The Calling Page 42

“Because he’s talking into a radio,” Corey said.

“I bet if we keep going, we’ll hear him do the same thing a little farther down. It’s another trap.”

Corey looked at me.

“It … sounds like it,” I said. “But if it’s a good trap, then they really did let Hayley go. She’s out here as bait.”

“So you think you can outsmart them and rescue her?” Sam said. “No, the smart thing to do is keep going.”

We argued about that, of course.

Finally I said, “I’m going to look for her. Just me.”

“We can’t—” Daniel began.

“I’ve got the super-powered hearing, and I can move quietly. I need to try.”


AS I MADE MY way through the forest, I’ll admit I was also straining for a familiar bark or whine. I hadn’t said a word about Kenjii since leaving the store. How could I without making it sound like I put her on the same level as Hayley.

I love animals, but I know they aren’t people. I can’t value them the same way. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t sick at heart over Kenjii. So as I walked through those woods, I was listening for her as much as I was listening for Hayley.

It was Hayley I heard, though. Stomping on dead leaves. Muttering under her breath. Kicking aside fallen branches.

Signs of a trap? Or just Hayley, pissed off because she’d escaped and there was no one around to rescue her?

A few days ago, I’d have gone with option two. Now, though, I couldn’t see Hayley being so careless.

I shimmied up a tree and waited for her to pass my way. But once she got close enough for me to see her through the branches, she sat down to rest. When she didn’t come closer, I started crawling along a branch, planning to cross to the next tree.

She started to look up, then caught herself, waited a moment, gave a loud sigh and slumped back against the trunk, giving her an excuse to look up.

I waited until she looked up, then bent to catch her gaze. She held mine and mouthed “trap,” ending it with a yawn to fool anyone watching.

I looked around. I might still be able to rescue her. Whoever was watching couldn’t be too close.

Hayley rose a couple of inches from the ground, rubbed her butt, and scowled, as if she’d sat on a root or a rock. She got up and made some noise, kicking the ground then shaking a young oak, dead leaves rustling. In other words, assuring her captors that she was trying to attract our attention. Then she walked beneath my tree and sat down again.

She picked up a stick and began idling poking around a patch of bare earth. Then she wrote “Don’t be stupid.” She erased it, doodled a bit, then wrote, “I’m fine.”

I hesitated, but she was right. It was a trap and my chances of foiling itwere slim to none. If I got caught, could I trust Daniel not to come after me? No. Could I trust Corey and Sam to make it to safety alone? No.

Finally, I shimmied back along the branch to the trunk. As the needles rustled, Hayley nodded. Then she wrote, “Thanks for trying,” rubbed it smooth, got up, and walked away.

Hayley had sacrificed her freedom so we could escape. She’d refused to let me try to rescue her. If someone told me a week ago that Hayley Morris would do this, I’d have said he was crazy. Or naive, because clearly she had an ulterior motive.

Had she changed? I didn’t think so. The answer was simpler: I’d been wrong about her.

If I’d had a nemesis at school, Hayley was it. Always insulting me. Always challenging me. Always doing her best to run me down, while I’d stood firm and refused to stoop to her level.

Clearly, she was the aggressor and I was the victim. Only … well, it hadn’t started out that way. Back in grade five, I’d caught her cheating. I hadn’t tattled. Maybe, in retrospect, that would have been better, because what I did instead was make it very clear that I wanted nothing more to do with her.

When you accept a leadership role, you take on extra responsibility for your actions toward others. If you shun someone, the effect will trickle down through those who value your opinion. It wasn’t as if Hayley was an outcast. She had her friends, and she was the queen of the “pretty girl” clique. In a bigger school, that would have been enough. In Salmon Creek, it wasn’t.

I remembered what she said about flirting with Rafe to make Corey jealous. I remembered, too, what Rafe had said. That Corey might make out with Hayley at parties, when he could claim he was just drunk and horny, but he’d never actually date her, because his friends—namely Daniel and me—didn’t get along with her. I’d told myself Hayley had been using Corey, too—he was her backup when no summer boys were around. Now, knowing she’d wanted to make him jealous, I realized I’d been wrong.

I’d been wrong about a lot of things. Not just Hayley. I’d misjudged Rafe. Nicole, too. I’d been so sure of my judgments that I’d never questioned them even when the evidence suggested I was wrong.

I’d always thought of myself as an open-minded person. I had no patience with anyone who put down other kids because of their race, religion, or sexuality. But that’s just one kind of open-mindedness. There’s another kind, too, the kind that’s willing to see people for who they really are and admit when you were wrong about them. That’s the part I still need to work on.

I climbed down the tree and started making my way back to the others. I had to put aside my worries for now. Our pursuers could be anywhere. I needed to be careful.

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