That boy didn’t fall into the well. He jumped.
I should’ve gone to the well alone.
That freaking wishing well did it. And I’m going to make sure it undoes it too.
I’m actually starting to see the appeal of sweatpants and sneakers. The hike up Harper Hill is much easier today than it was in heels. By the time I get to the well, I’m pretty calm. I’m not annoyed like I was before, back when I thought it was all hocus pocus and a waste of a Friday afternoon. I won’t waste it today. I'm not even sure what I'm doing here. I just know that I'm tired. I am so freaking tired, and I just want this to end.
The wind blows and I wrap my arms around myself. “Jesus, it’s cold.” As soon as I say it, I get that feeling. The one I’ve been dreaming about. It’s telling me that it would be warmer inside the well where there’s no wind.
My skin creeps with the feeling like someone is watching me. I scan the clearing. The old grate sits up against a tree. A crow caws from up in the branches above. But there’s nobody here but me. Me and the well.
I pull cold air in through my nose, and the smell hits me. I remember it from the first day we came up here, but it wasn’t nearly this strong. I don’t have to wonder where it’s coming from. Or what it means. I step up closer and peek down into the blackness.
When I walk into the cafeteria at lunch, I spot Liv right away. She’s not at our usual table, where Jake and the rest of the team sit, but at a table in the back. Her face is turned toward the wall, pretending not to hear the whispers. Even if she couldn’t hear them, every eye is on her, and nobody is making it subtle. How could I let this happen?
I scan the line to the concession stand for Maddy but she’s not there. I know she’d never eat a regular school lunch, but I check that line too. There’s no sign of her. I can’t even think about food, not with everything that’s going on in my head. I go straight to Liv and slide into a seat beside her. “Hey.”
“What’s up, chica?” she says without looking up. “You seen Maddy?”
I shake my head. “Not since this morning.”
“Huh. Hey, did she tell you what she wished for?”
I shake my head again. A knot forms in my stomach and I turn away from her, hoping she stops there. But I know she won’t. Liv can’t let things go.
“What did you wish for?” she asks. I tense up. I can’t answer that question. All of that happened before Liv and Maddy. It was a different life. Besides, Liv’s wish could be pure coincidence. And Maddy might really be sick. I try to make myself believe that, but at the same time some small part of me hopes it’s real.
Nina pulls her shoulders in and turns away from me. I think I deserve to know what she wished for. After all, I only made my wish because of her. Everyone in this room is staring at me like I have TRAMP stamped on my forehead. She owes me. “Well?”
“Your wish. What was it?”
“Oh. It was nothing. Kid’s stuff. Just for fun.” She looks around the room, everywhere but at me. “I’m worried about Maddy. Where is she?”
“She probably went home. She looked like death.” But Nina and I both know that’s not where Maddy went. As soon as this day is over and not everyone is staring at me, I’m going too. This time, I’ll be specific. No way am I going out like this.
It’s quiet in the woods. There’s no sign that Maddy will be at the well, but I keep hoping I’ll see her when I get there, or that she really does have a cold and she never went at all. No matter how much I want my wish to come true it can’t. Not like this.
I reach for the little bird on my bracelet, only to find the empty ring, which opens up the empty part of my heart. When he gave it to me, we were only kids, but I knew he meant it. It makes me think of you, Nina. I can still hear his voice. And I can still see the haunted look in his eyes the last time I saw him. The same one Maddy wore this morning. His smile coated with the same false sense of pride I saw in Liv today. What happened to him was my fault, and I won’t let it happen again. I can’t.
I quicken my pace and push through the last of the trees and I spill out into the clearing. There’s a figure by the well, but it’s not Maddy.
He turns to me and smiles. He looks the same as in my dream, the same as I remember; deep brown eyes and dark hair that’s neither black nor brown, but somewhere in between. He was thirteen when it happened, and he still looks it, except for something reflected in his eyes that makes him look older. Only his wet clothes and the smell of his damp skin give away where he’s been.
Luke holds out his fist. He unfolds his fingers, and in his palm rests my charm.
Come back Monday for a new story started by Valerie!
*Photo by Robyn's Nest via Flickr Creative Commons
Welcome to Tangled Fiction, where three YA writers collaborate to complete one story!
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday one TF writer will post a piece of the same story. Each of us will be responsible for one beginning, middle, and end in a single month. The fourth week will be full of surprises, we're sure, and we'll share them with you when we know what they are.