Chapter One CHAPTER ONE
Journal: When we were little, Cait and I would swish around in the bathtub pretending to be mermaids, then one time, out of the blue, Cait reached out and pinched me.
I splashed water in her face and said, “Ow! What did you do that for?”
She splashed back and said, “To see if it hurt.”
And I’m like, “Course it did. What’d you think?”
“No,” she said. “I mean, to see if it hurt ME.”
“Oh. So did it?”
That’s about all anybody needs to know about being a twin.
IT’S THE FIRST DAY OF school my senior year, and I’ve got a headache so bad, it feels like every thought in my head puts a new crack in my skull. I swear I can hear it splitting. Did Mom get home last night—crack. How can I go back to school—everybody hates me now—crack. The accident, Caitlyn—a web of cracks travels over my skull and down my spine, then down along every bone in my body.
I stumble to the bathroom and pop a couple of Advil, then get dressed and go check on my mom. She’s lying across her bed like she walked into the room, fell over, and landed there. Alcohol sours the air. I take the wig out of her hand, pull the covers around her, and kiss her cheek. It’s like putting my lips on one of those flour-dusted buns you get at the grocery store.
In the kitchen I make a steaming cup of coffee then, unable to drink it, pour it onto my hand. The brown liquid pools, then runs off into the sink. The pain is immediate, and deep, but something in me releases, my shoulders relax, all the knots untangle in my stomach. I make a fist, holding in the heat, the steam, old blisters swelling, filling again with pus.
Twenty minutes later I’m driving my mom’s car along a narrow, tree-lined street till I come to the opening in a brick wall where the school sits, flat topped and squat, but sprawling this way and that, like a game of Scrabble. In front of the school, just before the student parking lot, stands a cluster of leaning crosses made from sticks stabbed into the ground. Piled around them lie soaked and dirty stuffed animals, and flowers, mostly dead, except for the fake ones. Old, laminated pictures of Coach Jory Wilson’s smarmy pink face are now curled, hanging loose from wooden slats.
News reporters lie in wait for me. They jump out of their trucks, cameras and mics ready as soon as I pull into the school parking lot.
“Scotlyn O’Doul! Scotlyn, over here. How does it feel to be back?” Another one calls to me, “Scotlyn, have you changed your story yet?”
I race past them, backpack covering my face, and hurry inside the building then, after catching my breath, shuffle along the hall toward the Prince’s office, feeling like someone’s dumped a shovelful of manure into my stomach. I pause outside the office. Taped to the wall in front of me is a disgustingly huge photograph of Coach Jory, and under it students have plastered sticky notes, things like “2 Great 2 B 4 Got 10,” and “RIP,” and “4ever in Our .”
I swallow hard and knock on the open door.
Dr. Henry Mead, a hearty, slap-ya-on-the-back kinda guy—a prince of a guy, a prince of pals, answers. “Yeah? Come in.”
I step inside and there he is, turned away, leaning back in his flexible chair, hands clasped behind his head. He swings around to see who’s entered. “Miss O’Doul, glad you’re here.” His voice is robust. The guy belongs in a used car lot selling defective cars to teens. He rests his hands on a belly the size of a sedan and forces a smile. “It’s good to get started on the right foot. Take a load off.” He indicates the seat across the desk from him.
My legs are shaking, and my heart’s quivering like it’s searching for the beat. Head’s throbbing.
I sit, back straight, feet together, pack on the floor leaning against my leg. “Okay, well—I’m here early, just like you wanted.” I attempt a deep breath but don’t get very far before my breath shudders, and I stop.
“Good, good.” He leans back in his chair again, sets his elbows on the armrests, and presses the tips of his fingers together. “So, listen, kiddo, we’ve got our usual first day of school assembly this morning.”
“Uh-huh.” Sweat trickles down my sides.
“I don’t want you there.”
“We have many things to go over that pertain to what happened last May, and what we want to avoid at all costs, Scotlyn, is drama. You get me?”
I nod. “No drama.”
He smiles, displaying his tobacco-stained teeth. “Exactly. No more girls versus boys, did he or didn’t he debates or”—he gives me air quotes—“?‘me too’ movement parades through the halls. No one else has come forward and made any similar claims to yours, Scotlyn, right? It’s time to put it all behind us. You’re a senior now. It’s a new school year.”
I scooch forward in my seat. “So, you think I made it all up? That picture of Coach outside your door—I don’t think it belongs there.” I’m gripping the edges of my seat so hard, I think my fingers might break. A blister bursts, stings. The ooze runs between my fingers. I grab a tissue from a box on the Prince’s desk.
“Look, I’m sure you understand, Coach Jory wasn’t just the best and winningest high school coach in the whole country, he was a friend and a father figure to so many of the students who have passed through these halls.”
I shake my head, hug my arms, pinch them. “Dr. Mead, I get it, and I’m sorry.”
“Yes, well, we all are.”
“Yeah, but see, where’s Cait’s photo? People here loved her, too.” I blink several times. “I—I didn’t just lose my best friend; I lost my sister—my twin.”
He makes a face like he’s just tasted something nasty. “Well aware, Scotlyn. Well aware. However, your sister de-liberately crashed that car, killing Coach—”
“And if you don’t mind my saying, some folks around here are still having a difficult time forgiving you for putting the blame—accusing him of—of—unspeakable—” He shakes his head, unable to go on, his cheeks now a deep plum color.
I bite my lip, taste blood. People around here will never forgive me for talking, for telling the truth.
After the accident, where my sister supposedly drove her car, with Coach Jory Wilson beside her, straight into a stone wall, police and news reporters questioned me. They wanted to know why it happened, why I didn’t alert my mother, or somebody, that this was coming. I must have had some inkling. “You twins were inseparable. They say you literally read each other’s minds.”
Really? I mean, really?
The news media had called her a depressive, mentally ill, and the police latched on to that. Yeah, she’d been weird lately, but, still, if she were suicidal, she wouldn’t have taken Coach with her, even if he did mess with her, and she wouldn’t have left me behind. Never.
The police wanted to know what I meant by “messed with.” Did I mean he raped her? They wanted the details—two red-faced police officers just daring me to say that the great Coach Jory Wilson raped her.
“Uh—yeah,” I said. “He did.”
Somehow that got leaked to the media, and the town, the whole country, went berserk.
Where’s the proof? He’s the great Coach Jory, never a harsh word said against him. How convenient for me to accuse him when he’s not here to defend himself. Lies, all lies.
“… But you’re going to have to expect, and accept, that there’s still going to be some harassment.”
The Prince is talking to me. Something about bullying.
I cross my arms. “Dr. Mead, our house was broken into. Someone poured gallons of red paint all over Cait’s and my bedroom, even our clothes were destroyed. They chopped up our furniture, wrote ‘His blood is on your hands’ on the walls. So, like, it’s going to be zero tolerance for bullying around here, except for me? I’m supposed to accept it?”
“That attack on your house happened last May, and off school property.” The Prince taps his fingers on his desk.
I shake my head.
“Listen, kiddo, things are still going to be a little volatile. That’s why the assembly. We’re going to try to nip this in the bud, but don’t go expecting some kind of personal bodyguard, right? You gotta keep your head down and let this whole disturbing thing blow over.”
He says this, and his upper lip curls. He blames me just as much as he blames Cait, or more, even—because I told. I lean forward, sliding to the edge of my seat, my mouth turned down so far it hurts. “Look, I didn’t kill him.” I say it again, trying to convince myself, to remind myself.
“I didn’t kill him, and I didn’t lie. Coach Jory raped my sister.”