Let me know if you notice any inconsistencies I may have gotten some of the versions I've written crossed. Sorry if that's been annoying for any of you, but you're a writer, I'm sure you understand the drive to try and perfect your stories. :)

CHAPTER SEVEN

They pulled right behind her mother's red, 1999 Buick, and Bekah unclipped her belt, grabbed her bag, and was about to jump out with a quick, "Thanks," when Shields grabbed her arm.

"Hey, why in such a hurry, Woman? We've still got to get your bike out of the back, right?"

She knit her brows and thought for sure she puke all over his nice, neat interior if he didn't let her go soon, but wound up shaking her head up and down. "Yeah, I guess so."

"Is that your mom?" He pointed out the window and Bekah grimaced. One thing was certain- Mommy Dear might not approve of this little rendezvous with History Teacher Extraordinaire, but Shields didn't seem the slightest bit concerned as he released her, leaving her arm tingling and her heart still racing from his warm fingers.

She hopped out of the Jeep with her bag and found Mommy and Teacher shaking hands like good, old buddies.

"I'm Dan Shields, Rebekah's History teacher. I hope you don't mind that I gave her a lift. It's just that she rode her bike, and-"

"No need to explain," said Kaye Rose as she smiled timidly and pushed a strand of golden hair behind her ear. Geez, even her mom wasn't immune to Shields' charm.

Bekah slowly approached, eyes glued to the cracked and peeling, white paint on the face of her dumpy house; but at least every other home up and down the street looked just about the same way. Hey, Shields chose to work in this neighborhood, so he should have been prepared for the slummy sights, right down to the tacky sheets in the windows.

At least the Roses' windows were dressed with her mother's painfully peachy curtains.

As painful as her idiotic behavior today.

Her stomach turned again, and the fact that the "grown-ups" kept discussing her as though she were invisible didn't help.

"You know," Kaye was saying. "I drive her to school every morning, and she usually walks home with a friend, but I'm always worried. I definitely appreciate you giving her a lift."

"I'm going in, Mom," Bekah said, but Shields turned and narrowed dark eyes.

"We've got to get your bike. You OK, Kid?" He brushed past her, not even waiting for her response. So, he was a bit different in front of Mommy and she could understand why. If he acted in front of Kaye Rose the way he'd acted earlier, then eyebrows would definitely start rising, even though Bekah doubted he'd been planning any seductions.

Her mother pulled her tan sweater more tightly around her robust figure and gave her one of those "caught ya!" kind of smiles.

"See, I'm not the only one who doesn't want you riding around this neighborhood." She pointed at the bag. "What's that?"

Bekah looked down, wondering if she should spill the little tidbit about Shields taking her to the video store. Bringing her straight home was one thing, but she wasn't sure how her mother would react to anything else.

Bekah shrugged. "I stopped by the video store."

Kaye rolled her eyes.

"Here you go, Miss Rose."

Her bike rolled up beside her, and she offered a dry, low, "thank you" before grabbing the thing and pushing it into the messy, opened garage. No doubt Shields had also seen her father's golf bags and the gazillions of yard games the family hadn't touched in ages. He probably thought they were slobs, not that it really mattered.

Nope, it doesn't matter. So get on with it, Chick.

She bent over and lifted a pink ball that had belonged to Kristin. As she spun it gently on her fingertip, it morphed into a crystal ball, filled with white, puffy flakes. Along came a little cherub with blond curls, who giggled as she stuck a carrot into a Snowman.

Bekah had often wondered where innocent, little kids go when they die. A winter wonderland would be perfect for Kristin, who used to play in the snow until she'd practically turn into an ice pop.

"Rebekah, I'll see you on Monday!"

She turned to find Shields giving her an open-fingered wave that remained in the air as he frowned at her. Being the observant man that he was, he could probably tell that she was upset. And she wasn't sure if she liked it or not.

"See ya!" she managed and cleared her throat. "Thanks again!" And enjoy your prissy date.

He smiled flatly, eyeing her narrowly for several seconds before spinning back toward his Jeep. Yep, he'd noticed her less than happy-go-lucky attitude, and she couldn't help feeling a little triumphant as he pulled out of the drive. He noticed a lot of things her parents didn't seem to notice. Or if they didn't notice, they barely spoke of them.

Shields' Jeep disappeared, and Alice came sidling into view, looking like a hippy with her long, straightened hair and bell-bottom jeans. She stared as though Bekah had transformed into her Fairy Godmother.

Bekah carefully placed Kristin's ball back on a metal shelf and rolled her eyes, knowing exactly what was lighting up Alice's wacked out brain.

"Dude!" The other girl exalted. "Was that Mr. Shields I just saw pulling out of your drive?"

OOOO

"And then I asked him if he was gay!"

"You didn't!" Misty's cup scraped the table as it landed behind a stack of papers and fast food bags. Her house was usually messy- clean for the most part but disorganized- and that was thanks to her Daddy-O being gone so much. Thank God for dads who work late hours and leave stashes of alcohol around the house; and not only that, but they are completely unaware of their daughter's flare for getting blasted on said booze.

Bekah smirked and took another long, long, wonderful and glorious gulp of the Coke and vodka, the very thing she'd been longing for since she'd acted like an ass in Shields' Jeep. "This is so great."

"Answer the question!" Misty leaned in and shoved a McDonald's bag out of the way so that she could maintain eye contact. "Did you seriously ask him if he's gay?"

"Totally. Needless to say he was shocked, but he reassured me that, quote, he LOVES women!"

"Good night, Dude!" Alice gawked as she passed from the kitchen into the dining room with a pizza perched atop Misty's Santy Claus oven mitts. "I'd feel like drowning myself, too, if I were you."

"Gee, thanks, Alice."

The mushroom-smothered pizza landed right on top of Misty's school books as rain began to tap against the window like Freddy Kruger's knived fingers on a hard surface. She could almost hear the fiend cackling as he teased, "Aww, no lovey dovey time with Mr. Shields after what you did today."

She blinked at the waving, red leaves where Freddy should have been, and Misty blurted, "You're insane, Bekah."

"Tell me something I don't know." She burped, and the other two girls exchanged glances.

Alice plopped into the head-of-the-household seat in front of the window and pulled a wedge of pizza toward a paper plate. The white, stretchy cheese incited a gurgle from Bekah's stomach- a gurgle that was quickly silenced with another long swig of her luscious cocktail.

Yes, yes, yes. Much better, she thought as she sank in her chair and frowned at the slop Alice placed in front of her. Using her fingernail, Bekah began plucking off the mushrooms and muttering about people who eat fungus, while Misty began gathering up the mess that had probably been decorating her table for the past two days. At least they did the dishes like…obsessively, it seemed. When Bekah and Alice had arrived here earlier, Misty had been drying a plate while the rest of the dishes sat dripping in the rack by the sink. Every time Bekah came over, the dishes were glistening wet inside that rack.

"Man, I hope I never blank out and ask Shields a stupid question."

"Alice," Bekah scolded. "It's a good thing I'm drunk, or I'd probably smear this pizza in your little, porcelain face."

"Here, here," Misty chimed. "Sounds good to me, go for it, Bekah."

Alice stuck her tongue out at both girls. "Seriously, Girl, you get yourself into trouble too much with your mouth. Buy some duct tape for crap sakes."

"I don't do it that much."

"Well, ok, not anymore."

You mean not so much since Kristin's death. Bekah sighed.

Too bad Renee wasn't here. She was the only one who would probably laugh the whole thing off, so Bekah guessed her sugary sweetness had its good points. But what had that woman been up to?

Alice pulled a lighter out of her pocket. "When I'm done, I'm getting high."

"Not on top of drinking," Misty called from somewhere in the vicinity as Bekah shoved the tip of her pizza into her mouth.

She chewed the melted cheese and "mmmm'd" so loud that not even the paper rattling in the kitchen could muffle the sound. Between the noise and the shaking table, Bekah began to wonder if she was hallucinating again, but a quick glance at Alice dispelled that concern. Apparently Mr. Shields' leg wiggling was contagious.

"I'm going to eat, get high, then crash on your couch," Alice called. "My mom will be gone all night and my brother's got a date, so no one will give a crap where I am, anyway."

Bekah swallowed another bite and then gulped some more of her drink. The room was beginning to feel all wonderfully soft and floaty, and her laughter came out with a snort.

Alice echoed that snort loudly.

"Pig."

"Takes one to know one."

"You can both crash here for all I care." Misty returned with a beer bottle in hand and resumed her position across from Bekah, probably with a leg on each side of the chair, as she usually sat. "Dad won't care either, as long as we dispose of all the evidence." She took a long chug of her disgusting drink and emitted a drawn-out burp of her own.

Alice and Bekah both began giggling like a couple of six-year-olds, and even in her increasingly drunken state, Bekah knew they were acting stupid as hell.

She licked her fingers while the other two girls shuffled into the living room and turned on the television. Judging from the screeching guitar, it had been tuned to Mtv.

"Zombie movies are on tonight," Bekah reminded them as she finished her vodka and pop.

Misty said something about the living dead marathon starting at nine, and then Alice began rolling a joint on the coffee table. Bekah laid her head down. Such a long, complicated, straight from Mars kind of day.

The last thing she saw before she fell into a short nap was the glowing, orange tip of Alice's pot.

OOOO

"Where'd your sister go?" Alice asked, and Bekah paused the game. She'd been mindlessly stomping on mushrooms with beady, little eyes, and repeatedly ramming Mario's head against coin boxes.

They both listened to the silence.

"Kristin!" she called while shoving off of the floor and heading toward the dark hallway that seemed to stretch out into a never-ending tunnel. She turned right, into Krisin's room and flipped the light switch. Toys and clothes were scattered on the bed and floor, and the pink curtains in the window above the bed drifted outward in a cold breeze.

"Oh crap, not again!"

How could they have forgotten to turn on the alarm? She lunged toward the window, her knees pressing into the bed, pushing the loose screen out and staring at the side of her neighbor's house.

"Kristin!" She called, throwing her leg over the ledge.

Her shoulders shook, and then she rolled into the grass when she heard the explosion. The echo rolled like thunder through the neighborhood.

Green stems sprouted up all around her, unfurling, red, white, and black rose buds blossoming before her eyes. She reached for one and felt a prick, and a drop of red blood plopped onto a white petal.

Grasping her finger, she found herself surrounded by a rolling fog, which seemed to be driven by the wind, and the wind seemed to generate from the black carriage flying in her direction. With a gasp, she pressed her back against the outside wall as someone's tearful pleas filled the smoggy air.

"Stop! Please stop! Let me off!"

Sparks erupted beneath the carriage's large wheels, and the passenger poked her head out long enough for Bekah to recognize Alice's long waves.

"Alice!"

"Bekah, help me!" her friend reached out and then disappeared in a puff of smoke, along with the rest of the vehicle.

Unsure if she'd been dreaming or transferred into the Twilight Zone, Bekah dropped to her knees as the fog retreated as though being sucked into a vacuum. Familiar, eerie cackling splintered the silence, and she flew back to the hit the wall this time, sliding down to her butt and looking up at bladed fingers that wiggled against a red and black sweater. The horribly disfigured face of Freddy Kruger stared down at her from the tree. "One, two, Freddy's Coming for you," he sang, and then burst into another round of insane laughter.

She hugged herself and shivered just as a man dressed in khaki pants and a white shirt stepped out of nowhere. He removed his tie and tossed it to the ground.

"Mr. Shields, no!" She struggled to her feet, and began limping toward him. "You'll disappear. Like everyone else, you'll disappear!" She cried hoarsely.

However, he took her by the shoulders, smiled reassuringly with a twinkle in his eyes, and produced a large rock from his pocket.

"Stand aside, Rose. I promise this guy's bark is worse than his bite."

He eyed the laughing monster in the tree. As he pulled the stone back, Bekah held her breath. And then the large, gray rock flew upward, turning and glistening in light pouring from an unseen source. A light that seemed to transform the dull gray into shining gold just before it hit Freddy's face.

The nightmare disappeared.

OOOO

Monday morning, Bekah scuffed into Mr. Shields room and slinked down the aisle to her seat. She'd rather close her head in her binder than to face him today, but she guessed he'd already forgiven her for the creepy questions she'd spewed all over him two days ago. What she couldn't understand was that she'd berated herself for being stupid, and then had turned around and done it again. And again! If her tongue didn't need to be stapled to the roof of her mouth, then prying into a teacher's business shouldn't be against the rules.

Drowning herself in alcohol had felt good, but early Sunday morning, she'd awakened from a nightmare with Shields' twinkling eyes staring back at her and Freddy's cackling fading into the recesses of her brain.

One thing had kept pressing on her as she spent the day with her dad, junk food, and Final Destination movies: Shields had made Kruger disappear.

And even though it was only a dream, and it would be cheesy to assume there was any hidden meaning in the wacked out happenings, she kept considering different meanings, anyway. Like maybe God sent the dream to give her reason to listen to Teacher Dear. Instead of just moving on, which in her book was the smartest option. Eventually she'd stop feeling like a jerk and life as she'd known it two weeks ago would continue. Yay- the darkness of depression. Much better than feeling like an outright jerk, right?

But moving on wasn't entirely an option, because last night Alice's little tidbit had repeated in a second dream- her riding in the back of a black coach and screaming for help. Maybe, Bekah thought for probably the umpteenth time, she'd been more concerned about Alice's drug problem than she'd realized, and that concern had been popping up in her dreams.

Maybe it was the Final Destination movies. Watching them again had re-impressed upon her the horrible notion that Death can't be cheated. When someone's card is drawn, the Reaper reaps.

Is that really what had happened to Kristen?

"Rose?"

She looked up. Shields stood there with his arms folded while kids streamed in behind him and Molly Jensen stopped with a manila folder in her hands. She grinned at a passing friend and seemed to be waiting for Teacher to turn around to grant his utmost attention to her low-cut blouse and silky, red hair.

Bekah pointed. "You've got a visitor."

"In a minute." He turned and held up a 'wait a second' finger for Molly, who nodded and stepped back about a foot.

Bekah knew what was coming, and her stomach turned as she forced herself not to sink into her chair like a wimp. Enough sinking already, but she couldn't help it. A nice, big pool of quicksand sounded great right about now.

"I hope you have your homework assignment today," he said.

She leered across the room and caught Kevin Murphy's eye. He seemed happy to have caught her eye, though, and tossed a wave as he grinned.

"I guess this means no?" Shields asked as he glanced at Kevin and then turned back with his hands in his pockets.

"I guess that's what it means," Bekah replied matter-of-factly.

He shook his head, giving her a dark, teacherly scowl. He sighed, however and bent over her desk to fill her senses with his musky cologne. "I thought something was wrong when I dropped you off Saturday. Whatever it is- did it keep you from doing your work?"

She pursed her lips.

When she remained silent, he straightened and with all the coarseness of any decent, concerned teacher, he said, "Stay after class, Rose."

Oh, the chills. She almost smiled as he walked away.