It’s only been two weeks since I posted an excerpt from this novel, which will release on February 7, 2017. I’m sharing again because now I have cover art. And also because Midnight Chat is now available for pre-order from Harmony Ink Press!
All day Sunday, my phone stayed silent other than a text from Talia to remind me I’d taken her Sunday afternoon shift. I’d completely forgotten she had some family reunion thing. Working wasn’t my ideal thing to do, but maybe it would take my mind off Rob.
Keeping my mind on the job turned out to be harder than I’d expected. Rob had never gone this long without talking to or texting me. Not in the whole time I’d known him. I checked my phone every chance I got to see whether Rob had answered my texts, and each time I didn’t see a reply from him, I got more worried. But I got through the five hours of work and then went home and failed to finish my homework.
Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, I went to bed early. Lying down staring at my ceiling was better than pretending to Dad and Olin that I wasn’t worried about anything.
I shouldn’t have promised Rob I wouldn’t talk to Dad. I needed help figuring out what to do about the messages Rob had gotten and how to find out whether he was okay. If he’d hurt himself, his parents might not let me know. They would probably blame me.
Just before midnight, my phone buzzed. I yanked it out from under my pillow so fast I almost dropped it and had to fumble to see the message.
It was Rob, but he didn’t use his usual greeting. Stay home tomorrow.
What? Why? He had no reason to tell me to skip school. No one had threatened me. Rob was the one they’d sent the messages to, and I refused to abandon him. He would need backup, especially on the way to school in the morning, and I would be there.
I don’t want you to see.
I blinked at the text. It didn’t make any sense. What didn’t he want me to see? Maybe he was afraid someone would seriously hurt him and was trying to protect me from seeing it, but if anyone attacked him, surely he would rather have a witness. See what?
A few minutes passed. I kept staring at the phone. With each second, my heart beat faster, and I caught myself holding my breath a couple of times.
Finally Rob replied. I’m going to take them all out. They’ll never hurt me again. You’re my only friend, so you get to live.
The words took a few seconds to register—take them all out.
I got to live.
He was going to kill someone. Maybe more than one person.
I had to be reading it wrong. Rob would never hurt anyone. He was scared and angry, and plenty of people had hurt him, but he couldn’t actually want to kill people.
He was venting. Spouting off the way he always did. He just meant he wished he could stop the bullying, not that he would actually do anything.
But if he was only venting, he wouldn’t have told me to stay home from school.
Whatever he was planning, I had to talk him out of it. I was the only one who could. He knew I cared about him. If I tried to stop him from ruining his life and other people’s, he would listen. He always listened to me.
The kid in Wyoming hadn’t listened to anyone, though. If someone had tried to stop him, they’d failed. Now he was a murderer, and people probably thought he wasn’t worth caring about.
I didn’t want anyone to think that about Rob. I had to convince him to calm down. What are you doing? They aren’t worth destroying your life.
I won’t have a life to destroy. We’re all going to die. That’s why I don’t want you there.
A chill ran through me, and for a second I forgot how to breathe. Die. People were going to die. Including Rob. If he was just blowing off steam, he needed to shut up. He was scaring the hell out of me.
He couldn’t mean it. He’d gotten freaked out by the messages online the day before, and now he was talking about wanting to make them stop. He wouldn’t actually do anything.
Even though I didn’t know how to handle this, I couldn’t tell anyone else. Dad would only call Rob’s parents or the police. They would think he meant it and would go through with locking him up. Maybe in a hospital, but they might put him in jail instead. Threatening to kill people was against the law.
I refused to let it happen. Every time Rob had been upset about bullying or his parents before, I’d been able to settle him down. I could this time, too.