I seriously wonder what if would be like to be a zombie. Would I feel any different? Would it be like sleeping? Would I want to eat brains all the time? These are grave matters to think--Oh my God! Zombies? Grave? Get it? Ha!
By the time she had calmed down and left the girls' bathroom, Sadie was already late for her first class. Fortunately, her first class of the day was algebra, and her teacher, Mr. Cromwell, wasn't the most observant of educators. Easily slipping into the desk next to Egypt while her teacher's back was turned, Sadie pulled out her math supplies and nodded a hello to her friend.
"Where were you?" Egypt leaned over to whisper.
"Oh. Problems of the feminine variety?"
Egypt tilted her head, and a moment of silence passed between them, in which they could hear Mr. Cromwell's voice drone on about square roots.
"Kierra missed you on Saturday," Egypt whispered once again.
"Miss Lamont, do you have something to share with the class?" Each and every student in the room turned to look at Egypt, glad to have a momentary distraction from their oh-so-interesting lesson.
Egypt, perfectly calm, politely cleared her throat and spoke up. "Why, yes, Mr. C. Sadie and I were just discussing how we could use mathematics to save us if our city were ever overrun by a zombie horde."
The teacher blinked, then continued on to actually debate the benefits of algebra in a zombie crisis. One quickly learned that in Cromwell's class, so long as the subject involved math of any form, he would talk, at length, about the topic. No matter how absurd or unrelated to the lesson. It was a tactic Egypt liked to use daily in class so that she could get away with talking to her friend.
"So?" Egypt looked to her friend, ready for the answer to her question.
"Wasn't feeling good," Sadie responded, head bowed over a blank page in her notebook.
"You could've told us. We would've given you a ride home."
"E," Sadie gave her a meaningful glance. "You were drunk."
"Kierra would've given you a ride home," Egypt corrected herself, rolling her eyes as if being drunk while driving a friend home wasn't such a big deal.
"Miss Lamont, are you paying attention?"
"Of course, Mr. C. But I was just telling Sadie here that I don't get why zombies can't formulate equations on their own. Just because their brains don't work doesn't give them an excuse to not do math."
"Oh…well. You bring up a good point, Miss Lamont. You see…"
Egypt turned back to Sadie. "The point is, you ditched us."
"Sorry, E. I felt so shitty that I just needed to get out of there. I didn't mean to hurt yours or Kierra's feelings."
Egypt's face softened and Sadie could tell that she had been forgiven. Her friend let out a low giggle. "Travis wouldn't leave us alone after you left."
Ignoring Egypt's stare, Sadie replied nonchalantly, "So?"
"He was really worried about you."
"He had nothing to worry about, E."
"Sadie," Egypt's gaze bore into Sadie's. "You know how much that boy likes you, right?"
"Travis doesn't like me," her voice lowered from a whisper to a mumble. "Travis likes sex."
"Which you haven't been doing recently.'
Eyes sharpening, Sadie's head jerked in the direction of the girl seated next to her. "And where'd you hear that?"
Egypt tried looking innocent, wrapping her finger around a corkscrew of a curl. "Word on the street is that you haven't been putting out lately. Now why would a guy like Travis, who could get any girl he wanted just because of his status as lead guitar in his stupid band, stick around if he wasn't getting any from you?"
"I don't know. Maybe he's stupid?"
The bell rang and the class gathered their belongings. As they walked out, Sadie's brow furrowed. "Did we have homework?"
"Beats me. I'm just going to tell Mr. C that I was too busy stocking up on calculators. In case we ever have a zombie crisis, you know." Egypt began walking away, but not without one last word of advice. "Give Travis a chance, Sadie. He really cares for you."
It doesn't matter how much Travis cares for me, Sadie began walking to her next class, holding her books tightly to her stomach. A sinking feeling always formed when she thought of herself and Travis in that context. I don't care for him.
"Is the oven ready yet?"
Sadie set down the knife she was using to check the oven. "Just about. Let's give it a couple of minutes, Jayne."
The girl nodded, the makeshift bun of dark curls piled on top of her head bouncing with the movement. Sadie watched as she returned to washing off vegetables in the sink.
Jayne Pinkerton was by far the richest girl in school. Her father owned a successful chain of bistros called Coco Joe's, popular as an afternoon hangout for the teens of Whaler's Cove. For Sadie, Coco Joe's was her part-time job. Sometimes, Jayne and her older sister Arlette would work as well. A couple years older than them, Arlette had graduated Fall Hill High the year before, but was still regarded as one of the most beautiful girls in town.
The younger Pinkerton possessed the same good looks for which her sister was renowned. Jayne resembled a Snow White-esque doll. Petit in stature, from afar she seemed dainty and fragile. But, upon closer inspection, her chin jutted in a dominant manner and her eyes glanced condescendingly down her button nose. The only reason why she didn't follow in her beauty queen sister's footsteps was that she didn't care much for people. With a cool, blank expression, Jayne could easily scare people away from her. There was no record of her ever having friends or hanging out or partying. She purposefully distanced herself.
Some called her aloof. Others, mysterious. Even more, cold-hearted bitch. But for Sadie, the word that came to mind when she described Jayne Pinkerton was regal. To her, Jayne was an intelligent, detached ruler overseeing a bunch of idiots not worth her time.
Giggling from the opposite side of the kitchenette tore Sadie's attention away from the Pinkerton girl.
Gourmet Cooking was an elective class at Fall Hill, meaning anyone could take it. Sadie had chosen it to learn new, tasty recipes she could make at home. For most kids, however, the food class was just a social hour. At the beginning of the year, the student got the chance to pick their own groups. Of course, everyone had grouped together with their friends. All leftover students were just place din a random group.
Sadie and Jayne, neither having friends in the class, were stuck with two lazy sophomore girls. Not even bothering to learn their names, Sadie referred to them as Giggles and Sniggers, as they always had something to laugh over.
Moving over to check the oven, Jayne caught Sadie's gaze and rolled her eyes in the direction of Giggles and Sniggers. Sadie nodded along in agreement. Most of Sadie's conversations with Jayne were unspoken, using only gestures and eye movements, with words used only when necessary.
"Alex!" A bark from across the room caused the two girls to turn in that direction.
Reed Bryant was glaring heatedly at Alex Rothwell. Another look and Sadie could see a box of noodles in Alex's hands. Reed's glare switched repeatedly from his friend's startled face and the box. "You added too much, idiot."
"Did not!" Alex protested, shaking the box in the air right before Reed's face.
"He's right, you did," came Gabriel Parker's input from his place in front of a cutting board.
Alex shot Gabriel a look that told him he wasn't helping the situation at all, and turned to the last member of their cooking group. "You don't think I added too much, do you?"
The girl, whose name Sadie vaguely remembered as Nicole, choked up and was unable to reply. If she agreed with Hot Guy Number 1, she automatically disagreed with Hot Guy Number 2. Same thing happened if she agreed with Hot Guy Number 2. Decisions, decisions, Sadie thought sardonically. Idiot. Bored with watching the scene lay out in front of her, Sadie turned to observe the rest of the class and saw that all the other girls were shooting laser beams at Nicole via their eyes. Envying her spot in a group of gods, they were eagerly awaiting the chance that she'd be kicked out and they could swipe her place.
Eyes rolling, Sadie turned to Jayne, only to find the girl staring at the three boys. Not in the goofy, drooling fashion the other girls of the class currently favored. Jayne's expression was calculating, sizing up each boy through narrowed eyes. Catching Sadie's look, Jayne looked guilty for staring so intently. Innocently, she asked, "Are you working tonight?"
"It's my night off," Sadie answered slowly, still thrown off by Jayne's odd behavior.
"So you're doing something already?"
Thinking of Travis and his earlier questioning of her nightly plans, Sadie replied, "Not really."
"Do you think you could take over my shift tonight, then?" Voice dipping, like she didn't want anyone else to hear she might actually be human, Jayne explained, "I have something important to do tonight, and I forgot to request for the night off."
"Yeah. No problem." Sadie felt like scratching her head. Jayne Pinkerton was being decidedly not…Jayne Pinkerton. She felt as though she'd been dropped in an alternate universe, but then shook that thought. Lately, everything felt different to her, so she was probably pushing that strange feeling onto anything out of ordinary.
Silence fell over them. Giggles and Sniggers resumed their usual twittering. After a moment, Jayne set down the cleaned vegetables and nudged them towards Sadie's cutting board. And jut like that, Jayne was back to her blank stare and antisocial attitude.
"Now, class," the teacher announced at the end of class. All the food had been cooked, and the students were sitting down at their groups' tables enjoying their meals. Handing out blank index cards to each table, the teacher continued to inform, "The quarter will be ending soon, so it's time to switch groups. Everyone is receiving a card on which to write down the names of three people they'd like to work with."
Sadie, after being passed a card, had the strong urge to wave goodbye to Giggles and Sniggers. But then, poising her pen over the card, she realized no name appeared in her mind. Everyone around her rapidly wrote down the names of the friends they wanted to be put with. Sadie didn't have any friends in the class.
Next to her, Jayne Pinkerton pushed back her chair and stood up to throw away a napkin. Curious, Sadie leaned over just a bit to look at Jayne's card. Like her, Jayne didn't have any friends. Maybe it was possible for them to be in the same group again. It wasn't like they had anyone else to group with.
Stealing a glance at the other girl's card, Sadie saw three names listed in alphabetical order:
Shock jolted Sadie upright. Not Jayne, too! The only girl other than herself who could resist those stupid boys succumbed to them! It couldn't be. She snuck another glance. Still there. Her eyes weren't deceiving her. Jayne had actually written those names. Jayne wanted to be in a group with them.
A sweep around the classroom and she could see that every girl eyed the trio with possession and hunger. At the news of the changing groups, every girl knew that Alex, Gabriel, and Reed would stay in the same group. There'd never been a time when they weren't together. Now, Nicole's place as their fourth member was to be empty, and was instantly coveted by all who wanted to be near the boys. And it seemed Jayne was one of those who wanted that open space.
In a way, Sadie felt betrayed. She'd thought Jayne and she were the only ones in class not fawning over Gabriel Parker's group. She thought that they hand bonded over that single commonality. In truth, Jayne was just like everyone else.
Jayne sat down again and Sadie got up to turn in her index card. She'd left it blank.
The front door was cursed with a terribly loud creaking noise that publicized Sadie's arrival. She'd just gotten home from her impromptu shift, luckily catching the eight o'clock bus before it left the stop. She'd wanted to climb through hr window and fall into her bed for a long, deep sleep. But her feet ached from standing behind a counter handing out mugs of coffee to customers. And if that hadn't stopped her, the yellow light streaming through the window did. Annette was visiting.
"Sadie? Is that you?" a high-pitched voice called from the kitchen.
"Yeah," Sadie yelled back a reply. "Sorry I'm late." Her volume lowered as she entered the kitchen. "I took over someone's shift at work."
"That's all right, dear," a short, hunched over body turned at Sadie's entrance. With a shock of white frizzy hair and bifocals that enlarged dark eyes, Annette Stanton was the sixty-six-year-old woman who lived down the street. "I kept dinner warm for you."
Sadie nodded along, taking a deep breath and inhaling the heavenly smell of the food Annette had prepared. For the past two years, Annette had been stopping by to perform simple deeds like fixing dinner or cleaning around the house. As long as Sadie had known her, Annette had been alone. No husband, no children, no family of any kind. Sadie liked to think that when her mother died, Annette had seen it as an opportunity to step in and fulfill her long neglected maternal role.
"What'd you make?" She went to lift the lid on one of the pots on the stove, but her hand was pushed away.
Annette wagged a wooden spoon in Sadie's face. "Not yet. Take a tray to your father. He's in the den."
Holding a bitter sigh, Sadie grabbed the already filled tray sitting on the island. The hallway leading to the den was dark, the only ceiling light having burnt out the week before. Sadie clung to the left of the hall, knowing that the right held a small table that was likely to stub her toe if she ran into it.
Dim light flickered in a thin line, letting Sadie know that she had reached the den. Balancing the tray on her hip, she twisted the doorknob and pushed the old thick door open with her shoulder. Like the front door, it emitted an eerie creak. If she hadn't lived in the house her entire life, she'd believe it to be haunted. In two years of almost silence, she'd noticed many spooky sounds that she'd never heard before.
"Hey, Pops," she addressed the high-backed chair facing an unlit fireplace. A figure sat slumped in the chair, unmoving. Next to it, a small lamp resting on a table cast just enough light to brighten half the room and throw the other half in shadows.
The man in the chair never responded to her greeting, just as she knew he wouldn't, and she walked over to the intimidating oak desk pushed into the corner of the room. Setting down the tray, she opened her mouth to tell him how her day was but stopped before any words could form. What did it matter if she recounted the story of how one of Kierra's numerous admirers had knocked over a shelf of beakers because he was too busy staring at her to pay attention to where he was walking? He wouldn't burst out in a hearty laugh and shake his head like he used to do. He'd sit there and grunt or groan, and that'd be the end of that.
Brushing a hand over the embellished handiwork of the massive desk, Sadie remembered a time when she could talk to her father. Back then, the house was warm and inviting, filled with the sounds of laughter and family chatter. Burned out lights would be replaced immediately, lighting up the hallways with a soft glow. She'd walk into the den and find her father hard at work at the desk. She'd stand beside the desk and watch as his pen moved over his papers.
Then her mother would walk in, showing off the new skirt she'd bought for a bargain. And Pops' pen would stall and he'd look up, a sincere smile spreading across his face. Her mom would blush happily and smile back, and it would be so obvious that they loved each other.
She could almost see it now. Her parents would hug, the fireplace blazing behind them. She'd take her father's chair, resting her chin on the back, watching her mom and dad in their loving embrace. The door would swing open and in would stride Karen, gunned up to relay yet another interesting story that they just had to hear.
"Brought you dinner. Enjoy it," She practically ran from the room, not bothering to wait for a reply she knew she wouldn't receive.
Annette was cleaning the utensils at the sink, and Sadie crept into the kitchen to grab a bowl of food. It was stew, a dish that was normally one of Sadie's favorites. She carried her bowl to her room. Locking the door behind her, she flicked on the light switch and grabbed a picture frame from her nightstand. Placing herself cross-legged on her bed, she ate heaping spoonfuls of stew but barely registered the taste as she stared at the picture.
Two years and still everything felt catastrophically different. They used to be a happy family of four, and now were only a very unhappy father and daughter. Finishing her food, Sadie set the empty bowl on her nightstand and brought the frame closer to her face. Running a finger over the face of her mother and then her older sister, Sadie longed for the time when they had been alive and well.
What would her life be like now if they had survived that car accident? Karen would be starting college pursuing her dreams and out of Whaler's Cove like she'd always wanted. Mom would show up at her door to ask how her day was and listen sympathetically as she complained about Jayne Pinkerton…
She needed to stop thinking about them. She needed to put down the picture and do something, anything to stop her from thinking those thoughts. But she couldn't. Something deep inside compelled her to keep looking, keep staring so intently at that photograph. Look, it told her, look at her sister's broad and carefree grin. Her mother's twinkling blue eyes and glossy black hair, so like her own that if she stared in the mirror long enough, she'd think she was looking at her mom.
…pain…gets worse…gets worse…
Ice blue eyes.
The slam of her bedroom door flying open caused Sadie's head to jerk back, fully alert to the rest of her surroundings. The picture frame fell to the floor, and she looked down to see her hands shaking, tingling with a strange feeling. Cold wind brushed against her cheek, and she saw that the window was open.
Thuds on the hardwood floor broadcasted Annette before she even appeared in the doorway. Although nearly out of breath, the old lady seemed perfectly fine, as if she had just taken a minor stroll instead of running up a flight of stairs.
"What was that noise? Are you okay?" she panted, hand on her chest in surprise.
Sadie cringed, forgetting just how old her neighbor was. When she hustled and bustled abut the house most nights, Annette seemed much younger and agile than she actually was. "My door flew open. Probably just because of the wind. I'm fine."
"Are you sure, dear?" Annette raised a worried eyebrow.
"Yeah," Getting off the bed, Sadie walked over to the old woman and reassured, "It was just the wind, Annette. Happens all the time here. I wouldn't worry about it if I were you. You don't want any wrinkles on that darling face of yours."
Annette pursed her lips and lightly slapped Sadie's shoulders. "Nonsense, girl. This old face of mine has more wrinkles than you have teeth. One more wouldn't make a difference."
Sadie laughed, but Annette still looked around, unconvinced that there was nothing wrong. "It's just that…all the other doors on this floor seem to have opened, too. One simple breeze couldn't have done that, could it?"
Cold gripped Sadie's heart and she felt color drain from her face. The sudden feeling that she was being watched draped around her, and she couldn't shake it off. "It was probably a big breeze then, I'm sure. I'm really tired, Annette. If you wouldn't mind…" She gestured to the door and her neighbor nodded knowingly.
"Of course, dear, of course. Don't listen to this crazy old bat. You just get some shut eye. I'll finish cleaning and lock up when I leave." But before Sadie could successfully maneuver Annette into the hallway, a great 'meow' sounded from the bed. Turning, Sadie saw that Gray was sitting up straight on her pillow, tail moving back and forth in that slow, lazy motion she'd become accustomed to.
"Oh, that nasty cat is back!" Annette pouted. "Honestly, dear. I don't know why you would want it here. All it does is come for food."
"Gray's an innocent old thing, Annette," Sadie gave a small smile. This was a conversation they'd been through many times before.
"He's a nuisance, and you should have locked him out a long time ago!" It was weird, Sadie thought, to see a harmless old grandma-type giving a cat the stink eye. But Annette had perfected the look in the years that Gray had been coming to the house.
"He's a comfort, Annette," Sadie stressed halfheartedly, leaning her head on the door.
The old woman's rant stopped abruptly as she eyed the teenager in front of her. A sigh said that she'd cease for that moment, but the thin line her lips formed said that the matter wasn't fully put to rest. With one more look at Sadie, she asked, "You all right, then?"
"Just tired from work, is all."
A short nod and Annette moved to leave. With one last scathing look at Gray, she declared, "One of these days, I'm going to march over to that Gabriel Parker boy's house and tell him to keep his filthy animal where it belongs."
And with that said, Sadie firmly shut the door after Annette. As her hand left the doorknob, she stared at it, a curious sense drifting in her head. She'd missed something about the door, something so obvious, a small voice told her in the back of her mind. Something about the door…
Another meow interrupted her thoughts and she glanced over at the bed where Gray was waiting for her. He leaped off the pillow, astonishingly quick for such a chubby cat. After a moment of rubbing against her ankles, Sadie bent over to pick him up in her arms. Leaving the door and the odd hunch that she was completely overlooking something, she paced over to the bed. With Gray in one arm, meowing for attention, she used the other to pick up the fallen picture frame and set it back in its place on her nightstand.
A draft of cold air reminded her that the window was open and she set Gray down to close it. Pushing it closed, she took a second to stare across the street. His house was drowning in shadows, as it always was. Gray let out yet another of his attention-grabbing yowls and he jumped onto the windowsill.
Petting back his small feline ears, Sadie kept her eyes on the Parker household. "I understand why you'd want to stay the night over here al the time, Gray. His house is scary at night."
The cat's replying purr didn't seem to agree with her statement, and she nudged him away with her hand. "Whatever, Gray. You're just a cat. What would you know?"
Authoress's Notes: Wow, it didn't even take me half a year to finish this! I think now that I'm over boring chapter 2, I'm motivated to keep writing the other chapters because they're more exciting to me. I especially like this chapter because I got to introduce Jayne Pinkerton. So far, she's one of my favorite characters, although when I was planning this entire story, I added her at the last second, so she won't be featured so often. I plan for this to be a trilogy about Sadie, and then afterwards I'm going to give Jayne her own story. Oh, just thinking about ti gets me so excited!! Anyways, thanks to those who reviewed!