Stargazer Page 31

She let her hand drop. A small crescent of blood marked the skin of her thumb. “There’s something in my parents’ house.”

“Something—like a ghost.”

“The old man,” she said. “Thin and bony. No hair. I’ve seen him ever since I was little. And I never saw him for very long, back then, and mostly in my dreams. So sometimes I thought I was imagining it.” Raquel sounded reasonable, even calm, but her entire body had begun to shake.

“A couple years ago—when I got older—I started to see him more often, and then I knew I hadn’t imagined it. He waited for me late at night, when he could scare me. He liked to scare me. If it even is a he—

maybe that’s just how it looks, but it might not be a man. Maybe it’s just a thing. An old, evil thing twisted up with hate. Because it hates me. It always has.”

“What did your parents say?” As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I wanted to snatch them back. Ever since I’d known Raquel, she’d told me again and again how her parents blew off her fears. This was one of the things they’d ignored and left her to deal with on her own. “They didn’t believe you.”

“Neither did my priest. Neither did my teacher. I just had to—be quiet and know that he was there. That he was always going to be there, waiting for me. Looking at me. He has—greedy eyes. Up until this summer, that’s all he did. Look. I thought it was all he’d ever do, and I was used to him looking, but then—” A shudder passed through her, so violent that I put my hand on her shoulder to steady her. “This summer—at night sometimes, I would dream that—that he was on top of me, holding me down while he had sex with me. It hurt because I kept trying to get him off me, but I couldn’t move. Sometimes it would be every night.”

“Oh, my God.”

She finally looked me in the eyes, and a tear slipped down her cheek.

“Bianca, I don’t know if they were dreams. My whole life I’ve told myself I was imagining it. Last year—the sounds on the roof—the same kind of evil I felt with that thing in my house, I feel here. I’ve always felt it here. Now you see it, too, and I know it’s real.”

“It’s real. You don’t ever have to doubt that again.” I wasn’t sure how comforting that was. “But it’s not the same thing from your house.

What I saw wasn’t anything like that.” What I’d seen had been terrifying, but it clearly seemed to be something else altogether.

“I guess not. It freaked me out, though. Still, I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.” Raquel ducked her head. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m the one who should apologize.” I felt like such an idiot. It wasn’t just the past week that Raquel had been acting strangely; she’d been on edge and depressed since the beginning of the school year. I’d been too quick to assume that it was just her prickly personality without ever asking myself if something deeper could be the problem. Okay, there’s no way I would ever have guessed that this was what was bother-ing her—but I should’ve known that something was seriously wrong. I’d been so wrapped up in my own concerns that I’d forgotten to be Raquel’s friend. “I should’ve tried harder to talk to you. I shouldn’t have cut you off like that. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Raquel sniffled once, then half laughed, wary as ever of showing real emotion. “Didn’t mean to get weird on you.”

“You can tell me anything. Anytime. I mean it.”

“Same goes for you, okay?”

There was so much I couldn’t ever tell Raquel, but I nodded anyway.

After Raquel had gone to bed, I lay awake thinking about the horrify-ing story she had told me. I didn’t doubt for a second that she was telling the truth. Balthazar had reassured me about the wraiths by saying that most of them were afraid of vampires, but that reassurance wasn’t worth much, now that I knew what they were capable of.

Whatever was upstairs was dangerous, at least to humans and maybe to us all.

Chapter Eleven


Mrs. Bethany walked slowly across her classroom, her pointed boots clicking against the wooden floor. She clasped her hands behind her back. By this point, we had all learned that when she spoke in this tone of voice, she didn’t want you to offer answers to her questions. She preferred us to shut up and listen.

“It is, of course, because love is persuasive. Temporary as it so often is, love nonetheless compels otherwise rational creatures to behave in the most extraordinary ways.” Her dark eyes gazed out the window for a moment, but then her attention was on us again. “Therefore, it makes sense for Shakespeare to use romantic love as the fundamental motiva-tion for Romeo and Juliet’s actions. We ask ourselves if young people would behave this way. We know they would. In this way, the play rings true.”

I fidgeted in my seat and glanced at the clock above the door. Only three more minutes to go.

“However, there is more to consider about Romeo and Juliet than its portrayal of youthful passions.” Strolling to just beside my desk, where I could smell the lavender scent that always seemed to surround her, Mrs.

Bethany continued, “Your next assignment, due one week from today, is a three-page paper explaining your view of the dramatic flaws in Romeo and Juliet. I shall not lecture on these flaws now; I am more interested in those you can define and defend.”

Did she say flaws? In Romeo and Juliet? My favorite play of all time?

Mrs. Bethany paused, glaring sharply at the entire classroom, and once again I felt as though she’d seen my thoughts and was about to pounce. But for once her irritation had nothing to do with me. “I see that many of you planning to visit Riverton have already let your concentra-tion lapse. Let us hope you’ve regained your critical faculties by the time your papers are due. Class dismissed.”

I wasn’t the first one out the door, but I was close. As I ran through the hallway, I could feel my face lighting up with a smile. Even though I knew there was a chance that Lucas might not make it tonight, I knew he would make it if there were any way. And there had to be a way.

Just as I was about to dash into the stairs to the girl’s dorms, I saw Balthazar slinging his backpack over one shoulder. A sudden whim made me giggle, and then I thought, Why not? It fits our cover story. So I ran straight to Balthazar and basically tackled him, leaping up so that he had to catch me in his arms.

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