Unforgiven (Fallen #5)(11)

by Lauren Kate

“Fine,” Cam said. “How do I get back to her?”

“Take the door to the left of the hot-dog-on-a-stick stand.” Lucifer pointed at the row of vendors, which were now far in the distance. “Once you set foot in Crossroads, the countdown begins.”

Cam was already moving toward the door, toward Lilith. But as he passed out of Hell’s food court, Lucifer’s voice seemed to follow him.

“Just fifteen days, old boy. Tick-tock!”

Fifteen Days

Lilith could not be late to school again today.

Bailing on the bio test yesterday had already earned her detention after last period—her mother had silently handed her the detention slip when Lilith got home. So this morning, she made it a point to get to homeroom before Mrs. Richards had even finished adding creamer to the coffee in her biodegradable cup.

She was two pages into her poetry homework before the bell rang, and so pleased with her small accomplishment that she didn’t even flinch when a familiar shadow darkened her desk.

“Brought you a present,” Chloe said.

Lilith looked up. The senior reached into her zebra-striped purse and plucked out something white, then slapped it on Lilith’s desk. It was one of those adult diapers, the kind meant for really ancient, incontinent people.

“In case you crap your pants again,” Chloe said. “Try it on.”

Lilith’s cheeks warmed, and she pushed the diaper off her desk, pretending she didn’t care that it was on the floor now, that other kids had to step over it to get to their desks. She glanced up to see whether Mrs. Richards had noticed, but to her dismay, Chloe was now having a tête-à-tête with their smiling homeroom teacher.

“I can recycle my shampoo bottles and my conditioner bottles, too?” Chloe was saying. “I never knew! Now, may I please have a hall pass? I’m supposed to meet with Principal Tarkenton.”

Lilith watched with envy as Mrs. Richards dashed out a pass to Chloe, who took it and skipped out of the room. Lilith sighed. Teachers doled out hall passes to Chloe like they doled out detentions to Lilith.

Then the bell rang, and the intercom crackled to life.

“Good morning, Bulls,” Tarkenton said. “As you know, today is the day we reveal the much-anticipated theme of this year’s prom.”

The kids around Lilith all hooted and clapped. She felt alone among them once again. It wasn’t that she thought she was smarter or had better taste than these kids who cared so much about a high school dance. Something deeper and more important divided her from everyone she’d ever met. She didn’t know what it was, but it made her feel like an alien most of the time.

“You voted, we tallied,” the principal’s voice continued, “and this year’s prom theme is…Battle of the Bands!”

Lilith scowled at the intercom. Battle of the Bands?

She hadn’t filled out the ballot for this year’s prom, but she found it hard to believe that her classmates would have selected a theme that was actually almost interesting. Then she remembered that Chloe King was in a band, and that the girl had somehow brainwashed the student body into thinking that whatever she did was cool. Last spring, she’d made playing bingo an actual thing the in-crowd did every Thursday night. Lilith, of course, had never gone to Bingo Babes, as it was called, but come on—who between the ages of eight and eighty actually enjoyed the game of bingo?

The prom theme could have been worse. But still, Lilith was sure Tarkenton and his high school henchmen would figure out a way to make sure it sucked.

“And now a message from your prom chair, Chloe King,” Tarkenton said.

A scuffling noise came from the intercom as the principal passed the microphone.

“Hey, Bulls,” Chloe said in a voice that managed to be both peppy and sultry at the same time. “Buy your prom tickets and get ready to dance the night away to amazing music played by your amazing friends. That’s right—prom is going to be part Coachella, part reality TV show, with a panel of snarky judges and everything. It’s all sponsored by King Media—thanks, Daddy! So save the date: Wednesday, April thirtieth—just fifteen days away! I’ve already signed up my band to do battle, so what are you waiting for?”

The intercom clicked off. Lilith had never been to one of Chloe’s shows, but she liked to think the girl had about as much musical talent as a lobster.

Lilith thought back to the boy she’d met the day before at Rattlesnake Creek. Out of nowhere he’d suggested she form a band. She’d tried to put the encounter out of her mind, but with Chloe going on about how to sign up to play at prom, Lilith was surprised to feel regret about the total nonexistence of her band.