Authors: Michelle Madow
“It could have killed her when those birds hit her car last night,” Drew muttered.
“It didn’t, though.” I rubbed the top of his hand with my thumb, trying to be reassuring. “I was fine.”
“This time,” he said, the muscles in his face tightening with determination. “But we need to stop this, and we need to stop it now.”
“I agree,” Alistair said. “And we can. But you must focus on the task at hand.”
“Figuring out who did this to me, and getting the details on exactly what they did,” I repeated what he’d told us earlier. “Then we can come up with a way to fix it.”
It sounded simple when put that way. But I had an awful feeling that if Jeremy or Chelsea were responsible, there was no way I could get either of them to admit it.
I decided to approach Jeremy first. It wasn’t because I suspected him the most, but because I was afraid to talk to Chelsea—if I could even get her to talk to me, which I wasn’t sure I would be able to do. At least if it was obvious Jeremy wasn’t responsible, I could eliminate him as a suspect and focus on getting Chelsea to admit her guilt. Process of elimination was a good thing, right?
Probably not when you’re under a time crunch, but talking to Jeremy wouldn’t take more than a day. We had the rest of the month to get to the bottom of this.
Well, we had the rest of the month to make all this go away. After I figured out who was responsible, I suspected that fixing what they did was going to be harder than getting them to admit to doing it.
“The best way for me to get Jeremy to be honest with me is to talk with him alone,” I told Drew as we left the car repair shop.
“No.” He shook his head. “I don’t like that. I should be there, too.”
I got it, I did—no guy wants his girlfriend to be alone with the guy she just got out of a long-term relationship with. I hated knowing that Chelsea had stopped over Drew’s on Sunday before I got there—even though he told her he loved me and kicked her out—and their relationship hadn’t even been serious. I couldn’t imagine how much harder it would be for Drew knowing I would be alone with Jeremy.
“I want you to be there too, but Jeremy will be more likely to admit he did something if he’s just talking to me,” I said. “If it’s both of us, he might feel ganged up on.”
“Or maybe he’ll be more likely to admit to it under pressure,” Drew said.
“But I don’t think Jeremy’s the one responsible,” I replied. “If any of this is even possible. Do you really believe that stuff Alistair told us about curses and magic?”
“I’m not sure.” Drew shrugged and looked at me, the vulnerability in his eyes taking me by surprise. “But it’s all we have to go on right now, and I will do anything if it means keeping you safe.”
The raw honesty in his statement took my breath away. “Thank you,” I said. “I’ll try to get Jeremy to meet at Starbucks, so there will be other people around. But I really do think it will be best if you sit this conversation out and let me handle him.”
“Promise me you’ll come over right when you’re done?” he asked.
“I promise.” I didn’t need to think about my response.
“You’ll need a car, though,” Drew said. “Since yours won’t be ready for a few days. You can take the Hummer.”
“The Hummer?” I widened my eyes. “That thing is huge! How am I supposed to drive it?”
“You drive it just like any other car.” Drew laughed. “You’ll be fine. With everything going on, it makes me feel better to know you’re in one of the safest cars on the road.”
“Fine,” I gave in. With Death after me, it made sense to drive the sturdiest car possible.
Although I suspected that once Death gained its full hold, a small thing like a car wouldn’t stand in its way.
* * *
Jeremy agreed to meet me at Starbucks after his soccer practice. We used to go there a lot when we were dating, so the neutral territory would be a good place for us to talk.
I only hoped other people wouldn’t listen to our conversation. It would sound pretty strange.
All day at school I could tell Jeremy was curious about what I wanted to talk with him about. He kept looking at me with hope in his eyes, and it made me feel bad. I didn’t want him to think this had anything to do with “us”—that I wanted to get back together. The last thing I wanted was to hurt him more than I already had.
But I needed answers.
I did my homework at Starbucks while I waited for him, since I had time to kill between school and when his practice got out.
“I’ve been wondering all day what you wanted to talk with me about,” Jeremy’s voice brought me out of the essay I was writing for European History.
I looked up from my laptop—I couldn’t believe I was so focused on writing that I hadn’t seen him come in. He had showered after practice, so his sandy-blond hair was wet and darker than usual. He stuck his sunglasses into the front pocket of his jeans (I always told him he would smoosh them one day, but he never listened to me), and slid into the seat across from me. His cheeks were flushed—they always got like that when he finished soccer practice—and he watched me with his familiar blue eyes. The eyes I’d looked into every day until breaking up with him a few weeks ago.
I was right in breaking up with him, but I still felt awful about it. Despite the arrogant way he’d been acting since being voted co-captain of the varsity soccer team, Jeremy was basically a good guy. Maybe he wasn’t completely considerate of others, but he never did anything with the intention of hurting someone. I trusted that given a few years, he would mature and become more thoughtful. Someday he would make a great boyfriend to someone—but that someone wasn’t going to be me.
I closed my laptop, unsure how to begin.
“So, what’s up?” Jeremy asked, taking a swig of the yellow Gatorade he brought in with him. He loved his sports drinks after a work out.
I sipped my tea, contemplating where to start.
“I just wanted to catch up,” I said, willing my voice not to betray my anxiety. “With all the recent changes, I wanted to make sure things were okay between us. Since we were friends before we started dating, and now we’re not together anymore …” I wrung my hands together, unsure where I was going with this. I had to get to the point. “I wanted to make sure you’re not angry with me.”
“You get so cute when you’re worried about something,” he said with a laugh.
“Jere,” I said, frustrated. “I’m serious. If you’re angry at me …”
“I’m not angry at you,” he said, and I could tell by the warmness in his eyes that he meant it. “Sure, I’m bummed things didn’t work between us, but I’ve done some thinking over the past few days.”
I sat back and raised an eyebrow. Jeremy wasn’t the pensive, deep thought type. “Thinking about what?” I asked.
“When you first broke up with me, yeah, I was angry,” he said. “And when I realized you broke up with me because you wanted to be with Drew, I was even angrier.”
“I didn’t break up with you because of Drew,” I said. “He was part of it, but there were other reasons. Drew just made me realize that some of those things that were wrong in our relationship didn’t have to be that way.”
“I know, I know.” He held up a hand, letting me know he wanted to continue. “But I was thinking about it, and I realized this was all going to happen eventually, anyway.”
My lips parted in surprise. “What do you mean?”
“We’re only juniors in high school, Liz. After graduation we’re going to college, and we both know we won’t end up in the same place. I want a big sports school, like Arizona or Maryland or Florida, and you want one of those small liberal arts places.”
“True.” I nodded, wondering where he was going with this.
“Four years in different states?” Jeremy shrugged and pushed his hair off his forehead. “We would see each other over breaks, but that wouldn’t be enough. When I thought about it that way, I realized we would probably break up before the first semester ended. So yeah, I’m bummed it had to happen the way it did, but I’m not going to let it get to me. Plus, it helps to know that you respected me enough to end things with us before letting anything happen with … anyone else.” I could tell he didn’t want to say Drew’s name, which I understood. Just because Jeremy seemed to be forgiving me didn’t mean he had to like Drew.
“You’re not angry?” I asked, needing to know for sure. I couldn’t believe Jeremy was taking this so well. He was a go with the flow sort of guy, but I hadn’t expected him to get over our three year relationship this fast.
“No.” He smiled, and I could tell he meant it. “Disappointed we couldn’t be together longer, yeah. No one likes being broken up with. But no … I’m not angry at you.”
“Good.” I breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m glad you told me this, Jere. I hated feeling weird around you in French and when I saw you in the cafeteria and stuff.”
“Well, I’m glad you won’t feel weird around me anymore,” he said. “Does this mean you’ll start coming to the soccer games again?” He smirked, and I could tell he was joking.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” I said with a laugh. “As you know, watching sports isn’t my favorite activity. Especially now that it’s almost December.” I rubbed my hands over my arms, feeling cold just thinking about it.
“I didn’t think so,” he said. “But hey, do you think your friend Keelie is into me?”
“Keelie?” I hadn’t seen that one coming. “I thought you were interested in Amber.”
“Amber’s all right, if you like the clingy, ditzy type,” he said. “But she’s already getting annoying.”
“I’ll ask Keelie,” I told him, starting to wonder myself. Could Keelie be interested in Jeremy? I’d never stopped to think about it, but maybe she could be. And the two of them might be good together.
“Be smooth about it,” he said, bringing his hands dramatically to his chest. “I don’t want my heart to get broken again.”
I smiled and rolled my eyes, glad that Jeremy was back to his normal, joking self. “I’ll try to find out,” I said. “And I really am glad things are cool between us now.”
“No reason they shouldn’t be,” he said, like it was the easiest thing in the world.
“Right,” I agreed, although “process of elimination” kept repeating in my mind. Because if Jeremy wasn’t angry, there would be no reason for him to cast a curse on me.
Meaning only one person could be responsible—Chelsea.
“What did Jeremy say?” Drew asked as he played with a ringlet of my hair that he found to be particularly bouncy.
“It wasn’t him.” I leaned back onto the headboard of Drew’s bed and glanced at the plasma screen TV on his wall playing old episodes of The OC. We weren’t really watching, but having the show on made sure Drew’s mom didn’t think we were doing anything in his room that our parents wouldn’t approve of.
“How can you be sure?” Drew’s eyes darkened in concern.
“I just am,” I told him. “I wish you could have heard what he said. I don’t even think he’s upset about the break up anymore. He had this revelation that our relationship wouldn’t have made it through us going to different colleges, so now he’s fine with it. He even asked me to find out if Keelie’s interested in him.”
“He’s interested in Keelie?” Drew looked perplexed.
“Yeah,” I said. “I was surprised too, but it makes sense. Keelie and I are similar, but unlike me, she likes going to sports games and all that school spirit stuff.”
“Hm,” he said. “When you put it that way, it does kind of make sense.”
“Anyway, that’s not the point,” I tried to get the conversation back to what we needed to discuss. “Because now that we know Jeremy isn’t responsible, I need to talk to Chelsea.”
“I thought it was her since Alistair told us about the curse,” Drew said. “You know she’s not going to admit it, right?”
“That’s what I’m most worried about.” I chewed on my lower lip. “I was just going to try talking with her and see what happens.”
“The best chance you have is to catch her with evidence, so she can’t deny it,” he said simply.
I took a moment to absorb his words. I hoped he had a plan, because I sure didn’t. “How do you suppose I do that?”
“Thanksgiving dinner.” He sat up straighter, and I suspected he’d been thinking about this all day. “You’re going over her house.”
“What do you want me to do when I’m there?” I asked. “Raid her room?”
He raised an eyebrow, giving me the feeling that yes, that was exactly what he wanted me to do.
“No.” I shook my head. “No way. Not happening.”
“Why not?” he asked. “We agreed she’s not going to admit it if you ask nicely. If it ends up making a difference between you staying alive or not, isn’t it worth it to peek through her stuff?”
I pressed my lips together, not saying anything. I’d never snooped through anyone’s stuff before. Just thinking about it felt intrusive.
“Have you had any more dark omens today?” he asked.
“The mirror in my bronzer compact cracked when I was getting ready for school,” I admitted.
“Broken mirror,” he said. “If that’s not an obvious sign, then I don’t know what is.”
“It’s not like I need these signs.” I pulled my legs up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them, like a barrier to the bad luck surrounding me. “We already know about the death omens. There’s no need to keep being reminded about it. It’s like whatever’s trying to get me is torturing me first. I hate it.”
He put his arms around me and pulled me closer, so my cheek rested on his chest. I listened to the steady sound of his heartbeat and considered his suggestion. It wasn’t like I questioned if Chelsea was responsible or not. It had to be her—it was the only possibility that made sense. And while I hated the idea of sneaking through Chelsea’s room, wasn’t it worth it if I found something that forced her to admit what she did? Then we could figure out how to fix this mess she’d created.
What was a little privacy intrusion compared to putting a curse on me that resulted in omens of death teasing me until they could do their dirty work a month from now?
Which led to the issue bothering me most: I understood that Chelsea was angry with me, and that she might never want to be friends with me again. Maybe I didn’t deserve her friendship after not being honest with her about my feelings for Drew. But to hate me so much that she wanted me
Chelsea wasn’t the sweetest person in the world, but I never thought she could be that … evil.
“Are you okay?” Drew asked, bringing me out of my thoughts.
I realized a tear had slipped out, and I tried to wipe it away before he saw it.
“Hey,” he said, cupping my cheeks his hands. “We’re not going to let anything bad happen to you, okay?”
Looking into his brown, gold-flecked eyes, full of emotion for every word he was saying, I knew he meant it. Together we would do everything possible to stop this spell from taking effect.
And if we were truly going to do everything possible, it meant doing things I wouldn’t do in normal circumstances—like raiding my former best friend’s room when I was over her house for Thanksgiving dinner.
“I don’t like thinking that Chelsea could hate me enough to do this.” I sniffed. “But I do see why your idea might work.”
“So you’ll do it?”
“I’ll do it,” I confirmed. “We just have to figure out how I can avoid getting caught. At least not until I find something useful.”
With that, we formulated a plan.