“Trust me, you don’t want to go to the dance with me.”
“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that, Sam? Wait.” Understanding colored his tone. “Is it because of the police investigating Cassie’s…murder? And you think you did it.”
“You did not kill Cassie, Sam. Okay? Get that through that thick—albeit cute—skull of yours. You’re not a murderer.”
“It’s not just that. I’m…I’m sort of messed up.”
He stared at me. “Aren’t we all?”
“No, not like this.” I lowered my eyes, fidgeting. “I’m really messed up, Carson.”
There was a heavy sigh. “You’re stressed out and—”
“I had to see a therapist today!” I said, probably a little louder than I should have. Tucking my legs against my chest, I forced my voice lower. “Last night…last night I woke up and I thought there was someone in my room. I thought he was touching me. And no one was there, Carson.”
“Okay.” His voice was gruff. “It could be stress. Or it could be a memory. You’ve said that some of the memories were like they were really happening, right?”
I laughed, and it was the wrong thing to do, because it sounded all kinds of wrong. “That’s not all. Those notes I’d been finding? They’re in my handwriting. I’ve been writing notes to myself and not even remembering it.”
“Please don’t say something to make me feel better about all this.” I fought to swallow the tears, clearing my throat twice. “I left school early today to meet with a shrink. I’m going to be on meds. So I know something is wrong with me—more than just stress.”
After my speech, silence descended between us. I was doing everything to keep from crying, because out of everyone, what he thought of me had come to mean so much. Prom was definitely out of the question. Who wanted to take Insanity Sam? Our friendship might also go down the drain. Hell, I was surprised he was still sitting here.
“Okay,” he said finally. “I’m going to say something, and I’m only going to say it once, and then this is done.”
I lifted my wet lashes. Here it comes. Preparing for what I was sure would be probably the nicest rejection in the history of mankind, I nodded and got ready to bolt through the tree house opening.
“I know you didn’t have anything to do with Cassie,” he said. “And you have got to stop living your life as if you did.”
I blinked, waiting for the rest.
He spread his hands along my cheeks. “I don’t care if you have to see a shrink or go on medication, Sam. I’m being serious. That doesn’t change that I’ve always thought you are an amazing person.”
Through bleary eyes, I searched his face for signs that he was joking. “How can you say that—”
“When you wouldn’t give me the time of day for years?” He laughed. “Remember, Sam, you had your moments. And those moments outshone everything else.”
“You’re perfect,” I whispered, blinking back tears.
Carson snorted. “I’m far from perfect.”
I didn’t believe that.
“So is it a yes or no?” he asked, moving his hands down my cheeks, so that his thumbs curved along my bottom lip, sending a shiver through me, lessening the very real fact that I was a hundred percent certifiable. “Will you go to prom with me?”
I laughed at the absurdity of it. It was official. I was crazy—crazy in the way of seeing things, leaving myself notes, and tomorrow I’d be sitting in the therapist’s office instead of my last period. And Carson still wanted me to go to prom with him.
Another thing was official. I was in love with Carson.
A wide, beautiful smile parted his lips, exposing the one chipped tooth that I found so, so charming. “I’m going to be honest. If you’re going to say no, it’s about to get really awkward up in here.”
The swelling in my chest returned, but in a good way. Pulling back, I grasped his wrists. A horrible thought occurred. What if I had been crazy before the incident with Cassie but had hidden it well? Going to prom seemed like a bad idea, but if I was crazy then, I was crazy now. And if I hadn’t done this to Cassie, what else would I be cheating myself out of experiencing?
Letting go of his wrists, my arms went around his neck. Carson didn’t hesitate. His arms went around my waist, holding me just as tightly.
“I’ll take that as a yes?” He laughed, pressing his face into my hair.
I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping I was making the right decision. “Yes, I’ll go with you.”
In the car the following morning I turned to Scott and asked probably one of the strangest questions I could ever ask my brother. “Can you take me dress shopping?”
He choked on a piece of chocolate-frosted Pop-Tart. Part of it fell between the seat and center console of the car he’d been renting. “What?”
I flushed. “I need to get a dress for prom, and I don’t have any friends.”
Digging for the missing Pop-Tart piece, he glanced up at me. “You…you have friends, Sam.”
“No, I don’t.” Swatting his hand away, I managed to scoop out the piece and toss it back in its wrapper. “Everyone at school calls me Insanity Sam.”
“Not everyone.” He stuck the pastry in his mouth so he could back out of the garage, then returned to holding it. “Okay. Who’s taking you? If you say Del, I might thump your ass.”
I made a face. “Carson asked me.”
He spat out another piece. “And you actually said yes?”
“Yeah. I like him. A lot.”
Scott tossed the rest of his breakfast out the car window. “Man, wow, back into the twilight zone.” He slid me a sidelong look. His eyes glimmered. “He’s a much better choice than Del.”
“So you’re not going to thump Carson’s ass, then?”
“I don’t know. I think I have to, just a little bit. Being your brother and all.”
“Of course,” I agreed, grinning.
He rolled his eyes. “Julie will go with you. She was actually planning to go soon.”
Fiddling with the strap on my bag, I stared out the window, lips pursed. “I don’t want you to make her do that. It would be embarrassing.”
“I wouldn’t make her. I’ll ask her in class to see if she’s game.” He paused. “I promise if she isn’t, I won’t push it. Okay?”