GOTH GIRL 2 – REAPER
Linda Joy Singleton
I lie in bed, waiting.
Since finding the cryptic note in my locker, I’ve thought of nothing else:
To defend an honor,
Come join me,
Meet at midnight
The smiley face is the mark of the Grin Reaper, a vigilante cloaked in a knit cap instead of a cape. Justice Blankenship the Third (Jay) plays the pretty rich boy at school but after classes he fights for the underdog. I’m the only one at Nevada Bluff High who knows Jay is the Grin Reaper although I don’t know much else about him. What I do know I like. And I’d like to know more.
Nine minutes till midnight.
Ready for Jay, I’m draped in black; the color of night and secrets. My nerves are strung tighter than the strings on the guitar lying beside me. I’ve been strumming, tweaking notes of a bluesy song I’m writing, trying not to focus on the glowing numbers from my alarm clock.
Dying flames from my burning incense casts eerie shadows around my room, shifting ordinary furniture into unearthly shapes. I’ve drawn back the curtains over the sliding glass door to my balcony, so my room is too dark for prying eyes yet offers me a moonlit view through glass. I can’t relax, wondering when Jay will arrive and whose honor needs defending. Some poor kid at school, I guess. Last time (the only time actually) I joined Jay for a vigilante night out involved sneaking into a barn and pink spray paint. Not knowing where I’m going tonight is crazy-making. It’d be easier if Jay would just talk to me at school instead of leaving cryptic messages. But oil and water mix better than his group of friends and mine. It’s a secret we even know each other, much less like each other. My friendship with Jay is complicated. Is it even a friendship? We’re more like co-conspirators. Allies.
A sound on the balcony makes me jump and my elbow smacks my bed’s brass headboard. Ignoring my throbbing elbow, I move my guitar aside, crossing my room to peer beyond glass to the balcony. Silvery moonshine defuses the darkness so I can clearly see each potted plant and the two rod iron chairs on my balcony.
But no sign of Jay.
I return to my bed and reached beneath my pillow, pulling out a folded paper. I’ve read the note so many times it’s creased into dark roads tempting me into dangerous directions. I’ve told no one; hiding my distraction during dinner with nods and smiles for my family. Only K.C., my “like a brother” friend who lives in a room over our garage, noticed, shooting me a suspicious look when I fake-yawned and said I was going to bed early.
As if I could sleep!
My nerves are razor-sharp, and my thoughts spiking back and forth. What will I say when Jay shows up? He’s assuming a lot with the note—that I’ll jump at his invitation without explanation. Sure, being with Jay is a thrill ride like nothing else, but if I go with him tonight where will it lead?
Three minutes to midnight.
My jacket hangs on a hook beside my tallest dresser, socks and sneakers laid out ready for a quick exit. I bend over, slipping on the socks and sneakers.
I stare at the illuminated clock numbers, willing them to speed up while listening outside for rustling leaves, footfalls, a car’s motor. Nothing. Maybe he’s changed his plans and won’t be coming. Am I relieved or disappointed? The smart thing to do would be to burrow under my covers and forget all about Jay. But I’m not the smart kid in the family. That would be my younger studious sister Amy. She’d never accept an invitation from a guy who breaks rules, laws and hearts. She doesn’t know what she’s missing….
My balcony is on the third floor, facing the backyard. Impossible to climb, you’d think. Not for Jay, who blends into shadows. He won’t need a ladder; he’ll use a grappling hook and rope like he’s freaking Spiderman. He’s not my boyfriend so he can’t expect much from me, yet I can guess what he wants. What will I tell him?
No would be the sensible answer. As a P.K.—preacher’s kid—I’m supposed to set a good example for Mom’s congregation, heavy expectations that I usually give a middle finger salute to. Fortunately Mom’s cool with who I am, but not so much Dad. He still frowns when I come to breakfast in black leather, chains, army boots and piercings.
Midnight. So where is Jay?
A soft footfall from my balcony and like a magic trick he unfolds from shadows. Medium-tall, slim, muscular, black jeans, black jacket, and piercing black eyes through slits in a black knit hat. He whips off the hat, his blond hair glinting under moonlight, and tucks the hat into his pocket.
I slide open the door, a gust of chilled night air shivering up my skin.
Jay grasps a flashlight in his gloved hand which he shines on me.
“Not in my face.” I lift my hand to shield my eyes.
“Sorry.” He lowers his arm. “You look good, Thorn.”
“Thanks.” I keep my expression calm but inside I slap the moon a hi-five.
“What about me?” he asks in a swaggering tone that I’m never sure whether to take seriously or not. “Don’t you think I look good?”
“You always do,” I say, and it’s true. Oh, yeah. So black-leather delicious, he’s a walking dessert, served steaming hot. Still his ego could use some knocking down so I add, “But that’s what I expect from a preppy rich kid.”
“You think that’s who I am?” His words have edge, as if I’ve struck too close to a raw nerve.
“Not really,” I admit. “But you assumed a lot with your note.”
“Didn’t you like my poem?”
“Meter was a little off but not bad.”
“Made you curious enough to wait up for me, didn’t it?”
“Maybe.” I shrug. “So what’s this about? Whose honor are we defending?”
“I’ll fill you in on the way. Good to see you’re wearing warm, dark clothes.” He gestures to my black jeans and long-sleeved shirt.
I grab the jacket I’ve left hanging on a chair, but don’t slip it on. Instead I tilt my head, regarding him with reproach. “I’m not going anywhere without an explanation.”
“No time. If we don’t hurry, we’ll be too late.”
“Too late for what?”
“Justice. You know what I do on nights like this.” He flashes me a smug, irresistible grin. “Ready to go?’
I fold my arms over my chest. “Give me one good reason why I should.”
“Because you’re up for anything exciting, and you know I’ll deliver.” His black eyes shine. “Coming with me or not?”
It’s so tempting to say “or not,” and kill his smug grin.
When I hesitate he arches his brows in challenge. “You afraid?”
“Seriously? I can’t believe you said that.” I snort. “Afraid of what?”
I shrug. “Depends on the laws.”
“Hmmm….” I grip the edge of the sliding glass door. Stay here, a voice hisses in my head. Close the door and forget all about Jay.
“I’ll understand if you refuse,” he adds more seriously. “If we’re caught, things could get ugly.”
“So we won’t get caught.”
His face lights up with a grin. “I like your attitude.”
I like a lot about him, too, not because he’s great looking but because he cares so much about justice that he goes after mean kids with vengeance.
“Come with me, Thorn,” he says softly, holding out a gloved hand.
I stand between my sandalwood scented room and the dark mysteries of the night, aware of moonlight, his nearness and the thudding of my heart.
“Let’s go.” I grasp his hand.
Turning away from safety and home, I close the door behind me.
And blend into the night with the Grin Reaper.