Girl of Nightmares


Page 13


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After the door closes, I poke Thomas.

"Doesn't it bother you that she goes off like that?" I ask.

"What do you mean?"

"Well," I start, but I don't quite know. I guess it's just that where Carmel has sometimes tried to mingle me in with her other friends, she doesn't really with Thomas. I'd think it would bother him, but I don't know how to ask that tactfully. And what the hell finals does she still have to study for? I've already taken all of mine but one. Teachers here really like to dial in the last few weeks. Not that I'm complaining. "Aren't you her boyfriend?" I blurt finally. "Shouldn't she be dragging you out with her friends?"

It wasn't the best way to word things, but he doesn't seem offended, or even surprised. He just grins.

"I don't know what we are, technically," he says quietly. "But I do know that we don't work like that. We're different."

"Different," I mumble, even though the moony look on his face is sort of touching. "Everybody's got to be different. Did it ever occur to you that 'same' is a classic for a reason?"

"Big talk for somebody whose last girlfriend died in 1958," Thomas replies, and then hides behind a gulp of soda. I grin and look back toward the TV.

Anna is at the window. She's standing in the bushes outside my house, staring at me.

"Jesus!" I scramble up the back of the couch and barely wince when my shoulder rams into the wall.

"What?" Thomas jumps up too, looking first at the floor like there might've been a rat or something before following my gaze to the window.

Anna's eyes are empty and dead, completely hollow and without any trace of recognition. Watching her blink is like watching an alligator cut through thick, brackish water. As I try to catch my breath, a wormy, dark rivulet of blood runs from her nose.

"Cas, what is it? What's wrong?"

I glance at Thomas. "You mean you don't see her?" I look back at the window, half expecting her to be gone, half hoping that she's gone, but she's still there, immobile.

Thomas scours the window, moving his head to see around the reflections of light. He looks terrified. It doesn't make sense. He should be able to see her. He's a goddamn witch for f**k's sake .

I can't take it anymore. I bolt off the couch and head for the front door, throwing it open to barge onto the porch.

All I see is Carmel's surprised face, her phone halfway to her ear. In the bushes in front of the window there's nothing but shadows.

"What's going on?" Carmel asks as I plunge down the steps and beat my way through the brush, branches scratching my arms.

"Give me your phone!"

"What?" Carmel's voice is scared. My mom's out here now too, all three of them frightened by they don't know what.

"Just throw it here," I shout, and she does. I press a button and point it at the ground, using the bluish light to scour the dirt for footprints or disturbances. There's nothing.

"What? What is it?" Thomas squeaks.

"Nothing," I say loudly, but it isn't nothing. Whether it's all in my head or not, it isn't nothing. And when I reach back for the athame in my pocket, it feels cold as ice.

* * *

Ten minutes later, my mom sets a steaming mug down in front of me at the kitchen table. I pick it up and sniff at it.

"It's not a potion; it's just tea," she says, exasperated. "Decaffeinated."

"Thanks," I say, and sip it. No caffeine and no sugar either. I don't know what about bitter brown water is supposed to be soothing. But I make a show of sighing and settling farther into my chair.

Thomas and Carmel keep exchanging these furtive glances, and my mom picks up on it.

"What?" she asks. "What do you know?"

Carmel looks at me for permission, and when I don't say anything, she tells my mom what happened at the mall, with Anna's look-alike dress.

"Honestly, Cas, you've been acting sort of weird since Grand Marais last week."

My mom leans up against the counter. "Cas? What's going on? And why didn't you tell me about the mall?"

"Because I like to keep my crazy all to myself?" Obviously deflection isn't going to work. They just keep on staring. Waiting and staring. "It's just-I thought I saw Anna, that's all." I take another sip of tea. "And in Grand Marais, in the hayloft-I thought I heard her laugh." I shake my head. "It feels like-I don't know what it feels like. Like being haunted, I guess."

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