Read an Excerpt
"Come on Sabine, dish!" Penny-Love said as the
cheerleaders closed in on me around the table. "How
was your big weekend? Did Josh like your parents?
Did they like him? Did you and Josh sneak off to
your old bedroom?"
Everyone giggled, and I blushed. When Penny-
Love invited me to join her and a few other cheerleaders
at Pepper's Pizza after school, I'd thought
they'd discuss plans for the Booster Club Carnival. I
hadn't known my love life was on the menu. Leave
it to the Queen of Gossip to turn my twin sisters'
birthday into a wild party.
"No," I told her firmly. "Josh did not see my
"What exactly did he see?"
Penny-Love flipped back her curly, red hair as
she turned to the other girls. "Anyone who believes
that, raise your hand."
I looked around for support, but Jill, Catelyn,
and Kaitlyn were hands-down behind Penny-Love.
They sipped sodas and leaned closer, obviously not
wanting to miss a juicy word. For a moment, I felt
panicked-like a cornered rabbit surrounded by
hunters. I glanced at the pizza counter, hoping our
orders would arrive and I would be saved from answering.
But then I realized something that calmed
me. This was exactly what I'd wanted-to be accepted,
even admired, by popular friends. Since
starting a new high school, I'd worked hard to fit in
like I was normal. Talking about my love life was a
small price to pay.
"It was just a birthday party for my sisters," I
said with a shrug. "It was held at an amusement
park, then afterwards a few of us went back to the
house to watch my sisters open their presents. Josh
was nice enough to go with me."
"Did he get to unwrap anything?" Penny-Love
asked with a sly wink.
"No!" I swatted her on the arm. "You are sooo
"It's a gift," she teased.
Everyone giggled, and I managed to smile
even though the word "gift" made me cringe. If
my friends knew about my gift of psychic visions,
they'd think I was a freak. After what happened at
my last school, I was more careful now.
So I told them all the good stuff about Josh;
how he arrived early because he wanted to stop
somewhere romantic on the way and how he gave
me a chocolate kiss, then when it melted in my
mouth, his lips melted on my lips. Everyone oohed
and wanted details, but I kept it PG 13, not that
there were any R moments. Josh wasn't that kind
of guy. In fact, he had such a high code of ethics, I
found myself watching what I said around him.
There were things he didn't need to know.
The pizzas arrived and I reached for a slice
smothered in mushrooms and pepperoni. Steamy
cheese and tomato smells wafted around us as we
gave up talking for eating. But after a few minutes,
I noticed that Jill was staring at a notebook and
hardly touching her pizza.
Jill lifted her head and tapped her fork against
the table. "Everyone, listen up." she said in her
most serious squad captain tone. "You know why I
called this emergency meeting."
I raised my brows. No, I didn't know. Penny-
Love hadn't mentioned any emergency. Did she
have an ulterior motive for inviting me? I shot her
a suspicious look-which she ignored.
"The carnival is in two days and we have major
problems. Here's my to-do list." Jill pushed her
plate aside and flipped open the notebook. She was
always making lists and was respected for being a
take-charge leader who could order people around
without coming off bitchy. "We still need makeup
for the face-painting booth, a teacher volunteer for
the 'Dunk the Teacher' booth, and we have to fill
three empty booths. Any ideas?"
"I vote we dunk my algebra teacher," Kaitlyn
joked. She had a quirky sense of humor, the opposite
of her studious best friend Catelyn.
"I'd rather dunk Mr. Blankenship," Penny-Love
said. "His awful ties and polyester suits are a crime;
he deserves to get dunked."
"Instead of a teacher, how about Principal Cowboy?"
Catelyn suggested. "He's got a good sense of
humor and might do it."
I wasn't a cheerleader-more of a mascot, as
Penny-Love teased-so I didn't join in. I listened
without saying anything and found myself drifting
above it all, watching the scene. Only I hardly recognized
myself. The girl who was me looked happy,
as if she fit in this cozy group of great hair, greater
bodies, and popularity-plus. To my friends, my life
probably seemed perfect. I earned good grades, I
was on the school newspaper, and I had a sizzling
hot boyfriend. Penny-Love was always complaining
about her rowdy brothers and strict parents, and
thought I had it easy living with my grandmother.
She was both right and wrong. Living with
Nona was great, but it hadn't been my idea. After a
scandal at my old school because I'd predicted the
death of a star athlete, my mother kicked me out.
For months we hadn't spoken. She hadn't even
wanted me to attend my own sisters' party, but I'd
gone anyway, and instead of a disaster, things went
surprisingly well. Mom was impressed with Josh
and seemed almost comfortable with me.
"So how about it, Sabine?" Jill was asking.
I looked up with a start and found everyone
staring at me like I had pizza sauce on my nose. I
wiped my hand across my face.
"Will you talk to Manny for us?" Jill said.
"Uh . . . sure." I paused. "About what?"
"The fortune-telling booth. Didn't you hear
anything I just said?" When I shrugged sheepishly,
Jill explained. "Penny-Love says you're really tight
with Manny DeVries, and he amazes everyone with
his Mystic Manny school newspaper column, so
he'd make a fantastic fortune-teller at our carnival.
Think he'd do it?"
I glanced over at Penny-Love sharply. Had she
set me up? But I kept my unease to myself and
shrugged like it wasn't a big deal. "There's no predicting
what Manny will do."
"Will you ask him?" Jill persisted with a smile
that was hard to refuse.
"Come on, Sabine," Penny-Love pleaded. "Ask
him for us."
"Sure. I'll talk to him at school tomorrow, but
"Great!" Everyone smiled at me, and I felt lucky
to be part of this fun group. I didn't want to disappoint
them, and hoped Manny would say yes. He
was a complex mix of ego, honesty, and ambition.
He thrived on being unconventional and was respected
for his fearless attitude. He'd proven himself
a trusted friend, and was one of only two people at
school who knew I was psychic.
More plans for booths were made, while pizza
slices disappeared and drinks were refilled. Talk
shifted to Penny-Love (as usual) and she told everyone
about how my grandmother planned to hire
her as a "Love" assistant. Nona ran a computer dating
service called Soul Mate Matches, but a serious
health condition had recently caused her to need an
assistant. I worried about my grandmother and had
recently bought a cell phone so she could contact
me if she was in trouble.
So when my phone rang, I dropped my pizza.
It was Nona-and she sounded frantic.
"Hurry home!" she cried. "It's the witch ball!"