In one photo, there were five girls. I was in the middle, and all of us wore the same tube dress in different colors. Oh dear god. Matching dresses? I smirked as my eyes drifted over the images. One was of me and two other girls, smiling on a golf course. In another the same group from the first picture stood together on a dock, posing in really skimpy bathing suits in front of a boat named Angel. Mine was black. I was starting to see a trend.
I ran my hands over my hips and stomach, pleased to discover that the body in that picture was actually mine. There were a few more photos at school, a group of us clustered around an oversize table, surrounded by boys.
I was always smiling in the pictures, but the smile was…off, reminding me how everyone had smiled at me in the hospital. Like a doll’s smile, fake and painted on. But my smile was also cold. Calculating.
And in every picture, the same girl was always beside me. In some, we had our arms around each other or were puckering our lips for the camera. She always wore red—red like fresh blood.
Her smile was like mine, and she was the girl in the photo the deputy had shown me in the hospital. A hot feeling sparked in my stomach. Jealousy? Was I jealous of her? That couldn’t be right. She was my friend. My best friend, if what they’d been telling me was true.
I wanted to know more about her.
Carefully, I peeled one picture of us together off the board and held it close to my face. Her smile made me shiver, and my gaze flicked up from the photo. Color bleached from the room, replaced by dull shades of gray. Goose bumps spread across my flesh. Cold. So cold here, and dark, with only the rushing sound…in and out, in and out….
I closed my eyes and shook my head to clear it of the dank, earthy feel that had suddenly come out of nowhere. I forced my eyes open, and the room was back in vivid color. My gaze settled on the pictures tacked to the board again. The images all blurred, and there was a flash, a quick glimpse. A tall, blond girl with a wide smile and a floppy red hat stretched out her arms to me.
The image of the girl faded as if it had never been there. Confused, I peered at the photos, hoping to find the girl in one of them. She looked as if she was only ten or so in my head, but there was no child who looked like her on the board or an older version of her. My shoulders slumped as I stepped back. I was disappointed. Something about that smiling girl was warm and real, unlike all the rest. I would’ve been happy to see that she was on my wall of friends.
“Look who’s back.”
Startled, I jumped at the sound of the deep voice and dropped the picture on the floor. Shaky and disoriented, I turned around.
A boy stood in the doorway, tall and slender. Hazel eyes peeked through messy auburn hair. There was a mischievous, quirky look on his face. I was going to make a guesstimate here and say he was my brother. We shared some of the same features. This was Scott. We were fraternal twins. At least, that was what Mom had explained on the way home.
He tipped his head back, eyeing me curiously. “Are you going to cut the bull and fess up to me?”
Pushing the picture under the bed with my toes, I ran clammy hands down my hips. “What…what do you mean?”
He sauntered into the room, stopping a few feet in front of me. We were the same height. “Where have you really been, Sam?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t?” He laughed, and the skin crinkled around his eyes. “Come on. What did you and Cassie get yourselves into this time?”
“Cassie’s missing,” I mumbled, glancing down at the floor. She hadn’t really looked like the girl the deputy had shown me. I bent down, grabbing the picture from underneath the bed. “This is Cassie, right?”
He frowned as he glanced at the picture. “Yeah, that’s Cassie.”
I quickly placed the picture on the bedside table. “I don’t know where she is.”
“I have theories.”
Interest piqued, I rocked back on my heels. “You do?”
Scott flopped on my bed and stretched out lazily. “Shit, you probably killed her and stashed her body somewhere.” He laughed. “That’s my main theory.”
Blood drained out of my face, and I gasped.
The smile on his face faded as he watched me. “Sam, dude, I was kidding.”
“Oh.” Sweet relief shot through me, and I sat on the edge of the bed, staring at my chipped nails. In an instant, everything turned gray and white. The only color was red—vibrant, garish red under my fingernails. Soft whimpers—someone was crying.
Scott grabbed my arm. “Hey, you okay?”
I blinked, and the vision, the sounds faded away. Shoving my hands under my legs, I nodded. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
He sat up, staring at me. “Holy shit, you’re not faking it.”
“The whole amnesia thing—because I was betting money you were off partying somewhere, got trashed for days, and couldn’t come home until you sobered up.”
Damn. “Did I do that often?”
Scott barked out a laugh. “Yeah…this is weird. You’re definitely not faking.”
Now I felt even more confused. “How can you tell?”
“Well, for starters, you haven’t kicked me out of your room or threatened to ruin my life yet.”
“I’d do that?”
He stared at me, his eyes wide. “Yeah, and sometimes you’d even hit me. Once, I hit you back, and, well, that didn’t go over well. Dad got pissed. Mom was mortified.”
My brows pinched. “We…hit each other?”
Shaking his head, Scott leaned back. “Man, this is bizarre.”
No doubt. I pulled my hands out from under my legs and sighed. “Back to the whole killing-Cassie-and-hiding-her-body thing. Why did you say that?”
“I was kidding. You two have been best friends foreva.” He smirked. “Actually, you guys were more like frenemies in the last couple of years. There was some kind of unspoken rivalry going on between you two. It started when you made homecoming queen during sophomore year and she made court. At least that’s what you tell everyone, but I’m thinking it started when you two were freshmen and you started dating Del the Dick.”
“Del the Dick?” I tucked a strand of hair back. “That’s my boyfriend.”
“That’s your whole world.”
Not liking the sound of that, I made a face. “I don’t remember…him, either.”
“That’s going to be a blow to his confidence.” He grinned. “You know, this is possibly the best thing that has ever happened.”