Linda Joy Singleton. Dead Girl Dancing

The Dead Girl — 2

A big shout-out THANK YOU

to some Super Fans:

Kim Baccellia

Michelle Gottier

Amelia Percival

Jennifer Rummel

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Cynthia Leitich Smith

Rose Thomason


I could not believe I was in the wrong body — again!

Memo to self: Never make a promise to a dead grandmother.

Last I knew, I was talking to Grammy Greta via an out-of-body experience. She said I had a talent for helping people and I’d make a good Temp Lifer. On the other side, my grandmother has this important job as an Earthbounder Counselor — she gives humans in crisis a time-out from their lives by sending in temporary replacements. I was so flattered by her praise that I’d promised to help her any time. But I hadn’t expected her to switch me into someone else’s body right away — especially the body of my boyfriend’s sister, Sharayah.

Standing in front of a full-length mirror, I stared at shoulder length dark hair, curved cheek bones, an eyebrow ring and shocked eyes. Transforming from a high schooler to a college girl didn’t sound bad in theory; being mature and of legal age for a few days could be a cool experience. But being my boyfriend’s sister was sooo going to ruin my love life. Eli and I hadn’t seriously kissed yet — and now even thinking about kissing him was illegal and immoral.

I mean, how could I make out with my boyfriend when I was his sister?

And where was Eli’s sister? I wondered, frowning into the mirror at the pierced brow and blue eyes — not brown — staring back at me. Since I was here, did that mean Sharayah was in my body? Was she still in the coma, or waking up to the shock of her life? According to Grammy, Temp Lifers only replaced people who couldn’t deal with their problems and were in crisis mode. What was Sharayah’s crisis? And how was I supposed to help her when I didn’t know how to help myself?

Seeing everything through a stranger’s eyes tilted my equilibrium, distorting my senses. Nothing smelled the same and my skin fit uncomfortably, closer to the bones without the cushion of extra pounds. Swiveling my hips away from the mirror made me feel like a floppy doll yanked by puppeteer strings. I steadied myself on a dresser, my elbow brushing a digital clock that flashed 4:57 a.m. Almost morning? But it seemed like I’d only been sleeping a few minutes. If the clock was right, then not only had I lost my body — but also nearly twelve hours.

At least it was easy to guess where I was — in Sharayah’s college dorm room. If the reflection in the mirror hadn’t clued me in, there was the framed photo of the Rockingham family: Sharayah, her parents and brothers Chad and Eli. The room was only slightly bigger than a closet and clearly divided into two personalities. One side was all girly pink and organized, with matching satin pillows and a pink quilted comforter on a neatly made twin bed. A sharp contrast to the other side of the room — Sharayah’s half, I assumed, since that was where I’d awakened. Her twin bed was tangled in blankets with piles of clothes and random stuff abandoned on the floor. There was an odd smell, too; a mix of sweat, perfume, and alcohol. When I inhaled, my stomach reeled and my throat ached with bitter dryness. I ached all over, too, like I’d jogged for a whole day (and I hate exercise). When I looked down at myself, I realized the baggy shirt I was wearing over a lacy red thong was a guy’s shirt.

Who was the guy and how did I end up with his shirt?

This was not good.

What had Eli told me about his sister? I remembered his hurt expression when he’d talked about her sudden personality change: dropping friends, shutting out her family, and acting wild.

Exactly how wild? I worried.

I spotted a black leather handbag on the end table beside Sharayah’s bed and started for it — then yelped when I bumped my foot on an empty wine bottle, which rolled under the bed and clinked like it had hit another bottle. Someone had been doing some serious partying … and I had a sick feeling it was me.

Did Sharayah’s crisis have to do with too much partying? Or was she having romantic problems with her (shirtless) boyfriend? I couldn’t even begin to guess until I found out more about her. So I opened the leather handbag and found a hair brush, an earring shaped like a skull, cherry lip gloss, an iPod, keys, a cell phone, and a wallet with Sharayah’s driver’s license showing she’d recently turned twenty-one. There were also two credit cards, a college ID, postage stamps, a restaurant receipt — and twelve hundred dollars in cash.

“Wow!” I exclaimed, flipping through the crisp green hundred-dollar bills.

Ordinarily, lots of money would inspire whoops for joy — instead, my worries multiplied. Why would a college girl carry around so much cash? I doubted it was for anything worthwhile like textbooks or tuition. And my thoughts darkened. I hated to suspect Sharayah of anything illegal — she was Eli’s sister after all — and if she got in serious trouble, he’d be devastated. The crisp green bills seemed to burn my fingers. I dropped them back into the purse.

Picking up Sharayah’s cell phone, I punched in Eli’s cell number, envisioning him sleeping peacefully. My head throbbed so much there wasn’t room for any guilt about waking him. This was an emergency and I needed him; that was all that mattered. Hurry, answer! I urged, listening to ringing as I walked over to Sharayah’s family portrait, running my finger across the unruly curl of Eli’s hair that waved across his forehead. Another lifetime ago (actually only a few days ago) I’d looked at a copy of this exact picture in Eli’s room. He wasn’t athletic or cover- model pretty like his brother Chad, but when I looked into his eyes, I saw loyalty, humor, intelligence … and I missed him.

“Huh?” Eli said groggily, after about eight rings.

“Eli!” My heart jumped at his voice. “I’m so glad you’re there!”

“Who is … ohmygod! Sharayah! Is it really you?”

“Uh … sorry but no,” I said in a lower-pitched, melodious voice I’d never heard before. “I’m not her.”

“What are you talking about? Do you want to talk to Mom or Dad?”

“No! I called to talk to you.”

“What is it? Are you in trouble?”

“Not exactly — but I’m afraid Sharayah is.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“Eli, I’m not—” I sucked in a shaky breath. “I’m not your sister.”

“No matter what you’ve done, Shari, you’ll always be my sister. Nothing can be that bad and you know we’re always here for you. Are you okay? Mom and Dad are worried sick, I mean, you didn’t come home for Christmas! What were we supposed to think?”

“Eli … I know I sound like your sister … but it’s Amber.” I braced myself for his reply, knowing that being in the wrong body was unbelievable — but it wasn’t like this was the first time. Only yesterday I’d been a wealthy, gorgeous, disturbed girl from school named Leah Montgomery. Eli knew to expect the unexpected with me. It was one of the many things I liked (maybe even loved) about him.

“Amber?” he repeated. “Amber Borden?”

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