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First pages

One

The first time Becca Sommers mentioned Spanish class to me it surprised me—partly because I didn’t know Becca took Spanish, but mostly because she had just that moment slid her hand under my tee shirt and raked my chest hair with her fingernails.

“So, Jason,” she said, moving her hand down to just brush against my belt buckle, “you have Walters for Spanish 3, don’t you?”

My fantasy of dating the most popular girl in the senior class crashed and burned. And I stopped worrying about hiding my now-fading boner. “What?”

We were half sitting, half lying on Becca’s frilly four-poster bed with Coldplay’s latest release playing on her iPhone speakers. Becca had invited me into her bedroom under the assumption that I wanted to hear Coldplay. I wasn’t about to correct her. Becca had her clothes on, except for the flip-flops she had slipped off earlier, but that wasn’t saying a lot because her tube top showed a lot of cleavage, and her jeans couldn’t have been any snugger and still zipped shut.

I had on much looser jeans and a tee shirt. My sneakers had hit the floor as soon as I sat down, and I never wore socks if I could help it. “Yeah,” I said, disgusted. I should have known something was up when she asked me to come to her house after school. A girl like Becca Sommers would never go for a borderline nerd like me, no matter how well I kept my ownership of a flip phone and my passion for classic jazz a secret.

Her hand kept stroking me. I knew it was a trick, but I couldn’t move. Like a deer trapped by headlights, I waited for the impact.

“Have you read the novel yet?” she asked. “In Spanish, I mean.”

“Of course I read it,” I said, irked out of my frozen state. “I had all summer to read it.”

She gave me a pouty look. “It’s not available in English. I checked EBay, even. Nothing.” She leaned over me and smiled, shaking her head so that her blond hair whipped across my face. “Nada.”

The test on our Spanish summer reading, a rambling family saga set during the Spanish Civil War called Sin Verguenza y Sin Honor, was set for Thursday and today was Tuesday. That explained Becca’s sudden interest in me. She had cut it pretty close.

A faint vibration shook the bed, and a grinding noise sounded over the Coldplay track. I glanced at the sound system to make sure it hadn’t somehow skipped or kicked up a few notches.

Becca frowned and scrambled from the bed to look out the window. “Oh, my God!”

I figured one of her parents had shown up. It looked like Becca wasn’t supposed to have after-school company—not male company, anyway. I sat bolt upright and looked around for my shoes. “Who is it?”

“It’s my dad.” She looked suddenly pale.

I glanced out the window and realized Becca’s room was right over the garage. The vibration had been the garage door opening. One look and my eyes opened wider. “Is that a cop car?” I jumped up and grabbed for my shoes. “Is your dad a cop?”

“Yes!” She looked around frantically. “We have to get you out of here!”

I pulled on my sneaks and ran a hand through my hair, then took a quick glance at Becca’s full length mirror to see if what was left of my boner showed. Did I look like a guy on the make? Maybe, but mostly I looked like a scrawny bean pole whose clothes hung on him like they were still on the hanger. “Why? We weren’t doing anything.”

Becca grabbed my hand and ripped open the bedroom door. She dragged me into the hallway, but then gasped and dragged me right back into her bedroom. “Oh, fuck! He’s already in the house.”

“Why don’t we just go downstairs?” I said. “What’s he going to do, shoot me?”

She stared at me with her eyes wide, her pupils dilated like a stoner’s. “We can’t take that chance—not after last time.”

That got me. “What do you mean, ‘after last time’?”

She shook her head and glanced around the room. “It doesn’t matter. Get in the closet.”

“I’m not hiding in your closet.” I tried to sound indignant, but it came out more whiny.

She picked up my backpack and shoved it at me. “Get in the closet!”

“Rebecca?” a deep, masculine voice called. “Rebecca, do you have the TV on?”

I raced across the room. The closet was the long shallow kind with a pair of doors that were each supposed fold in the middle and slide along on a track, but both doors stuck after only a few inches and wouldn’t budge.

“I’m in my room, Dad,” Becca called. “I’m just listening to music.”

I wedged myself through the gap and discovered why the doors were stuck. Clothes and shoes covered the closet floor so thoroughly that I could barely stand up.

Becca gave me a sharp shove and then pushed the doors shut behind me. “Watch out for the laundry chute in the floor.” The whispered warning sounded eerily muffled in the enclosed space.

I found myself clutching my backpack and teetering in the dark, with only thin strips of light coming in through the slats in the doors. Soft fabrics brushed my face and hands.

I took a step, and my foot kept going. I had found the laundry chute the hard way. I flung myself sideways and nearly fell over, hitting the back wall with a muffled thump. I grabbed a jacket for balance and then bent down to check out the laundry chute as a way out. It seemed awfully small for an escape route, and I didn’t want to risk getting stuck like Santa in a chimney.

I moved as quietly as I could to the far end of the closet, holding the hangers as I pushed the clothes out of my way, so that none of them scraped on the bar.

“Rebecca?” The deep voice sounded incredibly close.

The mattress springs screeched as if Becca had thrown herself onto the bed. “Yeah, Dad?” She didn’t sound nervous. I wondered how many guys she had shoved into her closet.

The bedroom door creaked open. “Are you alone?” The voice sounded even deeper from up close. I could see a shadow as he moved across the room.

“Yeah,” Becca said. “It’s just me.” The bed squeaked again. She must have sat up. “What are you doing home in the middle of day shift?”

The shadow shifted like her father was moving around. “Mrs. Chester called your mom. She said you brought a boy home with you.”

“Mrs. Chester is legally blind—and a nosy bitch.” Becca sounded annoyed more than worried. I could see where a nosy neighbor could cramp her style.

“Watch your language!” Officer Sommers was still moving around. His shadow kept coming back to the closet. “And just because she’s legally blind and nosy doesn’t mean she’s wrong.”

I fought the urge to hold my breath. The last thing I needed was to pass out from a lack of oxygen. Suddenly something blocked the light almost completely and the doors rattled in their track.

“What are you doing, Daddy?” Becca sounded suddenly anxious.

I tried to press myself backward into the far corner of the closet. You would have thought a girl with a four-poster bed would have a walk-in closet, but no such luck.

The doors rattled again. “Nothing,” Becca’s father said. “Just checking this door. It’s stuck on something.”

“Mom says I need to clean out my closet.” Becca’s voice held an edge of desperation. “Too many shoes.”

For a moment I thought about trying to drop down the laundry chute, but I couldn’t make myself move to the middle of the closet. If Becca’s father got the doors open, I’d be right there in plain sight. Instead I pressed myself into the corner, willing myself to dissolve into the wall. Just then I felt an angry vibration from my pocket and heard an insistent buzz.

I had a call on my phone.

“What’s that noise?” the deep voice demanded.

I shoved my backpack into my right hand and dug frantically for my cell with my left. I flipped the phone open and then closed it instantly, but not before the luminous display had shown me that I’d hung up on my best friend Ryan.

Not good. Ryan would either call back or text me—and my phone couldn’t be silenced without making more noise than either of those events. A desperate need to be somewhere else consumed me. The doors jiggled back and forth with an angry metallic screech. I heard Becca’s father muttering under his breath. He might not like her swearing, but it was obvious where Becca had learned to use the f-word.

I closed my eyes and wished desperately that I held a communicator instead of a cell phone, so I could beam aboard my starship—or maybe I could tap my heels to go home. I wanted to be home. More than anything, I wanted to be home!

I twisted my body, trying to block the angry blows I was sure would rain down on me once Officer Sommers got the doors open. Or maybe it would be bullets. I twisted the other way. I had nothing—no plan, no escape hatch, no hope.

Dizziness struck me for a few seconds, and then suddenly I heard my little sister’s voice say, “Jason Miller, what the hell are you doing?”

I opened my eyes to find myself standing in my own living room with my jeans down around my ankles.

Two

My first thought was relief that I was wearing underwear. My next was that this couldn’t be reality. I glanced around, sure I must be hallucinating, but the living room looked like it always looked. Same olive green thrift shop sofa and battered brown leather recliner. Same ancient TV with, believe it or not, a digital converter and antenna instead of a cable hook-up. Just then our cat Sancho came up to me, rubbed against my bare leg, and purred. I could feel his fur and hear the rumble.

I dropped the backpack, tossed my phone into it, and pulled up my jeans. I was out of Becca’s closet, back in my own home, and my belt had disappeared. How the hell had that happened? Had I somehow blacked out? Did I have amnesia or something? And what had happened to my damn belt? It was my least-favorite of the three I owned, but how it had gotten lost still worried me.

“Well?” Lorrie said. Her glasses had slid down her nose a little, which made her look more studious than she really was.

I couldn’t let go of my pants or they might fall again, so I held them up with one hand while I retrieved my backpack. “None of your business.”

She snorted. “It will be when I tell Mom you’re running around the house naked.”

“I’m not naked.” My backpack buzzed. I could feel the vibration through the strap. “And if you tell her I was, you’re worse than a snitch.” I wanted to answer my phone, but I was running out of hands. I glanced around to be sure my belt hadn’t somehow slipped out of the belt loops and fallen to the floor. No sign of it.

I headed for my room and started to throw the backpack down when it occurred to me that it seemed awfully light. I dumped it out on the bed. Nothing fell out except the phone I had just tossed in. Everything else was gone—my books, my brand new iPod Touch, and expensive upgraded earbuds. And of course, the belt.

Suddenly I clapped my hand to my back pocket. My wallet was missing, too. What the hell was going on? Had someone gone to a lot of trouble to get their hands on my learner’s permit, my student ID, a condom I had been carrying around for six months, my house key, and four dollars? I opened my still vibrating phone.

“Dude,” Ryan’s voice said. “What’s up?”

“Well, for one thing I’ve just been robbed.”

#

Mom gave me a sharp glance as she passed Lorrie the mac and cheese. “Your whole wallet?”

Like anyone ever lost half a wallet. “My house key was in it.”

The glance evolved into a frown. “Oh, Jason! Whoever finds it will have our address.”

“Don’t sweat it, Mom,” Lorrie said. “It’s not like we have anything worth stealing.”

Mom turned on her. “You count your blessings! There are plenty of people worse off than we are.”

But most of them didn’t live in Bethesda, Maryland. Mom paid twice as much rent as our apartment would cost near her job in Laurel, twenty-five miles away, just so I could go to Clara Barton High School, one of the best public high schools in the country—at least that’s what people said. I didn’t have such a high opinion myself, but then I ate school lunches almost every day.

Living in Bethesda was the reason I didn’t know anyone else with a flip phone. Mom couldn’t afford anything more expensive. And she thought smart phones made for dumb people.

Lorrie dropped her eyes to her plate and scooped up a forkful of mac and cheese. She shot me a strange glance—half amusement, half triumph. You owe me, that look said. I realized she had distracted Mom on purpose.

“Don’t forget to take the spare key with you when you go to work,” Mom said. She seemed to have forgotten she was mad at me so maybe I did owe Lorrie. “I don’t want you waking me up to let you in when you come home.”

“Sure, Mom.”

She gave me an anxious glance. “Are you walking to work, sweetie?”

I poured dressing on my salad. “No, Ryan’s picking me up.”

And then finally I would have someone to talk to about how I had gotten out of Becca’s closet.

I certainly wasn’t going to tell Mom how I had gotten into it.

#

Ryan beat both hands on the steering wheel and frowned at me. “What happened?”

I unhooked my seat belt and glanced around the tiny strip mall parking lot. No one was close enough to overhear us through the open windows of Ryan’s Hyundai. “It’s not going to change the third time I tell it.”

He shook his head. “It’s not possible. Becca Sommers lives in Briar Wood. No way you could walk from there to your place in less than half an hour. Even the bus takes fifteen minutes.”

And I had left school with Becca at 2:30 p. m. and arrived home at 3:25. What’s more, my phone showed less than two minutes between the two times Ryan had called me. I held up both hands. “Well, duh! I guess Scotty must have beamed me aboard.” I wished I could stop thinking about that. How had I suddenly materialized in the living room? The front door had been locked and the deadbolt in place. I had checked. My house key was in my wallet, and my wallet was gone.

Ryan pulled out his phone and glanced at it. “Dude, you’d better get going.”

I opened the passenger door. “Thanks for the ride.”

He waggled one hand at me. “Any time.”

I had just stepped out of the car when Becca Sommers came up to me and shoved a paper grocery bag into my hands. “I’ve been waiting for you,” she said, in a tone just short of annoyed. “Take your things.”

I pulled open the bag and looked in. My books, my iPod, with the earbuds still wound around it, one brown leather belt, and one canvas wallet.

“How—” I started to say.

“Sorry about my dad,” Becca said in a rush. “But really, you shouldn’t have left all that stuff in my closet. If Dad had noticed it, he would have known who to look for.”

The condom wouldn’t have helped my case. I swallowed and tried to think what to say. “Thanks.”

She gave me a head-to-toe stare. “Good thing you’re skinny enough to make it down the laundry chute.”

Could I have fallen down the laundry chute, hit my head, and blacked out? There was an idea. “Uh—“

A crease marred her perfect forehead. “How did you do that without making any noise?”

How could I have? “Uh, I didn’t slide. It was so tight, I had to wiggle down.”

The crease disappeared. “Oh. good. I thought for sure you were dead meat when Dad finally got the door open.”

A horn honked behind her. She whirled, waved at someone, muttered a goodbye, and darted off.

“You had to wiggle down?” Ryan asked through the open car window.

“I made that up,” I said, pulling out my iPod. It looked okay, which was a relief; it had taken me three months to save up for it, and a week to get all my music loaded onto it. “I still don’t have a clue.”

Ryan chortled and nodded at the iPod. “And now you won’t have to scrounge yard sales looking for old people music.”

It was an old argument between us that neither of us was really trying to win. “I’d rather be addicted to Miles Davis than Beyoncé.”

He pointed to the window of Jimmy’s Java Joint, the Starbucks-wannabe coffee shop where I worked. “Dude, you’d better get in there or you won’t have a job to support your jazz habit.”

Ryan was right. I waved a hand and darted to the door to get inside before Ms. Dock-Your-Pay-Because-I-Feel-Like-It Assistant Manager spotted me. I had put the bag away in my locker and put on my apron and paper hat before she even saw me.

I tried not to think about my freaky teleportation, but on my break I stopped to open the brown paper bag to get my wallet. When I took out my belt, not only was it still buckled, the tip was still wrapped tight to the belt with a narrow strip of duct tape. That belt was way too big for me—one of Mom’s thrift shop purchases—so I had taped the end of it to stop it flopping down like I had a tail.

Which meant that somehow the belt had come off me without ever having been unbuckled.

#

Becca must have found another translator, because she didn’t ask me about the book again. But Thursday morning right before the first period bell, Doofie Slater stopped me in the hall outside the school cafeteria.

“Hey, Miller, I want to talk to you.”

Since he had his hand clamped on my shoulder I stopped. Doofie was the star of Clara Barton’s championship wrestling team, and he had a build that showed it. “What is it, Doo-Doug?” No one ever called him Doofie to his face—not without paying for it.

“It’s that test in Spanish.”

What he was doing in Spanish 3 I’d never understand. He couldn’t speak Spanish worth a damn, and he only needed two years of a foreign language to graduate. Maybe he thought a third year would help him with college admissions. “What about the test?”

He frowned and lowered his voice to a growl. “I didn’t get a chance to read the book. When you take the test, keep your paper turned so I can see it.”

I snorted. “And risk getting suspended? I don’t think so.”

His grip on my shoulder tightened painfully. “You’re the only one who sits close enough to me. Do it, or you’ll be sorry.”

He wrenched my shoulder back, let me go, and stalked off.

I went to Chemistry and tried to forget about it, but I couldn’t. Doofie had beat up three guys since school started, and I really didn’t want to be number four. But I didn’t want to cave either. Letting him read my paper without being obvious would be tricky because I’m left-handed. I always turned the paper sideways, and I could barely read what I was writing, let alone someone behind me. And having a suspension on my record would blow my scholarship chances out of the water.

Three periods later I got to Spanish, and saw Doofie already in his seat. He hunched over the desk, clenched his fists, and scowled at me.

“Señor Slater,” Walters said. “Estás listo?”

“Uh.” Doofie’s lips moved as he repeated the words silently, and decided if he was indeed ready. “Si, Señor Walters.”

“Bién.” Mr. Walters moved up and down the aisles passing out tests papers. “I will speak in English so that no one will have an excuse not to understand. You have until the end of class to complete the test. When you finish, come up to my desk and turn your paper in. Then return to your desk and read anything you like until the bell rings. When the bell rings, I will collect any papers that haven’t already been turned in.”

Clear as always. Mr. Walters was a pretty good teacher. I bent my head over my paper, conscious of Doofie’s eyes on the back of my head. He sat in the row behind me but one seat to my left.

I read the questions and made myself concentrate. After I did the first one, I felt something sharp poke my back.

“Miller!” Doofie muttered the name like it was a curse.

Mr. Walters’ head came up. “Did you need something, Señor Slater?”

Doofie shifted in his seat. “No.”

Lucky for him the word was the same in Spanish as in English.

I made myself go back to the test. Doofie poked me a few more times, and then tried to read LaShelle Brennan’s paper. LaShelle was a good student; she sat directly in front of Doofie, but she was as tall as him if not as wide, so I don’t think he could see much. I noticed he knew better than to poke her with a pencil. LaShelle didn’t take shit from anyone.

I shut out the worry and the distractions and made myself finish the test. Once I was done, I walked it up to Mr. Walters’ desk.

“Graciás,” he said as I put it down in his in-box. “No erés un hombre sin verguenza, o sin honor.”

I wasn’t a man without shame or without honor? What did that mean?

I walked back to my seat in the full glare of Doofie Slater’s angry gaze, sat down, and pretended to read my English book.

When the bell rang, Walters collected the few remaining papers, including Doofie’s.

It was lunch time and everyone filed out in a hurry except me. I lingered, waiting to make sure Doofie had gone ahead. I was wondering if Walters would let me sit in his class for a while. I’d miss lunch, but so what.

Walters was already grading the tests; he didn’t even look up. I grabbed my books and headed for the door to scope out the view from the window.

The corridor had emptied out pretty quickly as everyone hurried to lunch. But there, right across from my window, it looked like Becca Sommers was getting mouth-to-mouth while standing up. She had her back to the lockers, so I could see her face but not the guy’s.

I knew I shouldn’t stare, but I couldn’t help myself. All I could think about was how close I’d gotten to being the guy with his tongue down her throat. I remembered her nails raking my skin, and how great it had felt.

And then just as I was thinking I should turn away before I needed to sit down, suddenly Doofie Slater’s face appeared in the window, his nose only inches from mine and his teeth bared in an angry scowl.

Three

I wanted to run, but I couldn’t move! When Doofie put his hand on the door latch, I gripped my side of it, trying to keep him from opening the door. I half turned toward the teacher’s desk, but Walters wasn’t there. My heart started to pound as I glanced around the room. I had just glimpsed Walters through the window in the door to the supply room when the door latch slid from my hands as Doofie forced it downwards and started to push the door open. I wished desperately that I had gone straight to the cafeteria, where there would have been too many witnesses for Doofie to beat me up.

Just as I twisted around to call out for Walters, the classroom warped. For a flash of a second, the desks and chairs, the walls, everything, sort of melted, like in that weird Dali painting of a watch draped over a landscape, and then everything dissolved into an odd pearly gray something—not quite mist, but not solid looking either—that surrounded me. Then that disappeared and I was in a grassy meadow surrounded by sheep, and then that all melted, and I was in a corner of the school cafeteria with people milling all around me.

I managed to grab my jeans before they slid any farther than my butt and yanked them up to my waist. I put my books down and sank onto a bench at the nearest table. I had lost another damn belt, and this one actually fit.

But how had I gotten to the cafeteria? Where the hell was that meadow? And was I going crazy?

#

Ryan shook his head. “Dude, you must be going crazy.”

I put down the bag of chips Ryan had bought for me and let out a strangled snort of protest. “If it’s all in my head, then where’s my belt, my wallet, and my phone?”

I was glad I had left my iPod in my locker. Mom was going to flip when I told her I had lost the wallet again, and the phone. Not to mention I’d have to spend the rest of the day holding up my pants.

Why had the phone gone this time? What was different about my jump from Becca’s closet to home versus from Spanish class to the cafeteria? My phone had made it the first time. I remembered gripping it while I crouched in Becca’s closet.

“I can loan you my belt,” Ryan said. “I have an actual butt, and my pants will stay up better.”

I ignored the slam and glanced around the still-crowded cafeteria. “I’m not going to exchange articles of clothing with you. That’s how rumors get started.”

Just about then Mr. Walters came up to our table and put a brown paper lunch bag on the table in front of me. “I believe you left these in my classroom, Mr. Miller.”

I started when he came up, and then tried to look casual as I opened the bag. My belt had been unbuckled and neatly coiled into a tight circle so it fit into the bag. My cell phone sat on top of my wallet. So they had all stayed where I had been.

“Uh, thanks—graciás, Señor Walters.”

“De nada.” He gave me a peculiar look, almost a sardonic smile. “Next time, you should try holding on to them.”

He walked away without waiting for me to ask what he meant.

It took me a moment to figure out that the emphasis was as important as the words. “He knows!”

“What?” Ryan twisted his mouth into a confused grimace. “Who knows what?”

“Walters knows about the jumping or teleporting or whatever it is.” I pounded on the table. “Anything I was holding or touching jumped with me—my clothes, my shoes, my backpack—this time my books. Anything I wasn’t actually touching—my skin wasn’t touching—like my belt and the stuff in my pockets, stayed behind.”

Ryan sat slack-faced for a second, and then he nodded. “Whoa! Mr. Walters could be your watcher or guide or something!”

Ryan watched way too much SyFy Channel

#

I had to wait until after school to talk to Mr. Walters. I hurried, but he was locking his classroom door when I turned the corner to the south corridor.

“Mr. Walters!”

He looked up at my shout. “Yes?”

I ran the last dozen yards. “Can I talk to you, please, Mr. Walters?”

He glanced up and down the corridor. A few kids were getting stuff from their lockers, but no one was paying us any attention. Walters looked inscrutable for a moment, like he was making up his mind, and then he reached into his pocket and took out a three-by-five card. “Here. This is my address.”

I looked down at it. He lived in a small townhouse development in my neighborhood.

“Come to see me this evening,” Walters added. “I’ll expect you at 8:30 sharp. Be on time.” He frowned. “My daughter has homework to finish, and it’s a school night.”

I’d heard he was a widower, even though he wore a wedding ring. I’d never been to a teacher’s house before, and I wasn’t too sure I liked the idea. “I have a ten o’clock curfew on school nights.”

“It shouldn’t be a problem.”

I hoped that meant whatever explanation he could give me wouldn’t last long—not that it meant he kept power tools in his bedroom and it wouldn’t take long to cut up my corpse. “Okay, I’ll be there.”

He nodded once and headed for the exit, giving me the briefest of glances over his shoulder as he walked.

I sure hoped I wasn’t making a mistake. And I hoped Mr. Walters could explain what was happening to me.

#

“Spanish?” Mom said, her forehead pleating into its semi-permanent crease. She leaned back in the recliner and unrolled some fuzzy yellow yarn. “Why would you need tutoring in Spanish? You’ve gotten an A every semester.”

“Spanish 3 is a lot harder.” I cast around for an excuse for sudden failure. Luckily, Mom didn’t speak any Spanish that didn’t come from the menu at Taco Bell. “The irregular reflexive nominative verbs are killing me.”

Lorrie looked up from the TV long enough to give me a suspicious look, but fortunately, she hadn’t had any foreign language classes yet.

“Where does Mr. Walters live?” Mom asked.

I’d written out the address for her because I knew she’d ask for it.

Mom glanced at the paper and stuffed it into her pocket. “Don’t be late.” She went back to looping yarn around her knitting needle. The sweater was for Lorrie, and it was half done. “School tomorrow.”

Like I could forget. “I won’t be late.” I had a sudden sense of unease—a sort of tickle on the back of my neck, like the characters in horror movies must get when they realize the monster is right behind them. I wasn’t sure why I felt the need to do it, but I leaned over and kissed the top of Mom’s head. “See you later, Mom. Bye, Squirt.”

Mom looked up, her expression confused. “Everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine.”

I hoped I was telling the truth. But nothing could be fine until I figured out why I kept winking out of reality.

#

A girl of twelve or so answered my knock. She looked a little like Walters—same brown hair, same straight nose, same square chin. But she had brown eyes instead of blue, and skin as smooth and soft as cream.

The girl at the door turned as soon as she saw me waiting on her porch. “He’s here, Daida.”

For a second I thought she had called her father da-da, but it was a different word. She said it with a strange inflection, too, a sharp emphasis on the first syllable.

“Come in, Mr. Miller,” Walters’ voice called. He stepped out of the kitchen drying his hands on a dish towel. “Have you finished your homework, Ruveka?”

The girl nodded as I stepped into the living room.

“Very well.” Walters held up his left index finger. “One hour of television, and then bed.”

Ruveka disappeared into a doorway, and Walters waved a hand at the sofa.

I sat on a futon sofa with oatmeal colored cushions. The furniture was a little better than ours, but not a lot. It looked like it came from a low end retail store instead of a thrift shop.

“Now,” Walters said, sinking into a chair. “What did you want to talk to me about, Mr. Miller?”

I opened my mouth to ask him about the teleporting and realized I had no idea how to ask the right questions without sounding like a wing nut. “Um, did you notice me waiting to leave your class right after the test this morning?”

He nodded. “I do seem to remember you standing by the door.”

I couldn’t think of a good way to ask him if he had seen me disappear. If I hadn’t been so freaked out by what had happened to me, I would have given up and gone home right then. “When I left, you were in the supply room. Did you happen to see me leave?”

Walters must have been great at poker. His expression gave nothing away. “I did, actually.”

I cleared my throat. “And how did I leave?”

He didn’t say anything. Finally, he rubbed his eyes for a second, and then said, “I have a question first. What were you staring at in the corridor before Mr. Slater confronted you through the window?”

Now this was an easy question. I was pretty sure Walters wouldn’t try to pin a PDA violation on Becca. “I was watching Becca Sommers make out with a guy.”

Walters nodded. “I thought it must have been something like that.”

What the hell did that mean? Did he think I was a perv or something?

Walters stared right at me. “You sort of faded around the edges for a second, and then you vanished entirely.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Carmen Webster Buxton grew up reading all kinds of books, but especially science fiction and fantasy. She lives in Maryland with her husband, a cat named Carbomb, and a beagle named Cosmo, and she writes stories set in many different worlds.

Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
The cover shows Jason popping out of our reality and into a different one. The city with the monorail is the alternate world, and Jason is literally landing there. Probably the closest inspiration is the Back to the Future movie poster with the Delorean and Marty McFly.
Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
Like most of my stories, this one started with a scene in my head, In this case, it was Jason hiding in a girl's closet while her father rattled the door and scared him into "turning." I've always loved stories where someone has a super power but they can't control it.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I like YA partly because I have been a young adult. I remember it as a time in life when the future held only promise. Also, in YA, characters have to learn as they go. This makes them fun to write. And when you add in the science fiction aspect, there are no limits!

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