Devilishby Maureen Johnson
The only thing that makes St. Teresa's Preparatory School for Girls bearable for Jane is her best friend, Ally. But when Ally changes into a whole different person literally overnight the fall of their senior year, Jane's suddenly alone—and very confused. Turns out, Ally has sold her soul in exchange for popularity—to a devil masquerading as a sophomore at St. Teresa's! Now it's up to Jane to put it all on the line to save her friend from this ponytail-wearing, cupcake-nibbling demon . . . without losing her own soul in the process.
Ava Donaldson, Teen Reviewer
- Penguin Young Readers Group
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Penguin Group
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 274 KB
- Age Range:
- 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
Ever hear those stories about people forced to dig their own graves at gunpoint?
On the entire train ride to Boston, I sat across from Elton and Ally and dug my imaginary grave. I considered the length of the shovel handle, how long it would take me to climb out of the hole, just how much satisfaction I would derive from showing dignity in the final moments of my life.
I always used to wonder about whether or not I'd do it. I think I'd probably throw down my shovel and say, "You do it. You're going to shoot me anyway." But then again, if you dig really slow, you get to live that much longer. And there's always the possibility that you'll figure out a really clever way of evading your captors, probably by whapping them with the shovel or throwing dirt in their eyes.
By the time we got into South Station, I had decided that I would probably start a refusal speech, but then they'd lower the barrel of the gun at me, and I'd immediately crack and start crying and begging. Then they'd shoot me before I was done, just to get me to shut up.
It's the worst ending to the scenario, but I knew it was the most accurate one. At least for the way I was feeling at the moment.
I was doing it. I was on the world's worst fact-finding mission. There they sat across from me, not knowing that I knew about them, pretending to be innocent. Elton looked formally uncomfortable, like someone had an antiaircraft weapon trained on his seat, which they would fire at any point if he made the wrong move. He also looked good, long and lanky with an untucked striped dress shirt. He always made an effort. Elton ironed if he felt it was necessary. He was that kind of a guy.
And Allison, whose idea this was, sat silent. She was blue pale, like the color of fat-free milk. An elegant blue pale, offset by a deep blue dress and black boots. I hadn't dressed for the occasion-I just had on a gray chunky knit sweater and jeans because it was cold. I felt grubby and small next to Allison.
"So," Elton said, "what do you guys want to do? Lunch?"
"Sure," Allison said, not turning from the window. "Whatever you want."
She was completely absolving herself from responsibility for this situation. She kept her eyes fixed on the rolling view, as if she was trying to drink it all in-all the convenience stores, train station parking lots, the backs of housing developments. It was as if she hadn't asked me to come here, hadn't said that Elton was her friend too. She was barely with us.
Elton put on his headphones. The only thing I had in my bag was that stupid vampire novel, so I opened it on my lap and stared into its pages, occasionally flipping one for show. My eyes burned. My heart struggled to get out of my chest. I kept reflexively balling my sweaty hands up. But I managed to keep my composure.
It was a cold, stern Tuesday in Boston, and we arrived with no better idea of what we meant to do than what we started with. We ended up at Quincy Market, a former major Boston landmark with a four-column Greek facade, now a mall with a long, fancy food court. We split up in search of food. Allison only wanted a chai tea. Elton went for a heavy curry. I had no appetite but didn't want to be seen as the bitter ex-girlfriend who refused to eat. I ended up with a clam roll because the seafood place was the only one without a line. As soon as we sat down, Ally excused herself, leaving Elton and me to our lunches.
He dug into his curry. I rearranged my clam roll a few times and tried a few bites but soon gave up the effort. Elton set down his fork. We looked at each other.
"So . . ." he said. "This is awkward."
"All part of the new Allison," I said.
"I think she's just kind of growing into herself," he said. "I'm just saying. New clothes, new friends . . ."
"What new friends?" he asked.
So, Elton didn't know anything about this society. Well, obviously, I had to tell Elton about this. Elton was perceptive. Elton would have insight. And Elton and I would have something to talk about. And we would save Allison together from the clutches of weirdos. And then we would . . .
One step at a time, I reminded myself.
"She's met some people," I said. "I've been kind of worried about it. They're giving her money. They say it's a scholarship, but . . ."
"Oh, I know she got a scholarship."
That deflated me a bit. But I pressed on.
"No," I said. "They funding her in all kinds of weird ways. Giving her money to buy things like clothes, purses, a new cell phone. That's where all of her new stuff has been coming from."
"They don't give out scholarships for that," he said, looking over with a slightly cocked eyebrow.
"That's my point," I said. "Doesn't this make you kind of worried?"
"Her aunt gave her some money for clothes," he said, spearing a curry-stained potato with his fork. "And she got a scholarship."
"It's not her aunt," I said again, much more firmly. "Don't you see? She told me it wasn't her aunt."
"She told me it was."
"Then she lied to one of us," I said, leaning back and pushing my tray just slightly in his direction, in an act of minor defiance.
Elton shook his head and chomped down a few quick bites of curry. Then he tapped the fork thoughtfully on the side of the black plastic plate.
"Don't you think you probably just misunderstood her?" he asked.
"That's a big misunderstanding," I said. "I'd have to be really stupid to get that confused."
"People make mistakes. But okay-so what if you're right? What if she did get a scholarship like that? You should be happy for her. I don't see why you're not. Why are you just trying to pick everything apart about it? Is it because you didn't get it?"
This was more than I could bear. It was so wrong.
"You think I don't know," I said, tears burning at my eyes. "But I know. I saw you."
He knew. All annoyance fell from his face and was replaced by a truly horrified expression.
"Jane," he said. "Look . . ."
I couldn't take it.
"Here," I said, pushing the clam roll at him. "Take it. Just take everything."
I went directly to the bathroom. It was time to get this out in the open. Allison was there, gazing into the mirror, touching her face with the tips of her fingers, making small circles on her cheeks, admiring herself with a silent awe.
"Jane," she said, not turning around. "I'm glad you're here. We should talk. . . ."
She leaned herself against the wall. She was getting a little thermometer-headed, pale right up to the hairline.
"I've made a terrible mistake," she said, "and I can't fix it. I thought it would all be okay if I was here with both of you because you two can fix anything. But I realized on the train that you can't fix this. You can't even talk to each other. This is pointless."
Slow tears began to dribble down her face, ruining her perfect makeup. I took a heavy breath, and it staggered in my chest.
"I know," I said. "I know all about it."
"You do?" she said. Her eyes grew bright.
"Yes. I saw you. I followed you."
"Followed me where?"
"Oh. Yeah. I should have figured that."
Her chin sank, and she seemed instantly bored with that topic. I wasn't quite expecting that reaction. I was expecting more of a dropping to the knees and begging for forgiveness. Instead, she went to the window and pushed it open with the flat of her hand. A sharp burst of cold air came in, and she breathed it deeply.
"I need your help," she said. "I need you to talk to her for me."
"Talk to who?" I said, wiping at my eyes with the back of my hand.
"The demon," she said matter-of-factly.
All of my personal trauma dissipated, and I stood very still. Things had just changed. They had gone in a very unexpected direction, one that I immediately knew we wouldn't be returning from for a long time.
All I could think to reply was, "The demon is a her?" Not, "What the hell are you talking about?" or, "What size rubber sack do you think they'll put you in?"
"She is right now."
"And she's . . . nearby?" I asked.
"She's at our school."
"Right," I said.
"I traded my soul, Jane," she said.
"I did. This is not a joke."
"I'm not laughing."
"I signed a contract," she went on. "I was desperate. But there's still time if you talk to her . . ."
I'd read somewhere that there is really no such thing as "crazy," that we all slide along a scale of acceptable behavior and thought. But when someone starts telling you that they've been talking to demons-this is a sign that they've gone down the slippery slope to the far end of the scale. You are supposed to take them by the hand and escort them back to their seat in reality or find someone who can.
"I know you don't believe me," she said. "I was afraid of this."
She pulled a small medicine bottle out of her purse.
"I took these from my mom's bathroom cabinet this morning," she said. "I don't want to . . . but I have to take them."
"What are they?" I asked.
This would have little impact on most people, but it meant a lot to me. Allison was allergic to penicillin. One pill could probably do her serious harm. More than one would kill her for sure.
This is one of those moments in life that I feel like certain "very special episodes" of television shows and well-meaning school counselors try to prepare you for, but nothing can get you ready for an actual emergency. These moments aren't backed up by musical sound tracks and careful camera angles. This was just me, in a Boston bathroom, my best friend holding a bottle full of a substance that was incredibly toxic to her.
"Allison," I said, "give those to me. Put them in my hand." I held out my hand as far as I could without moving from my spot and spooking her.
"She doesn't believe me," Allison said quietly to the void. "If Jane won't listen, no one will listen."
"Come on," I said again. "Give those to me."
She popped the top off the bottle.
"Don't come any closer," she said. "Go."
I had twelve thoughts at once. I would call 911. I would my dad. I would call Lanalee. Strangely, it flashed through my mind to call Owen since he was clearly waiting to hear from me. I would bound across the room and snatch the bottle and take them myself. The ceiling would fall down, knocking them from her hand.
"Go," she said. "I don't want you to watch."
"I'm not going."
"Okay." She dropped three of them into her palm. I could see she was shaking now. "I'll take them if you don't go. I shouldn't have told you. I shouldn't have gotten you involved. Just get out."
She held the pill an inch from her bottom lip and glared at me through watery eyes. I had no choice now. I bolted out the door and into the food court. I skidded back to our table, where Elton was scowling at my clam roll.
"Get up!" I said. "It's an emergency!"
"Allison's threatening to kill herself."
"Kill herself?" he repeated. He looked around the food court, obviously thinking what I would have thought-people don't threaten to kill themselves in places like these. They get cheese fries instead and opt to do it more slowly, on a thirty-year plan.
"She's got a bottle of penicillin," I said. "That's why she brought us here. She's threatening to take them."
He needed no further explanation. He was up in a shot.
We arrived in the bathroom to find that Allison was standing in front of the mirror, twisting up a lipstick.
"Al," I said, immediately quieting down. "It's okay. We're both here now. Tell me you didn't take them."
"I can't take penicillin," she said. "It would kill me."
Elton threw me a baffled look.
Was my mind playing tricks on me? Her eye makeup was a bit smudged and her eyes were red, but otherwise, she was totally calm. Maybe this is what suicidal people were like-switching moods on a dime.
"I want you to give me the bottle," I said. "Come on now. You know we care about you."
"You know what bottle."
Elton was glancing between us, deciding which story seemed more plausible.
"There is no bottle," she said. "If you don't believe me, here."
She held out the tiny Coach bag. Elton stepped forward and took it. He pulled out the cell phone, a small wallet, some keys, and an eyeliner. He turned it upside down and shook it and then carefully replaced everything.
"They could be anywhere," I said. "They could be in the trash."
"There are no pills," Allison said. "Jane, why are you saying this?"
Elton had made up his mind.
"I'm going," he said firmly. "I'll meet you out there, Al." She nodded, still looking adorably confused by the whole thing.
"What are you doing?" I said.
"Jane," she said, her face falling. "Just forget everything I said, okay? And what I did."
"What do you mean, forget it?"
"Don't get involved. I don't need you to. I don't want you to. I want you to go. Just go. I promise I won't hurt myself, but go."
So I did.
Elton was waiting just outside the door, holding my bag. "That was not okay," he said, passing it to me. He wouldn't even look at me. "If this was some kind of trick to get us back together or something, then it was sick and it didn't work. I think you should leave."
Both of them were telling me to go, and both seemed to mean it. So I put my bag over my shoulder and left.
Meet the Author
Maureen Johnson is the author of many young adult novels. Visit her at www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com or on twitter: @maureenjohnson
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