The weekend went by quickly, and by the time Monday rolled around, I forgot about the person in the masquerade I’d seen outside by the buses. Rachel and I agreed to sit at lunch together, and Peter seemed okay with having a girl join us. At least he wasn’t completely freaking out. I thought my best friend wouldn’t like that, but instead, he was talking about another girl himself. One he was particularly interested in.
“Eden is just gorgeous,” he said that afternoon on the way to the lunchroom. “Do you think I’ll be able to get her to sit with us?”
I was starting to realize Peter needed a girlfriend. One who wasn’t Eden. I doubted she’d be into him, and it was kind of weird to me that he was so into her. “I’m not sure. But why don’t you try looking for someone close to our own age? She’s two year older than you.”
“One and a half,” Peter reiterated for the thousandth time.
“Not that it makes any difference,” I reasoned. “There’s no way she’s going to be into you. Maybe Rachel has a friend you can meet.”
Peter shrugged. “Maybe.”
The two of us entered the cafeteria and walked toward our spot to put our bags down. I saw Rachel across the room, heading toward us, with her long brown hair flowing over her shoulders, and her deep brown eyes staring right at me. She smiled. When she arrived at the table, she placed her bag town beside mine.
“We have a newspaper meeting on Wednesday,” she said. “The first newspaper comes out next month. Isn’t that crazy?”
“Yeah,” Peter said sarcastically, smiling. “Isn’t that crazy, Lucas?”
I glared at him. He knew that I was a terrible writer and knew that me joining the newspaper was a bad idea. Not only would I not know what to write about…I wouldn’t be able to actually write it. And once Rachel found out I lied about being an amazing journalist, she’d probably never speak to me again.
“It’s definitely something alright,” I said under my breath.
“What’s that?” Rachel asked with a smile.
“Oh, nothing. Just saying how excited I am for Wednesday.” Which was the biggest lie in history, but I didn’t have to admit that. “Hey, I gotta go to the bathroom. You don’t mind, do you?”
“Nope, we’ll be here when you get back,” Peter said, winking. I could punch him. I left the cafeteria and started toward the nearest bathroom when my phone buzzed in my pocket. Pulling it out, I saw that it was a text from an unknown number.
“Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off, they say. Maybe this applies to men, too.” -Masquerade
“What the hell?” I asked, glancing around to see who all was on their phones. Practically everyone. Looking back at my phone, I read the message again. Did someone know? Was the text from Peter? Or Rachel? Did she know that I was lying to her? Panic fell over me, and once in the bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror.
Was it that obvious that I was lying? Someone knew, that was for sure. But the name from the sender was throwing me off. Masquerade. Just like the person I’d seen by the buses. Then I thought back to my sister and how she knew I saw the person. Was she playing a prank on me? Or was this someone else entirely?
It could have been anyone. That was the problem. And if it was really the person I saw by the buses that day, it didn’t narrow it down by much. It only ruled out my sister. But if it wasn’t the person by the buses, it could be her playing a trick on me.
After doing my business, I went back to the cafeteria. Lunch was strange the entire time, because I couldn’t help but wonder if the girl beside me already knew that I was lying to her. And if she was the one who was watching me out by the buses that day.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the message I’d received from Masquerade. At home I was lying on my bed, pondering the incident, when I decided that I just needed to ask Leslie. She was never really a good liar, and if it was her, it would at least clear my mind of worry.
I got up, went into the hall, and knocked on my bedroom door beside mine. She opened the door immediately, as if she were expecting me. “What do you want, Lucas?”
“Did you send me this text earlier?” I asked, showing her the message on my phone. Leslie took a long glance at it.
“No, I did not,” she said. “Was it an unknown number?”
“No, the person’s number was saved in my phone. That’s totally why I’m asking you,” I said sarcastically. “Yes, it was an unknown number. So it really wasn’t you?”
“I don’t even understand the context of the message, so no.” Leslie closed the door in my face, leaving me alone in the hall. The text could have been from anyone. Rachel. Peter. Heck, even Ruby could have sent that message to me.
I walked back into my room, throwing my phone down on the bed. This was ridiculous. Why was I getting so wound up over a text? That’s what I saw it. Outside my window. I headed closer to the window and looked out to see a person move behind the bushes. The sun was going down on the horizon already, and the shadow of the person was very obvious. Someone was outside my house.
I couldn’t tell if it was the same Masquerade I’d seen outside the buses because I could hardly see what they were wearing. But it had to be Masquerade. The same person who just sent me a text. I noticed that mom and dad were not home yet, so I decided I needed to do some investigating.
Once outside, I walked over to the bushes. No one was there. Had I imagined the whole thing? Was I becoming delusional? Then I heard footsteps crunching in fallen leaves behind me. Spinning around, I saw a figure in the backyard. The sun was going down fast, and I didn’t want to be out here too long.
“Hello?” I said. “Who’s there? Are you Masquerade?”
The figure stood there, waiting. Watching. I walked closer, and they didn’t move a muscle. As I got closer, I saw that they were wearing white. White hoodie, white pants–
“Hello?” I said again. “Can I help you?”
The person stepped forward and I saw that they were wearing a masquerade mask. Except this one was white. Everything they were wearing was white, and I wanted to scream. I was terrified. Something was wrong. Why had I come out here?
The White Masquerade lifted their arm up, and I flinched, expecting them to reveal a weapon. Instead, they went for their mask. As the mask was slowly taken off their face, I gasped.
“Oh my God.”