Being dead became fashionable approximately forty-five minutes after Samantha "the Divine" Devereaux came back from summer break.
Although stylish as ever, there was still something off about the Divine Devereaux. She strolled down the hall wearing a cleavage-baring top, a miniskirt, and stiletto heels. Her long blond hair had been freshly highlighted.
But unlike after previous summer vacations, Samantha didn’t have that sun-kissed Cabo glow. Her skin was, forgive the phrase, dead white.
A large silver pendant hung around her neck, but I couldn’t get a close look at it. I wasn’t the only one trying to sneak a peek, because heads turned more than usual as she strutted down the hall.
"Get out of my way, Daisy," she snapped at me as she passed by.
She was only slightly hampered by the coffin she was dragging behind her. At first I thought it was a giant wheelie backpack.
But my clue came when Penny Edwards, who could have brought home a gold in social climbing if it were an Olympic sport, rushed up to Samantha. "Where did you get that . . ."
"Coffin," Samantha supplied helpfully. "Mort’s Mortuary. Burnished mahogany. Scaled to size for those of us with petite frames." I could have sworn she eyed my thighs with a look of scorn.
"Lined with satin?" Penny asked.
She recoiled in horror. "Silk, of course."
"Of course," Penny tittered. Samantha went on her way, and Penny, faster than you could say dead girl walking, was on her cell phone to Mort’s Mortuary.
After first period, I saw Mr. Amador, our principal, talking to Samantha in the hallway, so I loitered long enough to eavesdrop.
He started with a lot of throat clearing and then said, "My dear, why on earth have you adopted such an . . . unusual look? You look like a vampire."
"The preferred term is ‘undead’ or, if you must, ‘living challenged,’" she said, nose in the air. "I’m not a vampire. The thought of drinking blood is disgusting. And think of all those calories!"
"But, but you’re a student council member, head cheerleader. You represent Nightshade High to the world . . ."
"Now I represent Nightshade looking like this," Samantha said.
While Mr. Amador sputtered and coughed, she swept away but called over her shoulder, "And why don’t we let Daddy’s lawyer decide whether or not I can continue to attend Nightshade High looking like this?" With that she snapped open her cell and punched in a number. Interesting that she had Daddy’s lawyer on speed dial.
After Samantha lawyered up, Mr. Amador had no choice. He had to let Samantha wear whatever she wanted, as long as it was within the school dress code. And since our school dress code didn’t say anything about dressing in black, dead white skin, or bloodred lips, he was stuck.
By the time the dismissal bell rang, I was sick of hearing everyone talking about Samantha’s new "look." I shut my locker, which closed with a clang.
"Hey, Giordano, what’s up?" Ryan Mendez asked. He was the closest friend I had these days. His dad was chief of police in Nightshade.
When I didn’t answer but just stood there frowning, he continued, "I saw your mom on the news last night."
My mom had been helping his dad solve crimes since Ryan and I were both in diapers. Mom’s a psychic, the real deal, not the kind who reads your palm for ten bucks. Although she could probably do that, too. Instead, she spends her time crime solving.
We live in a small town—peaceful enough, I guess, but it’s always been a little strange here. Nightshade started as a little frontier town a couple of hundred years ago, and it had a long history of strange occurrences, odd inhabitants, and most of all, secrets. The town was full of secrets.
I realized I hadn’t responded to Ryan. "Yep, Mom said as soon as she touched the scarf, she knew where the body was."
"Cool." Ryan turned to get a better view of Samantha giggling with Penny at her locker.
"What do you think about all that?" I murmured, with a nod toward Samantha.
"She still looks beautiful," he replied, not taking his eyes from her.
I restrained the involuntary gag that rose to my throat. He’s had a crush on her since second grade.
I made a face.
"Daisy, I know you don’t like her," Ryan continued. "And I know she embarrassed you back in middle school, but she didn’t mean to."
Embarrass was an understatement. Humiliate. Devastate. Annihilate. Those were more accurate word choices.
"I don’t want to talk about it," I said. "In fact, I’d be happy if her name was never mentioned again."
But Samantha Devereaux was all anybody wanted to talk about. The rest of the week was devoted to watching her every move and then rehashing it endlessly. The goths howled with rage and frustration: The popular kids, now sporting Samantha’s look, were on their turf. Finally, in protest, the goths, girls and guys, switched to lime green or hot pink skirts, matching sweater sets, and pearls.
The one thing that people didn’t seem to be able to duplicate was the pendant that never left Samantha’s neck. I was curious about it, but since I wasn’t in her close circle of friends, I still hadn’t gotten a good look at it.
By Friday, I’d had more than enough of the Samantha Devereaux madness. After school, I sat on our porch swing with a glass of lemonade, trying to clear my head of the week’s weirdness.
That’s when I saw Samantha climbing into her boyfriend Sean Walsh’s bedroom. She was using her coffin as a step stool to get in through the window. Sean had lived next door to us since third grade, so I knew his bedroom was on the first floor, with the window near the big rose bush. A few minutes later, I heard Sean’s deep voice, a series of giggles from Samantha, and then silence.
Samantha Devereaux was dead and she was getting more action than me. Life wasn’t fair.
My moment of solitude didn’t last long anyway.
"It’s your turn to cook dinner, twerp," my sister Poppy announced. She was only a year older than me, but she liked to push me around. Now that she was a senior, it was even worse.
She threw herself beside me on the swing, and it rocked violently.
"My lemonade!" I said, but it was too late. I watched as the glass started to tip over and then . . . didn’t.
I looked up. Poppy smiled complacently.
"Show-off," I said. I headed for the kitchen.
Life wasn’t fair. Poppy never used her telekinesis for anything major. I thought of all the things I would do if I had her powers. But I didn’t, so it looked liked I’d be making dinner again the old-fashioned way.
Not only am I the baby, I’m the only nonpsychic in the family. My dad disappeared under mysterious circumstances when I was eleven. He was a normal just like me.
Do you know how hard it is to be the only nonpsychic in a family of psychics? Trust me, it’s tough.
Like the time I had a date with Brian Miller (my first and last date, thanks to my sister Poppy.) I borrowed Poppy’s sweater without asking, thinking she’d never find out. Her psychic abilities hadn’t fully developed yet, so I figured I was safe.
But she knew all right.
When Poppy discovered her sweater was missing, she just concentrated and told it to come on home.
Unfortunately, I was with Brian at the time, sitting at the Dairy Queen. I was also wearing the sweater in question.
The date had been going well. He talked about himself—but not too much—and he had an adorable smile. Th...