All Fall Down – Ally Carter

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“What are you up to?” I say, my voice light.

“Your grandfather and I are going to watch a movie later, but we only have it on-aha!”

She pulls an old projector off one of the high shelves. It’s ancient, and dust cascades down onto her perfect suit. No one has used it in ages, and part of me thinks that it won’t even work. But she’s so proud of herself that I don’t say anything.

“You should join us,” Ms. Chancellor tells me. “Roman Holiday. It;s about a princess on the run in Rome, and Gregory Peck plays an American journalist who-oh, I don’t want to spoil it. Please come watch it with us.”

“OK,” I somehow muter. “Maybe.”

“I`m going to hold you to that,” she says with a wink.

Then she turns and starts back toward the stairs-her high heels clicking in the distance- leaving me exactly where I am supposed to be.

I am inside the United States embassy.

And so was the man who killed my mother when he found that he was supposed to kill again.

Technically, I`m already home. I only have to go upstairs. Close the door. Lie down on my pink canopy bed and be a normal girl. But whatever chance I had for normal disappeared three years ago. It went up in smoke.
So I creep back into the tunnels. This time I do not run away. There is no pounding in my head or in my veins. It is like I am moving in slow motion. I feel like I`m walking in a dream.

Once, I stop and lean against the rough walls and try to catch my breath. I worry I might get lost again. I worry about so many things-all the time. But I keep walking. And when I finally climb out into the street, I start to run, faster and faster down the hill.
The Scarred Man was meeting someone in the US embassy. That is where his accomplice lives – or at least works. For days I`ve been worrying about where the Scarred Man had been-who his accomplices might be.

Now I`m not worried.
Now I`m terrified.

So I run faster, arms pumping at my side. Is Noah spending the night in Israel or Brazil? Brazil, I think. No Israel. I stop mid-stride. I turn in a flash.
I`m supposed to be running in the opposite direction but my legs no longer work. My arms can’t move. All I can do is stand in the deserted street. And stare.

“You,” I say.
The Scarred Man smiles. “Hello, Grace.”

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This Song Will Save Your Life- Leila Sales

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You think it’s so easy to change yourself. You think it’s so easy, but it’s not. True, things don’t stay the same forever : couches are replaced, boys leave, you discover a song, your body becomes forever scarred. And with each of these moments, you change and change again, your true self spinning, shifting positions- but always at last it returns to you, like a dancer on the floor. Because throughout it all, you are still always, you: beautiful and bruised, known and unknowable. And isn’t that- just you- enough?

The following Thursday night, I was in the middle of my set, and everything was going smoothly. People jumping around to the Rolling Stones. Vicky was there with Dave, and they had claimed dance space right in the middle of the floor. Char was at the bar, talking to some college-aged girl with highlighted, flat – ironed hai, but I don’t mind, because he has already pressed his fingers into my lower back earlier, which meant I was basically guaranteed yet another night of getting home at dawn. I was wearing the rhinestone pumps that Vicky insister I bu, one of my dad’s old band t-shirts that I had resewn to fit me, and a multicolored scarf that Vicky had lent me. Even Mel hadn’t found anything to criticize with tonight’s outfit.

Everything was going smoothly. Until the door opened a bit before midnight and Emily Wallace, Petra Davies, and Ashley Mersky walked in.

I was thrown into shock, like a queen whose castle’s ironclad fortress has somehow been breached. What are they doing here? This wasn’t high school. This wasn’t driver’s ed. This was Start. This was mine. 

Emily and her friends hadn’t noticed me yet. They clustered in a tight circle, looking around the room, pointing and giggling. I could tell they had gotten all dressed up for their big night out, like this was a school dance. Emily wore  a tight black strapless dress and fake eyelashes. Her make-up was perfect.

They looked ridiculous here, obviously high-school girls seemed as make – believe adults. Ridiculous, but beautiful. There’s a reason why Emily is a model. There’s a reason why  Ashley’s chest was voted ‘best rack’ by the guys’ lacrosse team when she was only a freshman. Because they are the beautiful ones.

This song was winding down, so I put on my headphones to find a new one, but everything I tried sounded suddenly out of place. I tried to focus on my computer, but my eyes kept flickering up, and I was terrified that I would find Emily smirking at me. I wanted to drop my headphones and let the song play out while I ran straight out the door and all the way home.

But you are a professional.

I transitioned  into the Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now?’ I messed up the beat matching, so it sounded disorienting and wrong, but I didn’t even care. I scanned the room again for Emily and her friends. They were waiting in line at the bar. Still not looking at me. But they could look at me any time. At any time, I could be discovered.

And then what?