The Guidance
Author:Marley Gibson

chapter Eight

On Monday, Becca Asiaf jumps me the moment I step foot into the cafeteria for lunch. "You've heard, right?"

"Heard what?"

Celia's next to me and Becca glares hard, then growls, "You didn't tell her?"

"Tell me what?"

"I haven't really, like, had a chance," Celia says defensively.

I look back and forth between the two girls, confused as all get-out. "What's going on here?"

Taylor bounds into the cafeteria, her ponytail swaying like Indiana Jones's whip. "Oh my God, y'all! Courtney's done it this time! I can't believe her."

"Time out on the floor," I say emphatically. "What. Is. Going. On?"

Taylor's eyes get wide as she stares at Celia and Becca. "Y'all didn't tell her yet?"

Grabbing a fistful of her own hair, Celia groans. "What am I, nine-one-one?"

"Four-one-one, you mean." Becca takes charge. "Sit down, Kendall. You gotta hear this."

Jesus in the garden. What now? What more do I have to take, after spending all day Saturday with the psychiatrist and then being in the car with my mother, who didn't believe what he'd told her? That Kendall "does possess some psychic abilities." She hadn't wanted to hear that. She won't be convinced until all reports are in, which entails another visit to Atlanta. Sunday was church, laundry, working on my history paper, and talking to Jason over IM. I haven't really steeled myself for any additional melodrama at Radisson High School, although that's terribly naive of me.

"Can I at least get some food first? I think my blood sugar is in the negative numbers." My stomach groans to back me up.

Becca slides her unopened Diet Coke across the table. "This'll have to do for now. We've got problems."

I can't take any more. "You guys! What's going on?"

Taylor reaches her tanned hand over and lightly scratches me with her carnation pink fingernails. "Kendall. You're not the only psychic in town anymore."

Chuckling, I say, "I know. There's Loreen too."

Becca flattens her lips, ruby red against her pale white skin and jet-black hair. "No, she's talking about that royal bitch Courtney Langdon."

"What? That's a joke"

When all three of my friends just stare at me, I flick open the soda and down three deep sips, hoping to quench the sudden fiery sensation burning my esophagus. I squelch the inevitable burp and nod at Becca to continue.

She leans her elbows onto the table as if to hide the conversation from others. "I saw her in the bathroom this morning—not throwing up her corn flakes, for once—and she was holding court with a bunch of freshman and sophomore girls. She was tellin' them that she'd read this book over the weekend on opening yourself up, and now she's coming into her own 'psychic awakening.' That anyone can do it; we all possess the ability. We just have to tune in to it and recognize it, like she's done."

"Dear God," I say with a long sigh, knowing exactly what book she's referring to. The book I asked her to read so she'd understand me more and not lash out with such hatred. So I created this monster, eh?

"Keep going," Taylor says to Becca.

"I'm going, I'm going! So anyway," she continues," Courtney was saying that she's suddenly getting messages from a spirit guide. A great-grandmother of hers or something or other. And—get this—the messages are coming to her through her Bluetooth."

"Her phone?" I don't freakin' believe this.

Celia snorts derisively. "It's true that cell phones work on a certain frequency and might be able to pick up voices not discernible by the human ear, but it's highly unlikely that a spirit could manipulate the device to place an actual phone call to—"

I lift my hand up. "Hold on, Cel. I need to hear more of this before we start analyzing."

Taylor's face becomes animated. "She was telling this freshman girl all sorts of détails personnels about her that this girl swore no one else knew."

"Like what?"

"I don't know," Taylor says. "Like who she has a crush on and stuff like that."

"That doesn't prove anything," Celia chimes in, obviously annoyed by the whole situation. "Anyone who pays attention in the hallways, cafeteria, and parking lot after school can decipher who's zooming who around here."

I spin around, looking for the manipulative little impostor. "Where is she?" My senses tell me to look out the window of the caf into the courtyard. It's where the smokers usually hang out, but right now I see that it's the bully pulpit for Courtney. She's sitting on top of one of the picnic tables, waving her arms and expounding to the crowd that's gathered—cheerleaders, jocks, and those brave enough to wander into her social circle—on her alleged new abilities.

Deep down, in that (genuine) intuitive part of me, I know the girl is full of shit. Full of her own shit, for that matter. But I have no way to prove that she's campaigning for a Daytime Emmy with this new act of hers.

I reach over and grab Becca by the wrist. "Come on. We're going out there."

Celia's in too. "She's making a mockery of your gift and of what we're doing with our investigations."

I can tell Celia's wicked pissed 'cause she's got this frown line between her eyes that's deepening by the minute. She better be careful or she'll have to start using age-defying moisturizers for that. Why am I even thinking such absurd thoughts at this moment? Maybe I'm in shock. Maybe I've astral-projected from my body and am watching this all from afar, unable to absorb the depth of Courtney's loathing of me. I run my hands up and down my body. Nope, I'm still here.

Celia raises an eyebrow at me. "Do I even want to know?"

I shake my head and lead the way outside.

We weave through the impressive crowd that's gathered around the concrete picnic tables. Courtney, wearing a short plaid skirt, white blouse, and a blue sweater tied around her neck, a la Blair from Gossip Girl meets naughty Catholic school girl, sits with her knee-socked legs crossed, her eyes closed, and one finger pressed against the silver Bluetooth in her left ear. Mina Moutzourogeorgos, a sophomore, sits in front of her, enthralled.

"I see that you ... made..." Courtney pauses for effect. "An eighty-nine on your Spanish exam."

"I did?" Mina exclaims. "I thought I'd totally failed it and was going to get thrown off SGA."

"Nothing to worry about," Courtney says through her bleached-white teeth. Then she points at this short black girl with awesome braids down to her waist. "You're worried about your English class, aren't you?"

The girl nods, her mouth open in awe.

"Don't worry, sugar," Courtney says, so syrupy sweet. "Mrs. Flynn has been moody lately. It's because she's—" She stops and listens for a moment. "My spirit guide is telling me that it's because she is refinancing her mortgage and things aren't going well."

The crowd gasps. Even Taylor lets out a little yelp.

"You have to understand she's very concerned about her personal finances right now, but she'll be fine soon, and then your troubles in class will be better," Courtney explains.

"Word," the girl says back.

Courtney's self-aggrandizing smile really is annoying. "Who's next?"

Taylor's pretty face turns beet red, like she's about to explode. Then she does. "Courtney Langdon! You're just a big old phony! Vous devriez avoir honte!"

Courtney turns to her. "What did you say?"

I try to stop Taylor, but it's too late.

"Shame ... shame on you! How can you do this? You're just starved for attention."

"Oh, and like you're not starved for attention, Taylor Tillson?"

"What do you mean?" Taylor asks.

Unfazed, Courtney moves her hand to her ear and pauses as information seems to be given to her. However, I'm not picking up on any kind of spirit energies here at all. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Not even a wisp of Emily. Wouldn't I be able to connect with Courtney's spirit guide or sense it if it's here? If it really is here? Probably so. Something stinks in rural America, though. I'm seeing a hazy mist around Courtney that confuses me. It's a deep, almost murky pink hue.

"What are you picking up?" Celia asks in a whisper.

"Her aura's mucked up."

"How so?"

I lower my voice. "Loreen's been teaching me this stuff. Anything in the red family relates to a person's physical body. The denser the color, the more friction there is. And this girl's got density out the wazoo."

Celia turns to look but obviously can't see what I'm observing. "I so wish I could do what you do," she says.

"Apparently, so does Courtney." I look again as the pink atmosphere around her shifts, becoming deeper, almost angrier. "I'm seeing a light form of red that means immaturity—"

"Duh."

"—and someone of a dishonest nature."

"Double duh," Celia says. "Was there a picture of Courtney in the book next to that definition?"

I lift my eyebrows in recognition. "This isn't going to end well."

Celia quotes one of my favorite sayings: "I don't have to be psychic to figure that out."

While we've been discussing Courtney's aura, Taylor's been engaged in verbal fisticuffs. I need to get her under control. I don't know if she's protecting me or simply lashing out at Courtney for how she treated Jason after he broke up with her. He's protective of his sister, but she's as defensive of him. Must be a twin thing. I don't feel like this is the time for such a confrontation—I mean, I'm holding myself back—but Taylor is hell-bent on contention, literally shaking her fist at Courtney.

"Shame on me?" Courtney asks. "I think it's shame on you, Taylor. Shame on you and all of the dirty little secrets you and your family are keeping from everyone in town."

Taylor freezes in place and I grab her hand. Her pulse drills rapidly underneath her skin, so I squeeze tightly so she knows I'm here for her.

"Wh-wh-what do you mean?" she asks, her bottom lip quivering.

Courtney lasers her eyes at my friend. "Why don't you tell everyone how your mother went crazy and drove your father out of town and now she's seeing a shrink in Atlanta so she doesn't completely lose it?"

Taylor gasps so intensely that I think she's going to pass out cold from the intake of so much air.

Is what Courtney is saying true? I never picked that up. Neither Taylor nor Jason told us about any of this. How in the world does Courtney know it? Can she be for real? Certainly not! After reading one book? It doesn't work like that.

Though ... judge not, lest you be judged and all of that, right?

Taylor's eyes fill with tears and she turns and rushes off. Becca runs after her, probably to keep from beating hell and four dollars out of Courtney.

"Yeah, that's what I thought," she says with a contemptuous laugh. "Now, who's next?"

I slink away as Courtney continues her "reading" with one of the guys from the wrestling team. Celia's eyes connect with mine and she wrinkles her nose.

"You know how I'm a true believer in the paranormal?" she asks.

I nod wordlessly.

Celia sneers in Courtney's general direction. "This is total horseshit."

We turn to go back into the caf when Courtney shouts out at me, "Hey, Ghost Girl!" She flips her hair away from her face, revealing her Bluetooth. "Guess you're not so special now."

"'Let every eye negotiate for itself,'" I mutter to Celia.

"Yeah, that might be from Much Ado About Nothing," she says, "but this Mean Girl is making much ado about everything. We're going to get to the bottom of this."





I slip away from the girls, debating how to investigate what Courtney's up to, and find a quiet spot in the back of the library so I can gather my thoughts and meditate some. Loreen did a shaman cleansing for me a few weeks back and taught me some good breathing techniques. I need to use them now to focus on Courtney's energies and find a way to battle her without losing my cool.

I picture the air rushing into my lungs and then being expelled as I breathe out. I concentrate on my chest rising and falling, letting my stress and nerves unknot with each inhale and exhale. In my mind, I go to a peaceful, relaxing place. A beach, where my toes can dig into the warm wet sand. A sea bird flies by and squawks. The horn of a departing cruise ship sounds in the distance. The waves break over one another, splashing to the shore in fingers of salty foam.

Yes. This is working. I can feel my pulse slowing, the pressure in my chest easing.

She's using her phone ... Emily breaks in abruptly.

"Good God!" I say, then clamp my hand over my mouth. "I had the whole relaxation thing going, Emily!"

Mrs. Langstein, the librarian, peeks around a stack of books and places her finger to her lips. I mouth sorry and close my eyes again.

Emily ... I was trying to relax.

I'm trying to help you figure out what Courtney's doing.

I know what she's doing. She's being an ass. She's not psychic at all.

She's not and I know it. Courtney's not pure of heart and she certainly has no appreciation for a gift such as the one I have. All she's doing is making light of my God-given ability for her own entertainment. I twirl my hair around my pinkie and stare at the book cart in front of me. Suddenly, the mist in my brain clears, and I know what I have to do.

She's using her cell phone to get her information.

Exactly ..., Emily says.

That's it! It's easy enough to prove. All I have to do is view Courtney's call list and see who's calling her and feeding her the information. It's not like spirit guides have caller ID, so it's got to be one of her minions.

I reach for my phone and scroll over to the address book to pull up Celia's information, where I text:

>I no what she's up 2. More l8r!

At my locker, I tug out my physiology textbook and notepad and rush to lab. Ms. Pritchard has our fetal piglets in place—ewww, why do I have to do this after lunch—so I wash my hands in the lab sink, dry them on a paper towel, and then slip on my plastic gloves. Poor little piggy.

I need to do something to separate Courtney from her phone without it being obvious. How to ... how to...

As I'm thinking all sorts of dubious thoughts, Celia texts me:

>Heard CL tell Stephanie she's not feeling well. Sense trip 2 b'room.

Just then, Courtney flounces in and tosses her backpack haphazardly onto the counter. She goes over to talk to Jim Roach, and that's when I get my idea.

>I'm on it.

I pull out the sheet of directions on fetal pig dissection and wait for my lab partner to return. Eventually, she quits flirting and returns to the stool opposite me, where I stare her down with a smile on my face.

"What?"

"Nothing," I say sweetly. "Just ready to get to work."

She flips her hair over her shoulder and reaches for the plastic gloves. "What do we have to do?"

Reading from the sheet, I say, "Today, we're working on the abdominal cavity. We've got to work on and label the large intestines"—I pick at the pig—"oooh, they're like big coils all fused together. And it's right next to the other thing we need to take care of, the small intestines."

If I can believe my eyes, Courtney's usually rosy complexion is starting to turn green. Time for me to administer the final blow. Using my scalpel, I point out, "This must be the small intestines 'cause it's this wicked gnarly mass of coiled tubes here in the bottom of the cavity. The workbook says it's held in place by a tissue called the mesentery. Oh, wow, Courtney, check this out!"

She holds her breath and pinches her nose with her gloved fingers. "What?"

"That mesentery thing looks just like the spaghetti they had in the caf at lunch. Did you eat it?"

With that, Courtney covers her mouth and nose with her hand and I hear her smother a gag. She stands up hastily, knocking her stool off balance. Then she tugs her Bluetooth off her ear and throws it onto the counter next to her bag.

She says, "Tell Ms. Pritchard I'm gonna be sick" and quickly retraces her steps out the door, no doubt to rid herself of caf's said spaghetti special.

Well, that couldn't have gone more perfectly. I know it's not exactly the classiest thing I've ever done, but the beeyotch had it coming after the way she treated poor Taylor. The only way to exact revenge for—or at least answer—her actions is to find out what's behind her sudden "powers."

The silver shine of her Bluetooth phone beckons to me. I know it's, like, an invasion of privacy and stuff, but it's just sitting there on the black countertop. I grab it and pull it under the table so no one can see what I'm doing. How does this even work? There's no readout, no display, just a button to turn it on. How do you make a stupid phone call on this?

I frantically text Celia of all things techie and impatiently wait for her response.

>That's only a receiver!!! Check her actual cell.

I am so not cut out for the world of intrigue. I feel like all eyes in the room are on me, but in actuality, everyone is busy with the pigs. Luckily for me, Courtney's cell phone is in the side pocket of her book bag. Gritting my teeth, I slip it out and sneak it under the table. Flip. Light. Ahhh ... I thumb through the sections to find Recent Calls. There are three numbers, so I jot all of them down. One has the ID F. Lewis, which is undoubtedly Courtney's cheering partner Farah. The other two have no names. No worries; Celia can find out later who they belong to.

Just as I put the cell back in its pocket, a very pale Courtney returns to the classroom. Ms. Pritchard checks her status and excuses her for having to leave class so abruptly.

Phew! Maybe I can get used to this secret spy stuff!