Read The girl who fell Online

Authors: S.M. Parker

The girl who fell

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“Parker's powerful cautionary tale highlights a terrifying reality for many teens. An invaluable addition to any collection.”

—School Library Journal, starred review

“Cinematic and compelling, Parker'sThe Girl Who Fellis terrifyingly vivid and breathless. This is an action-packed story that is impossible to put down or forget.”

—CARRIE JONES,New York Timesand international bestselling author of the Need series

“The Girl Who Fellgrabbed me in the very first paragraph and never let me go. An honest, raw, thought-provoking story that tackles a heartbreaking issue with grace and strength. Absolutely beautiful.”

—MARCI LYN CURTIS, author ofThe One Thing

“Love. Devotion. Manipulation.The Girl Who Fellis a heartwrenching realistic story of one girl's journey to reclaim her life . . . and her heart from the boy she swore to love forever.”

—TRISHA LEAVER, author ofThe Secrets We Keep

“The Girl Who Fellis an important story about losing yourself for love, and the dangerous line between devotion and manipulation. Parker's writing is sexy and gripping, and she'll have you turning pages late into the night.”

—INGRID SUNBURG, author ofAll We Left Behind

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To all the girls struggling to find their voice

The End

I pick up the landline, dial Mom's cell. It takes too long to connect. There is only the static silence of a dead line, and that's when I know I'm not alone.

I drop the phone onto its cradle and eye the door, my car keys on the floor in my path. In seconds I calculate how my body will need to scoop the keys as I run from the house. I move just as a metallic snap echoes from under the house.

The breaker.

In the basement.

Someone has thrown the main switch, pitching me and this house and my escape into blackness.

Fear roils in my blood. Becomes me. I kick around for my keys but with each sweep, I am losing time.

I reach for the island, my eyes adjusting, carving light into the shadows. The smell of spearmint bleeds through the air, through my memory, as my senses conjure the last time panic joined me in this space. And how my fingertips reached for the knife set even then. But the block of knives is gone now. The counter cleared. I open a drawer, rifle for utensils, scissors. My fingers meet with the smooth wood of inner drawer and nothing else. I fumble around the sink, but even Mom's pruning shears are missing.

The phone rings and I freeze from the impossibility of its sound. A second ring sears through silence. I wade across the black, remove the handset, place it at my ear.

I pray that it's anyone besides him.

Terror climbs the ladder of my spine. My voice, reluctant. “Hello?”

Silence.

Then the dial tone criesbeep beep beepand I hang up, quickly dial 911. But he's quicker.

The line falls dead again.

He's in the basement, where the phone line enters the house.

But then, no.

He could be outside. At the junction box.

All at once the woods outside feel too hungry, haunted.

My body tells me I need to flee, protect. My brain tells me to fight, engage. I tuck into the forgotten corner of the laundry room, quiet as my fear, and wrap my hands around the butt of my field hockey stick. I hold it tight against my chest, a weapon.

I try to reverse my breathing. Make it soundless. Make it so I cannot be found. The darkness is a comfort, a cloak. I blend into it. For anonymity. For safety. There was a time when I feared darkness. As a child. Alone.

Not now.

Darkness doesn't have fingers that twist into my flesh. Darkness can't stalk me. It can't drive me into the shadows because darkness is fleeting. Not like the threat before me.

Chapter 1The Beginning:Three Months Earlier

I've got one foot in this world and one in the next.

Stuck in the limbo of being a high school senior. Here, but dreaming of next year, of college and freedom. Freedom from hall passes, curfews, field hockey pressure, and conjugating French verbs in a gray classroom on the most beautiful day of autumn. I twist a ringlet of my too curly hair and stare at the lone sugar maple in the courtyard outside room 104. It's early October and most of the leaves have already fired into reds and golds. One mad burst of flame at the end of a growing season. Just like senior year.

A pale yellow finch settles onto a high branch and twitches its head nervously. I watch it scan for what? Predators? Its mate? An early acceptance letter from Boston College? Around me, the room fills with the muffled sounds of students shuffling in. Conversations hush and quicken. The metal legs of a dozen chairs scrape the floor as the teacher writes “Learning Target forFrançais” in flawless cursive on the whiteboard just as Gregg fills the seat next to me like he's sliding into home plate. His chair glides a few inches closer and he's in my face, all shoulders and cologne.

“Bonjeer, Zephyr.” He winks. “Looking good,” he tells me, like he tells every girl on the planet. Even so, a blush pushes onto my cheeks, like always. It's embarrassing how easily I embarrass.

Gregg Slicer is my oldest friend and a legend at Sudbury High for being the best ice hockey player in the history of our school. And I mean The. History. Colleges from all over the Northeast have been scouting him since our sophomore year. Today he's wearing his red mesh number 17 hockey jersey and even though I can't see the back, I know it readsSLICEin oversize white block letters. Everyone in Sudbury, New Hampshire, calls him Slice because the boosters have invested a fortune marketing “The Slice on Ice.” We take our hockey seriously in these parts. So seriously that Gregg's parents even call him Slice. Me? I'm the sole holdout for refusing to feed his ego.

“Did you—” I start, but he's talking to someone on his opposite side, someone I don't recognize.

Mrs. Sarter begins in hitch-pitched French,“Bonjour mes étudiants. Es-vous bien?”

Bienon a Monday? I don't think so.

Her teacher-speak fades into background noise as I consider the identity of the new student sitting next to Gregg. I lean back and catch a glimpse of the boy's neatly cropped, golden brown hairline. Huh. I study the collar of his blue oxford shirt, rumpled slightly. But Gregg's wide frame blocks a clear view.When did Gregg's head get so big?I lean forward, glimpsing New Boy's footwear. Faded black Converse. Long legs. His jeans are an Abercrombie shade of worn denim. His fingers drum a tune onto the broad part of his thigh. I fixate on the song he's tapping. Old-school rock? Black Eyed Peas? Something from theGreasesoundtrack?

Next to me, Gregg opens his textbook. The room fills with pages being fanned, the collective hunt forchapitre huit. I flip open my book to a random page, but keep my eyes cut to New Boy. There's something about the boy's elongated fingers, the steady, sure rhythm that's coursing through to his fingertips.

When Gregg drops his pencil and bends to retrieve it, New Boy turns my way, stares at me across the void. His eyes flicker cinnamon brown, like newly minted copper pennies. He shoots me a casual head toss and my breath catches in my throat. Just as Gregg blocks him again.

My head fills with New Boy's face. Smooth as honey skin. Searing gaze. My cheeks flush, and I'm certain I'm the color of a pomegranate.

“Mademoiselle Doyle?”Mrs. Sarter calls, louder than necessary. My eyes snap to the front of the room.

“Oui, professeur?”My voice crackles over the foreign words.

“Nombre dix, mademoiselle? Quelle est la reponse?”She rattles her throat. Never a good sign.

Number ten? What is the answer to number ten?I search the pages in front of me. There's a picture of two teenagers at a sidewalk café, each wearing a colorful beret. The word bubbles above their heads tell me they're chatting about homework.

“Mademoiselle Doyle?”

I scan the page, but can't find anombre dix. I'm lost. Totally lost. I look up at Mrs. Sarter and know she's expecting more from an honors student, even though French is hands-down my worst subject. “U-uh . . . ,” I stutter. The room falls quiet. The clock marks mechanical seconds.Tick. Tick. Tick.I swear I can hear the steady rise and fall of New Boy's breath, the smile that lifts slightly along the corners of his mouth. Then I hear the admissions board at Boston College, asking me about my goals and aspirations and why I want to attend their institution. Their questions are all in French-that-sounds-more-like-German, unintelligible and alien. My nerves shatter.

My weak voice spills into the still air. “Uh . . .Je suis . . .Je suis . . . stuck.”

The classroom skitters with laughter. In the front of the room, Jeremy Lang repeats my words: “Je suisstuck! Classic!” Mrs. Sarter winces with disappointment and reprimands him. She does this in lowly English, and her scrunched expression makes me think it physically pains her.

Suzanne Sharper's arm flies into the air, pole straight—the answer practically bubbling off her overeager lips. Mrs. Sarter calls on Suzanne and nods at her correctla reponse. She turns to the whiteboard, writes the answer in measured purple strokes.

Gregg leans over and whispers, “Page eighty-four, genius.”

“Right.” I flip to that section of my book.

“Way to have your head in the game.” He flashes me his press-popular smile, now twisting with a smirk.

“You could have helped me out.”

He cuts his eyes to the front. “Who says I knew the answer?”

“Pa-lease.” Gregg speaks French better than Mrs. Sarter on account of his dad being French Canadian. I straighten in my chair and smooth the pages of my book. Gregg slips me a small rectangle of a note, a makeshift business card. He's printedFRENCH TUTORacross the front using the red Sharpie marker he carries for autographs. He's scrawled his cell phone number on the bottom right-hand corner. I snark a glance at him and his self-satisfied grin. Then I can't help the way my eyes move beyond Gregg to find New Boy's profile.

I pull my attention away. What am I doing? I tuck Gregg's fake business card into the pages of my textbook and find number ten. I put my finger on it as if to physically plant my brain in this lesson even as the sentences morph together, indecipherable. My insides collapse into a warm sensation. Can a crush take hold this quickly?

Lizzie likes to say I “crush without the mush,” which is her headline-clever way of reminding me I steer clear of deep commitment in the boyfriend department. Unless you count my two years in a junior high nonrelationship with Matt Sanders, which I don't. Or going to the senior prom with Zach Plummer when I was a freshman and being embarrassed by his drunk self all night.

But since my dad ditched me and Mom this summer, Lizzie's worried my inability to commit may have more to do with burgeoning abandonment issues. “Crushing is safe,” she said. “It only involves one person . . . you. And you can be in control.”

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