Evernight Page 25

Honestly, I was a little proud that Balthazar liked me. I wasn’t convinced that he wanted to be anything more than a friend, but he definitely flirted with me sometimes. After the mess with Lucas, it felt good to be flirted with—as if I really were beautiful and fascinating instead of the shy, awkward girl in the corner.

Balthazar was kind, smart, and he had a sly sense of humor. Everyone liked him, probably because he seemed to like most people in return. Even Raquel, who detested virtually all the in crowd, said hello to him in the hallway, and he always said hello back. He wasn’t snobbish or cold. And he really was devastatingly good-looking.

He was everything a girl could ask for, basically. But he wasn’t Lucas.

Back at my old school, the teachers always decorated for Halloween. Orange plastic pumpkins were set in the windows, waiting to be filled with Tootsie Rolls and Butterfingers, and construction paper witches flew across every wall. Last year, the principal hung candy-corn lights around her office door, which also had a sign that said, in green shaky letters, Boo! I always thought it was cheesy and fake, and it never occurred to me that I might someday miss it.

Nobody hung decorations at Evernight.

“Maybe they think the gargoyles are scary enough,” Raquel suggested over our lunch in her dorm room.

I remembered the one outside my bedroom window and tried to imagine him draped in candy-corn lights. “Yeah, I see what you mean. If your school actually is a dank, scary dungeon from hell, Halloween decorations are sort of beside the point.”

“Too bad we don’t run a haunted house. You know, for little kids from Riverton? We could dress up, make it really scary. Play devils and demons for a weekend. Some of these jerks wouldn’t have to act that much. We could raise money for the school.”

“I don’t think Evernight Academy needs more money.”

“Good point,” she admitted. “But we could raise money for charity, maybe. Like a help hotline or suicide prevention or something. I don’t think many of these people care about charity, but they’d probably do it just for their college applications. None of these rich bitches even talk about college, probably because they’re all legacies at Harvard or Yale or something, but still, they’ve got to apply. So they might go for the idea, right?”

The images flickered in my mind: cobwebs on the staircases, students laughing maniacally and the sound echoing throughout the great hall, and innocent little kids, wide-eyed with terror as Courtney or Vidette waved long black fingernails above their heads. “We’re too late, though—Halloween’s only two weeks away. Maybe next year.”

“If I come back here next year, please shoot me.” Raquel groaned, flopping backward onto her bed. “My parents say I should stick it out, because I got a scholarship to come here and otherwise it’s just my old public school, with the metal detectors and no honors program. But I hate this. I hate it.”

My stomach rumbled. The tuna salad and crackers Raquel and I had shared wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy my hunger; I’d need to eat again in my room. I didn’t want her to realize that, though. “It’s got to get better.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“No.” We both looked at each other, expressions bleak, and then burst out laughing.

As our laughter died down, I realized that I could hear shouting—not close by but farther down the hall. Raquel lived not far from the central archway that connected the girls’ dorms to the classroom areas; to me, it sounded like the noise was coming from there. “Hey, do you hear—”

“Yeah.” Raquel pushed herself up on her elbows, listening. “I think it’s a fight.”

“A fight?”

“Trust somebody who used to go to the meanest public school in Boston. I know a fight when I hear one.”

“Come on.” I grabbed my book bag and started out the door, but Raquel grabbed at the sleeve of my sweater.

“What are you doing? We don’t want to get in the middle of anything.” Her eyes were wide. “Don’t ask for trouble.”

She made sense, but I couldn’t listen. If there was a fight, I had to make sure—absolutely sure—that Lucas wasn’t mixed up in it. “Stay here if you want. I’m going.”

Raquel let me leave.

I hurried toward the sounds of yelling and even screaming. That was Courtney’s voice, savage with glee, shouting, “Take him out!”

“Guys, yo, guys!” Those were Vic’s words echoing in the corridor. “Knock it off!”

Heart sinking, I turned the corner just in time to see Erich punch Lucas in the face.

Lucas went sprawling backward, falling on his ass in front of the whole school. The Evernight types started laughing, and Courtney even applauded. Lucas’s lips were smeared with blood, stark against his pale skin. When he realized that he was looking up at me, he shut his eyes tightly. Maybe the embarrassment hurt more than the blow.

“Don’t insult me again,” Erich commanded. He held up his hands, studying them as if satisfied with his handiwork. His knuckles were smeared with Lucas’s dark blood. “Or next time, I’ll shut you up permanently.”

Lucas sat up, staring at Erich intently. A weird silence fell over the crowd, as if everything had become a lot more serious—as if the fight weren’t over but had only begun. It wasn’t dread I sensed, though; it was anticipation. Eagerness. The desire for punishment. “Next time this is going to turn out a whole lot different.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Erich jeered. “Next time, it’s really going to hurt.” He stalked away, the conquering hero in the eyes of Courtney and the others who followed him. Everyone else sort of hurried away before any teachers could arrive. Only Vic and I stayed.

Vic knelt by Lucas’s side. “You look like crap, by the way.”

“Thanks for breaking it to me gently.” Lucas took a deep breath, then groaned. Vic helped steady him and offered a wadded-up tissue for the blood trickling from Lucas’s nose.

I didn’t know what to say. All I could think was how terrible Lucas looked. Erich had clearly gotten the better of him. Ever since the incident in the pizza parlor, I’d been thinking of Lucas as a much rougher guy, somebody who got into fights all the time for the hell of it. Well, now he’d just gotten into another fight. Did that prove I’d been correct? Or did the fact that he’d gotten the stuffing knocked out of him prove that Lucas wasn’t such a tough guy after all?

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