Authors: Katherine Applegate
an imprint of Random House Children’s Books
a division of Random House, Inc.
Text copyright © 1995 by Daniel Weiss Associates, Inc.,
and Katherine Applegate
Cover photograph copyright © Corbis 2002
Originally published by Bantam Books in 1995
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For Ann Brashares.
And, as always,
OME PEOPLE SAID
Sam had robbed a Get n’ Go in Okeechobee. Some said he was an undercover narc. A reliable source in the girls’ bathroom claimed he was Mick Jagger’s illegitimate son. We were bored with our gentle lives, and dark, silent Sam was the object of much speculation. As the new guy at school and the only male in AP Bio to sport a black leather jacket, he was asking for it.
Sam rode a motorcycle, no helmet. In the sea of entry-level Chevy sedans and sober parentmobiles, the big Harley in Student Lot B commanded attention. It spoke of mangled limbs, decapitations, promising lives cut short. Conjugating verbs from my window seat in Spanish class, I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
I suppose, given that Harley, not to mention the rumors, that it didn’t surprise me when I happened, one Monday after school, to witness Sam Cody’s inevitable demise.
I was sitting under a tree in the middle of an orange grove near my house. Snickers, my Arabian mare, was grazing
nearby. The day, warm and clear, dazzled like a prism. I had my history textbook open on my lap, which I figured was almost the same thing as reading it.
I went to the grove from time to time—sometimes to study, more often to daydream. The star of my reveries was Lance Potts, the golden-boy-blue-eyed-honor-society-junior-class-president-football-center guy I’d fantasized about for months, practicing pillow kisses after
on Saturday nights. Although Lance had no idea I existed, he was always kind enough to make an appearance in my daydreams at a moment’s notice.
But lately, Sam Cody had been making unscheduled appearances in them as well. I was not sure what to make of this development. Sam was not, after all, the kind of guy I was attracted to.
Although, to be fair, Sam did have very nice eyes.
The hoarse whine of a motorcycle broke the stillness. I tossed my book aside. This was not a bike trail. Technically, it wasn’t even a horse trail. Yelling a few expletives, I dashed out to the narrow dirt road that bisected the grove. Then I saw the black jacket, the too-long hair, and I knew it was Sam.
It was one thing to ponder Sam’s dark history over a bowl of Orville Redenbacher Light on a dateless Friday evening. It was quite another thing to be trapped in the middle of nowhere with him, armed only with my pepper spray, the one my mom had stuck in the toe of my stocking the Christmas before.
“Hey!” I screamed. “Get off the trail!”
Suddenly, as if he’d reined it in at my command, the bike bucked and twisted. It careened off the trail, carving a clean
arc in the still air. Sam clung to it like a bronco rider as the bike plummeted to the ground near an orange tree. It somersaulted once before coming to a stop.
The Harley silenced, the field came alive again with chirps, buzzes, whirs. I waited, hoping for a moan, some sign he’d survived.
As I ran to the wreck I steeled myself for the bloodied corpse and lifeless stare, the horror-movie scenes from those driver ed movies. I conjured up pages from my first-aid book. A, B, C: A was airway, B was breathing, but what the heck was C?
The grass stirred.
Sam was wrapped around the twisted carcass of his bike. A tiny trickle of blood made its way down his left temple.
He opened his eyes. “This isn’t hell, is it?”
I shook my head, incredibly relieved that he was alive.
“Florida,” I said.
“I’m here to rescue you,” I said nervously. “Don’t move.”
I leaned close to check his eyes. If his pupils were dilated, that was a bad thing, although I couldn’t remember why. Close up, his face was all angles and planes, a geometry lesson. His eyes were nearly black, thick brows, thick lashes. I couldn’t be sure about the pupil situation. I caught the faint, acrid smell of tobacco. It figured he would smoke.
I examined a gash on his left hand. “You have a death wish or something?” I muttered.
He touched his bloody temple and swore. “I blew a damn tire. I can’t believe it. I just changed that tire two weeks ago! Oh, man, this sucks.”
“I mean, why don’t you wear a helmet, for God’s sake? It’s the law. Plus,” I added, “you smoke.”
Sam stared at me as if I weren’t quite in focus. “I’m lying here bleeding to death, and you’re
“I hope you realize how lucky it is you landed in a hunk of grass. It could have been a hunk of rock.”
“Don’t move, I have to think. I took first aid in Girl Scouts, but that was seven years ago.”
Sam started to pull his leg free. He winced.
“Stop!” I cried. “Don’t move the victim.”
not the victim,” he said, stroking a twisted fender.
I checked his head wound. It was bleeding, all right, although not very dramatically. I needed something to bind the cut. There was only one thing to do. I took off my T-shirt. Fortunately, I had a bathing suit top on underneath.
“Maybe I’m in heaven after all,” Sam said.
I tried to rip the T-shirt with my teeth. It always works in the movies.
The movies, it just so happens, are full of crap.
“I’m Sam Cody, by the way.”
“I know,” I said, and was instantly sorry. Strictly speaking, there was no reason I should know his name.
“And you’re Alison Chapman.”
I blinked, my mouth full of T-shirt. Strictly speaking, there was no reason he should know my name.
I could feel my throat starting to blotch. It was tacky to flirt while binding a wound.
“I’m just going to tie this sucker around your head,” I said. Before he could fuss I crouched behind him, folded the shirt
into a long strip, and tied it around his forehead. The back of his hair curled sweetly over his collar.
“Ow.” He winced. “Just my luck I get the Brownie paramedic.”
I stood, brushed off my knees, and admired my handiwork. “You may go into shock at any moment,” I said. “I think I’m supposed to cover you with a blanket.”
“You could use your jeans,” he suggested helpfully.
“I’m going to go get my horse. I’ll put her blanket over you, then ride for help. But you have to promise not to move—”
“Time out.” Before I could stop him, Sam pulled free of his bike and struggled to his feet. “This is getting way too weird.”
“I told you not to stand. You’ve had a brush with death.”
“You did say horse?”
“Snickers. She’s over there, under a tree. This is a horse trail, no bikes allowed.”
“I was just passing through,” he said. “It’s a great shortcut to the highway.”
“Didn’t you see the sign?”
“Yeah, it said No Trespassing. What’s your excuse?”
“I trespassed on a horse, at least.”
“Can your horse do one twenty?”
“No.” I kicked his blown-out tire. “But neither can your bike anymore.”
Suddenly he looked infinitely sad, and I felt like a jerk.
“Look, if you’re not going to sit here and wait for an ambulance, let me at least give you a ride,” I said.
“I don’t do horses. Look, thank you for saving my life. If you need someone to testify for your merit badge, give me a
call. But I’m cool.” He yanked off the T-shirt. It was smeared with blood. “Sorry,” he said. “I’ll buy you another one. I’m a little short on cash right now, though.”
He stared at the bike forlornly. I wondered if I’d ever looked at anything with that much longing.
“I’m sure it can be fixed,” I said.
“You know someone who can tow it?”
“I’ll figure something out.” He took off his black jacket and slung it over his shoulder. I noticed a little plastic packet of Kleenex in one of the pockets. It seemed so incongruous that I grinned. Somehow I’d expected something more sinister.
“Nothing. I mean, just … your Kleenex.”
He blinked. “My what?”
“Well … Nice bleeding on you.”
He limped off down the trail. His scuffed boots made little dust clouds. Sam Cody, of the wild speculation and hushed rumors, who had maybe killed a man or robbed a bank or sold substances door to door, and I don’t mean vacuums.
Still, he looked sort of pathetic, his metal steed dead by the wayside.
By the time I caught up with him he was nearly to the tree where Snickers was tied. “Come on,” I said. “You might as well hitch. We’re going the same way.”
Sam stopped. His hair was matted where the blood had dried. He looked very tired. “Look, I don’t even know you.”
“You know my name.”
“Sixth-period study hall. Two rows up, one seat over. I’m
familiar with the back of your head. Yesterday you wore one of those claw ponytail things.”
“A clip,” I confirmed.
He narrowed his eyes. “So how is it that you know my name?”
“I’ve heard … talk.”
“What kind of talk?”
“You know. You’re the new guy, it’s a small school, people talk.”
“Yeah. Well.” It was obvious he didn’t give a damn.
I hesitated. Up close, with the blood, the dirt, the sweat trickling down his temples, he did look more menacing. Older than all the other guys at school, with their dust-bunny mustaches and self-conscious swaggers.
“Have you ever been to Okeechobee?” I asked.
Sam closed his eyes. I had the feeling I was wearing him out. He swayed slightly, and the Girl Scout in me took over.
I grabbed his arm, and he more or less followed along. His skin was damp and hot, but then, it was hot for January. Besides, my hands were sweating, so it’s hard to know who was responsible.
Snickers looked him over doubtfully. Sam leaned against the trunk of the tree. His face was gray.
“This is Snickers,” I said. “She’s old and she’s been known to bite. She doesn’t like men.”
“That’s okay. I don’t like horses,” he said, but he stroked her shoulder anyway. She snorted derisively.
“Here’s the deal,” I said. I turned the left stirrup for him. “Left foot in here, right leg over, I’ll drive. Got it?”
“I have ridden before. My grandfather has a horse. I just like my transportation without teeth.”
Sam eased up into the saddle. I stuffed my book in my backpack, handed it to Sam, and climbed up behind him.
“Are you sure you’re not going into shock or something?” I asked, taking the reins. “You look sort of … well, like you’re dying, to be blunt.”
“Nothing an aspirin won’t cure.”