Name: Lisa Basso
Genre: YA Paranormal
Chapter One – My Freaking Life
Not in the damn hallway. Anywhere but here.
The instant my knees hit the ground I know. My insomnia is killing me from the inside out. I struggle to pick myself up, but the sweat on my palms turns cold, tacking my hand to the faded mauve linoleum. The faint odor of disinfectant and dirty sneakers wafts up, stinging my nostrils while the other students walk around me.
My pulse thrums erratically in my ears. White film spots my vision.
I can’t control anything anymore. Sleep is such a cruel and distant idea by now that when my energy seeps out, threatening to pull me into unconsciousness, the only thing I can do is wait it out. Slumped against a set of coral half-lockers, I watch the Santa Cruz High School crowd thin.
Only one more period, then I can go home, deal with this in private.
Other than a “whoa,” from one kid and a “doing okay, there, Grace,” from another, I’m ignored. By everyone except for the guy standing by the window. His tall frame casts a shadow across the floor, draping over me like a psychopath in a movie.
I open my mouth to spit out a nasty comment, but the sight of him stops me. I grow even colder. He’s dressed all in black, some emo kid hoping to get off on witnessing my meltdown, but the chill that pricks my spine warns of something different. Something dangerous.
A hood shrouds his face, making him impossible to identify. Harnessing my anger, I turn a scowl at him.
He ghosts away from the window so fast I swear he hit fast forward, zooming dead at me. He hits the brakes, stopping on a dime mere inches from where I’ve collapsed.
A couple holding hands swerve to avoid us. She’s wearing the ugliest purple jeans I’ve ever seen and he’s stuffed into too tight corduroys. Emo kid is still in black—no, not in black, in shadows. As if they’re cloaked around him, sealing all of him off from the light.
He makes no move to help—just like everybody else.
The sweat subsides and the spots from my vision clear. “I don’t know what your damn problem is, but—”I slam my fist down on what should be his foot to punctuate my annoyance. Black smoke disperses, wafting up and filling my nostrils with the smell of a thousand trees crackling in a forest fire. My hand smashes with a thwak on the scuffed mauve linoleum. Emo kid still stands there, without a freaking foot.
My heart leaps into my throat, chocking back my hiss of pain. I scramble back on my hands and knees, slamming my head into a locker. Pain flares behind my eyes and my long hair tangles with the Master Lock. Darkness, something blacker than tar hovers toward me. The stench of acrid smoke invades me again as this smoky liquid leaves his body and wraps around my wrist. I can’t feel it attach to me, but I see the thick thread that links us.
A cold chill of fear freezes me. For a moment I try to convince myself none of this is real. Sucking in a gulp of burnt air helps me remember my industrial-strength self, the almost tough person I’ve become in the last five months since Jake’s death. Determined to land a kick in crazy emo kid’s family jewels, I try to jerk my arm away, only I can’t move. My hand is glued to the floor, held there by the shadows, left to watch as they swirl up my wrist and around my arm. I grit my teeth, refusing to let out a whimper.
“Grace? Are you okay?” The shadows expand then float away like moths caught by a gust of air as Raf darts across the hall. The black disperses like smoke, leaving no trace, no proof of its presence.
What. The hell. Was that?
Emo kid, or whatever he was, is gone too.
“Did you fall?” Raf takes my hand and pulls me to my feet. “Or pass out?” Once I’m steady, he drops his hand and wipes it on the bottom of his green polo shirt.
“Uh,” I fight for focus, but my serious lack of sleep pelts me again with the inability to recover from whatever just happened.
“Do you want me to take you—”
Finally my mind jumpstarts. “Not the nurse!” I belt out a little too quick. “I didn’t pass out. Everything’s fine. See?” I try to paste on a smile, but I’m sure it looks more like I’m about to have a dentist check-up. Another major fail.
Raf twists his lips to the side, probably trying to decide whether he believes me or not.
I allow myself to look at him, really look. I hold onto the breath I tend to lose whenever I see his face. His faintly freckled skin, stubbled chin, too amazing lips, and those color saturated sea green eyes causes giddiness to swim in my stomach. Crap.
Emo kid couldn’t have been real. Get a grip…and stop ogling your second best friend!
The bell for last period rings. Doors to classrooms close all around us emptying the halls.
“Want me to walk you to class?” He asks.
“No, thanks. I’ve got it.” I think.
The way he hangs back while I take control of my feet and push forward tells me this isn’t over. I beat him to the punch before we both end up with detention. “Do me a favor and don’t tell Pen about my hallway sideshow. She worries enough.” The last thing I need is another lecture from Penelope, my very best friend and toughest critic.
Raf sighs so softly I almost don’t hear it. “If you promise to get a good night’s sleep, Pen will never know.”
I pause near the end of the hall and close my eyes, taking a deep breath before casting one last glance over my shoulder at Raf, unable to avoid the place where that shadow thing had been. Raf ducks into his class, and there’s no sign of any shadows.
I have to get some sleep tonight.
* * *
One night without sleep is fine. Two? Not so bad. But eight?
Hell. On. Freaking. Earth.
Blah, blah, blah. My mind won’t shut up. I listen to my thoughts prattle on until I hear Dad leave The Office That Vacuum-Sales-Built (which isn’t really true because he’s still getting the internet side of the biz off the ground) and shuffle up to bed. The green glow of the clock says it’s ten to midnight.
I turn in bed three or four times before I reach over and thumb through my cell.
R u still up? I send the text to Pen, my best friend since sixth grade. I try to keep her away from my non-sleep schedule most of the time so she doesn’t worry, but tonight I need her. Tonight, somehow it’s worse.
Ten more very loud—in my head—minutes pass. Advanced SAT Prep must do the trick to knock her out.
Any chance ur up? This one goes to Raf.
In freshman year, when we first met in Bio class, I thought maybe I had a sand-grain sized thing for him.