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First pages

Chapter One

The day my dad disappeared felt like any other day. He gave me a kiss when he left for work. I was nibbling on a piece of toast and trying to think of one good reason to go to school that day. I eventually settled on “because I have to” before my mom said it. When I got home, after a killer calculus test and the world’s longest physics lab, Dad was gone.

 

Mom said he’d been called away for work and she didn’t seem worried, so I didn’t worry either. By the time I did my homework, ate dinner, and did an hour at Tae Kwon Do, it was time for bed anyway. It wasn’t really until the weekend that I started to worry about Dad. I realized my mom was acting weird at about the same time.

 

It was about two weeks after my dad vanished that life got turned upside down.

***

“Catelyn Europa Abbott, you have exactly two minutes to get down here before I leave for work and you have to walk to school,” my mother shouted up the stairs.

I sighed. I probably only had five minutes or so to do something with my hair and get downstairs before she really lost her temper. I raised my elbows up over my head, banging one of them on the mirror in front of me.

“Damn,” I shouted as I hit my funny bone and pain radiated through my arm and into my hand. “No time, no time,” I told my reflection.

I took a deep breath and leaned my head against the mirror. The glass was cool and I felt slightly better as I exhaled slowly.

“One more time,” I said to myself. I pulled my hair back and twisted it into a pile on the top of my head. Holding it tight with one hand, I grabbed a clip and tried to secure the pile in place. Five clips later, I cautiously let go. Barely breathing, I studied the results in the mirror.

“It’s a mess,” I said grumpily.

“Yes, it is,” my mother said from behind me.

I jumped and spun around, managing to bang my other elbow on the mirror as I did so.

“Ouch, damn, ouch,” I yelled.

“You have one minute to fix your hair and come downstairs,” my mother told me, looking amused. “But what’s wrong with the mirror in your room? Why are you even in here?”

“Your mirror is bigger,” I muttered, not meeting her hazel eyes with my own light green ones. I didn’t want to explain that being in my parents’ room made me feel closer to my father. That felt like the wrong thing to say.

“Whatever, in one more minute I’ll be leaving, and if you aren’t there I’ll go without you. Then you’ll have to walk to school and you will definitely be late.” She turned and strode out of the room.

I glanced at the clock as she went. She was right. I was really late today. All that jumping around had dislodged at least half of the clips that weren’t really doing their job anyway. I sighed and quickly pulled the clips out. It took a short while to brush out all of the tangles I’d created. Once that was done, I pulled the whole lot into a low ponytail. One of these days I’d get my hair exactly how I wanted it.

Leaning forward, I went to rest my head on the glass one more time. Somehow the gesture felt calming. As my head hit the flat mirrored surface, something seemed to give under its touch. I gasped as the top of my head kept going, right through the mirror

“Mom’s going to kill me,” I exclaimed as I jumped backwards, my head filled with visions of shattered glass going everywhere. The mirror looked undamaged. Afraid to touch it again, I tried to look behind it, but it was flat, pressed up against the bedroom wall. When I heard the front door open, I grabbed my sweatshirt and pulled it on, glancing at the mirror one more time as I fled the room. I hadn’t been sleeping well; clearly I’d had an odd dizzy spell or something.

I dropped into my seat as the final bell rang for first period. Mrs. Carter frowned at me, but she didn’t say anything. All of the teachers at school had been extra nice to me since my dad’s disappearance, something that I was happy to take advantage of at least some of the time.

“Today we are going to talk about rotational inertia,” Mrs. Carter said.

I slid down in my seat and sighed to myself. Physics was nowhere near as interesting as I’d hoped it would be. I forced myself to take notes, only half listening as Mrs. Carter droned on and on. My father was a world-famous astrophysicist who worked for NASA. This stuff was supposed to be in my blood, but today I really wasn’t feeling it.

By the time I’d made it through physics and English, I was ready for a break from learning. Unfortunately, what I got was gym class.

“Good morning, everyone,” Mrs. Richards said in her syrupy sweet voice. “We’re going to play volleyball today.”

I groaned and glanced over at my only friend in the class. Greta rolled her pretty green eyes at me. Neither of us was particularly athletic. I took Tae Kwon Do classes, and I was pretty good at it as well, but team sports like volleyball were a very different matter. Greta just hated all physical activity.

“Let’s have Kristen Meyers and Hayley Stone be team captains this time,” Mrs. Richards said.

I thought Greta was going to hurt herself as she rolled her eyes even more dramatically. Of course Kristen and Hayley were going to be team captains. They were the most popular girls in the school. Why wouldn’t Mrs. Richards pick them?

“I’ll have Paige and Jenny on my team,” Kristen said quickly, smoothing her blonde hair with a perfectly manicured hand.

“And I’ll have Karen and Joy on mine,” Hayley added. She licked her glossed lips and flipped her matching bleached-blonde hair.

I stood with Greta and we watched as the popular girls picked their friends, and then worked their way through the rest of the class. Eventually, we were the only two left.

“That just leaves Greta and Catelyn,” Mrs. Richards said.

“Oh, you can have them both,” Kristen told her best friend.

“I don’t want them,” Hayley shrieked. “Nerds can’t play volleyball.”

“Girls, that’s isn’t very nice,” Mrs. Richards said as the other girls all laughed. “Here at Douglas Prep we don’t say unflattering things about one another. I’m sure both Catelyn and Greta will try very hard to do their very best at volleyball today. Won’t you, girls?”

“Nah,” Greta said with a shrug. “I’d rather just stand at the back and watch the others run around.”

“Greta Hanson, that is a terrible attitude.”

I smiled to myself as Mrs. Richards launched into a twenty-minute lecture on the importance of having the right attitude in life. Greta spent the time braiding her long red hair and then finger-combing it out. By the time Mrs. Richards finished her little speech, there was just time for a few minutes of play before the bell rang.

Even in those few minutes, I managed to get hit on the head with a ball, which left me even less enthusiastic about team sports. As my teammates all laughed at me, I told Mrs. Richards I needed to sit down.

“I’m feeling quite dizzy,” I said. “And I think I might throw up.”

“You can sit out the rest of the game,” Mrs. Richards said with a frown. I knew she didn’t want to let me off, but she’d seen the ball hit me. There was no way she could accuse me of faking it.

When the bell rang, I changed back into my school uniform and headed for my Comparative Governments class as quickly as I could. Mrs. Richards caught me on my way out.

“Is your head feeling better?” she asked, almost sounding as if she cared.

“A little,” I replied, wondering if I could possibly spin the incident into another day off gym.

“If you aren’t feeling better after your next class, you should go to the nurse,” Mrs. Richards told me.

“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” I said. I’d rather cut off my head than go and see Nurse Miller. All she ever did was stick bandages on cut fingers and ask embarrassing questions designed to figure out who was sexually active and who wasn’t. My friend Bella once gave her the wrong answer to a question and got a forty-minute lecture on sexually transmitted diseases. And Bella had just gone to ask her for a cough drop. I’d rather die of a brain tumor than tell the woman I had a headache.

Government class was boring, but at least I could make faces at my friend Abby Rogers behind Mr. Pease’s back. As I took notes on how the Parliament in the United Kingdom could get rid of the Prime Minister if they didn’t agree with him or her, I tried to work out what had happened to the mirror in my parents’ bedroom that morning.

“Ms. Abbott?” Mr. Pease was looking at me.

“I’m sorry. I got hit in the head with a volleyball last period and I’m still feeling a little bit dizzy. Can you repeat the question?” I said.

“What is the name given to the leader of the party with the second highest majority in the UK Parliament?” he asked.

I glanced over at Abby and tried to read her lips. “Um, the leader of the opposition?” I replied.

“Are you asking me or telling me?”

Abby gave me a discreet thumbs up.

“Telling you, sir,” I said.

“Very good.” The man walked back to the front of the room and tapped on the white board. The next slide appeared, and as he talked, I dutifully wrote down everything on the slide.

“British politics are so boring,” Abby whispered in my ear as we walked out of the room. “If their accents weren’t so awesome, I wouldn’t want to go there at all.”

“At least it’s time for lunch,” I replied. “I need the break today.”

“Yeah, you weren’t paying attention in class. That isn’t like you,” Abby said. “Are you okay?”

“There’s just a lot going on,” I told her. “My dad and all that.”

Abby nodded, her brown eyes reflecting her concern. “Why don’t you plan on sleeping over at my house this weekend?” she asked. “You can help me figure out what I’m going to do with my hair next.”

I looked at her with raised eyebrows. The last time she’d decided to change her hair, she’d shaved off one side and cut the rest into a chin-length bob that she’d dyed bright blue. That had only been a few weeks ago, but the blue had mostly washed out back to her normal brown. “What are you considering?” I had to ask.

“I thought maybe I would try a different color,” she replied with a shrug. “I figured we could dig around online and find something cool.”

“I’ll have to ask my mom,” I said reluctantly.

“Is she still acting weird?”

“Yeah, ever since Dad, um, went away, she’s been just a little bit odd. I’m sure everything will be fine once Dad gets back.”

Abby gave me a sympathetic look that I hated. Everyone seemed to think that my dad wasn’t coming back for some reason, but I knew he’d never leave us, or at least not me.

Greta was already at our lunch table, making faces at the tray of food in front of her.

“What is it?” I asked as I dropped off my backpack.

“According to the sign, it’s grilled chicken with rice and steamed vegetables,” she replied, poking at the grey slab of meat on her plate. “I’m afraid to taste it, though.”

I sighed and followed Abby to the back of the line. At Douglas Prep, packed lunches weren’t allowed. Instead, we were fed “a carefully balanced diet meeting the optimal nutritional needs of today’s teens.” I cheered up slightly when I saw the sugar cookies at the end of the line. Okay, they were whole grain and sweetened with applesauce rather than sugar, but they weren’t half bad, especially compared to the main course.

Back at the table, Bella Tulane had joined Greta. Her curly brown hair was dancing around her face as she laughed at something Greta had said.

“Bella, how has your morning been?” Abby asked.

“Not too bad,” Bella replied. “I had gym first period, and Debby managed to trip over her own left foot. Mrs. Richards had to get Nurse Miller down to the gym, and in the end they had to call her parents to come and get her. Sorting it all out took nearly the entire period, which means I didn’t have to touch the stupid volleyball even once.”

“Lucky you,” I said, rubbing my head, which was still sore.

“Greta told me you got hit with a ball,” Bella said, patting my hand. “I hope you’re okay.”

“I’m fine. I just wish we all had gym together,” I told her.

“They wouldn’t dare put us all in the same gym class,” Abby laughed. “We’d just stand around whispering and never do what Mrs. Richards said.”

“As small as this school is, I can’t believe we don’t have more classes together,” Greta complained. “I hardly ever see you guys during the day.”

“At least it’s Friday,” Bella said. “We can hang out at my house this weekend, if you want. My dad is away and my mom is working most of the weekend.”

“Am I invited, too?” Adam Cole asked as he slid into the seat next to me. “Hey, babe,” he whispered, running his hand down my back.

“You and your brother are both invited,” Bella replied, looking hard at Adam.

I grinned. The two boys were identical twins, but I never had any trouble telling them apart. Bella should have known it was Adam anyway, as he was my boyfriend, not Alec. Speaking of Alec, he dropped into a seat on the opposite side of the table and nodded at everyone. I’d always thought that the main reason I could tell the brothers apart was that Alec never, and I mean ever, smiled. Now he focused on eating his lunch, seemingly tuning out the conversation going on around him.

I looked at Adam. The twins both had the same wavy blond hair and gorgeous grey eyes, but to me Adam was much more attractive than Alec. Adam winked at me and slipped his arm around me.

“Now, none of that,” a stern voice said from behind me. Adam sighed and dropped his arm.

“You’ve your entire adult lives to worry about dating and the like. While you’re in high school, you should concentrate on academics.”

Adam gave the speaker his brightest fake smile. “Yes, ma’am, Mrs. McCoy. Right you are.”

Mrs. McCoy, the head of the school, stared back at him. “Your brother never gives me any trouble,” she said, pointing at Alec with her pointy chin. “He’s a model student and I’ve never seen him with his arm around a girl, either.”

Adam opened his mouth and then snapped it shut. I knew he’d just swallowed some smart remark that he only barely knew better than to make.

“Now, everyone eat up your lovely lunches. You’ll need all of your energy for a busy afternoon of classes, won’t you?”

Mrs. McCoy gave us all a bright smile and then turned and walked away. Bella glanced at me and we both made faces.

“Is any of it edible?” I asked the others.

“The cookies aren’t bad,” Adam replied, helping himself to one of mine.

“Hey, give that back,” I told him. “I need that. I won’t be eating anything else out of this mess.”

Adam took a big bite of my cookie before he put it back on my tray. I was so angry that I almost burst into tears. Alec caught my eye as I opened my mouth to shout at Adam.

“I’ll trade you one of my cookies for your rice,” he offered.

I slid as far away from Adam as I could and smiled brightly at Alec. “Thank you,” I said, quickly trading before he could change his mind.

“The lines are crazy today,” Julia Evanmist said as she flopped into the last seat at the table, her dark brown hair in its usual ponytail. “I can’t imagine why. It isn’t as if anyone is going up for seconds.”

“Maybe everyone is hanging back, hoping they’ll run out of everything except cookies,” I suggested.

Julia cut up her meat and took a small bite. “What is this?” she asked, gagging slightly as she swallowed hard and then washed the bite down with a drink of milk.

“I think it’s meant to be chicken,” Abby said. “When you’ve been here a bit longer, you’ll learn not to even try most of the meat products.”

Julia frowned. “You might have warned me,” she complained. She’d only transferred to Douglas Prep a few weeks earlier and was still settling in.

“You wouldn’t have believed us,” Greta said. “You’d have still wanted to try it. Besides, some people actually like it.”

“Who?” Julia demanded.

“Kristen and her friends,” I said, pointing to the table where the most popular kids were sitting. Everyone was busily clearing their plates, laughing and talking together, seemingly paying no attention to what they were eating.

“Maybe they get something different because they’re so wonderful,” Julia suggested.

“Nah, I used to sit at their table,” Bella said. “It’s the same gross food. They just aren’t bright enough to realize it.”

Everyone laughed and I gave Bella’s hand a squeeze. The day she’d decided that she’d rather be friends with the smart and nerdy kids instead of the popular ones had been one of the best days of my life. Bella was smart, with a wonderful sense of humor, and she always had the best ideas for things we could do with our weekends and free time. In the last couple of months, she’d become one of my best friends, although sometimes I couldn’t quite believe that she’d dumped Kristen and the popular people in favor of us.

“The food is getting worse, though, isn’t it?” Abby asked. “I mean, I used to actually eat most of the food, but this week has been pretty awful.”

“Yesterday was okay,” I said. “And Monday was edible. But Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty bad.”

“I think they’re getting ready to put up fees again,” Adam said. “The administration wants to make sure we’re complaining about the food before they tell our parents they’re going to have to pay a lot more.”

“I hope they don’t,” Julia said. “My parents are already working really hard to keep me here.”

I wondered what would happen if my dad didn’t come home soon. I wasn’t sure my mother could afford to keep me at Douglas Prep without my father’s income. “The food’s probably better at Douglas Central anyway,” I said.

“Unless you get it stolen from you,” Adam said.

Among those of us who were being educated privately, the local public school had a reputation for being a dangerous place. I knew a few kids from the school, thanks to my Tae Kwon Do club, so I was aware that the rumors about the daily violence and out-of-control drug abuse were greatly exaggerated. Douglas Prep did everything they could to encourage those rumors, of course, so that they could justify the huge fees they charged.

“My mother took a tour when we were getting ready to move, and she said the whole building smelled like marijuana,” Julia whispered.

“I don’t think my mom knows what marijuana smells like,” Abby said.

Julia blushed. “Mom was sort of a hippy in the seventies,” she told us. “Now she’s totally gone the other way and is super conservative. I blame my dad. He’s ruined her.”

Everyone laughed, and then we finished eating what was edible on our lunch trays. When the bell rang, we were quick to dash away from the table before the lunch ladies came in to clean up. The women always yelled at us if we hadn’t eaten very much. Today we were all safely in the hallway outside the cafeteria before the first lunch lady made it across the threshold. Exchanging quick high fives with everyone, I dashed off toward my next class.

Adam caught my arm as I turned away.

“See you after school, babe,” he said, dropping a quick kiss on the tip of my nose.

I loved it when he did that. It was such a sweet gesture that I couldn’t stay mad at him any more. “See ya,” I replied, smiling.

After lunch was band, which I usually hated because I found it hard to play my saxophone when my stomach was full. Today I’d only eaten two and a half cookies, though, so playing wasn’t a problem. We worked our way through a new piece that was for our end-of-the-year concert. The saxophone part wasn’t very big, so I was able to sit back and relax for a lot of the period. I found myself watching Alec from across the room. He was playing his trombone, clearly concentrating hard, and I wondered how he and his brother could share the same genetic code and be such different people. When the bell rang, I put my sax away and followed the crowd out into the hallway.

“How did your story come out?” a voice asked at my side.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said, blushing as I met Alec’s eyes. We both had creative writing next and we had to turn in a story today. “I hate having to write to order,” I explained. “I couldn’t even figure out where to start.”

“It was a bit of a strange assignment,” Alec agreed. “I wish we’d been given the weekend to work on it, rather than having to turn it in on a Friday.”

In class, Mrs. Whybrew gave us all a bright smile. “We’re going to do something different with this assignment,” she told us all. “Instead of me collecting them and going through them, I’m going to have you exchange papers with another student. Your homework for the weekend is to read the other person’s assignment and write a short paragraph assessing it. You’re all used to reading the assessments I write. Now it’s your turn to do something similar.”

I groaned softly and slid down in my seat. As if it wasn’t bad enough having to write five thousand words about a teenager having her first crush, now I had to let one of my classmates read my story? Could the day get any worse?

“We’ll do things alphabetically, so that no one feels left out. Ms. Abbott, you’ll exchange papers with Mr. Cole, please,” Mrs. Whybrew said.

I exchanged glances with Alec, who shrugged and opened his notebook. While Mrs. Whybrew continued down the list of names, I dug my assignment out of my bag.

“Please be kind,” I whispered as I handed Alec my neatly typed story.

“Please remember that it’s all fiction,” Alec whispered back.

As I sat back down in my seat, I thought I saw Alec wink at me. I looked at him quickly, but he was staring down at my story. I must have imagined it. Alec wasn’t the winking type.

As soon as the papers were all exchanged, Mrs. Whybrew had us work on our descriptive skills, writing long paragraphs about what everyone else in the class was wearing. It was boring, but it filled the time until the bell. The closer it got to the end of the day, the more eager I was to get home and see if I could figure out what was going on with the mirror in my parents’ room.

“Just calculus between us and the weekend,” Bella said as she caught up to me in the corridor between classes.

It was calculus that had brought her into my circle of friends. Only a handful of juniors were permitted to take the class, and Bella and I had were the only junior girls in it. On the first day, as we’d both felt the cold stares of the room full of seniors, we’d discovered that we had more in common than we’d expected. By the end of the first week, we’d become friends, and a week later Bella decided that she’d rather eat lunch with me and my friends than spend any more time with the popular crowd.

Alec took his seat by the door just before Mr. Buffington closed it and took attendance. As we worked on single-variable equations, I found myself glancing over at Alec more than once. I was almost as interested in reading his story as I was in working out what was happening with that mirror, I realized.

“So, what time are you coming over tomorrow?” Bella asked as we gathered up our textbooks and shoved things into backpacks.

“I don’t know. I need to talk to my mom first. I’m never sure what’s going on at the moment,” I replied.

“Just come over whenever,” Bella told me. “Bring your sleeping bag and stay until Monday if you can.”

“I wish,” I replied. “I’m sure mom will have a long list of chores for me this weekend. She always does these days.”

“You could come over tonight, but my mom will be home,” Bella said.

“That’s okay. I have a ton of homework to get through anyway. I’ll save the calculus problems to do with you, but I still have homework in every other class. The teachers just love loading us up over the weekend, don’t they?”

“Sometimes I think I’d rather not be smart,” Bella told me. “You know Kristen and her friends aren’t worried about homework over the weekend.”

“I keep thinking one or the other of them is going to get kicked out, but I guess as long as your parents keep paying your tuition, your grades don’t matter.”

“I heard that Paige is on academic probation,” Bella whispered.

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know,” Bella shrugged. “But it sounds serious, anyway.”

Alec fell into step with me as I walked back to my locker.

“You know that story?” he asked tentatively.

“Yeah?”

“Just remember that it’s fiction, okay?”

“You already told me that,” I reminded him.

“I know, but it’s important,” he said, giving me a serious look.

“Okay, I’ll remember,” I promised him, trying not to laugh. Clearly Alec had a crush on someone I knew and he’d written about her in his story. I sorted out my backpack as Alec continued down the hall. As I headed for the front of the school, I amused myself by trying to work out which of my friends was Alec’s crush. I stopped short as I walked out of the exit, startled to see Adam leaning against the flagpole, talking to Kristen.

They were standing very close together, and I stood very still as Adam said something that made Kristen laugh. For a moment, I tried to tell myself that it was Alec I was seeing, rather than Adam, but I’d just walked past Alec on my way out of the school. He was still at his locker.

A pair of giggling girls pushed past me down the steps. All around me normal life was going on, but I felt frozen as I watched my boyfriend kiss Kristen on the tip of her nose.

Chapter Two

Kristen ran her fingers through Adam’s hair, and I could see her hot pink nails shining in the sun. I took a deep breath and then started down the steps, walking slowly but deliberately toward the pair. It was Kristen who spotted me first.

“Oh, dear,” she gasped. “Catelyn.”

Adam jumped backwards and spun around to face me. “Catelyn? I thought you’d be a little bit longer at your locker.”

“Clearly,” I said dryly.

“This isn’t what you think,” Adam said, glancing at Kristen and then back at me.

“Oh, that’s good news,” I said. “Because it looked very much like you were flirting with Kristen, possibly even arranging a date or something.”

“Oh, no, it wasn’t anything like that,” Adam said with a forced-looking grin.

“So what was it?” I demanded.

“We were just talking,” Adam told me. “Yeah, talking.”

“Really? What about?”

Adam looked at Kristen and she shrugged, a nasty smile on her face.

“The weather,” Adam said.

I laughed. There was nothing else I could do. I felt as if I’d been stabbed in the heart, but I laughed. “Cloudy with a chance of kisses?” I asked. Before Adam could reply, I turned and began to walk away from him as quickly as I could.

“Catelyn, wait,” he shouted after me.

“Does that mean you don’t want to come over again tonight?” Kristen asked, her voice unnaturally loud. No doubt she wanted to make sure I heard her.

I didn’t hear Adam’s reply, but I did hear his footsteps behind me as he ran to catch up.

“Catelyn, wait,” he said. “I can explain.”

“You don’t need to explain,” I said. “What was happening back there was pretty obvious.”

“Kristen offered to tutor me in pre-calc, that’s all it was,” he said.

“How sweet of her,” I replied. “I guess I wasn’t helping enough, then?”

Adam flushed and stopped walking. I took a few more steps, but then turned and looked at him. “What?” I demanded.

“You make me feel stupid sometimes,” he said. I opened my mouth to reply, but he held up a hand.

“I know you don’t mean to, but when we work on math together, I just feel like an idiot. You’re much better at it than I am. I thought if I did some work with Kristen that I could stop asking you to help.”

He looked so sincere and sad that I almost forgave him. “I took pre-calc,” I said thoughtfully. “I don’t remember where exactly the nose kissing came into the class, though.”

Adam shook his head. “Kristen was being so nice to me. I just lost my head for a second, that’s all,” he told me.

“And she was running her fingers through your hair to stimulate your brain?”

“She was just flirting a little bit,” Adam said. “It didn’t mean anything, though. You know I’m in love with you.”

“No, I don’t,” I said coolly.

“Catelyn, don’t be like this. I’m sorry I kissed her and I’m sorry she’s been helping me with my math. I won’t study with her anymore, okay?”

“How long have you been going over to her house to study?” I asked.

“Just a few weeks,” Adam said. He looked down at the ground. “You’ve been busy lately and she offered to help.”

“She’s such a kind-hearted person,” I said sarcastically.

“She’s not that bad,” Adam said quickly. “I know you and your friends don’t like her, but she’s actually really nice when you get her away from her friends at school.”

“I’d be more impressed if she were nice all the time.”

“She’s always nice to me,” Adam replied. “And she’s a great teacher. I’ve learned a lot from her in the last couple of weeks.”

“Good for you. You won’t want to work with me anymore, then, will you?”

Adam opened and then closed his mouth. I could see the indecision in his eyes and I couldn’t stand it.

“Let me make this easy for you,” I said. “If she’s such a big help, you keep working with Kristen. You can keep on kissing her as well. As far as I’m concerned, we’re through.”

“You don’t mean that,” Adam said. He took the two steps he needed to reach me and took my hands in his. “We have too much shared history for you to break up with me over something so stupid.”

I took a deep breath. Adam and Alec had lived next door to me since my family had bought our house when I was two. We’d all grown up playing together and had been in school together since kindergarten. I’d always been a little in love with Adam, and as he’d grown up into a gorgeous and incredibly sexy teenager, I’d been amazed and flattered that he’d stayed in my social circle instead of joining the popular crowd, where he was no doubt welcome. When he’d asked me to be his girlfriend, nearly a year ago, I’d thought life couldn’t get any better.

“You’ll be happier with Kristen,” I said. “If you didn’t already know that, you would have told me that you were studying with her.”

Adam opened his mouth, but I held up a hand. “Let’s not talk anymore now,” I said. “We can talk tomorrow at Bella’s.”

Adam nodded. “We have a lot to talk about,” he said.

“Or maybe we don’t,” I replied to his back as he walked away. He didn’t turn around. I’m not sure he even heard me. The rest of my walk home was a teary blur. I went straight up to my room and grabbed my cell phone. We weren’t allowed to have them in school and my mom tried to restrict the time I spent on my phone as much as she could, but she was still at work. I had at least an hour before I needed to worry about her.

I typed blindly and sent the message to the group chat that didn’t include Alec and Adam. Within seconds, my phone rang.

“What does ‘Abby kibbled Christmas’ mean?” Abby demanded.

“Adam kissed Kristen,” I wailed.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

D.X. started writing books for her children when her son was only five. She eventually moved on to writing books for adults, and publishes a number of series of cozy mystery titles (as Diana Xarissa). This trilogy marks a return to her love for writing for her children, as it was written for her daughter who loves YA dystopian fiction. D.X. has lived in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, the Isle of Man, and Derbyshire. She's currently enjoying snowy winters just outside of Buffalo, NY.

Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
This almost never happens, but the idea for this book came from an odd dream that I had. I'd been playing with the idea of writing something for my daughter, but I didn't have a story in mind. One night I had a very vivid dream that suggested the storyline for this entire trilogy.
Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
I worked for a very long time on the cover for this book. (And probably drove my cover artist crazy!) I wanted the woman in the mirror and I wanted her reflection to be clearly not the same woman. My brilliant cover artist added a lot of the final touches to what you see.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I had a lot of fun writing this trilogy. It was a big change from what I normally write and it was interesting to write for a very specific target audience (my daughter and her friends). The best part of writing YA was getting feedback from my daughter's friends. I was thrilled that they loved it.