Evernight Page 18

Lucas’s eyes lit up. “I love movies—old, new, whatever. John Ford to Quentin Tarantino, it’s all good.”

Relieved, I smiled back at him. Maybe everything really was about to be fine.

Later that week, the seasons shifted overnight. The cold awakened me first thing in the morning, and I could feel the change down in my bones.

I pulled the blankets more tightly around me, but that didn’t do much good. Fall had laced the windowpanes with frost. I’d need to pull down the heavy comforter from the top shelf of my closet later; from now on, it would be harder to stay warm.

The light was still soft and pink, and I knew it was just past dawn. Groaning, I sat up and resigned myself to being awake. I could’ve fetched the comforter and tried to snatch a few more hours of sleep, but I needed to get in some work on my English paper on Dracula or face yet more of the wrath of Mrs. Bethany. So I slipped into my robe and tiptoed past Patrice, who slept soundly, as if the cold couldn’t penetrate the thin sheet over her.

Evernight’s bathrooms had been built in an earlier era, one in which students were probably so grateful to have an indoor toilet that they weren’t picky about things like plumbing. Too few stalls, no conveniences like electrical outlets or even mirrors, and separate faucets for hot and cold water in the tiny sinks—I’d hated them from the start. At least by now I had learned to scoop a handful of icy water in my palm before letting the steaming-hot water pour into that. This way, I could wash my face without scalding my fingers. The tile was so chilly against my bare feet that I made a mental note to wear socks to bed until spring.

As soon as I turned off the faucets, I heard something else—crying, soft and quiet. I patted my face dry with my washcloth as I walked toward the sound. “Hello? Is somebody there?”

The sniffling stopped. Just when I thought I was intruding, Raquel’s face peeked out of one of the stalls. She wore pajamas and the tan-leather braided bracelet that she always seemed to have on. Her eyes were red. “Bianca?” she whispered.

“Yeah. Are you okay?”

She shook her head and wiped at her cheeks. “I’m freaking out. I can’t sleep.”

“It got cold all of a sudden, didn’t it?” I felt stupid even saying that. I knew as well as Raquel did that she wasn’t sobbing in the bathroom at dawn because the weather was frosty.

“I have to tell you something.” Raquel’s hand closed over my wrist, her grip stronger than I would’ve thought. Her face was pale, her nose reddened from crying. “I need you to tell me if you think I’m going insane.”

This is a weird question to be asked, no matter who’s asking, no matter when or where or how. Carefully, I asked, “Do you think you’re going insane?”

“Maybe?” Raquel laughed unevenly, and that reassured me. If she could see the funny side of this, then probably she was basically okay.

I glanced around behind us, but the bathroom was empty. At that hour, we were sure to have the place to ourselves for quite a while. “Are you having bad dreams or something?”

“Vampires. Black capes, fangs, the works.” She tried to laugh. “You wouldn’t think anybody out of kindergarten could still be scared of vampires, but in my dreams—Bianca, they’re terrible.”

“I had a nightmare about a dying flower the night before classes started,” I said. I wanted to distract her from her own nightmares; maybe sharing mine would help, even if I did feel sort of stupid talking about it out loud. “An orchid or a lily or something, wilting in the middle of a storm. It scared me so badly I couldn’t shake it from my mind the whole next day.”

“I can’t get them out of my head, though. These dead hands, grabbing at me—”

“You’re only thinking about that because of the Dracula assignment,” I said. “We’ll be done with Bram Stoker in another week. You’ll see.”

“I know that; I’m not stupid. But the nightmares will just change into something else. I don’t ever feel safe. It’s like there’s this person—this presence—someone, something that’s getting too close. Something terrible.” Raquel leaned closer and whispered, “Don’t you ever feel like there’s something at this school that’s…evil?”

“Courtney, sometimes.” I tried to turn it into a joke.

“Not that kind of evil. Real evil.” Her voice shook. “Do you believe in real evil?”

Nobody had ever asked me that, but I knew the answer. “Yeah. I do.”

Raquel swallowed so hard I could hear it, and we stared at each other for a few moments, unsure what to say next. I knew that I ought to keep reassuring her, but the intensity of her fear forced me to listen.

“I always feel like I’m being watched here,” she said. “Always. Even when I’m alone. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s real. Sometimes I feel like my nightmares last even after I wake up. Late at night I hear things—scrapes and thumps on the roof. When I look out the window, I swear sometimes I see a shadow running into the forest. And the squirrels—you’ve seen them, right? How they’re dying?”

“A couple.” Maybe it was the autumn chill in the drafty old bathroom making me shiver, but maybe it was Raquel’s fear.

“Do you ever feel safe here? Ever?”

I stammered, “I don’t feel safe, but I don’t think it’s anything weird.” Then again, weird meant different things to different people. “It’s just this school. This place. The gargoyles and the stone and the cold—and the attitudes—it makes me feel so out of place. Alone. And scared.”

“Evernight sucks the life out of you.” Raquel laughed weakly. “Listen to me. Life sucking. Still with the vampires.”

“You just need some rest,” I said firmly, sounding too much like my mother. “Some rest, and something different to read.”

“Rest sounds good. Do you think the school nurse would give out sleeping pills?”

“I’m not sure there is a school nurse.” When Raquel’s nose wrinkled in consternation, I suggested, “You could probably grab something over the counter at the drugstore when we go into Riverton.”

“I guess. It’s a good idea, anyway.” She paused, then gave me a watery smile. “Thanks for listening to me. I know that I sound nuts.”

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