The Guidance
Author:Marley Gibson

chapter Ten

"I'm ... I'm sorry, Becca."

She glowers at me and takes the photo out of my hands. She slams it back in place on the shelf, rattling some of the ribboned medals that hang loosely around one of the trophies.

Not knowing exactly how to cover up this bumble, I compliment her on all of the plaques and awards. "You should be wicked proud of all these. Why do you keep it all shut up in the dark?"

Becca's top teeth snag her bottom lip. Then she says, "It's really none of your business, Kendall. You shouldn't be in here."

"I said I'm sorry. I was just drawn in."

"How so?"

"There was this intense energy that called to me."

"It called to you, huh? Well, next time, don't answer."

"I didn't mean to offend—"

She hands me Jason's keys, which I left on the counter. "You know, I just remembered I have a lot of studying to do. I'm sure Jason needs his Jeep by now."

I've just been given the teenage equivalent of "Here's your hat, what's your hurry," I suppose. "Sure, I should get going." I nab the opened Fresca from the table and take it with me. "Thanks for the bevvie."

As I'm leaving, Becca stops me. "Look, Kendall. You're cool and we're friends. But there's no ghost investigating here, okay? This is my house and it's off-limits."

"Sure, Becca."

"As long as we're square."

"Whatever you say. See you tomorrow."

I hurry back to Jason's Jeep and back out of the driveway. When I turn to look at the house, I see one of the large, gold drapes in the trophy room fall into place. Becca's hiding something from me. Question is: how do I find out what?

"The bait is on the hook," Becca tells me Wednesday morning.

Celia and I are standing outside the girls' bathroom waiting to set the trap for Courtney. The aforementioned bait is Mina Moutzourogeorgos, who, according to Becca, just entered a stall. I sort of feel bad about what we're doing, but then again, I'm not the one who started this feud. I'm also not the one calling people names or spilling food on them. We're just trying to get Courtney to come clean and stop acting like head bitch in charge.

"Good luck," Celia says to me and then we swing into the ladies'.

I muster up my best acting abilities—I was in a Christmas pageant at church when I was ten, but I only played one of the sheep at the manger, so I don't know if that counts—and then I do my best to start crying.

"Are we alone?"

"I think so," Celia says, really trying to find Mina. "Why?"

"I have a secret. No one can know. Especially Courtney."

"Cross my heart," she says.

"J-J-Jason broke up with me," I say dramatically.

"Why?" Celia chimes in, even though she's bent over, looking under the doors. She gives me an okay sign when she sees Mina's trademark red stilettos lift off the floor. "Y'all are perfect for each other."

"That's what I thought too." I try to project my voice to where Mina's hiding, make sure she hears every word. "But he told me it's Courtney he really loves and he's still all hung up on her. He broke it off with me because he says I'm not so special now that Courtney's psychic too. He wants her back." I add a little breakage in my voice at the end, for effect.

"Oh, Kendall, that's awful," Celia says and then rolls her eyes at me. "It'll be okay."

"No, it won't. How will I hold my head up? You can't tell anyone that I told you. Swear?"

"Sure, whatever." I knock her with my elbow. She's not doing a good enough acting job. "Oh, right. No, I won't tell anyone. I swear on my dog Seamus's life."

I lower my voice to a whisper. "Now you're just overdoing it."

We leave the bathroom and head around the corner to hide behind Mr. Lowry's door and see if Mina got the message. Sure enough, a moment later, Mina emerges from the bathroom with her cell phone to her ear, relaying my convo with Celia.

"Excellent," Celia says and drills her fingertips together. "Now we just have to wait and see what happens."

The lunchroom is all abuzz today. Gossip and rumors are flying this way and that. Man, you gotta love high school and how news gets around. People look at me with gloom in their faces. Yeah, they know. Mina's game of pass-it-on has been, well, passed on. I don't care so much about what random sophomores think; I want to see what Courtney's going to do with this info.

As usual, I grab a tray and slowly move through the lunch line. Mmm ... roast turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce. It's only October, but I'm game for a Thanksgiving preview. I pay the cashier and then turn to catch Taylor's eye. She's so good at getting a table for us and spreading out so no one invades our turf.

The music today is a particularly Trance-y groove, with delayed synthesizers and an upbeat, positive, energetic composition. Becca's taught me a bunch about this stuff since I've been here. Songs carry their own energy, I've found, and I'm sure that it's Becca's talent with her DJ equipment that makes her such a great EVP specialist. I really hope I didn't offend her yesterday at her house. Sometimes I just can't control myself. I need to learn how to keep my psychic abilities in check. I don't have to respond to every spirit or sensation calling out to me.

"Awesome mix today, Becca."

She slips the headphones off one ear and smiles at me.

"I'm really sorry about yesterday."

Waving me off, she clicks another iPod to her mixing board. "I'm on a music high right now."

"I can tell."

"There's nothing like this. A new DJ I discovered, DJ Adian from South Africa. This shit's layered with three-oh-three bass pulses, Doppler effects, sequencer riffs, and stacks of percussion, and builds up to a climactic tension."

I'm relieved to see she's not harboring any ill will toward me. She's really into this; it's almost like talking to Celia. Not knowing what to say, I smile. "Cool. You should charge for this, you know? You're really good."

Becca lifts her hands in a who-knows gesture. "One day I want to go spin in Europe. We'll see what happens."

"You can do whatever you put your mind to, Becca." As I say this, I realize that she already knows she can do anything. Her racks of trophies, crowns, and awards are a testament to that. But I promised not to go there again.

A knowing silence passes between us, and then Becca returns to her mixing board. "I heard this morning's docudrama was a success."

"Very much."

"I'll come join y'all if any firecrackers start going off," Becca says with a smirk.

With that, I walk through the crowded caf—people's eyes are all over me—and I plop down next to Taylor, who's halfway through a raspberry yogurt.

Celia sits opposite me and dives into her turkey and dressing. We eat in silence. Waiting. Watching. Taylor frantically dashes her gaze around the room until I gently kick her under the table. We have to pretend this is just like any other day. Not draw any more attention to ourselves than necessary.

Right on schedule, Courtney enters the caf with Farah and Mina walking behind her, like birds flying in formation. Stephanie Crawford follows along a few paces back, as if she doesn't want to be with them. When she reaches our table, Courtney doubles over and grabs her heart.

"What is it?" Farah asks in a breathy voice.

"Oh, I'm sensing such heartache," Courtney says. "Like someone's in pain." She glances over at me, and it's all I can do not to laugh my ass off at this little performance. Someone should call Mrs. Rachupka, our drama teacher, right away and have her recast the fall play.

"Let her sit," Farah almost orders Celia.

"Take a load off," Celia says.

Courtney sits on the bench and continues to feign her psychic senses. I can see into her thoughts, and she's laughing and thinking what a genius she is, pulling this off like she's doing. Suddenly, she reaches her hand over and puts it on my arm, her face full of emotion.

What is this girl on?

"I'm so sorry to hear that Jason broke up with you."

Taylor slams her hands onto the table. Part of our gag. "He what? How dare he!"

Courtney closes her eyes and sways a bit. "My sensitivities are telling me that ... that ... he's coming back to me. That he thinks we're meant to be together."

Wow, she should try out for a soap opera.

She goes on a bit more about destiny and her spirit guide directing her, and I just can't hold it in any longer. Especially now that Becca's appeared at the table and looks like she wants to take out Courtney's kneecaps.

I can't help it, and I burst out laughing.

Courtney stares at me with disbelief. "What is so damn funny, Ghost Girl?"

Between gasps, I point and say, "You ... are!"

And before I can get control of my laughter, Jason sits down with his Mountain Dew and bag of Doritos. "Kendall, are you all right?"

"Jason?" Courtney asks, very confused.

Celia's own giggles harmonize with mine, and next thing I know, Taylor's laughing too. We're all losing it.

"What's going on here?Y'all get some funny brownies from the counter?" Jason asks. "Where's mine? Why wasn't I invited to this party?"

About to fall over, Celia gets out, "You didn't tell him? Oh my God!"

Jason's blue eyes dart from Celia to me, then over to Courtney. "Tell me what?"

"You did break up with her, didn't you, Jason?" Courtney asks quite loudly. "You're coming back to me, right?"

Jason looks horrified, like he sucked on a lemon for ten minutes. "Are you kidding me? What planet do you live on, Courtney?" He puts his arm around me. "I'm with Kendall, and you just need to get over it."

"But you broke up!"

He looks at me with a start. "We did? When?"

Becca jumps in. "Yeah? Where'd you hear that? Your psychic intuitions?"

Courtney cranes her neck over at her posse, which has conveniently disappeared. "Oooo, I'm going to get her," she mutters.

"Get who? Your spirit guide?" Celia asks.

"I'm sorry, Courtney," I say. I honestly feel bad for the girl, even if she brought all of this on herself. I still live by the golden rule and I'm not exactly sure we should have done this. I only meant to show her that she can't play these games and needs to grow up. "It was a setup."

"A what?"

"Look, Courtney, you and I both know that you're not psychic. You call me a fake and a crazy person, yet you start acting like you have the same gift I do. It's not something to be mocked or joked about. This is serious business. And you're nothing but a phony. Now, can we bury the friggin' hatchet once and for all?"

Courtney's face turns bright red, and I think her head is going to explode like a Warner Brothers cartoon character's.

A stream of vulgarities and colorful adjectives spew from Courtney, as if she's possessed by pure anger. She points a finger at me and Jason as we sit here.

"You will rue the day you ever crossed me, Ghost Girl. Mark my words."

And with that, she flies out of the cafeteria.

I look around the table and let out a sigh. "I don't know whether to laugh some more or be scared."

"With Courtney?" Jason says. "Be afraid. Be very afraid."


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