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     Tonight the Streets Are Ours

       Lilah Pace / Young Adult / Romance & Love
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Tonight the Streets Are Ours
Page 1

Part One

Welcome

Like all stories, the one you are about to read is a love story.

If it wasn’t, what would be the point?

Everything falls apart

“You can find your own way home,” Arden says to Lindsey, her voice shaking with rage.

“Home … to Maryland?” Lindsey asks.

The three strangers sitting on mildewing couches beside Lindsey look on impassively. The mannequin’s head, which hangs from a noose in the center of the room, sways gently back and forth, like it’s making eye contact with Arden, then Lindsey, then back again.

Arden hesitates. “I mean, if you need my help…” she begins, but it’s too late. Lindsey shakes her head. No. “Okay, then,” Arden says. “You’re on your own. Just how you wanted it. ”

“What’s her problem?” the girl with a ring pierced through the center of her nose asks Lindsey, sneering at Arden.

Arden has almost never heard anybody speak about her in that tone of voice. Her stomach twists, and she swallows hard, looking to the boy by her side for support. He nods, and that gives her the courage she needs.

“I’m over this,” Arden says to Lindsey. “Good luck finding your way out of here. ”

She turns and walks away, her legs trembling with every step. She focuses directly in front of her, navigating through the press of bodies and random sculptures of fairies and trees.

“Arden, wait!” she hears Lindsey call behind her, and she turns. But that must have just been her imagination crying out, because Lindsey is still sitting on the couch, talking to the pierced-nose girl, as if everything is normal. As if she doesn’t even care that Arden is leaving her.

So Arden squares her shoulders. And she keeps walking away.

Let’s go back in time

Two months before that night, back when Arden and Lindsey were still inseparable, when the only septum piercing Arden had ever seen was on punk rockers on TV and the only mannequins she’d encountered had been modeling clothes in store windows, shortly before the end of the school day on a Friday in February, Arden was summoned to the principal’s office.

A runner showed up at her Spanish class and briefly consulted with Senor Stephanolpoulos, and Arden paid no attention because when the principal needed someone, it never had anything to do with her. Instead she took this break in the class to try to make sense of her notes, which were supposed to illuminate the future tense, but which in practice just said things like Irregular verbs … something and Add “i” or “e” to end of words FIRST PERSON ONLY (??).

Spanish was not Arden’s strong suit.

“Arden. ” Senor Stephanolpoulos beckoned her. “You’re needed in Principal Vanderpool’s office. ”

There were a few “Ooohs” from her classmates, but halfhearted ones; none of them actually believed that Arden Huntley, of all people, would be in trouble serious enough that it would warrant a visit to the principal.

“I’ll take notes for you,” whispered Arden’s friend Naomi. Arden smiled her thanks. Naomi’s notes tended to be word-for-word transcripts of teachers’ lectures in stunningly legible purple-penned handwriting.

Arden lifted her bag and followed the runner out of the classroom, through a series of halls, and downstairs. Cumberland was one of those towns where land was at the opposite of a premium. It was in northwestern Maryland, so far west it was almost West Virginia, so far north it was almost Pennsylvania, a solid two-hour drive from the nearest big city (which was Pittsburgh), in a corner of the world that should have been called something like MaryVirgiPenn, but wasn’t. All Cumberland had was land. As a result, the high school was sprawling, mega-mall-size—and the principal’s office was at the other end of it.

Maybe Arden should have been nervous on that long walk to the principal, but she wasn’t. She suspected this had something to do with her mother, and as such, she flat-out refused to care.

Eventually they reached Vanderpool’s office, and the runner left her under the watchful eye of Mr. Winchell, the principal’s geriatric secretary. Arden waited on a too-small plastic chair that seemed better suited to an elementary school than to Allegany High.

When she thought Mr. Winchell wasn’t watching, Arden slid her cell phone out of her bag and texted Lindsey. GOT CALLED INTO VAN’S OFFICE. WTF.

A minute later, Lindsey texted back. Arden knew that Lindsey should be in Earth Studies right now, so either she was cutting or she was texting in the middle of class, both of which seemed like plausible Lindsey behaviors.
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