TUESDAY OCTOBER 4, 2005

07:59 GMT-3

PENNY SUMMERS

MAIN STREET | MERIDIA FALLS

I flip open my phone. Still no answer to the message I sent to Cross. I’m not even sure the number I found was a direct link, or even if he’d understand the coded message I sent. Sliding the phone back into my coat pocket, I pull out the soft wooly hat Grandad got me last Christmas. I close my eyes, trying to picture his warm smile, but only the memory of his sad face at the end appears. It lingers far too long in my mind.

Taking a deep breath, I slip on the hat, my ears grateful for my protection against the biting cold wind. A quick visit to the Town Hall shouldn’t take long. If I’m quick, I can sneak into the planning department and get the chapel plans before the snooty receptionist pours her first cup of tea.

I tug at the security trellis, checking the lock. At least I know Mom can’t get into my apartment. I give the door one more tug and then turn into the breezy, year-long wind that always blows down Main Street.

I glance down the road in the direction of Meridia High. A line of executive cars are parked outside the coffee shop in the distance. School kids and suits. No wonder I never go in that place. But as Logan’s grandmother owns it, I guess that will change. I shrug off the unease and push on through the sharp wind in the opposite direction towards the Town Hall. I should just have enough time to get in and get out before meeting Logan at school.

Logan. I should be full of remorse, guilt-ridden after last night, right? That’s what everyone else says after a one-night stand, or that’s what I overhear them say. Mom would kill me, Grandad would be so ashamed… I stop and take in a deep breath. Logan’s face fills my mind and butterflies rise in my stomach, wrapping me in a kind of warmth I’ve never felt before.

It wasn’t a one-night stand. Memories of Logan’s life rush through my mind. I’m a part of him… My skin tingles at the memory of his delicate touch… And he’s a part of me. What we did felt so right, probably the rightest thing I’ve ever done in my life. We’re connected on so many levels and, going by those medical files from Serenity Grove and Clearwater, our connection goes back a lot longer than just yesterday.

A bunch of college girls block the sidewalk ahead. “Take the other side, Penny Dreadful.” Smoke billows out of Selina Bennett’s mouth like a cartoon dragon. She finished school without the so called “prized” crown of prom queen. And didn’t she make the school pay for not crowning her, or should I say her mom made them pay… I push mystery funding cuts from my mind and instead enjoy the memory of Selina’s loss. Even through the biting cold, I can feel the smile spread across my face as she flicks her cigarette stub onto the ground. “What’s so funny, freak?”

Her snarled words sound just like the rest of her protege’s she left behind in Meridia High. I ignore her and barge past, but she grabs my arm.

 

My mind blurs and, for a brief second, I see my startled face through Selina’s eyes; then everything spins, like I’m being sucked down a drain.

I’m putting on bright pink underwear, or should I say, Selina is. I’m in her life, living her memories like they were my own. A guy lays on a bed behind me. It’s Richard Cavanagh from school. His usual smirk is a target I want to punch off his face. But punching is far from Selina’s thoughts. She just wants a repeat of last night. He slides up behind her, his tongue flicking against the back of her neck, and I can feel every single second of it. He feels like a snake slithering over my skin. I want to puke, but Selina seems to like it. Her cell phone vibrates on her dresser, and thankfully she shakes away Cavanagh’s touch. She flips open her phone. It’s a message from her fiancé, Todd. Intense panic rises inside Selina’s stomach, a far cry from the wondrous feeling I get from Logan. She stares at herself in the mirror above the dresser. Her eyes open wide… my eyes open wide. For a brief second, it’s my reflection staring back, dressed in Selina’s gaudy underwear.

 

“I said what are you smiling at!”

Either Selina’s sharp words snapped me out of the magic vision or my split-second reflection did. Either way, I’m grateful to be out of her sleazy mind.

I twist my arm away from her grip. A collected “ooh” comes from her group of friends. She presses her lips together and slowly shakes her head. A grin spreads across her face, then she lunges forward.

Without thinking, I raise my finger, motioning for silence, like Mr. Randall does… did… in class.

Taken by surprise, Selina stops in her tracks. She tilts her head and her eyes open wide. God, I pity her college lecturers.

I lean forward, while she’s still confused. “Look, Selina! Don’t you ever talk to me again.” I pause, letting her confusion increase. “If you do, I will let your rich, connected fiancé, Todd, know all about your sleazy sessions with Dick Cavanagh.”

Pulling back, I realize how close my mouth was to her ear. Selina stumbles and falls into her friends. They push her forward, expecting her to lunge again, but she turns away and dashes to the other side of the road like there’s a flash sale at Daphne’s Boutique. Her friends slowly follow, all staring at me with wide-open eyes. One dark-haired girl nods her approval — Sonja, I think she’s called.

Only now do I feel my heart. It’s pounding so hard in my chest, it feels like it will break out any second now. I take in several long breaths, trying to slow my racing heartbeat. Selina’s shocked face is something I don’t want to forget in a hurry. That felt so good.

My phone rings, making me jump. Logan. I hope it’s him. I must tell him what just happened. “Unknown caller” greets me. Probably Selina, finally finding her voice. I flip open my phone, ready for a volley of abuse.

“Miss Summers.” There’s a pause from the static filled call. “I received your garbled message… You went against my instructions.” Another static pause. Crap! It’s Cross. Selina made me forget about him. I pull the phone away, checking the screen. “I reiterate my instructions. Do nothing until I get there. Events are now in motion that are dangerous for you and Mr. Collins…. Stay away from the Town Hall and get to school… And, Miss Summers… Do not call me on this number again!”

He ends the call, and a cold breeze wraps around my neck like ice cold fingers. I spin around, looking in all directions. My heart is pumping hard again. My skin tingles, not from pleasure, but from that uneasy feeling of being watched.

My shaking finger hovers over Logan’s speed dial. He’ll be on his way to pick up Marilyn. I focus into the distance, longing to see his truck, but the road is devoid of vehicles. I’ll tell Logan about Cross’s call when I get to school; I need to get the chapel plans while I can.

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