Chapter 13

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That evening, I grew increasingly uneasy as the sun began to set. The sky turned from pink to gold and then began to darken, and I suspected that since Mr. Cotton had put events in motion to bring Candace to an area where she could potentially drown in deep waves just as Violet had predicted, Olivia's spirit was going to turn violent. It was making sense now to me why Olivia had wanted me to be alarmed at Homecoming by the song she had singled out: I was supposed to have prevented Candace from attacking Violet. Because the attack had led to her trip to the psychiatric ward, and her hospitalization had inspired her dad to book a vacation. I saw it all clearly now, but wished that Olivia had been able to find a clearer way to communicate her expectations to me.

"Turning in soon?" Mom asked in the living room after bringing Maude inside from her last wild frolic in the back yard for the night. Her tone suggested that I should turn in, seeing as how it was a Sunday night and I had school in the morning.

I was pretending to be thoroughly engrossed in a television news program about a serial killer who had lived in La Crosse. "Yeah, I just want to see the end of this," I assured her.

"Are you sure you should be watching something so troubling right before bed time?" she nagged me. "You've been tossing and turning a lot lately. You don't want to give yourself bad dreams."

Avoiding eye contact with her, I said, "I'm not having nightmares. I'm sleeping just fine."

"Then why have you been sleeping out here on the couch?" She raised an eyebrow skeptically at me before disappearing down the hall. "Goodnight, sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite," she called.

When the show finally ended, I pushed myself to watch another half hour of a late night talk show, and then turned off the television. I was startled by the immaculate quiet in the house after the low murmur of voiceovers on commercials had been silenced. I turned on the light in the hallway and switched off the lamp in the living room, already creeping myself out with thoughts about what might await me in my bedroom. Since Maude's arrival, I had started keeping my bedroom door closed because she had a relentless hatred for all of my shoes and socks. While keeping the door closed spared my footwear, it created a moment of panic for me each and every time I had cause to open it and peer inside. In that fraction of a second before I was able to flip on the light switch, my heart always stopped beating in distressed fear of what might await me on the other side.

I leaned forward, putting my ear to the door to listen for any strange sounds coming from my bedroom, and then, hearing nothing suspicious, I reached for the doorknob. My hand recoiled and snapped back to my chest before I even realized what had happened; I gasped in surprise because the doorknob was scalding hot to the touch. My fingertips felt singed, but when I looked down in the darkness expecting to see blisters rising, they appeared to be fine. There was nothing about the appearance of the doorknob that would have suggested that it was hot. I tapped it again lightly with the tip of my index finger, and finding it still to be alarmingly hot, I weighed my options.

I considered trying to sneak out the front door and over to the Emorys' house, but the front entrance of our house would definitely be too noisy. The back door, with its squeaky storm door, would also create a noticeable amount of noise. There was no way out of the house through the garage unless I used the automatic door opener, which would definitely wake my mom out of a deep slumber. Before I even took a look in my bedroom, I knew there was no way I could sleep there for the night, and the thought of sleeping exposed, on the couch, and irking my mother more, was also not appealing. If it was Olivia playing games with me, simulating a fire in my bedroom just a few hours after I'd been terrified by a fiery movie scene was downright cruel.

So I made the decision to cross my bedroom as quickly as possible, slip out the window and dash over to Trey's. Using the bottom of my t-shirt to protect my hand, I turned the knob and threw the door open, finding my bedroom to be suspiciously quiet and cool. I quickly closed and locked the door behind me, tiptoed across the room as fast as I could, climbed through the window and lowered the screen again. Wearing only socks on my feet, I unlatched the gate in the fence surrounding our back yard and opened the gate to the Emorys' yard.  I knocked on Trey's window lightly with my knuckles, hoping he was still awake. The room behind the blinds was already dark. Just as I began to panic because he wasn't answering and a cold wind was blowing, the window lifted, and he smiled at me.

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