A cold chill curled its way through the August night. A full moon, fat and orange, sat above the colonial houses. Empty windows looked out onto the street that snaked away from town towards the dark woods that populated the west side of the small town. Beyond the tall maples and hemlocks rested a lake, whose waters remained placid and still. In its center a lonely island filled with darkness sat docile, like an alligator resting just below the surface. The street was unusual, even for Shadyside, which embraced unusual with a sort of town pride. Its distance from the rest of town isolated its homes in darkness. The homes here boasted grandeur two hundred years ago, but disrepair and disrespect from the local teens led to broken windows, cracked wood, lost shutters, and overgrown yards. The few homes that were populated were quiet this evening, shutters drawn, trees standing to attention. Amid the houses was a patch of land, iron weaving its way around the uneven ground. The dark soil was slick from a recent rain, and headstones pushed out of the ground like teeth. The further you walked the graveyard path, the more the names faded, and the forgotten bodies below made their final home Fear Street.
Suki Thomas shivered as the cool wind found her bare arms, and she pressed closer to Gary. His hand squeezed her arm as they tread softly through the graveyard. The house right beside it remained dark, and the realtor sign that showed a smiling picture of her mom had been slapped over with a sign that read SOLD. Some poor sucker was moving into Fear Street’s second spookiest haunt, and she’d lose another decent make out spot. A ring of keys jingled in her pocket, stolen from her mom’s office, in case things went well with Gary.
Gary, to his credit, hadn’t protested one minute when she’d suggested they ditch the dinner and a movie date and find something more exciting to do. Three different boys had taken her to the same movie this summer, and if she had to watch teens get sliced in half by the Beach Party Killer one more time, she’d yack all over her popcorn. Besides, if they wanted thrills and chills, they didn’t have to go all the way to Waynesbridge. And the best part of getting scared was cuddling up with whichever boy she had on her arm tonight. It was a lot less private in a movie theater.
“I told you this place was creepy.” Suki gave another little shiver, in case he hadn’t gotten the point. She thought she was obvious enough in her crushed velvet tank dress and ripped leggings. Last year she bleached her hair and cut it short, which had instantly transformed her into the most interesting girl at school.
Gary nodded as he stared wide eyed at the graves. A bare oak tree twisted limbs over the grey stones, and a bird cawed at them from its branches. He jumped a little, and Suki frowned. Gary was fine, wearing his loose polos and rolled up jeans, his handsome face otherwise bland. He’d gone out with Della until the summer, and Suki had finally made it down her list of interesting boys left at Shadyside until the school year started. Suki wanted to like him, but if he was going to jump at every little noise, this was going to be a long night.
She leaned closer to him and whispered in his ear, “You know what they say about Fear Street.”
She was rewarded with a shiver of his own. He turned to her, clearly trying to keep fear out of his face. “Y-yeah. The bodies and stuff they find.”
“There’s supposed to be some Fears around here.” She gave a laugh and unlatched herself, racing ahead in the cemetery. “They buried those girls they found in the woods out here.”
“That--that’s not true.” He cleared his throat and tried again in a baritone. “The Fear family's all buried up at the mansion.”
“Are you sure?” She walked faster and was thrilled when he picked up the pace to catch her. “Mom says we can’t know. The land’s changed so much since the manor burned down. And who knows what’s out in the woods!”
His eyes turned to the trees, omnipresent in this part of town. Rumors of bodies buried in the woods weren’t new. He was jogging to keep up with her now. The graveyard crested over a hill, and through the thin line of trees a road sat on the other side. More houses were built up, newer, their arched windows staring like eyes into the darkness. Suki threw her head back and laughed as she ran past the rows of graves. An angel hung its head low as she passed, and crosses slumped into the wet dirt. Gary shouted something, and the wind slapped his words away. Her combat boots dug into the soil and then, she must’ve stepped wrong or missed a step or hit a rock, because her ankle twisted and she was falling forward. Her hands went out to catch herself, and she scraped them against the stone of a grave. She slammed into the dirt on her butt. Gary ran up and grimaced at the smear of blood on her hands. He held her elbows as she stood. She looked up at him, expecting a kiss for her brush with death, but he was staring at the headstone.
Suki turned, and her whole body went cold. Her palms had left a streak of rust colored blood across the face of it. On the head of the tombstone was an ugly face that nearly resembled a lion, its eyes down at the grave below. Etched into the stone was a name and two dates. SARAH FEAR.
The wind seemed to drop out, and the trees stilled. Nothing moved, no birds screeched, no cars went past. But they heard something, like a distant song. A voice called from far away, timid and almost unheard. A melody filled both of their heads, and they stood frozen, arms latched to each other, as though moving would break the spell.
A car rolled past on the outside road, blasting Brandy out of its speakers. They both jumped and hugged each other. Suki laughed again, this time a little more frantic, and squeezed her arm tight around Gary. She smiled at him.
“Do you wanna get out of here?” she asked.
He looked visibly relieved. “Absolutely.”
They raced back to the car and huddled up close. This time Suki didn’t wait for Gary to kiss her, and the two remained, unnoticed by the dim streetlights that flickered in the growing darkness. Silence stretched across the graveyard, and a fog snaked through from the lake. The wind carried on its back a strange melody, and then it was lost to the night.
“Wow,” Corky said as she stared at the rat in her sister’s hands. “You are truly evil.”
Bobbi only grinned at her sister. No one was blamed for assuming the two girls were twins. Corky kept her long blond hair knotted up in a messy bun, still in her nightshirt, her bright green eyes eyeing the squirming, squiggling rat her older sister held gently in her grip. Bobbi had changed into a faded GAP t-shirt, but she hadn’t untangled her hair yet, and it fell over her shoulders in uneven waves. The rat in her hands wriggled its little brown arms as it let out urgent squeaks, but Bobbi’s grip wasn’t tight enough to cause it pain. It explained to Corky the scratching noises she heard at night. The window in her bedroom faced the cemetery, and the effect had been noticeably unsettling.
Bobbi only creaked open the door to their younger brother’s room and silently slid inside. Corky eyed her through the open door. She crept across the floor and let the rat go on Sean’s bedspread, immediately racing back out. The two closed the door as gently as they could and ran downstairs, where Mr. and Mrs. Corcoran were enjoying breakfast.
“What’s gotten into you two?” Mrs. Corcoran asked as she saw her daughters out of breath.
“Oh, you know.” Bobbi waved a hand and plopped down on the table, sliding a plate of bacon closer. “It’s the big day.”
“Ah,” Mr. Corcoran said. “Tryouts.”
Their mom nodded. “Do you think you’ll survive Shadyside’s cheerleading team?”
“Please,” Bobbi said. “After our last team?”
“Missouri nearly went national.” Corky gave a sigh and scraped some eggs onto a plate. “Shadyside’s barely all-state.”
“At least you're confident,” their dad muttered.
Above them, a scream caused both parents to rise out of their seats. Bobbi burst out laughing as footsteps thundered down the stairs, and their thirteen year old brother Sean ran into the kitchen. Immediately Mr. Corcoran turned to his two daughters, who both tried to hide their faces under his stare. Mrs. Corcoran scooped up her son.
“She put a rat in my bed!” Sean shouted, pointing an accusing finger at Bobbi. “I know it was you!”
Bobbi didn’t even bother protesting. She bowled over on the table. “How far did it get?”
“It touched my face!”
“Bobbi,” her mother said in a stern voice, and then an exasperated sigh escaped her lips. “Where did you even get a rat?”
“They have pet stores in Shadyside, mom.” Corky hid her smile behind her hand. “It’s harmless.”
“I can’t believe I have to make a house rule about rats.” She pointed a finger upstairs. “Bobbi Corcoran, you go find that rat and return it to the store. Sean, go change. Corky--”
“I didn’t even do anything!” Corky whined.
“You encourage your sister enough,” their dad said. “And you should be dressed too.”
Corky rolled her eyes and stood, dragging her sister behind her. Bobbi was still in fits, but she managed to stand upright and attempt to look scolded. They scurried back upstairs as their brother complained loudly.
Corky sighed as she pulled open her closet and stared at her clothes inside. Everything felt so last season, but the move had made things crazy. In Missouri it wasn’t hard to be the coolest or the best, and in the few weeks they’d been at Shadyside, the competition had escalated. The pleated skirts and skinny jumpers had been high fashion in their hometown, but here they were standard. Shadyside’s cheerleading team hadn’t made it to all-state yet, but that didn’t mean they were pushovers. An uncertain dread had knotted itself into her stomach. Her eyes drew to the graveyard just outside.
It didn’t take long for them to learn about Fear Street’s reputation. One mention of their home had locals shaking in their boots. Corky didn’t believe it, not really, but it was creepy seeing the graves next door, and the trees stretching out behind them. Quickly she reached over and pulled her curtain, throwing on an outfit, and headed out. Bobbi was in the hall, her arms outstretched as she spoke to an annoyed Sean.
“Sorry, little brother,” she said. “He’s gone.”
“There’s just a rat running around our house?” Corky said. “Great.”
“Maybe it’ll go back to Bobbi’s room,” Sean said. “It’ll be happier there.”
“I don’t know. It’s your face it was kissing.”
He stuck his tongue out at her, and Corky shoved her sister, and the two headed out to school.
Shadyside High was nestled in the center of town right above Shadyside Park. Towers like turrets were built up on the red brick building with a slate colored roof sloping down to arched windows. Like everything in town, it felt old fashioned, especially so close to the newer shopping districts and the manicured homes of North Hills. Students nested on the steps leading up to the wooden doors, their cliques already set from years of living in the same town. Corky and Bobbi stood uncertainly at the foot of the incline.
“After today we’ll have our uniforms,” Bobbi said. She hitched her backpack over her shoulder and started confidently up the steps.
Corky trekked a step behind. School was easier in a cheerleader uniform. It didn’t matter if you didn’t look like you stepped out of a fashion magazine because your outfit was set, and all the kids looked up to you. You had an in with every basketball and football player and your pick of guys. Right now they were new kids, out of place, unknowns. A uniform would mean they belong.
A kid skidded past them on a skateboard to the jeers of his friends. Bobbi passed an appraising look over the gaggle of guys and found them wanting. Two girls ducked their heads together and laughed. A few kids in torn black jeans and spiked hair took up a spot on the front step, making faces at the crowd. The students of Shadyside High stepped around Bobbi and Corky in practiced rhythms. They were out of step.
At the top of the stairs stood a girl with dark hair and dark eyes, her full lips pulled back in a grin. She waved at the sisters and broke away from her tribe to greet them.
“Bobbi, Corky,” Jennifer said, flinging her dark hair over her shoulder. “We’re really excited to see what you got.”
Bobbi lifted up her chin. She’d approached the school about tryouts even though they’d taken place last spring, and Jennifer as head cheerleader had offered them a chance. Even out of uniform she wore a crimson Shadyside High Tigers sweater over a jean skirt and leggings. Behind her, one of her friends leaned close to a boy and whispered something in his ear.
“We’re excited to show you,” Bobbi said.
“That’s what I like to hear.” She flashed her grin at Corky as well. “Coach Green thinks you guys could bring us to state, but it’s the girls you’ll have to convince.”
“She lets you make the decisions?” Corky asked.
Jennifer bobbed her head in a nod. “She trusts our instincts. Judging by what you guys have told us already, you don’t have a thing to worry about.”
“Hey, Jen!” a voice called from the stairs, and a handful of boys were climbing up. They had the long, lanky frames of basketball players, and at least two of them wore workout tanks despite the early chill in the air. The one who spoke up was handsome, his blond hair brushed back. “Are these your new recruits from Fear Street?”
Jennifer turned away from them and rolled her eyes at the girls. “Don’t listen to Daniel.”
“Kimmy won’t shut up about them,” he continued, nodding towards the brunette with an angry frown standing off to the side. “You don’t look spooky enough to live there.”
Bobbi and Corky glanced at each other before Bobbi said, “We’re the house next to the graveyard.”
Eyes widened all around them, even from Jennifer. The boys nudged each other.
“Every house on Fear Street is haunted,” Daniel said, grinning at the two of them. “The whole land is cursed.”
“Well,” she said, “you did name it Fear Street.”
“After Simon Fear,” Jennifer said. “He had a big mansion up there that burned to the ground like two hundred years ago.”
“They did like magic and stuff there,” one of the basketball players said. “People disappear in the woods all the time.”
“People don’t disappear.” Jennifer put her hands on her hips. “If these boys bother you, let me know. Everything’s a ghost story around here.”
“Lighten up, Jen.” He reached an arm around her waist, but she stepped away. “I’m sure these girls aren’t ghosts. Maybe they’re murderers.”
“Maybe,” Bobbi said, giving him a big smile. “Wouldn’t it be fun to find out?”
Jennifer patted his shoulder and turned back to her friends. “I think you two are going to fit right in around here.”
The first bell rang for classes to start, and Bobbi and Corky smiled at each other before heading inside.
Cory Brooks weaved through the lunchroom chaos, head up as he looked for his friends. The principal was saying something up on the stage, but no one listened as cliques shouted over each other and girls squealed as their boyfriends scooped them up. The gymnastics team always took up the tables near the front of the cafeteria, but today they were mysteriously absent. He could only guess why. As he hopped through the hyperactive crowd, he nearly ran tray first into Lisa Blume.
Her arms crossed as she glared at him. Her dark curls bounced over her shoulders in angry way, always animated by her personality. An unkind person would call Lisa ‘severe’, but Cory had known her all his life. They had the sort of friendship built up over being next door neighbors, sneaking off during family barbeques, afternoons walking the Division Street Mall, and knowing all of each other’s most embarrassing secrets.
“Hey--” he started to say, but she cut him off.
“You ditched me last night.”
He racked his brain. First was practice, then they went to Lefty’s, and then he was supposed to go see a movie with her but David had dragged him out instead. He gazed at her apologetically.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I completely forgot.”
“I noticed.” She rolled her eyes and let out a breath. “Are you going to make it up to me?”
“Sure. We’re gonna see that video game movie this weekend.”
She huffed and eyed his tray. “Sounds lame. Is that what you’re eating?”
He glanced down at the spaghetti that’d been slapped onto his tray with three sad looking meatballs slathered in red sauce. An apple rested beside a milk carton that was still defrosting. “I think so. Unless you know of a secret second cafeteria with good food.”
She smiled at that, which quickly disappeared as David Metcalfe came up behind him, slapping him on the back.
“Hey, man!” he said and passed a grin to Lisa. “How would you like twenty bucks?”
“Oh God,” Lisa muttered and turned away.
He ignored her completely. “I told Deena Martin you could do a handstand while balancing your lunch tray on your head, and she didn’t believe me.”
Cory thought about it. “I probably could.”
“Nice. Her friend Jade said she’d give you the twenty out of her wallet if you could hold it for a full minute. I think I can get Deena to go on a date with me.”
“Your usual chest pounding not working?” Lisa asked.
He smiled at her. “Hey, Lisa, and how was your Friday night?”
She turned an earnest face to Cory. “Can you come over tonight anyway? I need some help with a project.”
“You need my car?” Cory asked.
She grinned. “It doesn’t hurt that you come with it.”
“Sure,” he said. “I can come over around seven.”
“Come on, lover boy,” David said and yanked him by his sleeve. Cory gave Lisa a wave as she rolled her eyes one more time and stomped away.
Deena and Jade sat on the tables on the backside of the cafeteria. Large windows looked out into the athletics fields behind the school, where the girls’ softball team was jogging, and a few boys hung around the double doors that led to the track. The tables were less crowded on this side, and Shadyside’s local goths sat on the stairs leading back to the classrooms, clearly annoyed their feeding space was taken up by the jocks today. Jade was lapping up the attention the rest of the gymnastics team was giving her, flipping her shiny auburn hair over her shoulders. Deena looked a little bored. She perked up as Cory was dragged to the table, nudging her friend.
“I told you I could get the boys to perform tricks for us,” Jade said, kicking her legs up. Her shorts probably weren’t dress code appropriate, not that any of the boys would report her.
“What do you think, Cory?” Deena asked. “Do you want to eat your lunch or wear it?”
“Ha ha.” David jumped up on the table between them, and Deena glanced away. “My boy is the best on the team.”
“Your team sucks.” Jade made an L with her fingers. “You barely made it past regionals last year.”
“Alright.” Cory held out a hand, balancing the tray on his left. “Let me settle this.”
He glanced back to make sure no teachers could see him, and he set his stance even. Counting down in his head, he flipped forward, catching himself on the floor with his free hand. He felt the tray tip, the milk sloshing forward, and then he righted it. There was a gasp from the girls, and he grinned at them as he slowly brought the tray up to rest on his head. His right arm shook slightly as his weight balanced on it. David cheered from somewhere to his left, along with a few others who clapped and laughed. He grinned at them and slowly adjusted to allow the tray to settle on his head.
And stopped. He faced the huge windows that looked out onto the track, sending light into his eyes, and amid the laughing crowd and people pointing he saw something white moving across the windows. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the brightness and see the human shape floating slowly, the crowd passing in front of her so she seemed to fade in and out. White blond hair flowed behind her, her white dress fading into her pale skin, her face hard to see. Her face turned to him, and pale blue eyes locked onto him. A cold chill poured down his spin. She was indistinct, fading into the sunlight, her hair falling over her face, and he breathed in to call out to her, when David stepped in front of him, hiding her from view. Cory felt his weight shifting too far forward, and his legs bowled over his head, slamming him onto the ground, his tray knocking into him. Spaghetti smeared against his face, and the milk burst beneath him. Immediately everyone burst into laughter, including David, and he groaned as he sat up.
“Sorry, David.” Jade waved her twenty at him. “Not even thirty seconds.”
David offered him a hand, and Cory came to his feet. He wiped the food from his face. Deena offered him her napkin, hiding her smile behind her hand. He gave them all a smile to show he was alright, but his eyes scanned the crowd. He was sure he’d seen her, standing right there, but when he looked, the mystery girl was gone.
Jennifer Daly sighed as she walked into the gym. The clock had just hit three-twenty, but the cheerleaders had already taken over the gym. TLC blasted out of the speakers as a handful of the girls danced together, laughing at the basketball players that stuck around to watch. Coach Green was in her office, visible through the small window beside the door that led to the locker rooms. The squad already had their uniforms, and crimson skirts waved like victory flags across the gym floor. The bleachers had been pulled down, and exactly two non-uniformed civilians sat there, heads ducked close together, whispering. Bobbi and Corky Corcoran. The only reason they were getting a tryout at all was the fact that they’d competed for nationals last year and appeared on ESPN. They’d marched up to Coach Green’s office on the first day of the new semester and asked about the team. Jennifer had been annoyed, but meeting the pair proved it was less brash arrogance than wanting something familiar. It was Kimmy, now pacing back and forth across the gym from them, who had the problem.
Kimmy saw Jennifer and waved her over. Her best friend and right hand looked like a bumblebee as she buzzed back and forth, her crimped hair frayed around her soft face. Kimmy had the most to prove beside Julia Roberts-esque Jennifer and the squad of lean, athletic girls. Jennifer was only glad the two of them were friends, or Kimmy might’ve come for her position by now.
“I can’t believe it,” Kimmy said before Jennifer had even said hi. “‘Special tryouts’. As if.”
“They’re good,” Jennifer said. She eyed the girls across the gym. Heather R. and Ronnie had gone up to say hi, and the four were talking politely. Strained smiles stretched across Heather and Ronnie’s faces. “They compete at levels we haven’t even dreamed of yet.”
Kimmy crossed her arms. “We could go all-state without them.”
“Maybe.” Their team was good this year, and they’d spent the summer working hard at cheer camp. The new routines were bound to kill. “Maybe with them we could go national.”
Kimmy rolled her eyes and huffed as Coach Green left her office. The music cut out, to the groans of Debra, Megan, and the Heather L. The basketball players waved goodbye as they jogged off, and Jennifer and Kimmy stepped forward. Coach Green could’ve been on the cover of Coach Magazine if they had one, her Shadyside Tigers t-shirt and tennis shorts crisp and clean. Her frizzy brown hair combined with a naturally angry expression meant she was best described as ‘plain’, and only out of earshot.
“This is totally unfair,” Debra muttered as the other girls jogged up. “Didn’t we have tryouts last spring?”
“These girls are new here,” Coach Green said, giving an eye to each and every one of them. They all stood a little straighter. “They were champions back in their home state, and if they prove they’re as good as they say, we won’t have any problems. Jennifer, you have something to say?”
Jennifer looked at her team. They were all girls she knew, except maybe Ronnie, who was their only freshman, and it was Kimmy’s face she settled on.
“We all earned our spot on the team,” she decided on. “Let’s give them a shot.”
Some eye rolls, and Kimmy looked away from her, but Coach green slapped her clipboard and shouted out, “Corcorans! You’re up!”
The two girls stood up as the cheerleaders backed off the floor. They murmured between themselves for an extra moment before taking spots two steps from each other. They looked expectantly at Jennifer, who gave them a nod.
Together, both girls clapped their hands together and stomped their feet. Once they had their rhythm, they let out a chant:
“First and ten
Do it again!
First and ten
Do it again!
And immediately they flew forward into twin cartwheels that ended with them springboarding forward into a toe touch. As they landed, they didn’t wait another second to repeat their clap and chant Still in unison, they jumped high into the air, and then their legs outstretched, landing them in perfect splits. Another brief clap, and they both shout “Go Tigers!” as Corky got to her feet. Bobbi barely went from standing to jumping again, and this time she landed on her sister’s back. From the pony mount, Bobbi clapped her hands again, and Corky steadily raised up her shoulders. There was some strain in her face as she and her sister came up to standing position, Bobbi with her arms in V formation, Corky balancing her perfectly. And again, at once, Bobbi sprung forward, causing the cheerleaders in the stands to gasp, as she twisted in midair, giving a single spin before landing on her feet. Once more the two cartwheeled forward and landed in a front lunge, arms in a high V, with a shout of “Go Tigers!”
Jennifer glanced to the girls on her left who stared, wide eyed at the routine. Coach Green was grinning. The sisters remained, breathing heavily, their smiles bright and cheerful. Even Kimmy stared, a hand over her mouth as if she were studying them, but she could tell she was impressed.
“Alright!” Jennifer stepped forward first, and the sisters relaxed. “That was awesome!”
“It was,” Kimmy muttered, “something.”
“It was great,” Coach Green said firmly. “We have our work cut out for us, keeping up with you.”
“We made the team?” Corky asked. She rolled her shoulders back as she stretched, glancing at her sister. It was never easy being the bottom of the pyramid.
“As far as I’m concerned.” Jennifer turned to her squad. “Weren’t they great?”
Most of the girls peeled away from the wall to congratulate the pair, but Kimmy and Debra remained where they were.
“There’s some forms you need to sign,” Coach Green was saying. “We’ve got an away game next week, and we should have some uniforms that’ll fit you. We’ll do some extra practices to get you caught up on the routines.”
“They’ll be easy.” Jennifer clapped a hand on Bobbi’s back. “That standing spring was great.”
“Corky does the work there.” Bobbi smiled at her sister. “She’s got the tough job.”
“You gained a little weight since the last time we did it.” Corky rubbed her shoulder.
“All the more reason to practice.” Jennifer waved Kimmy over, who reluctantly stamped towards them. “We can do a practice this Saturday, right? Teach them the routines and stuff.”
“The other girls already know it,” Kimmy said, leveling a look at the sisters. “It’s not fair if they have to give up their weekend.”
“I don’t mind,” Ronnie piped in. “We’ll go to Lefty’s after.”
Megan stood beside her. “I don’t mind either. Maybe we can work in some of the new stuff too.”
“We’re fast learners,” Bobbi said.
“Kimmy,” Coach Green said, “can you grab them a pair of spare uniforms?”
Kimmy’s glare deepened as she looked a Bobbi, and she grit her teeth together. Jennifer was sure she was going to snap something at the coach, but she only turned on her heels and marched away, Debra chasing after her.
“This’ll be great.” Jennifer gave a big smile to the sisters. “We’re so happy to have you.”
They gave each other a look, but Coach Green was already pulling them into her office. They were on the team now. And if someone had a problem with that, Jennifer would have to handle it. She rubbed her forehead and followed after.
“Can you believe that?” Kimmy growled as she stamped through the locker room. Debra trailed behind her, nervously tugging on her curls. “They get on the team like nothing. We spent a whole week debating if we should let Ronnie on because she was only a freshman.”
“The spring was pretty cool,” Debra muttered.
Kimmy glared at her. Her hand drew to the silver pendant around her neck, a megaphone necklace her parents gave her when she’d made the team. Mom was so proud that chubby little Kimmy kept up with her slender BFF, and dad went on and on about how cheerleading would be so good for her, help her make friends, lose some of that baby weight. She and Jen had tried out together with a routine they’d practiced for six straight weeks. Kimmy’d been so sure they’d tell her no that she’d cried when Coach Green said yes.
“They’re just so casual about it.” She found the storage locker for the cheerleaders and kicked it open. “‘Yes, we’re blond and perfect and also we’ve been on ESPN’ like it’s such a nothing.”
“Bet you anything Bobbi goes for Jennifer’s position.” Debra sighed and pushed back her short hair. “I bet by the end of the year she turns everyone against her.”
“Jen’s a good captain,” Kimmy said.
“And she likes to please people. We’ll see how she handles the new girls Saturday.”
“Ugh, Saturday.” Pom poms, megaphones, dazzlers, the head of their mascot crammed in there. No uniforms. “I was going to see a movie with Chip.”
“He’ll get mad?” Debra asked.
“I wish.” If Chip showed any real kind of emotion to her, she’d be surprised. Most of their dates consisted of sitting in his car overlooking the river and not seeing much at all. “Where are these uniforms?”
She stepped back as Debra had a look, crossing her arms over her chest in a huff. If she’d come to Coach Green after the semester started begging for an audition, there was no way she’d say yes. Bobbi and Corky just had to flash those winning smiles, and now they were their best shot at nationals.
A sound clattered in the emptiness of the locker room, startling Kimmy. There wasn’t much reason for anyone to be in here, at least not this early in the semester, and she hadn’t seen anyone go in during the routine. She glanced down the hall of lockers, which led to the showers. She frowned. Glancing at Debra, she stepped down the hall, poking her head around to see if anyone was there. If those basketball bros thought they could get a glimpse of the cheerleaders undressing, they were going to be disappointed.
The showerheads stood in rows along the yellow stained tile, small booths offering the smallest amount of privacy to anyone who’d bother using them. Most of the girls headed home to shower if they needed it, and even the toughest girls avoided them. A few of the pipes had rusted red at the neck, or the handles were permanently stuck. The one closest to the door dripped rhythmically, building a puddle on the floor that poured down the small rectangle drain.
“If someone’s playing a joke, it’s not very funny,” Kimmy murmured.
“I found them!” Debra called, holding up a uniform triumphant. Kimmy turned, relieved to have an excuse to leave, when the shower turned full blast, spreading out a steady stream of scalding hot water. She jumped away as it shot past the door of the small stall to her feet, her hand flying to her mouth to hold in her surprised shriek. She stumbled back to the safety of the hall. Debra rushed to her side.
Kimmy gave out a frantic laugh as she pulled her away. “It totally turned on by itself!”
“They do that sometimes.” Debra stared at the door to the showers, her hand squeezing Kimmy’s shoulder too tight. “The janitor said something about the pipes being old. Heather L. got hit with them last week, and she said it nearly took her skin off.”
Kimmy’s heartbeat had returned to a normal pace, and she now felt foolish for her fear. “They need to shut this whole place down.”
Debra didn’t look so calm. “Come on. Let’s go.”
They left quickly, nearly forgetting their anger. The locker room was left in silence, with the sound of rushing water pouring through the rows.
Lisa, for the third time in the past five minutes, glanced up from her book to peer out the living room window. Lights were on in the Brooks household, and she could see Cory’s car parked on the street. The clock said 7:15.
“Come on, Cory,” she muttered. “Don’t be a flake.”
“Is this how kids study these days?” her dad asked as he came in from the kitchen. The sink went off, and the dishwasher door closed. He nodded to her Chemistry book she’d rested on her raised knees, her assignment untouched beside her.
“I’m supposed to be working on my history project,” she said. “But Cory Brooks has ditched me again.”
“Has he?” He leaned over her on the couch, peeking through the window obviously. She gave him a short kick, and he laughed. “Are you sure he hasn’t gone through your window again?”
Her face flared, and she brought the Chemistry book up to her nose. “We haven’t done that in years, dad. That was when we were kids.”
“Always thought there’d be a day I’d have to worry about. Is it too extreme to put bars over your window?”
“In this town? Maybe not.” She gave a sigh and set aside her homework. “Dad, you would tell me if I was a total loser, wouldn’t you?”
“Probably not.” He smiled as he sat beside her. She’d inherited his dark hair and strong looks. Mom was slender and soft looking, though she’d probably gotten her sensibilities from her. “Boy problems?”
“No,” she said and glanced out the window again. “I just feel invisible half the time.”
“Invisible’s not the worst way to go through high school,” he said.
She rolled her eyes at that. What did dads know about high school anyway? Boy problems were the least of her worries. She needed extracurriculars for college essays and high grades to leave Shadyside behind and not end up like the countless students attending community college in Waynesbridge. And, sure, she should leave time for friends and she liked the group at the Shadyside High newspaper but when it came to boys she was just stuck. There wasn’t a single boy in all of Shadyside worth her time, she’d decided freshman year, except for Cory. Her only real friend. Ditching her again.
She gave a frustrated breath and tossed her Chemistry book down on the table. Her dad was already flipping through channels, and her mom came into the room to join him.
“Where are you going?” Mom asked as Lisa pulled on her jacket.
“Next door.” She grabbed her backpack. “Cory promised to help me with an assignment.”
“Is that what they’re calling it these days?” her mom mocked whispered to her dad.
Lisa’s face flared, and she stamped out the door before they could say anything else. The walk between her house and the Brooks’ household barely left an alley between them, and as a kid Cory would come straight up to her window to ask her to play. She marched across the lawn, and in less than a minute she was at his door, hand pressed down on the doorbell. Inside were the sounds of the TV playing some sitcom, the laugh track drowning out the actual joke, and the bang of dishes being loaded into a dishwasher. Cory’s voice was muffled behind the door, and a minute later he opened it. Lisa stared him down.
“Lisa!” he said. “What, uh--”
His eyes drew to the clock in the living room, and he grinned sheepishly.
“I was just going to pick you up!” he saved.
“Sure.” She pushed the door open and leaned into the living room, where his parents sat. “Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Brooks. Cory’s going to help me with a project.”
“That sounds nice,” Mr. Brooks said. “You’re going somewhere?”
“Oh, yeah.” Her gaze returned to her friend. “Just Fear Street.”
Cory took his time getting his shoes on and didn’t say a word as she waited for him to unlock his car. It wasn’t until he’d pulled out into the street that he said anything.
“Why Fear Street?” he asked.
“I told you it’s for a history project,” she said.
“Yeah, but--” He grimaced. The sun rested on the horizon, casting the road in reds and yellows. “Why?”
She rolled her eyes. “You don’t really believe in ghosts and stuff, do you?”
“I mean…” He gave her a nervous glance. “Weird stuff happens around Fear Street. You heard what happened to Nicole Darwin last year.”
“That wasn’t supernatural,” she said. “She had like a mental breakdown or something.”
“But you know what they say about the Fears. The whole street is cursed. And there might even be people buried out in the woods.”
“There’s no proof the Fears murdered a whole bunch of people. All those stories are just stuff people make up.” She let out a huff. “You’re such a scaredy-cat, Cory. Remember in the sixth grade when David dared you to spend a night in the Fear Street Woods.”
His hands gripped the steering wheel a little tighter. “I got spooked by a whole bunch of Cub Scouts.”
Lisa smirked. “But I’m the one who convinced him there was a monster in Fear Lake.”
“I thought he was going to cry when I pushed him in.”
“And,” she said triumphantly, “Reva Dalby gave me twenty whole dollars when I knocked on the door at the Fear Mansion.”
He laughed. “If you did it now, she’d probably give you a hundred.”
“You’re totally right.” She sat back in her seat, smiling. “I definitely got ripped off.”
They went silent as Cory wound them down Park Drive. The memories warmed Lisa, and she glanced at Cory to see if he was similarly nostalgic. A smile pulled at his lips, but his expression was touched with worry. To most people, Fear Street was as real as it got. The old burned out mansion was still standing, and no one had touched it since the fire consumed it. People said you could do magic by an old wall behind the cemetery, or if you tossed a rock through the mansion’s windows you’d die, or that Angelica Fear could sometimes be seen walking the woods. Worse were the rumors of the murders that haunted each and every door on Fear Street. Sometimes the police didn’t bother answering calls over at Fear Street, it was whispered, and when they did, all they could do was clean up the mess.
As Cory pulled down the street, she could see why people thought that way. The street never ran straight, and so the houses looked jumbled together, not helped by their age and the renovations necessary to keep them going. Half the lights were out. People moved in often, but they never stayed long. He curved around one the larger houses, and the cemetery came into view. She told him to stop.
“What?” He slowed but didn’t stop. “Here?”
“You want me to jump out?” She gestured to the curb. “Pull over.”
Reluctantly he did. Lisa pushed open her door and grabbed her notebook, but as she slammed the door shut, he still hadn’t moved. She leaned down through the window, rolling her eyes.
“Cory Brooks,” she said, “if you don’t get out of this car I’ll tell all your gymnastics buddies how you let me walk into the Fear graveyard alone.”
With a sigh, he unbuckled his seatbelt and slowly climbed out. She waited on him as he trudged to her side, and the pair stood in front of the wrought iron gate that surrounded the Fear Street Cemetery. The forest clustered on its north side, which led all the way up to Fear Lake. On the far side was the Cameron Mansion, unoccupied for two decades, its windows empty. The streetlights were far apart on this street, and the setting sun made odd shadows across the graveyard, only lightened by the house next door. Lisa glanced at it and wondered why anyone would want to live in a haunt like that. But she’d talked up a big game already, so she looped her arm in Cory’s and dragged him forward.
“What kind of project is this anyway?” Cory stuttered as they stepped through the open gate. The autumn chill had started early this year, but the temperature seemed to drop as they stepped through.
“You know how crazy the teachers are for that local history stuff.” She was careful to stay on the stone path that cut through the cemetery. “Mr. Nicholson is teaching us about Shadyside’s early settlers, and of course the topic goes to the Fears.”
“Of course,” he murmured.
“Anyway, I was looking at the original Fears, the ones that first settled in Shadyside.”
“So we’re in a creepy cemetery looking at dead Fears because…”
“There’s a weird thing on the family tree.” She flipped open her notebook and shoved it in his face. “I mean, all of it’s weird, but it just, like, skips a generation or something. So I’m looking for one grave in particular.”
He squinted at the name she’d scrawled there, but she clapped it shut as they moved past the fresher plots. Flowers were laid against tombstones, and the grass had grown back, leaving only odd patches of dark soil. Neither of them stepped off the path for fear of treading across someone’s coffin, disturbing anyone who might be inside. The dates went back a little further--to the 80s, 70s, 50s, 20s, and here were the graves that had no one left to care for them. They’d started to wear away, wind and rain softening names and making dates hard to see. Some offered elaborate displays of angels and roses carved into their granite, while others were simple slabs. A few Fears could be seen among the common folk, and Lisa paused, her feet unsteadily at the edge of the stone.
“Well,” Cory said, nudging her. “Go on.”
She gave him a glare but stepped onto the grass, sucking in a breath. No arms pushed their way through the dirt to grab her, no spirits swooped down at her, a raven didn’t even caw. A few cars went by from the street on the other side, and down the lane someone was rolling in their trash.
“Whatever,” she murmured and strode forward, glancing at the dates as she did. Looking back told her that Cory remained where he was, and she only rolled her eyes and kept on. No order attended the graves, and some sat lopsided in their row. Her fingers brushed the rough stone of one, and she shivered, hoping Cory didn’t notice. It was getting harder to see. She should’ve made him grab a flashlight from his car, and she turned to tell him as much. And then she stopped.
Cory was looking past her. His eyes widened, his shoulders raised, and for a moment she thought he was trying to scare her. Lisa turned slowly, following his gaze past the rows of tombstones, up the rising hill of dirt, to the other edge of the graveyard. Someone stood there, staring at them over the wrought iron gate. The wind pushed her hair in front of her pale white face, and her white dress was bright against the dimming sky. Lisa squinted, trying to see her face, and the girl remained, standing stock still, her arms at her side.
“Hey!” Cory called, and now he was walking past Lisa. “Hey!”
“Cory,” she whispered and reached out for his arm, but he was storming towards the gate.
The girl looked at them, and Lisa saw the flash of blue eyes, and suddenly she was running, and Cory was running after her, and Lisa didn’t want to be left behind in this graveyard watching Cory chase some rando. The girl’s blond hair streamed behind her, the white skirt curving back. Cory reached one hand on the fence and vaulted over it easily. Lisa hit the gate and shook it, realizing it was locked from this side. She watched, as her hands fumbled with the lock, as the girl disappeared entirely behind the house. Cory was racing down the hill, his long legs making great progress so that he was far away by the time she managed to hoist a foot up and jump over. Lisa ran past the backyard of the house, keeping her eye on the boy ahead of her, and she caught a glimpse of white weaving between yards. Her foot slipped on the hill, and she skidded down, hitting the street again, where Cory stood.
“What was that about?” she asked as she picked herself up.
Cory ignored her, turning as he spied through the yards and alleys. “She was here. Where did she go?”
Lisa stood on her right foot and hissed with pain. He didn’t even look at her. They’d run nearly down the block, and there was no sign of the girl anywhere.
“Who is it?” Lisa limped over to him. “I’ve never seen her before.”
“She has to live around here, right?” For the first time, he noticed her pain, and offered an arm out to her. “Normally girls don’t just disappear.”
“Ask David that,” she muttered. “Hey, my foot really hurts.”
“You think you sprained it?” he asked.
She sighed, clutching onto his arm a little tighter. “No, I’m probably being a baby. Who was that?”
“I--” His face was blank as he looked around. She’d never seen an expression like that on him before. It was like he was completely overcome. “I don’t know.”
“Wow, Cory,” she said. “I almost die helping you chase after a girl you don’t even know. You probably terrified her, you know that?”
He relaxed a little, and a smile pulled at the corner of his lips. “You didn’t almost die.”
“I did!” She shoved him. “In the Fear Street Cemetery! Imagine telling that story.”
“Come on,” he said. “This place is spooky enough without the near death experience.”
He helped her back into the car, and she sat back against the seat, her notebook open in her lap, where she’d sketched out the Fear family tree as far as records had them. Cory walked around to the other side, and he looked around the street one more time before getting in. The sun had set completely, and his headlights cut through the darkness as he turned the car around, flashing against mailboxes and street numbers. Lisa sat up as the lights flashed over a figure standing against one of the houses, but they passed it, and when she turned behind her, it’d already faded into the night.