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Fool Me Once by Honey Boudreaux


Shelby watched, frozen, as the white SUV came screeching around the corner, careening out of control. She knew it was moving too fast. Callie, her best friend, would not have time to get out of the way. The brakes on the truck squealed, leaving black skid marks on the street. It was too late. The scene unfolded as Shelby cried out from the curb. “Callie! No! No!”

Callie whipped her head around only in time to scream. One second they were racing across the street; the next, Shelby, three steps ahead, turned and watched in horror as Callie was struck. Her limp body flew over the hood of the SUV, spiraling through the air like a rag doll. She smashed head first into the windshield, shattering the glass with a gut-wrenching crunch. Her small body twitched then slowly slid down the hood, leaving a blood trail behind, landing on the concrete with a thud.

Screaming from where she stood, covering her mouth to hold back the bile rising in her throat, warm tears streamed down Shelby’s cheeks. She desperately wanted to run to Callie but her legs held, locked in place. The knot in her stomach made her want to retch at the sight of her best friend’s blood draining from her body. Callie’s lifeless body lay in the middle of the road.

Shelby lowered her head, her eyes focused on her feet where she had unknowingly dropped her books. On top was her school’s homework ledger opened to a new page. The date, without anything written on it for homework yet, was Tuesday, April 23rd. In a trance, she looked up to see a young boy with strawberry blond hair carrying a skateboard standing on the opposite side of the street with a terrified look on his face. She begged him with her eyes to move, to help, to save Callie. In that instant, he was simply gone. Shelby glanced back to Callie’s still body. She dropped to her knees, crying out for her. “No, Callie. Please, no.”

Shelby snapped awake, the visions of her dream still fresh in her mind. Grabbing her neck, she could feel her silent scream locked in her throat. At age eleven, this was the first time she had dreamt of someone’s death. Not Callie, not Callie echoed inside of her head. I can fix this! I know I can fix this! Shelby sprang from her bed. Her dream was specific this time; it would happen today; Tuesday, April 23rd.

Shelby learned at an early age that she had an unusual gift. Her dreams foretold future events. She didn’t believe it was a gift at first – not until she learned how to alter the outcomes. Simple things she successfully changed in the past didn’t seem to matter. Her faked appendix attack saved her dad from a broken leg during a skiing accident, but that was different. This was her best friend’s life. Her body trembled as her mind raced with thoughts of how she would prevent her friend’s death. There was a chance she could alter Callie’s fate.

A simple stomach ache would not save Callie. Callie would die if Shelby didn’t stop her. She didn’t know if she could change any of the events that would unfold that day but she was determined to at least try. She would tempt fate in hopes that her friend would be spared.

The two girls were best friends and alternated going to each others’ house after school. They would meet on the corner where, according to her dream, Callie would be struck. Shelby had to persuade Callie to meet her somewhere other than their usual spot before the end of the day. Her heart seemed to be pounding out of her chest as she dressed for school. She quickly gathered her schoolbag, let her mom know the plan to go to Callie’s house today then headed to school. Confident that she would see Callie in the one class they had together or at lunch, Shelby felt a little more at ease.

Shelby knew it was risky to attempt to talk to Callie in Mrs. Kempt’s class but she was desperate enough to take that risk. She entered the classroom too late, frustrated that she had to stop at her locker. She hoped she would have a couple of minutes before class began but already things were going wrong. The bell rang as she waved her hand at her best friend. She mouthed the words, ‘we need to talk.’ Callie did not see her.

“Everyone, be seated.” Mrs. Kempt began. “Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday.”

Mrs. Kempt’s class was boring as usual. They both spent most of their days in class with their chins in their hands, daydreaming. Not today. Shelby’s leg bounced with anticipation. She knew she had to somehow seize the opportunity to warn Callie, at least give her a desperate hand signal. Her stomach was doing flips as she waited for the right second. Mrs. Kempt finally turned away. Shelby quickly spun her head around to whisper to Callie. WHAM. The ruler came down on her desk. Nothing escaped the hawk eyes of Mrs. Kempt.

“Shelby,” Mrs. Kempt snapped, “you’ve just earned yourself a lunch detention.”

“But Mrs. Kempt, I didn’t…”

“Would you like to make it two?”

“No, Mrs. Kempt.” Upset with herself, she turned her body forward and began tapping the floor with her foot. She could feel her face flush, redden with heat; her whole body trembling, she tried to work out a new plan in her head.

Callie chuckled under her breath along with the entire class. Middle school was not as much fun as they had thought it would be when they were in elementary. Mrs. Kempt looked as old as the Alps, was meaner than the Wicked Witch of the West and could hear a pin drop a mile away.

“Is there someone in here who would like to join Shelby?”

“No, Mrs. Kempt,” the class responded in their most harmonious way.

“Now that we are all in agreement, let’s begin where we left off. Callie, please read the next paragraph.”

Callie straightened in her seat then began reading. In one second of bad luck, Shelby had ruined both of her chances to talk to Callie. Now she had to figure out another way to let her friend know about the change in plans. The lunch bell rang. As Callie made her way out the door, she turned to Shelby, pushed out her bottom lip then left the class heading for the small cafeteria. If Mrs. Kempt had a heart, she would allow her to leave early. Everyone in the school knew Mrs. Kempt had no heart; ice water flowed through her veins.

Shelby sat in her chair as calmly as she could. Her leg bounced furiously as she watched the hands of the clock tick by painfully slow. Lunch lasted twenty-five minutes; her heart began to pound with fear as she tried to figure out where Callie would be by the time she was released. A loud beep from the intercom made her jump.

“Mrs. Kempt,” the voice announced. “Please go to the teacher’s lounge.”

Mrs. Kempt sighed and turned to her. “You may g...”

Snatching her school bag, Shelby was out the door before Mrs. Kempt could finish her sentence. She made a mad dash to the lunch room to do a quick scan. She grabbed the arm of one of their friends. “Have you seen Callie?”

“She went to the office a few minutes ago.”

Shelby spun around on her heels then sped towards the office. Once in the office, Shelby learned Callie had been there and left. She must be at recess. Shelby ran around the school yard, her eyes searching side to side as she pushed her way through some of her classmates. Callie was nowhere to be found. Shelby began to panic. She was running out of time. The lunch bell rang ending their already short recess.

This can’t be happening! This won’t happen! I won’t let this happen! Callie, where are you? Her head pounded with fear. Callie, please. Where are you?

A voice from behind her shocked her back. “Shelby, are you looking for an after-school detention? You have one minute to get to your class. If I were you, I’d get my head out of those clouds it’s in and get moving.”

It was Kempt again. Shelby knew she meant what she said. The last thing she needed right now was to be kept for an after school detention. She forced herself to leave the school yard frustrated, upset; her body shaking from head to toe. She reluctantly headed to her next class scanning the hallways as she went. The dream replayed in her memory; Shelby knew she had missed another opportunity.

The rest of the day was spent tapping on her desk or chewing on a pencil, nervously anticipating the outcome if she couldn’t find Callie. Flashes of the accident never leaving her mind; time was not on her side. She was racing the clock, and the clock continued to click towards Callie’s death.

She stood in the school yard after classes had ended, her eyes frantically searching for Callie before she left the grounds. Her body, unable to move from one spot, began to shake from sheer panic. Her stomach was in a knot; ready to lose her morning meal. She knew this was her last chance to stop fate. I will not let you take her. She’s my best friend. I won’t let this happen. Oh God, Callie! Where are you?

“Boo!” Someone grabbed Shelby’s waist from the side.

Shelby jumped backwards. She nearly hit the ground. “Don’t ever do that again!” she snapped.

“What’s your problem?”

Shelby latched onto Callie, pulling her in tightly. She breathed a heavy sigh of relief; unable to stop her tears, they fell on Callie’s shoulder.

“I’ve been looking for you all day. Where have you been? I looked for you at lunch, I checked the school yard. I couldn’t find you.”

“What’s the big deal? You know I would have met you on the corner.”

Shelby turned away to wipe her unnoticed tears. She steadied her voice, not wanting to alarm Callie. “There’s been a change in plans. I’m going to come to your house after school today. My mom had to go in to work for something so she won’t be home.”

“No big deal,” Callie said. “My mom will be home. Hey, what did you think of my escape plan?”

“What escape plan?” Shelby looked at her, tilting her head.

“I had ‘ole hag Kempt called to the teacher’s lounge.”

Shelby broke out in a nervous laughter. “I can’t believe you did that.”

Callie joined the laugher. “Score one for the bestie!”

Shelby’s strategy saved her friend’s life; Callie’s accident had been avoided. Afterwards, Shelby knew she had to learn how to deal with these frightening situations or one day she would not be able to prevent bad things from happening. Right now all Shelby knew was that her best friend was okay and she was thankful. At eleven, she was too young to feel differently.

Over the years Shelby had learned to develop her skills. She sat in her bed holding her locked journal in her hands. Reaching into her desk drawer, she removed the key and unlocked her private thoughts. It had become a ritual for her to sit on her bed as she jotted down important memories taken from her dreams. When she completed her writing, she replaced the key in her draw and walked over to the oak chest that sat in the corner of her room. She had decided she would keep her ability a secret from everyone; her mom, her dad, even her best friend. Being an eleven-year-old weirdo was not something she wanted people to know. The chest was the perfect spot for her to keep her secrets locked away.

Shelby referred to her notes often, reminding herself of things that stood out in her dreams. Some things were important now, some she thought may be important later -- things like the little boy with the strawberry blond hair who kept appearing in her dreams. Who was he? He looked a little weird to her, yet he was cute. He seemed to appear more often now. Shelby decided to note his appearance in her journal. She had to write about what seemed to be his lifeline -- his skateboard. He had it with him in almost all of her dreams. If he wasn’t riding it, he was holding it tightly. She didn’t know what the connection was to the boy; she just knew she felt tingles deep inside, whenever he appeared in her dreams. Maybe she just liked him – if it was possible to like someone you only see in your subconscious mind. He was somehow important. She made her notes, continuing to do the little things her dreams urged her to do.

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