“What’s with the scarf?” Emma asked, flicking at the tassels.
“No. Yeah. I was cold.” I had a scarf on to hide the bruises the witch had given me.
“I know, right? It was freezing this morning.”
“Was it?” I was in and out of the conversation, forgetting almost instantly anything outside of what I needed for my plan.
She laughed. “You just said yourself that it was.”
“What’s with you?” Emma asked through a chuckle, distracting me from schemes as I worked through countless plans and possibilities along the pages of my notebook. It was tough. The last thing Stitch Mouth had told me the previous night was, You know the witch well enough to finish this. It helped.
I answered, “Oh, nothing. Um, I was thinking about the assignment. The project and stuff.”
Emma laughed. “What assignment? It’s the last day of school! We’re graduating tomorrow!”
“Oh, right. Yeah. I was. Um, kidding.”
She laughed. “Great joke, Sarah. Like, the funniest ever. Well, when you’re done with your assignment, maybe we can hang out sometime. We haven’t hung out, in like, forever.”
I scribbled a few notes.
“Sarah?” She snapped her fingers. “Earth to Sarah.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Hang out. That’d be great. I hope we can.”
“Hope we can?” she asked.
I looked at her. “That I’ll be able to.”
“Are you grounded or something?” Her eyes touched a glance at my notebook and the notes that read lead her this way, corner her, use a knife. A planned out real life pre-murder scene to Clue. Emma realized what I was doing. “It’s that woman, isn’t it? She hasn’t left you yet?”
“I’m so sorry!” Guilt was in her eyes, guilt and hurt for me. “You’ve been acting like yourself again, at least some, so I figured that horrible woman had left you. That’s why I haven’t brought her up. I just wanted to, you know, forget about what happened and whatever.”
“I don’t blame you,” I assured with a smile. I felt bad because she really looked upset at not being a good friend. But she had been.
“I’m so sorry,” she said again. “I could have at least asked. But it was scary. And you were better. I just thought.”
“It’s not your fault. It’s mine for not saying anything. Believe me, I don’t like talking about it either.”
“That was totally freaky, right?”
“Totally.” I asked, “When did we start saying totally?”
“Just now.” Her smile rose then dropped. “So, what are you doing?”
“I’m going to kill her tonight.”
“Whoa! What? When did you step out into the spotlight as Sarah badass?”
“I’m not. And I’m not trying to be. It’s just – I can’t let her haunt me forever. I can’t, I don’t know, I can’t let her keep going.”
Emma held back any words of second-guessing – any inadvertent sabotage she might have been ready to say – and instead, a hint of anticipation flashed through her eyes. “How are you going to do it?”
I chuckled miserably. “That’s the part I haven’t figured out yet.”
She threw a hand over her mouth then waved it at me. “I’ll totally shut up then. Oh, my gosh, I can’t even believe you’ve been going through all this while everyone else has been complaining about tests and whatever.”
“That doesn’t matter.” No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t focus. I shut the notebook. “You know what? I think I need to take my mind off of it.”
“Are you sure? I totally understand if you can’t talk.”
“Totally.” I winked.
“Okay, okay.” Emma thought a moment, as though we were on a first date and had stumbled into an awkward patch of conversation. “Okay, so, do you have big plans for graduation, or nah?”
“Kind of. My mom set up banners and ribbons all around the living room and kitchen, and there’s a stack of invitations my mom’s been getting back from family and friends.” Ever since my mother had met Stitch Mouth and Balloon Girl, she had become herself again and had stopped treating me like some evil identical twin of myself. Periodically, she’d ask how things were, hinting that she was curious about the witch, and she even asked one morning about Stitch Mouth and Balloon Girl, which I absolutely loved. I asked Emma, “What about you?”
“Same thing. Banners, ribbons, fru-haha. My dad’s new fiancé is coming, which could be drama. My mom hates seeing him happy.”
“Hopefully everyone will remember that it’s your graduation.”
“I hope we never turn out like that.”
The bell rang. And with it, high school was over. Emma escorted me outside. Before she got on her bus, she squeezed me into a hug. “See you at graduation tomorrow.”
“No. I’ll see you at graduation tomorrow.” She winked at me. “Sarah badass.”
On my walk home, I thought about the night ahead with a fresh wave of contemplation and ideas. Talking with Emma had helped. Tomorrow had come.