Today's Reading

I can't even hear what he's saying anymore, my focus narrowed to a tiny pinprick of screaming inside my head while I stare at Seeley. Places like Magic Castle Playland don't just close. That'd be like Disney shutting down its whole operation overnight, or rather a small, super run-down, beat-up, falling- apart, probably-wouldn't-pass-any-sort-of-official-inspection version of Disney. But still.

A bunch of voices clamor at once, everybody talking over each other and drowning one another out. Mr. P makes a downward gesture with his hands, urging us into silence. I look around wide-eyed at everybody else, confusion and disbelief twisting our faces into caricatures of ourselves.

I swallow hard. "This is a joke, right?"

Seeley shrugs.

"I'm sure you all have questions, and we'll get to those later. For now, we need to keep our focus on opening day," he says, as if he didn't just cause a nuclear explosion among his staff. He keeps talking, rambling on about team meetings and schedules like everything's fine, even though it definitely isn't, while I sit here trying to hold it together.

"Okay, guys, it's our last year here. Let's go out with a bang," he says finally, dabbing the sweat off his face with a rag. "Metaphorically speaking, naturally."

And then he's gone, and I'm stuck in place with my jaw hanging open trying to figure out what just happened.

"Wow." Seb stretches his arms up. "I can't believe he's closing Magic Castle."

I'd say something, but the panic alarms are still sounding in my head, and I can't form an actual thought . . . so instead I focus on Seb's forearm, and how the scar he got skateboarding last year—an unfortunate accident with a fence that he claims came out of nowhere—crisscrosses over his dark brown skin.

"He's old, and this place is falling apart," Marcus says. "It sucks, but it's not like it was going to be open forever anyway."

And okay, that snaps me out of it. "Of course it was supposed to be open forever!" I try to run my hands through my hair, but they get snagged up in the frizz. "Guys, come on. This isn't like when Arby's closed and we were all, Oh, that sucks, now we have to drive ten minutes away to the McDonald's.' This is our park! It's been the one constant in our whole, dumb, messed-up lives. We can't walk away from it."

"What choice do we have, Lou?" Seeley asks. Her words are quiet and soft, like if she says them too loud I might shatter.

I take a deep breath and stare down at all the little designs she's drawn on my Converse. "I don't know."

Seb tugs on my hair, and I flick my eyes to his. "Come on, Elouise. We gotta get down to the costume crew meeting. I'll walk with you."

"Okay." I swallow hard and nod, attempting to steel myself for the next meeting, the one where I'll have to sit next to Jessa and try not to rip her dress off like one of Cinderella's jealous stepsisters. I am Drizella on her worst day when it comes to her. I can't help it. She stole my prince, er, diving pirate or whatever.

"Try not to kill her," Seeley whispers as Jessa and Nick walk by. I raise my eyebrows but don't make a peep; it's freaky how well we know each other.

I mean, it's not that I hate Jessa or anything. You pretty much can't. She's perfect; totally, utterly, 100 percent perfect. She's sweet and kind, and disgustingly beautiful. She's the kind of person who would probably get out of her car to help a turtle cross the road, the kind of person whose teeth are straight even without braces. I literally have no rational reason to hate her. None. Zero. And Seeley tells me this on the daily.

Except Jessa's the princess, and I'm the hot dog. And she's got Nick, and I've got a farmer's tan, a dog that ran away, and a best friend that everybody seems to like way more than me.

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