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Authors: Danielle Vega

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BOOK: Survive the Night
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“So cute,” she says. I stare at the back of Sam's neck, where his hair brushes against his shirt collar.

“You never thought so before,” I tell her. Back when we were dating, she used to call him “that little puppy who follows you around.” She told me to find him a new home.

Shana winks at me. “Oh, yeah. The cow costume's a
total
turn-on,” she says, and I realize she's talking about Woody. The jealousy I felt fades away.

“It's probably the udders,” I say. Shana loops her arm through mine, and the two of us fall in line behind Julie and Aya.

“You should have seen how he looked at me,” I whisper when the others are out of earshot. Shana frowns.

“Who?
Sam
?” she asks. I shoot her a look.

“Of course Sam.”

“How did he look at you?”

I shrug, not sure how to explain it. I think of the tightness in his jaw, the strained sound of his voice.

“Like I'm broken,” I say finally. Shana raises an eyebrow. “Like I remind him of James,” I add.

Shana brushes the hair back from my face and kisses my forehead. “You're nothing like James,” she says.

“You weren't there,” I say. My voice cracks, and I have to stop and take a breath. I don't want to cry in front of Shana, not with Sam just a few feet away, but I don't know how to talk about Mountainside without bringing up all these weird emotions. “Those girls in rehab,” I continue. “They were—”

“Stop.” Shana cuts me off. “They might have been broken, but that doesn't mean you are. You're stronger than that.”

I don't answer right away. Her voice gets harder. “Do you understand?”

I sigh and nod, wanting to believe her. Ahead of us, Julie leans her head back, staring up at the sky. Dark curls trail down her back. She hums “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” under her breath.


This
is where you belong,” Shana adds. “With us. Tell me you didn't miss this.”

“Wandering around New York in the middle of the night?” I ask.

“It's like
eleven
. Hardly the middle of the night. And I meant hanging with your friends. Going on an adventure.” Shana elbows me. “Remember that night at the playground?”

I groan, thinking about the time Shana showed up in the middle of the night and woke me up by throwing pebbles at my window. She used to do that sometimes, when she and her mom had a fight and she needed to get out of the house to cool down. I had expected her to take me to some illicit party, but instead she drove to the playground two blocks away. She grabbed my arm and pulled me over to the swing set.

“Race you,” she said, plopping down a swing.

“To where?” I asked.

Shana shrugged. “The moon.”

Shana swung higher and higher, pumping her legs until the chains groaned and the swing set lurched in place. Then—when she was so high it looked like she'd tip over and fall backward—she jumped.

She fractured her ankle in three places. I had to carry her back to the Buick and drive her to the hospital. I called her mom at least seven times, but she never even picked up the phone. My mom answered on the first ring.

“I'd prefer not to end up in the emergency room tonight,” I say, leaning my head on Shana's shoulder. “Maybe this adventure can end with food?”

“Man cannot live on bread alone, Casey,” she says.

“What about pancakes? I'm pretty sure man can live on pancakes.”

A rat scurries across the alley, its pink tail whipping behind it. It freezes in the middle of the street and stares at us with red eyes.

“Holy shit!” I take a quick step back.

Aya screams and stumbles over her feet. Julie bursts out laughing but grabs Aya's arm so she doesn't fall. The rat twitches its nose. I flinch. I imagine it darting toward us, snapping its long, sharp teeth. But it creeps along the curb and out of sight instead. I sigh in relief.

Shana takes a swig of Jack Daniel's. “It's just a rat, guys,” she says, tucking the bottle back into her pocket.

“It's disgusting,” Aya mutters. Julie kicks a soda can into the shadows where the rat disappeared, and something darts across the pavement. Aya releases another high-pitched shriek, and Julie laughs even harder.

Suddenly, Lawrence stops walking. He, Sam, and Woody crouch down in the street.

“This is it!” Woody shouts, wiping the dirt off a manhole cover. The rest of us crowd around him.

“Feel that?” Lawrence asks. Music vibrates through the ground, making the street hum.

“Cool,” I say, crouching next to Sam. I'm close enough that I can smell him, the combination of soap and pine needles.

The manhole cover's made of iron, with a City of New York logo stamped over the center. Someone has painted a neon pink
X
over it. Woody digs his fingers around the sides of the cover and yanks.

“Are you sure that's the right . . .” Julie starts, but she lets the end of her sentence trail off when Woody grunts and shoves the cover to the side of the hole.


X
marks the spot,” he says, wiping his hands off on his costume. Shana grabs my arm and jumps up and down, squealing. Together, we all peer into the darkness.

A rickety metal ladder descends into the black. Far below, I can just make out flickering candlelight and hear the distant sound of drumming. Something drips against the bottom of the tunnel, and the sound echoes toward us.

“Well,” Sam says, leaning back on his heels. “Who wants to go first?”

SIX

I LOWER MYSELF DOWN THE LADDER. THE RUNGS
chill my fingers even though the day's heat still lingers in the air.

“Gross,” I say. “It smells like fish.”

“It's an adventure.” Julie climbs onto the ladder above me. Her Doc Martens combat boots clank on the rungs, making the entire ladder tremble. She got the boots from her mom, who was way into grunge in the nineties and had written
Pearl Jam rules
across the leather in silver Sharpie. “Adventures aren't supposed to be clean.”

“That's the weirdest thing you've ever said,” Aya mutters. She crawls into the opening next, carefully placing one blackened foot onto the ladder's rungs.

“You didn't care about being smelly when you were playing Queen of Garbage earlier,” I say. Julie pokes Aya's foot and snickers.

Aya tries to kick her. “Hey, stop shaking the ladder,” she says. A nervous laugh bubbles up in my throat. We're kind of high up, and this thing doesn't exactly feel steady. I glance down, but I can't see past Shana's blond head. My leather flat slips from my heel, and I curl my toes to keep it from falling.

“Don't tell me you're scared.” Shana's voice echoes up from below me. I tighten my grip on the ladder rungs, feeling dizzy.

“I never get scared,” I shoot back. Something icy and cold slithers down the back of my shirt. I shriek, nearly losing my grip on the ladder. My shoe slips off my foot and spirals into the darkness.

Shana cackles. “Yeah, you're a badass.”

I rock back and forth to make the ladder jiggle. Shana screams with laughter and hugs herself to the rungs.

“Shit!” she shouts. “I take it back. Don't do that again.”

I laugh as we climb deeper underground and the subway tunnel slowly comes into focus. A giant laughing clown face stretches across one wall, orange spray paint dripping down the tile. Candles flicker on the ground. Distant music echoes through the tunnel and pulses up from the floor, making the wicks tremble.

Excitement floods through me. I can already hear voices and laughter coming from deeper in the tunnel. It sounds like the party's in full swing. I lower my foot and my toes hit wet concrete. Chills shoot up my leg.

“Ewww.” I giggle, balancing on one foot. We've reached a narrow platform overlooking a single row of grimy train tracks. A water-stained poster reads
SERVICE CHANGES
. I flatten the edge of the paper, but it's too faded to read.

“That's hella old,” Woody explains, stepping up behind me. “These tunnels have been closed since Hurricane Sandy.”

“Creepy,” I say, and another thrill of excitement shoots through me. I turn, still balanced on one foot. “Has anyone seen my shoe?”

“This it?” Sam holds up my shoe, turning it so the candlelight catches the studs on the toe. Even in the dark I see the little dimple in his cheek.

“Yeah,” I say. I clear my throat, annoyed at how breathless and girlie I sound.

“Catch!” He tosses me the shoe and I awkwardly lunge to catch it.

“Thanks,” I say, slipping my shoe back on. Sam gives me a thumbs-up. I'm not entirely sure how to respond to a
thumbs-up
from the only boy I've ever loved, so I just nod.

“Aw, it's like an incredibly awkward Cinderella,” Shana says. She pulls another cigarette out of the pack of Djarum Blacks that she steals from her corner market, and strikes a match. The blue-orange flame flickers over her pale skin and pink-tipped hair. Silvery smoke snakes around her.

“Does that make you my evil stepsister?” I say, once Sam's too far away to hear.

“Are you kidding? I'm your fairy godmother.” Shana winks and taps her cigarette, sending a shower of orange sparks to the ground.

“What does that mean?” I ask.

“You'll see.” She squeezes my shoulder, then hurries up to walk with Woody and Sam. I lag behind, turning the comment over in my head. Shana is like a firecracker: bright and sparkly and fun—but if you set her off in the wrong direction, she'll light everything on fire.

The platform stretches for another hundred feet before ending at a white-and-green-tiled wall. A staircase cuts through the middle of the concrete, leading deeper underground.

“Where now?” I ask, peering down the stairs. Particleboard and two-by-fours seal off the door below, and caution tape winds around the handrails. This place is a freaking maze. I wonder how deep it goes.

Woody hops off the platform, motioning for us to follow him down onto the tracks. Sam climbs down next. I hesitate, looking at Julie, Aya, and Shana.

“Let's do this,” Shana says, jumping into the tunnel. Three rusty train rails cut down the center, surrounded by red Solo cups, empty PBR cans, and Snickers wrappers. Rows of thick white candles line the walls. The steady
bomp bomp bomp
of techno music echoes toward us. I can't help bouncing a little as I walk. I want to
dance
.

“Is it true what they say about the third rail?” Aya asks, hopping down next to me.

“You mean, is it electrified?” Woody picks up a plastic cup and tosses it at the far rail. It rolls away, unharmed.

“They turned the power off, remember?” Julie says. “Because of the hurricane?”

“Whatever.” Woody kicks another plastic cup at the rail.

I wrap my arms around my chest, shivering. Party sounds seep up through the floor and ooze out of the walls, reverberating through the soles of my shoes. The ground trembles with music.

We turn the corner, and the tunnel opens into an underground station with an arched ceiling and graffiti-covered walls. People crowd on top of a concrete platform, waving yellow and pink glow sticks that leave trails of light as they dance. Two lanes of subway tracks stretch past the platform on both sides before disappearing into dark tunnels just like the one we've come out of. Strobe lights flash from the ceiling, and hundreds of candles line the walls, dripping pools of white wax.

“Whoa.” Julie runs a hand through her hair, sweeping the black curls off her face. “It's like Christmas. But for ravers.”

“Ravemas,” Aya adds, giggling. She tugs off her cardigan, revealing the plunging neckline on her fifties-style dress. She folds the sweater into a tiny square and forces it into her pink faux-fur clutch. She wobbles toward the party, once again balancing on her painful-looking heels.

“How long before she finds the newest love of her life?” Julie asks, twisting the onyx ring on her finger.

“Maybe she'll find someone great tonight,” I say. Aya's always looking for her next epic romance. Julie gives her shit, but I can't help rooting for her. I steal a glance at Sam, heading down the tunnel.

“You think there's a VIP room in this place?” Shana asks, taking a puff from her cigarette.

“Like where the celebs hang out?” I ask. Shana shrugs and leans her head back, trying to blow smoke circles.

“This
is
New York,” she says, winking at me.

I lean forward, peering down the tunnel that leads to the entrance. “Maybe it's back this way?”

I start down the tunnel, but a bouncer cuts me off before I can go any farther. He has the kind of face that looks like it doesn't know how to smile.

“No one leaves Survive the Night until the party's over,” the bouncer says. He hooks his thumbs into his jeans pockets and stands up straighter. He must be more than six feet tall.

I glance at Shana, “We're just looking for . . .”

“A bathroom,” she finishes for me.

“Party's not over till five,” the bouncer says.

“Come on,” Shana says, pulling me back into the party.

“That was weird,” I say. “We're trapped down here until five in the morning. Don't you think that's—”

“Cool?” Shana stomps out her cigarette.

“I was going to say strange.” I check over my shoulder again. The bouncer leans against the wall next to the tunnel, waiting for anyone else who might try to slip back to the entrance. “Shana, we have to drive back before Madison's sleepover gets out or my parents will know I bailed.”

“It takes two hours to get back,” Shana says. “You'll be fine.”

“But if there's traffic . . .”

“At five in the morning?” Shana picks at the nail polish on her thumb. “I'm going to find us something to drink,” she says, letting a black flake flutter to the ground. “Think you can try to relax until I get back?”

“Yeah, of course,” I say, a little embarrassed that I'm getting so worked up.

Shana veers off to the drink line, while I scramble onto the platform to look for Julie and Aya. Narrow ledges jut out from the wall above me. A girl with pigtails sits on one of them, spray-painting a face on the concrete. I ease past a group of people playing Spin the Bottle and try to make my way toward the dancers on the far end. The platform's so crowded I can barely move. I'm about to give up and follow Shana to the drink line when I stumble over a pair of Converse sneakers and balled-up socks.

“Left foot, green!” someone shouts.

I push past a line of people and see another, smaller group. It looks like they're wrestling. Paint coats their hands and feet and drips from their clothes. Messy puddles of red, yellow, blue, and green cover the concrete and ooze together, making the floor look like a Jackson Pollock painting.

“Right hand, blue!”

Everyone scrambles around to find the blue paint puddles. Giggles erupt as their hands slip out from under them. A few people lose their balance and fall.

I grin as I watch them play, thinking back to the party where I met Sam. I kept waiting for him to come inside so I could make an excuse to talk to him, but he spent most of the night in the yard with his lawn mower.

Then, about halfway through the party, I saw him slip through the front door and sneak upstairs. I found him alone in an office on the second floor.

“I was looking for an extra bathroom,” he told me. But when I promised I wouldn't rat him out, he admitted he was actually snooping.

“Check this out,” he'd said. He stepped aside, revealing a floor-to-ceiling bookcase completely stocked with old board games. They had everything: Jenga, Trivial Pursuit, Life, Monopoly, Sorry!—you name it. My mouth dropped open when I saw it—I didn't realize people owned board games anymore. I hadn't seen so many in one place in my entire life.

I threw a hand over my eyes. “Whatever game I point to is the one we're going to play,” I'd said. He laughed while I made a big show of waving my hand over the row of games before dropping it on an old Twister box.

“I don't think you can manage Twister,” Sam said, nodding at the bulky knee brace I had to wear after my accident.

“Rain check,” I'd told him. He found a piece of paper and scribbled
IOU one game of Twister
on it, along with his phone number.

I can't help remembering that moment now, as I watch this much messier game of Twister. I swivel around, trying to find Sam in the crowd. I know things have been weird between us, but an IOU is an IOU. He owes me a game.

“Right foot, blue,” the announcer shouts. I grin as the players weave and duck around one another and people lose their balance and tumble to the floor. I finally spot Sam a few feet away. He slides his bare foot onto a blue puddle, a streak of red paint smudged across his face.

The smile freezes on my lips. He's already playing. Without me.

The announcer shouts something else, but his voice sounds like static. A girl leans over and whispers something in Sam's ear. She's beautiful and blond, and wearing a shirt that's so short and tight it's practically nonexistent. Sam laughs and touches her bare shoulder. The hurt burns inside me, turning to fury.

I push through the crowd to get to the game, shedding my shoes as I go. Sam freezes when he sees me, his hand hovering above a goopy blue pile of paint.

“Oh, hey,” I say, flashing him my sexiest smile. “I didn't see you playing.”

The blond girl glares at me, and I very maturely stick out my tongue when Sam turns his head.

“Right hand, green,” the announcer calls. Sam slides his hand onto the same green blob I'm aiming for, and his thumb brushes against mine. I glance up at him. A blush colors his cheeks, and he jerks his hand away.

“Sorry,” he mutters. I grin, and flick a little red paint at him. It splatters across his hair.

“Sorry!” I say, biting my lip to keep from laughing.

Sam cocks an eyebrow. “You're going
down
,” he says, wiping paint from his face.

“Left food, red!” the announcer shouts. I plop my foot down, and red paint oozes between my toes. It feels cold and slimy. I try not to make a face, but I can't help scrunching my nose up in disgust.

“Ewww,” I say. Sam lowers his foot to a red puddle behind me.

“Left hand, yellow!”

The blond girl hip-checks me, nearly sending me down. My knee twists, and pain flutters through my leg. Sam grabs my shoulder to hold me up. I regain my balance, and he pulls his hand back.

“Right foot, red!”

This time, Sam starts to stumble. He grabs my shoulder for support, and suddenly, we're practically nose-to-nose.

“Hey,” he says. “You have a little . . .” He brushes something off my cheek. I hold my breath. A smile flickers onto his lips.

“So, I was trying to wipe away a dot of yellow paint,” he explains, “and I accidentally smeared green paint all over your face.”

“Loser!” I push my hand into his face, leaving a bright blue handprint on his cheek. He laughs and dunks his hand back down in the red paint. I dodge backward, but I lose my balance. I grab Sam's sweatshirt, pulling him into the paint with me. I hit the ground with a thud, and Sam lands on top of me.

“You and you!” the announcer calls, pointing to us. “You're out.”

BOOK: Survive the Night
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