Wake, p.9
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       Wake, p.9

         Part #1 of Wake series by Lisa McMann
 
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  But Mr. McVicker is asleep.

  He’s dreaming.

  Janie grabs hold of the wall as she goes blind.

  9:59 p.m.

  They are in the basement of a house. It’s lit moderately, and it’s not very cold down there. Janie sees gray leaves blowing and piling up outside the venting window. Everything is in black and white, she realizes after a moment.

  Mr. McVicker is perhaps twenty years younger. He stands at the bottom of the stairs with a young man, whom he calls Edward.

  They are yelling.

  Hateful things.

  Mr. McVicker looks horrified, and Edward storms up the stairs and out of the house, slamming the door.

  The old man tries to follow, but he can only move in slow motion. He tries speaking, but no words come out. He is mired by the weight of his feet, sinking through the steps.

  He looks at Janie, his face cracked and broken, lined with tears. And then he looks past Janie.

  Janie turns around.

  Miss Stubin is standing behind her, watching. Waiting. For something. She smiles encouragingly at Mr. McVicker.

  His face is anguished.

  Fresh tears fall from his eyes.

  He is sinking into the steps, and now he can’t move at all.

  Miss Stubin stands patiently, watching him, compassionate. She closes her eyes, and her brow furrows. She holds deathly still.

  “Help me,” he finally cries, as if it’s forced from his lungs.

  Miss Stubin glides over to Mr. McVicker.

  Holds her hand out.

  Helps him out of the stairs, which magically repair themselves. But instead of guiding him up the stairs, she brings him back to the starting spot of the dream.

  Miss Stubin glances at Janie and nods, then turns back to the old man and tells him something that Janie cannot hear.

  They stand there, Janie looking on, for several moments. And then the dream begins again.

  Mr. McVicker and Edward are yelling.

  Hateful things.

  Mr. McVicker looks horrified, and Edward turns toward the stairs.

  Miss Stubin says something to Mr. McVicker again. The scene pauses.

  Mr. McVicker reaches for Edward’s sleeve.

  “Don’t go,” he says. “Please. There’s something I have to tell you.”

  Edward turns around slowly.

  “Son,” the old man says. “You’re right. I’m wrong. And I’m so sorry.”

  Edward’s lip quivers.

  He opens his arms to his father.

  Mr. McVicker embraces the young man. “I love you,” he says.

  Miss Stubin whispers a third time to Mr. McVicker, and he nods and smiles. He puts his arm around his son, and they walk up the stairs together.

  Miss Stubin smiles at Janie and fades away. Janie stands for a moment in the basement. She is surprised that she’s not compelled to follow the old man. She looks around and sees bright green grass and petunias growing outside the venting window, and the basement walls have turned a soft yellow.

  Strange.

  Janie closes her eyes and concentrates, and she pulls herself easily from the dream.

  She’s still standing. She blinks Mr. McVicker’s dark room into view once again. Her fingers are barely tingling.

  How bizarre.

  But nice to see Miss Stubin. That’s for sure.

  She turns to leave. Out of the corner of her eye, she notices his call button.

  It’s on the floor.

  Out of reach of the bed.

  Janie hesitates, and then picks it up and connects it back to its clip on the wall. She turns the blinking light off.

  She looks around the room quickly, hackles raised.

  Closes the door behind her.

  Shakes her head, mystified.

  At the front desk is Carol, the head nurse. “I finished your charts, hon,” she says. “Where’d you disappear off to?”

  Janie points down the hall. “Mr. McVicker’s light was flashing. He’s all set now. I just turned it off.” Her voice is pure and smooth, and it catches her by surprise.

  Carol gives her a curious look. “His light wasn’t flashing, Janie.” She goes to the light panel, picks it up, and jiggles it. “Hmm,” she says. “Maybe it burned out.”

  “That’s odd,” Janie says lightly.

  She puts the charts away, grabs her coat, and punches out. The stamp says 11:09 p.m. “Welp, gotta go. School tomorrow.”

  She drives home, a fresh song in her heart.

  November 29, 2005, 12:45 p.m.

  Janie is obsessed with learning more about dreams. She wills people to sleep in class. And study hall, as always, is full of excitement.

  Janie practices on everyone she can.

  Most of the time, she fails.

  She still hasn’t figured everything out.

  But she will.

  By God, she will.

  Because now she has her very good friend Miss Stubin to help her. She suppresses the urge to skip down the hallways.

  December 5, 2005, 7:35 a.m.

  Cabel parks his new car next to Janie’s as she arrives at school.

  It’s not a brand-new car. Just new to him.

  But it is a Beemer.

  People on the south side of Fieldridge do not drive Beemers. Well, maybe the 1976 variety. Definitely not the 2000 variety. Janie’s mouth opens, and then she presses her lips shut. Shakes her head and walks toward the building.

  He’s right behind her. “It’s six years old, Janie. Come on.”

  Janie’s eyebrow is permanently raised as he tries to keep up with her on the way in to school.

  She loses him when he slips and flips on the icy sidewalk.

  Janie finds Carrie by the doorway to English class. “What’s the scoop on the pimpster wheels out there?” Janie asks her.

  “I don’t know, chica. He must be makin’ some big cake. I can’t believe he hasn’t been expelled yet.”

  “Has he actually been arrested?”

  “No. Shay’s daddy worked it out with the cops. Cabel was at all the parties this weekend with her.”

  “And now he’s driving that.”

  “It’s a friggin’ 323Ci convertible. Stu says seventeen grand at least for one of those, used.”

  Janie’s blood boils. “This is just . . . just . . . ” The anger swells, and she can’t come up with a word. Carrie is giving her the evil eye.

  “Unbefuckinglievable?” comes a voice from behind her.

  She takes a quick breath, watching Carrie’s eyes grow wide. “Shit.” She turns around and there’s Cabel.

  “S’cuse me, please,” he says politely, and squeezes past them into the classroom. Janie catches a whiff of the cologne he’s wearing. Her stomach flips against her will.

  Carrie’s eyes sparkle. She giggles. “Oops.”

  Janie rolls her eyes and laughs reluctantly. “Yeah.”

  12:45 p.m.

  For days, Janie’s been in other people’s dreams during study hall, with minimal success in helping them change the dreams. She is still puzzled by one thing.

  Make that two things.

  First, how did Miss Stubin get Mr. McVicker to ask her for help? And second, what was she saying to him to get him to change his dream?

  Sorry. Make that three. Three things.

  How the hell can Miss Stubin see in the dreams, when she’s blind? And how can she be there when she’s dead? Okay, that’s four. Janie knows. There are probably more than that, even.

  This is so frustrating.

  She knows she needs to work harder.

  And she’s losing weight. Rapidly.

  She was already thin enough.

  Now her cheeks look caved in, like her mother’s. And she has dark circles under her eyes, from getting up so often in the night, working on her own dreams.

  She finds Snickers bars in the strangest places.

  (She knows they’re from him.)

  (She wonders if they’re laced with pot.)
>
  Cabel has been sitting in his old spot again the past few weeks. But he doesn’t sleep.

  He reads.

  Janie sort of wishes he would fall asleep. But she also worries what she might see.

  Exams are coming. She opens her math book and studies it. Every now and then, she glances at Cabel, whose back is to her. From what Carrie said, he was at the Hill parties again all weekend. With Shay. And a lot of drugs. Janie sighs. Pulls herself out of the threatening misery and focuses on the math book again. Refuses to go there.

  1:01 p.m.

  Cabel’s head nods, and jerks back up. He shakes his head swiftly and glances over his shoulder at Janie. Janie looks down. Then he slouches in his chair and puts his chin in his hand. His hair falls softly around his shoulders and over his eyes. Janie reluctantly admires his profile as he turns a page in the book.

  His head nods.

  The book slips from his fingers.

  It doesn’t wake him when it thumps on the table.

  Janie feels his energy.

  She concentrates, and slips into his dream slowly. Another positive step—she’s learning to control the speed of her arrivals and departures. It’s much easier than —

  1:03 p.m.

  He’s sitting in a dark jail cell. Alone. Above his head is a sign that says, “Drug Pusher.”

  Janie watches from outside the cell.

  His head is down.

  The scene changes abruptly.

  He’s in Janie’s room, sitting on the floor, writing something on a pad of paper. Alone. He looks up at her, beckoning her with his eyes. She takes a few steps forward.

  He holds up the notepad.

  It’s not what you think.

  That’s what it says.

  He tears off that sheet of paper. Below it is another sheet in his handwriting.

  I think I’m in love with you.

  Janie’s stomach lurches.

  He looks at the tablet for a long moment. Then he turns to Janie and rips off one more sheet. He watches her face as she reads it.

  How do you like my new trick?

  He grins at her, and fades.

  The scene changes again. Back in the jail cell. The sign above his head is gone.

  He is alone. She watches from outside. His head is down. Then he looks up at her.

  A ring of keys floats in front of her.

  “Let me out,” he says. “Help me.”

  Janie is startled. She moves automatically and unlocks the cell. He walks to her, takes her in his arms. He looks into her eyes. He sinks his fingers into her hair and kisses her.

  Janie steps out of herself as she’s kissing Cabel. She walks away into a dark hallway and eases herself back to awareness in the library.

  She blinks.

  Sits up.

  Looks at him.

  He’s still asleep at his table.

  She rubs her eyes and wonders:

  How the hell did he do that?

  And.

  Now what?

  1:30 p.m.

  He slides into the seat across the table from Janie. His eyes are moist with sleep and mischief. “Well?”

  “Well what,” she mutters.

  “It worked, right?”

  Janie squelches a grin. Poorly. “How the hell did you do that?” she demands.

  His face sobers. “It’s the only way I could think of to get you to talk to me.”

  “Okay, I get that. But how did you do it?”

  He hesitates. Glances at the clock. Shrugs. “Doesn’t look like I have time to explain right now,” he says. “When would you like to go out with me so we can talk about it?” A grin flirts with his lips.

  He’s got her cornered.

  And he knows it.

  Janie chuckles, defeated. “You are such a bastard.”

  “When,” he demands. “I promise, all my heart, I’ll be your house elf for the rest of my life if I fail to meet you at the appointed date and time.” He leans forward. “Promise,” he says again. He holds up two fingers.

  The bell rings.

  They stand up.

  She’s not answering.

  He comes around the table toward her and pushes her gently against the wall. Sinks his lips into hers.

  He tastes like spearmint.

  She can’t stop the flipping in her stomach.

  He pulls back and touches her cheek, her hair. “When,” he whispers. Urgently.

  She clears her throat and blinks. “A-a-after school works for me,” she says.

  They grab their backpacks and run. As they slip in the doorway of government class, he shoves a PowerBar in her hand.

  She sits at her desk and looks at it. She raises her eyebrow at him, from across the room.

  “Protein,” he mouths. He gestures like a weight lifter.

  She laughs out loud.

  Opens it.

  Sneaks bites when the teacher isn’t looking.

  It’s not as good as a Snickers.

  But it’ll do.

  In P.E., they’re playing badminton.

  “I’m watching you,” he growls as they change sides. “Don’t you dare sneak out of here without me.”

  She flashes him a wicked grin.

  After school, Janie exits the locker room and looks around, then heads for the parking lot. He’s standing between their cars. His hair, dripping, has a few tiny icicles attached.

  “Aha!” he says when he sees her, as if he’s foiled her escape plans.

  She rolls her eyes. “Where to, dreamboy?”

  Cabel hesitates.

  Works his jaw.

  “My house,” he says. “You lead the way.”

  She freezes. Her stomach churns. “Is . . . is he . . . ” She swallows hard.

  He squints in the pale sunlight and reads the question in her voice. “Don’t worry, Janie. He’s dead.”

  WHAT BECOMES THE LONGEST DAY

  It’s still December 5, 2005

  Three o’clock.

  Janie pulls into Cabel’s driveway, tentatively. He pulls in behind her and jumps out of the car, grabbing his backpack and closing his car door gently. It clicks perfectly, solid. “I just love that sound,” he says wistfully. “Anyway. Follow me.”

  He opens the rickety service door to the garage. It creaks and groans. He flips on the garage light and takes Janie by the hand. The garage is tidy. It smells pleasant, like old grass clippings and gasoline. Next to the door that leads into the house hangs Cabel’s skateboard. Janie smiles and touches it.

  “Remember that?” she says. “That was a sweet thing for you to do. I hadn’t exactly planned on walking home that night.”

  “How could I forget. You slammed the gymnasium door handle right into my gut.”

  “That was you?”

  He gives her a patronizing smile. “Indeed.”

  They go inside.

  The house is tiny. Clean. Threadbare.

  She startles when she sees the kitchen. She’s seen this room before, in his dream. The table. And the chairs.

  “Jesus,” she says under her breath. She looks up. The ceiling fan is there. “Oh, God.” She turns and looks where the front door would be, where the middle-aged man came in, and it beckons to her. She drops her backpack on the floor, shuts her eyes, and covers her face with her hands.

  And he’s touching her shoulders.

  Wrapping his arms around her.

  Stroking her hair.

  Whispering, his lips to her ear. “He’s not here. It’s just a dream. That never happened. Never happened.” And she’s soothed by the words. She breathes him in. Her hands leave her face and find his shoulders, his chest. She touches his chest lightly, wondering if scars lie beneath his shirt. Wonders if that dream really happened. And then he’s kissing her neck and she’s falling, turning her head to find his mouth with her lips, and she’s tracing his jaw with her fingertips and kissing him hard, their tongues tasting each other madly, and he’s pressing into her and she into him, bodies shivering, like they
are two scared, lost children, starving, starving to be touched, to be held, by someone, anyone, the first one they can find who seems familiar enough, safe enough, strong enough to rescue them. They breathe, heavy. Hard. Their fingers strain at cotton.

  And then they slow down.

  Stop. Hold. Rest.

  Before one of them, or both, begins to sob.

  Before they break another piece that needs to be fixed.

  They stand together for a moment, collecting.

  And then he finds her fingers and strings them in his, and leads her to the living room.

  On the coffee table rests a stack of books.

  He looks at Janie. “This is how,” he says, his voice catching. “You know these books now, don’t you.”

  “Yes,” she says. She kneels next to the table and lays the dream books out.

  “I’ve been practicing,” he says. “Hoping.”

  Dreaming, she adds silently. “Tell me.”

  He sits beside her with two sodas and an apology. “I don’t have anything stronger,” he says. “Anyway. I read this book about lucid dreams and taught myself to dream what I wanted to dream about.”

  She smiles. “Yup. I did it too.”

  “Good.” He sounds businesslike. “What about the sleep clinic?”

  “Ugh. Great idea, but not cool, as it turned out. I went in, got stuck in a dream when the lab tech opened the door to the sleep room. Walked out.” She pauses. “It was Mr. Abernethy’s dream. I just didn’t want to know what that country-fried rube was dreaming about.”

  Cabel chokes on his Pepsi. “Good call.” He grows serious a moment, thinking. But then waves the thought away. “Yeah. Really good call.”

  “Huh?”

  “Nothing. Okay, so I first tried to dream me saying specific things to you. But I couldn’t get it to happen right. Too much”—he pauses, glancing sidelong at her—“too much came out of my mouth. More than I wanted to say. I couldn’t control it.” He shifts in his seat. “So I thought I was screwed. But then I thought of writing the words on the page. I practiced it a bunch of times, and the last few nights it worked.”

  “But you didn’t dream me into the dream. At least, not until the end.”

  “Right. Because I could control it better if I had myself alone, knowing that if—when—I dreamed it around you, you would be there.”

 
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