8 Chapter 8

The color seemed to drain out of my mom's face. She looked at my dad, and he seemed just as lost. My questions lingered in the air as I began to think of all of the horrible things that might've happened to my sister and her friend.

The only person who seemed to think I deserved answers wasn't even related to me (as far as I knew. Things were getting so weird!). "Cassidy, your sister is fine. I just came to talk to your parents about that. She's with your grandma."

This raised a million other questions. Why didn't Grandma Janette just call? Why would he need to be the one to tell them anything about their own kid? But I nodded. At least Cadence was okay, and someone was answering my questions.

"Honey," my mom said, unfreezing and turning to face me, "Drew passed away."

Even though I'd been bracing for bad news about Drew all morning, hearing that information was still like a blow to the gut. I'd never known a real person who died before. I mean, my grandpa died before I was born, like I said, but I never knew him. I guess there were some older people in the neighborhood who had passed on, but this was totally different. Drew was only seventeenonly two years older than me. She was young, full of life. I felt tears stinging my eyes, but I didn't have any words.

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"I'm so sorry, sweetheart." My dad wrapped his arms around me. "I know she was on the cheerleading squad with you."

It wasn't the time to explain that wasn't quite right, but I knew what my dad meant, and it was nice that my parents realized that losing one of Cadence's friends was hard on me, too, even if we didn't hang out together the way that Cadence and Drew did. I fought back my tears, though, not wanting to cry in front of this stranger.

My dad released me. "Thanks for letting me know," I said.

"Why don't you head upstairs, and we'll be up to talk in a few minutes?" My mom's suggestion was acceptable, now that I knew what was going on. I nodded and turned to go, but before I made it to the stairs, I couldn't help but make eye contact again with the handsome, mysterious stranger. I didn't know who or what he was, but I felt like my world had been turned upside down over the course of just a few hours, and he knew more than he was willing to say.

He looked at me for a second, a small smile forming, as if he wanted to assure me everything would be all right, but that's just the sort of thing a girl thinks when she lets the hitchhiker into her car and winds up in a dumpster. No, I did not trust this Aaron McReynolds person, and I would do my best to find out why he was there and what he had to do with my sister.

I headed up the stairs, making as much noise as I could, lulling them into thinking I was long gone. I even went so far as to open and close my bedroom door before I slunk back over to the stairs and dropped down next to the railing. Luckily for me, they continued to stand in the entryway for a moment, rather than heading straight to the living room, which was further away. I was pretty sure if they moved locations, I wouldn't be able to hear a word.

My father is a little hard of hearing, so my mom has learned to talk really loudly. Aaron's voice wasn't loud at all and had sort of a melody to it I couldn't actually describe, though it was more intoxicating than I would care to admit. My dad's bass boomed, and I could hear nearly every word he said.

"How is she?" my mom asked about the time I plastered my head to the floor so the noise could carry up through the stairwell to my head, or at least, that's what I was hoping.

"She's okay," Aaron said. Then there was something else I couldn't make out, followed by, "I'm going talk to her. We need her to think this is her idea, even though it's too late to go back now."

My mom said, "Right. I thought as soon as I got her text this is what we were up against. So there's no avoiding the changes now?"

Aaron said something that sounded like, "I'm afraid not," though I wasn't sure. I had to assume they were talking about my sister. Something really had happened to her last night, and whatever it was she would never be the same.

"Let's go sit down, and you can tell us about this new process Jamie has," my father said.

I begged them silently to stay there a bit longer so I could hear what they were saying, but I heard footsteps leading away from the foyer. The last word I heard my mother say sent chills down my spine. I have no idea what the first part of the sentence was, but the last word sounded condemning. Transformation.

Once my parents were out of earshot, I belly crawled back to my bedroom and then stood, carefully opening and closing the door so they wouldn't hear that I had been slightly disobedient. I picked up my phone and saw I had twenty-three missed calls. All from Lucy. I also had fifteen voicemails from my impatient friend, but I didn't bother to listen to them. Instead, I pushed the appropriate buttons so that her squeaky voice filled my ear in less than two seconds.

"Oh, my gosh, Cassidy! Where have you been?"

I started to apologize, but all I got out was "Sor" before she continued.

"Did you hear what happened to Drew Peterson last night? OMG, everyone is talking about it. It's just awful. And everyone is saying your sister was there when it happened, and now she's just so totally devastated that she's gone off to live with your grandma or something. What in the world is going on, Cass?"

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