lex wasn’t sure what to do. He certainly did not want to bother going to the house any more, especially if Maddy’s story was a total lie. He felt it was just a waste of time. He could be spending the afternoon hanging out with his neighbors or playing video games in the basement, and was almost spiteful about the idea of going. However, the last thing he wanted was to be called a ‘chicken’ for backing out. That was a certainty. Damian Dermite would laugh at him, and Daisy would likely think of him as a coward. Alex definitely did not want those labels attached to him.
Considering he was in the process of trying to make a name for himself in school, Alex realized that this was something he had to do. Spending countless hours, days, and weeks in the presence of Kaylee Cooper definitely slowed things up quite a bit. This was not one of those times where he could just walk away. This was one of those moments where he had to put himself out there.
Alex’s phone vibrated on his bed. A text appeared on the screen from Daisy. Leaving soon. C U there.
It was the first message Alex ever received from her.
He quickly tapped the reply button and responded. K, lol.
“LOL? Why did I say LOL? I’m such an idiot,” mumbled Alex to himself. “Oh well. I guess that means I have to go and see this dumb abandoned house now, and note to self: No more Kaylee Cooper, no more believing in stupid ghosts, no more getting roped into ridiculous adventures, and no more listening to Madelyn Featherton.”
Alex said goodbye to his parents, and hopped on his bike.
And, no writing LOL.
When he arrived at the school, Daisy waited for him under a tree near the parking lot. She had her hair back in a ponytail. Alex had never seen her with her hair like that before. She looked different. She looked older somehow.
“Hi, Daisy.” Alex pulled his bike up to hers. “No sign of Damian yet?”
“Hey. No, I haven’t seen him. Although, I did just get here. I don’t know how far he lives, so maybe he’ll be a bit longer.”
“Yeah, he’s probably on his way,” Alex said, pulling out his water bottle. “Want some?”
The two stood under the tree with their bikes and patiently waited for Damian. Alex was unaware he was standing alone with Daisy. For that brief moment, he was focused on the mission that was set for them. He thought about Damian, and hoped he would arrive soon. Alex wanted this to be over and done with. He wanted to get back to the comfort of his home and enjoy the rest of his Saturday doing nothing.
It wasn’t until Daisy cleared her throat that Alex realized he was alone with her. It hadn’t dawned on him that moments like this were very rare, and very challenging. Unfortunately, Alex’s mind began rearranging his thoughts, and reminding him of his deep feelings toward her. It was not the right time. Alex did not want the feelings to surface. However, much to Alex’s chagrin, it was too late.
“Not now,” he mumbled to himself, hoping the twisted knot in his stomach would go away.
“Pardon? Did you say something?”
Alex didn’t realize he had spoken aloud. He often found himself forgetting that other people could hear him when he was busy conversing with his scattered thoughts. “I really gotta stop talking to myself.”
“Pardon?” Daisy asked again.
“Argh, there I go again.”
“Are you talking to yourself?” Daisy smiled.
“Yes, I guess I am.”
“Don’t worry; I talk to myself all the time, too.”
The two exchanged smiles. Alex wondered what she was thinking. He wondered what connections she might be making with him at that very moment. He hoped she didn’t know how scared he was, no matter how much he tried to convince himself that there were no ghosts at the house.
“So, why did you say yes to Damian?” Alex asked, finally allowing for his nerves to settle.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I mean, why do you want to go to this house so badly?” Alex played with his hand-brakes on his bike.
“Who said I wanted to go badly? Did Damian say that?”
“Not at all, I was just asking because there aren’t many people who would actually want to go to see a haunted house, at least no one that I know.”
Daisy nodded and looked back at Alex. “I guess I could be asking you the same question then.”
Alex thought for a moment. She made a good point. Why were the two of them standing under a tree by the school parking lot? Why were the two of them going to visit a haunted house?
“Curiosity,” Alex responded. “I guess I’m just curious to know if ghosts really do exist.”
“Okay, I’ve got one: peer pressure.” Daisy fixed the elastic on her ponytail. “I feel like I have to go because my step-brother thinks that ghosts don’t exist. I feel pressured into proving him wrong.”
“Good one. That’s true—I sort of felt pressured to do this, too, although for me, it was Damian.”
Alex and Daisy smiled at each other.
“Totally. Damian scares me,” replied Daisy.
Alex laughed. “Me too. He totally scares me. I can’t believe we’re actually going with him.”
Daisy chucked. “Double scary: ghosts and Damian.”
“Triple scary,” added Alex. “Ghosts, Damian and Screaming Ridge Road.”
“Good one.” Daisy nodded. “Okay, how’s this? Quadruple scary: ghosts, Damian, Screaming Ridge Road and Madelyn Featherton.”
Alex smiled, he couldn’t help it. He loved that he was joking around with Daisy. All it took was some courage and a little ‘small-talk.’ He wanted to keep the conversation going. He desperately wanted to think of a fifth scary thing to add. Kaylee Cooper popped into his head, but she wasn’t worth mentioning anymore.
“Okay, I have one,” he began. “Quack-tulip scary: ghosts, Damian Dermite, Screaming Ridge Road, Madelyn Featherton and Madelyn Featherton’s freaky drawing.”
Daisy giggled and covered her mouth. “Pardon?”
“Madelyn Featherton’s freaky drawing.”
Daisy shook her head. “Did you just say ‘Quack-tulip’?”
Alex paused for a moment, trying to think of the word “Quick-tumm-lit,” he tried again. “Quack-trip-let… quack-like-a-duck.”
The two burst out into fits of laughter. Their nerves and stress were finally released. When they stopped, they noticed that they were no longer alone, and it wasn’t Damian.
“Quintuplet,” said a voice from behind them. “I think you were trying to say ‘Quintuplet.’”
It was Madelyn Featherton.
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