Wake, p.14
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       Wake, p.14

         Part #1 of Wake series by Lisa McMann
 
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  He hadn’t felt this good about himself in a long time. And even though he couldn’t think of anything to say, it was okay, there in the dark. The two of them, awkward, silent. The warmth of her back on his hand in the chilly evening. The fact that she trusted him. That she wasn’t afraid. That she didn’t run away screaming. She let him touch her, for crying out loud.

  Incredible.

  He hardly noticed when the other guys took off, heading to their respective homes. It was all he could do to keep his concentration on avoiding stones and glass.

  When he pushed her up her driveway to the step, he knew it was over. For the moment, at least. But it was enough for now. It was hope.

  Janie hopped off the skateboard and opened the screen door.

  He set her shoes on the step, hesitated for a moment, then picked up his board and left her there without a word. Just a nod. Totally at a loss.

  He was at the road when he heard it. “Thanks, Cabel.” Her voice was thin, soft in the air. “That was sweet.”

  Freaking music, it was. Enough to make a guy a little bit crazy inside.

  Cabel thinks about that day a lot lately.

  He sits back up on the hotel bed and then goes into the bathroom. Splashes water on his face and just leans over the sink, his head butting up against the mirror, thinking. Thinking about how, back then, he had no idea just how complicated this thing was going to get.

  3:13 p.m.

  While the rest of the seniors of Fieldridge High are at the theatre watching Camelot, Cabel wanders the hotel, then heads outside and walks to the nearby shopping mall. He takes in a movie—it’s a tough call choosing between Capote and Return of the Living Dead 5, but after the nightmare on the bus, horror is not sounding good today.

  He grabs dinner at the mall’s food court and hangs around the music store until he gets kicked out for looking like a no-good teenager. What is it with adults anyway? They’re so scared and suspicious all the time. Hell, Cabe thinks, we’re just trying to get by, like them.

  He wanders down to the Chapters bookstore and browses the sci-fi and fantasy section. Thinks this whole thing with Janie and the nightmares feels a little sci-fi, too.

  And then he pauses.

  Looks around the store, and moves to the self-help section.

  When he sees a shelf of books on dreams, he grabs a few, finds a chair, and settles in. Hours go by as he reads, studies. Fascinated. At closing time, Cabel purchases the books. He walks through the darkness back to the hotel.

  He pretends to be asleep when the guys come in after eleven from the theatre. Doesn’t want to answer any questions about where he’s been all day. Besides, his brain is full. He’s exhausted and still confused. Troubled. But his anger is fading.

  It doesn’t seem like Janie can help it, or she would have tried to hide it on the bus. That’s the conclusion he comes to, anyway.

  He drifts off to sleep.

  October 15, 2005, 4:03 a.m.

  Cabel’s in a shopping mall. In the center courtyard, there is a kiosk with a short line of people. He gets in line behind the others. Sees a giant wooden box on the floor. Two people climb in and lie down. The vendor running the kiosk closes the top on them, and then pushes a button. The box slowly descends into the floor as the line of people watch in silence.

  “What’s happening?” Cabel whispers to the person in front of him.

  “It’s a game,” the girl says. She turns to look at him, and Cabel realizes it’s Janie.

  “Like a virtual ride or something?”

  “Sort of.”

  Cabel shrugs and watches. The box surfaces once again and the lid opens. Only one person gets out—a sobbing woman. She points to the box and cries out, “He’s dead!”

  Immediately the paramedics are there. They remove the dead man and the kiosk worker signals for the next people in line to get into the box.

  “This is not cool,” Cabel says to Janie.

  “It is what it is,” Janie says.

  The next couple goes down and when they surface, the man gets out. He is sobbing, pointing. “She’s dead!” he cries out. People have to help him walk away.

  Cabel’s sweating now. “Come on, Janie,” he says. “Let’s go.”

  “We can’t,” she says. “If you get in the line, you must stay for the ride. See?” she points to a sign that says exactly that.

  Soon it is their turn.

  “Please, Janie,” Cabel pleads. “Come on! We can just go. Do you see what’s happening?”

  “We can’t control what’s happening, Cabel,” she says. She looks at him with sorrow in her eyes. “There’s no controlling it. It is what it is.”

  The kiosk worker signals Janie and Cabel to enter the box. Up close, Cabel can see it’s lined, like a coffin.

  “No, Janie—no. We don’t have to do this!”

  Janie gives Cabel a sorrowful look. She hesitates, and then she says, “It’s okay. You stay. I’ll go.” And then she squeezes Cabel’s hand, brushes his cheek with her fingertips. Smiles a sad, crooked smile.

  Cabel watches her step into the coffin. “Wait! What will happen?” But he already knows.

  Janie waves. “It’s okay,” she says, sincere. “It would have been me anyway.”

  The kiosk worker closes the lid on Janie.

  Cabel is frantic, watching the box being lowered. “Stop!” he cries. “Stop! Let me in!”

  But it’s too late. Cabel lunges for the box as it disappears into the floor. Cabel falls to the tile, unable to speak or scream or cry. Finally he gasps. “Coward!” he says to himself. “Janie, no! Come back! I’m sorry!”

  The wait is endless, but finally the box returns to the surface. The lid opens.

  Janie is dead.

  Cabel rolls over in the bed. “No,” he whispers.

  4:55 a.m.

  He sits up. “Sheesh,” he says, awake now. He looks at the clock, disoriented. Forgets for a moment where he is. The other guys in the room are sleeping soundly. Cabel takes a deep breath and settles back down on the pillow. He feels his heart still racing. Tells himself to calm down, and after a while, he does. But he can’t get back to sleep. Finally, he dozes off again, restless.

  8:24 a.m.

  Cabe ignores the others as they get ready for a final session of Shakespeare before everyone heads back to Fieldridge High. When they are gone, he takes a long shower and slowly gets ready for the day. Thinking. Thinking about Janie. About the dream. About all sorts of things and how they relate to his life . . . and to Janie’s, too, probably. Shame. Disappointment. Loneliness.

  He pulls up the comforter and sits down on top of it, trying to figure her out. And knowing that even though he doesn’t understand her, he needs to know what happened . . . and what could happen. There’s no way he can just let her go or keep silent, like he did on the skateboard night. No way he can look at her again without demanding answers.

  11:31 a.m.

  Cabe hops up off the bed, hungry and resolved, and grabs his jacket. Slips his shoes on. Thinks about what Janie must be going through right now, this minute. Wonders if she skipped the morning play to catch up on sleep. He imagines her, stuck in a room with three other girls and their collective dreams all night. He’s sure Janie really needs food by now.

  And . . . well.

  It’s not going to deliver itself.

  Read ahead for an excerpt from Lisa McMann’s

  crash

  One

  My sophomore psych teacher, Mr. Polselli, says knowledge is crucial to understanding the workings of the human brain, but I swear to dog, I don’t want any more knowledge about this.

  Every few days I see it. Sometimes it’s just a picture, like on that billboard we pass on the way to school. And other times it’s moving, like on a screen. A careening truck hits a building and explodes. Then nine body bags in the snow.

  It’s like a movie trailer with no sound, no credits. And nobody sees it but me.

  Some days after psych class I hang around
by the door of Mr. Polselli’s room for a minute, thinking that if I have a mental illness, he’s the one who’ll be able to tell me. But every time I almost mention it, it sounds too weird to say. So, uh, Mr. Polselli, when other people see the “turn off your cell phones” screen in the movie theater, I see an extra five-second movie trailer. Er . . . and did I mention I see stills of it on the billboard by my house? You see Jose Cuervo, I see a truck hitting a building and everything exploding. Is that normal?

  The first time was in the theater on the one holiday that our parents don’t make us work—Christmas Day. I poked my younger sister, Rowan. “Did you see that?”

  She did this eyebrow thing that basically says she thinks I’m an idiot. “See what?”

  “The explosion,” I said softly.

  “You’re on drugs.” Rowan turned to our older brother, Trey, and said, “Jules is on drugs.”

  Trey leaned over Rowan to look at me. “Don’t do drugs,” he said seriously. “Our family has enough problems.”

  I rolled my eyes and sat back in my seat as the real movie trailers started. “No kidding,” I muttered. And I reasoned with myself. The day before I’d almost been robbed while doing a pizza delivery. Maybe I was still traumatized.

  I just wanted to forget about it all.

  But then on MLK Day this stupid vision thing decided to get personal.

  Two

  Five reasons why I, Jules Demarco, am shunned:

  1. I smell like pizza

  2. My parents make us drive a meatball-topped food truck to school for advertising

  3. I haven’t invited a friend over since second grade

  4. Did I mention I smell like pizza? Like, its umami1-ness oozes from my pores

  5. Everybody at school likes Sawyer Angotti’s family’s restaurant better

  Frankly, I don’t blame them. I’d shun me too.

  *look it up

  Every January my mother says Martin Luther King Jr. weekend gives us the boost we need to pay the rent after the first two dead weeks of the year. She’s superpositive about everything. It’s like she forgets that every month is the same. Her attitude is probably what keeps our business alive. But if my mother, Paula, is the backbone of Demarco’s Pizzeria, my father, Antonio, is the broken leg that keeps us struggling to catch up.

  There’s no school on MLK Day, so Trey and I are manning the meatball truck in downtown Chicago, and Rowan is working front of house in the restaurant for the lunch shift. She’s jealous. But Trey and I are the oldest, so we get to decide.

  The food truck is actually kind of a blast, even if it does have two giant balls on top, with endless jokes to be made. Trey and I have been cooking together since we were little—he’s only sixteen months older than me. He’s a senior. He’s supposed to be the one driving the food truck to school because he has his truck license now, but he pays me ten bucks a week to secretly drive it so he can bum a ride from our neighbor Carter. Carter is kind of a douche, but at least his piece-of-crap Buick doesn’t have a sack on its roof.

  Trey drives now and we pass the billboard again.

  “Hey—what was on the billboard?” I ask as nonchalantly as I can.

  Trey narrows his eyes and glances at me. “Same as always. Jose Cuervo. Why?”

  “Oh.” I shrug like it’s no big deal. “Out of the corner of my eye I thought it had changed to something new for once.” Weak answer, but he accepts it. To me, the billboard is a still picture of the explosion. I look away and rub my temples as if it will make me see what everybody else sees, but it does nothing. Instead, I try to forget by focusing on my phone. I start posting all over the Internet where Demarco’s Food Truck is going to be today. I’m sure some of our regulars will show up. It’s becoming a sport, like storm chasing. Only they’re giant meatball chasing.

  Some people need a life. Including me.

  We roll past Angotti’s Trattoria on the way into the city—that’s Sawyer’s family’s restaurant. Sawyer is working today too. He’s outside sweeping the snow from their sidewalk. I beg for the traffic light to stay green so we can breeze past unnoticed, but it turns yellow and Trey slows the vehicle. “You could’ve made it,” I mutter.

  Trey looks at me while we sit. “What’s your rush?”

  I glance out the window at Sawyer, who either hasn’t noticed our obnoxious food truck or is choosing to ignore it.

  Trey follows my glance. “Oh,” he says. “The enemy. Let’s wave!”

  I shrink down and pull my hat halfway over my eyes.

  “Just . . . hurry,” I say, even though there’s nothing Trey can do. Sawyer turns around to pick up a bag of rock salt for the ice, and I can tell he catches sight of our truck. His head turns slightly so he can spy on who’s driving, and then he frowns.

  Trey nods coolly at Sawyer when their eyes meet, and then he faces forward as the light finally changes to green. “Do you still like him?” he asks.

  Here’s me, sunk down in the seat like a total loser, trying to hide, breathing a sigh of relief when we start rolling again. “Yeah,” I say, totally miserable. “Do you?”

  1 look it up

  Three

  Trey smiles. “Nah. That urban underground thing he’s got going on is nice, and of course I’m fond of the, ah, Mediterranean complexion, but I’ve been over him for a while. He’s too young for me. You can have him.”

  I laugh. “Yeah, right. Dad will love that. Maybe me hooking up with an Angotti will be the thing that puts him over the edge.” I don’t mention that Sawyer won’t even look at me these days, so the chance of me “having” Sawyer is zero.

  Sawyer Angotti is not the kind of guy most people would say is hot, but Trey and I have the same taste in men, which is sometimes convenient and sometimes a pain in the ass. Sawyer has this street casual look where he could totally be a clothes model, but if he ever told people he was one, they’d be like, “Seriously? No way.” Because his most attractive features are so subtle, you know? At first glance he’s really ordinary, but if you study him . . . big sigh. His vulnerable smile is what gets me—not the charming one he uses on teachers and girls and probably customers, too. I mean the warm, crooked smile that doesn’t come out unless he’s feeling shy or self-conscious. That one makes my stomach flip. Because for the most part, he’s tough-guy metro, if such a thing exists. Arms crossed and eyebrow raised, constantly questioning the world. But I’ve seen his other side a million times. I’ve been in love with him since we played plastic cheetahs and bears together at indoor recess in first grade.

  How was I supposed to know back then that Sawyer was the enemy? I didn’t even know his last name. And I didn’t know about the family rivalry. But the way my father interrogated me after they went to my first parent-teacher conference and found out that I “played well with others” and “had a nice friend in Sawyer Angotti,” you’d have thought I’d given away great-grandfather’s last weapon to the enemy. Trey says that was right around the time Dad really started acting weird.

  All I knew was that I wasn’t allowed to play cheetahs and bears with Sawyer anymore. I wasn’t even supposed to talk to him.

  But I still did, and he still did, and we would meet under the slide and trade suckers from the candy jar each of our restaurants had by the cash register. I would bring him grape, and he always brought me butterscotch, which we never had in our restaurant. I’d do anything to get Sawyer Angotti to give me a butterscotch sucker again.

  I have a notebook from sixth grade that has nine pages filled with embarrassing and overdramatic phrases like “I pine for Sawyer Angotti” and “JuleSawyer forever.” I even made an S logo for our conjoined names in that one. Too bad it looks more like a cross between a dollar sign and an ampersand. I’d dream about us getting secretly married and never telling our parents.

  And back then I’d moon around in my room after Rowan was asleep, pretending my pillow was Sawyer. Me and my Sawyer pillow would lie down on my bed, facing one another, and I’d imagine us in Bulger Park on a
blanket, ignoring the tree frogs and pigeons and little crying kids. I’d touch his cheek and push his hair back, and he’d look at me with his gorgeous green eyes and that crooked, shy grin of his, and then he’d lean toward me and we’d both hold our breath without realizing it, and his lips would touch mine, and then . . . He’d be my first kiss, which I’d never forget. And no matter how much our parents tried to keep us apart, he’d never break my heart.

  Oh, sigh.

  But then, on the day before seventh grade started, when it was time to visit school to check out classes and get our books, his father was there with him, and my father was there with me, and I did something terrible.

  Without thinking, I smiled and waved at my friend, and he smiled back, and I bit my lip because of love and delight after not seeing him for the whole summer . . . and his father saw me. He frowned, looked up at my father, scowled, and then grabbed Sawyer’s arm and pulled him away, giving my father one last heated glance. My father grumbled all the way home, issuing half-sentence threats under his breath.

  And that was the end of that.

  I don’t know what his father said or did to him that day, but by the next day, Sawyer Angotti was no longer my friend. Whoever said seventh grade is the worst year of your life was right. Sawyer turned our friendship off like a faucet, but I can’t help it—my faucet of love has a really bad leak.

  Trey parks the truck as close to the Field Museum as our permit allows, figuring since the weather is actually sunny and not too freezing and windy, people might prefer to grab a quick meal from a food truck instead of eating the overpriced generic stuff inside the tourist trap.

  Before we open the window for business, we set up. Trey checks the meat sauce while I grate fresh mozzarella into tiny, easily meltable nubs. It’s a simple operation—our winter truck specialty is an Italian bread bowl with spicy mini meatballs, sauce, and cheese. The truth is it’s delicious, even though I’m sick to death of them.

 
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