I closed the door behind me, heading down the hallway and straight to Hell. The hall glowed eerily in the morning light. Outside, the wind snarled and threw a kaleidoscope of dry leaves against the large windows. I was sure whoever summoned me had very good intentions, but that only encouraged the gnawing sensation in my gut. Wasn’t the road to Hell paved with good intentions?
My feet dragged the whole way to Guidance. The call had gotten me out of Ms. Ashton’s Literature class——not gym. Nobody ever got called out of gym.
The whole thing made me suspicious. Why did Guidance need me? Had they finally figured out who wrote that scathing editorial about the double standards between the jocks and the nerds? Considering what I knew of Guidance I could be fairly certain they hadn't, at least not without assistance.
When the call came rattling through the intercom system, I’d shot a look at a fellow editor who shrugged. I presumed I hadn't been ratted out.
Then why was I being summoned? Sure, I was perpetually late handing library books in and there were at least three times I'd signed in tardy with the nurse and accidentally taken her pen. But seriously. If Guidance wanted to summon a troublemaker they had the wrong girl. Well-—pretty much.
My sneakers scuffed along the oatmeal-colored tile floor and I sighed. God, I asked, don't let them be holding some stupid intervention for me about Mom. The thought stopped me cold. I looked at the flimsy blue pass in my hand. How bad would it be to forge a time and signature on it and go back to class? Would Guidance remember they'd called? It was nearly the end of first quarter so wouldn’t they be scrambling to organize last minute study sessions with the kids slipping (or diving) through the cracks?
I glanced up the hallway; its cinderblock walls seemed to tighten around me. Breathe… The walls retreated. There was no witness to see me scrawl the signature Mr. Maloy joked was proof he could have been a doctor. I could make a quick u-turn and head back to class… I chewed my lower lip, considering the odds I’d get caught. Hmph.
I turned down the hall and opened the door to Guidance; scanning the waiting room I looked for a coat or hat belonging to my dad-—anything to warn me to leave before someone with a Master's degree decided it was best for me to talk about my innermost feelings——again. But there was no sign of Dad.
A poster hung on one wall, obviously an art project, raising awareness about the rash of teen suicides occurring on the train tracks between Farthington and Junction. Could things ever be so bad I’d willingly jump onto the tracks before an approaching train? The tension fell out of my shoulders. No. I wasn’t a suicide risk. I’d witnessed the worst and I was still here. I exhaled, surprised to find I’d been holding my breath.
The secretary was focused on a magazine. Its blaring red cover featured titles including “What Type of Tree Would Your Lover Be” and “When to Worry about His Psycho Ex.” I cleared my throat. She looked up, saying, "Oh. Jessica," and pointed a carefully manicured finger towards the conference room. "Mr. Maloy's waiting."
She smiled, big eyes pleasantly blank. Clueless. I figured it was best to have someone like her greeting folks as they entered Guidance. She'd never panic if bullets started flying. She probably wouldn’t even notice unless they clipped her stylish hair.
I knocked on the conference room door, goose bumps raising the fine hairs on my arms. I'd been here before, sitting on one of many hard plastic chairs pulled in a tight circle as counselors and teachers told me how much I still had to look forward to in life. How great it would all still be if I only tuned back in… How they all cared for me and were there to support me… And I'd hated it. None of what they said mattered. They were paid to say stuff like that. Probably contractually obligated.
Besides, I always hated things that made me cry. And I knew I was strong enough to cope with what happened. Without help.
As the door opened I saw a group of people I didn't recognize, along with Junction High’s head counselor and a police officer. Weird, but a relief. No intervention, then—— obviously this party wasn’t for me; I was merely a guest.
"Jessica," Mr. Maloy rose from his spot at the far side of the table.
The cop leaned against the wall by the window.
The others turned to face me. They were tall and well-built with high cheekbones and strong jaws——even the single girl standing with the three guys. They had thick dark hair, glinting eyes-——and nametags.
"These are the Rusakovas." Mr. Maloy motioned to the group.
What others are saying about 13 to Life:
"A unique tale with a bright heroine and dark secrets compelled me to keep reading."
-Maria V. Snyder, NYT bestselling author of Poison Study and Storm Glass
"The way Delany constructs the characters and formulates the events made me unable to put the book down. I’m absolutely dying for the sequel."
-Erin C., YALSA Reviewer
"Pitch-perfect and deliciously paced, this book dishes up your next fiction addiction."
-Ann Aguirre, bestselling author of Grimspace
"Jessie and Pietr's bond is sweet and real, with more than a touch of delicious danger."
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"...a fun read that brings a bit of new life to the genre."
-Rachel M., reviewer with SLJ Teen
"A fun, gothic romance of suspense, secrets and the dangerous truth behind the new kid in town."
-Lucienne Diver, author of Vamped