Infected Die Like Supernovas - Alan Janney

Chapter One

Tuesday, January 1. 2018

“This is a bad idea,” I said.

“You’ve said that before,” Katie Lopez beamed at me.

“It still is.”

“You’re cute when you’re jealous,” she said and she touched me on the nose with her finger. I sat on the bed in her small, pink and perfumed room watching her get ready for her date. I hated the outfit she'd picked out; it was far too small and tight. But she just laughed when I suggested she wear sweatpants and a hoodie. Her finger turned my whole face hot and tingly.

“I’m not jealous,” I protested. Again.

“Yes you are,” she said, arms raised to fasten her silver necklace. “And I like it.”

“I’m worried. Big difference.”

“You’re jealous but you’re really not allowed to be. You have a girlfriend. Remember? The prettiest girl in school?” she reminded me pointedly. “And I have a date with a gorgeous Patrick Henry Dragon.”

She was right about two things. One, I did have a girlfriend. I honestly kept forgetting that over the weekends. Her name is Hannah Walker and although she’s high school royalty she’s also very committed to her school work and cheerleading, even over the weekends. We’d never even been out on a real date. And the second thing Katie was right about, I was jealous.

In fact, I’m in love with her.

I had been for years. I fully admitted this to myself for the first time a few months ago, when she almost died. She’d been kidnapped in October and the police couldn’t find her for over twenty-four hours. Thankfully she’d been rescued unharmed but that day was the worst of my life. Katie is my childhood best friend and I don’t want to live in a world without her. I really like Hannah, my girlfriend, especially when I was around her. She’s overwhelming. But Katie is a way of life for me, as important as oxygen.

“You can not, you can not go on a date with a Patrick Henry Dragon. We’re Hidden Spring Eagles. The Dragons are our rivals,” I said.

“I know! It’s forbidden love, which is romantic,” she grinned, and she began doing something to her face in the mirror with a makeup brush. She’d been growing increasingly pretty as she transitioned out of childhood. Did she know that? I was positive she didn’t care; she only cared about being our school’s next valedictorian.

“It’s not romantic. And it’s certainly not love! Ugh. The Dragons are scum,” I said and took another bite of a chocolate bar. Katie kept her room permanently stocked with chocolate for me. I’d been bingeing on the stuff recently. She lived in an apartment down the street from my family’s townhouse.

“Tank is not scum,” Katie admonished me. “He’s too perfect.”

“Tank is scum. Trust me. He’s a big fat dumb scumbag.”

“Chase,” Katie snapped. “I’ve been waiting to go on this date for over two months. It’s January. He asked me out in October!”

“November,” I corrected her. November 1st. I’d never forget that day. That awful awful day.

“Whatever! Mami has had me barricaded in here for two months, like I’m in the witness protection program or something. I’ve been anticipating tonight for sixty days, Chase. So please try and not ruin it for me?”

What could I say? Nothing. I wanted to say so many things but could say none of them. What I wanted to tell her most of all?

The guy she was going out with tonight was the very big fat scumbag that had kidnapped her two months ago. She just didn’t know it. And I couldn’t tell her.

I secretly tailed her car downtown. Her mother was driving her to Tank’s apartment in the city, and I trailed five cars back in my trusty old Toyota. Her mother, a sweet Latina lady, drove five miles under the limit so I had no problem following through the thick Los Angeles traffic. Katie would kill me if she knew.

In the stylish northeastern section of the cavernous city, not far from Echo Park, her burgundy sedan disentangled itself from the snarl and eased to a stop next to a familiar brick building. I parked illegally a block away and watched through the stop-light traffic. I was intimately familiar with that five-story apartment building. I’d never been in it, but I’d been on top of it. Weird, but true.

A massive young man emerged from the building’s grand double-door entrance. It was Tank Ware. The best high school football player on the planet. Junior at Patrick Henry High. Athletic freak. Absurdly handsome. Mind-bogglingly wealthy. A