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Authors: P.J. Night

Is She for Real? (13 page)

BOOK: Is She for Real?
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“The tree house!” Lissa said. “You know she's hiding in the tree house, playing a trick on us. I'm going to kill her!” Before she'd even finished her sentence, Nate was climbing the rickety ladder.

“She's not up here,” he called down.

“You've got to be joking,” Lissa called up as she exchanged looks with Olivia and Lily. Nate was already on his way down.

“Let's keep going into the woods,” he said. They all began walking when Olivia stopped.

“I know exactly what's going on,” she said confidently.

“You
do
?” Lissa and Lily said at the same time. Lissa
should have known Olivia would mastermind the situation and figure it out. Between Nate's confidence and Olivia's logic, everything was going to be okay. Lissa breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“I certainly do,” Olivia said. “She's playing a trick on us. She's hiding somewhere really hard to find. She's being a total drama queen, like Lissa said, and she's trying to scare us. Or scare Nate, that is.” She looked pointedly at Nate.

“What are you talking about?” Nate snapped. “This is the unfunniest practical joke there is.”

“Everyone knows she'd do anything to get attention from you, Nate,” Olivia said in a serious voice.

Nate sighed loudly. “Just cut it out!” he snapped. “Let's focus on finding Bethany, okay?”

“What if she doesn't want to be found?” Lily asked suddenly in a small voice.

The other three all stopped in their tracks, lost in thought for a moment.

“Yeah,” Nate said simply, fingering the ring, which was still halfway on his pinky finger. He seemed truly scared and very sad, all at the same time.

“What?” Lissa asked him. She could tell how far away
his thoughts were. Maybe it was a twin thing, but she felt very close to him at that moment.

“Why'd she leave the ring?” he asked suddenly. “Why would she have left the ring in the sand?”

Everyone was silent.

“You guys seriously have no idea at all?” Nate asked the girls. “Come on.”

“We really have no idea,” Lissa said earnestly. Did he think they were hiding something from him, out in the woods with their friend missing and the sky getting dark?

But Nate had a look on his face that Lissa had never seen before. She thought that she knew every single one. They shared many facial expressions. But this one was brand-new, and it left her feeling cold and even more scared.

“Let's go back,” Nate said simply. The way he said it, there was no arguing. Lissa, Olivia, and Lily had no idea why he wanted to go back, but they all turned around and walked quickly back to the house. Howard was there to ambush Lissa, who was first to walk in the door. She jumped.

“Thanks, Howard, for scaring the life out of me. Great timing,” she muttered. Then they all sat back down at the kitchen table and stared at one another.

Nate got up and left the room.

Nate walked into the guest area of the B and B, which he rarely did. He went into his parents' carefully maintained historical library, which contained every book imaginable about colonial life and the history of Old Warwick. He and Lissa used to call it the “bore chamber.” But at the moment, he wasn't the slightest bit bored.

He reached for the book that the Old Warwick Historical Society had published for the town's recent four hundredth anniversary, a big coffee-table book with lots of old drawings, copies of historic documents, maps, and photos of the society's collection, not all of which were on the display that Nate had viewed on their field trip.

The ring, the ring, the ring
, he thought.
Milady, milady, milady. Why did she leave the ring?
He turned the pages
quickly until he found what he was looking for.

A drawing of Lady Warwick's ruby ring.

The same ring that was half on his pinky finger at that very moment.

The same ring that had been on Bethany's hand when she was buried, and in the sand when she had disappeared.

We were told that Lord Warwick had everything of hers burned
, Nate thought.
But I guess he didn't burn her ring.

The girls were still sitting silent at the kitchen table when Nate entered the room, holding the book. He looked as if he had seen a ghost.

“Sit down, Nate,” Lissa ordered. Now she felt as if it were her turn to take care of him. He obeyed, staring at the ring and unable to meet anyone's eyes.

“Speak,” Lissa said sternly. “Out with it.”

“It's my fault,” Nate said slowly. “I found the ring in the sand with my metal detector. I gave it to her on her birthday.”

“Nate, why are you obsessing about the ring?” Lissa said, trying to be patient. Her twin brother was really scaring her.

“It's
her
ring,” Nate said softly and evenly.

“Um, right, when you gave it to Bethany, it became
hers,” Olivia said, as if she were talking to a small child.

“Not Bethany's,” Nate said. “Lady Warwick's.”

“What are you talking about?” Lissa and Lily said at the same time.

Nate opened the book and pointed to the picture, holding his pinky finger next to the sketch of the ring for comparison. The girls crowded around to get a closer look. Nate's hand trembled, and Lissa reached out to steady it. The three girls gasped as the realization hit them.

There was no doubt it was the same ring, down to the last detail.

The only sound in the room now was everyone's shallow, steady breathing.

Then Nate spoke again. “I gave her the ring and she changed,” he said in a hollow voice. “That's when she started acting jealous and possessive and sad and paranoid. Just like in that story right over there.” He pointed in the direction of the staircase in the other room, where the Lady Warwick story was framed.

Lissa shook her head.
No, this can't be right
, she thought. “Go get the story. Take it off the wall,” she said weakly to Olivia. Olivia ran to the staircase and brought it back, reading aloud.

“‘Lady Warwick was a legendary beauty, with pale skin, emerald-green eyes, and ruby-red lips. It is said that she always wore her long black hair poker straight and parted precisely in the middle …'”

“Her hair,” Lily whimpered, tears streaming down her face.

“Her eyes were green today,” Lissa whispered.

“And she was pale from being sick yesterday,” Lily added.

“It wasn't just you, Nate,” Lissa said, her tears now falling as well. “We gave her something on her birthday too. The red lip gloss. The red lip gloss that made her lips ruby red.”

“I bet it sealed her fate,” Lily cried.

Still Olivia went on. “‘Lord Warwick loved the sea and would often go on very long fishing voyages,'” she read.

“She hated it when I would go to the pier with my friends,” Nate said. “And today she was babbling about me going on a voyage.…” His voice trailed off.

Olivia continued, “‘While he was at sea, she worried about him and was also convinced he had a mistress, which wasn't true. One day Lord Warwick returned from what was to be his final voyage to find Lady Warwick
very ill. She was also very angry and claimed he had broken her heart by being untrue to her.'”

“Is this getting any clearer?” Nate asked in a fierce whisper.

Olivia remained calm. “Okay, there are definitely some similarities here, but we're getting carried away. Even if the ring is the same, which I agree it appears to be, Bethany's out there somewhere playing a trick on us. We'll find her. Don't worry.”

But then they all heard it.

Tapping and scratching. At the window. And it wasn't stopping.

Everyone except Olivia screamed their heads off.

Lissa screamed the loudest.

“IT'S HER!” she shrieked.

Olivia spoke loudly over the screaming. “Calm down. Remember what Mr. Parmalee said. It's a legend, remember? It's meant to scare us. Your imaginations are running away with you!”

But no one could hear her over their screams.

After they stopped screaming, the four remained sitting at the kitchen table, staring at one another. That is, the girls stared at one another. Nate stared at the ring. They had been crying as they screamed, and now their faces were hot with tears.

Only Olivia continued to remain calm. “Come on. We're going back out there to keep searching,” she said with authority as she stood up.

Lissa and Lily numbly followed her lead. She was acting like a parent or a teacher, and they were grateful, just as they had been grateful when Nate took the lead earlier.

Now the three girls stood and stared at Nate, who continued to stare at the ring.

“Come on,” Olivia said to him gently. “What are you waiting for?”

“The real question is, why are you even trying to find her?” Nate said. “She's out there, for sure. But you'll never find her.”

“If she's out there, we'll find her,” Olivia said, her voice beginning to show some signs of doubt.

“She'll be out there forever,” Nate said, his tears falling onto the pages of the book. “You can wander this town all you want looking for her, but you will never find her. Bethany is Lady Warwick. Wandering brokenhearted. For all eternity.”

Lissa's mom zipped up the back of Lissa's dress and spun her around to get a good look.

“My baby girl, going to her senior prom,” Mrs. Carlson said, her eyes shining with tears. “I can't believe how fast time goes.”

“Oh, Mom,” Lissa said. “Stop getting all senti-MENTAL!” They both laughed, and then her mom went downstairs, where Mr. Carlson was sitting with Nate on the couch. Nate was not dressed for the prom, because he was not going. Lissa had begged him to go, to bring Olivia as his date, but he refused. Nate seldom left the house, except to go to school.

Lissa had another look at herself in her full-length mirror and absently applied more lipstick.

She had a look at something else, too.

Tucked into the mirror frame was a photo of Lissa, Olivia, Lily, and Bethany with their arms around one another at their seventh-grade formal dance five years ago. It was a candid photo in which Bethany's head was thrown back in laughter, as Lissa looked her way with an amused expression. Bethany was wearing that red dress of Lissa's, and her long blond curls glowed in the late afternoon sun.

Bethany, gone forever.

Lily had moved away from Warwick the following year. She still kept in touch with Lissa and Olivia, but it wasn't the same. Nothing was the same after that day.

Lissa sat down on her bed for a few minutes with her face in her hands. It was the only way to stop her hands from shaking.

Then she stood up, took a deep breath, and headed downstairs. Mrs. Carlson looked up and said, “I'll get the sparkling cider, as is our tradition.”

“Let's wait till her date gets here,” Mr. Carlson said.

“Lissa and Teddy are just friends, remember, dear?” Mrs. Carlson said with a wink. Mr. Carlson laughed.

BOOK: Is She for Real?
2.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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