Authors: R.L. Stine
“All right,” Dawn said. “We'll talk about something else. I knowâlet's talk about the prom and about how I'm going to be elected queen.”
“I've got a better idea. What about the two-minute speeches we have to give to the entire school?” Elana suggested. “Have any of you thought about them?”
Just then I had an idea. It was kind of a variation on Mr. Meade's game. “Let's do each other's speeches,” I said. Everyone's expression was blank. “It'll be fun,” I said, explaining. “Right now.”
“All right,” Simone said. “I'll do Dawn.”
She tilted her head back and put her hair behind her ears the way Dawn wore hers. She stuck her jaw out as Dawn did when she was feeling competitive, which was just about always.
It was amazing. With just a few simple gestures, Simone had transformed herself into Dawn! Everyone began to laugh, Dawn the loudest, clapping her
hands as if she really found Simone amusing. I knew she hated it, though.
“Hi,” Simone began. “My name's Dawn Rodgers. Yeah!” She pumped her fist in the air in victory.
“Right on!” shouted some jocks at a nearby table.
Dawn had a big grin on her face, but she was blushing. She had to be blushing pretty hard to see it through her tan.
“Anyway,” continued Simone. “Let's face it, I'm your next prom queen.”
We all clapped. Simone acknowledged the applause by pumping her fist again. Laughing harder, Dawn said, “Okay, my turn, I'llâ” But Simone kept going.
“Now, I know there are four other candidates,” Simone continued. “But as you all know, I'm number one in everything I do, soâ”
“Okay.” Dawn jumped up, her eyes flashing. “My turn. Here's Simone's speech.”
I was beginning to think this wasn't such a bright idea after all.
“But I'm not finished yet,” Simone said.
“My name's Simone Perry,” Dawn said, ignoring her. She tossed her hair back the way Simone always did. “Gee, I have so many people to thank for winning this Oscar for best actressâoops. What am I saying? I mean, for winning prom queen.”
Now it was Simone's turn to pretend to be enjoying it.
“I'd just like to say that I'm such a sensitive artist,” cooed Dawn, “that I'm the only one capable of playing the role of a queen.”
She took a deep bow, then sat down and smiled sweetly at Simone. “How did I do?”
“You know,” I said, “maybe we shouldâ”
“My name is Rachel West,” said Elana, standing up.
Oh, no, I thought. Elanaâplease.
“And, uhÂ .Â .Â .” Elana imitated Rachel's slow way of talking. “UhÂ .Â .Â . well, I'm kinda poor.”
“Ha-ha,” said Rachel. I could see she had been stung, but she had a big grin plastered across her face. Simone was laughing as Elana went on. “IâI, uh, wanted to prepare a speech, but I couldn't afford it!”
Rachel let out a loud, extra-fake guffaw. “Gee, that's
funny, I almost forgot to laugh.”
“Glad you liked it,” Elana responded.
“I really did.” Rachel grinned. I could see she was trying to think of something cutting to say, but she couldn't, so she just sat there, smiling.
“Do Elana's speech,” Simone coaxed.
“Simone,” I said, “I think this is getting out ofâ”
“All right,” Rachel said. “I will.” She stood up. “My name's Elana Potter. It doesn't matter if I'm prom queen or not. If I lose, my father will just
send me on a trip to Europe until I'm feeling all better.”
She flipped one side of her hair and lolled her head around the way Elana always did. Simone and Dawn were hysterical. Elana's smile was frozen on her face.
“No, but seriously, if there's anyone here who's thinking of
voting for me”âRachel imitated Elana's flirty laughâ“I'll pay you a thousand dollars to change your mind.”
Elana clapped loudlyâtwice. “Not bad,” she said, “but I don't have to buy anyone's vote. If you heard the applause today, you'd know that.”
“Well, you couldn't buy mine,” Rachel shot back, sitting down again.
For a long moment no one said a thing. You could tell that everyone had gone just a little bit too far. Honesty is a good policyâbut not
“Great game, Lizzy,” Dawn finally said. “Now someone's got to do you.”
“That's okay. Don't do me any favors.”
“No way,” Dawn persisted. “Everybody plays. Right, Simone?”
But Simone wasn't listening. She was staring past us, toward the front window of the restaurant.
“Simone?” I said.
Simone's face had gone white.
“Oh, no,” she mumbled. She stood up fast, knocking over my Sprite. The soda splashed all
over Dawn and me. We both jumped out of our seats at the same time.
“Oh, no,” Simone repeated.
She had a look of total horror on her face. She screamed, “No! Stop!”
And then raced out of the restaurant.
e were all on our feet now, staring out the window at Simone. We saw right away why she was so upset.
Just outside Pete's is a big indoor fountain. Standing beside the fountain was her boyfriend, Justin.
He was standing very close to a tall, hot-looking blond girlâVanessa Hartley.
We watched as Simone approached them. We could see her call out to Justin, then fling her arm around his neck. It wasn't the most affectionate gesture I had even seen.
“She's not too possessive or anything,” I cracked, watching Justin squirm. He moved away from Simone and nearly fell over backward into the fountain.
“It figures,” said Dawn. “If Simone is screaming, it's nothing important.”
“She forgets she's not on stage all the time,” agreed Rachel, sitting back down.
“She's jealous of anyone who even looks at Justin,” said Elana.
I was still watching the scene out the window. Vanessa had taken off in a hurry. Justin had his arm around Simone now. He was talking to her, those light blue eyes of his flashing close to her face.
“I'd be jealous too,” I joked. “Justin is such a babe!”
I wasn't kidding. Without exaggeration, I'd have to say that Justin was the best-looking, coolest, most popular guy at Shadyside High. And as if that wasn't enough, he was also an all-state baseball player and the team captain of the Shadyside Tigers.
Dawn leaned toward us and lowered her voice. “Can you guys keep a secret? Well, I can't any longer.” She took a long dramatic pause before saying, “I went out with Justin last week.”
Elana's jaw dropped open, which meant she showed us a mouthful of chewed cheese and pepperoni. “You did
I couldn't help exclaiming. “As in, Simone's boyfriend?”
“Hey,” Dawn said defensively, “it's not like I tried to steal him away from her. He asked me, so I went.” She shrugged. “We had a good time too.”
“I'll bet,” said Elana, staring wistfully out the window at Justin. “I'd say yes if he asked me. Wouldn't you, Liz?”
“Sure,” I agreed. “If he wasn't seeing Simone.”
“Oh, what are you, a Girl Scout?” Dawn sneered.
“What about you, Rachel?” Elana asked. “What would you say if Justin asked you out?”
Rachel cracked a tiny smile. “He already asked me,” she said.
Elana's jaw dropped open again.
Rachel's smile broadened. “I said yes,” she added.
â¢Â â¢Â â¢
“The hills are alive,” sang Robbie Barron, flouncing around the stage, “with the sound of music.”
He was surrounded by laughing nuns. They were waiting to rehearse an abbey scene. But Simone hadn't shown up. She was late for the nine hundredth time.
To pass the time Robbie had started doing an imitation of Simone. He was wearing Eva Clarke's black and white hood and was dancing around like a madman. He did look pretty funny, with his thick, black-framed glasses.
When he finished singing, he said, “That'll teach Simone to be late.” He looked at his watch and scowled. “I wonder if our little Maria realizes that it's hard to rehearse without the lead?”
“How do you solve a problem like Maria,” the kids playing the nuns sang back.
Robbie laughed but not for long. “I know how I'm going to solve the problemâI'm going to wring her neck.”
I was there because I was in charge of sets. I wouldn't be caught dead acting in front of an audience. I bet if I did act, that's what I'd beâdead. I'd drop dead from stage fright!
Right then I was standing in the wings painting a flat to look like the wall of the reverend mother's abbey. This week, after the two murders, my overprotective parents let me out of the house at night for play rehearsals only.
“Hey, Lizzy,” Robbie called, “do you have
idea where your friend Simone might be?”
“Oh, sure,” I answered sarcastically. “When she's in trouble, she's
“Come on, don't give me a hard time.” Robbie sounded as if he was out of patience. “Do you know where she is or not?”
“No, I don'tâsorry.”
“Well, this is getting ridiculous,” Robbie continued, checking his watch once again. “This is late even for Simone.”
It was trueâbeing late was part of Simone's style. No matter what the occasion, she always ran at least half an hour behind.
Two days had passed since the nominations for prom queen were announced. I hadn't seen much of Simone, or any of the other nominees, since that afternoon at Pete's. We hadn't left on the best of terms.
“Maybe she forgot she had rehearsal,” offered one of the nuns.
“I reminded her three times today,” Robbie answered. “And I yelled at her about being late.” He pushed his black-framed glasses back up on his nose. “But still, knowing Simone, it's possible she forgot.”
He sighed dramatically and fished some change out of his jeans pocket. “Eva,” he said, “would you mind calling Simone's house?”
There was a pay phone outside the principal's office. Eva was gone for several minutes. “No answer,” she announced when she returned.
I dropped my paintbrush into the coffee can filled with water and peered out into the house. Justin liked to watch Simone's rehearsals. He was usually slouched in the back row of the auditorium.
Not that night, though.
I stood up. “I'll go look for her,” I volunteered. “Maybe she's somewhere around the school.”
I jumped off the stage and started wandering through the empty hallways. There weren't many lights on. And there was absolutely nobody around. I don't scare easily. But walking around empty hallways in the dark has never been high on my list of fun things to do.
Where would I be, I asked myself, if I were Simone and I had forgotten about rehearsal?
First I tried the library, but it was locked. Then I headed for the gym downstairs. Sometimes she
hung around there waiting for Justin to finish baseball practice.
I opened the door to the stairwell. It sure was dark down there. You'd think they'd keep a few lights on when people were still using the school!
I hesitated for a moment and then went in.
The heavy door shut behind me with a very loud
Suddenly wary, I turned and tried the doorknob.
The door had locked behind me.
I suddenly felt a heaviness in the pit of my stomach. I didn't want to be locked in a stairwell in the dark all night. I prayed that the gym would be open.
I groped my way down the darkened stairs. By the time I got to the bottom, it was just about pitch-dark. I was waving my hands around in front of me in slow motion, trying to feel my way.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I found the door to the gym and turned the knob. Locked.
I'm trapped in here, I thought.
I can't get out.
IâI can't breathe!
No. I could breathe perfectly fine. I scolded myself for overdoing it.
Calm down, Lizzy. Calm down.
My heart was pounding like someone playing on a tom-tom. I began to bang on the locked door with my fists.
“Come on, somebody! Anybody! Let me
I pounded for several minutes.
There was no one else down here.
Simone was probably on stage now, singing her little heart out. Would anyone miss the set designer?
I doubted it.
I tried to tell myself to stay calm, but my fear took over. A wave of terror swept over me.
I had to get out of there. I
I started to pound again with all my might. When that didn't work, I started screaming.
I had screamed twice when I heard footsteps approaching on the other side of the gym door.