The Other Cheek

Sixteen-year-old Olivia doesn’t think she killed her dog, but her blood soaked pajamas say otherwise. If the death of her pet wasn’t bad enough, now someone is tormenting her through cryptic e-mails and a painted locker that screams “Murderer”. At first she writes it off as a cruel prank, but after her drama teacher accuses her of stealing and Olivia’s crush, Smith, swears they hooked up, Olivia starts to wonder if someone is set on destroying her life or if she’s doing it to herself.

When her mom is attacked and hospitalized, Olivia is sent to the Royal Alexander Center for Mental Health. After a psych evaluation rules out paranoid personality disorder and a video tape catches someone who looks eerily similar to Olivia torching a school shed, she is released from the Center. Smith becomes her knight-in-denim armor when he discovers the identity of Olivia’s tormentor and turns the tables in their favor.

Armed with a taste for revenge, Olivia’s out to clear her name and get some payback. But each retaliating prank escalates and the price of her revenge could be the lives of the people she loves.

First Chapter:

Chapter One

I have to bury my best friend today.

Right now, Dad is outside digging a hole next to the oak tree in the backyard. Mom is on her knees at the head of the pit; she doesn’t even look bothered that she’s ruining her new linen pants. She won’t stop adjusting the hastily thrown together wooden cross. She looped Tobin’s collar around it but it won’t sit right. I should go down there and help but I’m not sure if I’m welcome.

Mom can’t even look at me without crying.

She thinks I did it.

I don’t blame her. They found Tobin in my bed, his golden fur matted with blood, and the butcher knife in my hand even though I was asleep.

I don’t remember a thing, and I don’t think I did it, but it doesn’t matter.

Tobin is dead and Mom hates me.

“Olivia, honey, do you want to come downstairs?” Dad calls from the kitchen.

Dad isn’t mad at me—he knows I’d never hurt Tobin on purpose. He thinks I was sleepwalking or something. He and mom are taking me to the nut house tomorrow to talk to some shrink.

I climb off my bed, thankful Mom put clean sheets on the rust-colored mattress, and shuffle through my door and down the stairs.

“Will she let me go outside?” I ask.

“Of course she will,” Dad says, holding out his hand.

I reach for it and we walk into the backyard together. It’s a beautiful, sunny day. It would have been a great day to take Tobin to the park. I haven’t cried yet. I want too, but I can’t. It’s like I’m in someone else’s body. I feel nothing at all.

A large, sheet-wrapped lump is lying next to the hole.

“Does anyone want to say anything?” Dad says, looking between Mom and I.

“You were a good boy, and I’ll miss you.” Mom succumbs to yet another fit of uncontrollable wailing. This one is dramatic and includes a lot of hair grabbing and hiccups.

“Liv?” Dad looks at me.

“Uh.” I stare into the freshly dug hole. I am not going to cry. “You’re my best friend, and I love you.”
I try to say more, but it’s like there’s a vice grip locked around my vocal cords.

“Okay then.” Dad walks over to the still bundle of bedding that was my dog, and lifts him up. Dad hops into the hole and gently lowers Tobin down. “Time for bed.”

Dad pats Tobin’s head before jumping out. He reaches for the shovel, but I stop him.

“I’ll do it,” I say. “Go inside and get Mom a drink or something.”

Dad gives me a little nod before he leads my now-inconsolable mother inside the house.

I slowly heap the soft, black earth onto Tobin’s body. Each shovel full reminds me of a different memory. The first pile of dirt makes me think of picking him out of a littler of nine; he was the runt. The second makes me think of his big, goofy grin when he graduated puppy class. The third takes me back to the thunderstorm that knocked the old tree down and how Tobin and I snuck into bed with Mom and Dad.

A few minutes later the hole is filled. It’s then I decide I can finally lose my mind. I drop to my knees. A sob pushes past the vice grip and it comes out more like a scream than a cry. My body bucks and shakes from the heaves. I lie across the hole and press my cheek against the soft ground; it’s almost like I’m resting my cheek on Tobin’s side.

 “I’m so sorry.” The words come out chopped and spastic. “I’m so sorry, Tobin.”

Dad finds me weeping, face down in the dirt, a few minutes later.

“Come inside,” he says, his hands sliding into the space between my shoulders and the ground. He pulls me up and pulls me toward the house.

I go into the kitchen, not caring that I’m tracking in dirt, and find Mom opening another bottle of wine
“Oh honey, its okay,” she says once she sees my face.

Even though she thinks I killed our dog, she can’t ignore my tears. I let the betrayal I felt from the earlier finger-pointing wash away with the dirt clinging to my cheeks.

 “I’m sorry, Mommy.” I stuff my face into her neck.

“It’s okay.” Mom leads me to the couch and we sit down. “It’s okay.”

“No.” I see a smudge of blood on the inside of my wrist and feel my vision start to blur, “No, it’s not.”

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