“Ronnie, you don't understand. I can't stay in that house anymore, I feel like someone's watching me all the time.”
“If this is some kind of joke, it's not funny at all. You know how seriously I take the supernatural.”
“God, Veronica, I'm not kidding. I can literally feel that look on me. And it's everywhere, no matter what part of the house I'm in. My parents say I'm paranoid, but I know how I feel.”
“Will you calm down, okay? Tomorrow I will visit you in the new house, and we will bring to light all the ghosts.”
“Thanks, V. You're the best friend.”
“Try to sleep, I love you.”
“Love you too.”
Toni put the phone down on the nightstand and pulled the covers tighter around her. She was already eighteen years old, but in this house, she could not sleep without a light source. Her favorite nightlight lit up some of the room, but it wasn't enough. Besides, it cast weird shadows that made everything even scarier. Or maybe it was what Toni had found on the Internet about that place that made it scarier. Not so long ago, twins her age had died here. The feds thought it was a suicide and the case was hushed up. At least one meticulous young detective thought so. Locals also avoided this place, because for a few days, Toni did not see anyone nearby. Her parents needed to find out more carefully, and not buy into the low price of realtors who want to get rid of this terrible Gothic castle.
The floorboards creaked ominously, forcing her head under the covers. Oh, if her former friends could see it now, they'd laugh for a year. But that, at least, was nerve-racking. She slept here only a few nights, but she could only sleep for a couple of hours.
“Let's scare her some more.”
The whisper came directly over Topaz's face. She screamed and jerked back the covers. It always seemed funny to her that in horror movies the victims ran straight into danger instead of hiding away. But now she felt the adrenaline rush of not being able to lie down and do nothing. A pair of brown eyes stared at her. The guy loomed over her. He held himself in the air in a horizontal position, and his eyes were as frightened as the girl's. She could not breathe or move, her body as if weighed down by weights. Is it possible that she just fell asleep and sees the tenth dream? Or is this guy real? What about the girl sitting on the windowsill filing her nails? Is this some kind of trick?
“Who are you, and what are you doing in my room?” Toni was terrified, but she managed to say the sentence in a more or less calm and slightly defiant voice.
“Are you kidding me?” The redhead stopped what she was doing and was beside the bed. “Can you fucking see us?”
“You're not out of thin air, why shouldn't I see you? How did you get here, this is the second floor?”
“Jay, do you understand? She sees us!” The guy moved and now stood with, like two peas similar to him, girl. Toni did not have time to blink during this action.
“But it can't be. No one has noticed us yet!”
Images from the Internet began to blink in Toni's mind: police tape, a coroner's car, a tear-stained Mrs. Blossom, and a photo of eighteen-year-old twins attached to the document. Topaz suddenly burst out laughing, causing the twins to look at each other blankly and stare at her again.
“Are you fucking ghosts?”
The girl seemed to grow bolder. She threw back the covers completely and even sat up in bed to enjoy the picture to the fullest.
“Are you the Blossoms who killed themselves here?”
“Actually, I'm too beautiful and young to kill myself.” The redhead grunted, tossing her hair over one shoulder. Her skin was hideously pale, paler than her brother's. “We were killed, dear.”
“Cheryl! We can't tell her that.” The guy was outraged by the behavior of his sister.
“Do you see anyone else who can hear us? And you seriously think anyone would believe her Ghost stories? That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard you say.”
“Why are you here? Who killed you?” Toni didn't believe them for many reasons. Yes, the resemblance was on the face, but it may be too skillful makeup. Or it would all evaporate as soon as she woke up. And let the fact that she pinches her hand a minute, is not helping. She's definitely sleeping soundly. So if she was safe, why not pleased her nightmares and talk to the ghosts?
“We were killed here, weirdo! I just told you! And we don't know who it was. Just that we've done something to that asshole, because who else is going to put us to sleep and open our veins?”
“No, I think she's wondering why we stayed in the house. Can I sit?”
Toni nodded, raising an eyebrow as the bed buckled beneath the boy.
“The thing is, we don't know. Maybe the house is cursed, and everyone who dies here remains a Ghost.”
“This isn't American horror story, Jason. It's just that sometimes fate can be a bitch.”
The girl was obviously bored during a conversation. Even the fact that she had been able to talk to someone other than her brother in the last few years, which was how long it had been since their deaths, did not please her. Toni, of course, arranged such an answer, because she did not even believe in the reality of what was happening. But it didn't escape her that the twins were very reluctant to answer questions about their deaths, and looked as if they were coming up with answers as they went.
“Why didn't you show up earlier?”
“Well, you know, we've tried everything. People only hear the sounds of our pranks, so we lost hope. But you're different. Can you imagine what it was like for me to talk only to Cheryl for two years?”
Topaz smiled. It was as if she were talking to an ordinary classmate from the last school rather than having a small talk with a dead boy whose soul is locked in her new home. But can not only soul?
Toni reached up and tucked a strand of bright red hair behind his ear. That's what caught the attention of the selfish sister. She materialized next to Toni, even though she'd just been looking at her family photos across the room. She suddenly grabbed the girl's wrist. Her skin was icy. Toni's instincts told her to keep girl's warm, but she pushed those thoughts away.
“It's crazy.” Cheryl whispered in awe as she studied girl's wrist, running her fingers over it, sending goose bumps all over the pink-haired woman's body. “We need a lot of effort to touch simple fucking things. And here to touch the person, without making any effort...”
Topaz came to herself and jerked her hand away. It no longer seemed unreal, so it frightened her.
“Can you leave my room, please?”
“Sure.” The boy was gone in an instant, only a slightly rumpled sheet reminding that he was sitting on the bed. But his sister didn't leave so quickly. She was standing beside the bed, staring into Toni's eyes, frowning.
“We're not done yet, Antoinette! And this is my room!”
Toni opened her mouth to protest, but Blossom was gone. The girl could only lie back in bed and cover herself with a protective blanket. She had nothing more to fear, for all her fears had left the room at her request. God, how absurd! Her heart was pounding in her chest. She had experienced a meeting with ghosts, and it was an indescribably strange experience. But now she wanted to get to the truth. She should to act alone, because to tell about this-to get a direct ticket to a mental hospital. But Topaz loved mysteries with all her being, and with that thought she sank into her first serene sleep in a long time.
Toni woke up late. The delights of summer vacation made themselves felt. But it was unusual for her to get up almost at lunchtime. Mom never disturbed her on weekends and holidays, because she spent a lot of time studying, did not forget about the parties with a friend, so very exhausted. But sometimes Toni just needed to get up early so she wouldn't feel like a vegetable all day. She got out of bed and went straight to the shower to wash away her drowsiness.
After all the water treatments, the girl wrapped herself in her favorite terry robe, put on slippers and went downstairs. She stopped in the middle of the stairs and closed her eyes blissfully. The delicious smell of freshly baked pancakes, which she loved to eat with currant jam, began to spread throughout the house. Mom didn't work, so Toni could enjoy her cooking. But dad worked like hell to make sure his family didn't need anything. The girl almost carelessly continued to move, but then she was flooded with memories of why she again stopped abruptly.
Those guy and girl were so real that it stirred the mind. But the girl was so sound asleep that she might have thought of something. Although not one of her dreams did not remember her in such detail. She looked around and, seeing no one else, whispered loudly.
It was quiet for a few seconds. And then she saw a red-haired boy in shorts, a long t-shirt, barefoot, with disheveled hair. It was as if he, like Toni, had just woken up, but it wasn't as if the ghosts needed sleep. The scream lodged deep in her throat, but Toni just stood there blinking her eyes while Jason, too, was silent, turning cards between his fingers. She had just noticed the letters written by black marker on his forehead.
Just like his sister, Toni thought, and she saw girl in front of her.
“God, what took so long?” Cheryl was annoyed again. She was also dressed casually in short shorts and an oversized shirt. Her hair was in a bun and she wore no makeup. Topaz thought for a moment that she was not seeing yesterday's cover model at all, but some best friend staying at her place overnight.
On the girl's cheek was written in bold letters:
But Toni didn't care, just continued to stare at the twins.
“Jay, she looks like she has seen a ghost.” Cheryl grinned, waving a fan of cards in front of the pink-haired girl's face. “Come on, I want to keep playing.”
“It can't be real." Toni finally whispered.
“Well, of course you're just hallucinating. Can we leave it at that?”
“Wait, what about my parents?” Cheryl was about to evaporate, so Toni grabbed her arm just above the elbow. But the girl immediately hit Toni, knocking her hand away. Apparently she was terribly unaccustomed to physical contact for a few years.
“Don't touch me! Jason spent half the morning spinning in front of your mom, but she didn't see him.”
“What about my dad?” Toni wanted to find some proof that she wasn't crazy.
“Well…” Cheryl laughed, which Toni thought was insanely beautiful. “Jay was afraid that if he saw him, he would kill him like a thief. But I dare you to grieve, he didn't even notice me, which is impossible, of course. He literally walked through me, yelling at someone on the phone.”
“But why do I see you? This is pure madness!”
“It is, but, alas, it is your burden! Good luck with that.” Cheryl disappeared, slapping her brother on the shoulder.
“Forgive her, she doesn't trust people. But she's good person, really.”
The boy smiled good-naturedly and, wishing Toni a good appetite, followed his sister. She stood there for some time, until Amelia came out of the kitchen and called her to the table. Toni decided here and now, whatever it took, she would find out what had happened to these guys.
Veronica came in after dinner, as she had promised, but Toni had only eaten by this time. Ronnie was the most punctual person in the world, but she didn't push her friend, knowing that after what had happened in New York, she was still not herself. The girls went upstairs to get Toni dressed so they could walk around the city. Still, they had to settle in before they could enroll in their final year at Riverdale high school. The girls had been best friends for years because their parents shared a business they ran in New York and here.
Topaz did not tell her friend about her visions, because she would definitely put it down to depression.
Veronica first time came to girlfriend in visitors, since their relocation, so has arranged herself a small tour on mansion. Lodge was a connoisseur of art and could talk for hours about styles of architecture.
Toni, meanwhile, was choosing what to wear. She took off her robe, leaving only her underwear, and stood by the closet, choosing thoughtfully. She jumped and would have fainted if Cheryl's cold fingers hadn't closed around her shoulder.
“Whoa, whoa, and I already miss the way people faint at the sight of me.” Cheryl smiled, giving Toni a chance to steady herself on her feet.
It took her a moment to realize how she stood before the Ghost, and she hurried to grab the robe and put it back on. Blossom ignored her as she lay down on the girl's bed, or rather on her own.
“Why are you here, Cheryl?”
“You know, Jason's too kind and shy, but I'm not. I'm tired of being here alone and talking to him. So get used to it, now you're a hostage to circumstances. Also, who's that beauty did you bring with you?”
Toni looked at the girl as if she were insane. She was insanely brazen. Topaz had never been in contact with such people, and she had always walked a mile around them, except once. Girl unwittingly evoked the case. For one thing, she just hadn't forgotten yet. If in the last time she was busy moving, and suddenly appeared ghosts, then now all again surged on it. And secondly, Cheryl was exactly the same as he is. Like Colin.
Topaz paused, turning away from her companion and hiding her tears. But Blossom simply left her no choice, appearing in front of her face and touching her hot chin with her long fingers.
“Why are you crying?”
“Go away. Get out of here, Cheryl! I don't need anyone else invading my personal space.” Toni slapped Cheryl on the shoulder and yelled at her. Blossom gasped with indignation and stood for a few seconds, just opening and closing her mouth.
But then she looked away, pursed her lips, and was gone. Even more unexpected than she appeared.
At that moment the door to the room burst open and Veronica rushed in.
“Hey, what are you yelling at? Toni, why are you crying?”
“I can't be in this house anymore. She'll just make me nervous!”
“Who is she, dear?” Ronnie came over and hugged her. Topaz sobbed at her friend's shoulder.
“Nobody. I just need to clear my head.” Toni took a deep breath. She could show Cheryl who was in charge, but she couldn't do it now. She didn't like that some dead girl had upset her by sheer insolence. She wasn't a simpleton either.
“He literally walked through me, yelling at someone on the phone. We have to visit Pop's.”
Toni nodded. She wiped her eyes and went back to the closet. A couple of times her gaze fell on the rumpled bedspread on which the redhead lay, but she decided to ignore that. She couldn't think of her now. She didn't want to think about her at all.
Topaz chose one of the many plaid flannel shirts, denim overall, and sneakers. She loved her comfortable style, but she never minded sexy dresses and high heels that looked great on her height. She curled her hair a little and hid bags under her eyes and tears under makeup.
Veronica was waiting for her outside in her new Firebird. Her father was in jail for some fraud while Toni's father dealing with the problems. But girls never interfere into it, until have them were loving parents and money, thanks to which they, nor in than itself not denied.
“I could take my bike. It is smaller and more convenient.” Toni put on her sunglasses and sat in the passenger seat.
“Firstly, you're in no condition to drive now, the move hasn't been good for you, and in the secondly, I just have to try out a new car. It's another gift from daddy for not being around us right now. When will he get tired of cajoling me?”
“I'm fine, Ronnie, I'll get over it. As for uncle Hiram, it's working, why would he stop?”
“You're right, it works flawlessly.”
Thank God they'd closed the subject, and Lodge didn't press her friend to tell her exactly what had happened at that party. One day, Toni will be ready to tell.
Veronica found out about this diner recently. She asked her butler, Smithers, who had lived there for a long time, about the best places. Her mom and dad used to live in Riverdale many years ago, but V was lucky enough to be born in the Big Apple and enjoy the pleasures of growing up.
She pulled the car to a smooth stop in the Parking lot of the most colorful establishment they'd ever met on the way. Pop's diner was decorated with neon signs that only threw off the glare of the sun in the daytime, because there was no need to turn them on. There were not many cars, but inside it was quite the opposite. Most of the tables were occupied, but the girls were lucky to find some space.
Veronica, like a true negotiator, went to order while Toni looked around. In the farthest corner, by the window, sat a group of guys who looked her age: a pretty blonde, a redheaded kid who looked a bit like Jason, and a guy in a strange crown hat. They were deep in conversation, and Toni stared.
Not so long ago, she and Veronica and a few other guys from the class were sitting in a Starbucks drinking the best latte there was. They talked a lot about personal matters, and now, none of her former friends, except Veronica, did not even inquire about her condition. It was very sad.
Tony didn't have to sit alone long enough to wait for Veronica. Girl very quickly made to order: beloved burgers, cherry and strawberry milkshakes. Everything they always ordered in NY. Toni had moved on from what had happened in the house, and now she was determined to talk about something good with her friend. They hadn't talked much lately. Since the incident in New York, Toni had wanted to talk to no one but her parents. She didn't tell them the whole truth, of course, but just as much as they needed to know to sue. In order to move out of the city at all. Maybe soon, Toni would be ready enough to tell her friend. But definitely not now. At the moment, other things were on her mind. For instance, what happened to the Blossoms? How could she ever find out what had happened to them? She wasn't a fucking detective. Of course, she liked all these films about detectives, and in her case, even with the horror genre, but who didn't? How to look for evidences? She had no idea. So she needed someone to help her. Perhaps she would find it here in Riverdale, or contact someone in New York. Or maybe she'd ask her father, who knew a couple of cops, to help her. But she was distracted by Veronica.
“Look, I know making new friends isn't exactly what you want to do right now, but those guys look good. Maybe they're our age, and we'll be in the same class? Don't you want to acquaint with them?”
Toni gave a vague shrug. Ronnie was right, because the last thing she wanted right now was to have small talk with strangers. But after all, she could just sit and think while Veronica amused herself. She could not deny friend such a chance, after she took care of her. Topaz nodded, allowing Veronica to get up from the table and walk over to the table across from her.
“Hey. I'm Veronica, this is my friend Toni. Do you mind if we sit down with you?” The pretty blonde, who was very much engaged in conversation with the guy in the strange hat nodded and smiled widely. Her appearance was very suitable for this smile, because she was cute, harmless and shone like the sun.
“We will be glad. The boys and I noticed you, too, but to be honest, we're too shy to go first.”
Veronica walked over to the table, picked up her order, and invited Toni to join them. The red-haired boy moved close to the window, freeing up enough space for the girls on the same type of red sofa of the diner.
“Well, guys, what would you tell us about your city? Toni and I just moved here last week, and we'd love to get to know everything.”
"Are you sisters?" The blonde asked.
Both girls laughed and shook their heads.
“No, we're just very close friends. We are, indeed, like sisters, but not blood relatives. By the way, we didn't introduce to each other, what's your name?”
“Oh, my God. My bad!” The blonde smiled apologetically. Toni noticed that the smile was glued to her face. “My name is Betty Cooper. This is Archie Andrews.” She pointed across the table at the guy who nodded awkwardly at Veronica. “This is Jughead Jones.”
Now she pointed to the guy next to her. The one with the strange hat.
“Jughead? Very interesting name!” Veronica wanted to laugh out loud. Jughead! How can you even call a child like that? But she said nothing. She wasn't the most sensitive person to others, but she didn't want to spoil first impression about her. Maybe someday she'd tell this guy it was ridiculous to have a name like that, but not today.
“I really like your name, honestly. It's very unusual.”
Toni raised one eyebrow and looked at Veronica. Of course, she knew that her friend was lying, because she saw through her. She'd been friends with her for eleven years. But she just smiled and sipped her cherry cocktail. Veronica's choice was incomprehensible to her, because she had always disliked cherries, but this cocktail seemed to have been created with divine intervention.
“Well, can you tell us anything about yourself? Why did you move?” The red-haired guy seemed to be the kindest of the bunch.
Jughead was the scowl, and Betty's shifty eyes told she was hiding something. But Archie... He really was an open book. At least Toni had seen a lot of guys like that. They were ready to woo you forever, spray compliments, kiss on the cheek, even carry a briefcase, but when it came to some serious actions-they merged.
Maybe that's why Toni didn't date guys anymore. Was she disappointed in them? Or not? No, of course not. How can you be disappointed in someone you don't even know yet? It was just easier with girls. She was one of them, and she knew what they might want. But Veronica liked to breed guys. She didn't even seem to pursue the idea of finding a boyfriend to date seriously. She just liked to torture them, make them fall in love, and then say things like, "Sorry, you're not right for me."
“Our parents are in business, so we moved here.”
“What's your last name?” The boy in the strange hat finally spoke. He looked as if he didn't like talking to strangers. Perhaps only with this company. Archie was probably his best friend, and Betty was his girlfriend. He is so used to them that he does not feel out of place. Even now, he was looking at the two girls very warily, as if they were up to something. But seriously? Two seventeen-year-old girls?
“My name is Veronica Lodge. My parents used to live in Riverdale and have decided to return home.”
“Yes, I think I heard from my father! Certainly, heard, they studied under together with him. Hermione and Hiram, aren't they?” Archie put in a word to get Veronica's attention. He looked as if he liked her. She smiled and nodded at him to amuse his vanity.
“And what about you?” Jughead looked at Toni, who shrugged. Well, she didn't want to talk to anyone. She was thinking about what had happened in the house. About Cheryl invading her personal space, and it was unpleasant, frightening, kind of weird. Why would anyone bother with her if she hadn't done anything wrong?
“Oh, it's Antoinette Topaz. Our fathers have a business in common. They're partners, and now that my family's in a bit of trouble, Mr. Topaz is helping us out a lot, isn't he, Toni?”
Lodge tried her best to include Toni in the conversation so that she would open up. She had to talk to someone else. Veronica knew about the shrink Toni's parents had sent her to see. But no matter how hard she tried to find out, the reason was behind seven locks. Toni nodded blankly.
“You're not very talkative, are you?” For some reason, Jug wanted to start the conversation with Toni. Veronica seemed to him the usual stereotype of a rich bitch who can't find her place in life without dad's money. And Toni was different, like his friends on the South side. Was she a recluse in her society of rich snobs? He might want to know her. Will she be useful for blue & gold? Will she investigate the mysteries of the small town with him and Betty? He shook his head to clear it. Why would he think about some new girl when he had his own team — his best friends, whom he had known since childhood?
“Where are you living?” Betty asked. Anywhere else, it would be inappropriate. But this city, like all its inhabitants, was an open book, so it would be impolite to hide anything.
“I'm staying in Pembroke, where I think my parents used to live. And here is Toni secured, indeed, stunning castle. I was just there. It's Thornhill on the outskirts of town. Have you heard about it?”
“Oh, God. Toni, I'm so sorry.”
“What is it?” The girl finally came to life. Did these guys know anything about her house?
“My cousins Cheryl and Jason lived there. They were a few years older, so we didn't talk much. Some time ago, they... A tragedy happened to them. They killed themselves.”
“Gosh, Toni, did you know that?” Veronica was very much surprised. Perhaps after a while she would believe Toni that she heard strange noises there. She was terribly superstitious. If she were told that the Blossoms had been killed, she would certainly believe that their ghosts were still there.
“Yes, I read about it on the Internet.”
“No wonder you've developed nightmares about it, babe. Where were your parents looking?”
“Yeah, Ronnie, really? My parents don't have to worry about a house right now.”
“I'm Sorry, T. I didn't mean it.”
Guys, silently watched the unfolding quarrel. But they did not want to get involved in other people's showdowns, especially related to business.
“Do you know anything about what happened? I'd like to know more.”
“No, we don't know anything!” Jughead was so abrupt that Betty instantly seized his arm and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
“Actually, all we know is that Jason cut his wrists, and Cheryl followed. Their parents did not seem to be at home at the time, so the twins were not found until the next day.” Betty was much calmer than Jug. But it was obvious he didn't want her to share even the official version with the newcomers.
“I still don't understand how they could do that.”
“They didn't do it!” Toni knew what she was saying. She started protecting the guys who terrorized her for days on end. Guys, who couldn't tell her anything about it because they were dead.
“What makes you think that?” Jughead put his hands on the table as he approached Toni across from him. “Do you know anything?”
“I don't know anything.” The girl wanted to look away, but she knew what it would be like, so she stared straight at the guy. He was like her in character, just as stubborn and distant. “I just don't think the story is that simple. I read the police reports. It seems that they are written by someone's order.”
Jug thought about it, and maybe he regretted it, but he asked.
“What do you think about the paper?”
“Betty and I run the school newspaper. We could use a fresh look.” Cooper nodded frequently in agreement.
“I'm just a photographer, but if there's anything I can do to help, I'd love to.”
Veronica started talking about the cheerleading squad with Betty, then switched to music lessons with Archie. Toni was bored. For some reason, she wanted to go back to that hated house and talk to Jason. He seemed very nice and intelligent. She didn't really want to see Cheryl, but it seemed even her cold company would be better now.
“Look, V. I want to walk. Why don't you stay with the guys?”
“But, Toni! We wanted to go for a walk together.”
“Really, V, it's okay. I really want you to make friends, and I'll just take a break from everything.”
“Well. As you wish.”
“It was nice meeting you guys. I really hope to see you at school in a week.”
“Yes, we are nice to meet you, too.”
The guys said goodbye, and Toni walked out of the cafe. It seemed to her that even breathing became easier. She only needed a couple of real friends to be happy. Large companies, where someone constantly shouts and tries to attract attention, pushed her away. Toni took a deep breath of the warm, clean air and walked toward the house. Good thing she remembered the way.
“Why are you so angry? Cheryl?”
She tried to concentrate, trying to snatch a few photos from the stand in Toni's room.
“I don't know, okay. I don't like her. I want her to choose another room, not mine. Why should I lie in another bed now, when I was so used to mine?”
“There's something wrong here! What have you done before? I heard her scream.” The guy bypassed his sister and pushed her in the opposite direction. “If you mess around in her room, we'll never be friends!”
“I don't want to be friends with her. You see, I'm violating her privacy. Has anyone thought about my privacy?”
“And I want to be friends with her because she's cute.”
“It's your choice.” Cheryl gave up all attempts to annoy, because it required strength, which was not. She went to the door to open it, but the door opened itself, colliding with the girl. Cheryl was taken aback, because usually passes through them, not faced.
“God, Cheryl, I'm sorry.” Toni offered her hand; genuinely sorry she'd opened the door so abruptly. But she couldn't imagine the twins host the place without her permission again.
“Everything you touch becomes tangible to us. It's absurd. I don't need your help.” Cheryl stood up herself, brushing her rumpled pants with a straight face. “I refuse to tolerate you. When no one saw us, it was much easier to annoy them and kick them out. This is our house and my room.”
“I'll leave you.” Jason disappeared. He knew Cheryl was explosive when she was angry. And perhaps, if they find out the relationship, they will disperse peacefully.
“It's my home now, too. I'm sorry you've been treated like this, but I'm not going to tolerate it. Get out!”
“Hell no! This. Is. My. Room.”
“And this is my private life, and you're in my way.”
“You're not a tram, move over. I sleep in this bed; I do makeup in front of this mirror.”
“You're a Ghost! You don't have to sleep, eat, and do makeup. You're gone!”
Toni cried out. Luckily, the house was empty; apparently her mom went to the center for groceries.
“Is that what you think?” Cheryl narrowed her eyes, and her lips closed in a straight line.
“No, wait.” Toni sank wearily to the edge of the bed, placing her head between her hands. “I'm sorry; I didn't mean to say that. I know you feel everything, no matter what. And you're as disgusted and hurt by the whole situation as I am. But I can't make concessions alone.”
“What do you want from me? I've lived here my whole life, I can't just change everything.” Cheryl stood a few feet away, arms crossed over her chest.
“But you'll have to at least try, please! I can't have another enemy so soon.”
“What do you mean?” Her gaze became interested, as if Cheryl, for once, was interested.
But Toni would not continue this conversation with a girl who, at the very least, was unpleasant to her.
“Nothing. I just said too much.”
“Everyone has their dark secrets, Antoinette. I'll consider your offer, but I won't promise anything.”
Cheryl decided to leave the room through the door like a normal person.
“Thank you, Cheryl.”
She wanted to chuckle or to laugh naive girl, but she is not expecting said quietly.
And literally ran out the door.
Toni decided to disconnect for a while from the outside world. She knew her mother wouldn't bother her until dinner, and Veronica was definitely busy seducing baby Archie. The girl never took up the reconstruction of her room. She loved aesthetics: her favorite photos hanging on the wall on a special rope, the ones she made herself and was very proud of. She wanted to put things in their own way, but did not find the strength and time.
Now she had it all, and could do something more serious than a photo on the stand and disassembled clothes. Girl looked around, to understand with what start. She noticed things on the high wardrobe that didn't belong to her. Cheryl would be furious if she knew what the girl was doing, and she would. But, a little later, and now Toni had a chance to learn a little about the twins.
She put down a chair because she was small to reach the top. But, by simple manipulation, she managed to get a very dusty box. Perhaps the Blossom family simply forgot these things when they moved, or simply deliberately did not take them with them.
Or maybe they did not belong to them at all, because before Topaz there were several other tenants who moved out for unknown reasons. For obvious reasons only for Toni. There wasn't much in the box: a few postcards, apparently written by Cheryl's desperate fans, a couple of diplomas for winning school science fair, who would have thought that Cheryl cared about studying, a few cups from cheerleading competitions, a cute Teddy Fox in uniform, apparently the mascot of the team, and one thick folder. Toni put everything aside except for it and dusted it carefully and opened it.
It was a photo album that clearly belonged only to Cheryl. Each photo was marked with a red marker. Here is a photo of Jason dressed in a football uniform, and the signature in his sister's patterned handwriting
proud of you, JJ.
In another photo, a redhead was standing with her arms around a blonde, and they were laughing about something. She didn't look at all like the Blossom Toni had met. She glowed with happiness from within.
Polly is my favorite sister-in-law. Someday I'll give you this photo so you know how much I love you. I am very happy to become an aunt, you are my only family.
This girl looked a little like Betty, and Toni had taken the picture out of the album to show Cooper the next time she saw her. Was this girl somehow involved in the family's tragedy, or did she know more than anyone in town because she was close to them?
Basically, the album was baby and teen photos of the twins. Toni liked them very much. Of course, they were taken by a professional photographer, but several were photographed with a simple camera. On these photos the twins were separately and make different faces, maybe even a photographed each other at this point.
What could have motivated someone to kill them? Why didn't their parents fight for the truth and just accept the idea of their suicide? How did the whole city believe that such cheerful guys committed suicide?
Toni put the photograph away in her personal diary and put the box back in its place. She was sure that Cheryl knew of her disposition, and would be indignant if Topaz removed it.
Little by little the girl put away old and unnecessary things in boxes to take to the attic, and her things appeared here and there.
It was dark when she finished. It bothered her that no one had broken into her room in such a long time, but apparently the twins were getting a little used to the respect of others. The girl washed her hands of dust and decided to find my mom who I haven't seen all afternoon. The woman had apparently gone straight to the kitchen after her return. She was setting the table when Toni came downstairs.
“Oh, honey, you're just in time. Can you help me with the dishes? I didn't bother you.”
“I was cleaning the room, mom.” Topaz took the plates from her mother and went into the dining room.
“It's time you were. We moved in a week ago, and you're still acting like a stranger. Are you all right, sweetheart?”
“Yes, mom. I'm fine! Where's dad, isn't he coming to dinner?”
Toni hadn't seen her beloved daddy at all lately. She and her father had a terrific relationship, perhaps even better than Veronica's. It is because Hiram was always trying to buy the heiress's favor, and Jonathan didn't have to. Toni loved him with all her heart. But when he filled in for Hiram while he was in prison, things changed. They saw each other so rarely that Toni began to forget his laughter.
“He'll probably stay at work overnight. I don't like it either, sweetheart, but daddy has always been devoted to his work. You know how proud he is of what he has achieved.”
“I know, mom, but I really missed him.”
“I'm sure he'll be spending at least a day with us soon.”
Toni nodded sadly. Yes, she had always feared that her father's work would be more important than his family, even though he had sworn otherwise.
She and her mother ate in silence, in comfortable silence. Apparently Cheryl and Jason were engaged in something very exciting, since they did not even make a sound. Although the house was very large, they might be trashing Toni's room now. Well, Cheryl could, and Jason seemed to have grown out of it. But who knows?
“Are you just going to lie there?”
“She asked for space, I give it to her.”
“But we can help her with something. I just want to talk to her.” Cheryl and Jason had taken a guest bedroom on the second floor so they wouldn't be disturbed.
“I'm comfortable being alone, and you can do whatever you want. I already told you that, just leave me here.” Cheryl certainly didn't like the prospect of Jason leaving her for some strange girl, but they'd been hostages in this house for more than two years. She would have endured.
“You shouldn't be alone. I've been thinking.” Jason sat on the bed and Cheryl looked at him. “What if Toni isn't the only one who can see us? Wait, don't say anything.”
Jason cut her off at once, for she loved interrupting. But now she just nodded.
“So, several families before Topaz had moved into our house, but all of them were old. What if only our peers see us?”
“I think it's wise, Jason. But how are you going to check if we can't leave the grounds of this house?”
“Actually, I have a plan. I want to talk Toni into throwing a party to celebrate the end of the summer holidays.”