I know what I’m talking about, Alecto! When I think of Jud, I think of the times he wanted to be a coal miner, the times he took Wendy and me sailing in the harbour, the times he showed me how to play soccer, but I forgot all the bullying and I’ll never understand why. And now you ask me, you ask me what happened once we were in high school. You said you didn’t understand what having a family was like, so ask me!

On a nightstand in a teenager’s room, a glass vase filled with violets leans precariously against a wall. The only thing saving the vase from a thousand-piece death on the hardwood floor is the groove in the nightstand’s surface that catches the bottom of vase, and of course the wall itself. The violets, nearly a week old, droop in the light of a waning gibbous moon. Wrinkled petals are already piling up on the floor between the nightstand and the wall, and a girl only six days sixteen stares at the dying bouquet from her bed.

And it wasn’t just us. It wasn’t just that we were high school, me a junior and you a senior, with our clothes all wrong for restaurants like this, too bright and too rumpled and too zippered and too stained and too slapdash and awkward and stretched and trendy and desperate and casual and unsure and baggy and sweaty and sporty and wrong.

Everyone is born a freak,” notes Hayley. “Every newborn baby, wet and hungry and screaming, is a fresh-hatched freak who wants to have a good time and make the world a better place. . . . Most teenagers wind up in high school. And high school is where the zombification process becomes deadly.

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