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“Of course, that would make me a murderer,” I mused.

“No, we were still fighting then. Would have been self-defense. Think you’d feel better or worse if you had?” he asked, watching me carefully.

I frowned hard, thinking. “I don’t know. I’d have killed someone, but . . . maybe it would feel more like justice had been served, you know? I highly doubt I’d be standing at his graveside drinking a beer.”

He nodded.

“I needed to do this, to come here,” I said. “Thank you for doing it with me.”


“You think things will ever feel the same, like they used to?”

“No.” He dropped his empty bottle on the ground and started in on another. “Honestly, I think if it did, we’d be even more messed up than we are already.”

I watched the moon, the rich golden glow spreading across the dark. “You know, you just might have a point there.”



Officially, the punishment for punching Kara and disturbing class had been the cessation of my allowance. Term of sentence undecided. There’d been a big discussion about how I’d recently been through an extremely traumatic event, but how Mom still felt certain rules needed to be followed. Like not assaulting people, even raging bitches who possibly deserved it. I gave a good blank face and kept my thoughts to myself.

Mom allowed for transport costs to and from school, lunch, and not much else. But it had become a problem since I’d started indulging in the odd late-night drive when I couldn’t sleep. John was right: it did sort of help. At first, the lack of money had been no big deal. I’d had a bit of cash squirreled away from Christmas and I’d been off my reading game anyway. But that was then and this was now. New books had been released. New books that I needed. Mostly number three in a YA fantasy series that I’d been dying to read, but had been waiting until all of the books were out.

If anything could fix my gnat-like attention span, this book could. And yes, I could have gone to the library and reserved what I wanted to read. Patience and I, however, didn’t get along. Not these days, anyway. If you wanted to do something, then you had to get it done fast. Before some psycho with a gun finishes things. Or a car crash. Or whatever.

Given how unhappy Mom had been over my detention, though, money wouldn’t likely be flowing my way anytime soon. And Gran didn’t approve of students diverting their energies with part-time jobs. We should all be studying all of the time. But Gran was in Arizona and apart from a weekly grilling over the phone, her power was limited since she no longer paid for my education. Here, for me, things were changing, and it felt good.

“Carrie, does your mom need anyone at the salon?” asked Hang, Monday at lunch.

“No.” Carrie shook her head, holding up a slice of pizza to her mouth. “She’s got me and an apprentice right now, sorry.”

“I need a job,” I said.

Hang groaned. “I need one more.”

“I have no allowance.”

“I dropped my cell in the toilet last night.”

“You win.” I winced.

“No wonder you didn’t return my call,” said Carrie. “Dad dropped his in once, ruined a brand-new smartphone.”

“Shitty.” Sophia grinned and bumped Carrie’s elbow with her own. “Get it, get it?”

Face pained, Carrie groaned loudly. “Um, yeah. It wasn’t that subtle.”

“No, it really wasn’t,” confirmed Hang. “I’d only give that like a two out of ten, max.”

“It was a number two!” Sophia thrust her hands in the air.

“No.” Gently, Hang banged her forehead against the table. “My bad. I walked right into that.”

“Shame on you for encouraging her,” said Carrie, laughing and chewing at the same time. “And as for you, you’re terrible, Soph.”

“Aw, I’m sorry.” Sophia laid her head on Carrie’s shoulder and looked up at her. “Do you still love me?”

Sophia’s gaze softened. “I suppose so. Yes.”

God, they were so sweet together it made my heart hurt. Not that there was anything wrong with being alone. Alone was fine and dandy. It lacked the thrill of being with John, though. Together, hanging out with the right person, had benefits too.

“Where are you going to start looking for jobs?” asked Sophia. She had a part-time gig at a clothes store. Futile for me to ask about openings there, however, since they didn’t even stock my size.

Hang shrugged. “Check out the local paper.”

“And we should do up some résumés, start handing them out to businesses,” I said. “Did you try putting your phone in a bag of rice to suck out the moisture?”

Hang nodded. “It’s dead, and my parents won’t get me another until Christmas. I can’t wait that long.”

“It’s definitely job-hunting season.”


We bumped fists across the table. Yay, sisterhood. The bell rang and we all gathered our stuff.

“Later,” said Sophia, after a quick kiss from Carrie.

Hang and I made our way together through the crowded halls. At least I didn’t flinch anymore when we passed Isaac’s memorial. I still averted my eyes, however, not that it mattered. All of those dead flowers and photos seem to be imprinted on my memory.

But it wasn’t the deceased making me nervous today.

Those were not butterflies in my stomach. Today’s mystery meat had probably just given me gas. Deep breaths; seeing John in English was no reason to get all giddy. I clutched a textbook to my chest, calmly talking myself down from overexcited heights.

Someone knocked into me and my book went flying. My head shot up, an apology ready on my lips for not watching where I’d been walking. Except, the sneering girl from the skate park with the long, dark hair stood in my way. Not an accident. And I was not doing this; I was not standing silent and scared, playing the part of her victim. Girls like this have so much, yet they always want more. It wouldn’t end here.

“He’s mine,” she hissed, pretty face distorted with hate.

I cocked my head. “He who?”

“Don’t give me that shit. You know who I’m talking about.” Behind her, her girl posse smirked, looking me over with great distaste. “Like I’d just give him up to some fat bitch like you.”