Evernight Page 12

The only other “outcast” I’d reached out to at all was Raquel Vargas, the girl with the short haircut. One morning we’d griped about the amount of trigonometry homework we had, but that was almost it for social contact. Raquel, I sensed, didn’t make friends easily; she seemed lonely but withdrawn into herself. Not that different from me, really, but somehow even more miserable.

The other students made sure of that.

“Same black sweater, same black pants,” Courtney sing-songed one day as she sauntered along, passing near Raquel. “Same stupid bracelet, too. And I bet we see them again tomorrow.”

Raquel shot back, “Not everybody can afford to buy every version of the uniform, you know.”

“No, I guess not,” said Erich, a guy who hung out with Courtney a lot. He had black hair and a thin, pointed face. “Only the people who actually belong here.”

Courtney and all her friends laughed. Raquel’s cheeks flushed dark, but she simply stalked away from them as the laughter got even louder. As she walked past me, our eyes met. I tried to show, without words, that I felt bad for her, but that only seemed to make her angrier. Apparently Raquel didn’t have much use for pity.

I sensed that, if we’d met somewhere else, Raquel and I might have found we had a lot in common. But as bad as I felt for her, I wasn’t sure I needed to spend time with anybody more depressed than I was.

I thought that I wouldn’t have been half as depressed, despite everything, if I’d been able to understand what had happened between me and Lucas.

We were in Professor Iwerebon’s chemistry class together, but sat at opposite ends of the room. Every moment I wasn’t trying to interpret the teacher’s thick Nigerian accent, I was surreptitiously watching Lucas. He didn’t meet my eyes before or after class, and he never spoke to me. The weirdest thing about this was that Lucas wasn’t remotely shy about speaking up to anybody else. He was quick to cut down anybody he thought was being pretentious, snobby, or hurtful—in short, virtually anybody who was the “Evernight type,” at any time at all.

For instance, on the grounds one day, two guys started laughing when a girl—not the Evernight type—dropped her backpack, then half stumbled over it. Lucas, strolling right behind them, said, “That’s ironic.”

“What?” Erich was one of the guys laughing. “That this school lets in total losers now?” The girl who had dropped her bag blushed.

“Even if that were true, it wouldn’t be irony,” Lucas pointed out. “Irony is the contrast between what’s said and what happens.”

Erich made a face. “What are you talking about?”

“You laughed at her for stumbling right before you fell flat on your face.”

I couldn’t see exactly how Lucas tripped Erich, but I knew that he’d done it even before Erich went sprawling into the grass. A few people laughed, but most of Courtney’s friends glared at Lucas, like he’d done something wrong by standing up for that girl.

“See, that’s irony,” Lucas said as kept walking.

If I’d had the chance, I would’ve told Lucas that I thought he’d done the right thing, and I wouldn’t have cared if Erich and Courtney and those guys were watching. I didn’t get the chance, though. Lucas moved past me as if I’d become invisible.

Erich hated Lucas. Courtney hated Lucas. Patrice hated Lucas. So far as I could tell, virtually everyone at Evernight Academy hated Lucas, except the goofy surfer-type guy I’d noticed on the first day—and me. Okay, Lucas was kind of a troublemaker, but I thought he was brave and honest, which were qualities more people at the school could stand to share.

Apparently, though, I would have to admire Lucas from a distance. For now, I was still alone.

“Aren’t you ready yet?” Patrice crouched upon our windowsill. The night outlined her slender body, graceful even as she prepared to make the leap to the nearest tree branch. “The monitors will be back soon.”

Evernight was policed by hall monitors every night. My parents were the only teachers I hadn’t yet seen lurking in a hallway, waiting to pounce upon any rule breakers. This was good reason to get out while we could, but I kept trying to fix my appearance in the mirror.

“Fix” was the operative word. Patrice looked effortlessly chic in slim slacks and a pale pink sweater that made her skin glow. Me, on the other hand—I was trying to make jeans and a black T-shirt look good. Without much success, I might add.

“Bianca, come on.” Patrice’s patience had run out. “I’m going now. Come with me or don’t.”

“I’m coming.” What did it matter how I looked, anyway? I was only going to this party because I hadn’t had the guts to refuse.

Patrice leaped to the tree branch, then to the ground, her landing as controlled as a gymnast descending from the uneven parallel bars. I managed to follow her, bark scraping my palms. The fear of discovery made me acutely aware of the noises around us: laughter from somebody’s room inside, the first fall leaves rustling on the ground, the hooting of another owl on the hunt.

The night air was cool enough to make me shiver as we ran across the grounds into the woods. Patrice could get through the underbrush without making a sound, a talent I envied. Maybe someday I’d be that coordinated, but it was hard to imagine.

At last we saw the firelight. They’d built a bonfire by the edge of the lake, small enough to avoid attracting attention but big enough to give warmth and cast eerie, flickering light. The students were huddled together, here or there, leaning in to talk in whispers or laugh. I wondered if this was the laughter I’d heard the night of the picnic. Superficially, they looked like any other group of teenagers, hanging out—but there was an energy in the air that heightened my senses, added tension to everyone’s movements and cruelty to most of the smiles. I remembered what I’d thought when I’d met Lucas in the woods during our frightening first encounter; sometimes, when you looked at certain people, you could glimpse something a little bit wild beneath the surface. I felt that wildness here.

Music from somebody’s radio played, trancelike and smooth. I didn’t know the singer; the lyrics weren’t in English. Patrice seemed to vanish into a circle of her friends right away, which left me standing alone, wondering what to do with my hands.

Pockets? No, that looks stupid. Hands on hips? What, like I’m angry about something? No. Okay, even thinking about this is lame.

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