So here’s the thing I understand why the Hawthornes are being so protective — like I get that for some reason these cult psychos followed my sleepwalking ass out into the woods in fucking Party City masks.
Like these people are potentially trying to sacrifice someone to a monster in the woods, and if given who they’ve targeted thus far— Serena, Madelyn, sort of me — they’re choosing girls who woke up out there.
This year that’s just Madelyn, Tilly and me. Madelyn’s gone and Tilly is allegedly one of the cult member’s daughters, so probably they’re not going to be chaining her up in anyone’s cellar. That just leaves me.
I get it. If the Hawthornes want to find these assholes their best bet is to keep tabs on me.
I’m going bat shit insane. They’ve been ferrying me around town for like three days and I’m already losing my mind. Not to mention I’m pretty sure they’re staking out my house.
I’m being a brat. Most of the time I’m totally relieved to know they’re nearby should something happen. When it’s a Julian drive I’m even glad for their company — goodness knows I haven’t got any friends.
This morning was a Neal drive. Neal drives are less fun.
For starters he drives like a fucking psychopath. I legit fear for my life when he’s driving.
Secondly, Julian is really conscientious about dropping me at the corner subtly so I can walk up to the north hall door without a scene. Neal drives me, tires screeching, right to the south hall door, for every senior to see. This morning he just about hit Johnny Undo — the homecoming king — and Trevor Fabriano — all-star athlete — with his car. Like he just managed to stop the car before hitting them. And then, as if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, he leaned into the horn for like ten straight seconds. Which might not sound like a lot but trust me, when your entire high school class is staring at you ten seconds is a god damn eternity.
So I said, “Are you crazy!”
And he said, “I didn’t hit ‘em did I?” As if that were answer enough and then the asshole made me get out right there with everyone staring.
I hate him. He’s hot, but I hate him. Actually I think potentially his hotness might make me hate him more.
I gotta go, Mr. Herman just saw me on my phone. Mr. Herman, who is attractive and not the biggest asshole on legs.
K oh my god okay — Bella Short is dead.
She’s in my science class and apparently she forgot her physics book in her car because she ran out to go get it. Maisie Jorna told our science teacher Mr. Song that Bella would be right back, only she didn’t come right back. My science class is right on the end of the south hall so we could see into the parking lot and we could see that Bella’s car was still there so we knew she hadn’t left.
Maisie sits at the table next to me and at first she was just annoyed that Bella was taking so long, but then forty-five minutes passed and Maisie raised her hand to ask if she could go check the bathroom and the south lot to make sure Bella was okay and Mr. Song (grudgingly) said she could.
I watched through the window as Maisie went outside, watched her cross the parking lot, watched her peer into Bella’s car windows and see nothing. I watched her turn, frowning, back towards the school and watched her expression change to horror.
I think I was already standing up when Maisie started screaming.
We all flooded into the parking lot of course. All of our class and all of Ms. Dashner’s home ec class across the hall. The people who charged ahead saw and stopped. More people screamed. Those who hung back shrank behind each other, peering around each other’s shoulders, half hoping to see, half hoping not to.
I was the first there. I don’t remember running out there, but I must have.
Bella — pretty, mean Bella — was spread-eagled on the concrete in a pool of her own blood, eyes wide and glassy. Her gut was split open, the contents spilled on the white parking lines. Beside her in the blood there was a black feather as long as my forearm. I bent to pick it up and when I stood up Neal was there.
He said, “we have to go.”
I don’t know what I said, but I must have mumbled something because he got right in my face and gave me a firm shake by the shoulders.
“We have to go now.”
That was like an hour ago. I’m at home now — the Hawthornes dropped me here after a rushed conversation about some monster. I think they were going to bring me along on their hunt until my mom called, absolutely frantic, already on her way to the school. They rushed around the apartment drawing blinds and made me promise not to open the door for anyone until they get back.
That’s what I’m doing. My mom’s in the kitchen clattering around making food I think.
I don’t know what to do
This is the day that never ends.
I was literally washing my face to get into bed when someone knocked on the door. I was halfway down the hall in a t-shirt and underwear, soap all over my face, shouting for my mom not to answer it just in time for my mom to open the door on Georgia Nakano.
Georgia Nakano. Madelyn’s girlfriend. The girl who, mere weeks ago, screamed at me for eating pringles on my couch all summer when I should have been noticing that there was something wrong with Madelyn.
“Oh hello Georgia,” my mother said, glancing at me over her shoulder.
Georgia didn’t look at all like herself. Georgia usually dresses like she watches a lot of anime but in a cool way. Lots of mom jeans and dad hats and high tops and like idk pastel colors. Like cool lesbian who listens to Frank Ocean. I’m doing a really bad job of describing this.
Tonight she was wearing a stained sweatshirt and bright orange basketball shorts. Her hair — black, shiny, straight, always perfectly rumpled — was pulled into an unraveling top-knot and her eyes were red and swollen.
“I was —” her voice broke off and she had to cough and try again. “I was hoping to talk to Shiloh.”
I stared at Georgia. Georgia — and my mother — stared at me.
“Okay,” I said and she came in.
“Can I get you a drink?” my mom asked.
“No,” Georgia said. “No that’s alright. I can’t stay long.” She looked at me awkwardly so I held open my bedroom door and followed her into it. I pulled my bathrobe off the back of the door and sat on my bed. Georgia stood there picking at the unravelling elastic in her basket ball shorts.
“Is… everything okay?” I asked and she laughed and I laughed too and for a moment I thought maybe it wasn’t going to be horrible and weird.
“Are you and Tilly Marlow dating?” she asked.
Nope, horrible and weird. I just shrugged and Georgia scuffed her shoe on my carpet.
“Look, sorry,” she said to the floor. “About what I said before. It wasn’t fair.”
“It’s fine,” I lied for convenience.
“I was really upset,” she said. “It wasn’t your fault you didn’t see what she was going through. She didn’t want you to know.” And when that was a horrible, painful thing to hear, Georgia quickly added, “I think she didn’t want to scare you. Or make you feel responsible.”
I hesitated. “Do you know what she was dreaming about?”
Georgia nodded. I should have felt relieved that Madelyn wasn’t dealing with all of it by herself. Like, it was good that she had someone she was talking to, at least a little, even if she wasn’t talking to me.
I didn’t feel relieved. I wanted to throw stuff at her but refrained.
There was a long awkward silence. And then, still refusing to look at me, Georgia said, “You know more, don’t you.”
I would love to report that I handled that with all the grace Madelyn would have wanted to me to, but I did not. I felt a horrible rush of smug satisfaction. I think I smirked.
“Look, I know,” Georgia said. Her eyes were so red and her expression was so helpless. “I see the irony here. But I’ve been trying to figure out what happened to her, and I haven’t found anything and —” Her face crumpled and I deflated. All the poison dissolved and it was just Georgia, Madelyn’s first love, the only girl either of us had ever met who loved k-pop with the same fervor that Madelyn did.
She covered her face with her hands and she cried. I went to hug her and she hugged me back.
“Bella —” Georgia gasped, but that was all she got out. We were both imagining Madelyn like we found Bella, her body open and spilled around her, eyes all milky and staring at nothing.
“I’m sorry,” she finally managed wiping her eyes with her hands. “I didn’t mean to come cry all over you. I’ve just been thinking that you must know something I don’t for a while now, and now with Bella…”
“It’s okay,” I said. I didn’t tell her what I knew though. And this time it wasn’t because I wanted to withhold it. I just didn’t know what to say. Oh yeah, Madelyn was somehow connected to a cult that wanted to restart the Black Witch Coven and become witches. Also, magic is real.
We looked at each other for a long moment, and then finally Georgia took several steps back.
“Right,” she said. “Okay, well. I guess I’ll just —”
“Wait,” I said quickly. “Look, I want to tell you. It’s just —”
“Unbelievable?” Georgia asked.
I smiled, but it was more like a grimace. “Yeah.”
“Yeah, well,” Georgia said. “I’ve got a couple unbelievable stories myself.”
I hesitated. “How unbelievable?” I asked.
And she said, “I know what killed Bella Short.”
Shit my mom just came in and is giving me those we-need-to-talk-about-your-feelings eyes.