Wake, p.7
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       Wake, p.7

         Part #1 of Wake series by Lisa McMann
 
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  Maybe it’s better this way.

  2:55 p.m.

  The phone rings. Janie’s mother answers it.

  “She’s at school,” she slurs.

  Janie didn’t know her mother ever answered the phone.

  4:10 p.m.

  Janie sits wrapped in a blanket on the couch, a roll of toilet paper next to her, watching The Price Is Right. Carrie lets herself in.

  “Hey, bitch,” she says cheerfully. “You missed a good one today. You sick?”

  “Hey. Yeah.” Janie blows her nose loudly in some toilet paper to prove it.

  “You look like hell,” Carrie says. “Your nose is all red.”

  “Thank you.”

  Carrie sits on the couch next to Janie.

  “Funny . . . Cabel looks like hell too,” she says lightly. “You sure you don’t have something you want to tell me?”

  “Pretty sure, yeah.”

  Carrie pouts. Then, she ruffles through her backpack and pulls out a folded piece of paper. She tosses it on the coffee table. “This is from him. You’re not preggers or something, are you?”

  Janie looks at Carrie. “Ha-ha.”

  “Well, jeez. Whatever it is, it’s got to be a big deal to keep you home from school. You haven’t missed a day since eighth grade. And, sorry to say, you might look like shit, but I don’t think you’re sick.”

  “Think what you want,” Janie says dully. “I think you have to have sex in order to get pregnant, last I heard.”

  “Aha, so it’s a sex thing!” Carrie shouts triumphantly.

  “Go home, Carrie.”

  Carrie grins. “You know where to find me. Sex tips and advice—just holler out the window.”

  Janie holds back an urge to strangle her. “Good-bye,” she says pointedly.

  “Okay, okay. I can take a hint.” She heads to the door and turns back to Janie, a curious expression on her face. “This, by chance, doesn’t have anything to do with Cabel messing with drugs this weekend, does it?” She blinks rapidly, grinning.

  “What?”

  “He’s sort of a dealer, I guess—or, you know. One of those guys who works as a go-between. Whatever they’re called. So Shay danced with him at a party Sunday night. She was really high, though. I heard he got busted. Is that true?”

  Janie’s stomach twists and shreds.

  She’s going to be sick.

  “No,” Janie says slowly, “it doesn’t have anything to do with that.” Tears well up in the corners of her eyes and she presses them back with her fingers.

  Carrie’s face falls. “Oh, shit, Janie. You didn’t know.”

  Janie shakes her head numbly.

  She doesn’t notice when Carrie leaves.

  October 19, 2005, 2:45 a.m.

  Janie lies awake in bed, staring at the ceiling. Arguing with herself. She knows she shouldn’t do it. But she has nothing to lose.

  Feeling like a total creep, she gets dressed and slips out of the house. Runs softly through the yards, avoiding the houses with dogs.

  Sneaks up to Cabel’s house and sits outside his bedroom window, in the bushes. She leans up against the house and waits. The bricks snag her sweatshirt. It’s chilly. She puts her mittens on.

  Her butt falls asleep.

  And her legs.

  She gets terribly bored.

  5:01 a.m.

  She slips away while it’s still dark, feeling like a criminal.

  A criminal who walks away with nothing.

  7:36 a.m.

  She gathers her schoolbooks from the coffee table. The note is still there, where Carrie left it. She hesitates, and then opens it.

  We really need to talk, Janie. Please. I’m begging. Cabe.

  That’s all it says.

  7:55 a.m.

  Janie waits for the bell and slips into school. She gets to English class just before Mr. Purcell closes the door. “Feeling better, I presume, Miss Hannagan,” he intones.

  Janie presumes it’s a rhetorical question and ignores him.

  She can feel Cabel’s eyes on her.

  She won’t look at him.

  It’s torture, is what it is.

  Every damn class, of every damn day.

  Torture.

  12:45 p.m.

  He gives up.

  Janie dreads study hall. But he gives up. He sits in the opposite corner of the library, removes his glasses, and rests his head on his arms.

  She notes with satisfaction that he does, indeed, look like shit. Just as Carrie said.

  Carrie plops in the chair next to her.

  If Cabel dreams, Janie doesn’t pick it up. Instead, she lays her head on her arms and tries to take in a nap. But she’s sucked into yet another falling dream. This time, it’s her own.

  And then she’s pulled awake and Carrie is there. Or, rather, Janie is with Carrie. And Stu.

  Janie watches with curiosity.

  Carrie looks like she’s enjoying it.

  A lot.

  Four times.

  Once was enough for Janie.

  And she really doesn’t think Stu’s dick could possibly be that large. He could have never fit behind the wheel of ol’ Ethel with that thing.

  Now Janie knows what else she’s missing. She grunts when Carrie nudges her arm.

  Gets up.

  Two more classes.

  Janie is weary. And she has to work a full shift tonight.

  Apparently things get worse before they get better.

  If they ever get better.

  Janie’s doubtful.

  10:14 p.m.

  Miss Stubin is in a coma.

  Hospice is in her room all evening.

  Janie hovers anxiously.

  And then Miss Stubin dies. Right there in front of Janie.

  Janie cries. She’s not exactly sure why—she’s never cried over a resident’s death before. There was just something special about this one.

  But she’s glad Miss Stubin got to make love with that nice young soldier, even if it was just a black-and-white dream.

  The head nurse sends Janie home a little early. She says Janie still looks a bit under the weather. Janie is numb. And exhausted. She’s been awake since two a.m.

  She says good-bye to Miss Stubin. Touches her cold, gnarled hand and gives it a little squeeze.

  10:31 p.m.

  Janie drives home slowly, windows rolled down, hand ready on the parking brake. She takes Waverly. Past Cabel’s house.

  Nothing.

  She falls into bed when she gets home.

  There are no notes, no phone calls, no visits. Not that she was hoping for anything, of course. That bastard.

  October 22, 2005

  Janie works the day shift. It’s Saturday. She is assigned to the arts-and-crafts room. This makes her happy. Most of the residents at Heather Home don’t sleep through the craft.

  At her lunch break, the director is there, even though it’s a weekend. She calls Janie into her office and closes the door.

  Janie is worried. Has she done something wrong? Has someone caught her in a dream and thought she was slacking off? She sits down tentatively in the chair by the director’s desk.

  “Is everything okay?” she asks nervously.

  The director smiles. She hands Janie an envelope. “This is for you,” she says.

  “What is it?”

  “I don’t know. It’s something from Miss Stubin. We found it in her belongings after the coroner came. Open it.”

  Janie’s eyes grow wide. Her fingers shake a little. She breaks open the seal and pulls out a folded piece of stationery. When she opens it, a small piece of paper flutters to the ground. She reads. The handwriting is barely legible. Crooked. Written with a blind hand.

  Dear Janie,

  Thank you for my dreams.

  From one catcher to another,

  Martha Stubin

  P.S. You have more power than you think.

  Janie’s heart stutters. She draws in a breath. No, she thinks. Impossible.


  The director picks up the small rectangle of paper from the floor and hands it to Janie. It’s a check.

  It says, “for college,” in the memo line.

  It’s five thousand dollars.

  Janie looks up at the director, whose face is beaming so hard, it looks like it’s about to crack. She looks down at the check, and then again at the letter.

  The director stands and gives Janie’s shoulder a squeeze. “Good job, honey,” she sniffles. “I’m so glad for you.”

  3:33 p.m.

  There is a phone call for Janie.

  She hurries to the front desk. What a strange day.

  It’s her mother.

  “There’s this hippie on the porch, says he ain’t leaving until he talks to you. You coming home soon? He wants to know, and I’m going to bed.”

  Janie sighs. She writes her schedule down every week on the calendar. But she is amused. Maybe because she got a check from Miss Stubin. Maybe because her mother calls Cabel a hippie.

  “I’ll be home a little after five, Ma.”

  “Do I need to worry about this character on the porch, or can I go to bed?”

  “You can go to bed. He’s . . . ah . . . not a rapist.” That I know of, anyway. They hang up.

  5:21 p.m.

  Cabel is not on the porch.

  Janie goes inside. There’s a note on the counter, underneath a dirty glass, in her mother’s scrawl.

  Hippie said he couldn’t stay. Be back tomorrow.

  Love, Mom.

  It said, Love, Mom.

  That was the most notable thing about it.

  Janie rips the note into shreds and throws it in the overflowing garbage can.

  She changes her clothes, pops a TV dinner in the oven, and pulls out her college applications.

  Five thousand. Just a drop in the bucket, she knows. But it’s something.

  Just like Miss Stubin’s note.

  That was really something.

  Janie can’t wrap her mind around that one yet.

  She looks over everything in her piles of papers. It all looks foreign to her. Financial aid forms, scholarship applications, writing a request essay? Jeez. She needs to get moving on this.

  She has no idea what she wants to do with her future.

  But science, math . . . maybe research. Maybe dream research.

  Or not.

  She really wants to forget that part of her shitty, shitty life.

  She calls Carrie. “What’re you doing?”

  “Sitting home. Alone. You?”

  “I’m wondering if there’s a party somewhere at one of your rich friends’ houses.”

  Carrie is silent for a moment. “Why?” Her voice is suspicious.

  “I don’t know,” Janie lies. “I’m bored. Can’t I get in with you? As your date or something?”

  “Janie.”

  “What.”

  “You don’t want to go there.”

  “What? I’m just bored. I’ve never been to one of those organized ‘Hill’ parties. You know, where the parents are gone and leave all the booze and shit for the kids to drink.”

  Carrie is quiet again. “You’re looking for him, aren’t you. I’m coming over.” She hangs up.

  Carrie arrives ten minutes later with her sleeping bag. “Can I stay over?” she asks sweetly. “We haven’t had a sleepover in forever.”

  Janie looks at her skeptically. “What’s going on?” she says. “Just tell me.”

  Carrie throws her stuff on the couch. “You got munchies? I haven’t eaten.” She sniffs the air and opens the oven. “Eww. Can’t we cook something real?”

  “Fine,” sighs Janie. She rummages around in the kitchen. The refrigerator is surprisingly full today. “Fajitas okay?”

  “Perfect,” says Carrie gleefully. She mixes two vodka tonics, adds a splash of orange juice, and hands one to Janie.

  “Would you stop that, please?”

  “Stop what?”

  “That whole syrupy sweet-talk thing. It’s really grating on me.”

  Carrie blinks. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Anyway, give me some friggin’ veggies to chop.”

  They work up a meal, making guacamole from scratch and everything. Janie takes the TV dinner, wraps it in tinfoil, and puts it in the refrigerator. Her mother will probably eat it. Cold. For breakfast or something.

  By the time the fajitas are ready, Janie is buzzing from her second drink and Carrie is doing shots from the bottle.

  They move into the living room and flip on music videos.

  “So, are you going to tell me what the fuck is going on, or not,” Janie says.

  Carrie sighs and gives her a sorrowful look. “Oh, Janie. Are you still thumpin’ for Cabel or what?”

  Janie takes a swallow of her drink, and lies. “I . . . I’m getting over him. I’m not speaking to him.”

  “I saw him here, on your step this morning. Were you working?”

  “Yeah. I guess he was here all day. Ma calls him ‘the hippie.’ ” She laughs.

  Carrie takes another shot. “Whooo!” she says when it goes down. “Sheesh. Um . . . oh, yeah. Cabel. Well, he’s at Melinda’s tonight. With Shay,” she adds.

  “Well, duh, he wouldn’t be with Melinda.”

  Carrie gives her a curious look. “Why not Melinda?”

  Janie’s feeling a bit reckless from the effects of the alcohol. “Carrie! Melinda’s a lesbian. Didn’t you know?”

  “What?”

  “She’s totally in love with you.”

  “She is not.”

  “Is.”

  “How do you know?”

  Janie hesitates.

  She knows she shouldn’t say it.

  But she does. “She dreams about you. I’ve seen her dreams.”

  Carrie looks at her, confused.

  Janie sits, stone-faced.

  And then Carrie bursts out laughing. “Holy shit, Janes. You got your funny back.”

  Janie echoes Carrie’s laugh. “Gotcha,” she says shakily.

  Carrie takes a tentative bite of her fajita. “Hey, it’s good, kiddo.”

  Janie rolls her eyes. Now Stu has Carrie calling her that. “Anyway,” prompts Janie.

  “Hunh?”

  “Cabel?”

  “Ohhhh. Right. Well, since you dumped him, he’s been going whole hog on the rich girls. He’s got Shay wrapped around his little finger.”

  “Even though he supposedly got busted at her party?”

  Carrie giggles. “Who do you think he’s working with? Her father! They have a little ‘arrangement.’ Shay told me. How hilarious is that. Talk about a family business. And we’re not talking just pot.”

  Janie shovels food in her mouth.

  Carrie continues. “Shay told Melinda she slept with him.” She slaps her hand to her mouth. “Oh, my God. I did not just say that.”

  Janie is numb. And strangely begging for more. She wants to hate him. “Naw, it’s cool,” she says smoothly. “I’m so over that guy. He’s a big fake. Right?” She eggs Carrie on.

  “He IS a big fake,” shrieks Carrie, nearly upsetting the vodka bottle. She fills Janie’s glass. “No wonder he has all those new clothes, and finally got a cell phone. Sheesh. He’s making some bucks. I think it’s crack. But that’s just a guess.”

  Janie can’t believe it.

  He said he doesn’t drink. Doesn’t do drugs.

  She thought he couldn’t stand Shay Wilder.

  What a liar.

  “All the dealers lie, I suppose,” Janie says.

  Carrie nods, overanimated by the liquor. “They are pretty smooth. I just couldn’t believe it when I found out what Cabel was doing. But I knew he was a pothead three years ago, back after he flunked into our grade. I guess it goes on from there.”

  “Was he really a pothead then?”

  “I bought from him,” Carrie whispers.

  “You did?”

  Carrie nods again. “A lot.”

  Janie stand
s abruptly and takes the dishes to the sink. She begins washing them as the flurry of information sloshes around in her brain. He had sex with Shay? Janie’s whole body stings.

  When Janie comes back to the living room, Carrie’s eyes are glazed. She stares at the TV.

  Janie sits next to her. “So if Cabel is hot for Shay, why did he sit on my step all day, and why does he keep trying to talk to me?”

  Carrie looks at Janie. “Maybe he doesn’t want to lose you as a future customer. Or a good lay. Face it, baby, you’re looking hot these days.”

  Janie feels her stomach churning.

  She excuses herself to the bathroom.

  When she returns, Carrie’s lying on the couch, passed out.

  Janie turns off the TV. She cleans up the mess and gets a drink of water.

  October 23, 2005 1:34 a.m.

  She leaves Carrie on the couch, sprints through the yards to hide in the stand of trees near Cabel’s house. There’s a light on inside, so she waits. After a while, a car pulls into his driveway. It sits there for five minutes, maybe more. Finally, Cabel gets out and goes inside. When she sees all the lights go out, she deposits herself in the bushes under his window, stepping carefully around the crunchy leaves that insist on falling constantly the past few days.

  Luck is on her side when he cracks the window open an inch. She hears him now, and her heart breaks as he sighs and rustles around in the dark. She can hear his bed creak when he lies down, and she can hear him punch his pillow, getting settled for sleep.

  She wonders what he wears to bed. She is more than tempted to look.

  But she will wait.

  She must wait.

  She waits.

  2:15 a.m.

  He doesn’t snore.

  3:04 a.m.

  Janie, asleep in the bushes, is jolted awake. Painfully. Her body is paralyzed almost immediately, and she is sucked into his mind. Into his fears. His dream.

  It lasts two hours.

  The same scenes, on an endless loop.

  The middle-aged man, spraying lighter fluid, and then flicking a cigarette at Cabel. The monster-man in the kitchen, flinging a knife-pointed chair, hitting the ceiling fan, decapitating the middle-aged man. And a new one. Shay, the rich girl cheerleader, in handcuffs, hooked to a bed. Smiling.

 
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