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Authors: Danielle Vega

Survive the Night (17 page)

BOOK: Survive the Night
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I can't move.

TWENTY-SIX

THE NURSE'S SCREAMS STILL ECHO THROUGH MY
head a week later as I hobble out of the hospital balanced on brand-new crutches. I stop next to a concrete pillar and tip my head back, letting the sun warm my face. The stiff padding digs into my armpits. I close my eyes and a memory flashes across my flickering lids.

We need a stretcher
, someone yells.

And then,
She's crashing
 . . .

My eyes snap back open. I can't stop replaying those final moments, when I'd been so certain I was going to die. I stare down at the stiff white cast stretching from my ankle to mid-thigh. My toes stick out at the bottom. Mom painted them green last night and drew a tiny picture of a turtle on the cast near my ankle.

I wiggle my green toes. It's a miracle that I can move them. A miracle that I can even stand.

“Just want to make sure you know what she's taking for the pain, how often, and . . .” Mom's voice drifts out of the hospital, interrupted by the glass doors sliding shut.

“. . . I've been a parent just as long as you have,” Dad's saying when the doors slide open again. “I'm perfectly capable of giving her medication while you're at work.”

They step out of the hospital together and stop arguing when they see me listening.

“I told you guys already.” I reposition the crutches beneath my arms and half turn so I can face them. “No drugs.”

Mom sighs, and fumbles with her threadbare tote bag. I painted her nails, too, against much protesting that lawyers really shouldn't have green fingernails.

“The doctors said a little ibuprofen is
fine
,” she says, “You're recovering from a torn ACL, a major surgery, and . . .”

“No drugs.” My voice is stern, and I give her my very best “I'm serious” face. It's something I've insisted on since getting out of surgery. There were a few days when I was too groggy and out of it to keep the doctors from giving me ibuprofen. But now that I'm healthy enough to feed myself and walk with crutches, I've been adamant about refusing all pain relievers—even the ones they say I can't get addicted to. I haven't forgotten the promise I made to myself in the subway. I'm done with all of that.

“If you say so.” Mom tucks the pills into her bag, shaking her head.

“How are you feeling, kiddo?” Dad scratches his eyebrow.

“You mean since, like, twenty seconds ago? When you asked me the last time?” I force myself to smile, even though the expression feels unnatural. The therapist I've been seeing for the last few days said smiling would trick my body into feeling happy, but so far, it hasn't worked.

It's not that I'm not grateful to be alive. But the grateful feeling is tangled up with horror and guilt and shock. Like how necklaces get knotted together when you leave them at the bottom of a jewelry box. It's impossible to separate one emotion from the rest.

The smile pulls at the corners of my mouth. “I'm feeling great, Dad,” I say. “This is pie.”

“Slow down,” Mom says, looping an arm around my shoulder. “You need to
rest
.”

“Fine,” I say. To be honest, I don't care if the crutches are uncomfortable or if Mom acts a little bossy or Dad asks a million questions. I don't care if my knee aches when I'm trying to fall asleep or if physical therapy is grueling or if taking a painkiller would make all this easier. I'd take the pain and the frustration a million times over. It's so much better than the alternative.

Dad opens the car door and starts loading my things into the backseat. I hand him one of my crutches.

“Casey?”

The voice comes from behind me. I turn, the other crutch still propped beneath my arm. “Madison?”

Madison grins at me, holding up a balloon shaped like a soccer ball with the words
Get Better Soon!
written across it in blocky blue print.

“I would have come sooner, but I didn't know if you wanted visitors.” She shoves her free hand into the pocket of her bright green jeans and stares down at her scuffed sneakers. The last time I saw her was from the passenger seat of Shana's Buick. Heat climbs my neck at the memory.

“I'm glad you came,” I say, offering an awkward smile. “I didn't realize anyone knew I was here.” My doctor didn't think I should travel after my surgery, so my parents kept me at the hospital in Manhattan instead of transferring to Philly.

“Are you kidding? Everyone at school is talking about you.” Madison shifts her weight from foot to foot, then hands me the balloon. “Anyway, I got this for you. I think it's supposed to be for, like, an eight-year-old boy, but whatever.”

“That's so sweet,” I say, taking the balloon. It's kind of tricky trying to hold it while also gripping my crutch, but I manage. Madison flashes me a sad smile and clears her throat.

“I also wanted to say that I'm sorry,” she says. “For what happened at my party last week and, you know.” She takes a deep breath. “Because of what happened to your friends.”

I wind the balloon string around my fingers. I still remember the way the ropes groaned as Julie's body swung from the pipes, and how Woody's hand suddenly went limp as the monster burrowed through his chest.

I pull the balloon string tight, watching the tip of my finger turn blue. Aya's last words echo through my head.
We're all gonna die
.

“Casey?” Madison touches my arm.

“Sorry,” I mutter, shaking the pins-and-needles feeling out of my fingers. “I try not to think about it.”

Madison chews on her lower lip. “I heard Shana took an entire bottle of Ritalin. That's why she killed all those people.”

I clear my throat. “She was on a lot of drugs,” I say.

“And the cops still think she was responsible for everything?” Madison asks.

“They do.” I stare down at my cast. It's not my fault Shana got blamed for the murders. No one believed my story about the monster, especially not after I tested positive for Ecstasy. And the nurses
saw
Shana attack me in the hospital. It all fit together so perfectly.

Except no one could explain the bloody gouges on Shana's arms.

Or why the other bodies were never recovered. Even Sam disappeared in the time that the runner left to get help and the ambulance arrived. His body vanished. Like something had reached out of the subway and dragged him back underground.

I flex my fingers, nearly losing my grip on the balloon. These are the details I focus on. They remind me that I'm not crazy. That what I saw was real.

Madison takes a step closer, lowering her voice. “Is it true that you had to . . . you know . . .”

“Kill her?” A lump forms in my throat. I don't want to think about how I tied the cord around Shana's throat and pulled until she could no longer breathe. My hands tingle at the memory.

It wasn't Shana
, I tell myself.
Shana was already dead when they brought the body to the hospital. I didn't murder her. I murdered the monster. The thing that killed her and took over her body.

Cotton candy–colored hair flutters through my memory. I flinch, letting the balloon string unravel from my finger.

“It was self-defense,” I tell her. Luckily, Madison nods. She grabs my hand and squeezes.

“I'm sorry,” she says. Awkward silence stretches between us. Madison clears her throat and glances at my knee.

“I heard that you had another surgery,” she says. “You're probably benched for good now, huh?”

This time, my smile feels almost natural. It's easier to focus on the medical stuff. The surgeries and rehab have been so challenging that I can go almost five minutes without thinking about Sam's last words or how light Aya felt in my arms. I lean into my crutch and stretch my bulky cast out in front of me.

“Actually, the doctors say I'll be good as new,” I say, wiggling my green toes. “I should be back out on the field this fall.”

A nervous grin flashes across Madison's face. “You're going out for soccer again in the fall?
Really
?”

“As soon as I'm done with physical therapy,” I say.

Madison squeals, and wraps me in a hug. “That's amazing! I can't wait,” she says.

“Yeah, well, don't get too comfortable being captain,” I say, untangling myself from her arms.

“Bring it
on
,” Madison says.

“Casey!” Mom pokes her head out the car window. “We're going to be late for your first physical therapy appointment. Time to tell Madison good-bye!”

Madison squeezes my arm. “I'll see you on the field.”

“See you on the field,” I say.

Madison jogs back to her car, but she turns to wave at me one last time before climbing inside. I toss my crutch into the station wagon. Dad starts to get out of his seat to help, but I wave him off.

“I got it,” I say.

Before I can pull myself into the car, the ground trembles, and I stiffen—immediately alert. A train rumbles through the subway below me.

I stare through a nearby grate, nerves prickling. For a second, I think I see them. Shana reaches out of the darkness, her chipped fingernail grazing my hand. Strobe lights illuminate the tips of Sam's hair and the hard edges of his jaw. Julie tosses back her black curls and fumbles with the onyx ring on her finger.

Then the rumble of the train fades into the distance, and they disappear.

I release a ragged breath, my lips suddenly cold. I see them all the time. Every girl with winged eyeliner is Aya. Every guy in a Hawaiian shirt is Woody. But when I look again, I'll see that the girl is too tall or too thin. The guy is older than he seemed a second ago.

My friends are dead. They aren't coming after me.

That's what I keep telling myself.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

THESE ARE ALWAYS IMPOSSIBLE TO WRITE BECAUSE
books are like children, and it takes villages of people to raise them. So thank you thank you thank you to the amazing Les Morgenstein, Josh Bank, and Sara Shandler at Alloy for every single thing you've done to help make this book a thing that happened and not just a fun story I daydreamed about in my apartment. Thank you, Kristin Marang, for all your support on the social media front, and thanks to all the people at Alloy who worked behind the scenes. Also, thanks to Emilia Rhodes. You're my favorite. I'm going to steal you back from Harper if it's the last thing I do.

Huge, overwhelming thanks to my lovely family at Razorbill. Jessica Almon, thank you for the brilliant, insightful notes. Thank you to Casey McIntyre and Ben Schrank for everything you've done to support me and my words. Huge thanks to Felicia Frazier and Rachel Cone-Gorham and the rest of Razorbill's sales, marketing, and publicity team, all of whom worked so hard to help people discover my books. You guys are wonderful!

And finally, thanks to my fabulous, supportive family and friends. This book is dedicated to Feelings Are Enough, which is my fake band (don't ask; it's exactly as ridiculous as it sounds). Thanks for letting me steal the name, guys. I promise not to release a fake solo album anytime soon.

And, of course, thank you to Ron. Couldn't have done it without you, babe.

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BOOK: Survive the Night
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