Sweet Venom
Page 16

 Tera Lynn Childs

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Shoving a bite of fortifying cookie into my mouth, I step out of my uncomfortable flats and kick them into my closet.
“Time to be rational,” I tell myself.
But with my mouth full of cookie, it sounds more like, “Mime moo mee mwathonal.”
I force myself to do a quick mental recap. First, I smelled and then saw a man with the head of a bull in a dim sum restaurant last night. Then, this afternoon, I discovered he was a minotaur, identical to a statue dating to ancient Greece. What does that mean?
I swallow the cardboard that was once my cookie and try to reason with myself.
“Let’s consider the logical options here,” I say, flinging myself back onto my bed to stare at the too-white ceiling. I miss the rain forest canopy Mom painted when I was in third grade. This could be anyone’s ceiling. “Option one, maybe it was a really elaborate Halloween costume.”
Given that Halloween is almost two months away, a pretty unlikely scenario. Although this is San Francisco, and I’ve heard some wild stories. Still, every detail, down to the matted fur, the thick drool, and the repulsive smell, was too real to be fake.
“Option two, maybe I’m insane.”
I don’t feel crazy. Then again, don’t they always say that the crazy people are the ones who think they’re sane? But no one has ever commented on me being delusional or anything. Someone should have noticed if I was a raving lunatic.
Since I don’t know who my birth parents are, I can’t exactly check for a family history of madness. Still, if there was anything, wouldn’t Mom have mentioned it? I know she has some documents she’s saving until I turn eighteen. Maybe I should ask now.
“There’s still option three,” I tell myself, shaking my head against the idea even as I allow myself to say the words out loud. “Maybe I saw an actual, real-life minotaur in the middle of Chinatown last night.”
If the fact that I’m even considering that possibility isn’t a sign of complete and total lunacy, I don’t know what is. When you look at the facts side by side, though—me having no history of craziness, the nauseating smell burned into my brain, and the identical image on the Wikipedia page— it almost seems . . . plausible.
Anxious, I jump off the bed and start pacing.
I must really be going off the deep end. Am I actually considering this possibility? Maybe I should ask Mom to take me to a shrink. Or I could talk to Ms. West—she did say we could talk about anything, and there’s probably some kind of student-counselor confidentiality rule, right? So word of my craziness wouldn’t get around.
That would mean I’d have to wait until Monday morning, though. Who knows what kind of state my brain might be in by th—
Knock, knock, knock.
I jump and spin to face my door, my heart pounding violently up into my throat. It’s not until I try to yell at Thane for the intrusion that I realize my hand is clamped over my mouth to stop a scream. I drop my hand. Clearly, I really am losing it.
Grateful for the distraction, even if I am annoyed at Thane, I yank open the door and blurt, “What?”
“Hey Grace,” Milo says.
I gasp at the sight of him filling my doorway.
It’s a miracle I don’t collapse into a puddle on the floor. Or slam the door in his face. Or both.
“H-hi,” I manage.
“Thane and I are going to Synergy,” he says, gesturing at my brother, skulking against his own bedroom door a few feet away. “Wanna come?”
“Synergy,” he repeats. “It’s an all-ages club. Pretty lame most of the year, but first weekend of school is always hot.”
“A club,” I echo.
Loud music, flashing lights, and stifling crowds of people trying to forget their daytime lives. Exactly what I need to get my mind off the fact that I’m probably crazy. With any luck I can hold the insanity at bay until Monday morning, until I can talk with Ms. West.
“Definitely.” I take a deep breath. “Just let me get a sweater.”
Milo smiles. Yep, I think I can keep it together for a weekend.
Synergy is not like any of the all-ages clubs in Orangevale. Okay, so there weren’t any all-ages clubs in Orangevale, but I always imagined they would be like a school dance with fancier lights.
This is a far cry from any school dance I’ve ever been too.
There’s a big, scary bouncer at the door who made us show our school IDs to get in. Which doesn’t make any sense, because it’s an all-ages club, but whatever. Inside, everything is black. The walls, the curtains, the ceiling, the floor. And judging from what the bouncer, the cashier, and the coat check girl we passed on the way in are wearing, the club uniform is pretty much all black too.
After walking through a short corridor, we emerge into the main room.
It’s a total crush of people, like pictures of Times Square on New Year’s. Teens of all ages—and a few creepy older folks—are filling most of the room and the raised stage that runs the length of one wall.
“Wild, right?” Milo shouts in my ear.
I just nod. He won’t hear me above the blaring music anyway, and I’m hyperventilating a little at how close his mouth came to my ear.
On the plus side, I’m definitely not thinking about a bull-headed man. I’m not thinking of much besides Milo at the moment.
He leans back in and shouts, “Let’s get something to drink.”
He motions at the opposite wall, where a bar—with no liquor bottles in sight—seems to be the only spot to find a bit of breathing room. Thane and I follow as Milo weaves his way through the crowd.