Chapter 1 1
What would you do if one of your best friends took you aside and said he had a confession to make?
What if your friend confessed to you that he killed someone? And he begged you not to tell anyone. He begged you to keep his horrible secret.
What would you do?
Tell his parents? Call the police? Try to convince him to tell his parents? Tell your parents?
Or keep the secret?
Not an easy choice—is it? I’m seventeen and sometimes I think I know a lot of answers. But when a really close friend called our group to his house and confessed to a murder in front of all of us—well… what could we do?
I’ll tell you one thing: On that warm spring day last May when my friends Hillary Walker and Taylor Snook came to my house after school, we did not have murder on our minds.
The air smelled so fresh and sweet. Bright green leaves were uncurling on the old trees in my backyard. And rows of red and yellow tulips swayed gently in the flower bed beside the garage.
The whole backyard shimmered under the bright afternoon sunlight. Hillary, Taylor, and I dropped our backpacks on the grass and sat on them, stretching out our legs, raising our faces to the sun.
Taylor tugged her wavy, white-blond hair back from her face. Her green eyes sparkled in the sunlight. She shut them and tilted her face to the sun. “Julie, have you ever sunbathed nude?” she asked me.
The question made Hillary and me laugh. Taylor was always trying to shock us.
“You mean in the backyard?” I asked.
“No. On a beach,” Taylor replied sharply. She had no patience for my dumb questions. Taylor was a new friend. Sometimes I had the feeling she didn’t really like me that much.
“One winter, my parents took me to an island in the Caribbean called St. Croix, and we went to a nude beach there,” Taylor said, eyes still shut, smiling at the memory.
“And did you take off your swimsuit?” Hillary asked.
Taylor snickered. “I was only seven.”
All three of us laughed.
Hillary climbed to her feet, her dark brown skin glistening with sweat. The long, single braid she always wears swayed behind her head.
“Julie, could we go inside?” she asked me. “I’m melting out here!”
I raised my hand so that Hillary could help pull me up. “Can’t you ever stay in one place for more than five minutes?” I scolded her.
Hillary and I have been friends since junior high. So I’m used to her. But I think other people are surprised by how tense she is. How fast she talks. How her eyes are always darting back and forth behind those white plastic-rimmed glasses she wears.
She is intense. That’s the only word for Hillary.
She is smart and nice and funny and… intense.
She reminds me of one of those wind-up toys that’s been wound up too tightly and goes off—too fast—in all directions at once.
Anyway, she tugged me to my feet. And the three of us dragged our backpacks into the house. We settled around the round, yellow kitchen table, with cans of Mountain Dew and a bowl of tortilla chips.
And naturally we started talking about boys. Vincent and Sandy, mostly.
Vincent Freedman is another one of our group. Another really old friend of mine. I have to confess that recently I’ve wished he were more than a friend. I really think Vincent and I could be a great couple. Or something.
But that’s another story.
I don’t think Vincent has the tiniest idea that I have a major thing about him. Not a clue.
Sandy Miller, another good friend, has been going out with Taylor for about a month. That’s how Taylor got to be part of our group.
Poor Sandy. He’s been dazed and confused ever since Taylor got interested in him. No lie.
He’s so shy and quiet, and not exactly considered a major babe at Shadyside High. I think he’s in shock that a girl so beautiful—so hot—seems to be into him.
Lucky guy, huh? Well, to tell you the truth, Hillary and I are just as surprised by Taylor’s choice as Sandy is.
But that’s another story too.
So we sat around the kitchen table, talking about boys and laughing a lot. And then we started talking about the party. The party.
A party at Reva Dalby’s house is a big deal. Reva is the richest girl at Shadyside High. Her father owns at least a hundred department stores. And they live in an enormous stone mansion in North Hills with guard dogs and tall hedges all around.
Reva invited the whole senior class. And she’s hired two bands to play in the backyard—a garage band called Garage Band that plays at the local dance club, Red Heat, all the time. And a hip-hop group called 2Ruff4U that’s flying all the way in from L.A. just for the party—at least that’s what Reva tells everyone.
Reva isn’t the nicest person we know. I mean, no one would vote her Miss Congeniality at our school. But who cares? We’re all dying—dying—to go to her party!
So we were talking about the party. And Hillary was fretting about what to wear. “The party is outside, right?” she was saying. “And it still gets pretty cool at night. But I don’t want to wear anything too heavy. I mean, I plan to dance a lot. So if I wear long sleeves or a sweater…”
I tuned out at that point. It was typical Hillary, worrying herself into a frenzy, talking so fast, it was impossible to get a word in.
She was still talking when we heard a bumping noise at the kitchen door.
I jumped up as someone pulled the storm door open without knocking. A tall figure barged into the kitchen.
All three of us cried out.
And that’s when all the trouble began.