My Soul to Keep Page 30

“Thanks, but I better go.” I cradled my mug in both hands and blew on the surface before taking the first long, bitter sip.

“We’re reviewing for midterms today.” And as awesome as staying home sounded, I need to be there to watch Scott and Doug for further signs that their sanity was slipping. And Emma and Sophie, for any signs that they’d gotten a contact buzz from breathing near their own boyfriends. “Besides, I could dream about death as easily in the daytime as I can at night, right?”

“I guess so.” My father put one hand on the back of my chair, watching me in concern as he brought his own mug to his mouth. “Just be careful, okay? I can’t follow you into the Netherworld, and by the time I find someone to take me—” Harmony, presumably “—there’s no telling where you’ll be.”

I nodded and bit my tongue to keep from reminding him that—barring catastrophe, like injured vocal cords—I could get myself out the same way I got myself in. I’d done it several times already.

But something told me that reminder would reassure him no more than it reassured me.

I WANDERED AROUND SCHOOL in a daze on Thursday, feeling almost as out of it as Scott looked. I fell asleep during individual study time and slept through the bell, so I was almost late to my next class.

In the hall before lunch, Nash told me Scott had showed up twenty minutes late for economics with his shirt inside out, carrying the wrong textbook. Then he laughed out loud during Mr. Pierson’s lecture on the influence of the American stock market on the global financial community.

When Pierson asked what he found so funny, Scott said the teacher’s shadow had flipped him off.

Half the class laughed along with Scott, assuming he was either high—on something human in origin, presumably—or making fun of Pierson in some way they didn’t understand. The other half looked at him like he’d lost his mind, which was much closer to the truth. We’d waited too long, and Scott had gotten in too deep. He was living in his own world now, and I became more certain with each painful beat of my heart that Nash was right: we wouldn’t be able to fix him.

At lunch, Scott refused to sit with us—or with anyone else in the room. He stood in front of our table, glancing nervously back and forth between it and the narrow, floor-to-ceiling windows along the outside of the room, which cast student-shaped shadows on the opposite wall. He looked from one of us to the next, then at the silhouettes lined up along the wall behind us, muttering under his breath. He said something about being followed, then covered his ears, spun one hundred and eighty degrees, and ran straight down the center aisle and out the double doors, leaving Sophie and her friends—and everyone else in the cafeteria—to stare after him.

Sophie’s friends burst into laughter, watching their toppled football idol withthe same derisive dismissal they usually reserved for stoners and loners. Sophie looked like she’d either scream or vomit as she marched to their usual table.

I almost felt sorry for her. Almost.

Nash and I followed Scott into the main hall, ignoring curious looks from the other students, but he was already gone. We glanced into each empty classroom we passed, Nash’s irises roiling with fear, regret, and guilt. I knew exactly how he felt. If we’d told someone sooner—if I’d insisted on telling our parents the night Doug hit my car—Scott might never have gotten his hands on Demon’s Breath in the first place.

At the end of the main hall, a flash of movement caught my eye from the parking lot beyond the glass door. “He’s going for his car,” I said, and Nash nodded, then glanced at me with both brows raised, waiting for my opinion before he charged ahead. Most exterior doors locked automatically. If we followed Scott into the parking lot, we’d have to walk around the building to reenter through either the office or the cafeteria, where I’d come in after we’d taken that first balloon.

I shrugged and shoved the door open, flinching as a cold draft chilled me instantly. But a little discomfort and a hike around the school meant nothing compared to the friend we’d failed to save.

Nash followed me outside and across the lot, both of us crossing our arms over our chests for warmth. We headed toward Scott’s usual parking spot and found his car three rows back, just to the left of the gym entrance. As we got closer, we could see Scott behind the wheel, alternately shaking his head, and vehemently gesturing as he yelled at no one.

He’d progressed from hallucinating to carrying on conversations with his own delusions.

Had I looked that crazy, strapped to a bed in the hospital, when I couldn’t stop singing for some stranger’s soul?

“Come on.” Nash grabbed my hand and we raced across the lot toward Scott. But the moment he saw us coming, he twisted his key in the ignition and slammed his gearshift into Reverse, peeling out of his space way too fast. His rear bumper plowed into the front of another car, then he tore down the aisle and out of the lot, newly dented bumper winking at us in the sunlight as he pulled onto the road.

Nash and I changed directions, and I dug my keys from my pocket as we ran. Our school day was over. We couldn’t let him drive all over town in his current state of…crazy. I popped the lock from several feet away and Nash made it into his seat before I did. I backed out carefully—still unfamiliar with the length of my borrowed car—then raced after Scott.

“I think he’s heading home.” Nash shoved his seat belt into the clasp and braced one hand on the dashboard as I took a sharp turn just after the light turned red. Fortunately, no one else was coming.

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