The Rules of Being Friends by Jessica Sorensen

1





Jax





I’m running through a dark forest, the moonlight shining down from the sky. I’m scared and covered with sweat, and I’m holding someone’s hand.

I’m holding her hand.

The girl with long, dark hair has quickly become my best friend. Well, besides Zay and Hunter. Normally, we have fun together, but not right now. No, right now I’m scared for the both of us.

“Where are we going?” she whispers as she glances over her shoulder.

“To the bridge,” I whisper back, my gaze skimming the trees, hoping I’m running in the right direction.

“Where is it? Where is it? Where is it?” I mutter under my breath.

A wave of relief rushes over me when I spot it.

“Come on,” I tell her as I run toward the bridge, pulling her with me.

When we reach it, she starts to slow down.

“We can’t stop yet.” I tug on her arm, my gaze flicking over her shoulder, worried I’ll spot one of them.

“I …” She looks down at the river flowing underneath the bridge. “I’m scared of water, Jax.”

While I’m freaked out, I know I need to calm her down or she’s not going to go over the bridge. She’s stubborn like that. But she’s also brave. I mean, she’s out here with me, trying to escape. How can she not be brave?

I level my gaze with her. “You trust me, right?

She nods.

“Well, I promise I won’t let anything happen to you.”

She hesitates. “You pinkie swear?”

I hurriedly hitch my pinkie with hers. “I pinkie swear on my life.”

She relaxes just a drop and lets me guide her over the bridge. Everything seems to be going great until we hear the dogs. They come barreling at us, so fast we can’t outrun them. We’re on the middle of the bridge when they reach us.

I clutch onto her hand and move myself in front of her, but the dogs knock me down and her hand slips from my grip. I hear her scream, and then I hear a splash. I don’t see it happen. I don’t even know how it happened. I just know she went over the bridge.

I start crawling toward the edge, preparing to jump and either die with her or save her, but the dogs begin to claw me apart—

My eyelids snap open, and I gasp for air, my skin drenched in sweat. I’m freaked out, but then that fear hastily turns to guilt. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that dream. I spent years being haunted by it until I found a way to block it out. Distraction was the key, and it’s been working for a few years now, so why the hell am I suddenly dreaming of her death again? Little Willow, the only girl I ever loved.

And the girl I killed.





2





Raven





The first time I realized my uncle Ben was a total nutjob was about a week after I moved in with him and my aunt. He had mostly ignored me until then, although my aunt and cousin were pretty verbal about how much they loathed the new edition to their “perfect” family.

Before I moved in with them, I’d met my aunt, uncle, and cousin a whopping two times. Once I was at my dad’s parents’ funeral after they had died in a car crash. My uncle and my dad were the only children they had, which left them only having each other. According to my dad, though, he never got along with my uncle. He never embellished on the specifics, but I figured he wasn’t a fan of my dad being a thief and a conman, since my uncle was—and is—a cop.

The second time my uncle made an appearance in my life was a couple of weeks before my parents were killed. He just showed up at our house, something my mom was really upset about. I can’t remember much about what happened while he was there, but my memory has always been pretty shitty.

I can always remember having gaps in my memories; tiny holes that I could never fill. I once asked my mom about it when I was younger and couldn’t remember how I got home after school.

She feels my forehead for a fever then looks at me worriedly. “You don’t feel warm, but maybe we should take you to a doctor, just in case.”

I shake my head. “No, I hate doctors.”

She crouches down in front of me. “Now, Raven, remember what we talked about. Doctors help us. There’s no reason to fear them.”

I know she’s probably right. My mom usually is. But every time I even think about going to see a man or woman wearing one of those creepy white coats, I feel like I’m going to throw up—

“Raven! Are you up yet?” My aunt pounds on my shut bedroom door, startling me.

I’ve been awake since before the sun came up, mostly because my side hurts and also because I’ve been overanalyzing everything that happened yesterday—

“Raven!” my aunt shouts again. “Wake up! You’re taking the damn bus today, and it gets here in twenty minutes.”

I sigh heavily. “Okay.”

She pauses. “You’re not going to argue about this?”

“Nope.” Because I don’t plan on riding the bus.

Harlow told me yesterday that I could ride with her, so I’m going to. Then again, Hunter, Jax, and Zay sort of implied that I could ride with them, too … I think anyway. Honestly, I’m confused at this point if I have a ride to school or not.

Sighing, I sit up and scoot to the edge of the bed. “Crap, what am I going to do?” I mumble to myself. “I mean, I could just text one of them and see, but …” What if this is all a prank?