Chapter One


If I could go back in time—and it really wouldn’t need to be far, back to when school let out earlier today—to warn little-old-me that within ten hours I’d have no choice but to kill myself…

Uhm.

I wouldn’t say anything.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’d warn myself of many other things about tonight.

I’d mention alien impostors and asshole friends who tie you up in the basement. But that the evening culminates in me taking a kitchen knife to my wrists and throat?

Nope.

My suicide is something of which I’d keep myself blissfully ignorant.

So take note: this isn’t one of those mopey woe-is-me suicides. It’s not something I’ve fantasized about. I haven’t been bullied or spurned. I’m not making a statement.

It’s just the way it is.

However, this is a future-me talking, and present-me never benefits from a Michael Ebbit from the future. So this is all kinda pointless. There are no warnings or foreboding premonitions to leave for my present self. Nothing I can do to make tonight’s imminent disaster any easier. Therefore as I become the me of now, the me in the immediate present, the me who has yet to leave Blighton High today, I have no idea what’s in store.

(floating lifelessly in a bathtub)

Meaning this is me oblivious I’ll be dead in less than twenty-four hours.

Meaning this is me excited about tonight’s party.

The party that’s going to be the most fun night of my life.

(Remember, I’m oblivious.)

Timothy Feller, however, is not excited.

He’s nervous about the party being at my house. And a little angry. Though probably unaware he’s pouting. Such a goofy expression—his narrowed eyes and jutting lower lip—given his face’s freckles and hollow cheeks. It makes him a ginger kid impossible to take seriously.

“But it’s perfect,” says Joseph.

Joseph Skiley. My best friend. Surfer-look. Short. The guy compensates for his 5’6” height by going to the gym seven days a week. Unfortunately he suffers from a vicious sweet-tooth and is a binge eater, so his considerable muscle remains obscured under a considerable layer of flab.

It’s Friday. School just ended. We’re in the senior parking lot by my car. Different groups keep approaching to ask my address. I’m annoyed how these people are predominantly male. At this rate my party is going to be the biggest sausage fest in history. But I only feed wrong information to a select, terrible few. Tonight I need a large audience for when I publicly humiliate my ex-girlfriend.

Joseph and Tim have no idea the extent of what I have planned. Tim is especially clueless given the pivotal role I intend him to play in my ex’s undoing. For his benefit, Joseph lists reasons why my home is the perfect party locale.

“The houses in his neighborhood are far apart, so no one’s gonna complain. Lots of parking. It’s a huge house. People can pass out if they need to—”

“Hold it,” I interrupt. “It’s a big house, but it’s not all free game. There are definitely off limit places.”

“Yeah, nah,” Joseph says, shifting his words of reassurance from Tim to me. “I’m just saying your place is ideal.”

It is.

It’s the only place we can party this weekend. No one else has parents away on an anniversary vacation.

“But there’s an effing monster in his house.”

“Tim, don’t even.”

“He’s gonna pop out of some closet and freak everyone out.”

“All he does is stay in the attic. He’s not gonna come down.”

“Damon doesn’t matter,” Joseph says. “Amanda’s back in town.”

“Really?” Tim squints, unsure if he can trust Joseph. He turns to me. “Amanda’ll be there?”

Colleges end their school year a month earlier than our high school, so while the rest of us prepare for finals on the home stretch toward vacation, college kids turn several shades darker at the beach. My sister is the tannest of the bunch. She also has a sorta-boyfriend, but I won’t divulge this to Tim. He developed a hopeless crush on Amanda in the seventh grade. A product of too many sleepovers at my place. Sophomore year he finally found the courage to ask my sister, the then senior, out on a date.

They became a short-lived number.

“I don’t understand why your parents keep it.”

Tim’s choice of words irritates me, the insinuation we can get rid of Damon no differently than an undesirable pet. “He’s a legitimate part of my family.”

“I know he’s legit, I just don’t get why.”

To be honest, neither do I. Mom and Dad are tightlipped when it comes to Damon’s origins.

“You used to think he was cool.”

“That was before he tried to kill me.”

“Damon did not try to…” I grunt and mime grabbing his head and shaking it until he gets a goddamned clue.

“Stop. Okay, I’ll go. Long as I don’t have to worry about him cockblocking me.”

I punch Tim in the stomach. A little harder than I should, but it doesn’t matter. He won’t hit back.

“What the eff?” He rubs the spot I struck. “That really hurt.”

“Don’t talk that way about my sister or I’ll fucking cockblock you.”

Which I wouldn’t need to do.

His chances with Amanda are lottery-low. If I didn’t have something fun planned for Tim, I’d pity him. He’d go to my party, waste his time on an unattainable girl and miss what tiny opportunities he has with the opposite sex. Opportunities like—Joseph nudges me, indicating what I already see—the group of four girls headed to a car several parking spaces from us. Two of them I vaguely recognize. One of them I know. Morgan. It’s her car they’re walking to. And the last one is covered in acne. I’ve got no clue who she is. Joseph and I approach. Tim starts to follow. I stop him by saying, “Tim, you’ll fuck our shit up.”

Morgan’s a skinny girl with a bunch of average characteristics. Not hot, but plain enough that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to date her. She just needs to learn what a turtleneck is because she has an ugly birthmark on her neck that looks like a giant melanoma.

“Yo, Morgan!”

“Ah, heyuh Zach—”

I save her the embarrassment from not remembering my name, point to me and say, “Mike.” I motion my thumb to Joseph, ready to introduce my cohort, but one of her friends is already talking to him. The two chatter between themselves—they’re both in the yearbook class—and I invite Morgan to my party.

“I can’t. I got AP tests coming up.”

“We’re such losers,” her acne-covered friend jokes.

“Total losers,” I say, hoping Zits McGee understands I’m only flirting with her to appeal to Morgan. Or the other pretty girl who isn’t babbling about how awesome Joseph’s cross-country photo came out in the yearbook. “It’s Friday. Unwind.”

Morgan reveals herself to be one those people who can raise a single eyebrow. “Are you guys gonna even have booze?”

“If we’re lucky there might be name-brand soda.”

“But will there be anything to mix in said name-brand soda?”

The answer hinges on whether Amanda’s fake ID came through for us.

“You’ll just have to show up and find out.”

The pretty friend asks, “Is um, what’s-his-name going to be there?”

I look back to my car. Tim waves at us, but lowers his hand mid-motion like he suddenly thinks it’s a bad idea. “Yeah,” I say, confused. What’s she see in Tim? “Tim’ll be there.”

“No.” She smirks. “You know... is the thing... is he going to be there?”

For every scaredy-cat like Tim there are five people who want to meet Damon. I don’t tell her how my foster brother keeps to himself. Instead I say, “For sure.”

The girl puffs her lip to Morgan. “We’ve been studying all week. It could be fun.”

Zits McGee agrees, though I wish she’d stick to studying.

Joseph and Yearbook-girl aren’t even part of our conversation, but I hear Joseph describing how the party is Harry Potter themed, telling her she’d make a great Luna, so I assume she is interested.

Which isn’t true, by the way, the fantasy theme.

Joseph is straight-up lying. This isn’t a themed party. But his suggestion that Yearbook-girl dress as her favorite Potter character excites the others, so I join him in his shenanigans and encourage dressing up, and they’re in. I try not to laugh too loud on the way back to the car.

“They’re gonna be pissed.”

“Yeah,” Joseph says. “I been doing it with everyone.”

“Been doing what?” asks Tim.

“Telling people the party is themed.”

“It is?”

“Who all’re you telling?” I ask as we get in the car. Since we knew we had errands to run after school (grabbing mixers), and that we’d all crash at my place tonight, I picked Tim and Joseph up this morning.

“I told Brittany it’s a vampire party cause her and her friends love that shit. Jake thinks it’s robots. Beccy and Rachel I told it’s a bondage thing. They may not fall for that, but...” He crosses his fingers. One can hope. “And then I told Trey it’s Star Trek. Molly and Hanna think it’s Star Wars. And…” He keeps talking, listing names or cliques who will come thinking my party has a school girls or toga theme, people who might show up as Disney princesses or gore splattered undead, and so on.

“I should’ve done that with Gilly.”

“Already did. I told her to be a racial stereotype.”

Tim chuckles in the backseat. “What’s that even mean?”

Joseph explains, “It means no matter what she does, she’s gonna look like a terrible person.”

“She’s not going to fall for that,” I say.

“It’s coming from the Filipino who looks Latino,” says Joseph. “If I say it’s okay, it’s okay.”

“Cause you’re such an authority on race.”

“You know it.”

Gilly is the ex who has been trying to rekindle our flame for the past month. The colder I am, the harder she tries. This past Monday when she just happened to be near my second period class (even though hers is across the school), I ended our conversation and said, “I can’t do this.”

I know Gilly.

She’s a mopey pet. Push her back and she only comes at you more affectionately. Yesterday she stalked me in the hall and said, “My friends really wanna go. Would it be bad if we came to the party?”

I knew she’d find a way to ask. I played it nonchalant and said, “Do what you want, sure,” to which she hugged me and whispered in a voice that once-upon-a-time I found seductive, “You won’t be disappointed.”

It’s a sad thing for Gilly that I don’t intend to be.

Next Chapter: Chapter Two