Every Soul a Star Read online



  His eyes light up as he tells how the coach specifically asked him to try out, and how he’s working out really hard. My mind starts to drift, and I’m sort of sorry I asked. I think I’d rather hear about the vampires and werewolves again. I’m saved by Ally and Jack running up to us.

  “They’re out of the meeting!” Ally says, breathlessly. “They were standing on your parents’ porch when we left. Let’s go. See you guys later!” She grabs at my sleeve and pulls me away from Ryan. I just have time for a backward wave before we’re out of sight.

  “Hold up, Ally. Why’d you ditch Jack back there? I thought you guys were getting all hot and heavy.”

  She stops running. “Hot and heavy?” She asks this like she has no idea what the words mean.

  I sigh. “You know, like you guys liked each other.”

  “Oh. He’s nice.”

  “Nice? And . . . ?”

  “And what?”

  This girl is hopeless. “Never mind. Let’s just go.”

  We keep going and run right into both sets of parents in front of the sign that says labyrinth, this way with an arrow underneath.

  “Well?” I ask my parents. Ally shifts her weight from one foot to the other in obvious anticipation.

  “What’s up, girls?” asks my father. “Having fun exploring?”

  I open my mouth to say no, but before I do, they look at each other and laugh. It takes a few seconds to realize they’re laughing at us. I feel my face darken. Ally stops shifting. “What’s so funny?”

  Her mother puts her arm around Ally’s shoulders. “Honey, we understand what you’re trying to do, but you’ve got to trust us.”

  Mom says, “We should thank you both, actually. You’ve raised some very good points. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.”

  Ally’s eyes fill with tears and mine follow. Ally puts her hands on her hips. “So you don’t mind having a tattooed druggie gang member for a daughter?”

  “We’ll take our chances,” says her father. “You’re a smart girl, Ally. You’ll do just fine at school.”

  “Don’t count on it!” Ally says. I haven’t heard her talk like this to her parents before. Maybe I’m rubbing off on her.

  Her mom reaches out to hug her, but Ally pulls away and runs back toward their house.

  “That didn’t go very well,” Ally’s father says. They all turn to look at me.

  I back up. “Don’t look at me.My opinion obviously doesn’t count for anything.”

  I turn on my heel and walk to the cabin. Dad calls after me, but I pretend not to hear. I feel a strange roaring inside my head. I think it’s my soul screaming. This is really happening. This place is going to be my home.

  The cabin is hot, and I don’t feel like waiting till the overhead fan kicks in. I grab my iPod off the dresser and start to leave when I see one of my boxes sitting on my bed. I want to hug it! I tear it open eagerly, and the first thing I see is my Book. I hug it to my chest. Claire’s Book is in here too, along with my curling iron, all my accessories, a pair of flip-flops with jeweled daisies on them, and one V-necked orange shirt. That’s it. My eyes sweep the room, but there are no more boxes. I quickly throw off Ally’s brown shirt and put on my orange one. I kick off my (her) sneakers and slip on the flip-flops. I yank open the accessories bag and put on every piece of plastic jewelry I own. I clip back my hair with barrettes and put on a new coat of peach-colored lip gloss to match the shirt. I have no choice but to keep on the faded tan shorts with the side pockets. Doesn’t Ally know side pockets just make your hips look bigger? No, of course she doesn’t.

  I clip the iPod to my shorts and stick in the earphones. I love the sound the flip-flops make across the wood floor. If I closed my eyes, I could pretend I’m walking across the stone tiles at Claire’s pool. I grab my Book and head out the door. I don’t know where I’m going. Just away. I turn on my iPod and set it to random. I turn the volume so high that it blots out the bird calls and shouts of kids and slams of car trunks as more and more people arrive. I have to jump out of the way of a guy lugging a huge telescope across the field. It’s not easy to jump in flip-flops. It’s actually a little tricky to walk on the dirt road too, but there’s no way I’m putting those sneakers back on. Plus I like how my red toenail polish shines against the dull dirt.

  I find myself back at the labyrinth sign and figure I might as well check it out. I carefully make my way down the narrow path and am happy to find no one else there. All I see at first is a big circle of stones in some kind of random pattern. When I get closer I can see the stones form circles spiraling inside each other. In the middle sits a tree stump with what looks like a stuffed purple dinosaur on it. A small wooden sign off to the side has a little diagram with the words how to walk the labyrinth. I wouldn’t have thought it needed instructions. Might as well give it a try. Ally said you feel different after you go through it. I don’t know what she meant, but I can’t feel any worse than I do right now.

  I stand at the entrance, but instead of taking that first step, I turn around and sit on the little bench next to the diagram. I flip open the cover of my Book, and my eyes instantly fill with tears. I remember this first photo. I clipped it out of Teen when I was just nine years old. The girl is probably a little older than I am now. At the time she seemed so old to me. She’s wearing a green prom dress and a tiara and looks like she’s about to go to the party of her life. The next page is of me and Claire in our dance recital outfits. She has a heart-shaped sticker on her cheek, and I have a star-shaped one on mine. I reach out and run my finger over the little stickers.

  I feel a touch on my arm and almost jump out of my skin. I whip my head around to find a little old lady in a pink sweat suit and a red scarf. She’s saying something to me, but I can’t hear a word. I yank out my earphones.

  “Sorry to startle you, young lady.” She points to the open page. “How adorable! Your little sisters?”

  I shake my head. I really don’t want to talk to anyone, but how can I be rude to a little old lady? Even if she IS wearing red with pink. “It’s me and my best friend. When we were nine.”

  She nods and waits for me to turn the page. So I do. The next page is a collage of heads. The woman looks at me quizzically.

  “It’s for the hairstyles,” I explain, quickly turning the page. This one is all of feet. Feet in high heels, strappy sandals, flip-flops, sneakers, pumps.

  “Let me guess,” she says, “you like shoes?”

  I’ve never showed anyone my Book before, besides Claire of course, and I’m starting to feel very exposed, like she’s looking inside me. “I’m planning on being a model one day,” I explain, closing the Book and placing my hand on top. “This is my inspiration, that’s all.” I brace for the words that will follow—how it’s such a shallow career choice, how I’ll always have to worry about my looks. But that lecture doesn’t come.

  “Ah,” the lady says, getting to her feet. “How wonderful to have a goal already. When I was your age I knew nothing about the world or my place in it. I figured I’d be someone’s wife, then someone’s mother. It never occurred to me to be someone myself. I didn’t figure that out till much later. But you’ve got a head start. Of course, you might still change your mind.”

  I shake my head. She heads slowly toward the entrance of the labyrinth. “You never know,” she says. “Life is short, but it’s wide.”

  With that, she steps easily into the labyrinth. I watch her move through the circles, and it looks almost like a dance. When she gets in the middle she actually does start doing a little dance. She must not care at all what people think of her. If I’m dancing alone in the middle of a labyrinth sixty years from now, something in my life will have gone horribly, horribly wrong.

  JACK

  5

  The sharp smell of bug spray floats through the night air. It’s almost too dark to see, but I want to finish my book. I haven’t done much reading since I’ve been here. There’s so much to see, so much to do. This log isn€