Today's Reading

Excited whispers fill the room. I've never seen people campaign as viciously as they did for the themes of this dance. For the past week the Borgias Masquerade Ball and the Enchanted Forest supporters have been practically fist-fighting in the halls. But then again, costume parties are to Salem what Christmas is to the North Pole. I'm desperately hoping the Enchanted Forest doesn't win, though. The attention I got right after the whole hanging-in-the-woods ordeal was overwhelming. I'm pretty sure a forest theme would only bring up the topic again.

The Descendants haven't really said anything specific about what happened, claiming shock and confusion. But the basic details about a mysterious woman trying to kill us all spread through the town faster than I could have imagined. And the only thing that doesn't seem to die in Salem is gossip. The police are still searching for her; little do they know the crow woman was my stepmother, and she's dead.

Everyone turns to look at Blair, who's taking her sweet time sauntering to the front of the class. She leaves a scent trail of vanilla and hair spray, and her outfit suggests she just stepped out of the pages of a Ralph Lauren catalog.

"I'm thrilled to share this with you all." Blair flicks her blown-out waves over her shoulder and scans the room. "While there were very strong themes this year, one stood out above the rest and got an almost unanimous vote."

"It was yours, wasn't it?" Alice says. "The idea that won."

Blair's smile grows and she looks coy. "We're not supposed to reveal who came up with what theme, Alice. Buuut, I wasn't opposed to the idea."

"Uh-huh," Alice says. "Well, good thing you're so subtle, then."

I cough out a laugh, and Mrs. Hoxley gives Alice a warning look. Now that I'm not fighting with the Descendants, I can appreciate Alice's dry humor. No one's exempt from her scorn.

"Let's just say I'm excited to announce that the theme of this year's dance will be..." Blair pauses for dramatic effect. "The Titanic!"

The room explodes with objections. Everyone starts yelling at once. The tension leaves my shoulders. Phew.

"You're joking," Mary says. "The Titanic wasn't even in the running."

"Democracy's dead," Alice says. "The dictatorship of Blair and the fluff-ettes is now a disturbing reality."

"Shush," Mrs. Hoxley says to the class. "We'll have none of that. Absolutely none."

Blair doesn't react. In fact, she looks increasingly smug. "There's more. Since the dance committee supervisor is also the head of the history department, the other history teachers have agreed to rearrange their lesson plans and teach a Titanic curriculum for the next two weeks. Plus, the dresses are gonna be amazing."

Blair squeals with excitement and heads toward her desk. She stops dramatically in front of Matt, Salem High's new British exchange student, who's leaning into the aisle going through his backpack and blocking her way.

"Um...hellooo?" Blair says.

He makes no effort to move. "You know you can fit past me, right? Or were you just sayin' 'ello?" Matt says in his Cockney accent.

Blair's jaw tenses. "So much for being a dance committee member, Matt. You're not even paying attention!"

He pulls out the pen he was looking for from his backpack and peers up at her. "Sorry, what'd ya say?"

"Ugh. Forget it." Blair walks past him, and he smiles to himself.

I smile, too. I have to admit, I've enjoyed watching the drama between him, Blair, and Niki these past few months. Not only because the rumors that Niki mail-ordered herself a boyfriend have taken attention away from my situation, but because Matt's living with Blair, and their bizarre trio has spawned soap-opera-style fights in the middle of the hallway. I've never seen anything like it. He looks up and catches me staring at him, and I immediately turn back to the front of the class.

"Okay, enough. The theme is the Titanic and that's it. Stop chattering and get to work," Mrs. Hoxley says.

I open Susannah's note under my desk and discover it isn't from Susannah at all.

Meet us by the bleachers after school. We need to talk. Don't even think about saying no.
Alice


I knew they would want to talk at some point; I just wasn't expecting it to be today. I haven't spent time with the Descendants since everything happened. I was in bed for a few weeks recovering. After that, my dad was my priority. But to be honest, I'm not ready to talk about the woods. I actually hope to never discuss what happened. Thinking about Vivian hurts in ways I haven't sorted out yet.
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