Wake, p.4
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       Wake, p.4

         Part #1 of Wake series by Lisa McMann
 
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  Janie is only mildly excited to start her senior year of high school. And she is not at all excited to have study hall right after lunch.

  She brushes her teeth and grabs her backpack, checking the mirror briefly before heading out the door. She is stopped by the flashing red lights of her former bus, and she smirks when she sees the noobs all climbing the steps to board it. Most of them are dressed in the styles of five years ago—hand-me-downs, or secondhand thrift clothing. “Get jobs, and get the hell out of South Fieldridge,” Janie mutters. At least there’s strength in numbers.

  Ethel purrs.

  Janie continues when the red lights stop. A block before the “bad” house on Waverly Road, she turns to take a detour. She’s not taking any chances. She slows as she sees someone walking toward her along the road, wearing a ratty backpack. At first, she doesn’t recognize him.

  And then, she does.

  He looks different.

  He’s not carrying a skateboard.

  “You missed it,” Janie says through the open window. “Get in. I’ll drive you.”

  Cabel eyes her warily. His features have matured. He’s wearing eyeglasses, the new cool rimless kind. His jaw is decidedly angular. He looks both thinner and more muscular at the same time. His hair, wavy at shoulder length, is layered slightly, no longer blue-black or greasy, but golden light brown. His long bangs that hung in his eyes last year are tucked behind his ears this year. And it looks freshly washed. He hesitates, and then opens the passenger door.

  “Thanks.” His voice is low and gruff. “Jesus,” he remarks as he tries to fit his knees inside.

  Janie reaches down between her legs. “Grab yours too,” she says.

  He raises an eyebrow.

  “Your seat adjustor, you ass. We have to pull them together. It’s a bench seat. As you can see.” They pull, and the seat moves back a notch. Janie checks the clutch to make sure she can still reach. She shifts into first as Cabel shuts his door.

  “You’re on the wrong street,” he remarks.

  “I know that.”

  “I figured you were lost or something.”

  “Oh, puhleeze. I-I take a detour. I don’t drive on Waverly anymore. I’m superstitious.”

  He glances at her and shrugs. “Whatever.”

  They ride in awkward silence for five minutes, until Janie rolls her eyes inwardly and says, “So. What’s your schedule?”

  “I have no idea.”

  “Okaaay . . .” The conversation fizzles.

  After a moment, he opens his backpack and takes out a sealed envelope. He rips it open as if it’s a chore of great difficulty and looks over his schedule.

  “English, math, Spanish, industrial tech, lunch, study hall, government, P.E.” He sounds bored.

  Janie cringes. “Hmmm. Interesting.”

  “And yours?” He says it too politely, as if he is forced to chat with his grandmother.

  “It’s, ah . . . actually . . . ,” she sighs, “. . . pretty similar to that. Yeah.”

  He laughs. “Don’t sound so fucking excited, Hannagan. I’ll let you cheat off my papers.”

  She smiles wryly. “Yeah, right! Like I’d want to.”

  He looks at her. “And your GPA is?”

  “Three point eight.” She sniffs.

  “Well, then, of course you don’t need help.”

  “What’s yours?”

  He shifts in the seat and shoves his schedule into his backpack. “I have no idea.”

  That was the most Cabel Strumheller had ever spoken to Janie in all the years she’d known him. Combined. Including the three miles on the skateboard.

  12:45 p.m.

  Janie meets up with Carrie in study hall. Seniors have study hall in the library so they can access the books and computers and hopefully do actual work rather than sleep. Janie hopes for the best and finds a table in the far corner of the room.

  “How’s it going?” Janie asks.

  “Decent,” Carrie says. “The only class I have with Melinda is English. Hey, did you see the new guy?”

  “What new guy?”

  “In English class.”

  Janie looks puzzled. “I didn’t notice.”

  Carrie looks around sneakily. “Oh, shit!” she whispers. “Here he comes.”

  Janie glances up. Carrie is staring at her, not daring to turn around again. He nods in her direction. Janie waves her fingers at him. To Carrie, she says, “Oh, you mean him?”

  “You did NOT just wave to him.”

  “To who . . . er, whom? Yeah, that’s it. Whom?”

  “The new guy! Aren’t you listening to me?” Carrie bounces in her chair.

  Janie grins innocently. “Watch this.” She gets up, walks to the table where the new guy sits, and pulls up a chair across from him so she can see Carrie watching.

  “I have a question for you,” Janie says.

  “I thought you didn’t need my help,” he replies, rummaging through his backpack.

  “It’s not that kind.”

  “Go ahead, then.”

  “Are you getting a lot of strange looks today, by any chance?”

  He pulls his notebook out of his backpack, takes off his outer button-down shirt, leaving on a loose, white T-shirt. He folds the button-down haphazardly, sets it on top of his backpack, scoots his chair back, and lays his head on the shirt. His newly muscular arms reach around this makeshift pillow.

  “I hadn’t noticed,” he says. He takes off his glasses and sets them off to the side.

  Janie nods thoughtfully. “I see. So . . . you don’t know what classes you have, you don’t know your GPA, you don’t notice all the girls drooling over your new look—”

  “That’s bullshit,” he says, closing his eyes.

  “So what do you pay attention to?”

  He opens his eyes. Lifts his head from his pillow. He looks at Janie for a long time. His eyes are silky brown. She’s never noticed them before.

  For a split second, Janie thinks she sees something in them, but then it’s gone.

  “Pfft. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” he says.

  Janie flashes a crooked smile, shrugs, and shakes her head slightly, feeling warm. “Try me.”

  Cabel raises a skeptical eyebrow.

  “You know . . . sometime,” she says finally. She picks up his shirt and refolds it so the buttons turn in. “So you don’t get a button impression on your face,” she says.

  “Thank you,” he says. His eyes don’t leave hers. He’s searching them. His brow furrows.

  Janie clears her throat lightly. “So, uh, shall I break the news to Carrie that you’re not a new guy?”

  Cabel blinks. “What?”

  “Half the girls in the school think you’re a new student. Cabel, come on. You look a lot different from last year. . . . ”

  The words trail off her tongue and they sound wrong.

  He gives her a confused look.

  “What did you call me?”

  Janie’s stomach lurches. “Um, Cabel?”

  He isn’t smiling. “Who do you think I am?”

  Maybe she’s in somebody’s weird dream and she doesn’t know it.

  She panics.

  “Oh, God, no,” she whispers. She stands up abruptly and tries to get past him. He catches her arm.

  “Whoa, time out,” he says. “Sit.”

  Tears pool in Janie’s eyes. She covers her mouth.

  “Jesus, Janie. I’m just playing with your mind a little. I’m sorry. Hey,” he says. He keeps hold of her wrist, lightly.

  She feels like a fool.

  “Come on, Hannagan. Look at me, will you? Listen to me.”

  Janie can’t look at him. She sees Carrie, half-standing, peering over the bookshelves, a concerned look on her face. Janie waves her away. Carrie sits down.

  “Janie.”

  “What, already,” she says, growing hot. “And will you please let go of me before I call security?”

  He drops her wrist like a ba
ked potato.

  His eyes widen.

  “Forget it.” He sighs. “I’m an asshole.” He looks away.

  Janie walks back to her table and sits down miserably.

  “What was that?” Carrie hisses.

  Janie looks at her and summons a calm smile. She shakes her head. “Nothing. The new guy just told me . . . that . . . ” She stalls, pretending to search for a pen. “That, uh, I’m doing the advance math equations completely wrong. I . . . you know me. I hate to be wrong. Math’s my best subject, you know.” She pulls out a sheet of paper and opens her math book. “Now I’ve got to start all over.”

  “Sheesh, Janie. You looked like he just threatened to kill you or something.”

  Janie laughs. “As if.”

  1:30 p.m.

  Cabel tries to catch Janie’s eye in government class. She ignores him.

  2:20 p.m.

  P.E. It’s coed this year. The students play rotating games of five-on-five basketball. Guys against the girls.

  Janie commits the most egregious foul Fieldridge High School has ever seen. When he is able, the new guy stands up and insists it was his fault.

  The P.E. staff confer, and decide girls versus guys is not a good idea for contact sports. Coach Crater gives Janie a hard look. She returns it, with interest.

  2:45 p.m.

  Janie dries off hurriedly after her shower and slips into her scrubs for work. The bell rings. She takes her stuff and jumps in her car so she’s not late for work.

  8:01 p.m.

  Life is blissfully calm at Heather Home tonight. Janie finishes her paperwork and her other duties on the floor early, so she goes to see Miss Stubin. She shuffles her feet and clears her throat so Miss Stubin knows Janie is there.

  “It’s me, Janie. Are you up for a few chapters of Jane Eyre?” Janie asks.

  Miss Stubin smiles warmly and turns her face toward Janie’s voice. “I’d love it, if you have the time.”

  Janie pulls the visitor chair closer to the bed and begins where they left off last time. She doesn’t notice when Miss Stubin drifts off to sleep.

  8:24 p.m.

  Janie is standing on a street called Center in a small town. Everything is in black and white, like an old movie. Nearby, a couple strolls arm and arm, window-shopping. Janie follows them. The store windows are filled with simplicity. Saws and hammers. Yarn and material. Baking sheets and metal tins. Dry goods.

  The couple stops at the corner, and Janie can see the young woman has been crying. The young man is wearing a military uniform.

  He pulls the young woman gently around the corner of the building, and they kiss passionately. He touches her breast and says something, and she shakes her head, no. He tries again, and she moves his hand away. He pulls back. “Please, Martha. Let me make love to you before I go.”

  The young woman, Martha, begins to say no. Then she turns, and looks at Janie with complete regret in her eyes. “Not even in my dream?” she says.

  Martha waits for Janie to respond.

  Janie looks at the young man. He is frozen, momentarily, gazing adoringly at Martha. Martha pleads with her eyes locked on Janie. “Help me, Janie.”

  Janie, startled, shrugs and nods, and Martha smiles through her tears. She turns back to the young man, touches his face, his lips, and nods. They walk through the alley, away from Janie. Janie takes a step to follow them, but she doesn’t want to see any more of this dream—it’s too intimate. She grips the chair in Miss Stubin’s room with all her might, concentrates, and pulls herself back into the nursing home.

  It’s 8:43 p.m. Janie shakes her head to clear it. Surprised. Slowly, a grin spreads across her face. She did it—she pulled herself out of the dream. And she’s not getting sucked back into it. Janie chuckles quietly to herself.

  Miss Stubin sleeps peacefully, a smile on her thin, tired lips. It must be nice for poor old Miss Stubin to have a good dream.

  Janie leaves the book on the table and exits the room quietly. She turns off the light and closes the door, giving Miss Stubin some intimate time alone with her soldier.

  Before he dies.

  And she never has the chance again.

  September 9, 2005, 12:45 p.m.

  “Why didn’t you tell me the new guy was Cabel Strumheller?” Carrie demands.

  Janie looks up from her book. She sits in the library at their usual table. “Because I’m an asshole?” She smiles sweetly.

  Carrie tries to hold back a laugh. “Yes, you are. I see you’re driving him to school.”

  “Only when he misses the bus,” Janie says lightly.

  Carrie gives her a sly smile. “Yeah, well. Anyways, I made yearbook staff, so I’ll be gone a lot during study hall, okay? I gotta go there now for the first meeting.”

  Janie waves, distracted by the play she’s reading for English. “Have fun. Play nice.” She slides down in her seat and plops her feet on the chair opposite hers. She’s reading Camelot in preparation for next month’s senior English trip to Stratford, Canada.

  Every now and then she peers over the bookshelves to see if anyone is looking sleepy nearby. She figures she can handle anything outside a twenty-foot radius, unless it’s a nightmare, and then the distance jumps dramatically. Luckily, most school-day dreams tend to either be the “falling” dream, the “naked presentation” dream, or something sexual. She can usually get a handle on those without doing a full pass-out-on-the-floor reaction.

  It’s the paralyzing, shiver-and-shake nightmares that are killing her.

  12:55 p.m.

  The book disappears in front of her. Janie sighs and sets it on the table. She lays her head in her arms and closes her eyes.

  She is floating. Not the falling dream again, she thinks. She is sick to death of the falling dream.

  The scene changes immediately. Now, Janie is outside. It’s dark. She’s alone, behind a shed, but she can hear muffled voices. She’s never been alone before, and she doesn’t know how people can have dreams that they are not in. She is curious. She watches nervously, hoping this isn’t somebody’s nightmare about to explode through the wall of the shed, or from the bushes.

  From around the corner comes a hulking, monstrous figure, outlined by the moonlight. It thrashes its arms through the bushes and lifts its hands to the sky, letting out a horrible yell. Janie feels her fingers going numb. She tries to get out. But she can’t.

  The figure’s long fingers glint in the moonlight.

  Janie leans back against the barn. She is shaking.

  The grotesque figure sharpens his knife-fingers on each other. The sound is deafening.

  Janie, against the barn, squeaks.

  The figure wheels around. He sees her.

  Approaches her.

  She has seen this character before.

  Right before she and Ethel ended up in a ditch.

  Janie stands up, tries to run. But her legs won’t move.

  The figure’s face is furious, but he has stopped sharpening his knives. He’s five feet away, and Janie closes her eyes. Nothing can hurt me, she tries to tell herself.

  When she opens her eyes, it is daylight. She is still behind the barn. And the horrid, menacing figure has turned into a normal, human young man.

  It’s Cabel Strumheller.

  A second Janie steps out from Janie’s body and walks to Cabel, unafraid.

  Janie stays back, against the barn.

  Cabel touches the second Janie’s face.

  He leans in.

  He kisses her.

  She kisses him back.

  He steps out of the embrace and looks at the Janie against the barn wall. Tears fall down his cheeks.

  “Help me,” he says.

  1:35 p.m.

  The bell rings. Janie feels the fog lifting, but she cannot move. Not yet. She needs a minute.

  1:36 p.m.

  Make that two minutes.

  1:37 p.m.

  When she feels the hand on her shoulder, she jumps.

  A mile, a f
oot, an inch . . . she doesn’t know.

  She looks up.

  “Ready?” he says. “Didn’t know if you heard the bell.”

  She stares at him.

  “You okay, Hannagan?”

  She nods and grabs her books. “Yeah.” Her voice is not completely back yet. She clears her throat. “Yes,” she says firmly. “Are you? You have a dent in your cheek.” She smiles shakily.

  “Fell asleep on my book.”

  “I figured.”

  “You too, huh?”

  “I, uh, must’ve been really tired, I guess.”

  “You look freaked. Did you have a bad dream or something?”

  She looks at him as they walk through the crowded hall to government class. He slips his hand onto the small of her back so they stay together as they talk.

  “Not exactly,” she says slowly. Her eyes narrow. “Did you?” The words come out of her mouth like gunshots.

  He turns sharply into the doorway as the bell rings and he sees the look on her face. He stops in his tracks. His eyes narrow as they search her face. She can see his eyes are puzzled. His face flushes slightly, but she’s not sure why.

  The teacher comes in and shoos them to their seats.

  Janie looks over her shoulder, two rows back and toward the middle of the room.

  Cabel is still staring at her, looking incredibly puzzled. He shakes his head just slightly.

  She looks at the chalkboard. Not seeing it. Just wondering. Wondering what the hell is wrong with her. And what is wrong with him, that he has dreams like that. Does he know? Did he see her in that one?

  2:03 p.m.

  A wad of paper lands on Janie’s desk. She jumps and slowly looks over to Cabel. He is slumped in his seat, doodling on his notebook, looking a little too innocent.

  Janie opens the paper.

  Smooths it out.

  Yeah, maybe . . . (?)

  That’s what it says.

  September 29, 2005 2:55 p.m.

  Leaning against the hood of her car is the lanky, long-haired figure of Cabel Strumheller. The one who dreams about monsters, and kissing her all in the same dream. His hair is wet.

  “Hey,” Janie says lightly. Her hair is wet too.

  “Why are you avoiding me?”

  She sighs. “Am I?” She knows it sounds fake.

  He doesn’t answer.

 
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LISA MCMANN SERIES:

  • Wake
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