Chapter 13

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I understood why Jack was upset. It was less the fact that Blake was an awful human being and more the fact that he was alive and kicking rather than one of the dearly departed. He didn't know where to go from there. If he was Blake and Blake wasn't dead, then he wasn't a spirit about to move on, he was...

...Yeah, I had no theories to throw out there. There was no telling what he was and how he'd come to be. And that was the problem: without a concept of what Jack was, his situation could be permanent. Maybe there would be no "going into the light" moment for him. Maybe this crappy, moss covered house was all he was ever going to get.

This would make me miserable too, but I didn't have the luxury of giving in to despair. I had day two at Hell High to attend and a real-life Jack counterpart to suss out. As much as the thought turned my stomach, I knew I had little choice but to interact with Mr. Popular. I just hoped that interaction didn't consist entirely of him making sure he could pee higher up on the tree than anyone else.

I had my opportunity earlier in the day than I anticipated. Arriving at school before the first bell, I headed to my locker and there he was, leaning back against Dakota's, playing with his phone.

My heart pounded as I approached.

"Hey, new girl." He didn't bother looking up from his phone, but still, the fact that he'd offer me three unsolicited words made my already anxious heart palpitate a few million times.

"Um, hello, not new boy."

He snorted. "Dakota said I shouldn't have been such a dick and that I should apologize to you, so whatever. I'm sorry."

He didn't sound sorry, he sounded like a guy who realized if he didn't do what his girlfriend demanded, she wasn't going to put out.

I didn't want to accept his apology any more than he wanted to give it, but I had a mission and I'd never come remotely close to fulfilling it if I alienated Blake before I'd had a chance to find out more about him.

Best to play the role of suck up. "I don't think you did anything wrong. I heard you're the Junior Popular King. Is that what you call it?"

He puffed his chest out. "You heard correctly. You know what that is?"

"I do now. This is only my second day here. I'm still getting up to speed. I know you were only trying to be... helpful."

I nearly ended my no puking at school streak with that last word. You'd have to be the biggest dolt to think I was being genuine. But Blake seemed to eat up the flattery like it was my Aunt Lizzie's famous Key Lime pie.

"That's what I told Dakota. She never listens to me." He finally put his phone away and looked at me. Up and down. I shifted my backpack from one shoulder to the other and tried not to hyperventilate. This wasn't like when Jack looked at me. It was like being eyed up by a hungry owl. I didn't enjoy feeling like a mouse.

"Why are you here, new girl?"

"My name is Mazie, and I'm here because this is my locker." I rapped my knuckles against its surface.

He rolled his eyes and then took a step closer, leaning his arm up the edge of my locker. He smelled like spearmint gum. "No, Mazie. I mean, why are you the new girl? You been homeschooled or something?"

"Oh." I shook my head. "No, it's my parents' fault I'm the new girl. They moved me here from Spokane so they could open up a pizza place downtown."

"Dornzeria? Man, I loved that place. That's where my little sister always asks us to go after her dance recitals. I'm glad it's going to reopen."

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