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In your dreams, p.1
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       In Your Dreams, p.1

           Amy Martin
 
In Your Dreams


  In Your Dreams

  A Novel

  Amy Martin

 

  In Your Dreams

  Copyright © 2012

  Amy Martin

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, distributed, stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, with express permission of the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.

  This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  Cover image design by ninjaMel Designs

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Acknowledgements

  Excerpt from As You Wake (In Your Dreams #2)

  About the Author

  Chapter 1

  For as long as I can remember, people have called me “Zip.”

  And I don’t take it as an insult, either. Sure beats my real name, Zara, which my mom thought sounded all kooky and exotic and not like someone destined to spend her life in Titusville, Illinois, after high school. And while I’m grateful for her confidence that I’ll one day get out of this lame town, “Zip McKee” fits me better.

  “Zip” was one of several goofy nicknames my dad dreamed up, thanks to the fact that when I started crawling, I’d scoot around the house so fast my mom couldn’t keep up with me. According to my baby book, “Little Puddin’,” “Sweet Pea,” and “Motor Butt” were some of Dad’s other creations, but fortunately, “Zip” was the only one that stuck, lasting even after my parents split up when I was five. By then, everyone in town knew me as “Zip,” and outside of school, where my teachers insist on calling me “Zara,” I’m willing to bet most people in town don’t even know my real name.

  In addition to my nickname, Dad also gave me a love of basketball, the sport he’d played his entire life before he blew out his knee in college. I’m a natural point guard thanks to my speed, but speed alone won’t help me lead my team to a championship—I need skills. One of the skills I’ve been working on lately, beyond the usual stuff like three-point shooting and running the offense, is better court vision. Dad always says solid court vision combined with strong offensive leadership gives point guards a kind of clairvoyance. If I can take in the entire floor and know the set plays as well as my own name—or nickname—then I’ll see which of my teammates is open for the best shot almost before she shakes her defender. This ability to read what people are going to do before they do it will hopefully help me perfect the no-look pass—I’ll be staring at the girl guarding me, but I’ll feel somebody’s open and whip the ball over without the defender reading anything in my eyes.

  I haven’t mastered the no-look pass yet, and when I walk into school on the first day after winter break to find most of my teammates standing in a tight circle having a meeting nobody bothered to tell me about, I’m a little worried about my vision and leadership off the court needing some work, too. All the girls on the team get along, but I’m the only junior on our starting five. So while I’m the leader on the court, seeing everyone huddled around Marcy Gillette, our senior shooting guard, makes me wonder if she isn’t trying to pull rank on me or something.

  “Lanier,” I hear Marcy saying as I approach. Lowering the hood on my puffy coat, I stand at Cassie Newbaum’s elbow and listen. “They’re both juniors.”

  “What’s up?” I ask, everyone turning to me at the sound of my voice. Maybe my status as team leader isn’t under attack after all.

  “New students,” Marcy says, face flushed with excitement. She may be built like a typical bruiser of a women’s basketball player—six feet tall and arms bigger than most people’s legs—but give Marcy some gossip, and she turns into one of those cute little girls straight out of a teen movie, all giggly and whispery and wide-eyed. Her mother works in the main office, so Marcy’s always the first to know who’s been suspended or been chosen for this award or that honor. But after eleven years in school with the same kids, I already know who’s probably getting suspended on any given day, and the same group of ten people seems to win all the awards and honors, so most of the time, I don’t pay too much attention to anything Marcy has to say off the court. But considering she’s filling us in on the first new students to start school here in four years, for once, I’m interested.

  Ashley Keep, one of the other juniors on the varsity squad, blurts out the obvious question before anyone else. “They’re twins?”

  Marcy shakes her head. “No. That’s the weird part. Mom said the guy’s older, so he should really be a senior.”

  “Awesome. He’s slow,” Cassie moans, as if she thinks enough idiot guys already live in Titusville and we don’t need one more.

  “Or maybe he hates school,” I offer, because I think it’s unfair to label this guy “slow” when we don’t know him yet. Titusville’s small enough that if someone decides you’re something and can get other people to agree, you’re going to have a tough time changing minds later on. “You know, maybe he likes to cut class and get detention or whatever and he got held back.”

  The other girls nod at my theory because it’s just as realistic as Cassie’s, although it’s probably not any more fair. The delinquents around here usually drop out after junior year and go one of two ways: They either get a job at a gas station or fast food place out by the interstate, maybe getting a GED and attending the local community college later on, or they end up cooking meth in one of the junk rental houses or trailers in the north part of town by the abandoned refrigeration plant and wind up in jail at some point. Given those options, being labeled “slow” might not be the end of the world for this guy, whoever he is. “Or maybe his deal is none of our business,” I add aloud, expressing what I hope comes off as disappointment over the fact we’re standing here trashing a total stranger. And I laugh to myself that no one’s even bothered to say anything about the girl.

  “Wait—there they are.” Candace Hull points towards the doors from her position next to Marcy, which would allow her to see people entering the school before anyone else in the circle. We all do a lot of not-so-subtle looking at the floor, the ceiling, and the walls as we shift into a semi-circle in order to get a better view of the new kids. By the time they’ve passed through the second set of glass doors and stopped in the entryway underneath the “Titusville Junior/Senior High School. Truth. Honor. Respect.” banner in the school’s navy blue with gold lettering, we’re all stealing quick glances at them before averting our eyes as if we’re interested in something else. I raise my head for a second and notice four other groups besides ours standing around in the entry, all pretending not to care and failing every bit as spectacularly as we are.

  “Oh, wow. Check him out,” Cassie hisses, but loudly enough everyone in the group can hear. The siblings are talking to each other about something, and the boy points in the directio
n of the main office.

  “He looks like Brad Pitt,” Candace mumbles, stealing glances at him through a curtain of red hair.

  “Brad Pitt?” Marcy somehow manages to shriek and keep her voice at a whisper at the same time. “Brad Pitt’s, like, a million years old.”

  “Not Brad Pitt now, stupid. Go rent Fight Club and you’ll totally get what I’m talking about.”

  “Well, the girl looks like a nice person, I guess.” I say this as Brad—Wallace, not Pitt—approaches the newbies. Brad’s our Student Body President, football and track team captain, and the type of all-around decent guy who would do his presidential best to welcome the new students. Burying my hands in my coat pockets, I watch as he shakes the girl’s hand first and then her brother’s, engaging them in what I assume is a “Welcome to Titusville Junior/Senior High. Let me know if I can answer any questions for you” sort of conversation. The three hold polite smiles, and there’s a lot of nodding going on. And I notice Brad can’t take his eyes off the girl.

  “Well, anyone can look nice,” Cassie points out, probably an automatic reflex after years of “stranger danger” lectures before we got to high school. Sure, the girl could seem normal, but in reality, she’s probably a serial killer looking to make one of us her next victim. “But I guess she is kind of pretty, though,” Cass admits, allowing herself a three-second stare.

  As Brad talks to her, the girl fingers the end of a jet-black braid slung over her shoulder, and her eyes—the same deep blue as her ski coat—pop out against her pale skin. Turning my attention to her brother, I decide I have to give it up to Candace, because if you tilt your head just right and squint, the guy kind of does resemble a young Brad Pitt without the tan. His skin is just as pale as his sister’s, and his short hair’s a little darker than Brad Pitt’s, lending some authority to Candace’s Fight Club Brad Pitt description because I think his hair was kind of black in that one. While this guy’s got a similar square jaw line, his nose shatters the Brad Pitt image as it’s bigger and flatter than your average movie star nose. I’m guessing he must have broken it at some point because it reminds me of my dad’s nose, which caught an elbow during a pick-up game the summer before he started college.

  Brad gestures at the main office and the trio head inside as the warning bell sounds, provoking groans all around from our little group. The seniors among us shuffle out of the lobby toward their first-floor lockers, while Cassie, Ashley, and I walk upstairs to the junior hallway, where I nestle into my favorite seat in the back corner of Mrs. Harvey’s Advanced English class. People looking at me without my knowledge is sort of a pet peeve, so I’m a back-of-the-room kind of girl whenever possible.

  “Okay, everybody. Settle down.” Mrs. Harvey shushes us after the bell. “Over the break, you were supposed to read the first three chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird. So for today…”

  Someone knocks on the classroom door, and when Mrs. Harvey crosses from her desk to answer, the low murmur of unsupervised students immediately starts to bubble up but comes to a dead stop as the mystery siblings enter the room.

  “Class, we have some new students joining us,” Mrs. Harvey announces, as if we’re too dumb to figure that one out on our own. “This is Kieran Lanier…”

  She nods at Kieran, who stands closest to her. On cue, he takes his hand from his front jeans pocket and gives the class a quick wave hello.

  “And Kayla Lanier.”

  Kayla flashes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it smile.

  “Well, if the two of you could find seats and we’ll…” Mrs. Harvey stops short, realizing the only seat left in what’s one of the school’s smaller classrooms happens to be right in front of her. “Oh, well, I’m so sorry,” she apologizes, blushing a little as if she’s an embarrassed hostess and the Laniers are guests in her home. “There’s a chair in the back that’ll have to do for today, unfortunately. I’ll talk to the custodial staff after school about getting another desk in here.”

  She nods in my general direction at a folding chair leaning against the back wall about a foot from my desk. Without a word, Kayla slides into the front desk and shoves her backpack in the space underneath, while Kieran shuffles along next to the windows, head down and hands in his hoodie pockets, eventually passing next to me and continuing behind. His backpack hits the floor and the low squeak the chair releases as he unfolds it makes me flinch.

  “So, To Kill a Mockingbird.” Mrs. Harvey picks up where she left off. “I’d like for us to do a think-pair-share…”

  Wonderful. The think-pair-share. We’ll spend a few minutes writing on some aspect of the reading we found interesting, troubling, confusing, or whatever, and then we’ll pair up with someone and talk about what we wrote before Mrs. Harvey randomly calls on pairs to share their discussion with the entire class, getting to as many people as possible before the bell rings. I swear we do this every other day, and I’m starting to wonder if Mrs. Harvey knows any different teaching techniques because she did this a lot in Freshman English, too.

  “I’d like you to choose some aspect of the reading you found interesting and write for five minutes, explaining why it was so interesting to you…”

  I’m already scribbling my thoughts across an empty notebook page. No sense in waiting for her to finish.

  “And then I’ll ask you to pair up with someone to discuss. If you finish before time’s up, you may sit quietly and read. Kayla and Kieran, I’ll bring copies of the book to you while the others are writing.”

  Mrs. Harvey moves about as we write, retrieving two copies of To Kill a Mockingbird from the metal bookshelf at the front of the room and walking over first to Kayla and then to Kieran, her pumps tap-tapping on the floor as she travels. I finish my response with about a minute to spare and spend the remaining time pretending to read since I’ve read the book several times already. What I’m really concentrating on, however, is the fact that some guy I don’t know is sitting behind me, probably staring at my back, ruining the security I usually revel in when I sit in the back of the room. Reaching over my shoulder, I smooth the strands of my dark blonde ponytail before letting my hand travel to the back collars of my long sleeved shirt and the short sleeved one that I’m wearing over it. Good—my usually wayward hair is as tame as it’s going to get and my tags aren’t sticking up. I smile at myself for being so stupid. New Guy probably isn’t paying any attention to me. If anything, he’s reading, trying to get caught up. Part of me wants to turn around, while part of me is afraid that if I do, he’ll catch me looking to make sure he isn’t looking at me and he’ll think I’m totally lame.

  “Okay, everyone—pair up,” Mrs. Harvey commands.

  I hate this part, and today, with two new people to throw off the dynamic, pairing up is more of a pain than usual. Janie Masters, who’s sitting next to me, turns her desk away to work with Corey Souther on her other side before I can ask to be her partner. I lean forward to tap Rick Matthews on the back, but before I can, a hand on my shoulder prompts me to turn around. New Guy’s smiling at me, and when I glance over at Rick, he’s already scooted his desk closer to Debbie Solomon and is lost to me as a partner, at least for today.

  “I’ve read the book a million times. It’s one of my favorites,” New Guy tells me when I turn my desk around, as if he feels the need to convince me that he’ll be a worthy discussion partner. I crane my neck to find he’s written a paragraph in his notebook, the margins decorated with several little sunburst doodles, beams snaking from the round suns like Medusa’s hair.

  “Yeah. I love it, too. I read it for the first time when I was, like, eleven, I think.”

  “Don’t most schools read To Kill a Mockingbird around eighth or ninth grade or something?” New Guy asks, keeping his voice low as if he’s afraid he’ll be insulting Mrs. Harvey, the school district, and the entire town of Titusville if anyone else hears him.

  “Well, that’s Titusville for you. We’re always at least two years behind on everything, Advanced Junior English incl
uded. In fact, our town motto is ‘Titusville—just a little less advanced than everywhere else’.” I intend to crack a smile so he knows I’m sort of kidding, but he’s already laughing before I can, revealing a set of teeth even whiter than his pale skin.

  “Good to know. And your name is…?”

  “Zip McKee.”

  His brow wrinkles, forcing his nose to scrunch up towards his eyes. “Zip? Your name is Zip?”

  Okay—this is different. With so few newbies around here, I don’t remember having to explain my nickname to anyone before.

  “It’s…it’s not my real name,” I stammer.

  “I figured. Either that, or your parents are really interesting people.”

  “My parents are pretty interesting, actually,” I say, recovering from my embarrassment. “But ‘Zip’ is what everyone’s always called me.”

  “Because of your great love of zippers, of course.”

  Now it’s my turn to laugh. “No. Because I’m fast.”

  “So you’re a runner?” He leans forward to rest his elbows on my desk.

  “Sort of. I play basketball, so I run a lot. I’m not on the track team, though—not that they haven’t tried to talk me into it. But I’ve always been a ‘one sport only’ kind of girl.”

  “Kayla’s a runner,” he says, nodding toward the front of the room where his sister has paired up with Cathy Davie. Their desks are angled sideways just enough so Kayla can keep an eye on her brother. She sends me a forced smile and leans back in her desk to glance at Kieran, her face relaxing a bit once she’s caught sight of him.

  “Sprint or long distance?” I ask when I turn to him again.

  “Distance.”

  “Cool,” I say. “The track team starts working out in late February if she’s interested.”

  “I’ll let her know.” He flashes a crooked grin, the left side of his mouth slightly higher than the right, and shifts the conversation away from his sister. “So, Zip McKee, what aspect of the reading did you find particularly interesting?”

  “Should I just read what I wrote or—”

  “Yeah,” he says, eyeing my notebook scrawl. “Entertain me.”

  “Okay.” I take a deep breath and begin revealing my not-quite masterpiece. “The aspect of last night’s reading that I found most interesting was how Maycomb’s educational system fails its students, but in different ways. Miss Caroline shows her inability to understand her students through her dealings with Walter Cunningham and Burris Ewell, but her behavior toward Scout also displays…”

  Knowing that when you read aloud you should look up every once in a while to gauge your audience’s level of interest, I do so and discover I’m failing to entertain him as requested. Kieran’s right elbow teeters on the corner of my desk, his head tilted and propped up by his fist—if he’s not asleep, he’s pretty close, his eyes looking like little more than slits with eyelashes protruding from them.

  “Am I boring you?”

  He doesn’t move. I lean forward and wave my hands back and forth a millimeter from his face.

  Nothing.

  “Hey? Kieran?” I snap my fingers next to his ear—still nothing. He’s a peaceful little oasis, an island of calm, snoozing away as if he’s home in bed and not in the back of a classroom filled with the buzz of chattering students.

  I decide to try one more thing to wake him up, even though I’ll probably piss him off by doing so. Sitting up straight, I draw my right hand back near my shoulder and then push forward, leveling a rough blow against Kieran’s left shoulder. But rather than jerking awake and yelling at me, his head slips from his fist to his bicep. Hand shaking, I reach out to his raised upper arm, but instead of responding to my touch, his fingers remain balled into an immovable fist, his skin feeling stiff and cold on my fingertips.

  The term rigor mortis pops into my head.

 
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