Girl of Nightmares


Page 22


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I suppose I could have just stayed home, like I intended. But rattling around the empty rooms like a lonely, crazy marble while my mom made the rounds to clients and occult suppliers wasn't my idea of a good time. I didn't feel like watching TV all day, waiting for Anna to come crawling through it like that mildew-covered chick from the Ring movies. So I came back, determined to soak up the last of what these junior year teachers had to tell me. It was supposed to be like someone kicking you in the shin to take your mind off your broken arm. But now, at every turn, in every class, Anna is on my mind. None of the end-of-the-year lessons are interesting enough to drive her away. Even Mr. Dixon, my favorite teacher, just sort of phones it in talking about the aftermath of the Seven Years' War. My mind wanders, letting her back in, and Gideon's voice explodes between my ears. Stop looking for something you have no business looking for. Let her go. Or is it Morfran's voice? Or Carmel's?

The way that Gideon said it, that as long as I let her go, we have nothing to fear … I don't know what that means. Trust me, he said, and I do. It's not possible, he said, so I believe him.

But what if she needs me?

"So we pretty much just got given to England."

"Huh?"

I blink. Carmel's friend Nat is turned around in her seat, squinting at me curiously. Then she shrugs.

"You're probably right." She glances toward Mr. Dixon, who has gone to sit at his desk to mess with something on his laptop. "He probably doesn't care if we talk about the war for real. So." She sighs, looking like she'd rather be sitting in front of anyone else. "You going to come with Carmel to the senior party?"

"Isn't that just for seniors?" I ask.

"Come on. It's not like they're going to card you and kick you out if you're not one," she scoffs. "Well, maybe if you were a freshman. Thomas could even come. Cas? Cas?"

"Yeah," I hear myself say. But not really. Because Nat's face isn't her face anymore. It's Anna's. The mouth moves with hers, but not the expression. Like a mask.

"You're acting really weird today," she says.

"Sorry. My Percocet's wearing off," I mutter, and slide out of the desk . Mr. Dixon doesn't even notice when I walk out of the classroom.

When Thomas and Carmel find me, I'm sitting on the quiet stage in the middle of the theater, staring up at the rows of blue-covered seats, all empty except for one. My trig text and notebook are beside me in a neat stack, as a reminder of where I'm supposed to be.

"Is he catatonic?" Thomas asks. They came in a few minutes ago but I didn't acknowledge them. If I'm going to ignore one friend I may as well ignore them all.

"Hey guys," I say. Their movements echo loudly through the empty theater as they drop their books and climb up onto the stage.

"You do a pretty good job of avoiding things," says Carmel. "But then again maybe not. Nat says that you were acting weird during discussion questions in history."

I shrug. "Anna's face transposed over hers while she was talking. I thought I showed a fair amount of restraint."

They exchange one of their ever more frequent looks as they sit on either side of me.

"What else have you seen?" Thomas asks.

"She's in pain. Like she's being tortured. She was in my room last night. There were wounds, opening and closing on her arms and shoulders. I couldn't do anything to help her. She wasn't really there."

He pushes his glasses up on his nose. "We have to find out what's going on. That's-that's sick. There must be a spell, something to reveal-"

"Maybe mysticism isn't what we need right now," Carmel interjects. "What about something else, like maybe a psychologist?"

"They'd just drug him to the gills. Tell him he's got ADD or something. And besides, Cas isn't insane."

"Not to be a downer, but schizophrenia can strike at any time," she says. "It's actually common for it to manifest around our age. And the hallucinations seem just as real as you or me."

"What are you talking about schizophrenia for?" Thomas blurts.

"I'm not saying that specifically! But he's been through a significant loss. None of it might be real. Have you seen anything? Have you even felt anything weird like your grandpa said?"

"No, but I've sort of been slacking off in my voodoo studies. I've got trigonometry, you know?"

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