setting up an ambush
"Show me something!" Dan says. He's laughing; his eyes are bright with excitement. I've never seen anything as handsome as him before. I could stare at him all day.
But instead, I kiss him. For a few seconds, it's perfect. His lips are so soft, I could melt into them, and his arms, briefly, briefly, are heavy around my shoulders. My first kiss. I've never been this close to a boy in my life. My head is swimming with all the different sensations, the taste of champagne on his mouth, the lemony smell of his soap, the musk of his skin. . . . I'm shivering from head to toe.
I feel like I'm about to faint, and as my legs begin to wobble, suddenly he's gone.
I fall and I keep falling. I know how to fall, from gymnastics, but this is different, because I'm completely out of control, my limbs flailing. I fall for miles, down a deep, deep well, like Alice in Wonderland. Cold stone around me, cold breeze blowing, an utter sense of loss that a moment ago I was pressed against Dan's warm body, and now I'm all alone. I land with a thud that knocks the breath out of me, on a soft squish of body, and it's such a shock that I scream.
And then I realize what I've landed on, and I scream even louder.
It's Dan. He's lying under me, and he's colder than the stone.
My kiss killed him.
And the police are banging down the door to arrest me.
I wake up screaming, but I don't know what words I'm yelling.
My aunt Gwen's pounding on the door.
"You're screaming again! Wake up!"
Aunt Gwen tries the door. It isn't locked, which is a mistake on my part. She storms into my room. I hear her before I see her, because I'm still really disoriented and my eyes are crusty with sleep. I rub them to clear them out. Even that's hard, as I'm still trippy from my dream.
When I manage to open my eyes, I keep blinking. Aunt Gwen's a scary sight by day. By night, she's like a monster from a children's book. The hair sticking up like a deranged puffball, the warty forehead, the watery eyes . . . Ugh, I just emerged from a nightmare and dropped bang-slap into another one.
"Scarlett!" she yells, though there's no need because she's standing right over the bed. "You were screaming in your sleep!"
"I was having a nightmare, Aunt Gwen," I say, flinching. "I'm sorry I woke you."
"I have a very busy day tomorrow! I have geography tests to invigilate for the lower fourth!"
Only Aunt Gwen would use a word like invigilate at--I squint at the clock--4:30 in the morning.
"I said I was sorry," I repeat. "I can't help having a nightmare."
She huffs loudly in disbelief. It's a famous Aunt Gwen noise; I've heard students imitating it in the corridors.
I can't help getting cross now.
"I can't help it," I protest. "I really can't."
Aunt Gwen knows what happened to me this summer: she knows a boy I was kissing dropped dead at my feet. How can she expect me just to push that aside as if it never happened?
Aunt Gwen huffs again, even louder. She doesn't care about what happened to me. She just wants to get her sleep. And she hates me.
But that's okay, because I hate her, too.
"This has got to stop," Aunt Gwen grumbles loudly. "I've had enough, d'you hear?"
She turns and stomps out of the room. I hear her slippers slapping back along the corridor, and the sound of her bedroom door slamming shut.
This does have to stop. That's the single thing Aunt Gwen and I agree on. I just don't know how.
"It's so weird that you started having these dreams now," Taylor says, pushing open the heavy glass door of the coffee shop with the effortless ease of a girl who does fifty push-ups before breakfast. I walk in and she follows me, holding the door till the person behind her, a man in a suit, can catch up to take it from her. He doesn't say
thank you. Taylor promptly lets the door go, and he staggers back under its weight.
"You're welcome," she says to him.
He goes bright red, still off-balance and struggling with the door, and to complete his humiliation, we both snicker as we walk toward the counter.
"I think I'm dreaming about Dan now because I can," I say. "Does that make sense?"
"Uh-uh." She shakes her head.
"What I mean is, before, I thought I killed him, right? But now I know it wasn't my fault he died, maybe I feel free-er to dream about him," I try to explain.
Taylor, who usually doesn't go for any kind of deep psychological exploration--she's an action girl through and through--actually looks as if she's thinking this theory over. Her heavy dark brows draw together over her green eyes in a frown of concentration, and she shakes her head, making her short dark hair look even shaggier, a gesture she does unconsciously when she's thinking hard.
"It was a huge deal," she concedes. "I mean, a guy dropping dead at your feet. I guess the weird thing is that you never dreamed about it before."
"Exactly! But now I can."
In the mirrored glass behind the counter of the coffee shop I see the man in the suit, standing behind us in the queue. He looks appalled, and he's actually backing away from us a bit.
I can't blame him. It's not exactly the kind of conversation you expect to hear in Latte-Licious from two sixteen-year-olds, is it? Death and nightmares and blame and guilt? Especially when one of those sixteen-year-olds has just shown how much stronger she is than you. Taylor's got a swimmer's build, with naturally wide shoulders, but all the upper-body work she does means that she looks pretty intimidating, and her fleece emphasizes that, making her look even fitter and sportier. Me, I did gymnastics for years, so I'm pretty fit too, but unfortunately, for purposes of intimidating people, I'm naturally curvy, with a layer of fat that Taylor doesn't seem to have. You'd expect Taylor to be able to chin her own weight; you'd be amazed to see me do it, though I can, easily. So we make a pretty good team, I suppose. Taylor's the obvious muscle, while I can look all girly and fool people into thinking I'd cry if I chipped a nail.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Kisses and Lies by Lauren Henderson. Copyright © 2009 by Lauren Henderson. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.