Shit, I forgot to tell Carmel to call me Cas. The last thing I need is for the “Theseus” thing to get around and stick. I make my way to her table, seeing eyes growing wider as I do. Ten or so other girls probably just developed instantaneous crushes on me, because they see that Carmel likes me. Or so the sociologist in my brain says.
“Hey. How are you finding SWC?”
I make a mental note never to refer to it as “SWC.”
“Not bad, thanks to your tour this morning. And by the way, most people just call me Cas.”
“Yeah. But softer on the s. What do you get for lunch around here?”
“Usually we do the Pizza Hut pizza bar over there.” She gestures vaguely with her head, and I turn and glance vaguely in that direction. “So, Cas, why did you move to Thunder Bay?”
“Scenery,” I say, and smile. “Honestly, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Try me,” she says. The thought occurs to me again that Carmel Jones knows exactly how to get what she wants. But she’s also given me the opportunity to be completely frank. My mouth actually moves to form the words, Anna, I’m here for Anna, when the damn Trojan Army rolls up behind us in an assembly line of Winston Churchill Wrestling team t-shirts.
“Carmel,” one of them says. Without looking I know that he either is, or was until very recently, Carmel’s boyfriend. The way that he says her name sticks to his cheeks. From the way that Carmel reacts, with a lifting of her chin and an arch of her eyebrow, I figure that he’s more of the ex type.
“You coming out tonight?” he asks, completely ignoring me. I watch him with amusement. There’s a blue light special on territorial jocks in aisle four.
“What’s tonight?” I ask.
“The annual Edge of the World party.” Carmel rolls her eyes skyward. “Something we’ve been doing forever, on the night of the first day of school.”
Well, forever, or at least since The Rules of Attraction was released.
“Sounds cool,” I say. The Neanderthal behind me can no longer be ignored, so I put my hand out and introduce myself.
Only the dickiest of dicks would refuse to shake my hand. And I have just met the dickiest of dicks. He nods his head at me and says, “What’s up.” He doesn’t introduce himself back, but Carmel does.
“This is Mike Andover.” She gestures to the others. “And Chase Putnam, and Simon Parry, and Will Rosenberg.”
They all nod at me like total ass**les except for Will Rosenberg, who shakes my hand. He’s the only one who doesn’t seem like a complete douche. He wears his letter jacket loose and with his shoulders hunched like he’s sort of ashamed of it. Or at least ashamed of its present company.
“So, are you coming, or what?”
“I don’t know,” Carmel replies. She sounds annoyed. “I’ll have to see.”
“We’ll be at the falls around ten,” he says. “Let me know if you need a ride.” When he leaves, Carmel sighs.
“What are they talking about? The falls?” I ask, feigning interest.
“The party is at Kakabeka Falls. Every year it moves around, to keep the cops off. Last year it was at Trowbridge Falls, but everybody freaked out when—” She pauses.
“Nothing. Just a bunch of ghost stories.”
Could I be this lucky? Usually I’m a week in before there’s a convenient segue into haunting talk. It’s not exactly the easiest thing to bring up.
“I love ghost stories. In fact, I’m dying for a good ghost story.” I move to sit down across from her and lean forward on my elbows. “And I do need someone to show me around the Thunder Bay nightlife.”
She looks directly into my eyes. “We can take my car. Where do you live?”
* * *
Someone is following me. The sensation is so acute that I can actually feel my eyes try to slip through my skull and part the hair on the back of my head. I’m too proud to turn around—I’ve been through too much scary shit to be put off by any human attacker. There’s also the slight chance that I’m just being paranoid. But I don’t think so. There’s something back there, and it’s something that’s still breathing, which makes me uneasy. The dead have simple motives: hate, pain, and confusion. They kill you because it’s the only thing they have left to do. The living have needs, and whoever is following me wants something of me or mine. That makes me nervous.