Happy #FridayReads! This week, we’re reading The Last Confession of Autumn Casterly by Meredith Tate, perfect for fans of If I Stay and One of Us is Lying. Read the excerpt below!
On a scale of one to ten, my desire to talk to the cops who’ve spent the last twenty minutes digging through my locker is a raging neg-ative ﬁfty. And yet, here I am.
I breathe out a heavy sigh, watching them examine every single book, binder, and random thing in there.
The shorter cop holds up a baggie full of nuts. “What’s this?”
“Honey-roasted peanuts. Very scary stuff.” If I had known I’d be yanked out of ﬁfth period, I wouldn’t have blown two hours of my life writing that Faulkner paper last night. But everyone thinks their time is more valuable than mine—it comes with the territory of being a teenage girl.
“What’s this dusting on them?”
I lean against the row of lockers behind me. “The honey-roasted part.” If they were coated in cocaine, does he really think I’d look him in the eyes and say, They’re coated in cocaine? “Otherwise I would’ve just said ‘peanuts.’”
This is Kaitlyn Kennedy’s fault. Each second I stand here, the anger inside me simmers hotter. It’s pretty much at a full-blown boil right now. Kaitlyn’s lucky she’s not here. She won’t be so lucky later.
I survey the pile of my crap they’ve dumped onto the common- room ﬂoor. “Can I go back to class now?”
“We’re almost done.” The other cop, who looks like a less-hot clone of Rob Gronkowski, yanks the spare box of tampons out of my backpack. To my horror, he opens it. He literally opens my tampons and starts taking them out, one by one, right in the middle of the common room.
“We’re just doing our job, Ms. Casterly.” The short cop pulls out one of the tampons and sniffs it, and I pretty much want to melt into the carpet. What the hell? If they’re going to sniff my stuff for drugs, at least bring a drug-sniffing dog for me to pet.
Principal Greenwich hovers nearby, his caterpillar eyebrows low over his eyes. “Autumn, why is it that whenever there’s a hint of trouble in this school, all roads seem to lead back to you?”
“I didn’t do anything, Mr. Greenwich. There’s nothing in my locker but books and trash. And tampons.” I’m not lying. I’d never keep my stash in my locker for this very reason.
But it doesn’t matter if they ﬁnd anything or not. The principal has already pegged me as a criminal. I’m one of the “bad kids,” and labels come with assumptions. They assume the bad kids are always monsters, and the good ones never are.
A couple of doe-eyed freshmen whisper to each other as they pass, not even trying to hide their stares. Probably excited to tell their friends they witnessed Autumn Casterly getting her ass handed to her by the cops. One of them looks like she might try and talk to me, but I glower and they walk faster.
“You’re probably one of the only senior girls whose locker isn’t loaded with selﬁes and pictures of giant groups of girls making duckfaces.” The cop chuckles, thrilled by his own joke. Ah yes, we’ve got a real comedian here. Nothing is funnier than belittling teen girls. But I can’t help feeling like there was a hidden question in his statement—Don’t you have any friends? I grind my shoe into the dirty carpet.
Not-Rob-Gronkowski grins, holding up a photo of my dog, Pumpernickel. “Who’s this?”
Literally none of your business. “My dog.”
“He a miniature schnauzer?”
“Cute. My sister has one, they’re great.”
Five minutes ago he made fun of my Proud Vegetarian magnet, so I’m pretty pissed he thinks he has the right to compliment my dog right now. I can almost see the amusement on his face that the school delinquent has a well-loved pet. As if the fact that I deal pills means I should be surrounded by vape pens and switchblades and maybe something really illegal, like a mountain of Kinder Eggs. But I love my dog. Loving animals is so much less complicated than loving humans.
“Aw. This you?” He holds up another photo, crinkled at the edges. It’s my mom and me sitting on the tire swing at Merrill Park when I was six. Back when we lived on the east side of town.
Something catches in my throat. My mom’s been dead for almost seven years, and I thought I’d be able to handle these things better by now. Everyone told me it would get easier—five stages of grief and all that stuff—but it hasn’t yet.
I look away. “Yep.”
The cops finish their prying and declare my locker officially drug-free. They don’t offer to help put back my stuff they’ve so generously left strewn in the middle of the room. I force a smile as they leave, mentally shoving both middle fingers up their asses. The funny thing is, if they searched my bedroom, they’d have enough evidence to lock me away for a couple of years. I suppose that’s what would happen if the system actually worked.
“Thanks for your cooperation, Autumn.” The principal says it like I had a choice. He nods as I start shoving books into my locker. “You can go back to class when you’ve finished up.” No apology for ruining my day, of course.
I throw my things inside a little harder than necessary, the metal clanging in my ears. My face gets hot when the bell rings and a flood of people burst into the common room.
They send smiles and waves my way. Everyone wants to say they’re Autumn Casterly’s BFF. But none of them give two shits about me—they just want me to sell to them.
The moment they think I’m out of earshot, words get tossed be-tween them in hushed whispers. Bitch. Slut. Liar. They’d never say it to my face, but my hearing is good. Too good. I stuff everything into my locker faster.
Maybe if I was weaker, their words would pierce me. My mom used to say that we should be like ducks, letting gossip and insults flow off our backs like drops of water rolling down oily feathers. But I’m not a duck.
I’m a predator.
With each book and binder that I cram back into my locker, I repeat one promise in my head over and over: Kaitlyn Kennedy’s getting her ass kicked after school.
Kevin is taking forever to make his move. His leg jitters against the chair leg beside me. Our Ticket to Ride Europe game board takes up half the table. Every time his knee jiggles, it knocks some of the train pieces off their spaces.
“Hey, Marino, you planning to draw cards this year?” Alexa asks. A pink tinge spreads across Kevin’s cheeks. “I’m thinking.” Alexa’s long, glittery fingernails click impatiently against the tabletop.
We started the Nerd Herd Club last year, trying to make it a thing. It’s still just the six of us. Our meetings usually start with someone geeking out over Final Fantasy and end with an argument about Star Wars (Han shot first, I don’t give a shit what Jason says). We’ve recently delved into the wonderful world of board games—which is why we’re meeting in the gross cafeteria today, because the librarian accused us of being too rowdy. I mean, I wouldn’t call us rowdy; I’d say we have a spirited sense of competition.
“Okay, I’m gonna build,” Kevin says after an eternity.
“Finally,” Jason mutters.
Kevin lays four blue train pieces onto the board, connecting Edinburgh and London.
“Asshole!” Alexa fake-punches him in the arm. “I was gonna do that.”
The janitor swishes a dirty mop over the tiled floor. He looks less than thrilled to see us here after school.
I nudge Kevin. “Let’s meet at your place tomorrow. I feel like we’ve outworn our welcome in the cafeteria.”
“My mom’s renovating our kitchen.”
“Better than this.” Alexa flicks a lock of purple hair behind her ear. “She says no visitors until it’s finished.”
Alexa’s girlfriend, Sophie, finishes polishing her glasses and pushes them up the bridge of her nose. “Isn’t there a rule that school clubs have to meet at school to count?”
Jason lays a few tracks on the board. “I don’t think hanging out every day counts as a club anymore.”
“It’s a stupid rule anyway.” Alexa rolls her eyes at him. “Seriously? I was just about to build there.”
“Can we go to your house?” I ask Alexa.
“Nope. My parents haven’t seen this one since we officially started dating.” She affectionately nudges Sophie. “And I’d rather avoid the third degree. You know my dad would have the ‘what are your intentions with my daughter’ talk with her.”
I snort. “Oh please. You’re the one doing all the corrupting in this relationship.”
“It’s true.” Sophie grins. “But you have to let them see me before homecoming.”
“You going to homecoming, Ivy?” Jason asks. “You should go with me. As friends. So we don’t look like losers.”
“I think it’s too late for that,” I say. “But sure.” I’m a little relieved. Me and Jason have been going to dances as best-friend dates since freshman year, and I always worry he’s going to get a girlfriend and ditch me. Then I’ll be that person hanging out by the bathroom during slow songs.
Alexa huffs. “What if she’d wanted to go with a real date?”
My heart sinks. “He is a real date. Friends count.” I draw two, doing a happy dance at the wild card. “Unless Patrick Perkins wants to move back to Concord and sweep me off my feet.”