Chapter Nine

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"Self-defence?" Zoe's father raised an eyebrow at her. "You're serious?"

"Of course I'm serious." Zoe tugged the zipper shut and swung her schoolbag over her shoulder. The loose t-shirt and shorts that she'd thrown in added nothing to the weight of it. "One of the new kids at school offered to teach me. I figured it might be smart, since..." She grimaced, unable to finish that thought, and backtracked. "I thought it might be worth seeing what he can teach me before we leave town. But if you think it's stupid..."

"No, no." Her father rubbed his chin. He hadn't bothered to shave since she had given him the news about their impending Friday night disaster, and he was beginning to look quite scruffy. "Actually, I think it's a good idea. I kinda wish I'd thought of getting you to take classes earlier."

She shrugged. "No time like the present, right?"

He nodded. "Do it, but be careful. And make sure you're home before dark."

"I will. Love you, Dad."

"Love you too, Angel."

Matt wasn't yet waiting for her when she slipped outside, so Zoe made her way over to wait for him by his front gate. She could see movement in his living room, past the pair of apple trees growing in the front yard, and knew that it wouldn't be long before Matt was stepping out his front door, the keys to his BMW jangling.

Zoe yawned. It had been another sleepless night for her, both because those eyes had been waiting for her again the moment she fell asleep, and because today was Friday. It might not have been the right Friday, but just knowing that it was pasta night had made her feel uneasy as she'd crawled out of bed and gathered her school uniform from the chair at her desk.

Her father must have felt the same, because he'd declared this Friday to be pizza night instead.

That had suited Zoe just fine.

They were even going to invite Matt and Luke over for dinner, just to make sure that everything really would be different. There would be no chance of her dream coming to pass today—even if it wasn't supposed to.

The Biology test is next week, she reminded herself.

But better safe than sorry.

Matt stepped out of his house, and Zoe straightened. He wore his usual smile as he came toward her, but it was tight today.

"Sorry I'm late," he said as he slipped through the front gate, keys indeed jangling. "Dad just dropped a bomb on me."

Zoe raised an eyebrow as Matt hit the button to unlock his doors. "What kind of bomb?"

"Death in the family." Matt grimaced. "One of my uncles died a few days ago, and my aunt decided to wait until this morning to call. The funeral's tomorrow. Dad and I are gonna be driving out to the city tonight. We'll be heading out right after school."

Zoe's heart skipped a beat. "Oh, Matt. I'm sorry about your uncle. Were you close?"

"Once." Matt shrugged. "Hard to be close to somebody that you haven't seen in forever though, you know?"

Zoe didn't know, but she nodded regardless. They climbed into his car.

There were pros and cons to Matt and Luke's being gone that night—she wouldn't be able to invite the pair of them to dinner, thus making sure that it would be as different to her dream as possible without actually leaving the house; but she also wouldn't have to explain to Matt that she was going to Nate's place after school.

Matt had not stopped expressing his dislike—and his distrust—for the two new cousins, and Zoe had been wondering for days how she was going to broach the subject with him. Now she wouldn't have to.

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