“Greer, wake up!” Someone yells frustratingly into my ear.
I bolt upright, covered in sweat and breathing heavily. I don’t know where I am and I’m utterly confused. It takes a moment for my vision to clear. Hovering over me with worried blue eyes, is Kaleb Nixon. He’s kneeling beside the couch with one hand still on my shoulder.
“Whoa, there.” He tries to calm me, a frown set deep in his lips.
“What happened?” I asked, running a shaking hand over my face.
“You had a nightmare. You were screaming.” He explains.
Gosh, I wish it was only just a nightmare.
“You okay?” He asks, squinting his eyes in concern.
My senses come fully back now and I can smell the chicken nuggets. I ignore his question and stand to my feet. My wobbly knees carry me into the kitchen where the tray of steaming nuggets is setting on top of the stove. I slept through the timer. Kaleb must have pulled them out.
I find two plates and start dishing out the chicken. I hand Kaleb his, pour BBQ sauce on both our plates, and make myself comfortable again in the living room. I’m acutely aware of how Kaleb is staring at me, but I can’t talk to him right now.
I didn’t want him of all people to witness what happens when I fall asleep. Every single time I close my eyes that night comes back to haunt me. It replays in segments until the memory finishes and then repeats itself the next night. Repeatedly.
The psychologists prescribed me sleep medicine, but I hate taking the pills. I hate sleeping. I try to keep myself awake long enough at night to fend off the nightmare, but I can never get rid of it. Every time I close my eyes it runs like a movie that won’t shut off.
I flip through the channels to keep my eyes and fingers busy. I can’t look at Kaleb right now. He still watches me, I’m very aware of that. I wish he’d quit. He’s barely touched his chicken on his plate, but I haven’t either.
Moments later, Kaleb catches me off guard by swiping the remote controller out of my grasp. He flips the TV off and turns to stare at me. “Excuse me!” I yell at him, finally making eye contact. “I was watching that!”
“You weren’t watching anything.” He counters. “You were flipping annoyingly through the channels.”
“It’s called channel surfing.” I set my plate down and cross my arms over my chest.
“You cannot just act like that didn’t happen, Greer.” He shakes his head. “You were screaming in your sleep.”
“It was a nightmare, chill.” I snap.
“Well, it freaked me out and I want to know why it happened!” He yells back.
“It was nothing!” I’m hoping he can see the pleading in my eyes.
He doesn’t, “Greer, you need to tell me what that just was.”
“No, I don’t! We’re not friends, Kaleb. Heck, I barely tolerate you. We’re project partners, nothing more. Let’s not pretend we care about each other, alright? It was just a nightmare, a onetime thing. So, drop it!”
He moves back away from me like I’ve hit him. For a moment, I swear I see pain in his eyes, but it passes quickly. He clears his throat and sets his plate on the coffee table. He pulls his jacket and shoes on. He stands far away from me and barely meets my eyes. “You’re right, dork, I don’t care about you.”
I watch him retreat to my front door, but I don’t say a word. He slams the door behind him as he leaves. I hear a car engine reeve up a moment later. I’m left in an empty house with two plates of chicken nuggets sitting before me.
I didn’t even like Kaleb Nixon, so why did I feel so bad?
The next couple of days pass by in a blur. Kaleb Nixon makes it his number one mission to avoid me at all possible turns. I’ve seen him in the hall a few times and he’s turned around to go the opposite way. He didn’t show up to English class this morning, or the two other classes we have together.
Usually, I would be thrilled to be free of the annoying leech that he is, but he’s my project partner. I know we still have two and half weeks until our English assignment is due, but I want to get it done as soon as possible.
Adam is waiting for me by my car as school lets out Friday. He has a wide smile on his face and instantly lifts my mood. He pushes himself up from the hood of my car. “Hey, puppet.” Adam uses a fake snobby British accent that makes me laugh.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of this little visit, dear friend?” I ask in my best English accent.
“I was just wondering what you’ve got planned for tonight.”
I shrug, “Probably whatever you’ve got planned, best friend.”
He gives me a sweet smile, “So, nothing?”
“Greer!” Someone yells my name from across the parking lot. I roll my eyes as I instantly spot Olivia Connors strutting towards me. She’s wearing heels that would break my neck if I tried walking in them. Her uniform polo shirt is two sizes too small for her and her skirt is five inches way too short. She’s flanked by her two friends as usual: thing one and thing two.
She stops in front of me and her eyes trail over me slowly. She purses her lips and I catch the look of disgust in her eyes. I’m instantly more irritated than I was a second ago. She moves her expensive hand bag from one shoulder to the other.
“Can I help you?” I question.
She gives me an obviously fake smile, “Actually, it’s I who can help you.”
“I highly doubt that.” I snap at her, crossing my arms over my chest.
“I just wanted to invite you to my party tonight.” She tells me, her eyes trailing over Adam for a moment. “Only the best people will be there.”
“And you’re inviting me?”
“Out of the goodness of my own heart.” She says sweetly. “I just thought that maybe we got off on the wrong foot.”
“Really?” I’m highly suspicious of what’s happening right now.
She nods, “So, I hope you can make it tonight. It’s going to be loads of fun.”
“I’ll think about it.”
She studies me for a moment longer, “Adam knows where I live.”
I look to my friend. He nods, but says nothing.
“Awesome,” She claps her hands together. “I’ll see you guys tonight then!” She turns around, her blonde hair almost hitting me in the face as she throws it over her shoulder. Thing one and two give me a small wave as they trail after Olivia.
“So, I guess I know what we’re doing tonight.” Adam says with a laugh.
“You really want to go?” I turn around to face him with a look of curiosity on my face.
He shrugs, “If you’re up for it. Her parties are actually cool.”
“You’ve been before?” That’s surprising.
He nods, “I went to one over the summer. She has a huge house with a pool.”
I think it over, knowing that this is a bad idea. Girls like Olivia Connors doesn’t just invite a girl like me to their parties. This is going to end very badly.
“Come on, Greer, I’ll protect you.” Adam knocks his shoulder in mine.
I cave, “Fine, but you’re picking me up.”
He agrees quickly, “I’ll pick you up around eight.”
I wave goodbye to him and climb into my car.
It’s two hours later that I find myself stressing over what to wear. I have my clothes strewn across my floor. I hate just about everything item I’ve looked at so far. I don’t know why I’m freaking out so much about it, it’s not like I care what any one at Arden prep thinks of me. Well, besides Adam.
I finally settle on a pair of black skinny jeans, a pale pink shirt with a high neck and no sleeves, and my favorite pair of Converse. I straighten my hair down my back and do my makeup dark. The girl staring back at me almost resembles the old me. This is how I used to dress every day. I put so much effort into my daily appearance that it was exhausting.
I hear the front door open and I assume it’s my uncle. I’m a little surprised because he’d tried to call me earlier to tell me he wouldn’t be home until extra late. My music is blaring through the house so I don’t hear anyone move through the hall.
My bed room door flings open a second later. My fingers fly on instinct to where I keep my switch blade. Leo would never just barge into my room. Once the initial shock dies down, I realize that it’s Kaleb Nixon that stands in my room.
“You’re a really violent person, Greer Evans.” He says to me, barely looking effected by the weapon I have pointed at him.
I sigh heavily and set the blade back down on my dresser. “What are you doing here, Kaleb?”
He crosses his broad arms over his chest angrily, “You’re not going to the party tonight.”
I scoff, my mouth hanging open for a moment. I don’t even know how to react to that. “Are you actually trying to tell me what to do right now?”
“I’m not trying.” He says, his tone dripping with venom. “I’m telling. You’re not going.”
“You’re absolutely mental, you know that right?” I question. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
“You don’t seem to be getting it, Greer. You can’t go.” He tries again.
“Just out of curiosity, why can’t I?”
He shakes his head and his jaw tightens. He doesn’t answer.
I shake my head and turn away from him. I gather up my jean jacket and phone. It’s almost time for Adam to arrive. I push past Kaleb and move into the hallway. “You know where the door is then.” I say to him as I make sure I have everything I need.
I hear him stomp his way towards me. He grabs my arm tightly and spins me around. He’s so close to me that his minty breath fans across my face. I feel the heat of his hand on my arm even through my jacket. My heart beats out of my chest. This close to Kaleb, I can see the other colors that dance in his eyes. They remind me of a midnight sky.
“You’ll regret it if you go, Greer.” He says in a whisper.
A second later, my door bell rings. I don’t answer it for a moment. I stare into Kaleb’s eyes for a moment longer. It takes everything in me to rip myself away from him. I cross the room to open my front door.
Adam stands on my porch and instantly spots Kaleb standing inside. My friend looks back to me quickly for answers. I don’t have any to give. “Um-are you ready to go?” Adam asks awkwardly.
“Yeah, Kaleb was just leaving.” I say without looking back to the angry, demanding boy that stands in my front room.
Kaleb pushes past Kaleb and me, anger evident on his features.
“See you at the party.” I call after him.
He climbs into his 1968 Shelby Mustang and powers out of my driveway. I instantly hate him more for driving such a cool car.
I don’t know why he showed up here to warn me against coming, but it doesn’t sit well with me. Even though he said I’d regret it, it made me want to show up at Olivia’s even more. I had a bad feeling about this.