They All Fall Down
And I really don’t want to deal with the discussion we’re going to have when I ask if I can go to the game.
    Forget the fact that most kids my age wouldn’t even ask—they’d just go. But most kids didn’t bury their brother, so I’m different that way.
    I spend more time clicking through Josh’s pictures, looking at one of him standing next to the brand-new sixty-thousand-dollar Audi he got for his sixteenth birthday. Someone has money in that family.
    That reminds me of my old Accord, and I get off Facebook with a hard keystroke. I should call Dad and find out what the damage is going to be, but I don’t really want to know. Shutting off the music, I hear Mom in the kitchen and wait for her to call me. I know she won’t come up here; she never does.
    I glance at my hand, which doesn’t really hurt anymore, but the injury will probably send her into a tizzy. How did it happen? Who did this to you? Why weren’t you more careful? Was the door rusty? Do you need a tetanus shot?
    My throat closes and the weight presses down on my chest, familiar and unwelcome. The suffocation of Kenzie Summerall is about to begin, and it’s already making me freakishly tired.
    It’s quiet downstairs, so I close my eyes, wondering why Mom hasn’t hollered up here yet. Bad day at the law firm? Sometimes the legal secretaries in the office make her nuts with all their gossiping, and I get the brunt of it in the form of a lousy mood. More often than not, though, she’s just anxious to hear about my day and make sure I survived it. Literally.
    I’d already decided not to tell her about the Hottie List. My parents didn’t grow up in Vienna and don’t know anything about this particular high school tradition, and frankly, there’s no reason to tell. She’d just find something to worry about. Oh, Kenzie, what if all that publicity brings some pedophile after you?
    I fall back onto my bed and feel my body drifting into the softness of an afternoon nap, but in the distance, I think I hear the door again. Did she go out? Leave something in the car? I wait for what feels like an eternity, but the exhaustion of the day seems to be pressing down on me.
    Images of Levi Sterling and Josh Collier collide in my head, all dark and light like the embodiments of evil and good. My brain’s playing tricks on me, giving them animal faces.
    Hac urget lupus, hac canis .
    The Latin words float through my head and I have to dig a little harder than usual for the literal translation. But it comes to me: On this side a wolf presses, on that a dog . I know that means trouble on either side, but isn’t a dog a bit safer than a wolf? Levi is definitely the wolf. But he’s also the one that makes me a little … a lot weak inside.
    I let out a yawn so giant it cracks my jaw and makes my whole body shudder, slipping me even deeper into nothingness. I’m so unbelievably tired. I have to sleep. I have to …
    Next to me, my phone rings, close enough to my ear to jar me awake. Wow, this being-popular business is exhausting. I turn my head, which feels like the most I can possibly do, and read the screen.
    Mom .
    Mom is calling. Wait? What? How can that be? She probably locked herself out while taking out the trash or something.That’s so like her, the overlocker. I reach for the phone, vaguely aware that my afternoon nap left me with a headache and … the scent of rotten eggs. Gross. What is that smell?
    I grab the phone. “Hi.”
    “Honey, I’m so sorry to be this late.”
    I blink myself awake, which is no mean feat. “What do you mean?”
    “Mr. Hoyt had a deposition and made me stay until the client left. I know you’ve been home alone for, what, an hour? Everything okay?”
    “Didn’t I just …” My voice trails off as every hair on my arms and neck rises slowly. “You’re not … home yet?”
    “Where are you, Kenzie?” she asks sharply.
    “In my room.” I roll over on the bed, aware that my heart is jackhammering my ribs.

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