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Gasp

Gasp

Gasp 6


  “Pssh. Yeah, of course. Tons. Gosh, Jules.”

  “Sorry.” I retreat to the living room, stare at my phone, where I have no messages from Tori, and pick up one of the library books and try to read it. I have a little trouble concentrating on the story, though, since I keep thinking about Sawyer and getting this goofy smile on my face. I’m kind of pathetic right now. Even the cousins’ yelling doesn’t bother me.

  A half hour later Rowan makes everybody go to bed. She comes into the living room and sits on the piano bench next to my chair. And she’s all business. “Any word from Tori?”

  “No.” In fact, I kind of forgot all about her for a while.

  “You should call her.”

  “But her mom might see it’s me.”

  “Call the room phone. I’ll call, in case her mom answers. She doesn’t know my voice.”

  I tilt my head. “Well, that’s a brilliant idea.”

  “See?” she says, stretching into a yawn. “This is why you need me.”

  “Isn’t it too late to call?”

  “It’s, like, nine fifteen on a Saturday night. Don’t be ridiculous.”

  “But she’s not exactly able to be out having fun.”

  “Stop stalling.”

  “Fine.” I look up the number for the hospital and give Tori’s room number to Rowan.

  She calls, and after a listening for a second, punches in the room number. She looks at me. “Ringing,” she whispers. Then her eyes light up. “Hi there, Tori?” She waits. “Oh, sorry. Is Tori able to come to the phone? This is her friend Rowan from UC.” Rowan pauses, then gives me a thumbs-up. She lowers her voice. “Hi, Tori, this is Jules’s sister. We know you can’t talk because of your mom. Maybe now would be a good time to smile or laugh like I said something funny.”

  Rowan pauses. “Yes, your head hurts because of the visions and we can help you stop them if you just tell us what’s happening. Is there a good time for me to come by to see you when your mom isn’t there?”

  Rowan listens for a minute. Her face grows puzzled. “Oh. I see. Maybe you could e-mail—what’s that?” Rowan frowns. “You’re welcome. Wait. Hello?” She looks at me. “She said she had to go and hung up.”

  “Nice going, Demarco.”

  “Shut it,” Rowan warns. She hops off the piano bench and lies down on the living room floor, splaying her limbs in all directions. “She must really be under some kind of freaky surveillance over there.”

  “I told you. Her mom is really protective. She rarely leaves.”

  “Clearly.”

  I don’t know what else to do but wait. All I know is that some people in a house in Chicago—presumably—are going to be hurting pretty soon.

  When Trey and Ben walk in, Rowan and I look at Ben. And then we both look at each other. And I turn back to Ben and say, “Help me, Obi-Wan Galang. You’re my only hope.”

  Eighteen

  Trey, Ben, Rowan, and I decide to brainstorm before the parentals begin to trickle in, but we can’t come up with anything that we haven’t already thought of. We determine that Ben could go visit Tori, but they still wouldn’t be able to talk about anything.

  “What if I bring her a notebook and hide questions in the middle of it?” Ben suggests.

  “Her mom will see her answering,” Trey says. He slips his hand into Ben’s. “Nice idea, though.” Ben smiles at Trey, and all around the world millions of puppies are caught being almost as adorable as them.

  I flop back in my chair. “I think all we can do is wait. The more things we try, the bigger risk there is that Mrs. Hayes will confiscate Tori’s phone. We just need to chill. I feel like I need medication to get through this. Or some comic relief.”

  Ben picks up one of the cousins’ picture books and starts reading to us. I forgot how hilarious some picture books are. The laughter takes the pressure off the Tori situation, and by the time Uncle Vito walks in, yelling, “Hey, it’s the Filipino!” we’re already in various fits of giggles over this book about a bear who wants his hat back.

  • • •

  Ben leaves around midnight—I sneak a peek of him and Trey kissing in the driveway—and our parents stay out even later. Trey has stars in his eyes, and finally, when Rowan can’t take all the blooming love any longer, she wakes up her long-distance boyfriend, Charlie, who lives in Manhattan, and Face Times with him. He’s funny when he’s sleepy. Or maybe everything is funny tonight so that it doesn’t have to be tragic.

  I drift off eventually, my bones aching from sleeping on this hard living room floor for almost a week, and when I wake up, it’s still dark, and my phone is vibrating with a text message.

  2 bodies outside w/ambulance, 2 inside dead, no blood, no house number, Loomis St. OMG my head! Visions everywhere I look, sirens wailing, won’t stop. Can you help me?

  I look at the time. Six fifteen in the morning. And I remember when I was in the hospital after the meatball truck crash. Right around 6:00 a.m.—that’s when they come to poke you and hand out meds and check your temperature. Maybe Mrs. Hayes sleeps through it. I text back quickly, trying to be really encouraging: Great info! This helps a lot! Are there any clues about what day this happens? And what time—sunny, cloudy? Look hard. I know it sucks. You’re doing great! What else is nearby? What’s the house made of ? Color/style? 1 story or 2?

  And then I wait. Again.

  I manage to get a couple more hours of sleep, waking up only when I hear Mom and Dad leave for mass. Trey is up too, eating cereal. I show him the text, and he gets on his phone immediately, looking up Loomis Street.

  “Did she say North or South Loomis?”

  “She just said Loomis. I’ll ask her to look again.”

  Trey scrolls down his screen, again and again. “It’s a really long street.”

  I lean over to see. Trey zooms in and scrolls. “Lots of houses. Like, miles of them. See if she can narrow down what side of the street it’s on. And we really need a house number or at least a cross street.”

  I doubt I can get any of that info out of her. “I’ll ask,” I say. I start a new text with these additional questions and send it. “She said she sees visions everywhere she looks. That’s not a good sign.”

  “Is that because we haven’t figured things out?”

  “Well, Loomis is a big clue. If the vision is still constant and not letting up, I think that means . . . it’s imminent.”

  “Crap,” Trey mutters. “That’s what I thought.”

  We look at each other, both thinking the same thing. We’re not going to make it.

  Nineteen

  Tori doesn’t respond, and she doesn’t respond, and she doesn’t respond. On Sunday afternoon Sawyer, Rowan, Trey, Ben, and I pile into Sawyer’s car and we find Loomis Street. We drive up it slowly. There are nice sections of Loomis Street and not so nice sections. I take notes on the kinds of houses on the street in hopes that Tori will give me a clue, and I text her again. Big or small? Nice or run-down? Brick or siding? Anything. ANYTHING.

  If we only knew how the people died, we might be able to go door-to-door . . . or something. Send out a flyer warning of a homicidal maniac on the loose or whatever. But there’s nothing more to work with.

  By Tuesday we’re all really on edge.

  By Wednesday we’re freaking out.

  On Thursday we break down and send Ben to visit her, just to make sure Tori didn’t die or something. We sit around our spot at the library and wait for Ben to call. When he finally does, Trey runs outside so they can talk, and we all follow.

  Trey puts Ben on speakerphone.

  “Okay,” Trey says. “We’re all here and you’re on speaker.”

  “Hey, everybody,” Ben says. His voice has lost the funny/sarcastic edge for the moment, which does not reassure me in any way. “I went to the hospital and tried to see Tori. The nurse stopped me at the door and said I should wait, that Tori wasn’t feeling well today but maybe I could go in after her meds kicked in. So I waited. After about an hour, I
figured everybody had forgotten about me in the waiting room, so I snuck back down the hallway and tried to peek in the window to her room but the shade was drawn. Still, I could hear something in there. So I was really quiet and I opened the door a crack, and all I could hear was Tori moaning over and over, ‘Make it stop! Make it stop!’ and her mother on the phone yelling at somebody, telling them to come immediately or she’d sue for malpractice.”

  There’s a pause while we let the words sink in. Finally Trey says, “Holy shit.”

  “Yeah,” says Ben.

  “What happened? Did you get caught?” Rowan asks.

  “No. I closed the door and slipped away. I didn’t want them to see me in case you guys need me to do something else.”

  I catch Trey’s eye and grin despite the situation. Ben is definitely a keeper.

  “Okay,” I say, realizing everybody’s looking to me to call the next play. “Great job, Ben. Seriously. We couldn’t do this without you. Thank you. I guess . . . I guess we just wait. I don’t know what else to do. We have no date or time, no exact location, not even a reasonable vicinity.” A sense of doom descends over me, and unexpected emotion clogs my throat. “So, I don’t know.” My voice squeaks at the end, and Sawyer and Rowan both put their arms around me. “I guess I failed on this one.”

  “Stop it,” Trey says, and his eyes flash. “You didn’t fail. The victim failed you. It’s not your fault. We are not God.” He pauses. “Or dog.”

  I half smile through watery eyes and nod. But I can’t help it. I still feel like a failure.

  • • •

  The next morning, as I’m drying my hair, Sawyer texts me. I’m outside the front door. Can you come out?

  I set down the hair dryer with a clatter, slip past Rowan, and run down the hallway and through the dining room and kitchen and breezeway, and fling open the door. I go outside in my bare feet to Sawyer.

  Sawyer, with the thick hair and green eyes and ropy lashes.

  Sawyer, the boy I love.

  Sawyer, who is holding a newspaper.

  He looks at me, solemn, wordless. And he points.

  I don’t want to look. But I do it anyway.

  On the local news page, one headline reads: TWO DEAD, TWO CRITICAL FROM CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING NEAR ADA PARK.

  I look at him. My lip starts trembling. “Are you sure it’s the right house?”

  He nods. And then he reads for me, “ ‘Emergency response teams were called to a home on South Loomis Street late last night after a Boston man’s repeated, unsuccessful attempts to reach his sister and brother-in-law and their elderly parents. The older couple were pronounced dead at the scene, and the younger man and woman remain in critical condition. It is unknown . . .” Sawyer trails off. He lets his arms drop heavily and looks at me.

  “. . . if they’ll survive,” I say softly, finishing the report. I sink to the step and bury my face in my hands. Sawyer sits next to me and wraps his arms around me. But I cannot be consoled.

  Twenty

  By the time I look up, Sawyer has magically summoned Rowan and Trey, and they’re staring at the news like they can’t believe it. And then they say it. “I can’t believe it.” And I almost want to shake them, because I told them this would happen. They know this. But they don’t understand the coarse reality of the visions like I do. Like Sawyer does.

  I collect my racing thoughts and stand up. “I need to get ready.” Without another word, I march inside and finish my hair, feeling numb. Those people could’ve been fine. That man in a distant city, so concerned about his sister, his parents, that he called 911. That man who has to bury not only both parents at once, but also grieve for his sister and brother-in-law, who could die any minute. That man could’ve been fine too, going about his business, but not now.

  All this because Tori wouldn’t tell me the information I needed. And I realize that if I’d only known the cause of death, we could have gone door-to-fucking-door up and down Loomis Street with a carbon monoxide detector a week ago, and saved their lives.

  “It would have been so easy!” I yell at myself in the mirror, and I slam down the brush and take off down the hallway, shoving past Nick and Rowan on my way to grab my backpack, and then I go outside, where Sawyer still remains like I knew he would, waiting for me. I climb into his car and we go to school like good little students, and all day my fury grows. And grows. Kind of like the fire that burned down my family’s life. And I’m not sure if I can contain it.

  After school I don’t even have to say it—it’s like Sawyer can read my mind.

  “You want to visit Tori?” he asks.

  “Yes, please.”

  And without trying to stop me or suggest I wait a day until my anger dies down, he drives me to the UC hospital. And I am so furious I can’t wait for the elevator, so I take the stairs two at a time, and Sawyer follows. We go down the hallway to Tori’s room, and for a split second I worry that maybe she’s not there. Maybe she’s been discharged, and I won’t get to yell at her after all.

  But my split second of worry is for nothing, because when I get to her room and open the door, there she is, sitting up, talking to her mother. Looking beautiful. I want to kill her.

  They look up at me when I come in, and I almost falter, but I can feel Sawyer right behind me, and I know I have to do this. For me. For that poor man and his family. Then I almost falter again when I realize I forgot to bring the newspaper in, but Sawyer slaps it into my hand just before I make an ass of myself, and I walk over to Tori with it and shove it in her face. “Does this look familiar?” I ask, pointing to the photo of the house with the ambulance outside. I shake the paper a little to get her to look at it instead of me.

  Mrs. Hayes gets to her feet and starts pointing at me, protesting my presence, but then she catches the look on Tori’s face and stops. She goes to look at the article too.

  As I watch the look of horror grow in Tori’s eyes, I start to shake. “You did this,” I say in a low voice. I look at Mrs. Hayes. “It’s your fault they died.”

  They are stunned. “Is that the house you . . . you saw?” Mrs. Hayes asks Tori.

  She nods. She won’t look at me.

  Mrs. Hayes will, though. “The vision is gone,” she says. “It’s over.”

  I want to punch her in the face. “That’s because this happened! There’s no saving anybody now. They’re dead! You both had the power to help stop this, but you didn’t help. You didn’t believe me. You wouldn’t let Tori talk to me.” I stop to breathe, to try to keep my voice low so no one comes in.

  “I couldn’t see my phone screen anymore to read your texts or respond,” Tori says, distressed. “Plus, I was so sick from the constant movement. But now it’s gone. No more vision.” It’s like she doesn’t grasp what happened.

  “Tori,” I say. “Listen to me. If Sawyer had done what you did—if he hadn’t believed me, or had refused to do anything about what he was seeing, like you did with your vision, you would be dead. You. Would be dead. And ten others in that music room would also be dead. You are alive because Sawyer acted on his vision. These people are dead because you wouldn’t act on yours.” I slap the newspaper. “Do you get it now? Do you?”

  Sawyer puts his hand on my shoulder and I stop talking. Tori weeps into her hand, teardrops falling between her fingers onto the newspaper.

  Mrs. Hayes at least has the dignity not to kick me out. But I don’t need any encouragement to leave. I’ve had enough. And I think I said enough. Probably just a little too much.

  On the way home my anger begins to subside. But there’s still something that infuriates me. Something I can’t let go of.

  “Her vision,” I say after a while, “it just went away. Just like it did for us after we risked our lives. Only she didn’t have to risk anything except motion sickness and her mom being mad at her.”

  Sawyer nods. He’s worn a thoughtful expression since we left the hospital. “I noticed that. I’m not sure what I think about it either. Like,
I should feel relieved, but really I’m kind of pissed off about it.” He drums the steering wheel with his thumb. “It sure might have been easier to just ride it out and pretend like people weren’t dying. If we’d only known . . .”

  I look at him. “It wouldn’t have been easier for me.”

  The corner of his mouth twitches and his eyes don’t leave the road. He reaches over and takes my hand.

  Twenty-One

  I don’t want to go to my aunt Mary’s. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I feel bad that I’m ignoring Trey and Rowan when I know they’re probably reeling from all of this too, but I can’t help it—I need an escape right now. It’s like everything’s closing in on me and I can’t breathe. Sawyer takes me to his cousin Kate’s apartment. She’s not home.

  It’s a cute little place near the community college where she goes to school. Two tiny bedrooms and an even tinier bathroom. But a big kitchen. Isn’t that how every home should be?

  “Sit,” Sawyer says with an Italian accent, sounding eerily like his grandfather Fortuno, magistrate of the evil Angotti empire. “I cook for you.”

  I grin for the first time in days, sit down on the sofa, and relax, reading Kate’s fashion magazines while Sawyer bangs around in the kitchen. I text my mom so she knows where I am. And it occurs to me just how much more freedom I’ve had since the restaurant burned down. Not only because I don’t have to report for my job but also because my parents have had too much stuff on their minds to keep up their reign of terror over us. Our whole family has been forced to adapt, and that part, at least, has been in my favor.

  I look up and watch Sawyer cook, and I think how wonderful it is that we have this thing in common. How we learned to feed people from our parents, and they learned from their parents and grandparents, and so on down the line. Sawyer hasn’t spoken about his parents since he moved out. I guess I’ve been hogging all the attention these days.

  “Have you seen your parents lately?” I ask.

  “I stopped in to see my mom the other day. She’s fine.”