A song by Brand New flows through my grandma Stephy’s guestroom, which is now my permanent bedroom. Soft sunlight glistens against the window as the sun rises over the shallow hills of Sunnyvale, giving me just enough light to doodle in my sketchbook. To an outsider, the drawing may seem like a normal superhero sketch of a tall woman with long brown hair and wearing a cape. To me, the drawing is haunting, painful, and reminds me of all the horribleness that’s happened since yesterday morning.
Yesterday was probably one of the worst days of my existence, maybe even worse than when my dad and Lynn threatened to send me off to a reform school in Montana. Not only did someone spread flyers all over the school that divulged my mom was in jail for murder, but I discovered the person my mom is accused of murdering is Jamison Anders, Lynn’s son from before she married my dad. What I really want to know, though, is how my grandma Stephy didn’t know about any of this? I haven’t gotten the courage to ask her yet, though, fearing she might have been lying to me this entire time. And, if she doesn’t know about it, I fear telling her.
While Kai has been trying to convince me I shouldn’t believe anything until we know all the facts, it’s difficult not to wonder if my mom is a killer, if she did an unforgivable, horrible thing to the son of the man she was having an affair with. And way, way in the darkest, self-loathing part of my mind, I fear I’m just as terrible a person, that every horrible remark Lynn and Hannah ever said to me is true. Maybe I am a loser, a freak, an embarrassment to my dad. Perhaps he really does hate me. Perhaps no one wants me.
No, stop thinking like that! Stop being so weak!
Tears burn in my eyes. I try to suck them back, but a few escape and splatter across the page, smearing the drawing of a woman who looks like my mom. Well, at least how she looked in the one photo of her that I’ve seen. How she looks now is a mystery.
Because she’s in jail.
My chest constricts as I replay the details printed all over those flyers. Horrendous details about what my mom has been accused of doing. And now the entire school knows about it.
I wouldn’t be surprised if, come Monday, everyone is terrified of me. I fear returning to school and finding out. If it’s as bad as I anticipate, I might take the cowards way out and transfer schools. The only problem with that is explaining what’s going on to my grandma Stephy.
I want to tell her, but with everything going on, she’s been more exhausted lately than usual. I’m worried my problems are taking a toll on her health, and I don’t know if adding more stress is a good idea.
I’ve tried to call Indigo to talk to her about all of this, but after her dad got caught having another affair, she had to go back home to check up on her mom. She hasn’t been answering her phone or responding to texts, and I have a bad feeling something is wrong. However, grandma Stephy insists everything is A-OK and that I need to take a chill pill.
That’s kind of hard with the blue car showing up everywhere I go, making me a nervous wreck. Plus, there’s the unknown caller who texted minutes before I found the flyers all over the school. It’s game time, the message said.
What game are they playing? Were the flyers the only part of the game, or is there more to come? Are the caller and the car connected? Why does someone seem dead set on ruining my life? And why does it feel like I’m always being watched?
So many questions with no answers.
I feel so lost.
Drying my eyes with the back of my hand, I dare a glance at the window. Paranoia sets in as I scan the parking lot and then the street. It’s early Saturday morning, and the road is empty, the parking lot is quiet, and the lawn is bare. But the stillness is unsettling, like the quiet moment in a horror movie right before the killer makes their attack.
Killer, like my mom could be.
My eyes flood with tears again. My heart stings. My body aches. I want to fall apart.
No! Stop thinking about it, Isa! Just stop!
Sniffling, I flip the page of my sketchbook and work on a different, unrelated to my mom drawing, one that evokes just as much emotion and confusion.
Kai, Kai, Kai. His name is doodled at the top of the page right above a portrait of him with an overly large head—Ego Man, the superhero name I gave him.
Kai Meyers has really been there for me and is quickly becoming one of my closest friends. I just wish I knew if he felt the same way about me. I’ve never had a best friend before except for maybe Indigo, so I’m an amateur at being able to tell whether someone considers you half a heart-pendant-worthy. Sometimes, I question if Kai and I are even friends, especially after the neck sucking incident that occurred between us. Kai may have been messing around and being his flirty self. He does that a lot, like when he drunk kissed me then told me it was no big deal, that he drunk kisses almost everyone.
I’d be a huge liar, liar, holy crap my cape is on fire if I said I wanted to be just friends with Kai. I’m starting to like him a freakin’ mountain-of-ice-cream ton, probably too much considering I have no clue if he reciprocates my feelings. I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t want me like that, just like I wouldn’t blame him if he bailed out of this situation.
My life right now is a lot to take in, and he has his own problems. Yet he seems determined to be my sidekick.
I don’t know what I’d do without him, I think to myself as I trace his name across the paper. I really don’t.
After another half-hour of drawing, I set the pencil down to shake out the cramp in my hand. It’s eight o’clock in the morning, and I’ve been awake for hours after a very Princess and the Pea kind of night sleeping, during which I was stuck in a nightmare of a blue car chasing me down a long, narrow road, haunted by a mist of flyers. When I woke up, I was restless and worried, and I debated going out to the living room and waking up Kai. But he’s been so determined to crack the code on that flash drive that I’m concerned he’s neglecting himself and not getting enough Zs.
Dark circles have permanently resided under his eyes, and yesterday, he dozed off mid-sentence when we were driving home from the park. The last thing he needs is for a needy girl to wake him up before sunrise because she had a bad dream.
It didn’t feel like just a bad dream. It felt so real, and when I first woke up, I swore I saw a blue car parked out on the street, though it was too dark to tell for sure.