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How to Survive Your Murder

How to Survive Your Murder PDF

Author: Danielle Valentine

Publisher: Razorbill


Publish Date: August 30, 2022

ISBN-10: 0593352017

Pages: 304

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

Your Friends
Aren’t Really
Your Friends

Omaha East’s cafeteria is inside the school’s enclosed courtyard. The courtyard used to be open-air, but they closed it up when people realized how ridiculous it was to expect students to shiver through frigid Nebraska winters in order to get to a science class on the other side of the building.

The rest of Omaha East might be grungy and falling apart, with shoddy air-conditioning and cockroaches in the basement, but the courtyard is actually pretty epic. It reminds me of one of those impossibly cool high schools that seem to exist only in teen movies. X and I used to talk about how amazing it would be to film a slasher here, how the flickering gas lamps in the courtyard are the perfect touch for a really good Act One jump-scare scene.

I push that thought out of my head and instead run through everything I want to say as I follow Eli to our old table. I’m going to do it; I’m going to tell Millie and X exactly what I think of their stupid podcast.

Or at least that’s the plan. But then I hear Millie’s voice.

“. . . remember how she painted herself green?” Millie has an abnormally loud voice at the best of times, but when everyone is talking in hushed, early-morning whispers, it actually echoes, like she’s using a megaphone.

A shudder goes through me. Eli and I stop behind her, but Millie’s facing the other direction, so she doesn’t see us.

X, sitting across from her, does. “Millie,” he murmurs.

Millie must not hear the warning in his voice. “You remember that, right? It was for Wicked auditions? God, that was cool.”

Eli shoots me a sideways glance. I ignore him, too focused on the pit opening up inside my chest.

Millie’s talking about my sister, of course. I should’ve figured every-one would be talking about her today. Specifically, she’s talking about how Claire got cast as the lead in Wicked when she was just a freshman. Omaha East is serious about the performing arts; people who don’t even have kids here buy tickets for our fall musical. Freshmen never get cast in speaking roles, but Claire was determined. She knew she was good enough, but she was worried they’d bury her in some chorus role, so she made it clear she was going out for Elphaba by slathering green body paint all over herself during auditions.

What Eli and Millie probably don’t remember was how her skin was stained green for a week afterward. She had to do this really intense bleaching treatment to get all the green out. It made our hall smell toxic for weeks.

“Hey, Allie,” X says pointedly. Millie stops talking in the middle of the word amazing, and I hear her chair groan as she turns to look at me. A blush appears on her naturally tan skin.

X and Millie are dressed up like Bonnie and Clyde, with fake gunshot wounds and everything, probably some sort of inside reference from their podcast that I don’t get because I normally refuse to listen on principle. Millie’s had her hair cut short since the last time I saw her, and it’s half-hidden by her beret.

I stare at the beret so I don’t have to meet her eyes.

“Alice,” Millie breathes. “I’m so—”

“It’s fine,” I murmur before she can apologize. Dimly, I remember that I was going to say something to her about the podcast, but I can’t remember what it was. My head’s too full of Claire and bleach and Wicked.

I want to ask Millie if she remembers how Claire sneaked us into the wrap party, even though we were only in middle school and so embarrassing. How I felt so proud of her that night, like she was a real celebrity and not just the star of a high school play. My famous sister, Claire.

I clear my throat so none of the emotion I’m feeling comes out in my voice and say, “I’m not staying. Ms. Perez wanted to see me . . .”

The world’s most awkward silence gathers between us like a dear friend. Why, hello, awkward silence; so nice to see you again. What exactly are you supposed to say to the people who used to be your best friends and now talk about your dead sister on their obnoxiously well-liked podcast? I listened to your last episode, and it made me want to vomit blood, but the new mics are sounding pretty good.

Oh God. I wish the floor would open up and swallow me. I wish this were like a movie I was watching on Netflix and I could just fast-forward through this scene.

What did I think coming over here was going to accomplish? This isn’t scripted; I’m not going to magically figure out the perfect thing to say to make things go back to the way they were.

X flashes me one of his megawatt smiles. Normally, I can’t help smiling back at him. But I think of his voice buzzing in my ear (Watch any horror movie—the prettiest girl always dies first) and feel the corners of my lips tighten.

X’s smile falters. “Uh, Millie was just going to tell us all about Sierra’s new secret boyfriend.”

It’s an offering, his way of trying to make this not awkward, as though that’s even possible.

Play nice, I think.

“Um, Sierra has a boyfriend?” I don’t know Sierra too well, but this is actually sort of interesting. It’s a pretty open secret that she hasn’t dated anyone since she started high school. This shouldn’t be a scandal. I mean, I haven’t dated anyone, either. But Sierra . . . how do I put this? Sierra has D cups. So, according to the gross adolescent mutants who go to our high school, her being single is basically a Shakespearean tragedy. Never even occurred to them that she might not be interested in their misogynistic asses.

“Secret boyfriend. Key word being secret.” Millie shoots X a look, but she doesn’t seem particularly annoyed. Millie loves gossip. You don’t tell her something unless you’re ready for the whole world to hear about it. If Sierra doesn’t know that by now, it’s her own fault the secret’s out.

“Does he go here?” I ask.

Millie hesitates—her final concession to the fact that this is supposed to be a secret—and then expels a long breath, giving in. “No, I think he went to Mercer. She told me she met him at the gym.”

“He’s a college kid?”

Millie shakes her head. “Used to be. Sierra said he got kicked out.”

I go still as X makes a joke I don’t catch, and Millie rolls her eyes and says something about how we don’t live in Riverdale. I barely hear them. I stopped listening after “he got kicked out.”

Eli, who knows every one of my secrets, stiffens beside me, realizing what I’ve already worked out. His face falls as he glances at me. “Allie—”

I hold up a hand, stopping him. I’d completely forgotten what I came here to do, why I thought this was a good idea. I feel like my lungs are filling with water. Like I’m drowning.

“I— I gotta go,” I murmur, backing up.

X stands. “Alice, wait.”

My body is frozen, even as my brain whispers, Run away, run away.

“I just wanted to say that we, uh . . .” X trails off, looking at Millie.

“We wanted to say that we’re sorry,” Millie adds. “About the podcast. Some of our followers are truthers, but we don’t think you’re lying or anything.”

“Right. Yeah,” I say. And with that, I turn and hurry for the door on the opposite side of the room, cheeks burning.

“Alice, hold up,” Eli calls. I hear his shoes slap against the stone floor behind me, and then he’s grabbing my shoulders, spinning me around. In a low voice, he asks, “You think Sierra’s dating Wes?”

I shrug, trying to look like I couldn’t care less, which probably just makes it clear that I care a lot.

Eli told me that he’d heard Wes got kicked out of Mercer at the end of last year. Something about a fight or maybe an illegal casino night he was running out of his dorm. The rumors weren’t totally clear, which is very on-brand for Wes.

I really don’t want him to be dating Sierra.

Trapezius, I think, running through the names of the muscles in the back. Deltoid and . . . and I can’t remember anything after that. Something pricks my eyes, but it’s probably just dry in here. I’m not crying. I used up all my tears after Claire. I don’t have any left.

I haven’t spoken to Wes since Claire died, our almost-relationship just another thing on the long list of casualties from that night. But I still feel a twist in my gut when I think of him dating Sierra. I have the sudden urge to kick a chair, to slam a door.

When am I going to stop being surprised by all the things I’ve lost, all the things that suck now that never sucked before?

“Are you going to be okay?” Eli asks.

“Yeah,” I say automatically. I don’t have even the slightest idea what “okay” feels like anymore, but I’m going to keep moving and thinking and talking, and I guess that’s close enough.

Eli looks like he wants to say something else, but all that comes out is, “Yeah, that’s good.” He pushes his glasses up his nose with one finger, adding, “You should avoid the third floor. I heard some of the Final Girls are hanging out there.”

A chill moves through me. The Final Girls are what the How to Be a Final Girl fans all call themselves. Over the past week, they’ve become obnoxiously insistent that Owen Trevor Maddox is innocent.

It wouldn’t bother me so much if they didn’t keep trying to talk to me. Like they think they can convince me that I didn’t see what I know I saw. I feel another rush of hate toward Millie and X. Assholes.

“Thanks,” I tell Eli, and I step into the hall, letting the cafeteria door slam shut behind me.

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