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NEW YEARS SURPRISE 2 page

Bulging eyes. Blank eyes.

 

A face, moving forward.

 

Behind her Greta screamed. Artie cried out in horror.

 

Reenie jumped back, raising her arms to defend herself.

 

No need.

 

She was staring at a corpse.

 

The body fell face-first to the floor.

 

A boy, Reenie saw.

 

She stared at the top of his head. Gooey blood, dark and caked, oozed over his hair.

 

Familiar hair.

 

Reenie bent down for a closer look. The head rolled to the side, revealing his face. Sean's face.

 

"Oh, no!" Greta wailed. "Noooooo!"

 

"He's dead!" Ty gasped. "Sean is dead!"

 

"Good," Reenie said.

 


Chapter 6
A BREAK-IN

 

"I'm not falling for that stupid joke," Reenie declared. "No way."

 

Everyone laughed except Sean, who lay motionless on the floor.

 

Reenie nudged him with her toe. "You can get up now, Sean. You've had your laugh for the day."

 

"Come on, admit it," Artie urged. "We had you for a second there. We all saw you jump."

 

"Well, yeah. You'd jump, too, if someone fell out of your closet!" Reenie explained. "It took me a whole two seconds to figure out it was your usual dumb stuff."

 

Sean climbed slowly to his feet, grinning. "I thought I did a pretty good fall."

 

Reenie sighed. "I've seen it too many times. You guys need some new victims for your stupid jokes."

 

"It worked great when we pulled it on Deena Martinson," Artie told her. "She's probably still screaming."

 

"Deena hasn't seen it a hundred times before," Reenie replied, shaking her head.

 

"Maybe it didn't work this time," Greta declared, "but we've fooled you pretty good before."

 

"Like at the Burger Basket," Ty recalled.

 

"Yeah," Artie agreed, "we got you good at the Burger Basket."

 

Reenie had to admit it. They had fooled her that time.

 

She'd stopped by the restaurant to meet Sean when he got off work. As she opened the door, a masked robber grabbed her and told her he was taking her hostage. She could still remember the feel of his rubber glove across her mouth and nose.

 

Greta laughed. "You screamed that time!"

 

"Especially when the robber killed me," Ty added. He sounded a little ashamed of himself. As if he enjoyed the prank, but found it kind of childish.

 

"Hey—don't forget about the time I got you, Greta," Reenie said. "At Artie's house. Remember? I hid in the bathtub for almost an hour. The water was freezing by the time you finally came in and found me floating facedown."

 

Sean touched the gooey red spot on his head. "Yuck!" he groaned, staring at his fingers.

 

"What is that stuff?" Reenie asked. For blood, they'd been using a concoction Artie came up with—corn syrup, red food coloring, sometimes a little flour to make it clump together. This stuff looked different.



 

"Theatrical blood," Sean replied. "I got it at Jack's Jokes. The package claims this stuff washes out with water. I hope it's true. Mind if I use your bathroom?"

 

"Mess it up, and my mom will kill you," Reenie warned as he headed out the door.

 

"I can't believe Sean bought theatrical blood," Greta said. She turned to Artie. "I thought he had to save all his cash for college next year."

 

Guess the fight isn't over, Reenie thought. If Artie decides not to go to college when we graduate, I'll bet he and Greta will break up.

 

Sean returned from the bathroom, his wet hair slicked back. Reenie's mom always joked that a color photo of Sean would be identical to one in black and white. But Reenie didn't agree. Black and white film would capture Sean's black hair and pale skin. But it wouldn't show his blue eyes.

 

"We'd better get started. We don't want to be here all night," Greta urged.

 

Sean grabbed his books from underneath the bed.

 

He thought of everything, Reenie realized. I probably wouldn't have noticed his books with everybody's junk scattered around. But he hid them anyway.

 

Watching him, Reenie pictured the deep red blood that matted his hair. His bulging eyes. Even though she had known right away that he wasn't hurt, she couldn't push the image out of her mind.

 

Maybe we should stop playing this game, Reenie thought. Maybe we should stop right now—tonight—before someone goes too far.

 

"We only finished seven problems last night," Reenie griped. "Can you imagine how long it's going to take us to do all hundred of them?"

 

Locker doors clicked open and banged shut as kids stuffed their coats in and pulled out the books and notebooks they needed for class. No one hurried. Not with fifteen minutes to go before first period.

 

"Artie was a big help!" Greta complained, rolling her eyes. "He didn't even pay attention most of the time."

 

Reenie nodded. She didn't know quite what to say. Artie hadn't contributed much to the group project. And every time he did open his mouth, Greta had jumped all over him. Giving him a hard time for slacking off. Warning him that he'd never get a scholarship if his grades dropped any lower. Always in his face.

 

Greta stopped next to a drinking fountain. She pulled out a mirror and checked her lipstick. Reenie thought it looked perfect. But Greta pressed some more on anyway.

 

"We had another fight after we left your house," Greta admitted. "I know I've been down on Artie too much. But he's messing up. He spends all his time hanging out with Marc Bentley."

 

"Didn't Marc drop out of school?" Reenie asked. She had seen Marc at a couple parties and around Shadyside High. He was tough to miss with his muscular body and slicked-back ponytail. But she didn't really know him.

 

"Yeah. And the creep is trying to convince Artie to quit school, too."

 

Greta dropped her lipstick and mirror back into her purse. They wandered toward their lockers.

 

"I don't know what Artie plans to do," Greta continued. "He's changed so much lately. Sometimes I feel really close to him and we have these great conversations. Or we'll go to Red Heat and dance and have a great time like we used to."

 

Greta hesitated. "But then he'll mention Marc, or I'll mention college—and we're fighting again. He doesn't seem to care about any of the things he used to care about."

 

Reenie wondered if that included Greta.

 

They passed the school office. Reenie saw the principal, Mr. Hernandez, talking to a woman in a brown coat. Down the hall, someone slammed a locker door really hard.

 

"What would Artie do if he dropped out?" Reenie asked.

 

"Marc is working at the car plant in Waynesbridge. He says he can get Artie a job there, too."

 

"Wow. What a thrill!" Reenie replied sarcastically.

 

"That's what I told Artie. But he won't listen to me. He says Marc makes a lot of money and he didn't have to waste four years in college to get it. Artie's family needs money because of Davy."

 

Davy was Artie's little brother. He had some kind of a kidney problem. Artie's family must have huge medical bills, Reenie knew.

 

Greta sighed. "Marc's a really bad influence on Artie. I wish—"

 

Reenie gasped and grabbed Greta's arm. "Greta—look! That
girl! She's breaking into my locker!"

 


Chapter 7
THE NEW GIRL

 

Who is she? Reenie wondered. I've never seen her before.

 

She ran down the hall with Greta close behind her.

 

The girl spun the combination lock on Reenie's locker, tugged on it, then gave it a hard yank.

 

"What are you doing?" Reenie demanded breathlessly as she rushed up to the girl. "That's my locker!"

 

"Huh?" The girl glanced up, confused.

 

"That's my locker," Reenie repeated. Greta stood beside her. Both of them stared at the girl. She had auburn hair that fell past her shoulders, and a light smattering of freckles on her cheeks and nose.

 

"Oh," the girl replied, embarrassed. "No wonder it wouldn't open!" She offered a shy smile. "I'm sorry. Really. I'm new. This is my first day here. I thought this was the locker they assigned me at the office."

 

"What number did they give you?" Reenie asked.

 

The newcomer pulled a slip of paper from her purse. "Uh, eighty-nine."

 

"That's my locker number," Reenie said.

 

The girl handed Reenie the slip of paper. "The secretary wrote it down."

 

Reenie and Greta studied the little square of paper.

 

"That's not eighty-nine!" Greta exclaimed. "It's B-nine."

 

"You're right," Reenie agreed. "The B lockers are around the corner."

 

The girl blushed. "This is really embarrassing."

 

"Hey—no problem," Reenie insisted. "You just read it wrong. No big deal. Sorry I yelled at you like that."

 

"I've made a lot more embarrassing mistakes," Greta told her. "Ask me about the time I went into the boys' locker room!"

 

They all laughed.

 

"My name's Reenie, and this is Greta."

 

"I'm Liz."

 

They smiled and nodded at one another. Then they stood awkwardly, trying to figure out what to say next.

 

Reenie saw a boy standing across the hall, watching but not saying anything. She realized he'd been there the whole time.

 

"That's my brother, P.J.," Liz explained.

 

P.J. took a step closer to the others. He's as pale as Sean, Reenie thought. And about as tall. But he's so thin—and kind of frail.

 

"Hey," P.J. grunted, gazing down at his shoes.

 

Whoa, Reenie thought, this guy seems totally lost.

 

He had freckles like his sister's, but not the auburn hair. His was ordinary brown. When he finally glanced up at her, Reenie saw that his eyes were a deep mossy green.

 

His eyes are beautiful, Reenie thought. Too bad he spends most of his time staring at the ground.

 

"Where's your homeroom?" Greta asked P.J.

 

He pulled a folded-up class schedule out of his jeans pocket. "English with Mr. Meade."

 

"Want me to show you where it is?" Greta offered, smiling warmly. "I had Meade last year. He's great if you don't mind a lot of reading."

 

"Thanks," P.J. mumbled.

 

"Reading is just about all he ever does," Liz teased

 

"Me, too," Greta replied.

 

"If you count Glamour and Vogue!" Reenie exclaimed.

 

They laughed again—everyone but P.J.

 

Reenie glanced at her watch. "Oh, wow. It's almost time for first period. I'd better get my books. Liz, I'll show you where your locker is, if you want to hang on for a sec."

 

"Okay," Liz answered. "I could use the help. I'm still a little lost."

 

Reenie worked the combination too quickly and had to do it again. Five. Nine. Two. The lock opened with a click. She tugged on the door.

 

Stuck.

 

She pulled harder.

 

Still stuck. What's going on? she thought.

 

"Why won't it open?" Liz asked.

 

And then it did open.

 

The door swung open, nearly pushing Reenie to the wall.

 

Liz cried out and jumped back.

 

Reenie screamed.

 


Chapter 8
FAST EXIT

 

A hand reached out of the locker.

 

Then another hand. They reached for Reenie's throat.

 

Reenie shook her head. "I don't believe this. Don't you guys ever give up?"

 

Ty was crammed inside her locker—his back pressed against one side, his knees jammed against the other. Reenie couldn't believe he had squeezed into such a small space.

 

"What took you so long?" he asked, breathing hard. He pulled himself from her locker. "I was dying in there."

 

"You know, Ty, I'm getting really sick of these dumb jokes. What if you got stuck?" Reenie demanded. "What if you suffocated before I opened the door?"

 

"Air can get in through those little slits," Ty explained. "I really scared you that time, didn't I? I had to try since Sean's trick didn't work at your house. You were scared. Come on, admit it."

 

Reenie couldn't help smiling. Ty sounded so excited. "I was startled, not scared," she told him. "Just like last time. Scared is when you're walking alone at night, and you hear footsteps behind you."

 

"Scared is when you're in a room all by yourself, and you feel cold fingers on the back of your neck," Greta suggested.

 

"Yeah," Reenie agreed. "That's scared. When something surprises you, you're just startled. Scared is a lot more serious."

 

"And it lasts a lot longer," Greta added.

 

Ty raised his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay. I give. You were only startled."

 

"How did you get in there?" Greta demanded.

 

But Ty didn't answer. His eyes fixed on something down the hall.

 

No, Reenie realized. Not something down the hall. Liz. We forgot all about her.

 

Liz stood quietly off to the side with her brother. Ty seemed unable to take his eyes off her.

 

"This is Ty. He's not really crazy. He acted perfectly normal until he started hanging around with us," Reenie explained. "Then he got addicted to our stupid practical jokes. We're always playing dead. Trying to scare each other to death. Sick, right?"

 

"Definitely sick," Liz replied. She turned to Ty.

 

"I'm Liz, and that's my brother, P.J. We're new at Shadyside."

 

P.J. lowered his gaze and didn't say anything.

 

"I'm new, too," Ty replied. "I started at Shadyside this fall."

 

"How do you like it?" Liz asked.

 

"It's okay. I met these guys right off." He gestured to Reenie and Greta. "We hang out a lot. We have a pretty good time."

 

"It's a little weird the first day at a new school," Liz admitted. "You get all turned around. I even tried to get into Reenie's locker by mistake."

 

Ty kept staring at Liz. He seemed to have forgotten the rest of them.

 

I guess all those girls who hoped Ty would finally notice them are going to be disappointed, Reenie thought. One glance at Liz and he's gone.

 

"If you want, I can show you around," Ty offered.

 

"Okay," Liz replied. "You can show me where my locker is, so Reenie won't have to bother."

 

"What was the number again?" Ty asked.

 

"B-nine."

 

"It's this way." Liz and Ty hurried off down the hall, their heads close together.

 

"Come on," Greta said to P.J. "I'll show you where your homeroom is."

 

P.J. didn't seem to hear her. He stared after his sister and Ty, his green eyes wide and unblinking. His mouth slack. His breathing suddenly rapid and shallow.

 

"P.J., you okay?" Reenie asked.

 

P.J. blinked and snapped his mouth closed. Then he lunged past Reenie and tore down the hall after his sister.

 

Reenie jumped back to get out of his way, dropping her books. She banged hard against the lockers.

 

"Reenie, are you all right?" Greta cried.

 

"I think so," she answered, staring after P.J. He wove down the crowded hall, pushing people out of his way.

 

"Hey!" someone yelled. "Watch it!"

 

Greta helped Reenie collect her books.

 

"What was that about?" Greta asked.

 

Reenie wondered the same thing.

 


Chapter 9
THE FAST LANE

 

"Do you see who Corky Corcoran is with?" Reenie exclaimed. "Ricky Shore!"

 

Greta leaned over Reenie's shoulder and peered through the windshield. "Where?"

 

Reenie pointed to a booth in the Burger Basket. "They're sitting over by the window."

 

"I think they make a cute couple," Greta commented. She reached over the backseat and grabbed a handful of french fries from Sean.

 

"How could Ricky Shore be part of a cute anything?" Reenie demanded. "Sometimes I think there is something seriously wrong with you, Greta."

 

"I know there is something seriously wrong with both of you," Sean joked. "Can't you think of something more fun to do? Even our trig assignment is more exciting than this."

 

Reenie rolled her eyes at Greta. Sean could never understand why they liked hanging out in Sean's car in the Burger Basket parking lot, listening to the radio, and watching people go in and out.

 

Reenie stuck a french fry in Sean's mouth.

 

"You know how much grease is in these things?" Greta asked. She grabbed another french fry from Sean.

 

Reenie smiled. Greta always refused to buy french fries because they were so fattening. Then she ate half of theirs.

 

"No," Sean replied. "How much?"

 

"Too much," Greta answered.

 

"That's what makes them taste so good," Sean replied. "Without grease, they'd taste like paper."

 

Reenie spotted a girl with reddish-brown hair hurrying out of the restaurant. "Is that Liz?" Reenie asked.

 

The girl turned and headed across the parking lot. "No," Reenie said, answering her own question. "Only someone with the same hair color."

 

"I kind of like Liz," Greta commented.

 

"Me, too," Reenie agreed. "She's lots of fun. We went to the mall last weekend. They had Scarlett O'Hara-type bridesmaids' dresses in the window of the Bridal Boutique. With hoopskirts and parasols and everything. And Liz insisted we try them on."

 

"And why wasn't I invited?" Greta demanded.

 

"You and Artie had plans," Reenie told her.

 

"Liz made up a story for the salesclerk about how her cousin in Georgia was getting married. She even took down the style numbers and asked about getting shoes dyed to match."

 

"You know who else likes Liz?" Greta asked. "Ty. Whenever Liz is around, Ty gets a really weird expression on his face. Like he's about to melt or something."

 

Sean chuckled. "I noticed him standing outside fourth-period math class today, acting real casual. But he kept checking the door. As soon as Liz came out, he walked up to her as if he just happened to be passing by."

 

"Think Ty is finally going to ask someone out after all these months?" Greta wondered.

 

"I bet he's working up to it," Reenie replied.

 

"I think they would make a great couple," Greta declared. "They really are perfect for each other."

 

Reenie shook her head. Greta loved trying to predict who would become a couple and who would break up. What if Chris and Natalie got together? she'd ask. Or Gary and Randee?

 

"It's hard to believe Liz and P.J. are related," Reenie commented. "Liz is so cool. And he's kind of weird."

 

"Definitely," Sean agreed.

 

"He's not that weird," Greta replied. "I think he's cute."

 

Reenie made a face. "Yeah, but you think Ricky Shore is cute, too."

 

"P.J. always acts as if he's sick or something," Sean said. "Like he's about to faint."

 

"I've tried to talk to him," Reenie told them. "But all he says is yes or no in that low grunt of his. He always seems scared or something."

 

"He's shy," Greta said. "What's wrong with that? He's new in town, at a new school, and he doesn't know anybody. I've talked to him, and I think he's nice. Smart, too."

 

"Does Artie know he's got competition?" Sean teased.

 

Reenie knew Sean was kidding. But Greta answered seriously. "I like P.J., that's all. I mean, I don't… well…"

 

"Whoa! Check it out!" Sean teased. "Greta is blushing!"

 

She couldn't possibly be interested in a strange guy like P.J., Reenie thought. Could she? It was true that lately, Artie and Greta had been fighting all the time.

 

Greta tapped Reenie on the shoulder and pointed to a green car. "Lily Bancroft and Pete Goodwin. I never thought I'd see them together."

 

"Trying to change the subject?" Sean asked.

 

Greta didn't answer him.

 

"Where do P.J. and Liz live?" Reenie asked.

 

They looked at one another. No one knew.

 

"What do their parents do? How come they moved in the middle of the year?" Sean asked.

 

No one knew that, either.

 

A horn blared as a shiny red car pulled up beside them. The driver revved the engine.

 

"Cool car," Sean observed. "Sounds like a V-6 that somebody has done a lot of work on. I'll bet it can really move."

 

"It's Marc Bentley," Greta said sourly. "And Artie."

 

Artie rode shotgun. He rolled down the window. "Yo! How's it going? How do you like Marc's new wheels?"

 

"Nice," Sean said. "What's it got?"

 

"V-6 with high-lift cam, oversize valves, and high-compression heads," Artie bragged.

 

"Wow." Sean sounded impressed.

 

Marc climbed out of the car. "Come on. I'll give you a ride." He grinned at Reenie.

 

Marc is really good-looking, Reenie thought. He wore his dark brown hair in a ponytail. And she liked the faint scar that ran partway across his forehead and through his left eyebrow. It made him appear a little dangerous—and older, different from the other high school guys.

 

"Count me out," Greta insisted.

 

Reenie shook her head. "I've got to get home. It's late."

 

Sean glanced at Reenie and Greta, then at Marc and Artie.

 

"You don't want to go with them, do you?" Reenie whispered.

 

"I wouldn't mind seeing how that car runs," Sean answered.

 

"Let's go," Artie called excitedly. "We'll show you what this car can do."

 

"Hey, no big deal. We'll just go around the block," Marc promised.

 

"Yeah, just around the block," Artie echoed. "You've got to ride in this car at least once. It's really awesome."

 

Reenie and Greta exchanged stares. Greta shrugged and nodded. "All right. Just around the block."

 

"Okay," Sean told them. "Let's go."

 

Reenie knew that Greta didn't want Artie hanging around Marc. She must think Artie will get in less trouble if she's with him, Reenie thought.

 

"Climb in," Marc instructed. "It'll be a tight squeeze. But you can make it."

 

They crammed themselves into the backseat.

 

"You guys ready for a ride in a real car?" Marc asked. He peeled out of the Burger Basket parking lot, the engine roaring.

 

Artie turned around. "Moves, doesn't it?"

 

Marc stopped at a red light. A white Mustang pulled up beside them. It had dark windows that made it impossible to see who was inside.

 

Marc revved the engine, challenging the Mustang. The Mustang's driver responded by revving his own engine. Challenge accepted.

 

"Let's not," Greta urged. "It's—"

 

Before she could finish, the light turned green and both cars roared forward, tires squealing. Marc's car immediately pulled ahead of the Mustang, widening the gap as it sped down the block.

 

"Yes!" Artie yelled, shaking both fists in the air.

 

He's really getting into this, Reenie thought. She squeezed against Sean's arm.

 

Marc raced through the next light as it turned from yellow to red.

 

"Whoa!" Greta shouted. "Slow down, before you get us all killed."

 

Sean leaned forward. "Cool it, Marc. Okay?"

 

Marc glanced back at his passengers. "What a bunch of wimps."

 

Artie didn't say anything.

 

"Want to have some fun?" Marc asked.

 

"I want to go back," Greta told him.

 

But Marc turned onto Park Drive, going south, away from the Burger Basket.

 

"I want to show you something," he said, eyes straight ahead.

 

"Slow down," Sean urged. "You're going to get stopped."

 

Marc sped through the Park Drive traffic circle. They zoomed past St. Paul's Church. Reenie watched the street signs. Bank Street. Hawthorne Drive.

 

What's going on? she wondered. Why is he heading for Fear Street?

 

"Marc, give us a break. Take us back," Reenie pleaded.

 

"This will only take a minute," Marc insisted. "It will be fun. I promise."

 

Fun for Marc, Reenie thought.

 

He turned right on Fear Street.

 

A tingly, uneasy feeling settled into Reenie's stomach. Fear Street had a reputation. A place to be avoided. A place where weird things happened.

 

Branches intertwined above the street, as if the trees on each side were clinging to each other.


Date: 2015-04-20; view: 628


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