Burn for burn, p.21
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       Burn for Burn, p.21

           Jenny Han
 
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  “You’re blurry,” Reeve mumbles, touching my face blindly.

  “Reeve,” I say. “Stop.”

  “Before . . . you asked about me and Ren. Now I want to ask you something. What about you and Lindy? What are you guys?”

  “We’re friends,” I tell him and force a swallow. “That’s it.”

  I expect him to say something cruel, the way he usually does when it comes to me and Alex. But it’s different this time. This time he lifts my chin, his fingers trembling. And he kisses me. His mouth is open and wet and warm. I try to push him away, but his hand is on the back of my neck pressing me toward him.

  All I can think about is Rennie.

  She’s going to kill me.

  With all my might I push Reeve off me. He staggers backward a few steps, totally off balance, and I’m afraid he might fall over the edge. The DJ lowers the volume of the song, and everyone down on the gym floor goes silent. Reeve shakes his head, as if he’s trying to get a hold of himself. He starts walking toward me again, but his arms and legs don’t seem to be listening to his brain. “Oh, no,” he moans. He turns and gazes into the crowd, like he’s looking for somebody, and inches his way to the edge of the stage. “Sorry,” he says, shielding his eyes from the spotlight. “I’m sorry, Alex.”

  Suddenly Reeve’s whole body tenses up. The color drains from his face. He whispers something.

  “Big Easy.”

  CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

  MARY

  BIG EASY. BIG EASY. BIG EASY. IT DOESN’T MATTER how pretty I look tonight. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’ll still be a pig. I’m Big Easy.

  I’ll be her forever.

  I’m still in my homecoming dress, I can see it on me, but it feels different. Like soaking wet jeans and a dirty, gravel-covered T-shirt. I rub my hands together, rub my arms. They look normal, my arms, but the skin feels tight and stretched, as if, inside, I’m ballooning to the weight I was when I was twelve.

  Suddenly everything electrical in the gymnasium rushes toward me, as if a match were set against hundreds of little rivers of gasoline. If you touched me, I would burn you alive. The hum of sizzling currents drowns out the whispers. The lights overhead, the extensions cords running to the DJ booth, the heartbeats of the people standing around me; it all comes at me. I am magnetic. With trembling hands I push my hair out of my face. Each strand is a live wire.

  He’s staring at me, stunned, disbelieving. Disgusted. I shut my eyes, but it’s too bright. There’s nothing but burning white inside me. It has nowhere to go but out.

  When I open my eyes, there is the most terrible spark.

  CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

  LILLIA

  EVERY SINGLE LIGHT IN THE WHOLE GYM POPS AT THE same time, and everything goes dark for a second. Then tiny bits of glass start to fall from the ceiling; yellow sparks fly like indoor fireworks. The DJ speakers screech out squeals of feedback interference. Everyone’s screaming and running for cover. The entire place is short-circuiting.

  “Lillia!”

  It’s Alex, pushing his way through the crowd to the edge of the stage. He’s trying to get to me.

  I’m almost to the stairs when I remember Reeve. He’s standing at the edge of the stage, looking out. His whole body is shaking.

  I run back to him.

  “Come on! We have to get out of here!” I grab the lapels of his suit jacket in my fists and try to pull him away from the edge. But even though I’m right in front of his face, he doesn’t see me. He’s somewhere else. I can tell, because his eyes are dead. Unfocused. He jerks free of my grip.

  And then I realize. He’s having a seizure.

  He shakes harder and harder, so violently I can’t hold on to him. “Stop!” I scream, falling to my knees.

  Reeve plunges off the stage and onto the floor in a twisted heap. His body is in a pile on the ground, his leg bent gruesomely beneath him. He’s not moving at all. Not even blinking.

  Someone screams, louder than any other voice, any other sound. So loud, it’s the only thing I hear.

  CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

  KAT

  AT FIRST I CAN’T EVEN TELL WHAT IT IS. THE NOISE. IT’S so loud and shrill, I have to cover my ears. Even then I can still hear it. So loud it’s like it’s permanently trapped in my ears.

  Then I realize. It’s Mary. Our quiet, shy Mary is screaming so hard that it hurts to hear it. I spin in a circle, trying to find her. But it’s too dark. And there are so many people.

  It’s pandemonium. Other girls are shrieking, and guys are yelling, and teachers are begging us to stay calm and head for the nearest exit. I’m breathing hard, trying to push my way through the crowd, throwing elbows to get to the door, bits of glass crunching under my boots. The whole gym smells like burning, and sparks are raining down from the broken lightbulbs.

  I turn around before I reach the door, and see Lillia, kneeling at the edge of the stage, looking down to the floor. “Call 911!” she’s screaming over and over.

  Finally I make it outside and suck in a huge breath of air. It feels sharp and cool. The kids who got out before me are hugging each other and making cell phone calls. The sound of an ambulance siren is getting closer and closer.

  That’s when I notice the tingle on my forehead, right at my hairline. I touch it gently and feel a warm wetness. My fingertips are red. The flying shards of glass. It’s not just Reeve. Other people could be hurt. Hurt badly.

  Lillia seemed okay, but I still haven’t seen Mary. A breath catches in my throat when I realize she might be stuck inside the gym.

  Shit.

  “Mary!” I shout, and try to run back inside. “Mary!”

  Senor Tremont throws an arm out to try to stop me. “You can’t go back in there, Kat.”

  “But my friend is inside!”

  He turns away from me, directing traffic, telling kids to keep it moving away from the building. A few feet away Coach Christy is limping around, checking to see which students are hurt.

  The ambulance arrives, flashing lights and sirens. The EMTs rush in, and a few minutes later they take Reeve out on a stretcher.

  I don’t see him moving.

  Girls are crying, girls that barely even know him. But I know him. I know he’s allergic to shellfish, I know he has a scar on his left shoulder from when his brothers pushed him out of their tree house. I know he cried for a week when his cat got run over. I know him, and I’m the one who did this to him. I put this whole thing in motion.

  Rennie pushes her way past everybody. She’s completely hysterical. She tries to climb into the ambulance with him, but the EMTs won’t let her. She drops to the sidewalk in a heap, crying.

  Reeve fell so hard.

  I can’t even let myself think it. I won’t, because there’s no way. We only gave him some E, not hard shit. It’s a party drug, for God’s sakes. So what the hell happened to him? What the hell happened in there?

  I have no idea where Lillia and Mary are, or if I should wait for them. Then I see her. Lillia. Alex is leading her by the hand through the crowd. Their hands are linked tightly.

  I blink.

  Lillia lets go of Alex’s hand when she spots Rennie on the ground. She runs over to her and helps her up. They throw their arms around each other, both crying. Alex is on the phone with somebody.

  The ambulance takes off, sirens blaring again. Some people are huddled around in groups, but the football players are already mobilizing. They jump into their cars and lead a caravan out of the parking lot.

  A limo speeds into the loop. Alex quickly talks to the driver, who’s got his head out the window. Alex motions to the girls, and they run over. Ashlin’s there too now, holding Nadia’s hand. They climb inside, and the limo peels out.

  I turn back toward the school and see Mary. She’s stumbling out the doors, as white as a sheet. “Mary!” I scream. She turns her head, but she doesn’t see me. “Mary!”

  CHAPTER FORTY

  MARY

  EVERYTHING’S SPIN
NING. IT’S LIKE I’M ON A TOO FAST merry-go-round. There are too many people; there’s too much noise. It’s all static. I’m walking, moving without purpose or direction, just following the surge of the crowd. I feel like I’m in a trance. I have to stop and steady myself against a building.

  And then Kat’s in front of me, and suddenly everything stops moving.

  I stare at the trickle of blood running down the side of her face. I’ve hurt her, too.

  “Are you okay, Mary?”

  I start to shake.

  You can only chalk up things to coincidence so many times before you have to face the truth. It wasn’t wind that day that made the lockers slam shut. It wasn’t a misstep that made Rennie almost fall off the pyramid. And tonight, the lights popping, the surge of electricity.

  It was me.

  Urgently, Kat says, “Let’s get out of here.”

  She reaches for my arm, but I back away. No. I am not leaving. I’m not going anywhere. Not before I know if Reeve is okay or not. Kat’s losing her patience with me, I can tell. “Mary. We have to go. NOW!”

  “This is my fault, Kat. I did this.”

  “Shut up, Mary. It was an accident. Reeve must have had an allergic reaction to something.”

  I press my lips together and fight back the tears. “You’re bleeding. I hurt you.”

  She shakes her head incredulously. “Are you serious? Mary, that was a power surge. Or something. Whatever. Please. I’m begging you. Let’s just get out of here, okay? We need to lay low and get in touch with Lillia.”

  “I never wanted to hurt him.” As soon as the words come, so do my tears. I cry like my heart is breaking, because it is. “Is he dead?” I ask, my voice breaking. “Is he?” When Kat doesn’t answer, I fall to my knees, put my head in my hands.

  Reeve might die tonight.

  It makes me want to die too.

  CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

  LILLIA

  THE HOSPITAL WAITING ROOM IS SO CROWDED, I THINK everyone who came to homecoming must be here. The boys are mostly on the floor or leaning against the walls, and the girls are sitting on the chairs and couches. I’m on a couch sandwiched between Rennie and Alex. Rennie’s head is on Ash’s shoulder, and she’s finally stopped crying. I want to cry, but I can’t. I don’t have the right. I am responsible for this. I am the one who put that ecstasy in his drink.

  When Reeve’s parents got here, I couldn’t even look at them. Ash whispered to me, “Mr. Tabatsky is crying.” I just kept my head down and stared at the floor. Mrs. Tabatsky had on house slippers. Rennie jumped up and gave her some tissues from her purse, and they hugged each other for a long time.

  Next to me Alex says in a low voice, “He’s going to be fine.”

  It’s not comforting. Because Alex can’t know that. Nobody can know that. They say he’s in stable condition, but they’re running tests on his brain and heart to find out what caused the seizure. He definitely broke his leg. They don’t know yet if the fall caused permanent damage to his spine. Reeve. Reeve the quarterback. Reeve, who loves to dance and goof off and swim, not being able to walk anymore? It’s inconceivable.

  I’m praying with all my might that the doctors don’t do a drug test. I know that was the point of tonight, to get Reeve kicked off the team. But what if someone does an investigation? What if they figure it out somehow, that Kat, Mary, and I were behind everything? What’s going to happen to us then? I wish I was there with them.

  When Alex gets up to go get the Tabatskys some coffee, Rennie sits up straight. “Lil, what was Reeve saying to you up there? On stage?”

  “When?” I ask, not meeting her eyes.

  “Right before he kissed you,” she says flatly.

  I feel my cheeks heat up. “Nothing. I don’t know. He wasn’t making any sense.”

  “From where I was standing, it looked like you kissed him back.”

  “No, I didn’t! He practically attacked me!” I lower my voice. “He didn’t know what he was doing, Ren. He must have had a lot more to drink than the rest of us.”

  Rennie nods. “He definitely didn’t seem like he was in his right mind.” She chews on her fingernail. “But you know how I feel about him.”

  “I swear, Rennie. I didn’t kiss him back. I don’t know what else you want me to say.”

  Rennie bites her lip and nods. A few tears fall down her cheeks. She wipes them away, then goes to sit near Reeve’s brothers. I get up and go to the soda machine. I want to turn my phone on and make sure Kat and Mary are okay, but using a cell phone at the hospital is against the rules. I guess I’ll have to wait until I can slip away.

  What on earth are we going to do now?

  CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

  KAT

  WE’RE SITTING OUT ON THE DOCK BY MY BOAT. MARY is quiet again. She hasn’t said a word since I finally managed to get her into my car. She just cries every few minutes. I sit next to her and pick broken glass out from the sole of my boot.

  Around midnight I get a text. It’s Lillia. Where are you?

  I text back that we’re at my boat and for her to get over here ASAP. I have no idea what to do with Mary. Is she having a breakdown? Should I take her to a hospital or something? She’s not hurt or cut anywhere, but the look in her eyes, it scares me.

  Twenty minutes later Lillia comes running down the dock. She’s breathless. I stand up. “How is he?”

  Lillia bursts into tears. “He’s in the ICU.” She sits down and hugs her knees. Her hair is falling out of its bun. “How did everything get so messed up?”

  I look away. “It was my fault. I thought we took out enough votes.”

  Mary wipes her nose on her arm.

  Tonelessly she says, “I gave the drugs to Reeve. I’m the one who took homecoming away from Rennie. I’m right at the center of everything.”

  “Don’t worry,” I interject. “No one’s going to suspect you of anything.”

  Lillia’s staring out at the water. “I don’t even know what to think right now. Reeve might be freaking paralyzed, you guys.”

  Mary makes a small noise.

  “He’s not paralyzed,” I say, as confident as I can. “Trust me, Lil.”

  “You didn’t see him. You don’t know.” She shakes her head, tears running down her cheeks. “I should go home. I’m sure my mom’s waiting for me.”

  I almost say, Wait. Shouldn’t we get our stories straight first? But then Mary finally speaks.

  “This is all my fault,” she says.

  Lillia sighs and shakes her head again. Wiping her face, she says, “It wasn’t your fault.”

  Mary’s shivering, curled up in a ball. “It was,” she says, looking up at me. “I know it was.”

  I fish my lighter out of my purse and light up. Inhaling deeply, I say, “It was all of us.” I take another drag. I let the smoke seep through my body. “I just hope we get away with it.”

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  To the JAR ISLAND HIGH Class of 2012

  PROM QUEEN: Zareen Jaffery

  PROM KING: Justin Chanda

  CLASS PRESIDENT: Carolyn Reidy

  CLASS VICE PRESIDENT: Jon Anderson

  VALEDICTORIAN: Anne Zafian

  NATIONAL HONOR SOCIETY PRESIDENT: Julia Maguire

  MOST OUTSPOKEN: Paul Crichton

  GLEE CLUB: Lydia Finn, Nicole Russo

  PEP SQUAD CAPTAIN: Chrissy Noh

  PROM COMMITTEE CO-HEADS: Elke Villa, Michelle Fadlalla

  EDITOR IN CHIEF, JAR ISLAND HIGH CHRONICLE: Lucille Rettino

  CLASS PHOTOGRAPHER: Anna Wolf

  MOST ARTISTIC: Lucy Cummins

  YEARBOOK COMMITTEE CHAIR: Venessa Carson

  EDITOR OF THE LIT MAG: Katrina Groover

  FUTURE BUSINESS LEADERS OF AMERICA: Mary Marotta, Christina Pecorale, Jim Conlin, Mary Faria, Teresa Brumm

  MOST SCHOOL SPIRIT: Emily van Beek

  PRESIDENT OF THE MODEL UN CLUB: Molly Jaffa

  DEBATE TEAM CAPTAIN: Jita Fumich

  MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED: R
iley Griffin

  JENNY HAN and SIOBHAN VIVIAN

  met in graduate school in New York City and have been inseparable ever since. They share books, pretty dresses, and a love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The idea for Burn for Burn began over cupcakes, as the best ideas usually do.

  JENNY HAN is the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, and We’ll Always Have Summer. Visit her at dearjennyhan.com.

  SIOBHAN VIVIAN is the author of The List, Not That Kind of Girl, Same Difference, and A Little Friendly Advice. Visit her at siobhanvivian.com.

  Also by Jenny Han

  The Summer I Turned Pretty

  It’s Not Summer Without You

  We’ll Always Have Summer

  Shug

  Also by Siobhan Vivian

  A Little Friendly Advice

  Not That Kind of Girl

  Same Difference

  The List

  * * *

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