People have been asking me to post an excerpt of NEED. So Deb Shapiro at Bloomsbury sent me this. I hope you like it. Please don’t reprint it without permission or anything like that.
The roads aren’t too terribly icy and I manage to follow Issie’s little Volkswagen to her house without skidding, slamming on the brakes, or anything like that.
The whole time I’m driving I’m thinking: This is where my dad grew up. These are the roads he drove. These are the roads he won’t ever drive again. Then I swerve to avoid a pothole.
Issie is hauling out Devyn’s wheelchair while I park and check out the house.
“Your house is cute,” I say.
“It’s very shingled Cape.” She grimaces. “Very Maine. Charleston houses aren’t like this, are they?”
“Not really,” I say, and lock the car. It makes a comfortable beeping noise.
“You don’t have to lock it,” Devyn says. He’s standing up beside his chair. I must make some sort of funny look. “Yeah, I can stand.”
“I’m sorry. I’m such a jerk. I was staring, wasn’t I? God, that’s awful. I’m awful.” I can feel my face go all red as Devyn plops himself into the wheelchair.
“I’ll forgive you this time.” He smiles. He unlocks some gadget thing on the side and starts wheeling toward the front door.
“Devyn may eventually walk again,” Issie brags, opening the big red door. “He’s got the doctors all astonished. He wasn’t ever supposed to stand after the accident. He’s a good healer.”
Devyn gets this pained, embarrassed look so I don’t ask about the accident. He changes the subject. “Issie’s parents work late.”
“At the bank,” Issie explains. She flops on the couch, pats the cushion next to her, then lunges back up. “Oh. I should offer you something to eat. Are you guys hungry?”
“I’m good,” I say, taking in the room, the coziness of it. It’s almost like a timber frame house, I would guess.
“Starving,” Devyn says.
Issie bounds into the kitchen and comes back with a tub of Breyers ice cream. She plops it on Devyn’s lap and gives him a spoon. “You are always hungry.” He flips off the top and digs in. “Too true.”
We watch him eat. Issie falls back on the couch, but she’s so hyper she starts twitching her foot. The silence is big.
“So . . . ,” I say. “You guys were going to tell me about the man outside the cafeteria. Have you ever seen him before?”
Devyn swallows. “I’m not sure. He creeped me out, which is not manly, I know.”
“You are totally manly,” Is announces in a way that makes both Devyn and me blush. She stops twitching. “Devyn looked up some stuff. You are probably going to have a hard time believing this.”
I wait. “Uh-huh . . .”
“You want to tell her?” Issie asks.
Devyn sticks the spoon in the ice cream carton. It stands up straight. He toughs out the words, “We think he’s a pixie.”
I wait more.
Issie rushes in. “Okay. I know it sounds weird, but hear us out, okay?”
I wonder for a second if everyone in Bedford, Maine, is insane or just Devyn and Issie, and possibly me. I decide to play along. “Okay.”
“Okay,” Issie continues. “Okay . . . um . . .”
“You said you saw him at the airport in Charleston,” Devyn starts.
“On the runway.” I pull my legs up under me and settle into the couch. “And then I saw him here.”
I shudder, remembering.
“That’s so weird,” Issie says, tapping her fingers against her leg.
“I know it’s weird.” I nod. I take a pillow from the couch. It’s dark green and has felt leaves on it. I hug it. “I thought I was imagining it. But you guys saw him today, right?”
I ask the question. “You think he’s a pixie?”
They nod again.
The spoon falls over in the ice cream.
“Aren’t pixies little winged things that dance around flower gardens?” I ask.
“Not exactly.” Devyn grabs the spoon like it’ll steady him somehow.
“Why do you think he’s a pixie?” I finally say, trying to take it all in.
“He gets from place to place really fast and he leaves gold dust where he walks,” Issie says. “Totally pixie ruler behavior. At least, um, according to the Web site Devyn found.”
“Gold dust? Like Tinker Bell?” I stand up. It’s too much. “Is this a joke? Some initiation prank, like let’s torment the new girl?”
“We would never do that to you. That would be so mean.” Issie frowns, all crushed. Devyn’s voice raises an octave. “I told you not to tell her the dust part. It sounds stupid.”
“I know it sounds stupid.” Issie stands up with me. “But it’s true.”
“Right. It’s true,” I say. I jingle my car keys, itching to leave, but still wanting to hear this for some stupid reason. Issie’s practically pleading. “But the Web site said so.”
“Well, we’re not sure it’s true, Is. It’s a working theory,” Devyn says. His eyes look pained. “I know it seems ridiculous, Zara. I mean, I think it’s kind of ridiculous, but I’ve been all over the Web and I can’t find anything else that would explain this guy.”
“And why is he following me?”
“That’s a good question,” Devyn says. “When did you first see him?”
I do not want to think about it. I have been actively not thinking about this for four months, but Is and Devyn stare up at me with these wide-open, trusting eyes and I just plunge ahead, ignore the ache in me. “After my dad died.” Issie and Devyn look confused.
“You saw him when your dad died?” Issie says.
Then I remember. This morning there were little glitter sparkles by my car. Dust. Pixie dust. No, it can’t be that. But maybe it’s something else—a calling card, some sort of serial killer hallmark.
“What?” Devyn asks, wheeling closer. His chair hits a copy of People. “What did you just figure out?”
“How do you know she figured something out?” Issie asks. “She has a look.” I close my eyes. I open them. “I’m not sure if I believe the whole pixie thing . . .”
“But?” Issie straightens herself up, waiting.
“But,” I continue, “I am pretty positive that the man I saw when my dad died is the same one at the high school. I am pretty damn sure, actually, and I want to find out who the hell he is.”
Issie tries again. “What if he’s a pixie?”
I almost laugh. “I don’t think he’s actually a pixie. Maybe a stalker or something.”
Issie’s eyes light up. “You mean he read the Web site and he’s modeling his behavior?”
“Yeah. I don’t know. But if he’s just some normal psycho how can he get everywhere so quickly? It makes no sense. It might just be a big coincidence.”
“You don’t believe that. You’re just trying to fool yourself, to not be scared,” Issie says.
I swallow. She’s right. I am.
“What about the dust?” Devyn urges. “There’s not a lot of it, but it’s there. I saw it.”
“I don’t know about the dust. Maybe he plants it, like some sort of creepy calling card,” I say, checking my watch. “I’m sorry. I have to go get the car registered before they close.”
It’s true, but I’m really trying to leave because I just want a second to myself, a second to figure this out. When I get to the door, Issie puts her hand on my wrist, gently.
“You’ll be careful, right?”
“You don’t believe us?” Devyn asks, pivoting the chair so he can look at me.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I don’t know. The whole pixie thing is weird, but I mean, it’s also weird that I’m here in Maine.”
“And that he followed you,” Devyn adds.
“That’s not just weird,” Issie says. “It’s creepy. Really creepy.”