The summoning, p.22
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       The Summoning, p.22

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 22

 

  “I was doing laundry, and D-?Derek came down, looking for—”

  Dr. Gill stepped into the room. My gaze shot to her. “Go on, Chloe. ”

  “H-?he wanted his shirt. I—I asked about stain stuff, because I couldn't find any and I opened the closet to look, and Derek said it was usually l-?locked. We f-?found the ladder and the crawl sp-?space and we were curious. ”

  “Oh, I bet you were curious,” Dr. Gill said, crossing her arms. “Kids your age are very curious, aren't they?”

  “I—I guess so. We were exploring—”

  “I bet you were,” Dr. Gill cut in.

  I realized what she thought Derek and I had been doing.

  Even as I denied it, I saw she'd given us the perfect out. If I just dropped my gaze sheepishly and said “Yep, you caught us,” they'd have their explanation, with no reason to go into the crawl space and discover those hastily reburied corpses.

  If it had been Simon, I'd have done it in a second. But Derek? I wasn't that good a liar.

  It didn't matter. The more I denied it, the more certain they were that we'd been fooling around. Dr. Gill had already made up her mind. If you find a teenage boy and girl in a dark, private place, was there really any question what they'd been up to?

  Even Mrs. Talbot seemed convinced, her mouth tight with disapproval as I blathered.

  And Derek? He didn't say a word.

  * * *

  Once we were released, I hurried upstairs to change my jeans before anyone noticed the pee mark. When I checked my head, I had two goose eggs, one from Tori and one from hitting that pillar.

  Back downstairs, I showed the smaller one to Dr. Gill, hoping it would support my story that we'd been exploring—see, I even bopped my head. She just took a cursory look, handed me Tylenol, and told me to lie down in the media room. Aunt Lauren was on the way.

  * * *

  “I don't know what to say, Chloe. ”

  Aunt Lauren's voice was barely above a whisper. These were the first words she'd said to me since arriving at Lyle House. I'd heard her arguing with Dr. Gill and the nurses earlier, demanding to know why they weren't making sure Derek stayed away from me, as she'd been promised. But now, with me, that anger had disappeared.

  We were alone in Dr. Gill's office. Just like Tori and her mother had been. While I knew this meeting wouldn't end in threats and bruises, I imagined I'd leave feeling no better than Tori had.

  Aunt Lauren sat ramrod straight, her hands cupped in her lap, fingers twisting her emerald ring.

  “I know you're fifteen. Even if you haven't really dated yet, you're curious. In a place like this, isolated from your friends and family, living with boys, the temptation to experiment—"

  “It wasn't like that. It wasn't anything like that. ” I twisted to face her. “We found the crawl space and Derek wanted to check it out and I thought that'd be cool. ”

  “So you followed him in there? After what he'd done to you?” She'd gone still, the disappointment in her eyes changing to horror. “Oh, Chloe, I can't believe—Did you think harassing and hurting you the other day meant he liked you?”

  “What? No, of course not. Derek isn't—He made a mistake. He didn't really hurt me and he didn't mean to do it. It was a misunderstanding. ”

  She reached forward and gripped my hand. “Oh, Chloe. Sweetheart, no. You can't fall for that. You can't make excuses for him. ”

  “Excuses?”

  “Maybe this is the first boy who's ever said 'I like you,' and I know that feels good, but this will not be the only boy who likes you, Chloe. He's just the first with the nerve to say so. He's older. He took advantage of the situation. At school, I imagine girls won't look at him twice and here he is, with a pretty girl, young, impressionable, trapped—”

  “Aunt Lauren!” I yanked from her grasp. “God, it's not—”

  “You can do better, Chloe. Much better. ”

  From the distaste on her face, I knew she wasn't talking about how Derek treated me. I felt an odd surge of outrage. Sure, I couldn't bring myself to pretend that I'd been fooling around with him. But I'd felt bad about thinking that way.

  How Derek looked wasn't his fault. He was obviously aware of it—and how others reacted to it—and it certainly wasn't like he tried to be repulsive. An adult should know better. Aunt Lauren should be the one giving me the you-?can't-?judge-?a-?book-?by-?its-?cover speech.

  Any notion I'd had of confessing the truth to Aunt Lauren evaporated. She looked at Derek and she saw a creep who'd attacked her niece. Nothing I could say would convince her otherwise, because he seemed like a creep. And nothing I could say would convince her I was really seeing ghosts, because I seemed like a schizophrenic.

  “Aren't you going to say anything, Chloe?”

  “Why?” I heard the chill in my voice. “I've tried. You've already made up your mind. ”

  She shifted in her seat, inching to the edge, closing the gap between us. “I'd like to hear your side. ”

  “Just because I'm in this place, just because I'm 'sick,' doesn't mean I'm any different than I was a week ago. Back then, you'd know something was wrong with this story. You'd have asked for my explanation before accusing me of anything. But now?” I stood. “Now I'm just the crazy girl. ”

  “Chloe, I don't think—”

  “I know exactly what you think,” I said, and walked out.

  * * *

  Aunt Lauren tried to follow, but I wouldn't listen. I was too angry. Too hurt. To think I'd fool around in a basement crawl space with the first boy who showed an interest in me? That really stung.

  God only knew what she thought we'd been doing. I was pretty sure her imagination had taken her way past the sweet first-?kiss stage. To think I'd go from “never been on a date” to “rolling around in the dirt with a stranger”? That was insulting. No, more than insulting. It made me furious.

  Did Aunt Lauren know the first thing about me? And if she didn't, who did?

  When it was clear I wasn't going to “calm down” and talk to my aunt, it was time for the next phase. The trial. I was summoned back into the office, with Derek as my codefendant and Dr. Gill and Dr. Davidoff as judge and jury. It was a closed court. Even Aunt Lauren wasn't allowed in.

  I didn't bother to argue about why we'd been in the crawl space. I'd moved well past the “Oh, my God, I don't want anyone to think I'm that kind of girl” stage. If they thought Derek and I had been grappling in the dirt, then at least it meant they wouldn't go into the crawl space and see the signs of disturbance . . . or, if they did, they'd figure they knew what caused it.

  Despite what Aunt Lauren believed, I was sure Derek was as horrified by the thought as I was. When Dr. Gill tried to get a confession from him, he only shrugged, and muttered “whatever,” arms crossed, big frame slumped in his seat, defiance in the set of his chin. Like me, he'd realized there was no use arguing, but he wasn't about to confess either.

  “This isn't the first time you two have… tangled,” Dr. Gill said finally. “And I have a feeling it won't be the last. We need to nip this in the bud, and the only way we're going to do that is with a transfer. One of you will have to go. ”

  “I will. ” I heard the words and it took a moment to realize they'd come from me.

  Was I crazy? Volunteering to be transferred when I was already worried about what such a transfer meant?

  But I didn't take it back. If one of us had to leave, it should be me. As frightened as I was of being shipped out, I wouldn't separate Simon and Derek.

  Still, I expected Derek to jump in. I don't know why—certainly not chivalry. But, it seemed only right to at least raise a token protest. The polite thing to do… which I supposed should explain why he didn't say a word.

  “No one's going anywhere,” Dr. Davidoff said softly. “For now, I'm putting you both on notice. But don't give me any reason to revisit this discussion. Is that understood?


  It was.

  Thirty

  WHEN THE DOCTORS DISMISSED us, Derek and I headed into the hall together. I tried to dawdle, fussing with an imaginary spot on my shirt and giving him time to walk ahead, avoiding any awkwardness. He parked himself in front of me, arms crossed, fingers rapping his biceps with impatience.

  I reminded myself of how he'd rescued me. I should be grateful. I was. Right then, though . . . I don't know. My head hurt and I was still smarting over my aunt's rejection, and when I'd offered to be sent away and he didn't argue, it stung. I didn't want it to. But it did.

  “What are you wiping at?” he whispered finally.

  “A spot. ”

  “There's no spot. ”

  I straightened, tugging my shirt down and adjusting it. “That's because I fixed it. ”

  I tried to step past him. He didn't budge.

  “We need to talk,” he whispered.

  “Do you really think that's a good idea?”

  “Simon'll be there,” he said. “Five minutes. Out back. ”

  * * *

  I really didn't think it was wise for me to be seen hanging out with Derek, even if Simon was there. So five minutes, later, I was in the media room, lying on the love seat, listening to my iPod, trying to lose myself in my music.

  When a shadow passed over my head, I jumped up.

  Rae stood there, hands out. “Down, girl. It's just me. ”

  I pulled out my earbuds.

  She draped her sweatshirt over a chair. “So what happened?”

  “Not what everyone thinks. ”

  “Well, duh. ”

  She settled in at the other end, feet pulled up under her, throw pillow on her lap, getting comfortable, waiting for the real story. She'd known me less than a week, and she knew I hadn't been fooling around in a crawl space with Derek.

  “I'll tell you later,” I murmured, “when we're in our room. ”

  “But you will tell me, right?”

  I nodded.

  “Good. So, how'd it go?”

  I told her about the meeting with the doctors and about Aunt Lauren. “It's one thing when strangers think you'd do stuff you wouldn't. They don't know you. But when it's someone who should? Someone you thought did?” I shook my head.

  “Yeah, I've had my share of that. At school, if I did anything wrong, I got hauled into the counselor, who lectured me on the temptations of the street and the importance of staying in school. It's, like, excuse me? Is there anything in my record that says I've ever been near a gang? Or that I don't think school's important? I get straight Bs, and I never skip class—go lecture someone else. ”

  She hugged the pillow to her chest. “I tell myself that's cool—they don't know me. But I get the same crap from my mom. Every time we get into it, she reminds me about my friend Trina. Ran away at fourteen, got mixed up in a gang, and killed in a drive-?by shooting. Hello? What does that have to do with me? There's a reason Trina and I weren't friends anymore. I'm not like that. ”

  “They mean well, I guess. But it stings. ”

  “The worst of it—“ Her gaze rose above my head. ”What do you want?"

  Derek circled in front of me and tapped his watch. “Did I say five minutes?”

  “Yes, you did. And I said it wasn't a good idea. ”

  “We need to talk to you. ”

  Rae started to rise. “Should I get the nurses?”

  I waved her down, then turned to Derek. “No. ”

  He pushed his hands into his jean pockets, rocked back on his heels, then said, “Simon wants to talk to you. ”

  “Does Simon have feet?” Rae asked. “A mouth? What are you? His faithful Saint Bernard, lumbering around, bearing your master's messages?”

  He swiveled, putting his back to Rae. “Chloe?” There was a note of pleading in his voice that made my resolve falter. “Chloe, pl—” He held the l, stretching it; and for a second, I thought he was actually going to say “please,” and if he had, I'd have given in, despite my reservations about being seen together. But after a second, he snipped the syllable off and stalked out.

  “Bye!” Rae called after him. “Always a pleasure chatting with you!” She turned to me. “You are going to tell me what all this is about, right?”

  “I promise. So how did swimming go?”

  “Okay, I guess. Nice to get out, but not much fun. Simon swam laps, I can barely dog-?paddle, so we went our separate ways. Nothing new there. They have a cool slide, though, and—”

  She looked behind me again and offered a cautious nod.

  “Hey,” Simon said.

  He perched on the love seat arm. I moved over to give him room, but Rae was on the other side, so I couldn't go far, and his hip brushed my shoulder.

  “I—” I began.

  “Don't want to go outside,” he finished for me. “That's cool. We can both hide out from Derek in here, see how long it takes him to find us. "

  “I'll leave you two—” Rae began, pushing up from the sofa.

  “No, stay,” Simon said. “I didn't mean to butt in. ”

  “You didn't. I hear chores calling my name, though, so I'll take off. ”

  When she was gone, I moved over. Simon slid down beside me. I gave him plenty of room, but he stayed close, not touching but almost, and I gazed at the gap between us, that scant inch of bare sofa, staring at it because, well, I didn't know what else to do, to say.
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