It started with a bus crash.
Daisy Appleby was a little girl when it happened, and she barely remembers the accident or being brought back to life. At that moment, though, she became one of the first subjects in a covert government program that tests a drug called Revive.
Now fifteen, Daisy has died and been Revived five times. Each death means a new name, a new city, a new identity. The only constant in Daisy's life is constant change.
Then Daisy meets Matt and Audrey McKean, charismatic siblings who quickly become her first real friends. But if she's ever to have a normal life, Daisy must escape from an experiment that's much larger--and more sinister--than she ever imagined.
From its striking first chapter to its emotionally charged ending, Cat Patrick's Revived is a riveting story about what happens when life and death collide.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Patrick, Cat
Little, Brown Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2012 Patrick, Cat
All right reserved.
I’m flattened and thrashing on the sun-warmed track next to the football field, lying on what looks like asphalt but what I realize now that I’m down here is actually that fake spongy stuff. It reeks like it was just installed. There’s a woman kneeling beside my right shoulder, shouting into a cell phone.
“Her name is Daisy… uh…” Sharply, she sucks in her breath. “I don’t know her last name!” she cries.
For a split second, I don’t know, either.
“Appleby,” another teacher shouts.
“Appleby,” the first repeats to the 911 dispatcher. “It looks like she’s having an allergic reaction to something.”
Bee, I try to say, but there’s no air. No word.
My jerking limbs are like venomous snakes to the students forming a circle around me: The kids jump back in fear. I gasp with my entire body but only one rationed breath comes through. I know it’s one of my last.
When my P.E. teacher told us to jog the outdoor track to warm up for volleyball, I was excited about the fresh air. Maybe I’d get a little color on my cheeks. But then a fuzzy yellow and black menace wanted to join me, and decided that maybe he’d invite a few friends, too. I hit number one on my speed dial the second I felt the familiar pinch of the first bee sting; I only hope Mason makes it in time.
A wave of calm begins to creep through my body: I know it won’t be long now. Everything, forehead to toenails, relaxes. When the threat of getting kicked disappears, the crowd tightens around me. My eyes bounce off face after face hovering above me. They’re all strangers; high school just started yesterday, and no one I know from junior high is in my P.E. class.
Most of them look terrified. A few girls are crying. The principal shows up and tries to contain the crowd, but they’re like magnets, drawn in by the thrill of someone else’s misfortune.
“Move back,” he shouts. “Move back so the paramedics will be able to get through!” But no one listens. No one moves back. Instead, without knowing it, they form a blockade between me and help.
I lock eyes with a pretty, dark-skinned girl whose locker is near mine. She seems friendly enough to be the last person I see. She’s not crying, but the look on her face is pure distress. Maybe we would’ve been friends.
I stare at the girl and she stares at me until my eyelids fall.
The crowd gasps.
“Oh my god!”
“Help her!” a guy’s voice pleads.
I hear sirens approaching. Tennis shoe–clad feet thunder away from me, presumably to wave in the paramedics. I wonder whether it’s Mason and Cassie or the real ones.
My arms go completely limp.
“Daisy, hold on!” shouts a girl. I like to think it was my almost friend, but I don’t open my eyes to see for sure. Instead, my mind goes blank. None of the sounds are clear enough to hear anymore. The world fades to nothing, and before I have the chance to think another thought,
“Do you have everything you need?” Mason whispers through the darkness as we walk briskly to the waiting SUV. It’s the middle of the night in Frozen Hills, Michigan, and we’re minutes from our next move.
“Yes,” I say, confident that I’ve left nothing behind but furniture and off-season clothing. I’ve been through this before: I know the drill.
“Let me take that,” Mason says, pointing to the suitcase I’m dragging behind me on the cobblestone walkway. I let him because I feel a little wonky from the procedure. Not quite myself yet. Mason grabs the bag and what was bricks to me is feathers to him: He tosses it on top of the other suitcases in the back and soundlessly shuts the vehicle doors.
I climb into the backseat. From the front, Cassie turns to acknowledge me momentarily before going back to her work. She’s still sporting a fake paramedic outfit, but she’s thrown a faded gray sweatshirt over the top. Her strawberry-blond hair is pulled back in a taut, efficient ponytail. She pushes her rimless glasses, which make her look older, up higher on her nose as she reads something from her government-issue supercomputer disguised as a smart phone.
I watch Mason head back inside for the final sweep, then admire the outside of the house I’ve gotten used to over the past three years. It’s a two-story redbrick house with black shutters that was built when people still used the telegraph; it has its own creaks and character and I’m going to miss it. Moments from goodbye for good, I realize that this house was probably my favorite. Then again, maybe the next one will be even better.
I think about how I’ll design my new bedroom until I see low headlights approaching. I get a charge when the black sedan pulls up and two men in dark outfits get out; it’s always sort of thrilling to see the cleanup crew arrive. Though they’ve probably never been here before, they walk through the low black iron gate and up the porch steps without hesitation. Mason comes out just as one of the agents reaches for the front door handle. The men pass without speaking, giving one another nothing but quick chin dips.
I watch the door close behind the agents. Like an owl in the night, I search wide-eyed for movement inside the house, but the windows stay dark; the night stays still. Unless you catch them going in, you can’t tell they’re there. Ninja stealth in black chinos and fleece jackets, they’ll erase traces of me and my faux family and leave the house so authentically bare that the real estate agent who comes to sell it will never for a minute think it was inhabited by anyone other than a nice young couple and their ill-fated teen.
After they fix the house, the team will infiltrate the neighborhood long enough to put minds at rest, seeding gossip about the sad family returning to Arizona or Georgia or Maine to deal with the loss. The rumors are always started by the unrecognizable guy at the gas station or the mousy girl using the computer at the library.
The agents—the Disciples—are trained as doctors, scientists, watchers, and bodyguards, but I’ve always thought most of them could make it in Hollywood, too.
Mason, in his recurring role as Loving Father, finally climbs into the driver’s seat. In worn jeans, loafers, and a cozy brown sweater, with his tired green eyes and messy dark (but prematurely graying) hair, he fits the role he’s played for eleven years now.
“Where are we going?” Mason asks Cassie. Cassie doesn’t look up from her tiny computer when she replies in her Southern-accented voice.
“Nebraska,” she says. “Omaha.”
Mason nods once and puts the SUV in reverse. I check my former home once more for signs that there are government agents inside: no luck. Then I exhale the day and the town away and stuff a pillow between my head and the cool window, and by the time we’re down the driveway and turning off of our street, I’m asleep.
When I open my eyes, it’s light outside. Bright light. The kind that makes me want to throw a rock at the sun. I have a crook in my neck and my mouth feels like I ate salty cotton balls. I look at Mason in the rearview mirror; he feels my stare and speaks.
“Hi there,” he says. I can’t tell whether he’s looking at me or the road because he’s wearing dark sunglasses.
“Hi,” I grumble.
“How do you feel?” he asks.
“Headache,” I answer.
“That’s normal,” he says.
“Water,” Cassie says, offering me a bottle without looking my way. I take it and gulp down half in two seconds, then look out the window to the unidentifiable landscape zooming by at seventy-five miles per hour.
“Where are we?” I ask.
“Illinois,” Mason says.
Cassie jumps a little but still doesn’t look back at me. I take a deep breath, which for some reason makes me yawn loudly. I rub the sleep from my eyes and in a more measured tone ask, “How long was I out?” Mason glances at Cassie and then checks the clock.
“I’d say you were probably out about eight hours,” Mason says as plainly as if he’s giving me a weather report.
“Eight hours? How is that possible?”
“They added a calming agent to it… to smooth the rough edges,” Mason says.
I nod, still feeling woozy.
“Maybe they need to tone it down,” I say. “Unless they’re going for TKO.”
“I’ll make a note,” Cassie says, her eyes still glued to her tiny phone screen. In private, Cassie is free to be her workaholic robot self.
“What’s our new last name going to be?” I ask. With every new town comes a new last name; first names stay the same for the sake of consistency.
“West,” Mason says.
“Huh,” I answer, rolling it around in my brain. Daisy West. Definitely more interesting than Daisy Johnson from Palmdale, but maybe a little too cute. Though not nearly as bad as Daisy Diamond from Ridgeland.
“I think I liked Appleby best,” I conclude aloud.
“You were more used to it,” Mason replies. “West is fine.”
Shrugging, I consider my options for passing the time.
“I wish we could fly,” I murmur to myself, but Mason hears me.
“That would be nice,” he agrees. Unfortunately, our fourth passenger, Revive—the top secret drug that brings people back from the dead—makes that impossible. The drug is too precious to check and too secret to carry on. So every time we move, we have to drive; every time we drive, I’m at a loss about what to do. I wish I could read, but it makes me carsick, and since we left so suddenly, my iPod isn’t charged. Eventually I settle on counting mile markers until I think I might pee my pants. I ask Mason to pull over at a diner, then, considering it’s almost noon and all, we decide to eat, too.
After visiting the surprisingly inoffensive bathroom, I join Mason and Cassie at a booth in the back. They’re sitting across from each other but aren’t speaking; they look like a typical married couple. I make a split-second decision and scoot in next to Cassie, opting to pretend to be a mama’s girl. Cassie looks up at me and smiles warmly.
We’re in public now, so she’s human.
“You’re the spitting image of your mom,” the waitress says to me when she comes to take our order. We’ve heard it before, but it’s a false comparison. Cassie’s brand of blond is straight with reddish tones, while mine is wavy and so dirty it’s essentially light brown. Cassie’s eyes are round and dark blue like the ocean, whereas mine are lighter than the sky at noon, wide set and almond shaped. She’s nearly six feet tall, and I’m five foot six; she’s curvy, and I can wear jeans from the boys’ department.
But what makes the “look-alike” comment even more absurd is the fact that Cassie’s only thirteen years older than me.
And yet, we play the part.
“Thank you!” Cassie says, hand to chest like she’s beyond flattered.
“Uh, yeah, thanks,” I mutter, hoping that I’m coming off as a typical teen who doesn’t care to look like her mother. In truth, despite the fact that she barely has a personality, Cassie’s pretty. I’m fine with people saying I look like her.
“You’re most welcome,” HELLO, MY NAME IS BESS replies. “Now, what can I bring you?”
I order a veggie burger and a chocolate shake; Mason orders coffee and a Spanish omelet; and Cassie orders a hard-boiled egg, dry wheat toast, and sliced melon on the side.
Bess writes in her notepad and leaves. Then, almost too soon for it to be made to order, the food rides in on Bess’s wide arms. Quickly, she sets down plates, fills coffee cups, and pulls ketchup out of her apron pocket.
“Need anything else?” she asks. Three head shakes and she’s gone.
We eat in silence, me downing my lunch as if I’ve never tasted food before, then wondering if the scientists at the big lab added a metabolism booster to Revive in addition to the calming agent. Knowing it’s silly, I don’t ask Mason about it. But I can’t help but notice that Mason’s and Cassie’s plates are still half full when mine is all but licked clean.
“So, why Omaha?” I ask as Mason takes a bite of his omelet. I watch his jaw muscles flex as he chews slowly, deliberately. After he swallows, he speaks.
“It’s one of his favorite cities,” he says.
Mason means the Revive project mastermind. Basically invisible and in control of a program that brings people back from the dead, he’s earned the nickname God.
“Why?” I ask.
“Because it’s moderate, I suppose. Not too small or too big. Rarely in the news. Friendly. Reasonably gentrified. You know what that means, right?”
I roll my eyes at him.
“So, all in all, it should be a good cover. Assuming…”
“Assuming what?” I ask.
Mason checks the tables around us, then answers in a low tone. “Assuming nothing else happens.”
“I didn’t mean to do it, you know,” I say quietly.
“You never do,” Mason says, holding my gaze. “But you didn’t have your EpiPen, either.”
“I forgot it,” I say quickly.
It’s a lie.
In truth, I spent way too long deciding what to wear, leaving only five minutes to arrange my hair into something resembling a style. I left for school in a rush, remembering the EpiPen, which probably would have saved my life, halfway down the block. I wasn’t so late that I couldn’t have gone back, but for some reason I didn’t.
Having been trained to know when people are lying, Mason narrows his eyes at me. I assume Cassie’s doing the same, but I don’t look at her to find out. For a moment, I think Mason’s going to call me on it, but thankfully, he moves on.
“Daisy, I think you should know that we nearly couldn’t bring you back this time,” he says so quietly it’s almost like he’s breathing the words. His bluntness, I’m used to—Mason treats me like a partner, not a daughter—but I’m surprised by the idea of permanent death.
“Was it a bad vial?” I ask.
“No, it was fine,” Mason says. “It was… you.”
“He almost called time of death,” Cassie interjects. Stunned, I look at her, then back at Mason.
“Seriously?” I ask.
“It was very stressful,” Mason says. There’s a flicker of something like worry in his green eyes, and then it’s gone.
I think for a moment before coming to what I consider to be a pretty rational conclusion: “But it did work, so everything’s fine.”
“But it might not be next time,” he says. “I’m merely advising you to take precautions. Don’t you remember Chase?”
My stomach sinks as an old memory sets in: Seven years after the bus crash that started it all, Chase Rogers died again, for seemingly no reason. He was Revived repeatedly, but—Mason told me—he seemed to have developed an immunity to the drug. Then he died for good.
“I’m not like him,” I say quietly. Bess comes and sets down the check, which silences us for a few minutes.
“I’m not like him,” I say again when the coast is clear.
Mason looks deep into my eyes. “I hope not. Just be more careful, all right?”
“All right,” I agree.
Another family is seated at the booth directly behind us, so the conversation is over for now, at least.
“Are my gorgeous ladies finished eating?” Mason asks loudly enough for others to hear. The mom at the table behind us sighs. Mason can be charming when he wants to.
I look down at my plate, which has discarded raw onions, wilted lettuce, and a quarter of a pickle left on it.
“Uh… yeah,” I say in my best disinterested-teenager voice.
“I sure am,” Cassie says, patting her flat stomach. “I’m stuffed to the gills.”
“Great,” Mason says. “Then let’s clear out.”
We walk up to the front counter. As we wait for Mason to pay, Cassie fixes a stray piece of my long hair in that absentmindedly automatic mom-ish way. She looks at me with love; I roll my eyes and brush her hand away.
After Mason leaves a five on the table for Bess, he opens the OUT door, causing the bells on top to jingle, and holds it for his wife and daughter. In the parking lot, when we’re still visible to the other diners, I stare at the ground and walk three steps behind my parents while they hold hands and Cassie laughs at nothing.
Then we get in the SUV and drive away.
Maybe it’s growing up as part of an elaborate science experiment, but I can’t leave a place without conducting a postmortem. So I spend the next few hours of the drive rehashing the past three years in Frozen Hills: a mental autopsy on Daisy Appleby by newly anointed Daisy West.
We moved to Frozen Hills the summer before seventh grade, after I died from asphyxia in Ridgeland, Mississippi. Well, outside of Ridgeland, if we’re getting technical: I was swimming near some houseboats at the reservoir and got carbon-monoxide poisoning from an idling boat.
If I was going to die again, I consider myself lucky that it happened in the summer before school started. Even luckier: Junior high in Frozen Hills was grades seven through nine, so I started with all the other brace-faced, zit-covered seventh graders. Days after I finished decorating my Juno-inspired bedroom, the school year began.
“Thinking about the past few years?” Mason interrupts my thoughts, smiling at me in the rearview mirror. He’s familiar with my system.
“Yes,” I admit. “I’m thinking about a birthday party.”
“Ah,” he says, nodding. “For Nora…”
“Fitzgerald,” Cassie and I say in unison.
“Yep,” I say before retreating into my brain.
She lived down the street from us, in a sunny yellow house with dark green shutters and a WELCOME sign on the front door. Her mom was one of those overly cheerful types who showed up with freshly baked cookies the second your moving truck appeared. Mrs. Fitzgerald’s desire to worm into our world always unnerved Cassie. Paranoid, Cassie wondered aloud on several occasions if Mrs. Fitzgerald was actually a spy for a foreign government trying to steal the formula for Revive. She said that “suburban housewife” would be the perfect cover.
Two weeks after we arrived, Nora showed up on our front porch, undoubtedly shoved out the door by her mother, birthday party invitation in hand.
“Hi,” she said. “I’m Nora.”
“I remember from when you guys brought the cookies,” I said. “I’m Daisy.”
We stared at each other in silence, me thinking that she looked like a Skipper doll and wondering if she owned any outfits that didn’t match from her hair clips to her sandals, and her looking at me in my cutoff jean shorts and red-and-white-striped T-shirt like I was from an alien planet.
“Here,” she said finally, offering me the tiny purple envelope. “It’s an invitation to my birthday party next weekend.”
“Oh,” I said. “Thanks.”
“Sure,” Nora said. “See ya.”
The next weekend, I faked being sick and watched the partygoers arrive at Nora’s from the comfort of the window seat in my poster-filled bedroom. Looking back, that was probably the moment that defined Daisy Appleby. Those first weeks of school, Nora’s birthday was all anyone talked about: It was a boy/girl party, and if you weren’t there, you weren’t anybody. For the rest of the year, Nora was polite to me at block parties and in the halls at school. But by eighth grade, she was braces-less, in a B-cup, and on track to be queen of the school, and I was nothing but the weird neighbor who kept to herself. Unknowingly, I had dissed the most popular girl in school.
It made me invisible.
Not that I minded.
The Revive program is built on secrecy, and being invisible at school is never a bad thing. Even if I make friends, it’s not like I can get close to them. My family life is a facade, and we could move at any time.
Anyway, it’s not like I was lonely in Frozen Hills. I had an after-school study group and I hung out solo with one of the other members every once in a while. And I’m not one of those people who get all self-conscious about going to the movies or to see bands alone. I’m not sure when normal kids learn to be embarrassed about things like that, but thankfully, it never happened to me.
I carefully catalog three years of memories and by nine o’clock, when we pull into our new hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, I have concluded that my time in Frozen Hills was a success. I navigated junior high without any major issues. I maintained cover and managed not to raise suspicions or get too close to anyone or anything that I had to leave.
Ready to focus on the future, I tune in to the city outside the car windows.
“It’s bigger than I thought it would be,” I say.
“It’s the most populated city in Nebraska,” Mason answers.
“How many people live here?” I ask, because I know he’ll know. Mason’s a walking Wiki.
“Almost half a million,” he says. “There are actually several large corporations here….” he begins. That’s the danger of pressing Mason’s Search button: If he’s in the right mood, he’ll barf information.
I can’t help but tune out, but I’m surprised when I find my thoughts floating back to Frozen Hills. Usually, I assess and move on. This time, something is bugging me.
Was there a missed opportunity there?
“Everything okay?” Mason asks, sensing my distraction.
“Everything’s fine,” I say. “I just think that maybe—if I get any party invitations in Omaha—I might actually accept.”
I take a break from decorating my new room when a text alert chimes on my phone. It’s Megan, one of the kids who died with me in Iowa eleven years ago; another of fourteen living “bus kids” that make up the Revive program test group. Megan lives in Seattle, but we keep in touch. Initially, we bonded over the program. Then we grew closer, like sisters who realize they’re actually friends, too.
I tap my finger on the screen to read her message.Megan:
You didn’t post…. Everything okay?
Under the pseudonyms Flower Girl and Fabulous, Megan and I coauthor a blog called Anything Autopsy, where we dissect music, books, fashion, food, and whatever else we feel like. The format is she said/she said style—or she said/he-she said, since Megan is transgender—and if one of us doesn’t post, it’s not as cool.
I type back:Daisy:
Sorry, we had to move.
There’s a pause, and I imagine Megan’s black-lined eyes bugging out of her head. The thought makes me laugh out loud.Megan:
“Unfortunately,” I say aloud, even though she can’t hear me. Then I type:Daisy:
I’m going to start calling you Honey.Daisy:
I guess daisies attract bees, too, don’t they?Daisy:
I promise to post twice this week. Setting up my new room. Chat later?Megan:
Love you madlyDaisy:
Love you more
I set aside the phone and pick up the paint roller.
People might say it’s stupid to spend time decorating a space you’ll likely soon abandon, but to me, putting my stamp on each new bedroom is a crucial part of any move. I mean, seriously: I live with science-obsessed secret agents; my bedroom is my retreat. And more than that, it’s part of the cover. Assuming someday someone wants to see my room, it has to be in line with my personality. It has to look permanent.
For the first three days in Omaha, when Mason and Cassie are setting up the lab in the basement, I pretend I’m the designer on a home makeover show and create my perfect space. Since my sixteenth birthday’s not for another month, I have to get Mason to drive me to Target, a crazy place called Nebraska Furniture Mart, and the paint store, but after that, it’s all me and my vision.
In this house, I’m going for tranquil. I paint the walls a nice, mellow gray and cover as much of the wood floors, which are badly in need of refinishing, with a super-plush rug. On one full wall I install a new white open storage unit, then arrange my white nightstand and bed frame from Frozen Hills in the little nook part of the L-shaped room. I put the brown desk that I’ve had since I was ten under the largest window; when I find that it doesn’t look right, I paint it lavender.
Then I add the little details that make all the difference. I sort my books by the color of their spines and stack them horizontally in the little storage-unit cubbies: a librarian’s worst nightmare. I frame and hang only black-and-white prints and posters; I reroll all the others and store them under the bed. I thrift-shop on Etsy and craigslist to find an oversized D wall decal, a mirror to hang over my new black dresser from Target, sheer white window coverings, and a gray-and-white-striped beanbag chair.
“Where’s the electric staple gun?” I ask Mason on the morning of the day before I’ll start school at Omaha Victory High School. Mason’s in the office waving motion commands at a massive computer screen tethered to one of the three tiny computers in the house.
“What do you need it for?” he asks.
“I’m re-covering my desk chair,” I explain. I don’t mention that I’m covering the seat with the fabric from my old comforter. Although, to be fair, I’m upcycling, so he should be proud.
“Garage,” Mason says, rubbing his eye sockets. “Third drawer on the left. And be careful.”
“I can’t kill myself with a staple gun.”
“Probably not, but how do you feel about blindness?”
“I’ll wear goggles,” I say.
Mason shakes his head at me and goes back to his work.
I head downstairs in search of power tools.
When my room is finished, I sit and enjoy it for about five minutes; then I get antsy. I head down two flights of stairs to the lab in the basement to see how it’s coming along.
“Holy, bright!” I say, squinting under the megawatt fluorescent bulbs covering every square inch of the ceiling.
“We need to see what we’re doing,” Cassie replies.
“Mission accomplished, and then some,” I say.
Mason chuckles at me quietly.
I scan the large room, taking it all in. It’s nothing compared to the main lab in Virginia, but it’s impressive anyway. There are two workstations, both with the same mini computers and massive monitors as the one in the office upstairs. There’s the PCR machine, used to amplify DNA, which looks like a fax machine crossed with a mini-fridge. There are spinners and shakers and rotators and the Homogenizer, aka the tissue blender. There’s a hot plate, and dry ice; a water bath and a scale. And, of course, there are dozens of squeaking rats.
All of the Disciples have assignments, but not many of them need labs like ours in their homes. Duties range from monitoring other countries for breakthroughs similar to Revive to controlling the program’s technology to managing relocation and surveillance. Agents in the big lab focus on advancing Revive—testing new iterations—while agents like Mason and Cassie make sure those who got the original version are functioning normally. Inside the program, my guardians’ job is to conduct ongoing testing and analysis on the bus kids; to the rest of the world, Mason is a psychologist and Cassie is a stay-at-home mom.
As always, I’m impressed by the pop-up, state-of-the-art lab in an otherwise pedestrian basement.
“You guys are making good progress,” I say.
“Thanks,” Mason says, smiling. “The space is larger than the one in Michigan, so that’s helpful.”
“Yeah,” I say, giving it another look. Then my eyes fall back on Mason. “Well, my room’s done,” I say. “I feel like going out.”
Mason raises his eyebrows, surprised. “What do you need?” he asks.
“Nothing,” I say. “I want to get a library card. See if Omaha has any good shoe stores. Maybe catch a movie. I need to do something to get acclimated. I start school tomorrow, and I know nothing about this town.”
Mason tilts his head slightly, considering it. “Okay,” he says, standing and wiping his hands on his jeans. “I’ll take you.”
Cassie shoots him a look: Mason leaving means she’ll have to finish setting up the lab alone.
“Let’s all go,” Mason says to her. “Daisy’s right. It’ll be good for us to get to know Omaha, too.”
Cassie stares for a few seconds, then relents. Mason is, after all, her boss.
“At least let me change first,” she says.
An hour later, I’m standing in the middle of the desert wondering how it would feel to be stranded without water.
“Think Revive would work if I died of dehydration?” I ask Cassie quietly, staring up at the shell of the Desert Dome at the Omaha Zoo.
“I think so, yes,” Cassie says without taking her eyes off of a cactus. “We’ve done dehydration testing on the rats. Seventy-two percent success.”
“That’s better than asphyxiation,” I say.
“And drowning,” Mason adds.
Thinking of water reminds me of an exhibit I want to see.
“I’m going to the aquarium,” I say.
“Meet us at the front gate at three,” Mason says before turning and heading toward the bat exhibit. Cassie seems stuck to the cactus, so I walk toward the underwater experience alone.
“They’re older than dinosaurs, you know.”
I move my eyes from the sharks to the man, smile politely, and then look back at the tank. I can see in my peripheral vision that the man’s eyes are back on the water, too.
“Amazing creatures,” he adds with a hint of a disarming lisp. I feel free to answer back.
“I like the sea turtles better,” I say, dreamlike, as I watch one swim by. My face is lit up by the shimmering sea.
“Hmm,” the man murmurs. “You’re right…. They’re quite spectacular, too.”
The man and I are two of maybe five people in a tunnel cutting through the aquarium itself. We are under the ocean, or at least a man-made version of it. It is sedative and beautiful: a claustrophobic’s hell on earth. For a blink, I wonder what would happen if the glass overhead sprung a leak. I imagine drowning. Again.
“Is school out today?” the man asks evenly.
“No,” I say. “We just moved here. I start school tomorrow.”
“Moves can be difficult,” says the man in a quiet, soothing voice.
“Mm-hmm,” I say.
“What grade are you in?”
“Ah, high school,” the man says softly as another shark passes. “Well, good luck settling in.”
I wait a beat, enjoying the patterns of the water reflecting across my face, then answer: “Thanks. Do you have any tips about the area?”
“Who are you talking to?” Cassie asks from my left side. Startled, I peel my eyes from the underwater world and glance at her. Then I look right, to where the man had been standing. There’s no sign of him. Confused, I look back at Cassie.
“I was talking to some dude, and then he disappeared,” I say.
“What did he look like?” Cassie asks automatically. It’s a question I’m used to hearing. Mason and Cassie are always trying to teach me life lessons, like how to be a keen observer. Normally, I’m excellent at this game, but when I think of the man, only the word average comes to my mind. I try to remember his hair color or what his clothes looked like. I try to picture whether he wore a hat or distinctive shoes. Anything.
“I don’t remember,” I say honestly.
Cassie looks deep into my eyes for a moment, probably expecting the usual list of colors and textures and mannerisms. Finally, when she realizes that I’m not going to say more, she tugs at my arm.
“Mason’s waiting. Let’s go.”
On the way to the car, I remember something about the man: his barely distinguishable lisp when saying certain things, like the word creatures. Excitedly, I look over at Cassie, wanting to tell her about it.
But like usual, she’s on the phone.
Omaha Victory High School is brand-new and modern, sharp angles and manicured grounds, high-tech and functional. School starts at 7:45, but Mason, Cassie, and I arrive at 7:00 to check in and pick up my class schedule and locker assignment. We follow signs through the new-smelling and nearly empty corridors. A surprisingly young-looking, dark-haired woman in jeans and a blazer is waiting for us at the reception area.
“I’m Vice Principal Erin Waverly,” the woman says, hand outstretched.
“Mason West,” Mason says with a smile, shaking Ms. Waverly’s hand.
“I’m Cassie West,” Cassie says. “So nice to meet you.” Her voice is sugary sweet like a doughnut this morning.
“And this must be Daisy,” Ms. Waverly says, looking at me with a friendly smile. “Welcome to Victory.”
“Thanks,” I say.
We follow Ms. Waverly back to her office. Mason, Cassie, and I sit on a small couch across from Ms. Waverly’s desk while she reviews my real but slightly altered birth certificate, government-manufactured school transcripts, forged yet accurate immunization records, and totally falsified proof of residence.
“You were in honors classes at your last school,” Ms. Waverly observes before setting aside the transcript.
“Yes,” I say.
“She’s a little smarty-pants,” Cassie teases as she smoothes back my hair.
“Mom!” I protest quietly, rolling my eyes at her and feigning embarrassment.
“I can see that Daisy’s a good student,” Ms. Waverly says to Cassie. “Unfortunately, we’ve got a larger than usual sophomore class this year due to some renovations at one of the magnet schools, and our honors classes are full.”
Mason shifts in his seat. “But can’t you make room for one more?” he asks.
Ms. Waverly holds up a hand. “Before you get too concerned, I think I have a solution.”
“Oh?” Mason asks.
“Yes. I think based on Daisy’s test scores, she’ll keep up fine in junior math, science, and English.”
I get a funny feeling in my stomach: a tinge of nervousness. Victory is grades nine through twelve, so I’m already starting high school a year after everyone else my age; now I’m about to be thrust into junior classes, too? But at the same time, it’s better than the regular sophomore curriculum.
That’s the equivalent of being held back.
Everyone agrees to the compromise, and soon enough, we leave the office, all smiles and optimism. I part ways with Mason and Cassie at the main doors. When they’re gone, I set off for my assigned locker in the math wing, navigating multiplying students as I go. A professional new girl, I check out what kids are wearing and note that my hip-length red T-shirt and faded skinny jeans were the right choice this morning.
Like a chameleon, I blend in.
“Sweet TOMS,” a voice says, presumably to me. I step back from my locker to investigate. A pretty girl a few doors down is pointing at my silver glitter slip-ons.
“Thanks,” I say, wiggling my toes inside the canvas shoes. Thoughts of birthday party invitations fly into my brain, and I decide to try to keep the conversation going. “I like your hair.”
The girl runs a hand through her two-toned tresses—golden blond on top and jet black underneath—and smiles with her whole face, from her Hollywood chin to her dark brown eyes. She’s wearing a turquoise sundress and low cowboy boots, and I’m positive she has to be the most popular girl in school. Everything about her is cool.
“Thanks,” she said. “My mom hates it.”
“My mom hates these shoes,” I say, shrugging, which is mostly true. Cassie doesn’t like anything remotely flashy or attention-getting.
The girl laughs.
“I’m Audrey McKean,” she says.
“Daisy West.” I smile.
“You must be new; I know everyone.”
Yep, she’s popular.
“Today’s my first day,” I say. “We just moved here from Michigan.” Another student approaches one of the lockers between mine and Audrey’s, blocking our view of each other. Audrey peeks around him and makes a silly face at me, then slams her locker door and moves around the guy.
“So, what’s your first class?” she asks.
“English,” I say. “With Mr. Jefferson?”
“You’re a junior?” she asks.
“Sophomore,” I say.
I raise my eyebrows in question.
“You look older,” she explains. “You must be a huge nerd.”
I look at her, surprised.
“I’m joking!” she says, hitting me lightly on the arm like we’ve known each other for ages. “I’ll walk you to your class. I’ve got Spanish in the next wing over.”
“Wow, thanks,” I say. “That’s really nice of you.”
“It’s no big deal,” Audrey says. “Come on: It’s this way.”
Audrey and I talk about our mutual love of casual footwear the entire way to first period. She raves about a new pair of laceless runners and I babble about pointed versus round-toed flats. It reminds me a little of the effortless way I chat with Megan, and honestly, I’m bummed when we arrive at my classroom.
“Hey, do you want to go off-campus for lunch?” Audrey asks.
“I…” I begin, confused by the attention from someone who has to have friends lining up to hang out with her. I channel a little of Cassie’s paranoia and eye Audrey suspiciously. “Um…”
“Oh,” Audrey says, her face falling so slightly I barely notice it. “That’s okay if you have other plans. I just thought since you’re new and all…”
“No,” I say quickly, snapping out of it. “I don’t have other plans. I’d love to go. Should we meet at the lockers?”
Audrey smiles brightly. “Perfect. See you then!”
Mr. Jefferson welcomes me to Victory, hands me a textbook that smells like soup and a syllabus printed on yellow paper, and directs me to an open desk on the side of the room farthest from the door. I smile at a girl who’s watching me; it makes her look away. Happy that I get to sit by the window, I slide into my chair, which has been warmed by the morning sun. I grab a notebook and pen from my bag and start reading over the syllabus while the classroom fills up.
I can tell when the bell’s about to ring because Mr. Jefferson stands up and walks to the podium, then clears his throat a couple times. I set aside the syllabus and scan the room, finding, happily, that no one looks too intimidating.
When the bell starts to ring, I jump a little: It’s different from the ones in Frozen Hills. Here, the tone is like a longer version of the lowest beep in a hearing test. When it stops, I sit up in my seat a little straighter and pick up my pen, ready to take notes. Mr. Jefferson clears his throat once more, making me wonder if he has a cold or something, then opens his mouth to speak.
Just then, a guy darts into the room and slides into the open desk near the door. Curiously, I watch him until Mr. Jefferson clears his throat once more. Maybe it’s a tic. I look at the teacher’s podium and Mr. Jefferson is giving the late arrival a look, but he doesn’t say anything.
Instead, he introduces me.
“Class, we have a new student joining us today,” he says, gesturing my way. Like dominoes, each triggered by the one before, heads start to turn in my direction. Mr. Jefferson continues. “This is Daisy West, and she comes to us from Michigan. Let’s all give her a warm Victory welcome.”
A few people mutter “hi”; a handful smile or wave. I smile politely and wait for the spotlight to move off of me. After a few seconds, Mr. Jefferson clears his throat for what feels like the hundredth time and begins class. The dominoes reverse themselves and I quietly exhale.
Except that I have that prickly feeling, like someone is staring at me.
Warily, I search the classroom. Everyone in the row next to me and the next one over is paying attention to Mr. Jefferson. But when I get to the row by the door, I see that the late arrival is eyeing me. And that’s when I realize what I hadn’t before:
The guy is flat-out, undeniably, unbelievably hot.
He casually sweeps the front of his shaggy hair to the side with his thumb. The back of his hair flips out from behind his ears in that adorable way that makes it impossible to tell whether he needs a haircut or just got one. He’s got dark eyebrows—the kind that sexy TV villains have—and almond-shaped brown eyes that make him look like he has a secret. He’s slouching ever so slightly in his faded green T-shirt and worn jeans, and he smiles at me in a way that looks almost… familiar. Then he faces front and I feel like I’ve been dropped back to earth from the clouds.
I watch the guy for the rest of the period, but he never looks at me again. When the bell rings at the end of class, I lean down long enough to put away my stuff and pick up my bag, and when I sit back up, he’s gone. I’m disappointed until I realize that I’ll see him again tomorrow, and every day for the rest of the year.
And for that, I silently thank Vice Principal Waverly.
At lunchtime, Audrey and I meet up at our lockers as planned.
“Hi!” I say as I approach.
“Hey, Daisy!” Audrey says back, matching my broad smile. “How’s it going so far?”
“Pretty good, actually,” I say. And then I look away, embarrassed.
“What?” she asks, reading me.
“Nothing,” I say. “There’s just a cute guy in my English class.”
“Ooh, really?” she asks. “I want to hear all about him—but save it for the ride. We only have forty-five minutes.”
We shut our lockers and turn to leave as two girls walk by. They look at me quizzically, then offer Audrey a pair of anemic waves, like they’re being forced to say hello but aren’t feeling it. Audrey shakes her head at them and refocuses on me.
“Hungry?” she asks.
Audrey expertly leads us through the crowded halls and shows me a few shortcuts on the way out to the student parking lot. Soon we’re buckled into her bright yellow Mini Cooper.
“I love your car,” I say.
“Thanks,” she says. “I love it, too. I spent two summers’ worth of babysitting money on the down payment, but it was worth it.”
“You must have worked a lot,” I say.
“My parents matched what I earned.” Audrey looks a little embarrassed.
“Nice parents,” I say.
“What do you drive?” Audrey asks as she pulls out of the student lot onto the main road.
Excerpted from Revived by Patrick, Cat Copyright © 2012 by Patrick, Cat. Excerpted by permission.
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