyes to me. “Caitlyn, the bracelet won’t slide. I think … I think it’s melted onto your skin.”
“No, Julie. The jeweler couldn’t get it off. He said he didn’t have the right kind of saw for silver.”
I had the phone to my ear in one hand and pushed the shopping cart with my other. Whoa. I stopped just in time. I almost rear-ended a woman with a little girl riding in her cart.
“Well, what are you going to do?” Julie asked. “You can’t just leave the bracelet on forever. It’ll cut off all your circulation!”
“Do you think?” I said sarcastically. “Think I haven’t thought of that?” I turned the cart into the produce aisle. Blade was ahead of me, halfway toward the frozen foods section. “My dad says he’s going to talk to a surgeon. You know. Like a bone surgeon. Someone who can cut off the bracelet without taking my hand off with it.”
“I-I … don’t believe it,” Julie stammered. “And you really think Deena Fear—”
“I don’t know what to think,” I said. “It’s not like she has super powers. Something happened to the silver. I don’t know what. Something made it melt, I guess.” I sighed. “At least it cooled down. It isn’t burning hot anymore.”
“Weird,” Julie said.
I grabbed a head of iceberg lettuce with my free hand and dropped it into the shopping cart. “I’ve got to go,” I said. “I’m at the Pay-Rite. With Blade.”
“Excuse me? Caitlyn, you’re food shopping with Blade? Are you moving in together or something?”
“Ha-ha. Very funny. I’m shopping for my parents. Blade came along because—”
“Caitlyn, here’s some unwanted advice from me,” Julie said, lowering her voice. “Maybe you’re going too fast with Blade. Maybe you should be more careful. You know. Take it slower.”
“You’re right,” I said. “That was unwanted advice. I’ll talk to you later, Julie.” I clicked off and tucked the phone into my bag.
Blade held up a gigantic frozen pepperoni pizza. “Is this on the list?”
“No. Maybe on your list, but not my parents’. Go put it back.”
He turned and walked back down the aisle, twirling the pizza box on one finger. I checked the shopping list again. My parents were making some kind of stew to take over to my cousin in Martinsville.
“Celery…” I pushed the cart alongside the produce shelves. An old Beatles song played in the background. In the next aisle, a little boy was crying his eyes out, screaming because his mom wouldn’t let him have a cookie.
Blade got there before I did. He grabbed a thick bunch of celery and tore off two sticks. He tossed a stick to me. “En garde!” he shouted. He came at me waving his celery stick, slapping it against mine.
I turned away from the cart and began to duel. Our celery swordfight became intense. I get aggressive with a stick of celery in my hand. Slapping at his stick, I drove Blade back. His arms flew up as he tumbled into a cereal box display, and the boxes went toppling noisily onto the floor.
I heard a few gasps. People were watching us with stern, disapproving faces. I saw a red-faced young man in a long white apron hurrying toward us, waving angrily.
Blade and I tossed our celery sticks into the cart. I brushed my hair back, took a deep breath, and prepared to face the angry store worker.
“What’s going on here?” he demanded breathlessly, lowering his hands to the sides of his apron. His name tag read: CHUCK W. He had short brown hair spiked up in front. His face was very red. I could see beads of sweat on his forehead.
“We … had an accident,” I said, motioning to the cereal boxes strewn across the aisle.
“Yeah. An accident,” Blade repeated. We both put on our most sincere faces. “We’re sorry.”
“They just fell,” I said. “Can we help you pick them up?”
He glared angrily at Blade, then me. “An accident?” He lowered his gaze to the celery sticks in the shopping cart. He stared at them a long while. He seemed to be thinking hard, considering how to handle this.
Finally, he sighed and shook his head and said, “I’ll take care of it. Have a nice day.” He walked off, wiping his sweaty forehead and muttering something about “teenagers.”
A few minutes later, Blade and I were lifting the groceries into the trunk of my mom’s Toyota. “Where did you learn those moves with a celery stick?” Blade asked.
“I took lessons after school,” I said. “I wanted to be a celery fighter in the Olympics. But my parents couldn’t afford the grocery bills.”
He kissed me. “You sure you have to go to work?”
I nodded. “It’s my duty. I don’t want to deprive people of their popcorn.”
We had fallen into a warm and teasing relationship. We felt so good together in such a short time. I kissed Blade again, said goodbye to him, and drove home to drop off the groceries.
On the way, I thought of Julie’s warning. Slow down with Blade. I knew she meant well. She wasn’t being jealous or mean. She’s known me forever, and she knows I can go overboard sometimes.
I’m an emotional person. As I said, I cry at movies. Maybe I hug people a little too long. Maybe I get hurt more easily than some people. One cross word from someone makes me feel like I’m a total failure.
That’s me. You can’t help being who you are, Diary. And why not live life large. I mean just grab the bull by its horns. Go whole hog. Live everything to the fullest.
Well … listen to me go on and on. I’ve become a real philosopher ever since I met Blade. Ever since I fell in love with him. Face it, Caitlyn. You’re in love with him. It was love at first sight.
And maybe that was making me a little crazy. A little hyper. A little more bonkers than I was before.
Later that night, maybe I overreacted to what happened. After my shift behind the popcorn counter … the most frightening minutes of my life … Maybe I overreacted. But that’s just me. What can I do?
I was daydreaming about Blade, Diary, my elbows on the popcorn counter, gazing at the nearly empty movie theater lobby. Someone had spilled a plate of cheese nachos on the floor in front of the men’s restroom, and Ricky, the manager, was mopping up the mess. He was in a bad mood. But what else is new?
The popcorn machine was nearly full. It was a really slow night. I thought about helping myself to a bag of Twizzlers. I hadn’t had any dinner. But with Ricky in such a foul mood, I decided it wasn’t a good idea.
Ricky is twenty-four or twenty-five. He’s lanky and blond with freckles around his nose and cheeks. He has these big hands that look like cartoon hands because they’re too big for his skinny arms. Everything about him is bony and awkward. His jeans are too big, and the Polo shirts he wears are droopy and wrinkled.
He’s almost always in a grouchy mood. I think it’s because he doesn’t want to be the manager here. He told me once he planned to go to Penn and be a Business major. But he didn’t get accepted and now he takes courses online, and he still lives at home with his mother.
My phone vibrated. I pulled it from my pocket. A text from Blade: C U tomorrow?
Ricky finished mopping and walked over toward me, carrying the mop and bucket. I slid the phone back into my jeans. “Caitlyn, don’t just stand there,” he said.
“There’s no one here,” I said, motioning with one hand. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Wipe off the display case counters,” he said. “Check the ice machine.”
I nodded. “No problem.” I’d learned not to argue with him. I wanted to keep this job. It was pretty easy, and it paid fifteen dollars an hour (and all the popcorn I could sneak).
I found a cloth in back and started to wipe down the glass countertop. My stomach growled. Those Twizzlers looked mighty tempting. I was at the far end of the counter when I saw someone enter the lobby.
It took me a few seconds to recognize Deena Fear. I stared at her as she approached the counter. She wore a dark purple sweater over a short black skirt and black tights. Her purple lips matched the sweater.
Her long black hair flowed down her back in thick tangles. She had dark mascara circling her eyes. It made me think of a raccoon.
Is she following me? Why am I suddenly seeing her everywhere?
The questions made my whole body tense up. I could feel my muscles tighten. “Hey, Deena.” I tried to look casual.
She leaned her hands on the counter, her black fingernails glistening, smearing the glass I had just wiped. “I remembered you work here,” she said.
I nodded. “What movie are you seeing?”
She pointed to Auditorium Four. “Vampire High School III,” she said.
I should have known.
“The first two were awesome,” she said. “Life-changing. Seriously.”
“I … didn’t see them,” I said.
“I love the books, too. I have them all. It’s the best series.”
Over her shoulder, I saw Ricky watching us from the doorway to Auditorium Two.
“How’s Blade?” Deena asked. The raccoon eyes peered into mine.
“Fine,” I said. Ricky didn’t like for us to chat with people. We were supposed to stick to business. “Do you want some popcorn or something?”
She ignored my question. Her fingernails tapped the countertop. “Sometimes I see things,” she said, lowering her voice to a whisper. “Good things and bad things.”
I felt a chill. I suddenly remembered my bracelet. How her hand wrapped around it. How it burned hot, then melted onto my skin. I lowered my arm, keeping the bracelet out of sight.
“I … don’t understand,” I said.
“I want you to be my friend,” she whispered, not lowering her gaze, not blinking. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
“Uh … thanks,” I murmured.
Ricky hadn’t moved. He was still watching, an unhappy look on his face.
“Does Blade talk about me?” Deena asked.
My breath caught in my throat. “Talk about you? Well…”
“Does he? Does he talk about me?”
“Well … I don’t know,” I said. “About what exactly?”
Her eyes still hadn’t blinked. She kept them locked on me. The tiny silver skull on the side of her nose appeared to gleam. “We should talk,” she said finally. “We could be friends, right? We could be friends and sit down together and talk about Blade?”
I was too stunned to hide my surprise. “Talk about him? You mean?”
Her expression changed. Her eyes went dead. “I see,” she murmured. Her pale hands clasped together over the countertop. “I see. You don’t want to talk. I get it.”
“No—wait,” I said.
She slammed her hands on the glass. Behind me, the popcorn machine suddenly started to crackle, making new popcorn. I jumped at the sound.
I turned to the machine in surprise. Beside it, both soda dispensers began pouring out soda. Sparks flew from the glass hotdog warmer. It buzzed and shorted out.
“Hey!” I shouted.
Across the lobby, I saw the alarm on Ricky’s face. He came trotting toward us, shouting my name.
Deena had a triumphant grin on her purple lips. Her dark eyes flashed. “Sure you don’t want to talk?”
I lunged to the back counter to shut off the soda dispensers. The soda was already puddling on the floor. My sneakers sank into the sticky, dark liquid.
I saw Deena slide her hands off the glass countertop. She edged back a step.
Popcorn began flowing over the sides of the machine like lava pouring out of a volcano. I struggled with the soda dispenser. The levers were stuck. A river of soda ran behind the counter.
“I know we’ll talk,” Deena said. And then she whispered, “Sorry about your bracelet.”
Over the rattle of the popping popcorn and the rush of the soda pouring onto the floor, I wasn’t sure I heard her right. “What did you say?”
But she turned and began to stride quickly toward Auditorium Four.
Ricky stepped breathlessly to the counter. “What’s happening? What’s happening here? Why did you turn everything on?”
“I didn’t!” I cried. “I didn’t touch anything.”
Ricky swung himself over the counter. His shoes splashed in the soda on the floor. He reached behind the dispensers and pulled the plugs. I hit the Stop button on the popcorn machine again and again. Finally, it slowed and the crackling and popping stopped.
Ricky and I both stood there, breathing hard, staring at the incredible mess.
“This is impossible,” I muttered, shaking my head. “This can’t be happening.” I turned to Ricky. “I didn’t touch anything. I swear. I was talking to the girl from school and … and…”
Ricky swept a bony hand back over his hair. “Must have been a power surge,” he said. “Some kind of power problem. From the electric company. That’s the only thing that could have caused this.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “A power surge.”
But I didn’t believe it. I believed it was a warning from Deena Fear.
Ricky walked to the supply closet to get mops. I pulled a large trash can behind the counter and began shoving the extra popcorn into it.
I had no idea the evening was going to get even worse.
The soles of my sneakers were sticky from the spilled soda. My shoes made swamp noises—thwuck thwuck thwuck—on the concrete of the mall parking lot as I made my way to my car.
It took Ricky and me nearly an hour to clean up the counter area. We worked in silence, but every few minutes Ricky muttered, “How could this happen?”
I had a pretty good idea. But of course I couldn’t share it with anyone. Who would believe it? If I said Deena Fear had power over those machines, people would lock me up as a crazed psycho, and I wouldn’t blame them.
I now realized that she had a thing about Blade. I probably should have caught on earlier. But what did that mean? Did she plan to ruin my life with wild stunts like with my bracelet and the movie food machines? Was that her plan to win Blade?
That didn’t make any sense at all.
I pictured her dark-circled eyes burning into mine, as if trying to penetrate, to invade my brain. And again, I heard the creepy click of her long black-and-white fingernails on the counter glass.
My head was swimming with these crazy, impossible thoughts. I debated whether or not to tell Blade about Deena, about how she kept asking about him, asking if he ever talked about her.
Did he know her before I met him? He said he didn’t. I should believe what he told me. He said he’d never heard of the Fear family.
Blade hadn’t lived in Shadyside for long, but that was a little hard to believe. I think when people move here, they are told immediately to steer clear of the Fears and Fear Street.
I always thought it was all superstition and made-up stories about them. But with Deena around, I was no longer so sure.
With all these thoughts making my brain whir, I walked past my car. I stopped and tried to remember where I’d parked. Level C. And the sign in front of me told me I had walked all the way to D.
Get a grip, Caitlyn.
I turned and started to walk back, my sticky shoes thwacking on the concrete. I guess the sound kept me from hearing the footsteps behind me.
I didn’t realize I was being followed until the man was only a few feet behind me. I heard the rapid scrape of shoes and wheezing breath.
I didn’t have a chance to run. I didn’t even have a chance to be scared. Until he grabbed me roughly and spun me around to face him.
I stared into the red eyes of a thick-stubbled face, angry, half-hidden behind the hood of a dark hoodie. I’d never seen him before.
He squeezed my shoulders and shook me hard, the red eyes glowing, his jaw clenched.
“Let me go!” I screamed. My voice rang loudly off the concrete parking garage walls. I whipped my head around. “Help me! Somebody!”
But the hooded man and I were alone.
“Give me your wallet. I can hurt you.” His voice was a harsh rasp from deep in his throat. He squeezed my arms so hard, pain shot up and down my whole body.
I struggled to breathe. “Let go,” I choked out in a frantic whisper. “Let me go. Please…”
He was wheezing now, spit rolling over his lips.
“I can hurt you,” he repeated. “Your wallet. Hurry.”
I forced myself to breathe. My heart was thudding so hard, my chest ached. “Okay,” I choked out.
Still holding my arms, he lowered his head, brought it close to mine, so close I could smell his sour breath.
I knew this was my chance, Diary.
I’m not the kind of girl to give in easily, to surrender without a fight. I knew this was the moment those self-defense classes I took last year would be useful.
I arched back a few inches, as if trying to pull away from him. Then I brought my right leg up. I snapped it up hard and fast. He uttered a startled gurgling sound as my knee smashed the middle of his face.
I heard a sick crack. The sound of his nose breaking.
His hands slid off my arms. He grabbed his face, as bright red blood began to spurt from his nose. With an animal howl of pain, he dropped to his knees. He covered his face with both hands. Blood flowed through his fingers, down the front of his hoodie. He howled again.
I stood there for a long moment, gasping for breath, enjoying my victory, my heart thudding in my chest … thudding so hard I could feel every throb of blood.
I watched him for a second or two. Then I forced my legs to move. I took off, my sneakers pounding the concrete, ran to my car, and drove away.
* * *
“Wow. Is it heavy? Can I hold it?” Julie asked.
“The handle is pretty awesome,” Miranda said. “How do you open it?”
“This button here,” I said, raising it to her face. “You press it with your thumb and the blade slides open.” I waved it around. “It’s a stainless steel blade. Careful. It’s amazingly sharp. It’ll cut through anything.”
We were in the small den at Julie’s house, and I was showing them the knife I had bought at Hunters & Company, at the mall, the knife I planned to carry in my bag from now on.
The guy at Hunters told me all about it and how to use it. It’s called a Magnum Ypsilon Tan G-10 Folding Knife. The handle is black-and-tan and it feels great, heavy but not too heavy, comfortable in your hand. The blade is amazing.
I told the salesman my dad was a collector, and I was buying it for a birthday surprise. I think he believed me. I don’t think he could see on my face that I was buying it for protection, buying it for me.
“This is dangerous,” Julie said, shaking her head. “I know you went through a bad thing, Caitlyn, but…”
“It’s just for emergencies,” I said. “I’m not going to walk around stabbing people.”
“You’re not allowed to bring it to school,” Miranda said. “If you get caught…”
“I won’t get caught,” I said. “You know that big bag I always carry. I’ll keep the knife at the bottom, under everything else.”
They tried to argue. But they know me. Once I make up my mind, that’s it. I knew I’d never use the knife. But having it with me made me feel better.
I got lucky in the parking garage with my knee kick. But what if that creep had come after me? What if he had tried to kill me?
The thought made me shudder. I still thought about it all the time, still pictured his stubbly, drooling, red-eyed face, still felt his hands squeezing my arms.
My phone beeped. I tucked the knife into my bag and pulled out the phone. “A text from Blade,” I told them. “We’re going out tonight.” I tapped a reply. “We text each other all day long. It’s awesome.”
Julie and Miranda exchanged a glance. I knew what was coming. Their lecture on not getting too serious about Blade.
Well … it was too late for that. I couldn’t be more serious, and I knew he felt the same way, too. But for some reason, my friends thought it their duty to caution me.
“You always rush into things, Caitlyn.”
“You’re always so impulsive. You don’t really know Blade that well. You really should be careful not to get carried away.”
I rolled my eyes. “I seriously am beginning to believe that you two are jealous,” I said. “I’m sorry you don’t have boyfriends, but it really isn’t my fault.”
Julie jumped to her feet. “That’s not fair. We’re only thinking of you,” she said.
Miranda motioned for her to sit back down. “Okay, okay, we get it, Caitlyn. You don’t want us in your face. Fine. We’ll stop.”
Julie sighed and dropped back down.
“Blade and I are perfect,” I told them. “I know we haven’t known each other for long. I know it’s all been so crazy and fast. But … we’re perfect. I don’t know how else to say it.”
They both sank back into the couch cushions. I think I finally got through to them.
A short while later, I went home to get ready for my date with Blade. For a long while, I sat on the edge of my bed, daydreaming about him. I imagined his arms around me, holding me tightly against him. I pictured those strange gray-green eyes gazing so deeply into mine. I thought about the way we teased each other, the way we talked together so easily.
I thought about kissing him … kissing him till I felt lost … till I felt I was somewhere else in the world … somewhere far away from anyone and anything I knew.
When my phone beeped, it shocked me from my dazed imaginings. I grabbed my bag and fumbled the phone out.
I read the short text message on the screen—and gasped, “Oh no.”
The message from Blade was short: “Can’t make it tonight. Got hung up.”
I read it over and over, as if I could get the words to tell me more. Why didn’t he explain what the problem was? Why didn’t he at least say he was sorry?
He must have some emergency, I told myself. He must be as disappointed as I am.
I punched his number into the phone and raised it to my ear. My hand was trembling. I knew I was overreacting, but I was very disappointed. My daydreams had gotten me all psyched to see him.
The call went right to voicemail. I listened to his voice: “This is Blade. You know what to do.” I didn’t leave a message. I knew I’d talk to him later. I knew he’d explain everything. And maybe we could get together later tonight.
Dinner with my parents seemed to last forever. I hadn’t told them much about Blade. I usually blurt out everything about my life to them. I’m not the kind of person who can hold anything in. But for some reason, I’d decided to keep Blade to myself.
My parents are totally great people. They’re not always in my face and pretty much treat me as an adult. They put up with my enthusiasms and my wild mood swings and my general insanity. And they’re not always trying to pry into my life.
I think they’d love to know what’s in my diary. But trust me, that’s totally off-limits to them. As I said, I keep it locked and I wear the key on a chain around my neck.
My dad is big and healthy-looking. I guess you’d call him robust. He brags that he still has all his hair at forty-three. Mom teases him that that’s his biggest accomplishment.
She likes to deflate him whenever he gets too full of himself. She says it’s her hobby.
He works out at a gym three days a week, and he’s a cyclist. He gets up at six most mornings and rides his racing bike for ten miles along River Road to the top.
He’s an administrator at Shadyside General Hospital. He says he just shuffles papers all day and deals with hospital staff problems. That’s why he likes to get a lot of exercise and fresh air before work.
Mom could be really hot-looking if she paid attention to her looks. But she isn’t really interested in what she wears or her hairstyle or anything. She wears a lot of baggy T-shirts and these dreadful Mom jeans.
She mostly has her blonde hair tied back in a tight ponytail, and she refuses to wear any makeup. She says she likes the fresh look. But just a little blusher and some color on her lips would make her look five years younger.
She teaches Business Ethics at the junior college in Martinsville. And she gives lectures at companies on the subject. I don’t really understand what she talks about, but she reads three newspapers a day online and every book on business that comes out.
So there we were at dinner. When it’s just the three of us, we eat in the little breakfast nook beside the kitchen. It’s a snug little area, lots of sunshine through the windows, and a picnic table and benches where we eat most of our meals. The dining room is saved for company, so we use it mostly on holidays.
Dad had brought home take-out fried chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy. Usually my favorite, but I didn’t have much appetite tonight. You know why, Diary.
I stared at the leg and thigh on my plate. Mom was talking about some kind of lawsuit against a company I’d never heard of and why it should be thrown out of court. Dad tsk-tsked and spooned more mashed potatoes onto his plate.
“Do you have a date with that boy tonight?” Mom’s question stirred me from my thoughts.
“Uh … not tonight,” I said. “I think I’m just going over to Miranda’s and watch some videos or something.”
Mom leaned across the table toward me. “What’s his name again?”
“Blade,” I said. “Blade Hampton.”
“Funny name,” Mom muttered. “No one has normal names these days. Do you know anyone named Jack or Joe or Bill?”
I laughed. “No. No, I don’t.”
“You’ve gone out with this guy a few times,” Dad chimed in. “Why don’t you invite him over sometime?”
I was pretty much keeping Blade to myself. Not exactly keeping him a secret, but not eager to share him with my parents. “Yeah. Okay,” I said. Always better to agree and not start a controversy.
Dad changed the subject to how he pulled a muscle racing his bike this morning and how his leg had stiffened up. One of my parents’ best qualities is that they have very short attention spans. They can never stay on a subject for more than a minute or two.
I gnawed on the chicken leg for a while and forced myself to eat some of the potatoes and coleslaw. Mainly so Mom and Dad wouldn’t start asking more questions. I couldn’t stop thinking about Blade. Wondering what was up with him.
After dinner, I changed into a long-sleeved top. The weather had turned cool and the sky was heavy with rainclouds. I called goodnight to my parents and hurried out to the car.
A few raindrops dotted the windshield as I drove to Miranda’s house. She lives on Heather Court in North Hills, the ritzy neighborhood of Shadyside. Her house is big, with a zillion rooms, but very comfortable. Her parents collect very large old movie posters, so there are these great stars like Charlie Chaplin and Humphrey Bogart staring out at you from every wall.
Miranda is into old movies, too. If Julie and I are hanging out at Miranda’s house, we usually end up watching some old black-and-white flick from the forties or fifties on Netflix. I love seeing the weird old clothes—everyone wearing hats all the time, even indoors—and the funny cars.
The rain was just a drizzle but I started the wipers. They squeaked as they scraped over the windshield. I turned onto Mission, which curved around to Miranda’s street. I slowed down. There were a lot of cars on Mission. Drivers use it as a shortcut to River Road.
I pulled through a stop sign—and then let out a soft cry. “Whoa.”
Was that Blade’s car up ahead? I squinted through the rain-spotted glass.
Yes. It had to be.
Actually, it was his dad’s car, but he drove it a lot. A ’95 red Mustang. Not too many of those on the road in Shadyside. Leaning over the wheel, I read the license plate. Yes. Yes. Blade’s car.
I lowered my foot on the brake. I didn’t want him to see me. I didn’t want to get too close.
But … who was that in the car beside him?
Bright white headlights beamed from an oncoming truck swept over Blade’s car and lit it up as if setting it on fire.
And I saw her. A girl. Beside Blade. A girl with short white-blonde hair. I just saw the back of her head. I didn’t see her face.
His car pulled away from a stoplight and roared forward.
My hands squeezed the wheel. They were suddenly clammy and cold.
I lowered my foot to the gas. I knew what I had to do.
I had to follow them.
My headlights washed over the back of the red Mustang. I slowed down, let more space separate our cars. I had a sudden urge to tromp on the gas and plow right into him. Send that blonde girl flying through the windshield.
A crazy thought, and I quickly suppressed it. What kind of person would imagine such a violent, evil thing?
The girl beside Blade had to be a cousin. Or a family member who needed a ride. Or a friend from his old school he hadn’t seen in months. Or … Or …
Weird how your brain can dance around when you’re upset or anxious.
The rain stopped. I shut down the scraping windshield wipers. The red Mustang made the turn onto River Road. A few seconds later, I turned, too.
The road curves along the bank of the Conononka River, a long, winding road that climbs into the hills over Shadyside. It was too dark to see the river. But I slid my passenger window down so I could hear the gentle lapping of the water against the muddy shore.
I thought the sound might calm me. But, of course, it didn’t.
Again, my headlights played over the back of the Mustang. I slowed and edged to the right and let another car move between us. I didn’t want Blade to see me. I didn’t want him to think that I was suspicious, that I didn’t trust him.
He was obviously dealing with an emergency. That’s why he didn’t have time to explain to me what was going on.
But … if it was an emergency, why was he turning into the parking lot at Fire? Fire is a dance club on River Road. It’s a club for adults, but a lot of Shadyside students go there because the doorman isn’t very careful about checking your ID. If you don’t look twelve, you’re in.
A neon sign at the street has red-and-yellow flames dancing into the air. A sign beside it reads: SHADYSIDE’S PREMIER DANCE CLUB. LADIES FREE.
The club was a long, low, red building with red and blue lights along the flat roof. A red carpet led to the awning over the entrance. The doorman stood behind a narrow wooden podium at the front of the awning. Even with the car windows closed, I could hear the drumming beat of the throbbing dance music from inside the club.
As I watched the red Mustang roll over the brightly lit gravel parking lot, a wave of nausea rolled over me. I was supposed to be with Blade tonight. He told me he got “hung up.” So why was he here at a dance club with that blonde girl?
My ideas about a family emergency were quickly exploding, vanishing into air. And I fought down my dinner, which was rising to my throat. Fought down a choking feeling as I saw him pull into a parking place at the side of the club and cut his headlights.
My car rolled slowly over the gravel as I hung back, leaning over the wheel and squinting into the glare of the red, blue, and yellow lights overhead. I stopped and backed into a space between two SUVs near the club entrance.
When I looked back, Blade and the girl were out of his car. Blade wore his red hoodie over slim-leg jeans. She was tall and thin, taller than him, and the lights played over her pale face and the short white-blonde hair.
She leaned into Blade, and he slid an arm around her shoulders. They staggered sideways together, laughing.
A sob escaped my throat. I forced myself to breathe.
I told him I loved him. That night in his car up on River Ridge, the stars above us, the sparkling river down below, when we held each other, held each other as if we were the only two people on earth. We kissed … we kissed and … and …
I grabbed the door handle, ready to jump out of the car. I had an impulse to jump out, run across the gravel lot, grab him, grab him and spin him around, and—
I squeezed the steering wheel, squeezed it until my hands ached—and watched them kiss. She turned to him and he wrapped his hands around her neck and pulled her face close. And they kissed again. The red-and-blue lights played over them, making it look like a carnival scene or some kind of glaring dream.
If only it wasn’t real, Diary. But it was happening, and I was there.
I shoved open the car door. It slammed into the SUV next to me. I didn’t care. I slid out and stumbled forward, away from the car. I couldn’t balance. The world tilted and swayed under me.
My whole body shuddered as I forced myself forward.
Did I cut the engine? Switch off the headlights? I don’t remember, Diary.
Blade and the girl stopped at the doorman’s podium. He was a wide hulk of a guy, shaved head, wearing a purple sleeveless T-shirt that showed off his tight biceps and tattoos, and baggy gray sweatpants. Blade pulled something from his wallet—probably a fake ID—and the doorman waved them into the club.
“Stop!” I opened my mouth in a cry, but no sound came out. I took a deep breath. My shock quickly turned to anger.
Blade is a liar! A liar and a rat!
I couldn’t erase the picture of them kissing from my mind.
Suddenly, I knew I had to confront him. I had to let him know that I was here and I saw him.
A cry of rage burst from my throat. Like an angry animal. And I roared forward, my sneakers kicking up gravel, ran full speed toward the club entrance, the red-and-blue lights flashing in my eyes, running blind, blind with my anger and hurt pushing me forward.
I had to get in there. I had to make him face me.
I was a few feet from the doorman’s podium when a dark figure ran out from the side of the club. At first, I thought it was a moving shadow. It took a few seconds to realize it was someone dressed all in black.
I nearly ran right into her. She caught me with both hands before we collided. I was panting, wheezing loudly, enraged.
“Deena—what are you doing here?” I choked out, the words rasping against my dry throat.
“He betrayed us!” she cried. “Caitlyn—he betrayed us!”
I gaped at her. The red-and-blue lights reflected in her glasses made her eyes look on fire.
“He betrayed us!” she screamed again, gripping my arms tightly.
“Go away!” I cried. Blade was inside the club with the blonde girl. I didn’t have time for Deena Fear. I had to keep my anger burning. Or else I’d never be able to confront him.
“Get off me!” I swung my body hard and tugged free of her grip. Then I lowered my shoulder and shoved her out of my way, shoved her so hard she toppled backward over the gravel. Her glasses flew off her face and landed on the ground.
I spun away, lowered my head, and ran past the doorman. I heard him shout: “Hey—stop!” And then he uttered a string of curses as I pulled the door open and rushed inside.
Into the flashing lights and throbbing beats, deafening, almost painful. I could see the silhouettes of dancers in the middle of the floor. Couples huddled around the sides. A crowd at the brightly lit bar against the far wall.
I took a deep shuddering breath. Then another. My eyes gazed from one wall to the other, squinting to see faces, to see Blade. The pounding beats matched my heartbeats. I stood there, gasping in the thick, humid air, inhaling the tangy aroma of alcohol and sweat.
I was so angry, so hurt, so devastated, the whole scene became a crazy blur to me. The lights pulsed with the beats of the music, pulsed with my heartbeats, until … until I was not myself. I was out of myself. Out of my head.
Where is he? Where?
And then my eyes stopped at the white lights of the bar. And I saw him. I saw Blade at the bar. The blonde girl was beside him. He was leaning over a tall barstool, talking to a female bartender.
I didn’t hesitate. I lowered my shoulder and bolted across the dance floor like a running back. Couples dodged out of my way. I heard angry shouts:
“Hey—what’s your problem?”
My problem was Blade.
I let out a furious screech as I stepped up behind him. I grabbed his shoulders and spun him around.
His eyes opened wide in surprise. “Caitlyn?”
The words spilled from my throat. “What are you doing here?”
He regained his composure quickly. “Getting two beers,” he said. He gave a casual shrug.
“Who is she?” the blonde girl asked.
“She’s nobody, Vanessa,” Blade said. “A friend. From school.”
I felt as if I’d been cut in half, sliced right down the middle.
I stood there trembling with my mouth open.
I know I overreacted. I know I went ballistic. Totally lost it. But that’s the way I am. That’s me, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I am 90 percent emotion. And when Blade said those words to the girl, something inside me snapped.
“But … but…” I sputtered. “But we love each other!” The words tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop them.
Blade’s face went entirely blank. His eyes appeared to freeze over. “In your dreams, maybe.”
And there I stood, my world collapsing in a sea of flashing lights and dancing couples and pounding music.
Suddenly, Vanessa, the blonde-haired girl, moved toward me. She put a hand gently on my shoulder. “Are you okay? You’re trembling. Can I get you a drink or something?”
Her dark blue eyes peered into mine. She was genuinely worried about me.
I stared back at her, unable to answer. Finally, I spun away and took off. I ran back through the dance floor, pushing my way through the dancers, startled cries all around me.
I pulled open the door and burst back into the cool darkness. The voices and music were a roar behind me. My eyes still pulsed from the crazy lights.
The doorman turned from his podium as I ran past him. “Hey, you—stop! Come here!” he bellowed angrily.
Again, I ignored him, my shoes slipping and sliding on the gravel as I turned toward my car. No sign of Deena Fear. I had a fleeting thought that she’d be there by the door waiting for me, waiting to grab me and insist that Blade had betrayed her, too.
Which one of us is crazy?
I knew the answer. I was the crazy one for caring too much. Everything I did in that club was crazy. So crazy that even the girl with Blade, a total stranger, was worried about me.
But I didn’t care. Blade was so important to me. I trusted him. I believed in him. I loved him. And now … I didn’t care. I didn’t care. I didn’t care.
He acted as if I was nothing. “She’s nobody.” That’s what he told that girl Vanessa. “She’s nobody.”
And he was right. Now I was nobody. I thought I had something great, something wonderful to get through life. But now I was nobody.
I climbed into the car. Slammed the door. Started it up and roared out of the parking lot, sending up a tidal wave of gravel behind me.
Where was I going? I didn’t know. I swung the car out of the parking lot without looking. To my left, a small van screeched to a halt. Close call. I didn’t care.
I slammed my foot down on the gas pedal. The car lurched forward. The pull of speed felt good to me. I spun around the curves of River Road, sliding from one lane to the other.
I made the car squeal and scrape. The river flowed beside me. All I had to do was swing the wheel to the left, and I’d be over the side and into the water. The cold, fresh water. Was it a good night for a swim?
No. I slid the wheel to the right and followed the dark road. Was that a squirrel I almost hit? No. Maybe a rabbit. Maybe a raccoon.
I was making the big curve onto Parkview, doing at least eighty, when the oncoming headlights filled my windshield. I blinked in the blinding lights. I cursed them for having their brights on.
And too late, I realized I was in the wrong lane. I was in the left lane. Too late. Too late to swing the car. Too late to avoid them. I heard the roar of a horn, like a siren, as the lights grew even brighter, washed over me, blinded me.
I’m driving right into them. Can’t stop.
Sudden darkness. The long wail of the car horn ringing in my ears, bleating like an enraged animal. The horn finally stopped as the other car swerved into the right lane and roared past me.
Missed. The car missed. I forced myself to breathe. Silence now. The twin circles of bright white headlights lingered in my eyes.
Breathe, Caitlyn. Breathe.
Chill after chill ran down my back. A close call. I almost died. I didn’t really want to die. I was too angry to die.
I jerked the wheel and pulled the car to the curb. I hit the brake too hard, and the car lurched forward before it stopped, throwing me against the wheel, then slamming me back.
I cut off the engine. Then I sat there with my hands in my lap, staring out into the darkness, forcing my breathing to return to normal.
Caitlyn, you’re not handling this well. Caitlyn, get a grip.
Where was I?
I squinted across a narrow lawn to a square brick house with a single light on over the front stoop. A small one-car garage at the top of the driveway had its door open.
It took me a few seconds to realize I had parked in front of Blade’s house. I stared at the yellow light over the stoop until the house blurred behind it.
I knew I didn’t deliberately drive here. At least, I didn’t know I was going to park in front of his house. “I should go home,” I murmured out loud.
I reached for the button to start the engine. But then I lowered my hand to my lap. I needed to talk to him. No. I didn’t want to see him. I didn’t want to sit here for hours, till the middle of the night, waiting for him to return from his date. And then rush him, run at him, confront him crying and screaming.
No. I didn’t want that.
So … why couldn’t I start the car? Why couldn’t I move? Why was I sitting here, every muscle in my body tense, my stomach rumbling and growling, wave after wave of nausea making me hold my breath and clench my jaw?
I don’t know how much time passed. I glanced at the car clock when the red Mustang finally turned into the driveway. It was nearly one o’clock.
I watched the car stop in front of the garage. I watched the red taillights die. I watched the driver’s door swing open. Now it all seemed to be in slow motion, like some kind of slowed-down dream.
Blade stretched his arms over his head. Then he closed the car door quietly. Quietly so he wouldn’t wake his parents, I guessed.
I sat and watched, hands clasped tightly in my lap. When he started loping toward the kitchen door, I finally moved. I moved fast.
I shoved open the car door, grabbed my bag, and leaped out. I didn’t bother to close it. I ran around the trunk to the driveway and began to run, gripping my bag in one hand, waving my other hand above me head. “Blade! Blade!” I shouted his name in a shrill voice I didn’t recognize.
It was a warm April night, almost balmy, but the air felt cool against my burning cheeks. “Blade! Stop! Blade!”
Why did I drag my bag with me? I can’t answer that question. Was I thinking clearly? Not at all.
Blade turned and I saw the surprise on his face. I kept waving my hand above my head as I ran, some kind of desperate signal.
I stopped a few feet in front of him, breathing hard, my chest heaving up and down.
He narrowed his eyes at me. “Caitlyn? What are you doing here?” No warmth in his voice. His eyes cold. Wary.
“I-I-I” I stammered. I searched for something good in his face, just a tiny sign that he was glad to see me. No. Not even that. A sign that he liked me? No.
“It’s late,” he said, tugging the sleeves of his hoodie.
“I … I … Didn’t you say you loved me?” I blurted out, my voice trembling as if underwater.
He blinked. He lowered his gaze to the ground. “We had fun,” he murmured.
“Fun?” I cried. “Fun? You said you loved me. You know you did.”
He raised his eyes. His mouth formed a sneer. “You didn’t really think I was serious—did you?”
“Huh?” My mouth dropped open. I kept my eyes locked on him. I was straining to see the Blade I knew, the Blade I loved.
“We had fun, that’s all,” he said. He yawned.
I think it was the yawn that set me off. The loud, open-mouthed yawn put me over the edge.
I felt something in my brain snap. At that moment, at that second, something inside me cracked apart. I guess it was my whole life.
I really can’t describe it. Something in my brain just exploded.
I saw the surprise on Blade’s face. Or was it fear?
And then everything went crazy.
“Fun?” I screamed. “Fun?”
He glanced to a window at the side of the house. His parents’ room? Was he afraid I might wake his parents? Is that all he cared about?
“You creep!” I cried. I had the handle of my bag gripped tightly in my right hand. I raised my arm and swung the bag at him, swung it with all my strength.
“Hey!” Blade uttered a startled cry and stepped back. He lowered his shoulder, and the bag swung over his head.
“Hey, stop, Caitlyn. Stop it.”
“Fun?” I shrieked. “Fun?”
I swung the heavy bag again. This time it glanced off his shoulder.
“Whoa.” His expression turned angry. “I’m warning you,” he murmured. “Stay back. Stop it.”
My next swing caught him on the chest. I couldn’t stop myself. I swung again, narrowly missing his head. I swung the bag again. Doubled him over with a blow to the stomach.
“Enough!” he groaned. He made a grab for the bag. Caught it from the bottom.
“Noooo!” I struggled to pull it away from him.
“Caitlyn—chill! Stop! Calm down! Can we talk?” He gripped the bottom of my bag and jerked his hands hard.
“Give it back!” I screamed. “Give it!”
The handle snapped out of my hand. I stumbled back. Blade held onto the bottom as we both watched all the contents spill onto the ground.
“You creep! You creep!” I was shrieking without even hearing myself.
Blade tossed the bag across the driveway. He glared furiously at me. “You crazy idiot. Are you going to leave?”
In the dim light from the stoop, I saw the knife. It lay on top of a scarf I had stuffed into the bag. With a shuddering moan, I dove for it. I gripped the handle tightly and raised it in front of me.
“Hey—what’s that?” Blade demanded, gazing from the knife to me.
My thumb fumbled for the button, and I released the blade. It snapped out instantly and I held it in front of me so Blade could see it clearly.
“Come on, Caitlyn. Put that down,” he said, holding his arms out at his sides, as if preparing to defend himself.
“Fun? We had fun?” I cried.
No way he could defend himself. I lunged forward and poked the sharp tip of the blade into the front of his hoodie.
He gasped and stumbled back. “Put it away. Are you crazy? Put it away!”
I jabbed at him, just enough to make him feel it. I poked him in the chest. Then I lowered the blade and poked his stomach.
“You’re crazy! You’re crazy! Stop. Put it down. Let’s talk.”
His eyes were wide. I could see he was in a panic. He kept his arms lowered, tensed, ready to fight back. He retreated a step, then another—and backed into his car.
I had him trapped now. I moved forward and poked him again, pushing the tip of the blade against his belly.
“Give that to me!” He uttered an angry scream and swiped at the knife.
I tried to swing the blade out of his reach. But instead, I sliced through the palm of his hand. The blade cut silently. I gasped. I started to choke.
Eyes bulging in disbelief, he raised his hand in front of his face as a line of blood oozed onto the palm.
The blood trickled for a few moments. Then it started to spurt.
We both stared at the bleeding hand in silence. It was too horrifying for either of us to make a sound.
And then he began to wail, shrill high-pitched cries, waving the spurting blood in the air.
Like a fountain, I thought. Blood spurting like a bright fountain.
His shrieks made my ears ring. The sight of the blood made my stomach lurch. I gagged.
I had to stop that horrible sound he was making.
I swung the knife back, then plunged the blade deep into his stomach.
Again. I stabbed him again. Stabbed again.
That stopped the screaming. He made a gurgling sound and grabbed his belly with both hands. Dark blood seeped through the red hoodie and poured over his hands.
He dropped to his knees, moaning, making strange wheezing sounds. The blood ran out of his body. He raised his eyes to me, his face twisted in horror, in disbelief. He tried to speak, but blood rolled over his tongue and bubbled over his lips.
He sank on his side to the grass, hugging himself. He bled out so quickly.
I stood there watching, fighting back my nausea, gritting my teeth. So quickly. It happened so quickly. Or was I standing outside time? Did it actually take him a long time to die?
I can’t tell you, Diary. I stood and watched the spreading blood. Such a big puddle of his blood, with him curled on his side inside it.
I was still gasping for breath, fighting the deep shudders that paralyzed my body, when I knew he was dead. And as soon as I knew, I started to move, to breathe again, to think more carefully and calmly.
I wiped the blood-soaked knife on the sleeve of his hoodie. Then I folded it up and tossed it into my bag. Gathered my belongings and stuffed everything back where it belonged.
Then I drove home, sobbing all the way. Sobbing at the top of my lungs, big tears rolling down my face, burning my cheeks.
My boyfriend, my only true love, was dead. I killed him. Stabbed him and watched him bleed to death. Killed him. I killed him.
So of course I cried. Cried and sobbed and moaned all the way home. I knew my life would never be the same.