Wake Lisa McMann
To my amazing in-home cheerleaders, house cleaners, and editors—Matt, Kilian, and Kennedy—you rock. There would be no Janie without your love, help, patience, and support.
Special thanks to Dr. Diane Blake Harper, my dear friend and Google-monkey; to Dr. Louis Catron for your kind, priceless critiques; to Ramon Collins for your years of support; and to Tricia, Chris, Erica, Greg, Dawn, Joe, David, Jen, Lisa, Andy, Matthew, Linda, Andie, and Ally for your generous assistance.
Finally, warmest gratitude to my fantastic agent, Michael Bourret, who believed in Janie and in me, and great praises for a most terrific team at Simon Pulse—Jennifer Klonsky, Caroline Abbey, Michael del Rosario, and all the others who help make dreams come true.
December 9, 2005, 12:55 p.m.
Janie Hannagan’s math book slips from her fingers. She grips the edge of the table in the school library. Everything goes black and silent. She sighs and rests her head on the table. Tries to pull herself out of it, but fails miserably. She’s too tired today. Too hungry. She really doesn’t have time for this.
She’s sitting in the bleachers in the football stadium, blinking under the lights, silent among the roars of the crowd.
She glances at the people sitting in the bleachers around her—fellow classmates, parents—trying to spot the dreamer. She can tell this dreamer is afraid, but where is he? Then she looks to the football field. Finds him. Rolls her eyes.
It’s Luke Drake. No question about it. He is, after all, the only naked player on the field for the homecoming game.
Nobody seems to notice or care. Except him. The ball is snapped and the lines collide, but Luke is covering himself with his hands, hopping from one foot to the other. She can feel his panic increasing. Janie’s fingers tingle and go numb.
Luke looks over at Janie, eyes pleading, as the football moves toward him, a bullet in slow motion. “Help,” he says.
She thinks about helping him. Wonders what it would take to change the course of Luke’s dream. She even considers that a boost of confidence to the star receiver the day before the big game could put Fieldridge High in the running for the Regional Class A Championship.
But Luke’s really a jerk. He won’t appreciate it. So she resigns herself to watching the debacle. She wonders if he’ll choose pride or glory.
He’s not as big as he thinks he is.
That’s for damn sure.
The football nearly reaches Luke when the dream starts over again. Oh, get ON with it already, Janie thinks. She concentrates in her seat on the bleachers and slowly manages to stand. She tries to walk back under the bleachers for the rest of the dream so she doesn’t have to watch, and surprisingly, this time, she is able.
That’s a bonus.
Janie’s mind catapults back inside her body, still sitting at her usual remote corner table in the library. She flexes her fingers painfully, lifts her head and, when her sight returns, she scours the library.
She spies the culprit at a table about fifteen feet away. He’s awake now. Rubbing his eyes and grinning sheepishly at the two other football players who stand around him, laughing. Shoving him. Whapping him on the head.
Janie shakes her head to clear it and she lifts up her math book, which sits open and facedown on the table where she dropped it. Under it, she finds a fun-size Snickers bar. She smiles to herself and peers to the left, between rows of bookshelves.
But no one is there for her to thank.
WHERE IT BEGINS
Evening, December 23, 1996
Janie Hannagan is eight. She wears a thin, faded red-print dress