The first bell rang at that moment, and everyone started to scatter.
I shook my head at the mass chaos. “I feel like we go to school with a pack of wolves. It’s everyone for themselves.”
Heather grinned. “Only the strong survive here.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t like to fight back. I will when I can’t avoid it, but I’m starting to realize being proactive might be the best solution here.”
“Hey.” She grabbed my arm before I could go to my class and pulled me back. Her eyes grew hard. “That’s why I found you. Stealing your clothes is the first step. Kate and her Bitch Crew don’t do cliché pranks. You’re not going to find your clothes in a toilet. They did this to Marissa a few times. They’d steal her clothes and put them on a mannequin. Natalie’s aunt owns a clothing store and I think that’s where they get them. They’ll take pictures of it wearing your clothes and then Photoshop it to make it look like you. They’ll even have a picture of your face blurred on the thing. It’s really creepy how close to being real it is. Then they’ll put the pictures on the internet.”
“Of a mannequin wearing my clothes? They could use any clothes then.”
“They use the person’s real clothes. It’s the extra kick in their prank. Again, they Photoshop it so it looks just like you. Same hair, same everything. Your name will be attached to it. It’s scary.”
“But then what? It’s just a big doll that looks like me.”
She gave me a ‘come on’ look. “Sam, think about it.”
A sick feeling came over me. “What’ll they have the mannequin doing?”
“If you’re lucky, nothing. If it’s what I’m thinking, really bad things. People won’t care that it’s not you. They did this to Marissa and it was bad. Guys talked about raping the mannequin, but it was like they were saying that they wanted to rape her. With you, can you imagine what all the girls will do? There’s a bunch of girls besides Kate and her crew that don’t like you. A lot of the drill team. Most of the cheerleaders. They’ll be vicious.”
The sick feeling spread all over now. “How can I stop that?”
“I know you’ve wanted to handle Kate on your own, but this is too much. Tell Mason, or at least Logan. They might have an idea of where they’re doing this. They could probably stop them.”
I shook my head. “I can’t. Nate’s car accident. I know Mason’s going to go see him after basketball practice.”
“Then tell Logan.”
“He’ll tell Mason. I’m scared of what they’d do.”
“Are you really trying to protect Kate? She’s not sitting back and hoping you’ll go away. She texts me every day now, and she’s making threats to me, threats to even my dad and my brother. Now this.” She stopped and took a deep breath. Her eyes held mine, a plea filled them. “Please, Sam. If not Mason, then tell Logan.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Don’t think about it. Do it.”
I frowned. There was an edge to her voice.
She finished, “If you don’t, I will.”
“No.” She shook her head. “Kate’s gone too far. She did this to Marissa and she ended up transferring. They didn’t stop once they started. I know it’s going to be worse for you. I just know it. Everyone else does, too. No one wants to get hit in the crossfire, so they’re all leaving you alone. Please, Sam. You’ve got the two biggest enforcers on your side. Use them. They can stop Kate. I know they can.”
As she left, hurrying away for class, I couldn’t move. The last bell rang. I was going to be late, but my feet wouldn’t budge. Heather’s last warning echoed inside of me. It wasn’t that they couldn’t stop Kate, it was how they were going to do it.
They had forced wine down my mother’s throat. They did that to prove to her what they could do, but that hadn’t stopped Analise in the end. Whatever they did to Kate wouldn’t stop her. I knew that in my gut, but I had no idea what to do. A part of me was scared. If I let Mason and Logan loose, I worried they’d cross a line. I couldn’t let them do anything that would jeopardize their futures, not after Mason’s had been threatened by my own mother. I couldn’t go through that terror again, but Heather was right. I had to do something, but I had no idea what.
I couldn’t bring myself to say anything, even when Mason caught me after school. He was heading to basketball practice, and I was headed to Coach Grath’s office. Heather’s warning had stuck with me all day, sending pangs of terror through me, but I was still worried. Being loved and protected by Mason and Logan was like holding a loaded gun. I could pull the trigger at any moment, but the consequences could be disastrous.
When he asked if I was okay, I lied. He knew it, but I wasn’t ready to tell him yet. When he pressed a soft kiss to my lips and left, I realized that was my second lie to him. Two lies in two days. What lie would I tell him tomorrow?
Meeting with Coach Grath, he told me to run on my own. There was a select group of girls he wanted me to train with, but he caught wind that I wouldn’t be welcomed. I was supposed to train on my own until the time came to ‘bite that bullet.’ His words, not mine. He wanted me to record my times to check for improvement. That wasn’t a hard thing. I was bursting from the inside. Getting to the hotel room and driving to my old park took too long for me. I couldn’t hit that trail fast enough and when I soared past Quickie’s, I shot past all the cars in the parking lot and hit the hills at a full sprint. Once I got to the top, I skimmed over Fallen Crest below me and kept going to the next hill and the one after. The air temperature had noticeably dipped when I finally stopped.