Matt: Can you talk?
Smiling, I type back:
Daisy: Call you in five?
Matt: I’ll be waiting.
I dial in the dark. Matt picks up after the first ring.
“I thought of something on the way home,” he says instead of hi.
“I don’t get why you guys moved here,” he says. My stomach sinks. I’m not sure why the idea of telling him I’ve been Revived more than once feels so bad, but it does. I think he mistakes my nervous silence for hurt. “I mean, I’m really glad you guys moved here. I didn’t mean it like that at all. I just—”
“Oh, I know,” I interrupt. “I’m a little embarrassed to tell you why. But I guess I’ve shared a lot today, so why not put it all out there?”
“I’ve died five times.”
Now Matt’s the one who’s silent.
“Are you still there?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he says. “Whoa.”
“I know,” I say, ashamed. “I mean really, it’s more like four—I had to be Revived twice after the bus crash—but technically, five vials means five deaths. After that first day… well, I’m really allergic to bees, and I guess I’m accident-prone, too.”
“No way,” Matt says. “What… I mean, what’s it like?”
“Dying,” he says.
“If you don’t mind talking about it,” he adds.
“No, it’s okay,” I say. “Um… I don’t really remember that much about it, to be honest.” It’s a total lie: I remember many graphic details, but I don’t want to cause Matt more pain than I already have. He might think death talk is fascinating right now, but later, when Audrey’s time comes, he’ll be haunted by my stories of being afraid and in pain.
“Oh, okay,” Matt says, sounding a little disappointed. But he changes the subject anyway. “Are you going back to school tomorrow?”
“Yeah,” I say.
“Really?” I ask, excited.
“Yep, the doctor cleared her,” Matt says happily. “Only he wants her to be with people at all times in case she has a problem, so my mom won’t let her drive to school alone. We’re going together.” Pause. “Want us to pick you up?”
I smile at how normal the conversation is now, even though Matt knows a completely abnormal thing about me.
“Yes,” I say.
“Okay, we’ll be there at seven twenty.”
It’s late and that’s the logical end to the conversation, but I get the feeling that Matt wants to say something more. I wait patiently, my nervousness snowballing with each passing second. Finally, he speaks.
“That was one freaking weird afternoon,” he observes. His tone is low, intimate. It makes goose bumps pop up on my arms.
“But it was good,” Matt says.
“Yeah,” he says. “It was weird, but it was okay, because of you. Because I feel like I know you a lot better now. I feel sort of honored that you told me all that. That you showed me the secret stuff.”
“Even though…” I say, feeling like I can’t even mention Audrey’s name.
“Yeah, Daisy,” Matt says. “Even though.”
I can’t sleep at all, and at three am, after my third trip to the bathroom, I find myself in the dark in Mason’s office. I’m drawn to Gavin’s file like I’m addicted. I don’t want to think about it, but in a way, I need to.
I log on with my handprint. When the prompt for the voice password appears, I tiptoe across the floor and quietly shut the office door so as not to wake Mason or Cassie. Back in the desk chair I say halcyon so low that I’m concerned the computer can’t hear me, but it does. I’m in.
I go to open Gavin’s file, but with the coding system I can’t remember which one it was. I brush my left hand over the icon for recent files and then expand the page so the details show. I sort by the time the files were last accessed and find what I’m looking for. But then I see something weird: A new folder was created yesterday. Even stranger still, though the folder is named like all the rest, it’s marked as “hidden” so that when you look in the main directory, you won’t find it unless you know it’s there.
“What’s this?” I whisper to myself, selecting the hidden folder, then the first file in it. Unlike the others, this one is typed instead of handwritten, but it’s formatted the same way. I’m nervous that it’s for another Chase—that one of the bus kids died again or something. I skim over the top and go to the “name” line, tipping my head in confusion when I see that it’s listed as “Confidential.”
A confidential name?
I read down the page and find that the drug worked: The subject was Revived and relocated to Franklin, Nevada, after the crash. Only it says “car,” not “bus,” so it was a different crash. Did one of the bus kids get in another accident?
I scroll up to the top to see which case number it is so that I can find the confidential Convert. It takes me a couple of frustrating seconds to locate it before finally I see that the file is for case number—
I suck in my breath. My hand flies to my mouth, and even though I’m alone, I murmur through my fingers: “That’s not possible.”
I know that I’m perfectly safe, in a locked house with two gun-toting government agents down the hall, but I’m instantly afraid. The room is too dark. The night is too still. What’s on the screen in front of me is too shocking. I’m so creeped out that I start to consider that I’m being watched. I log off like lightning and then hurry out of the office, across the hall, and into my bed.
Only then, when I’m burrowed down deep under the covers, do I think about what I saw.
There were twenty-one people on the bus.
I just met Case 22.
A car horn wakes me up.
Completely foggy, I turn my eyes to the clock on my nightstand. Somehow, despite my stupor, my brain registers that it’s 7:32 AM. Suddenly, I’m awake. I fling off the covers, run to the window, and see Matt’s car sitting in the driveway with Audrey up front. Right then a text message comes through from Audrey.
Audrey: Almost ready? We’re here.
Daisy: I heard… give me five?
Audrey: No problem
I run to the dresser and yank fresh underwear and a bra from the top drawer. I strip my pajamas off and pull on my skivvies, then grab yesterday’s jeans from the floor. I rush to the closet and rip the first shirt I see off its hanger: It’s a bright blue peasant top that falls off my shoulders a bit. I don’t really love it, but it’s what I’m wearing.
I glance at the clock. It’s 7:34.
I slip into black flats and race to the bathroom, where I pee while simultaneously brushing my teeth, then pull my hair into a high ponytail that actually looks okay. I put blush on my cheeks and eyelids and then nearly poke my eye out trying to apply mascara too quickly. After a stop in my bedroom to grab my bag, I make it to the car at 7:38, breathless and a little sweaty.