Girl of Nightmares


Page 2


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Carmel nudges me again and I glance at the clock. Barely five minutes have passed since the last time I looked. I think it might be broken. When Cait's fingers slide against my wrist, I pull away and take a drink of my coffee. I don't miss the embarrassed and uncomfortable shift of her body when I do it.

All of a sudden, Carmel says loudly, "I don't think Cas has even researched colleges yet. Have you, Cas?" She kicks me harder this time. What is she talking about? I'm still a junior. Why would I be thinking about college? Of course, Carmel has probably had her future planned out since preschool.

"I'm thinking about St. Lawrence," Cait says when I just sit there. "My dad says St. Clair might be better. But I don't know what he means by better."

"Mm," I say. Carmel's looking at me like I'm some kind of idiot. I almost laugh. She means well, but I have absolutely zero to say to these people. I wish Thomas were here. When the phone in my pocket starts buzzing, I jump up from the table too fast. They'll start talking about me the minute I'm out the door, wondering what my problem is, and Carmel will tell them I'm just nervous. Whatever.

It's Thomas calling.

"Hey," I say. "Are you mind reading again, or is this just good timing?"

"That bad, huh?"

"No worse than I thought it would be. What's up?"

I can almost feel him shrug through the phone. "Nothing. Just thought you might want an escape route. I got the car out of the shop this afternoon. It could probably take us down to Grand Marais now."

It's on the tip of my tongue to say, "What do you mean, probably?" when the door of the coffee shop opens and Carmel glides out.

"Oh, shit," I mutter.

"What?"

"Carmel's coming."

She stops in front of me with her arms crossed over her chest. Thomas's tiny voice is chirping, wanting to know what's going on, whether he should swing by my house and pick me up, or not. Before Carmel can say anything, I put the phone back to my ear and tell him yes.

* * *

Carmel makes our excuses for us. In her Audi, she manages to keep up the silent treatment for all of forty seconds as she drives through the Thunder Bay streets. As we go, there's that odd coincidence of the streetlights turning on just ahead of us, like an enchanted escort. The roads are wet, still crunchy with lingering ice patches at the shoulders . Summer vacation starts in two weeks, but the town doesn't seem to know it. Late May and temps still dip below freezing at night. The only indication that winter is ending are the storms: screaming, wind-driven things that go out over the lake and swing back in again, rinsing away the wreck of winter sludge. I wasn't ready for so many months of cold. It clamps around the city like a fist.

"Why did you even bother to come?" Carmel asks. "If you were just going to act like that? You made Cait feel really bad."

"We made Cait feel really bad. I never wanted to do this in the first place. You were the one who got her hopes up."

"She's liked you since chemistry last semester," Carmel says, scowling.

"Then you should have told her what an ass I am. Made me sound like a moronic jerk."

"Better to let her see it for herself. You barely said five words to anyone." She's got this disappointed squint on her face that's hovering close to disgust. Then her expression softens and she pushes her blond hair off of her shoulder. "I just thought it would be nice if you got out and met some new people."

"I meet plenty of new people."

"I mean living people."

I stare straight ahead. Maybe she meant that as a jibe about Anna, and maybe she didn't. But it pisses me off. Carmel wants me to forget. To forget that Anna saved all of our lives, that she sacrificed herself and dragged the Obeahman down to Hell. Carmel, Thomas, and I have been trying to figure out what happened to her after that night, without much luck. I guess Carmel thinks it's time to stop looking and let her go. But I won't. Whether I'm supposed to or not doesn't matter.

"You didn't have to leave, you know," I say. "I could've had Thomas pick me up there. Or I could have walked."

Carmel chews her pretty lip, used to getting her way. We've been friends for most of the year now, and she still gets this puzzled puppy face when I don't just do what she says. It's strangely endearing.

"It's cold out. And it was boring anyway." She's unruffled in her camel peacoat and red mittens. The red scarf at her neck is carefully knotted, despite the fact that we left in a hurry. "I was just doing Cait a favor. I got her the date. It isn't our fault if she couldn't dazzle you with her charm."

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