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Chapter no 61

The Teacher

ADDIE

AN HOUR. It’s been an hour.

I have added an extra foot of depth to our makeshift grave, but Nathaniel has not returned. There is no universe in which it would take him an entire hour to walk back to his car and then back to the pumpkin patch again.

So where is he?

“Nathaniel?” I call out. I don’t want to start screaming his name, but I need to find him. First of all, he’s my ride home. And second of all, where the hell is he? It was no more than a fifteen-minute walk back to the car.

Is it possible that he got back in the car and simply left?

No, it’s not possible. Nathaniel wouldn’t do that to me. He wouldn’t just abandon me.

I climb out of the hole, the knee of my jeans squishing into a rotten pumpkin. The hole might be big enough, but I’m not certain. I assumed Nathaniel would tell me.

“Nathaniel!” I call out again, my voice echoing through the woods. No answer.

I want to try to look for him, but I’m so turned around, I’m not even sure what direction to go in. If I leave this site, I’m not certain I’ll ever find it again.

Eve Bennett’s body is still wrapped in that navy-blue sheet. If Nathaniel isn’t here, I have to put her in there. After all, that’s why we’re doing this.

I crouch down beside her body. I don’t want to touch her. I know it’s stupid. You can’t catch dead. When I left my father lying at the foot of the stairs, I didn’t want to touch him either. It was Hudson who checked to see if he was still breathing.

Come on, Addie. You have to do this.

I take a deep breath and roll her over. Her body is still very limp, like a rag doll. I heard dead bodies eventually get stiff, but it hasn’t happened to her yet. I roll her two more times until she’s at the edge of the grave we dug. It’s the perfect size. So I roll her right in.

The body plummets into the grave with a loud thud. As she falls, something comes out of the sheets. I have to climb back into the grave to see what it is, and I’m horrified when I realize that it’s Mrs. Bennett’s purse.

We never left it in the trunk after all.

I don’t get it. Nathaniel said her purse was left behind in the trunk, but obviously it wasn’t. Was he mistaken? Or was he lying to me?

I need to find him. I can’t do this by myself anymore.

I drop the purse back into the grave. I don’t want to do anything else without finding Nathaniel, but I can’t leave the hole like this. I can’t leave here with an open grave with a dead body inside, especially if there’s a chance I might not be able to find my way back here.

So I climb back out of the grave. I grab the shovel and shift as much dirt as I can back into the hole. I cover the dead body with a healthy layer of dirt

—more than enough to keep out animals, but it still seems possible somebody might come across it. I mean, if anybody were wandering around this place where pumpkins come to die.

The leaves have recently fallen off the trees, and there are piles of them everywhere. Instead of bothering with the dirt, I use my shovel to scoop as many leaves as I can back into the hole. I keep going until it’s completely full.

There. From a foot away, the grave is now completely invisible.

With that taken care of, I wander back out of the pumpkin patch, following the landmark of the sign for the entrance. I am certain we turned left when we came into the patch, so that means to get back, I should turn right. Right?

Man, I wish I were better at math.

I stumble along the path, which is filled with rocks and slippery leaves. There’s a clearing that we walked through, but I’m not certain I’m going the right way. It’s entirely possible I’m heading deeper in the woods. After a few minutes, my sneakers are a soggy, muddy mess. “Nathaniel?” I call out again.

No answer. For God’s sake, where is he?

After walking for about twenty minutes, there’s still no sign of him. I haven’t found him wandering around, I haven’t found his dead body being feasted on by squirrels—he’s nowhere. I’m starting to panic, but then I look down and see something familiar embedded in the dirt:

Tire tracks.

His car was hereHe was here. He made it back to the car, then he took off and left. But why would he do that? He must’ve had a reason, but I can’t even begin to imagine what it was. But at least now I can find my way back.

I follow the tire tracks for another mile. It’s now three in the morning, and when I reach the main road again, it’s completely deserted. There isn’t even another car that I could try to hitch a ride with. Not that I want to do that. When they discover Mrs. Bennett is missing, it won’t be good if somebody reports having seen me out here at three in the morning. That would be extremely incriminating.

I pull my phone out of my pocket. At least I have a signal again. Of course, what am I supposed to do about it? I can’t exactly Uber home from here. And I definitely can’t call my mother and explain to her that I’m out in the middle of nowhere and I need a ride home. I’m supposed to already be home, asleep in bed.

I open up Snapflash and send a message to Nathaniel:

 

Where are you? I need to get home.

I stare at the screen, waiting for him to reply and explain to me why he left me out in the middle of nowhere. But there’s no response. Whatever he did and for whatever reason he did it, he’s not answering. And I don’t have his cell number.

That means there’s literally only one person in the whole world who I can call right now.

Hudson.

We already share one terrible secret. What’s one more?

I hesitate, trying to decide if I should wake him up at three in the morning. I hate to do it to him, but it is Friday night. He can sleep in tomorrow.

I really, really hope he does not have do not disturb on his phone.

I select his name from my contacts. He is still listed as one of my favorites, even though I haven’t called him in almost a year. I wonder if I’m still on his list. Maybe he blocked me altogether. Maybe I’m calling him for nothing.

Sure enough, the phone rings and rings and rings, but no answer. Great.

Well, that’s about it. There’s nobody else I can call. Hudson was my one lifeline, and he’s not answering for whatever reason. Now I have to figure out some way to get home on my own.

Just as I’m about to sit on the road and burst into tears, my phone starts to ring. Nathaniel! I knew he would come through for me. I knew he wouldn’t just leave me here.

But then I get a surprise: it’s not Nathaniel’s name on the screen. It’s Hudson.

“Addie?” He sounds tired and confused. “Did you…did you just call me?”

“Yes.” I squeeze the phone so tightly, I’m scared it might crack. “I… I need your help.”

“It’s three in the morning,” he points out, not helpfully. “I know.”

He lets out an extended yawn. “So what do you need at three in the morning?”

“I need you to pick me up.”

“Uh, my parents aren’t going to let me take the car at three in the morning. And I only have a limited license, so technically, I’m not even allowed to drive.”

“I know.”

There is a long silence on the other line. “Where are you?”

I check my GPS. If I didn’t have that, I would have absolutely no idea where I am. I recite the address for him. I can tell he’s plugging it into his own phone, and then he swears under his breath.

“Addie, it’s going to take me close to an hour to get there.” “I know.”

I hold my breath, waiting to see what he’ll decide. Hudson and I aren’t friends anymore. His girlfriend seems to despise me. And if he gets caught sneaking out of the house with the car in the middle of the night, he will be grounded, like, forever. He has about a million reasons to say no. And yet…

“I’m on my way,” he says.

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