This CYOA is starting to be even more mysterious and exciting than That Time I Lost My Passport! (Which was yesterday! But then it was quickly followed up by its sequel: "Missing Passport 2: It Was Under The Matryoshka Doll The Whole Time!")
But never mind my poor packing skills. WHAT is going on with Kayleigh?? And why does your former bestie, who couldn't be bothered to say boo to you two days ago, suddenly want you to come hang out? Step inside to see . . .
Option C. Head over to Kayleigh's house, although you're still worried by her one-way ticket to crazytown and her new Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde fun times.
You arrive at Kayleigh's house a little over an hour after school lets out. You've been so busy wondering what the hell has been going on all day - okay, and maybe also indulging in an innocent little daydream involving Neil and Finn and loin cloths - that you haven't thought of the implications of spending time at Kayleigh's house until you're standing at her back door.
Because, of course, that's how you used to enter her house, usually without knocking. Friends since preschool, you and Kayleigh have each run roughshod over each other's homes, getting beaten up by her older brothers, and bossing around your younger sister. Her mom is your honorary mom - for god's sake, she was the one you called when you started your period and your own mom was out of town on business.
But that was Before. Before Kayleigh started acting withdrawn and sullen, before she just stopped calling you at night, breaking your 6-year-long nightly tradition of gossip and homework. Before the weird absences, and the unexplained fashion changes. Before she started talking to Heather.
Sighing, you drop your hand from the knob on the back door, tuck in your chin against the wind and walk around to the front door. You will not cry, you command yourself. You're not a baby anymore. If Kayleigh doesn't want to be friends, then that's just how it is. You press the doorbell, wiping furiously at the few tears which have chosen to ignore your commands and trickle silently down your cheek.
The door opens, and you receive yet another shock in this endlessly surprising day.
"JACOB!" A smile breaking over your face in genuine pleasure, you propel yourself inside the front hall and wrap your arms around the boy who opened the door. "Oh my god, it's been ages!"
Jacob, Kayleigh's second oldest brother, is just about the one guy not genetically related to you who you feel totally comfortable around. (Well, even some of your cousins are a bit uncomfortable to be around. Like Will, with his mouth-breathing. Gross.) Three years older than you and Kayleigh, he's been away at college for the past 8 months. But before he left, he was as much your big brother as he was Kayleigh's, even once defending you against some school bullies. Heather Cavendish, to be exact.
"Hey, Brace Face. Trying to be respectable these days and come in through the front door?"
"I had my braces taken off, like, five years ago, Jake. Isn't the nickname a little obsolete?"
"It's better than what I called you before you got braces, isn't it?"
"True. But then, I just may have the style to pull off 'Myrtle the Turtle' these days."
"One thing about you, Brace Face. You've never lacked style." Jacob gives you a lightning-quick grin and just as you're wondering when the heck he got so cute, he's turning around to walk into the kitchen. "I think The Dark Princess is in her tomb, if you're wondering."
You follow Jacob into the kitchen, where you see he's already got out a glass and is pouring you a Coke, lots of ice, twist of lime. (Your favorite drink since you were 11 and decided it made you sound continental.)
"So you've noticed it too? I mean, Kayleigh, she's been acting . . ." You trail off. Jacob's like a brother, but Kayleigh's your best friend and his sister. You don't want to rat on her.
"Yeah, I've noticed. I mean, I leave for a few months and all of a sudden my baby sister is dressing like a reject from Grease 2 and she won't talk to anyone and Mom keeps crying and talking about finding her spirit animal, which she learned about on Oprah. It's a mess."
"What should we do?"
"What can we do? Kayleigh's always gone her own way, you know that. It's probably just a phase, anyway. Hell, when I was 16, I was convinced that driving a convertable would help me impress girls. A misguided bit of folly which, you will remember, led to trying to refurbish a 1973 Chevy Nova, the hood of which had been torn off during a high-speed police chase."
"I thought the bullet holes in the back bumper made you look very dashing," you reply loyally.
"Thanks. And yet, I never did get the girl."
"Which girl did you want?" Jacob's always been pretty tight-lipped when it came to which girls he had a crush on. It's rare to see him joking about it so easily.
"The only one I've ever wanted, it seems," he sighs as he hands you your drink. "Mandy Moore."
"She's taken. Sorry to be the one to tell you."
"Hey, that guy doesn't even wash his hair. I might still have a chance." Jacob shoots you a grin as he rounds the hall to the tv room. "Have fun down the rabbit hole," he says, nodding upstairs towards Kayleigh's bedroom. "Maybe you can talk some sense into her."
With one last look at Jacob's retreating form (seriously. Where did those muscles come from?), you climb the steps slowly to Kayleigh's room and knock softly on her door, which is cracked open.
"Kayleigh? I got your note, and I thought I'd . . . "
But the room is empty. You quickly glance around to see if she's in her bathroom, but the room is empty and silent.
Well, great, you fume. She asked me over here and told me she could explain, and now she's stood me up. Probably hanging out with Heather. Again.
What happens next isn't your fault, exactly. You aren't prying. Kayleigh's math notebook is laying right there on her desk, flipped open. Looking at isosceles triangles is NOT prying. It's actually pretty boring.
And there it is, crammed into the margins of the notebook, in Heather Cavendish's signature hearts-over-the-Is handwiting:
Better start playing ball, and fast. F and I are going easy on you. Wait till You Know Who shows up on the scene. Let's just say that unbelievers are dealt with. Severely.
You know what you need to do to get to the next step. You already know the story to tell her. Make it sound good.
Holy. Crap. Just as you're trying to figure out just what the hell your BFF has gotten herself into, the phone rings. Habit forces you to take a look at the caller ID readout.
What's Neil doing calling Kayleigh? He doesn't even know her! Right?
You think about picking up, and then a loud crash and a scream sound from the kitchen below.
A. pick up the phone and see if you can get some answers from Neil?
B. investigate the crash? What if Jacob's hurt?
C. run far, far away from all of this madness?
Next installment: To Make Things Totally Unsane, Turn To Page 87