“Anytime, Peaches,” he murmured. “Anytime.”* * *Walking to history class Friday afternoon with Zoe, I smothered a yawn. A nightmare had wakened me shortly after falling asleep, and then Luc had called, and I ended up staying awake for several hours, watching a funny web series on my laptop while Luc did the same from his apartment. I fell asleep with Luc’s laughter in my ear, and that was as nice—no, as wonderful—as the picture he’d given me. I’d taken it home with me and had hung it above my bed, and I thought—or hoped—it was level.
“Do you think we have a quiz today? I feel like we’re long overdue for one.”
“God, I hope not, because I don’t even know how to spell my name right now,” she said.
I laughed. “It’s three words.”
“Look,” she said. “Don’t underestimate my inability to spell right now.”
“I’ll try not—” My right shoulder jerked forward as someone bumped into me. Turning, my mouth dropped open. “Whoa, Coop. Good afternoon to you.”
The tall, blond boy lurched past us, shuffling through the classroom. He didn’t apologize, didn’t even seem to notice that he’d nearly knocked me over. I straightened the strap on my bag, eyeing him. He looked a mess—a hot mess. His striped navy-and-gold shirt was so wrinkled it looked like he’d pulled it on at the last minute, and his usually styled hair was sticking up in every direction.
I glanced over at Zoe. “What in the world?”
She shook her head. “He looks hungover.”
“As if you’d know what that looks like.”
“Oh, I will never forget over the summer when you decided to taste each bottle in your mom’s liquor cabinet,” she replied. “That is not something I’ll ever forget, thank you very much.”
Cringing, I could almost taste the liquor. It was like gasoline going down and bad life choices coming back up. “God, don’t remind me.”
“Hey, at least we can forget about it while checking out Mr. Barker.”
“You are so hot for that teacher,” I told her.
“Ain’t no shame in my game,” she said as we walked past the podium.
Coop took his seat in the middle, looking as pasty as a powdered doughnut. A sheen of fine sweat dotted his forehead. Did he have a fever? Thinking of Ryan and the families in Kansas City, I resisted the urge to cover my entire face with my shirt. I doubted this virus, if it was a flu, was still lingering around.
He lifted his head, and his cloudy gaze met mine. “Hey.”
I let my bag slip off my arm. “Dude, you look like crap. Are you okay?”
“I feel like crap.” He ran his hand over his cheek.
“You probably should’ve stayed home.” I slid into my seat and starting digging around in my bag.
“Yeah,” he muttered. “Got an exam next period. Probably hit the nurse’s office after that.”
Zoe dropped into the chair behind me. “You do not look like you’re going to make it until next period.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” Coop cradled his head in his arms. Within a couple of seconds, he looked like he was out. I dropped my bag on the floor as Mr. Barker walked into class, and like every day, he had that gross-looking smoothie in his hand.
I started nibbling on my pen as something as wonderful as the photo Luc gave me and falling asleep to his laughter occurred to me.
Things felt … well, they felt normal.
I was still somewhat hungry, even after lunch. Zoe and I were no longer walking on eggshells with each other, and she was currently eyeballing the teacher like she was starving, and all of that was a normal Friday. It had been a normal week, actually.
Muscles I didn’t even realize were tense relaxed. I needed this—the normalcy—because that was how I would deal with everything that happened. And I was dealing. Totally. Because the only other option was to curl up in a corner somewhere and rock back and forth, and while I had no idea who I really was, I knew that wasn’t me.
Realizing that Mr. Barker had started to lecture, I scribbled down as much as I could of what he was talking about, ignoring Zoe as she repeated nearly everything Barker said under her breath … with a really bad English accent.
I had my cheek smashed against my fist and my pen hovering over the paper when the door opened. A low-level hum entered the room. Mr. Barker didn’t stop talking as I peeked up and spotted the RAC drone enter the class.
The thing hovered about five feet off the floor, its black spindles whirling as it moved down the first aisle, stopping at each person to scan their retinas.
No matter how many times I saw them at the mall or in class, they freaked me the hell out. Like, what if it got hacked and started poking people in the eyes with one of its spindle things at the bottom?