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Authors: Brian James

Zombie Blondes

BOOK: Zombie Blondes
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ZOMBIE
BLONDES

BRIAN JAMES

To my mother

An Imprint of Macmillan

 

zombie blondes. Copyright © 2008 by Brian James. All rights reserved.
Printed in April 2009 in the United States of America by RR Donnelley,
Harrisonburg, Virginia. For information, address Square Fish,
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

 

Square Fish and the Square Fish logo are trademarks of Macmillan and
are used by Feiwel and Friends under license from Macmillan.

 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
James, Brian,
Zombie blondes / by Brian James.
p. cm.
Summary: Each time fifteen-year-old Hannah and her out-of-work father move she
has some fears about making friends, but a classmate warns her that Maplecrest,
Vermont’s cheerleaders really are monsters.
ISBN: 978-0-312-57375-1
[1. Moving, Household—Fiction. 2. Fathers and daughters—Fiction.
3. High schools—Fiction. 4. Schools—Fiction. 5. Cheerleading—Fiction.
6. Cliques (Sociology)—Fiction. 7. Popularity—Fiction. 8. Zombies—Fiction.
9. Vermont—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.J153585Zom 2008 [Fic]—dc22 2007050869

 

Originally published in the United States by Feiwel and Friends
Square Fish logo designed by Filomena Tuosta
First Square Fish Edition: 2009
10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1

www.squarefishbooks.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

There aren’t any rules to running away from your problems.
No checklist of things to cross off. No instructions.
Eeny, meeny,
pick a path and go. That’s how my dad does it anyway because apparently there’s no age limit to running away, either. He wakes up one day, packs the car with everything we own, and we hit the road. Watch all the pretty colors go by until he finds a town harmless enough to hide in. But his problems always find us. Sometimes quicker than others. Sometimes one month and sometimes six. There’s no rule when it comes to that, either. Not about how long it takes for the problems to catch up with us. Just that they will—that much is a given. And then it’s time to run again to a new town, a new home, and a new school for me.

But if there aren’t any rules, I wonder why it feels the same every time. Feels like I leave behind a little bit of who
I was in each house we’ve left empty. Scattering pieces of me in towns all over the place. A trail of crumbs dotting the map from everywhere we’ve left to everywhere we go. And they don’t make any pictures when I connect dots. They are random like the stars littering the sky at night.

“You’re gonna like this place . . . you really are,” my dad says over the song that goes in and out of static on the radio. Taking his eyes off the road for a second to give me the goofy smile he saves for when he’s trying to cheer me up. A soft tap of his hand on my knee until I stop staring out the car window and look at him.

“I liked the last place . . . and the place before that one, too,” I snap, pouting at him out of the corner of my eye. It’s the look I save for when I want him to leave me alone. I’m not in the mood for cheering up. I’m sick of moving. I’m sick of being the new girl all the time. And I’m sick of my dad trying to make it sound like some exciting adventure every time we run out of money to pay rent and have to cut out of town like criminals.

I sink down in my seat and press my forehead against the window. The leaves have all changed and the orange ones seem to mix with the brown and yellow ones like the tail of a comet in some cartoon as we speed by. The branches dance in the wind and wave the leaves about. Waving good-bye as the mile markers flash past and then we’re gone. Another minute closer to the middle of nowhere. Another mile closer to Maplecrest, the town my dad swears I’m going to like.

“Are you looking at the mountains? Aren’t they beautiful?” he asks, his eyes beaming as he looks from peak to peak rising in front of the windshield.

I don’t answer because I’m not speaking to him.

It’s my new approach since he doesn’t seem to listen to me. Maybe if I don’t say anything, he’ll get the message that I’m mad. I’m not even sure why. I mean it’s never bothered me so much before. The moving-around thing. We’ve been doing it ever since my dad stopped working regularly. Or ever since they said he wasn’t able to work, I should say. Since I was ten years old. So almost six years now. Long enough that I should be used to it. And I am, it’s just that I really did like the last place. I made friends for the first time in a long time. And he promised me when we went there that it would be the last time I’d have to start over.

It was my fault for believing him, I guess.

He’s told me that promise before. “It’s gonna be different this time, you’ll see.” He’s said it so often that I think he almost believes it. He always says it as we’re pulling into our new driveway. I always roll my eyes and tell him, “Sure thing,” because I know nothing will change. Nothing ever does. It’s not that he doesn’t try. He does. He’ll take a job he hates because he can’t do the one he likes. He can’t be a cop again, not after what happened in the city when he used to be one. He says the memories are too painful. That’s why we ran in the first place, ran from the city to out here in the middle of nothing. And I don’t have the heart to tell him that it hasn’t helped. Six years and we’re still running and he’s still taking jobs that make him miserable. He’ll take another one once we get to Maplecrest. Then he’ll get fired because he can’t stand it. We’ll eat noodles and rice for a few weeks and then one day I’ll come home from school and the car will be packed up with everything we own and it will
start all over again.

That’s why I’ve changed my mind about there not being any rules. Because there is one rule to running away from your problems. The one that says it will repeat itself over and over again like the seasons or the sunset or the chains of fast-food restaurants that we pass, going from one place to the next. It always comes back to the same thing. I always find myself sitting in the passenger seat of our car, biting my nails and wondering if my new high school will be better or worse than the last.

“Looks like this is our stop,” my dad says as we pass a sign directing us to turn off the highway. It’s his way of telling me to roll down my window and stick my arm out to let the cars behind us know we’re turning since our blinkers don’t work.

The wind rushes in the open glass and I lazily put out my hand and point. My dad tells me I’m the best copilot ever to navigate the winding roads of Vermont. He’s trying to be cute and so I try even harder to be sour as I look at him with a sulky expression.

“Come on, Hannah, don’t be like that,” he says, nudging me in the side.

“How do you want me to be? My hand is freezing and your jokes aren’t funny,” I say as the car slows down and he turns the steering wheel. I pull my hand back in and roll up the window and instantly miss the noise of the wind rushing in because the return of quiet means he’s going to say something else and I’ve been trying my best not to speak to him.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” he says in a tone of voice he uses to tell me I’m being unfair.

“Dramatic is moving your daughter to the middle of
nowhere every few months,” I correct him, giving him the smug smile he hates so much in order to let him know that I’ve only just begun to be unfair.

But I guess even I can’t spoil his mood because he doesn’t take the bait. He doesn’t argue with me. In fact, he actually laughs! It makes me so mad that I want to scream, but he seems so happy that I can’t even work up the energy to stay angry enough to get anything out. It’s impossible to yell at him when he has that silly smile on his face and pats me on the shoulder. I’ve never been able to stay mad at him for longer than a few hours at a time before, and I feel myself caving. God, sometimes I hate him for being so hard to hate!

I turn back to the window.

It’s easier being miserable if I don’t look at him.

I watch as our new hometown rolls past.

“Maplecrest,” I mutter to myself, reading the name off the sign as we turn onto the street that splits the town in half. It even sounds boring. And as we drive through, it’s just as I pictured—a lot of nothing. One pharmacy. One diner. A bank and my school and that’s about it. It’d be a miracle if anything exciting ever happens in this place.

“Isn’t this great!” my dad says, taking it all in. It’s just the kind of time-warp town he loves. Nothing’s changed in it since the time when he was a kid. Or even before that. Looks like a town from a movie that’s too boring to even sit through long enough to figure out what the story is about.

Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks that, either, because there are
FOR SALE
signs up all over the place. Every third or fourth lawn at least. No wonder we’re able to live here. Even we aren’t poor enough to be chased from a
ghost town.

“Yeah, Dad, you were right. I love it already,” I say sarcastically. The only good thing about this place is that I’m sure we won’t be staying long. With this many people moved out, that means there’s no jobs. Empty houses equals no work. It’s the one economics lesson I’ve learned from being shuf-fled about my whole life. We’ll be gone before Thanksgiving, I guarantee it. So long, Maplecrest, I hardly knew you!

BOOK: Zombie Blondes
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