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The Good Girls
Author: Claire Eliza Bartlett

 

Prologue


The Dead Girl


The end of my life starts here.

A rainy, sodden autumn has turned the river below into a roaring monster. Rocks jut out like jagged teeth, jet black against frothy white. My blood sings as the weathered wood sags behind me—someone has followed me onto the tiny bridge over Anna’s Run.

I’ve been running. Running for so long, I forgot what it feels like to stop. My whole body is still poised to flee.

But it’s too late for that now. Legends say Anna’s Run takes one unlucky sacrifice every year. The wind wraps around my neck like a cord.

The figure at the end of the bridge moves closer. I try to turn, but the world around me rushes and I can’t keep up. The water, my blood. Even my vision spins, moving too fast for the rest of me.

And then everything crystallizes to a point: One image, the hand stretched toward my chest. One sound, the crash of water around a body. One feeling: cold that knocks out thought, knocks out even the memory of your own name. Cold that steals the breath from your lungs.

Everything has been stolen from me. My future, my life—and now my body, swallowed whole by the nightmares that make up Anna’s Run. Even my story isn’t mine anymore.

That’s the thing about being dead. You no longer get to say what happens next.

 

 

1


The Loudmouth Slut


MUÑEZ: The date is Thursday, December 6, 2018, the time is seven fifty-five. Detective Muñez interviewing Claude Vanderly. Thank you for joining us, Miss Vanderly. You must be wondering why we’ve—

CLAUDE: It’s the dead girl, isn’t it?

Oh, sorry. Emma. But that is why you wanted to talk to me, right? Because I’m the person most likely to know something? Because I’m the person most likely to have something to do with it?

MUÑEZ: We just have a few questions.

CLAUDE: Sure. You randomly selected the girl who gets into the most trouble at Jefferson-Lorne. Well, I wasn’t involved, so let’s start there. I mean I’m, like, a feminist. I don’t go around killing girls. And I can’t give you much help with the investigation either. I didn’t really know Emma. She was a bit of a loner, but she hung out with Avery sometimes. You should ask Avery Cross why Emma would be at Anna’s Run last night. Or what sorts of enemies she might have made.

MUÑEZ: Miss Vanderly, we’re talking to you right now, not Miss Cross.

CLAUDE: I’m just trying not to waste your time. It’s your call. Sadly for you, I have a solid alibi. You know Jamie Schill? Principal Mendoza does, don’t you, sir? Jamie goes here. And we’re friends.

Friends with benefits, actually. So yeah. You can guess what I was doing last night.

MUÑEZ: No accusation is being made toward you. This is simply standard procedure. We’re trying to establish a timeline. And due to the nature of the . . . emerging evidence, most of the student body has been involved now. Can you tell us how, exactly, you first heard about Emma?

CLAUDE: Fine. Okay, so when I first heard . . . It was this morning. At Jamie’s house.

I woke up with Jamie’s nose pressed into my back. Yes, his nose, you perverts. He burrows down in the night when he’s cold, and it’s the closest we get to cuddling. For a moment I thought I’d beat the alarm and I had a few glorious warm moments to myself. Then Jamie’s mom knocked, and he woke with a twitch and a snort. It was 6:45. The alarm went off fifteen minutes ago. Oops.

Mrs. Schill didn’t know I was over. She’s one of those clueless moms who think their son is going to stay a virgin until he’s married. Nothing inspires terror in a boy like trying to keep his friend with benefits a secret from the woman who pushed him out of her vagina, and Jamie went from comatose to panicked and kicking in about a tenth of a second. I thumped onto the floor in a tangle of limbs and comforter. “Hide,” he hissed.

“Good morning to you, too,” I grumbled, which wasn’t entirely fair. We’ve never done that whole boyfriend-girlfriend thing. He knows it freaks me out, which is part of why I actually spend time with him outside of parties and school.

“Shut up,” Jamie pleaded, half pushing, half rolling me toward his closet while simultaneously retrieving my jeans, T-shirt, and phone. With his puppy eyes he gave me one last, imploring glance. I gotta give it to him, he has those eyes. They’re brown, with a ring of green in them, and wide, and framed by insane lashes that I would sort of kill for. He stared back at me, obviously distracted from the task at hand. “You’re beautiful,” he sighed, which he always says right before he kisses me.

Early-morning makeouts are fine with me. I had his nightshirt in my fist and was leaning forward when the knock came again. “Bear? Are you all right in there?” Jamie’s mom has this cutesy voice that makes me want to vomit in my mouth.

We froze. “I’m just getting dressed.” Jamie uses that trick a lot when I’m around. It usually works.

This morning was anything but usual. “I need to talk to you.”

Jamie looked like he wanted to vomit in his mouth. “Sorry,” he whispered, then disentangled my hand from his shirt and slammed the closet door in my face. I was in the dark, half giddy and half asleep. My eyes felt packed with sand; I must’ve forgotten to take my contacts out in the night. My knees were jammed up against the door. And then I noticed the smell. Most boys’ rooms smell like a cold gym. Jamie’s smelled like his deodorant, clean and fresh and soft somehow.

Since I couldn’t get dressed without kicking open the door and saying a not-so-nice good morning to Mrs. Schill, I unlocked my phone.

That was when I started to realize: this was going to be a weird day.

First off, I had like a gazillion messages from my mom. Mom isn’t like the Mrs. Schills of the world. She doesn’t give a shit if I’m sleeping over with a guy. She doesn’t text me every five minutes if I’m nearing curfew. She doesn’t even give me a curfew. But the messages were piled on top of one another, a mountain of worry. The thought of climbing it made me want to flop back onto the ground—but that would have resulted in the aforementioned door kicking, and baring my goods to Jamie’s mom. So I took a deep breath, steeled myself for the worst, and clicked.

Just checking in to see if u r ok? Mssg back pls xxx

Hon I know I don’t normally do this but pls text

Please call.

Something happened at Anna’s Run.

“. . . Anna’s Run,” Mrs. Schill said at the same time. I fumbled the phone as it slipped in my hands.

“I don’t know anything about it,” Jamie said. “What’s going on?”

“I have to get to work. There’ll probably be a lot of rumors going around school today. Just remember, don’t believe everything you hear.” I stifled my snort against my knee. I bet Mrs. Schill believes everything she hears about me. “And if you need to call us, call us. Okay?”

“Okay,” came Jamie’s voice, muffled by what was undoubtedly a bear hug. She looks like a strong wind would snap her in half, but that woman could break bones if she wanted to.

Jamie waited ages before deciding it was okay to let me out of the closet. By that time my legs had woken up and gone back to sleep. I wobbled to my feet, using his closet wall as support. “Mom’s on her way out, so we should be in the clear. I gotta shower. Then we’ll go.”

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