Read I'd Rather Not Be Dead Online

Authors: Andrea Brokaw

Tags: #romance, #romantic comedy, #paranormal, #teen, #ghost, #afterlife, #spirit, #medium, #appalachian

I'd Rather Not Be Dead

BOOK: I'd Rather Not Be Dead
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I'd Rather Not Be Dead

by

Andrea Brokaw

 

 

 

I'd Rather Not Be Dead

Andrea Brokaw

Copyright
©
Andrea Marie Brokaw 2012

 

 

Published by Hedgie Press

Smashwords Edition

 

All rights reserved.

 

 

ISBN: 098470213X

ISBN 13: 978-0984702138

 

 

Hedgie Press logo by Amanda
Ulevich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the same author:

Pride, Prejudice and Curling
Rocks

available at most online
booksellers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedication:

For Mom,

thanks for believing

(and everything else)

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

Once upon a time, I was a
perfectly happy, reasonably normal human being. For the most part,
I got along with other people, even my sisters. I wasn't the most
popular girl in school, but no one seemed to hate me. I had hobbies
and friends and a life.

Then my parents got this
horrible idea to move to my dad's hometown, this tiny little hell
hole in the middle of the Appalachians, and before you could say,
“This place sucks,” I became your stereo-typical moody outsider.
They tell me it's my attitude that makes this place so awful, but
what else can they say? If they paid enough attention to notice
that they were wrong, that this town really is that horrific and
stifling, then they'd have to admit that moving me here constituted
criminally bad parenting.

I trudge up the steps of Pine
Bridge High and glare at each stone tile along the way. My mood
gets even worse when I slipped through the open doors into the
school itself. There are people in the hallways, not there waiting
for the day to start, but changing classes. Which means I'm so far
beyond late that it's not even remotely funny.

Each step made agony by the
newly formed blisters on my feet, I stomp through the halls with my
eyes open for my so-called best friend. He's easy to find, a punk
rock needle in a haystack of hicks. He's lounging against the
chipping paint on his forest green locker and leering at my younger
sister. Or at her tight sweater, anyway. My hands clinch into fists
as I bear down on him. “Cris! What. The. Hell. Happened?”

He leans closer to Bobbi,
whispering something to her. She tosses her hair with a haughty
look. “Just tell my loser sister Dad says the car's mine this
weekend.”

I grind to a halt next to them,
shaking with emotion. Neither so much as glances at me.

“And stop looking at me like
that, Crispin.” Bobbi wrinkles her nose. “It's creepy.”

Cris watches her leave, his eyes
locked onto the spot where her miniskirt slaps against her legs.
She's right. His expression is creepy. Very slasher-film stalker.
It's completely messed up. He turns to his locker without
acknowledging me.

“What?” My stomach churns as I
cross my arms and deliver my deadliest glare. “Why are you mad at
me? I'm the one who should be pissed. I'm the one who woke up
alone. On the ground. Miles from town out on the stupid Parkway.
I'm just lucky this place is too boring to have mass murders or
serial rapists lurking around.”

He rummages for a book, slides
it in his bag, and slams the locker shut without comment.

“What did I do that was worth
that? Seriously, Cris. I don't remember last night.”

He yawns, stretches, and starts
down the hall. Then he curses and turns back, returning to his
locker, but still pretending I don't exist.

“This isn't funny.” Somehow, I
manage to keep from punching him, but my fists jerk at my sides
with the temptation. “You abandoned me. Why are you acting like I'm
the bad guy?”

He yanks out a notebook and
mutters to himself, too quiet for me to catch the words, before
turning a smile toward me. Where the leers he aimed at Bobbi were
strictly predatory, this smile is relaxed, comfortable, and
assured. He closes the locker door with a clink. “Hey, babe.”

“Hey, babe? Are you freaking
kidding me?”

“Hey, yourself,” my voice
responds.

My eyes narrow and my skin
erupts in goose bumps as I turn around and see myself smiling
back.

The girl's a perfect replica of
me, from the narrow stripe of pale roots showing in her blackened
hair right down to the boots gracing my feet. There's a flower on
the ankle of the left boot, a thorny rose drawn in silver sharpie
against black leather. Her gray eyes dance for Cris, their depths
brought out by a smattering of black eyeliner. My favorite pair of
jeans, black with metal laces streaming down the legs, cling to
hips that are too thin but undeniably, if tragically, mine. “No
sense in being pessimistic,” my girlie-fit shirt proclaims across
her underdeveloped chest. “It wouldn't work anyway.”

At least she's not wearing the
same outfit I am. Just my face, my body, and my boots.

“Who the hell are you?” I
demand. She doesn't so much as blink at me.

While I'm wondering how she'd
respond to being punched in the face, my look-a-like's smile turns
to a sneer and her eyes fill with disdain for something a few yards
down the hall. “What are you staring at, jock boy?”

Jock boy? That can only be
Cooper Finnegan. I look over my shoulder to see the star athlete in
question moving his head toward his locker. Shoulders that are
normally straightened cockily slump in mute shock. His mouth is
slightly open, his skin pale. His head moves back slowly, his eyes
drawn to me. This me, not the other one.

“Stop looking at her.” Cris
shifts his stance closer to the replica of me.

Cooper Finnegan shakes his head
and forces his attention back to his books as I walk toward him.
“What's going on?”

He whispers something in
response, but I don't catch it.

“What?”

Swallowing hard, he looks me in
the eye. There's something in his gaze I don't understand. It's a
little bit like pity and a little bit, just a hair, like loss.

“What's happening?” I ask again,
nearly pleading.

The other me snarls. “I told you
to stop looking at me.”

“Sorry.” Cooper Finnegan takes a
long breath, turns and leaves.

“Cooper Finnegan!” I scream
after him. “What's going on?”

He stops long enough to glance
over his shoulder and give me a tight smile. But he doesn't answer
the question before launching himself into a group of other a-list
celebrities.

“What's his problem?” The other
me looks to Cris for an answer.

His arm slips around her
shoulders. “You're just too hot for him to handle.”

“Who are you?” Forgetting about
Cooper Finnegan, I hone in on the mystery girl, getting right up
into her face. She has the same scar on her jawline as I have on
mine, up near the left ear. My scar came from a skateboard trick
gone wrong. Where'd she get hers?

She snorts. “Spoken like a man
who wants in my pants.”

Cris grins and casts a
significant look toward the door to the gym, which is vacant this
period. The look gets him smacked on the arm while the other me
laughs. “Maybe later.”

“It's always maybe later.” He
dips his head and looks up through his eyelashes in a teasing
pout.

My body trembles in anger and
frustration. “Hey! She's not me!”

They walk together down the
emptying hall and, biting my lip until it threatens to bleed, I
follow.

No one pays any attention to
there being two versions of Drew McKinney, no one except Cooper
Finnegan. Thanks to the joys of assigned seating, he sits at a lab
table across from mine in physics. Posture rigid and mouth in a
mild frown, he keeps his eyes glued to the board even though
there's nothing written on it.

I stand in front of the other
me, where she sits in my seat. “You can't just have my life.”

My doppleganger doesn't react as
she taps her jagged nails against the surface of her textbook. Is
that what she is? A doppleganger? A double created by and sent here
by some practitioner of dark arts? Why would anyone make another
me? Most people think one of me in the world is too many.

I glare at the dirty thief who's
stolen my face and my life. It isn't much of a life, but it's mine.
And I want it back.

I reach down to pick up her book
to throw it onto the floor, but my hand passes straight through it,
sending chill bumps rippling across every inch of my skin. No way
that just happened. No. Freaking. Way.

Cooper Finnegan's eyes move. He
gives me a soft, sympathetic, and sad smile.

“Seriously, dude.” The other me
pierces him with a hard look. “What's your problem?”

He shakes his head and looks
forward without saying anything.

I try to ignore my budding
terror as I shift to stand between the jock and the blackboard.
“What do you know?”

His lips press
into a narrow line and I can almost hear the debate he's having on
what, if anything, to tell me. He's got an explanation, though I
have no idea why Cooper Finnegan
¨C
obnoxious, arrogant, annoying Cooper
Finnegan!
¨C
is the
only person who seems to know what's happening.

He gets up and goes to the
teacher's desk as the bell rings. “I need a hall pass.”

If I'd done it, I wouldn't have
gotten one. Even assuming the teacher saw me and heard the
statement, she'd have informed me class had just started and I
should've done whatever I needed to do in the break. But Cooper
Finnegan? The Golden Child of Pine Bridge, North Carolina? She
doesn't even ask what he wants it for before handing over a signed
slip.

His hand shakes as he takes
it.

I follow him out the door and
down the hall to the empty gym.

“Sit down.” He motions toward
the bleachers. When I fold my arms and glare at him rather than
following the command, he shrugs. “I'll sit then.”

He does, leaning over spread
legs with his arms resting on his thighs and his hands folded at
his knees in one of those classic 'guy' poses. His gaze is on the
ground.

I resist the urge to tap my
foot. “Can we hurry this up?”

“I'm trying to...” All the air
rushes out of him and his body slumps. He takes a long breath. His
head shakes and his fingers flex. He opens his mouth a few times
before finally coming out with, “I don't know what to say.”

My eyes roll. “I'll help. Here's
a start. Drew, what's happening is...”

“You really can't figure it
out?” The question is quiet and tired, not at all hostile or
condescending, but I respond to it with a vicious glare anyway.

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