First, y’all voted for the genre. Then you submitted storyline and character suggestions. Now, it’s finally time to begin our new installment of Choose Your Own Adventure: Magical Mystery Tour, FYA style. Slip on your best Veronica smirk and prepare to unravel a mystery set in the most dangerous place of all: high school.
Chapter 01: Senior Year Is Killer
It’s the first day of your senior year. You walk through the school entrance and think about how things were supposed to be different. After all, you’re a senior. You’ve survived three years of boring teachers and asshole football players and back-stabbing cheerleaders. You’ve earned a year to finally, well, enjoy high school. But now you’re starting to wonder—is that even possible?
Maybe it would be, if your best friend Kayla was here. Kayla was always so excited about everything. You went to the same local diner (The Gourd) every weekend, and yet she made each time feel like it was full of promise and adventure (and not just waffles and coffee creamer towers). She could turn a class presentation on Great Expectations into a riveting Miss Havisham monologue that literally got her a standing ovation in English class. No wonder she’d been voted drama club president this year. Your heart sinks at the thought of her absence at this afternoon’s first meeting.
Oh Kayla, where are you?
Something large and plaid shoves into you, slamming your latte into your new Delia’s top. “Watch it, freak.” Steven Pruett, high school quarterback and douchebag extraordinaire, pushes past you down the hall as espresso begins to drip down your jeans. And so Senior Year begins.
* * *
Water from the bathroom sink can only do so much, which means you’re sporting a light brown stain and eau de coffee. For once, you’re glad you’ve got the early lunch period, because you can head over to the theater and try to find a sweater or jacket from the costume closet to hide your latte disaster. It still feels strange to head into the theater lobby without Kayla beside you, chattering away about the upcoming musical auditions or her hot date with Dylan, her boyfriend since last year. When Dylan transferred into school in the middle of junior year, Kayla thought he was an answer to her prayers, a reward for enduring the hottie wasteland of the Roosevelt High Drama Club. Sure, you were a little jealous, but Kayla was so happy, and she was great at balancing bestie and girlfriend duty.
The backstage lights are off, but you know the layout by heart, so you slowly make your way to the costume closet door. Out of nowhere, a body runs into yours, but thankfully, you’re not holding a latte this time. Even better, it’s not Steven Pruett.
Mr. Crane, your theater teacher, lets out a grunt upon impact then quickly takes hold of your shoulders. “What are you doing here?” his voice carries an intensity you’ve never heard before.
“Uh, Mr. Crane, it’s me, Caitlin,” His grip eases only slightly. “Sorry, I was hoping to borrow a sweater ’cause I, uh, well, I had this latte disaster and um…” His fingers are digging into your arms. “Maybe we should, ah, turn on the lights?”
He finally lets go. “Oh Caitlin, yes, of course.” After a few seconds, the backstage lights flicker on. Mr. Crane turns back to you and pushes up his glasses while smoothing out his fitted black shirt. Is it just you, or does he look a little panicked?
“Is everything ok, Mr. Crane?” you ask, tugging on the strap of your backpack.
“Fine, Caitlin. Everything’s fine. Just trying to get everything ready back here before auditions. You know how crazy the first day of school can be!” He laughs, but it sounds empty.
“Ok, well, do you mind if I grab something from the costume closet?” He waves you by, so you dash into the room, grab the only sweater that doesn’t smell like B.O. and head back towards the lobby. For some reason, your heart is beating super fast.
As you rush into the lobby, you realize that, per tradition, the drama crowd has already gathered for their lunch. People are spread out on the floor, munching on sandwiches and dishing about their theater summer camps. You feel a pang when you don’t spot Kayla’s big blonde curls amidst the group.
You do, however, spy Dylan with his back against the wall, his long legs sprawled out in front of him. He’s listening intently to an extremely animated junior named Stephanie, and he doesn’t notice you approach until you’re almost stepping on him.
“Dylan, hey.” He looks up at you, his light brown hair falling over one eye. You and Kayla used to wonder if he practiced that move in the mirror every night.
“Hey, Caitlin, what’s up?” He smiles like he doesn’t have a care in the world. Like his girlfriend isn’t missing.
“Can I talk with you for a sec? Um, in private?”
He sighs, but he gets up and follows you into the auditorium.
“So have you heard anything from Kayla? Or her parents?” Anxiety raises your voice to an unattractive octave.
He has the decency to look concerned. “No, I haven’t. But, you know, her parents might still be in France.”
“Their daughter’s been missing for the past two weeks. You’d think they would be back by now.”
“Well, we don’t know if she’s missing.” Dylan’s voice takes on a condescending tone that you reeeally don’t like. “I mean, come on, you know Kayla. She always has to be dramatic about everything. Maybe she decided to stay at theater camp. Hell, maybe she decided to move there and be, like, a teacher.”
Your hands are now balled into fists. “Dylan, don’t be stupid. She came back. She called me and said she was back. And then… I never heard from her again.”
Dylan shakes his head. “Caitlin, you’re freaking out over nothing. I’m sure Kayla’s just trying to make a big entrance. She’ll be back in time for auditions next week. That girl would never miss the chance to be Eliza Doolittle. Now, come on, I’ve got a bag of chips I’d like to decimate before the bell rings.”
After that little exchange, you’re way too irritated to gossip about summer vacation (especially since yours was largely spent making sandwiches at Subway). You decide to head to your next period early so your head can spend some precious time on a desk.
* * *
You’ve made it through the first day of your senior year, and as you walk to your locker, you keep hoping that Kayla will be waiting for you, a huge smile on her face. “Surprise!” she’ll say, throwing her head back and laughing. “Sorry, Cait, I just couldn’t handle the first day jitters.” She’d hug you, smelling like crisp lemons, and then she’d treat you to a sundae at The Gourd, and all would be forgiven.
But she’s not there. So you open your locker, dump your books and stare at the photo you tacked up that morning. It’s a photo of you and Kayla on closing night of Guys and Dolls. You’re in your typical crew outfit of black pants and a black hoodie, and Kayla is still in costume, looking like a knockout. Your mom took the picture before you were ready, so you and Kayla are looking at each other, laughing.
“Nice sweater.” The deep voice startles you, so you whip around, wiping the tear from your eye. There’s a boy standing two lockers over, and you’ve never seen him before. And you know you would remember, because he’s gorgeous. Well, gorgeous isn’t the right word– more like, arresting. His dark eyes burn over high cheekbones, and his navy t-shirt stretches over broad shoulders.
You realize you’re staring at him, and then your brain registers what he actually said. “Oh, um, it’s not mine, I, uh, borrowed it from the theater closet. Because, well, I had a latte this morning and Steven Pruett ran into me and he’s a total dick and uh… well… ” You trail off as his smile widens. God, please don’t let this be a dream. Please.
“I’m Silas Anderson. You’re Caitlin Landry, right?” He cocks his head, still looking at you with those eyes. Those eyes!
“Um, yeah. How did you know?”
“I heard about your friend, Kayla. That sucks.” He shakes his head sympathetically then slams his locker shut.
“Wait, you heard she’s missing? Who told you that?” You’re frozen, Spanish textbook in hand, as he walks away.
“See you later, Landry.” He tosses a grin back at you and disappears around the hallway corner.
A. Follow Silas and try to find out what he’s heard.
B. Head to the Drama Club meeting. Mr. Crane and Dylan will both be there, and you can see if they’re still acting weird.
C. Go to Kayla’s house and see if her extra key is still under the gnome by the back door.