• Chapter Four

    I didn’t see Sam for two weeks, but I didn’t think about it much because my dad broke my wrist. Mom told me to make myself scarce until it healed, so I lived with Nick and Corina on and off.

    “He’s a jerk,” Corina said.

    “He didn’t know what he was doing. He was drunk.”

    “That’s exactly what makes him an a*****e.” I’d had the same argument with Corina several times. My dad is one area in which we have to agree to disagree.

    Living with Nick was fun. It turned out that his mother had married some kind of business genius desperate to keep people from finding out about his loser step-son. Nick owned his own house and threw parties most nights. When I got home from work, I could usually skip right past the keg and head to the pot room. I didn’t smoke much, but it was enough to dull the pain in my wrist.

    “Ohmygosh, Haddy! Drugs are such a waste of brain cells!”

    “I get them from your boyfriend.”

    “He shouldn’t use them either!” She crossed her arms and glared at me. “I learned in my Health and Human Behavior class that—”

    “What?” I interrupted. She had dragged me out of the house to talk to me. “Did your teacher tell you that pot is a gateway drug or something? God, think for yourself once in a while, Cor!”

    Her eyes welled up, and two tears slipped down her cheeks. Corina is a dramatic crier; she has this ability to instantly turn into a blubbering mess. “Sorry for caring about you on Thanksgiving Eve!” she yelled, before running off.

    “Shoot!” I said. Thanksgiving was a huge deal in Corina’s family. Ever since her dad got cancer, all of her extended family came into town for the entire weekend to celebrate one more year of Bill’s life. I went back into the house and tried to call her, but she wouldn’t answer.

    The next day, I cleaned myself up and put on some of my more respectable clothes, covering my cast with an arm sock before realizing that Corina had made it for me. I bought some cookies from the grocery store and got Nick to take me with him to the Nelsons’ house. Holding my breath, I rang the doorbell.

    The door opened, and a wave of heat and chatter hit me. I had been to Corina’s Thanksgivings before, so I knew what to expect, but this time I was making up with her. I was terrified.

    Thankfully, her mother answered, so I didn’t get the door slammed in my face. “Come on in, sweeties!” she said. She gave both of us kisses on the cheek. “Hadrianna, dear, we must fatten you up this year. You need to eat to heal up that arm of yours!”

    “If it’s your cooking, Mrs. Nelson, I’ll be sure to take seconds.”

    “And thirds, I hope.”

    We shared a laugh. “Where’s Corina?” I asked.

    “In the old play room. Go along and find her dear.”

    The old playroom contained a ratty old couch and a scarred pool table. Corina was sitting on the couch, laughing with her cousins and drinking caffeine-free soda. Nick went over to her and gave her a hug. The scene made my heart ache for a real family.

    “Corina?” I said quietly. “Can I talk to you for a minute? I brought cookies.” I shook the box.

    Corina jumped off the couch and hugged me. “I’m sorry I yelled and I’m sorry I spout random facts.”

    “It’s okay,” I said, patting her head. “I’m sorry I’m such a jerk and that I don’t appreciate your intellect.”

    She smiled at me. “Are the cookies frosted?


    I smiled to myself as I walked back to Nick’s that night. If only everyone was as forgiving as Corina. A few sweets and a short apology, and she was your best friend again. I didn’t deserve her.

    I stopped outside Sam’s apartment and looked down at the box of half-eaten cookies in my hand. I rang the buzzer.

    “Who is it?” Sam’s confused voice sounded from the speaker.

    “Hadrianna Greene,” I said.

    “Hold on.” A minute later he was opening the door and coming to meet me. “What do you want?”

    “I’m here to apologize.” I thrust the cookies at him.

    “Thanks,” he said dryly. “I’ve always wished a pretty girl would give me half a box of cookies.”

    I blushed. “I’m afraid they’re a used apology gift. I’ve been busy.” Silence settled in between us. Scuffing my feet on the ground, I shoved my hands in my pockets. Sam was looking at me oddly, and I couldn’t stand it. “So…what are we?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Well, we’re not really friends, but we’re not…not friends,” I was starting to babble, an annoying habit I’d picked up from Corina. “I think you like me, and I know I like you-”

    “I do like you,” he said. He stepped closer, but I stepped back.

    “-but I shouldn’t like you. That’s the kicker.”

    “I guess you’d be right there,” he sighed. “I’m curious though. Why do you think you shouldn’t like me?”

    I took a deep breath. “See, when I was younger, I used to watch the news with my parents.” I stared at the ground while I spoke. “One night there was this report about a boy who killed his parents.” Sam had been fidgeting, but he stilled as I told my story. “There was this thing about a psychological disorder and some other stuff, I don’t really remember it that well. The point is I know you’re dangerous.” I looked up.

    Sam had his face in his hands. “You know about all that?” he asked in a strangled tone.


    “Why are you still here?”

    I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

    He slumped against his doorframe. “You’re right though. I’m incredibly dangerous to you, or to anyone. I may have gone through extensive behavioral training, but I crave blood almost more than life.” As he spoke he seemed to sink deeper into himself, and he reminded me more and more of me, when I was younger and didn’t understand why Daddy was so mean to me. “I loved my parents. I didn’t know why they were so afraid of me. I tried so hard to be normal and good like they wanted me to, but I couldn’t. One day, I was in line behind this girl- Wendy, I think her name was. Her veins were so close to the surface, and I couldn’t help myself.” He choked on his words several times. “After that, everything went downhill and that night...I just…just snapped. I couldn’t stop myself, and then they were dead and I was in the hospital and…” He took a deep breath. “I shouldn’t be around you. Jeeze,” he almost sobbed, “I’m not even supposed to be alone with a girl for another eight months.”

    “Should I go?” I took another step back. Corina’s voice was yelling in the back of my head. Something about a psychotic’s behavior when he feels cornered.

    “You should, but I don’t want you to.” I stopped moving, and he composed himself. “Please don’t call the police on me. I don’t want to get sent to prison.”

    “I won’t,” I assured him. “I’m sorry I reminded you of your past. Maybe next time I’ll bring more cookies.”

    He laughed. “What am I going to do with you?”

    “Nothing too gruesome, I hope.” We both grew serious. “We really need to talk about whatever this is we’re doing.”

    Sam nodded. “I agree, but this isn’t a good time.”

    “Tomorrow?” I asked.

    He shook his head. “I have to go in for an evaluation. It may take a few days.”

    “I can wait.”

    “I could call you when I get back,” he hinted.

    “I don’t know where I’ll be staying the next few days. I might be at Corina’s, but I might not be.”

    He sighed. “I don’t know why you’re not staying at home, but I suppose you’re not going to tell me until we get the whole confused feelings thing out of the way. Here,” he said, reaching into his pocket and handing me a cell phone. “I’ll call this phone when I’m back.”

    I clutched the phone to my chest. “Okay.”

    He stepped close to me, close enough that I could smell his cologne. “Good night, Hadrianna,” he whispered in my ear. My name sounded like a prayer spilling from his mouth. His lips brushed my cheek, and then he was gone up the stairs.

    Stunned, I stood there for a moment until I realized that I wasn’t breathing. I gasped and shook myself. I was getting way too involved with him, but I couldn’t will myself to stop.


    I took that phone with me everywhere I went for the next five days. Corina tried to tease me about it, but after I snapped at her, she quit. On the sixth day, I left it at Nick’s.

    “He’s not going to call,” I told Corina miserably. “He doesn’t want to risk seeing me, and I don’t blame him.”

    Corina rolled her eyes. “Maybe you’re better off without a psycho killer for a boyfriend,” she suggested.

    I glared at her, but failed to muster my usual menace. “I’m not sure I care about that.” I scratched at my cast. I was more than ready to get the damn thing off, but it would be another two weeks.

    “Whatever,” Corina said. “But since he’s not going to call you, maybe you should do something to take your mind off him.”

    “Like what?”

    “Like saying yes when Kevin Saunders asks you to the winter formal.”

    “What?” I stared at Corina incredulously. “He is not asking me!”

    “Yes, he is.” Corina crossed her arms. “You may be blind, but the rest of the school isn’t. The boy’s been after you since we were in fourth grade, and since he bulked up and got his acne fixed over the summer, he’s been building up the confidence to do something.”

    I still couldn’t believe it. “Are you sure? He’s never hinted anything to me, and we’ve sat next to each other in English for the last three years!”

    “You’re about to find out. He’s coming over here.” I looked, and sure enough, Kevin was walking shyly across the lunchroom. Corina picked up her tray. “I’ll catch up with you later,” she said and walked away.

    “Wait!” I yelled, but it was too late. I was forced to face Kevin alone.

    He sat down right next to me. “How’s your arm?” he asked.

    “Itches,” I replied. His elbow brushed mine, his skin uncomfortably hot. “What’s up?” I asked, trying to move him along.

    “Well,” he began, “the winter formal’s coming up.”

    “Yup,” I said. “I have noticed all the posters around school.”

    He rubbed his hands on his jeans and squinted at me. “Would you go with me?”

    I stifled a groan. Corina would never let me forget this. “I don’t know. I’ll think about it,” I told him.

    “Awesome,” he said. He tried to give me a hug, but came in oddly and ended up patting my back. “I’ll see you in English.”

    “Yeah, see you then.”

    I hit my head on the table. My life is hell.

    In elementary school Kevin had been smaller than everyone else, but had still protected Corina and me from the bullies- usually by getting beaten up himself. In middle school we’d grown apart, but thanks to Advanced English and a mutual hate of Sailor Moon, we’d renewed our friendship in high school.

    I didn’t make up my mind on what to tell Kevin until I got to Nick’s place after school. Sam’s cell phone was sitting on my futon where I’d left it in a fit of despair. The screen informed me that there were no missed calls and no messages. I picked it up and dialed Kevin’s number.

    “Kev?” I said when he picked up. “I think I will go to the dance with you. In fact, why don’t we meet somewhere and talk about it?”


    “Yeah. We can go to McD’s if you pay.”

    Fifteen minutes later, Kevin picked me up from Nick’s house. He and I sat in a chilly corner at my favorite fast food place. He had laughed when he realized that we both order the same thing every time we come here.

    “Double cheeseburger and M&M McFlurries,” he proclaimed, “are the food of the gods.”

    I closed my eyes and hummed in agreement.

    We shared a box of French fries, and right when he was getting to the punch line of a joke about two hookers and a toaster, my pocket vibrated.

    “Hold on a minute,” I told him. I went to a corner away from people and answered the phone. “Hello?”

    “Hadrianna,” Sam said, “I’m back.”

    I almost melted at the sound of his voice, but a strong anger swelled in me. I hadn’t known I was this mad at him. “You said you’d be gone two or three days,” I said.

    “Sorry. I had to go to a job interview.”



    “And did you get the job?”

    “No, but apparently it’s good practice for me to meet new people.” He paused. “I need to see you.”

    “I’m busy right now.”

    He seemed to note the frosty tone of my voice for the first time. “What are you doing?”

    “Um…” I blushed, “I think I’m on a date.”

    “…Excuse me?”

    “I’m on date with a guy from my class. He asked me to the winter formal, and I said yes.”

    Sam sighed. “You’re mad at me.”

    “For a guy who spent his teenaged years in a mental institute, you’re awfully observant.” I knew I was hitting low and regretted saying it.

    He growled. “I’m not forcing you into a relationship, Haddy. You knew what you were getting into.”

    “What relationship? And if you’re not forcing me, I can get out, can’t I? I’ll see you around, Sam. Or not!” I shut the phone with a little more force than was necessary and stormed back to Kevin.

    “Finally! I thought you’d ditched me!” He let out a nervous laugh. I just sat down and tore into my burger. “Hey, what’s wrong?”


    He leaned forward. “Just because you say that doesn’t mean I have to believe you.”

    I sighed and put down my burger. “It doesn’t matter. You can’t do anything about it and I can’t either.” I smiled up at him. “I’m glad you care, though.”

    He blushed and scratched the back of his head. “That’s what friends are for.”

    I scrunched up my nose. “I thought you asked me to the dance because you, you know, liked me, or something.”

    “Hrm?” He grunted. I reached out and touched the back of his hand. Kevin’s blush spread down his neck. “Something like that.”

    I don’t know what came over me. Maybe it was the leftover heat from my argument with Sam and maybe it was because I knew that my wrist would be healed two days after the dance, but I found words tumbling out of my mouth before I could catch them. “Well, I… might…like you a little…or something.” He looked too happy at my words, so I bit my lip and glanced away. I shouldn’t have said that. I glanced at Kevin’s watch. “Oh, crap, I’ve got to get to work. Would you mind giving me a ride? I need to grab some stuff from Nick’s.”

    “S-sure.” He nodded, still blushing. He was a perfect gentleman from then on. He helped me into my coat, opened doors for me and drove like a proper person instead of a hormone-crazed teenaged boy. Despite the regret I felt for flirting with him, his presence warmed me. It wasn’t the heart pounding, breath-stopping way I felt around Sam, but it was safer, more normal.

    Nick caught me at the door. He was going out to see Corina. “Your mom’s been calling, like, nonstop for an hour. I had to disconnect the phone.”

    My somewhat good mood flat lined dramatically. “I’ll visit her tonight before I go to work.”

    He nodded. “You going to be going back home?”

    I held up my wrist. “Not until this thing’s off,” I said, indicating my wrist.

    He grunted. “I got those chips you like today.”

    I was touched by his thoughtfulness. Usually he was too high to pay attention to my likes and dislikes. It seemed like my life was starting to suck less. Unfortunately, my good luck didn’t last.


    “Ohmygosh, that blue one looks way cute on you!” Corina squealed, spinning around in her own pink dress. She had bleached out the green in her hair for the occasion, not wanting it to clash with her dress.

    “You think?” I asked. I tugged the neck a little higher over my breasts, but it slunk back down to its original cleavage-baring position.

    “So totally! It brings out your eyes.”

    “Cor, my eyes are gray, not blue.”

    She rolled her eyes. “That’s exactly why the blue brings them out. The two colors complement each other.” She nodded sagely.

    “If you say so.” I pulled at the midsection, hoping in vain that the dress wasn’t as tight as it looked.

    “I do say so. Now let’s show the boys!”

    “I don’t think—” It was too late. Corina was already tugging me out of the dressing room to where Nick and Kevin were sitting with the coats. They stood up when they saw us.

    “Lookin’ fine, girls!” Nick said with a whistle. Corina giggled and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

    “It’s too bad the principal won’t let you come to the dance,” she said. “Then you could see me in it all night.”

    “I’d rather take it off you,” Nick replied, brushing her waist with one hand. Corina batted him off with a playful glare.

    “Look, don’t touch.”

    I was still waiting to hear Kevin’s verdict on my dress. After a slow glance up and down my body, his eyes traveled back to my face and politely stayed there. I nodded at him.

    He gave me a tentative smile. “You look…nice.” His voice turned up at the end, so the complement came out more like a question

    I blushed. “You’re just saying that,” I said, but I dropped my arms down to my sides.

    “Aw!” Corina squealed. “Aren’t they the cutest?” she asked Nick. He rolled his eyes.

    Kevin reached for my waist, but I shifted away from his hand, pretending not to see it. I felt a little regret after his face fell, but not enough to want to turn back time.

    After we bought the dresses, the four of us went to the food court. Corina and Nick got in line for Chinese, and I let Kevin pull me around the corner, feeling bad for the way I shook him off in the dress store. We were next to the gumball machines, and the area was mostly deserted. Unless they were really looking, anyone coming from either direction wouldn’t notice us. Kevin cupped my cheek with one hand and brushed his thumb against my mouth. My face got hot, then hotter when I realized I must be beet red.

    “Wh-what are you doing?” I whispered. I couldn’t seem to catch my breath.

    He was staring at my mouth as he replied. “I know we haven’t been going out for that long, Haddy, but…I think I’ve wanted to do this for months.” And then he was kissing me. His lips were warm, but they were wet and slippery. I was so stunned, I just stood there and let him do it. I don’t think I even remembered to close my eyes. When he was finished, he looked at me expectantly. “So…” he said. “How was that?”

    What was I supposed to say? I’ve had better? I just smiled and looked down, hoping he took my blush to mean that I was too shy to say anything. He was smiling when I peeked up at him.

    He was smiling. “Let’s get back to the others,” he said taking my hand.

    That moment I thought of Sam. If I concentrated hard enough I could remember his hands on my back as he pushed me on the swing. I could feel the brush of his fingers against my cheek. I had to wonder how such small things as that could completely overshadow a kiss from a guy who openly adored me.