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Kady Cross

Regardless, I was working out more, turning the soft parts of my body into something hard and strong.

“The police officer that was at class last night asked me to help her with a self-defense class for girls.”

Mom look surprised at this. “Really? Why would she do that?”

I shrugged. “She thinks I’m good. And she knew Magda.”

There was that pinched look again. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Hadley.”

“I do.” And it wasn’t until that moment when she opposed it that I realized I had already made up my mind about it. “I’m good at it, Mom. And if I can help even one girl escape what happened to Magda, it will be worth it.”

She sighed. “I suppose if I say no you’ll only do it anyway.”

“Why are you making it sound like I want to go out and do something reckless? Or something that might get me hurt or in trouble? Jesus, Mom.” I shook my head. “I just want to do something good.”

She looked pained, like I was doing this deliberately to hurt her. I had no idea why she was so opposed to this. I had no idea what was going through her head. It was almost like she blamed Magda for my emotional state. It didn’t make sense, but I was sure it was true.

“Fine. Help at the class. If your grades start to suffer, you will quit.”

I nodded. “Sure.” But I only made the promise so she’d stop talking about it.

Mom wasn’t done. “Your father isn’t going to like this.”

It was so tempting to say that I didn’t care if Dad liked it or not. I wanted to ask why she was so worried about his opinion anyway. It wasn’t like he was ever around. He was always working or... Whatever.

“I’ll tell him,” I said. “He’ll be okay with it when I tell him that I think it would be good for me—help me work out the guilt I feel for Magda being raped.”

My mother winced. The R word always made her intensely uncomfortable. “It wasn’t your fault. You know how much I liked Magda, but she ought to have known better than to be drinking at a party with that many boys around.”

My fingers tightened around my fork. Her words—so stupid and careless—made me remember what I’d said to Magda that day about being punished for making a mistake. She hadn’t done anything wrong. “No, those boys ought to have known better than to drug and rape a girl.”


“Don’t you say it. Don’t you dare say it.” I didn’t understand how she could think it, let alone believe it. I knew, however, that my mother wasn’t the only woman to think that Magda had asked for what happened to her. Hell, even I had thought it once or twice. God, I wish I could take it back, because that guilt was a weight I’d carry the rest of my life. “Even if I walked into school stark naked with a box of condoms and a bottle of lube, I would not be asking to be raped.”

“Oh, Hadley!” She made a face. “Don’t be so crude.”

“What if it had been me, Mom? Would you blame me? Would you say those things about me?”

“Of course not!” She looked offended that I’d even suggest it. God, she really didn’t have a clue. “I hope I raised you well enough that you wouldn’t get yourself into such a situation.”

I’d had enough. There was a very real possibility that I was going to stab my mother with my fork if I didn’t leave the house at that moment. I pushed back my chair—it screeched against the floor—and practically jumped to my feet.

“I have to go. I’ll be late for school.” I grabbed my bag and stomped from the kitchen, throwing open the door so hard that it banged against the wall.

“Hey!” my mother yelled. “There’s no need for that!”

I ignored her and kept walking. I was halfway to school before I realized that I still had the fork in my hand.

CHAPTER 4 (#u76b1cd3b-6dee-58c7-b48c-e3150851238a)

I ran into Zoe at lunch that day. Actually, I was outside sitting on the grass, letting the sun beat down on me in the hope that it might thaw the coldness inside, when she plopped down beside me.

“So,” she began, “are you going to the party Saturday night?”

I turned my head toward her, looking at her through the dark lenses of my sunglasses. “What party?”

“Jason Bentley is having a party Saturday night.”

I laughed—it was not a happy sound. “No.”

“He asked me to tell you about it.”

I peered at her over the top of my sunglasses. She was shitting me, right? “Seriously? Why would he do that?” Was he trying to mess with me?

She pulled a pair of pink cat-eye sunglasses from her bag and put them on. “He didn’t say. He just asked me to tell my ‘pretty blonde friend’ about the party.”

“And you thought he meant me?”

Zoe smiled. “He saw us talking in class.”

He must have asked her to do this before he came after me yesterday. “I’m not sure why he would think I’d want to go. Zoe, you know he’s one of the guys who raped Magda.”

She glanced away. “He was never charged.”

Was I the only person who had a grip on reality around there? “That doesn’t mean he didn’t do it.”

Her shoulders slumped. “I know. I’m sorry, Hadley. I’ve known Jason for years. I just don’t want to believe he could do such a thing.”

And I never believed Magda would kill herself. I never thought my father would turn out to be an asshole. “Yeah, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t do it, either.”

“So what, you’re just going to avoid all social gatherings your last year of high school?”

“No. Just the ones Bentley and his friends are involved with.”

“They’re going to be at all of them. They’re the most popular guys in school.”

“I know. That’s how they managed to get away with it. They’re rich and popular. They’re also rapists. If you go to that party, don’t let Drew Carson get you a drink.”

“I don’t let anyone get me a drink.”

So maybe she wasn’t as gullible as I thought.

Zoe pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. “Has it occurred to you that maybe if you go to the party, people will see you and remember what happened to Magda? Maybe another girl will think twice before going off with one of them.”

I stared at her. I didn’t know why it was so important to her that I go to this damn party, but she had a point. “I’ll think about it.”

She smiled. “I can pick you up.”