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Never to Sleep (Soul Screamers #5.5)
Author: Rachel Vincent



Soul Screamers series
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Never to Sleep (Soul Screamers #5.5)

A note from the author:

Never To Sleep is a novella, not a full-length novel, and it takes place within the If I Die time frame, so please be aware before you read this story that it does contain an If I Die spoiler.

 

 

* * *

“I know she’s your best friend and all, Sophie, but Laura Bell has got to go,” Peyton whispered, shoving both gym doors open at once so she could walk through the center of the double doorway for a grand exit. Every entrance Peyton made was a production, and every exit was a statement. This exit said, Get used to the back of my head, bitches, because that’s all you’re gonna see when I lead us to the state dance team championship next year.

What Peyton didn’t understand was that she wasn’t going to be leading us.

I was.

In the entire history of the Eastlake High dance team, an incoming junior had never been voted captain. I was going to be the first. But I needed Laura’s support to make that happen. People fear Peyton’s mouth. They respect my talent. And they like Laura. It was going to take at least two of the three—fear, respect, and congeniality—to claim the prize.

If Peyton got Laura kicked off the team, I was screwed.

“She’s a good dancer, Pey.”

“Yeah. In private. Sometimes in practice. But every time we get ready to compete, she flakes out. With all that nervous vomiting, you’d think she’d be skinnier.” The doors closed behind us, and Peyton stopped whispering. “And now another injury.” That morning, we’d been twenty minutes into the second-to-last practice before the final competition of the year when Laura twisted her ankle. Again. “If she can’t bring it when it counts, why is she here? Someone should show her the door.”

I knew what was coming. It was Peyton’s MO—delegate the dirty work.

“It has to come from her best friend, Sophie,” Peyton said, as we rounded the corner into the science hall, where Mrs. Foley had sent us to get the new dance uniforms she’d left in her classroom. “That’s the only humane way to do this.”

“That’s up to Mrs. Foley. I couldn’t kick Laura off the team even if I wanted to.”

“No one’s talking about kicking her off,” Peyton said, and immediately I realized my mistake. I’d been the first to say it out loud, and that’s the only part of this conversation that would make it back to Laura. “I’m talking about counseling her—as her friend—to do what’s best for herself and for the team. I mean, isn’t that what’s really important here? The team?”

“So, were you thinking about the good of the team when you hooked up with Beth Larson’s boyfriend, at her own birthday party?” I asked, brushing past her to pull open Mrs. Foley’s classroom door. Beth was our current captain, an outgoing senior, and Peyton was determined to replace her in every way possible.

She followed me in and pushed the door shut before answering. “No, I was thinking of the good of the team when I threatened to tell the whole school he’s hung like a gerbil if he ever says anything.” She stomped across the classroom between two rows of desks, without even glancing at all the weird biology stuff. Three-dimensional model of the human heart. A row of microscopes lined up next to the utility sink. A dead frog preserved in a jar of something discolored and gross.

There was even a plastic skeleton hanging from a stand behind Mrs. Foley’s desk. It used to be next to the door, wearing one of the dance team’s sequined headbands, until one of the varsity basketballers—Laura’s ex—had been caught molesting it when Mrs. Foley came in from the hall. Laura called him a degenerate. Peyton pointed out that if Laura was as thin as the skeleton, he wouldn’t have dumped her to hump a plastic teaching tool in front of the whole class.

“We have to be together on this, Sophie,” Peyton said, as I followed her around Mrs. Foley’s desk, where she squatted to open a big cardboard box that had already been unsealed. “I’m constantly sticking up for you, when people start talking about your whack-job cousin. I tell them her issues aren’t hereditary, and there’s, like, virtually no chance you’re gonna flip out on us in the middle of a performance.” Peyton pulled out a plastic-wrapped dance skirt and examined it while I tried not to break my new porcelain veneers from grinding my teeth.

“Kaylee’s mental malfunction has nothing to do with me.” I ripped opened the box next to hers to find it full of matching sequined tops. “I think Kaylee hit her head in the wreck that killed her mom when she was a kid.” I’d come up with no better theory, other than that she was faking crazy just to sabotage my entire existence.

“That’s what I always say. But I need you to help me help you.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“You’re not exactly the picture of mental stability lately,” Peyton said, and my blood began to boil. “I mean, we all understand. Any one of us might be feeling a bit fruit-loopy too, in your position. What, with your mom dying and Scott rockin’ a straitjacket in the psych ward.”

Scott wasn’t in a straitjacket. But I couldn’t tell her that without admitting I’d gone to see him. It was just once, back when they first locked him up, right before Christmas. And I didn’t go to visit. I went to demand the truth about what Kaylee was doing at his house that day, and why he was arrested, and how the hell he could embarrass me like that, in front of the whole school. Then I was going to dump him. Right there, in the hospital. He deserved it, for lying, and humiliating me, and for cheating on me with my own cousin.

He and Kaylee were hooking up. They had to be. Why else would they leave school together in the middle of the day?

But in the end, I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t sure how my dad had talked them into letting me see Scott, but they wouldn’t let me see him alone, and I couldn’t yell at him with my dad and his doctor there. And anyway, it only took one look into his eyes for me to see that even if Kaylee was faking crazy, Scott wasn’t. His words all came out crooked, like he was talking around whatever he wanted to say and couldn’t quite find the point. He was broken, way deep inside, and it only took me three minutes or so to decide that was more than enough punishment for what he’d put me through.

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