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An Ellora's Cave Romantica Publication ppti.info Star Crossed ISBN # ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Sta. Get the PDF on DriveThruRPG · Download the Character Sheets. Star Crossed is a two-player game about really, really wanting to, when you really, really can't. Download Starcrossed free pdf, Download Starcrossed Pdf, Read Online what starts out as a star crossed lovers story gradually changes focus to explore.

Try not to rip it off the hinges, will you? Gretchen said archly, breezing past Helen. Helen stood stupidly at the top of the steps, holding the door open for other students, who walked past her like she worked there. Nantucket was a small island, and everyone knew each other painfully well, but sometimes Helen 18 wished Gretchen knew a little bit less about her.

Theyd been best friends up until fifth grade, when Helen, Gretchen, and Claire were playing hide-and-seek at Gretchens house, and Helen accidentally knocked the bathroom door off its hinges while Gretchen was using it. Helen had tried to apologize, but the next day Gretchen started looking at her funny and calling her a freak. Ever since then it seemed like shed gone out of her way to make Helens life suck.

It didnt help matters that Gretchen now ran with the popular crowd, while Helen hid among the braniacs. She wanted to snap back at Gretchen, say something clever like Claire would, but the words caught in her throat. Instead, she flipped the doorstop down with her toe to leave the door propped open for everyone else.

Another year of fading into the background had officially begun. Helen had Mr. Hergeshimer for homeroom. He was the head of the English department, and had mad style for a guy in his fifties.

He wore silk cravats in warm weather, flashy colored cashmere scarves when it was cold, and drove a vintage convertible Alfa Romeo. The guy had buckets of money and didnt need to work, but he taught high school, anyway. He said he did it because he didnt want to be forced to deal with illiterate heathens everywhere he went. That was his story, anyway.

Personally, Helen believed he taught because he absolutely loved it. Some of the other students didnt get him and said he was a wannabe British snob, but Helen thought he was one of the best teachers shed probably ever have.

Miss Hamilton, he said broadly as Helen stepped 19 through the door, the bell ringing at exactly the same time. Punctual as usual. Im certain you will be taking the seat next to your cohort, but first, a warning. Any exercise of that talent for which one of you earned the sobriquet Giggles and I shall separate you.

Sure thing, Hergie, chirped Claire. Helen slid into the desk next to her. Hergie rolled his eyes at Claires mild disrespect, but he was pleased. It is gratifying to know that at least one of my students knows that sobriquet is a synonym for nickname, no matter how impertinent her delivery. Now, students: another warning. As you are preparing for your SATs this year, I shall expect you all to be ready to give me the definition of a new and exciting word every morning.

The class groaned. Only Mr. Hergeshimer could be sadistic enough to give them homework for homeroom. It was against the natural order. Can impertinent be the word we learn for tomorrow? Zach was usually anxious about something, and he had been since kindergarten. Sitting next to Zach was Matt Millis, who looked over at Zach and shook his head as if to say, I wouldnt try that if I were you.

Matt, Zach, and Claire were the AP kids. They were all friends, but as they got older they were starting to realize only one of them could be valedictorian and get into Harvard. Helen stayed out of the competition, especially because she had started liking Zach less and less the past 20 few years. Ever since his father became the football coach and starting pushing Zach to be number one both on the field and in the classroom, Zach had become so competitive that Helen could barely stand to be around him anymore.

A part of her felt bad for him. She would have pitied him more if he wasnt so combative toward her. Zach had to be everything all the timepresident of this club, captain of that team, the guy with all the gossipbut he never looked like he was enjoying any of it. Claire insisted that Zach was secretly in love with Helen, but Helen didnt believe it for a second; in fact, sometimes she felt like Zach hated her, and that bothered her.

He used to share his animal crackers with her during recess in the first grade, and now he looked for any opportunity to pick a fight with her. When did everything get so complicated, and why couldnt they all just be friends like they were in grade school? Brant, Mr. Hergeshimer enunciated. You may use impertinent as your word if you wish, but from someone of your mental faculties I shall also be expecting something more.

Perhaps an essay on an example of impertinence in English literature? He nodded.

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Yes, five pages on Salingers use of impertinence in his controversial Catcher in the Rye by Monday, please. Helen could practically smell the palms of Zachs hands clam up from two seats away. Hergies powers for giving extra reading to smart-ass students were legendary, and he seemed determined to make an example out of Zach on the first day. Helen thanked her lucky stars Hergie hadnt picked on her. After Mr. Hergeshimer handed out the schedules, he called Helen up to his desk.

He told the other students to speak freely, and they immediately launched into excited first-day-of-school chatter. Hergie had Helen pull up a chair next to him instead of making her stand and talk across his desk. Apparently, he didnt want any of the other students to hear what he was going to say.

That put Helen a little more at ease, but not for long. I see you decided not to enroll in any Advanced Placement classes this year, he said, looking at her from over his halfmoon reading glasses.

I didnt think Id be able to handle the extra workload, she mumbled, tucking her hands under her thighs and sitting on them to keep them still. I think youre capable of much more than you are willing to admit, Hergie said, frowning. I know you arent lazy, Helen. I also know you are one of the brightest students in your class. So whats keeping you from taking advantage of all that this educational system has to offer you? I have to work, she said with a helpless shrug. I need to save up if I want to go to college.

If you take AP classes and do well on your SATs, you will stand a better chance of getting enough money for school through a scholarship than by working for minimum wage at your fathers shop.

My dad needs me.

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We arent rich like everyone else on this island, but we are there for each other, she said defensively. But you are reaching the end of your high school years and its time to start thinking about your own future. I know, Helen said, nodding. She could see from the worry puckering his face that he cared, and that he was just trying to help.

I think I should get a pretty good athletic scholarship for track. I got much faster over the summer. Hergeshimer stared at her earnest face begging him to let it go, and finally conceded. All right. But if you feel like you need more of an academic challenge, you are welcome to join my AP English class at any point this semester. Thank you, Mr. As she went back to her desk, it occurred to her that she had to keep Hergie and her father away from each other at all cost. She didnt want them comparing notes and deciding that she needed to be in special classes and go out for special awards.

Even the thought gave her a bellyache. Why couldnt they all just ignore her? Secretly, Helen had always felt she was different, but she thought she had done a pretty good job of hiding it her whole life. Apparently, without realizing it, shed been sending out hints of that buried freak inside of her. She had to try to keep her head down, but she wondered how she was going to do that when she kept getting taller and taller every damn day.

Claire asked as soon as Helen returned to her seat. Just another motivational moment from Hergie. He doesnt think Im applying myself, Helen said as breezily as she could. You dont apply yourself. You never do your work, Zach replied, more offended than he should have been.

Shut it, Zach, Claire said, crossing her arms belligerently. She turned and faced Helen. Its true, though, Lennie, she told her apologetically. You never do your work. Yeah, yeah. You can both shut it, Helen said, chuckling. The bell rang and she gathered her things. Matt Millis gave her a smile but hurried away as they left the room. Feeling guilty, Helen realized that she hadnt spoken to him yet.

She hadnt meant to ignore him, especially not on the first day of school. According to Claire, everyone knew that Matt and Helen were supposed to be together. Matt was intelligent, good looking, and captain of the golf team. He was still sort of a geek, but because Helen was practically a pariah ever since Gretchen had started spreading rumors about her, it was a compliment that everyone thought she was good enough for someone like Matt.

Unfortunately, Helen never felt anything special for him. Zero tingles. The one time they had been shoved into a closet together at a party to make out, it had been disastrous. Helen felt like she was kissing her brother, and Matt felt like he was being rejected. Afterward, he was sweet 24 about it, but no matter how many times he cracked jokes, there was a weird tension between them.

She really missed him but she worried that if she told him he would take it the wrong way. It feels like everything I do lately is being taken the wrong way, Helen thought. The rest of the morning Helen wandered on autopilot from class to class. She couldnt concentrate on much of anything, and every time she tried to make herself focus she felt nothing but irritation.

Something about the day was off. Everyonefrom her favorite teachers to the few acquaintances she should have been happy to seewas annoying her, and every now and again while she was walking down the hall she would suddenly feel like she was inside an airplane at ten thousand feet.

Her inner ear would block up, all the sounds around her would become muffled, and her head would get hot. Then, as suddenly as it had come on, the discomfort would go away. But even still, there was a pressure, a pre-thunderstorm energy all around her, even though the skies were lovely and blue. It got worse at lunch. She tore into her sandwich thinking that her headache was the result of low blood sugar, but she was wrong.

Jerry had packed her favorite sandwich smoked turkey, green apple, and brie on a baguettebut she couldnt force herself to take more than a bite. She spat it out. Your dad make another dud? When Jerry had first partnered up with Kate hed started experimenting 25 with creative lunches. No, its good old number three.

I just cant eat it, Helen said, shoving it away. Claire gleefully picked up the remainder and started eating it. Mmm, is really good, she mumbled around a full mouth. Us a atter? I just dont feel right, Helen said. Claire stopped chewing and gave her a worried look. Im not sick. You can go ahead and swallow, Helen assured her quickly.

She saw Matt approaching and chirped, Hey! He was deep in conversation with Gretchen and Zach and didnt respond, but still came to his habitual spot at the geek table. Both Gretchen and Zach were so engrossed in what they were saying that they didnt notice that they had wandered into geek territory. I heard they were movie stars in Europe, Zach was saying. Where did you hear that? Matt asked, incredulous.

Thats ridiculous. I heard from at least two other people that Ariadne was a model. Shes certainly pretty enough, Zach argued passionately, hating to be wrong about anything, even gossip. Shes nowhere near thin enough to be a model, Gretchen hissed bitterly, before catching herself and adding, Of course I think shes pretty, if you go for that exotic, voluptuous look.

But shes nothing compared to her twin, 26 Jasonor her cousin! Lucas is just unreal, she gushed. The boys shared a knowing look, but silently agreed that they were outnumbered by girls and should probably let it go.

Jason is almost too pretty, Claire decided solemnly, after giving it a moments thought. Lucas, however, is an berbabe. Quite possibly the most beautiful boy Ive ever seen.

And Ariadne is a stone-cold fox, Gretchen. Youre just jealous. Gretchen gave an exasperated huff and rested a fist on her hip. Like youre not, was all she had for a comeback. Of course I am. Im almost as jealous of her as I am of Lennie. But not quite. Helen felt Claire turn to her to see her response, but she had her elbows on the table and her head cradled in her hands, rubbing her temples. Matt said, sitting down next to her. Does your head hurt? He reached out to touch her shoulder. She stood up abruptly, muttering an excuse, and hurried away.

By the time she got to the girls room she felt better, but she splashed a little cold water on her face for good measure. Then she remembered that she had put mascara on that morning in an attempt to make an effort. She looked at her raccoon eyes in the mirror and burst out laughing. This was the worst first day of school ever. Somehow she made it through the last three periods, and when the bell finally rang she gratefully made her way to the girls locker room to change for track practice.

Coach Tar was all fired up. She gave an embarrassingly optimistic speech about their chances to win races that year 27 and told them how much she believed in them, both as athletes and as young women.

Then she turned to Helen. Youll be running with the boys this year, Coach said bluntly. She told everyone to hit the trail.

Helen sat on the bench for a moment, debating her options while everyone else filed out the door. She didnt want to make a fuss, but she was mortified by the thought of having to cross the gender line.

The muscles in her lower abdomen started to spasm. Go talk to her! Dont let her push you around, Claire said indignantly as she left. Confused and afraid she was going to get a bellyache, Helen nodded and stood up.

Coach Tar? Cant we just do it the way we always do? Coach Tar stopped and turned around to listen, but she didnt look happy about it. I mean, why cant I just train with the rest of the girls? Because I am a girl, Helen finished lamely. Weve decided that you need to start pushing yourself more, Coach Tar responded in a cold voice. Helen had always gotten the feeling that Coach didnt like her much, and now she was sure of it. But Im not a boy.

Its not fair to make me run cross-country with them, Helen tried to argue. She jabbed two fingers into the spot between her belly button and her pubic bone. Coach Tar asked, a touch of sympathy creeping into her voice. Helen nodded and Coach continued. Coach Brant and I have noticed something interesting 28 about your times, Helen. No matter who youre running against, no matter how fast or slow your opponents are, you always come in either second or third.

How can that be? Do you have an answer? I dont know. I just run, okay? I try my best. No, you dont, Coach said harshly. And if you want a scholarship youre going to have to start winning races. I talked to Mr. Helen groaned out loud, but Coach Tar continued, undeterred. Its a small school, Hamilton, get used to it. Hergeshimer told me that you were hoping for an athletic scholarship, but if you want one youre going to have to earn it. Maybe forcing you to match the boys will teach you to take your talent seriously.

The thought of displaying her speed for the world to see had a physical effect on Helen. She was so afraid that she was going to get some kind of cramp or bellyache that she started to have a mini panic attack. She began to babble. Ill do it, Ill win races, just please dont single me out like that, she pleaded, the words tumbling out in a rush as she held her breath to hold back the pain.

Coach Tar was a hard-ass, but she wasnt cruel. Are you okay? Put your head between your legs. Im okay, its just nerves, Helen explained through gritted teeth. After catching her breath she continued, If I swear to win more races, will you let me run with the girls?

Coach Tar studied Helens desperate face and nodded, a bit shaken from witnessing such an intense panic attack. She 29 let Helen go to the girls trailhead, but warned her that she still expected wins. And more than just a few. As she ran the trail, Helen looked at the ground. An academic scholarship would be great but that would mean competing with Claire for grades, and that was out of the question.

Hey, Giggles, Helen said, easily catching up. Claire was panting and sweating away already. What happened? God, its so hot! I think the entire faculty is trying to see if they can climb up onto my back at the same time. Welcome to my life, Claire wheezed. Japanese kids grow up. You get used to it. After a few more labored moments of trying to keep up with Helen, Claire added, Can we.

Not all of us are from. Helen adjusted her pace, knowing that she could pull ahead in the last half mile. She rarely exerted herself in practice but she knew that even without trying hard she could easily finish first. That fact scared her, so she did what she usually did when the subject of her freaky speed came up in her head. She ignored it and chatted with Claire.

As the two girls ran down Surfside and out across the moors to Miacomet Pond, Claire couldnt stop talking about the Delos boys. She told Helen at least three times that Lucas had held the door for her at the end of class. That act proved he was not only a gentleman, but already in love 30 with her as well. Jason, Claire decided, was either gay or a snob because he had only glanced at her once before quickly looking away.

She also took offense at how nice a dresser he was, like he was European or something. Hes been living in Spain for, like, three years, Gig. He kinda is European. Can we please stop talking about them?

Its giving me a headache. Why are you the only person in school that isnt interested in the Delos family? Arent you even curious to get a look? And I think its pathetic that this entire town is standing around gawking at them like a bunch of hicks! Helen shouted. Claire stopped short and stared at her. It wasnt like Helen to argue, let alone start yelling, but she couldnt seem to stop herself. Im bored to death of the Delos family!

Helen continued, even when she saw Claires surprise. Im sick of this towns fixation with them, and I hope I never have to meet, see, or share breathing space with any of them! Helen took off running, leaving Claire standing by herself on the trail.

She finished first, just like shed promised, but she did it a little too quickly; Coach Tar gave her a shocked look when she recorded the run time. Helen blew by her and stormed into the locker room. She grabbed her stuff and bolted out of school, not bothering to change or say goodbye to any of her teammates. On the way home, Helen started crying.

She pedaled past 31 the neat rows of gray shingled-sided houses with their black or white painted storm shutters and tried to calm down. The sky seemed to sit particularly low on the scoured land, as if it was pressing down on the gables of the old whalers and trying to finally flatten them after a few centuries of stubborn defiance.


Helen had no idea why shed gotten so angry, or why shed abandoned her best friend like that. She needed a little peace and quiet. There was a car accident on Surfside; some gigantic SUV had tried to turn onto a narrow, sandbanked side street and turned over. The drivers were okay, but their beached whale of a car blocked off traffic from end to end. Annoyed as she was, Helen knew she couldnt even pedal past the boneheaded off islanders without losing her checkers.

She decided to take the long way home. She turned around and headed back toward the center of town, passing the movie theater, the ferry, and the library, which, with its Greek temple architecture, stuck out like a sore thumb in a town that otherwise was an ode to four-hundred-year-old Puritan architecture.

And maybe thats why Helen loved it. The Atheneum was a gleaming white beacon of strange smackdab in the middle of forget-me-now drab, and somehow, Helen identified with both of those things. Half of her was no-nonsense Nantucket through and through, and the other half was marble columns and grand stairs that just didnt belong where they had been built. Biking past, Helen looked up at the Atheneum and smiled.

It was consoling for her to know that she might stick out, but at least she didnt stick 32 out that much. When she got home, she tried to pull herself together, taking a freezing-cold shower before calling Claire to apologize.

Claire didnt pick up. Helen left her a long apology blaming hormones, the heat, stress, anything and everything she could think of, though she knew in her heart that none of those things was the real reason she had flipped out.

Shed been so irritable all day. The air outside was heavy and still. Helen opened all the windows in the two-story Shaker-style house, but no breeze blew through them. What was with the weird weather? Still air was practically unheard of in Nantucketliving so close to the ocean there was always wind.

Helen pulled on a thin tank top and a pair of her shortest shorts. Since she was too modest to go anywhere dressed so scantily, she decided to cook dinner.

It was still her fathers week as kitchen slave and technically he was responsible for all the shopping, meals, and dishes for a few days yet, but she needed something to do with her hands or shed use them to climb the walls.

Pasta in general was Helens comfort food, and lasagna was the queen of pasta. If she made the noodles from scratch, shed be occupied for hours, just like she wanted, so she pulled out the flour and eggs and got to work. When Jerry came home the second thing he noticed, after the amazing smell, was that the house was swelteringly hot.

He found Helen sitting at the kitchen table, flour stuck to her sweaty face and arms, worrying the heart-shaped necklace, which her mother had given her as a baby, between her 33 thumb and forefinger. He looked around with tense shoulders and wide eyes. Made dinner, Helen told him in a flat voice. Did I do something wrong?

Of course not. Why would you ask that when I just cooked you dinner? Because usually when a woman spends hours cooking a complicated meal and then just sits at the table with a pissedoff look on her face, that means some guy somewhere did something really stupid, he said, still on edge. I have had other women in my life besides you, you know. Are you hungry or not?

Helen asked with a smile, trying to shake off her ugly mood. Hunger won out. Jerry shut his mouth and went to wash his hands. Helen hadnt eaten since breakfast and should have been starved. When she tasted the first forkful she realized she wouldnt be able to eat. She listened as best as she could while she pushed bits of her favorite food around her plate and Jerry devoured two pieces.

He asked her questions about her day while he tried to sneak a little more salt onto his food. Helen blocked his attempts like she always did, but she didnt have the energy to give him more than monosyllabic answers. Even though she went to bed at nine, leaving her dad watching the Red Sox on TV, she was still lying awake at midnight when she heard the game finally end and her father come upstairs.

She was tired enough to sleep, but every time she started to drift off she would hear whispering. She went up to the widows walk on the roof above her bedroom and tried to see as far as she could into the dark. Everything was stillnot even a puff of air to stir the rosebushes around the house. She sat down for a spell, staring out at the fat, black slick of the ocean beyond the neighbors lights.

She hadnt been up there in a while, but it still gave her a romantic thrill to think about how women in the olden days would pine away on their widows walks as they searched for the masts of their husbands ships. When she was really young, Helen used to pretend that her mother would be on one of those ships, coming back to her after being taken captive by pirates or Captain Ahab or something just as all-powerful.

Helen had spent hours on the widows walk, scanning the horizon for a ship she later realized would never sail into Nantucket Harbor. Helen shifted uncomfortably on the wooden floor and then remembered that she still had her stash up there. For years, her dad had insisted she was going to fall to her death and forbidden her from going up to the widows walk alone, but no matter how many times he punished her, she would eventually sneak back up there to eat granola bars and daydream.

After a few months of dealing with Helens uncharacteristic disobedience, Jerry finally caved and gave her permission, as long as she didnt lean out over the railing.

Hed even built her a waterproof chest to store things in. There were boats far out on the water, boats she shouldnt be able to hear or see from such a distance, but she could. Helen closed her eyes and allowed herself the pleasure of hearing one little skiff as its canvas sails flapped and its teak planks creaked, way out on the gently lapping swells.

Alone and unwatched, she could be herself for a moment and truly let go. When her head finally started to nod she went down to bed to give sleep another shot. She was standing on rocky, hilly terrain, blasted so hard by the sun that the bone-dry air wriggled and shook in streaks, as if parts of the sky were melting. The rocks were pale yellow and sharp, and here and there were angry little bushes, low to the ground and lousy with thorns. A single twisted tree grew out of the next slope.

Helen was alone. And then she wasnt. Under the stunted trees crippled limbs three figures appeared. They were so slender and small Helen thought at first they must be little girls, but there was something about the way the muscles in their gaunt forearms wove around their bones like rope that made Helen realize that they were also very old.

All three of them had their heads bent, and their faces were completely covered by sheets of long, matted, black hair. They wore tattered white slips, and they were covered in gray-white dust down to their lower legs.

From the knees down, their skin grew dark with streaks of dirt and blackening blood from feet worn raw with wandering in this barren wilderness. She backed away from them compulsively, cutting her bare feet on the rocks and scratching her legs on the thorns. The three abominations took a step toward her, and their shoulders began to shake with silent sobs. Drops of blood fell from under the skeins of rank hair and ran down the fronts of their dresses. They whispered names while they cried their gory tears.

Helen woke up to a slap. There was a prickly numbness in her cheek and the steady note of a dial tone whining in her left ear. Jerrys face was inches away from hers, wild with worry, and starting to show signs of guilt. He had never hit her before. He had to take a few shaky breaths before he could speak.

The bedside clock read You were screaming. I had to wake you, he stammered. Helen swallowed painfully, trying to moisten her swollen tongue and closed-off throat. Nightmare, she whispered as she sat up. Her cheeks were wet with either sweat or tears, she didnt know which.

Helen wiped the moisture away and smiled at her dad, trying to calm him down. It didnt work. What the hell, Lennie? That was not normal, he said in a strange, high-pitched voice. You were saying things. Really awful things. Like what? She was so thirsty. Mostly names, lists of names.

And then you started repeating blood for blood, and murderers. What the hell were you dreaming? Helen thought about the three women, three sisters she 37 thought, and she knew she couldnt tell her father about them. She shrugged her shoulders and lied. She managed to convince Jerry that murder was a pretty normal thing to have nightmares about, and swore that she would never watch scary movies by herself again. Finally, she got him to go back to bed.

The glass on her nightstand was empty and her mouth was so dry it felt tender and sore. She swung her legs out of bed to get water from the bathroom and gasped when her feet touched the hardwood floor.

She switched on her lamp to get a better look, but she already knew what she was going to see. The soles of her feet were cut deep and peppered with dirt and dust, and her shins were scratched with the hatch-mark pattern of thorns. She almost believed that she had imagined themuntil she saw that her sheets were dirty with dried, brown blood and grit. In order to test her sanity, Helen decided to leave her sheets on the bed, go to school, and see if they were still dirty when she came home.

If they were clean when she got home, then the whole thing was an illusion and she was only a little crazy. If they were still dirty when she came home, then she was obviously so crazy that she was walking around at night and getting dirt and blood in her bed without remembering it. Helen tried to eat a bowl of yogurt and berries for breakfast but that didnt work out very well so she didnt even bother to take her lunch box. If she got hungry she could try buying something more tummy friendly like soup and crackers later.

Riding her bike to school, she noticed that it was unbearably hot and humid for a second day in a row. The only wind was the breeze created by her spinning wheels, and when she locked her bike up at the rack she realized that not only was the air still, but it was also lacking the usual insect and bird sounds. All was unnaturally quietas though the entire island was nothing but a ship becalmed in the middle of the vast ocean.

Helen arrived earlier than she had the day before, and the halls were crowded. Claire saw her come in. When her face broke into a smile, Helen knew she had been forgiven.

Claire fought the flow of traffic to double back and join her on the walk to homeroom. As they made their way toward each other, Helen suddenly felt like she was trying to trudge through oatmeal. She slowed to a stop. It seemed to her that everyone in the hallway vanished.

In the suddenly empty school Helen heard the shuffling of bare feet and the gasping sobs of inconsolable grief. She spun around in time to see a dusty white figure, her shoulders slumped and quivering, disappearing around a corner.

Helen realized that the sobbing woman had passed behind someonea real person staring back at her. She focused in on the figure, a young girl with olive skin and a long, black braid trailing over one shoulder.

Her naturally bright red lips were drawn into an O of surprise. Helen was standing still, blocking traffic, staring at a glossy black braid swinging against a tiny girls back as it vanished into a classroom. Helens whole body shook with an emotion that took her a moment to recognize.

It was rage. Jesusmaryandjoseph, Len! Are you gonna faint? Claire asked anxiously. Helen made her eyes focus on Claire, and she took a wobbly breath. She realized that she was drenched in cold sweat and shivering. She opened her mouth but nothing came out. Im taking you to the nurse, Claire said. She grabbed Helens hand and started to tug on it, trying to get her to move.

Matt, she called out over Helens shoulder. Can you help me with Lennie? I think shes going to faint. Im not going to faint, Helen snapped, suddenly alert and aware of how strange she was acting. She smiled bashfully at them both to try to take the sting out of her words.

Matt had put his arm around her waist and she patted his hand softly to let him know he could release her. He gave her a doubtful look. Youre really pale, and youve got circles under your eyes, he said. I got a little overheated riding my bike, she started to explain. Dont tell me youre fine, Claire warned. Her eyes were flush with frustrated tears, and Matt didnt look much happier. Helen knew she couldnt brush this off. Even if she was 41 going crazy, she didnt have to take it out on her friends.

No, youre right. I think I might have heatstroke. Matt nodded, accepting this excuse as the only logical one. Claire, you take her to the girls room. Ill tell Hergie what happened so he doesnt mark you late. And you should eat something. You didnt eat any lunch yesterday, he reminded her. Helen was a little surprised he remembered that, but Matt was good at details. He wanted to be a lawyer, and she knew that someday he would be a great one.

Claire drenched Helen in the girls room, dumping cold water all the way down her back when she was supposed to just wet her neck. Of course they wound up having a gigantic water fight, which seemed to calm Claire down because it was the first normal response shed had out of Helen in a few days. Helen herself felt like she had passed an exhaustion barrier and now everything had become funny. Hergie wrote them hall passes, so the two friends took their time getting to their first classes.

Having a hall pass from Mr. Hergeshimer was like getting one of Willy Wonkas golden ticketsa student could go anywhere and do anything for a full period and not one teacher would put up a stink.

In the cafeteria they got oranges for Helens low blood sugar, and while they were at it they split a chocolate chip muffin. Helen choked it down and miraculously started to feel better.

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Then they went and stood in front of the sixfoot-tall fan in the auditorium to cool down, taking turns 42 singing into the whirling blades and listening to each others voices get chopped into a hundred pieces until they were both laughing their faces off.

Helen felt so giddy after playing hooky on a Hergie hall pass and eating raw sugar on an empty stomach that she couldnt even remember what class she was supposed to be going to.

She and Claire were casually strolling down the wrong hallway at the wrong time when the bell signaling the end of first period rang. They looked at each other and shrugged as if to say, Oh well, what can you do? Then Helen saw Lucas for the first time. The sky outside finally exhaled all of the wind that it had been holding for two days.

Gusts of stale, hot air pushed through every open window into the sweltering school. It caught loose sheets of paper, skirt hems, unbound hair, stray wrappers, and other odds and ends, and tossed them all toward the ceiling like hats on graduation day. For a moment it seemed to Helen that everything stayed up there, frozen at the top of the arc, as weightless as space. A space pirate and an alien brain parasite? The possibilities are endless.

In Star Crossed, you and your fellow player will craft characters who are powerfully attracted to each other, but have a compelling reason not to act on their feelings.

Playing feels like falling in love. I have only played one game so far, but it left a profound impression on me. Also, there is kissing. If the tower falls, your characters act on their feelings! You decide what happens; the rules will tell you what that means. Of course, that tower may never fall. If you make it through the final scene and the tower is still standing, the character never act on their feelings. Hiding in the gravity of that teetering tower is not the grisly finality of well-swung hammer or the existential threat of eternal void, but something far more terrifying:Cranes office.

Are you. You know, the Pig only has another year or two left in her, Helen said, referring to the ancient Jeep Wrangler her father drove, which she suspected might have been parked outside the castle where the Magna Carta was signed.

Smokin hot. I had to wake you, he stammered. Instead, she flipped the doorstop down with her toe to leave the door propped open for everyone else. When her head finally started to nod she went down to bed to give sleep another shot.

REBBECA from New York
I do like reading books promptly . Please check my other posts. I absolutely love bandy.