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In memory of my father, Stanley Paul Darer, who taught me to observe and, more importantly, to care about the world around me

CONTENTS

TITLE PAGE

DEDICATION

PART ONE: NOW

LARA

SYDNEY

BREE

SYDNEY

LIAM

BREE

LARA

SYDNEY

BREE

LARA

LIAM

SYDNEY

LIAM

LARA

PART TWO: TWO MONTHS EARLIER

LIAM

LARA

BREE

LIAM

LARA

BREE

LARA

LIAM

BREE

SYDNEY

BREE

LIAM

LARA

BREE

LARA

PART THREE: NOW

SYDNEY

BREE

LIAM

LARA

BREE

SYDNEY

LARA

SYDNEY

LIAM

BREE

SYDNEY

BREE

EPILOGUE: TWELVE MONTHS LATER

LARA

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

AUTHOR’S NOTE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ALSO BY SARAH DARER LITTMAN

COPYRIGHT

THE WORDS on the screen don’t make sense. They can’t.

He says: You’re an awful person.

He says: You’re a terrible friend.

He says: I know you’ve been checking out dresses for the homecoming dance.

He says: What makes you think I’d ever ask you out?

He says: I’d never be caught dead at the school dance with a loser like you.

He doesn’t say it in a private message. He posts it publicly, on my Facebook wall, where everyone can see. Twenty-five people have already liked what he wrote. Even people I thought were my friends. Why would anyone like something that mean?

A few people have posted defending me, saying that I’m not a loser, that he’s a jerk for posting that.

But my eyes keep going back to Christian’s words. I don’t understand. I thought we were friends. I thought we were more than friends.

Wasn’t he flirting with me? Did I get that wrong, too?

My fingers tremble on the keyboard as I IM him.

What did I do wrong? I don’t understand.

I wait for him to answer, so numb with hurt and panic that I can’t even cry.

When the answer comes, I wish it hadn’t.

He says: You’re a loser. The world would be a better place without you in it. GOOD-BYE, LOSER!!!

My lungs feel paralyzed. I can’t breathe. Why is he saying this? What changed from yesterday to today?

Tears roll down my cheeks as I type back.

Why? WHY?!!!!?????????

But when I press Return, it won’t let me send it. He’s blocked me.

I hit the keyboard in frustration, shaking my head. No, no, no.

I can’t ask him why. I can’t ask anyone why.

The only person left to ask is me.

LARA’S HOGGING the bathroom — again. I swear it’s like this every single night. She gets in there first, takes forever, and uses up all the hot water. She better leave me some tonight because I have to wash my hair. I’ve got auditions tomorrow for Beauty and the Beast, the eighth-grade musical. Maddie, Cara, and I have spent, like, forever practicing our audition pieces, and the last thing I want is for Ms. Brandt to be distracted from my acting and singing talent by gross hair.

I knock on the door for the second time. Okay, this time I’m banging more than knocking. “Lara, come on! Hurry up! You’ve been in there for forty minutes!”

Tonight she’s even more annoying than usual. She doesn’t even respond with Go away. I’ll be out in a minute! or something typically charming and Lara-like. There’s just dead silence, which makes me even more angry and frustrated. I give one last loud bang with my fist and stomp down the stairs to complain to Mom.

My mother is in that post-dinner “I’m finally sitting down and reading my boring political papers so don’t bother me with your arguments” kind of mood.

“Mom. I swear, if I have to take another cold shower —”

“Sydney, I have been sitting down for all of” — she checks her watch — “three minutes. I am not getting involved until I’ve had at least ten minutes to unwind.”

“But, Mom …”

“Ten minutes, Syd,” she says, giving me her palm and going back to whatever deathly dull papers she’s reading for her position on the city council. She’s muttering something about budget cuts as I walk away.

Maybe if I started acting all moody and depressed like Lara, Mom would give me a pass on being a jerk, too. Even now that Lara’s doing better, my parents let her get away with stuff because she was so depressed before.

If I were into all that stupid cheerleading like Lara, I’d make them do this cheer:

2-4-6-8

Who’s the girl that’s REALLY great?

Sydney! Sydney!

HELLO?!!

I stomp back upstairs and bang on the door again. “LARA! GET OUT OF THERE! I need to take a shower!”

Silence. No running water. No splashing. No snarky reply. Nothing.

That’s when I get the first tingle of unease, the feeling that something is different tonight. I try turning the door handle, but it’s locked. It’s not the locked door that freaks me out. Lara always locks the door when she’s in the bathroom. It’s the silence. It’s the fact that she’s not yelling back at me through the door.

“Lara?” I call, concern starting to nudge out anger. “Are you okay?”

Nothing. Not even the tiniest movement of water. Panic rises to the back of my throat as I run downstairs, almost tripping on the last three steps.

“Mom — I think something’s wrong with Lara!”

That’s what it takes to get Mom’s attention away from her paperwork.

“What do you mean?”

“She’s locked in the bathroom, and she’s not answering when I bang on the door.”

Mom’s face pales. She throws the papers on the table and runs for the stairs, taking them two at a time. I follow her, feeling more scared as I climb each step.

“Lara! Open the door! NOW!” Mom shouts, knocking on the door with both fists.

Nothing. Still nothing.

Mom rattles the handle and shakes the door, like that’s going to magically make it open.

“Do you hear me, Lara? Open the door!” she yells.

More nothing. Scary omigodwhatishappeninginthere nothing.

Mom turns to me.

“Call nine-one-one,” she says. “And Dad.”

I stand there, shocked, staring at her. 911? That means …

     

 

2011 - 2015

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