Missing YouMeg Cabot
For all the readers who asked for it
My name is Jessica Mastriani.
“Jess,” Rob said, looking past me into the living room,…
New York isn’t like Indiana.
“You need me to WHAT?”
“Are you kidding me?” was what Ruth demanded, after I’d…
At precisely eight o’clock the next morning, I banged on…
“Better let me in,” I said.
Rob was on the phone when I tugged open the…
I returned to my parents’ house to find a party…
“Everyone, if you could take your seats, please.”
I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe I just…
“But, seriously, Jess,” Rob said. “How’d you know?”
I turned around to find Mom on the front porch,…
When I came downstairs the next morning, it was to…
Both Randys were busy gaping at me when the intercom…
When we emerged from the DA’s office several hours later—I…
It was all about me. Every page in the album—and…
It wasn’t until I’d gotten out of Chick’s truck that…
He woke up before I did.
It wasn’t until the ambulance had taken Randy away—in police…
About the Author
Other Books by Meg Cabot
About the Publisher
My name is Jessica Mastriani.
You might have heard of me. It’s fine with me if you haven’t, though. In fact, I kind of prefer it that way.
The reason you might have heard of me is that I’m the one the press kept calling “Lightning Girl,” because I got struck by lightning a few years ago and developed this so-called psychic power to find missing people in my dreams.
It was this very big deal at the time. At least in Indiana, which is where I’m from. There was even a TV show about me, based on my life. It wasn’t EXACTLY based on my life. I mean, they made a lot of stuff up. Like about me going to Quantico to train as an FBI agent. That never happened. Oh, and they killed off my dad on the show, too. In real life, he’s actually alive and well.
But I didn’t mind (though my dad wasn’t too happy about it) because they still had to pay me. For the right to use my name and my story and all of that. It ended up being quite a lot of money, even though the show is only on cable, not even one of the main networks.
My parents take the checks I get every month and invest them for me. I haven’t even had to touch the capital yet. I just spend a little bit of the interest now and then, like when I run short on cash for food or the rent or whatever. Which isn’t that often lately, because I’ve got a summer job, and all. Not the world’s greatest job or anything. But at least it’s not with the FBI, like on the TV show about me.
I did work for the FBI for a while. There was this special division, headed by this guy, Cyrus Krantz. I worked for them for almost a year.
See, it wasn’t supposed to go the way it did. My life, I mean. First there was the whole getting struck by lightning thing. That so wasn’t in the plans. Not that anyone—anyone sane, anyway—would CHOOSE to get struck by lightning and get psychic powers, because, trust me on this, it completely sucks. I mean, I guess it’s all right for the people I helped.
But it was no bed of roses for me, believe me.
Then there was the war. Like the lightning, it just came from out of nowhere. And like the lightning, it changed everything. Not just the fact that suddenly, everyone on our street back in Indiana had an American flag in their front yard, and we were all glued to CNN 24/7. For me, a lot more changed than just that. I mean, I hadn’t even finished high school yet, and still, Uncle Sam was all, “I WANT YOU.”
And the thing was, they needed me. Really needed me. Innocent people were dying. What was I going to do, say no?
Although the truth is, I tried to say no at first. Until my brother Douglas—the one I’d always thought would be the most against my going—was the one who went, “Jess. What are you doing? You have to go.”
So I went.
At first they said I could work from home. Which was good, because I really needed to finish twelfth grade, and all.
But there were people they needed to find, fast. What was I supposed to do? It was a war.
I know to most people, the war was, like, somewhere way over there. Your average American, I bet they didn’t even THINK about it, except, you know, when they turned on the news at night and saw people getting blown up and stuff. “This many U.S. Marines were killed today,” they’d say on the news. The next day, people heard, “We found this many terrorists hiding in a cave in the hills of Afghanistan.”
Well, it wasn’t like that for me. I didn’t get to see the war on the news. Instead, I saw it live. Because I was there. I was there because I was the one telling them which of those caves to look in for those people they needed to find so badly.
I tried to do it from home at first, and then later, from Washington.
But a lot of times, when I’d tell them where to go look, they’d go there and then they’d come back and be all, “There’s no one there.”
But I knew they were wrong. Because I was never wrong. Or I guess I should say my power never was.
So finally I was like, “Look, just send me there, and I’ll SHOW you.”
Some of the people I found, you heard about on the news. Other people I found, they kept secret. Some of the people I found, we couldn’t get to, on account of where they were hiding, deep in the mountains. Some of the people I found, they decided just to keep tabs on, and wait it out. Some of the people I found ended up dead.
But I found them. I found them all.
And then the nightmares came. And I couldn’t sleep anymore.
Which meant I couldn’t find anyone anymore. Because I couldn’t dream.
Posttraumatic stress syndrome. Or PTSS. That’s what they called it, anyway. They tried everything they could think of to help me. Drugs. Therapy. A week by a big fancy pool in Dubai. None of it worked. I still couldn’t sleep.
So, in the end, they sent me home, thinking maybe I’d get better there, once everything was back to normal again.
The problem with that was, when I got home? Everything wasn’t back to normal again. Everything was different.
I guess that’s not fair. I guess what it was, was that I was different. Not everyone else. I mean, you see stuff like that—kids screaming at you not to take their father, things blowing up…people blowing up—and you’re only seventeen years old, or whatever—hey, even if you’re forty—it makes it hard just to come back home a year later, and, like…do what? Go to the mall? Get a pedicure? Watch SpongeBob SquarePants?
But I couldn’t go back to doing what I’d been doing, either. I mean, for the FBI. I couldn’t find myself, let alone anyone else. Because I wasn’t “Lightning Girl” anymore.
What I was, I was discovering slowly, was something I hadn’t been for a long time:
I was normal.
As normal as a
girl like me CAN be, anyway. I mean, I CHOOSE to wear my hair almost as short as some of the marines I worked with.
And I will admit to having a certain affection for hogs. The motorcycle kind. Not the roll-around-in-mud kind.
And I will admit, my idea of a fun day has never been to yak on the phone or instant message my friends, then go see a fun romantic comedy. For one thing, I only have one, maybe two friends. And for another, I like movies where things blow up.
Or at least I used to. Until things around me actually started blowing up on a more or less regular basis. Now I like to see movies about cartoon aliens that come to live with little girls in Hawaii, or fish that are lost. That sort of thing.
Other than those few, minor details, though, I’m normal as apple pie. It took a long time, but I did it. Seriously. I have what, by any standards, could be called a normal life. I live in a normal apartment, with a normal roommate. Well, okay, Ruth, my best friend since forever, isn’t exactly normal. But she’s normal enough. We do normal things, like shop for groceries together, and order in Chinese food, and watch the dumb TV shows she likes so much.
And okay, Ruth tries to get me to go out all the time, like to concerts in the park, or whatever. And me, I’d rather stay home and practice my flute. So maybe that’s not so normal.
But hey, she got me my summer job. And it’s a pretty normal summer job, in that it pays hardly anything. Isn’t that what a normal nineteen-year-old pretty much expects? A summer job that pays hardly anything?
So that’s normal. Fortunately, with my pension from the FBI—yeah, I was on salary. I wasn’t an agent, or anything. But they had to pay me. Are you kidding? Like I was going to work for them for free?—and the interest from my investments from the TV show, plus what Mom and Dad send from home, I get by fine.
Plus, you know, it’s not like I’m out here on my own. Ruth and I split everything, the cost of groceries, the rent—which is pretty high, even though we only have a one bedroom, which we also split. Still, it’s in Hell’s Kitchen, which, in case you didn’t know, is in New York City, the most expensive place to live in the world—everything, down the middle.
Anyway, the job…I guess it’s cool. It helps kids, which, in a weird way, is what I was doing when I first started out with the whole lightning thing, and all (before I started ruining kids’ lives, instead of saving them, by helping to arrest their dads). Ruth got a job at this not-for-profit group. She heard about it off the Summer Employment board at school. She ended up going to Columbia, after being admitted to every single school she applied to.
A lot of people—like Ruth’s parents, and her twin brother, Skip, who went to Indiana University, and who is here in New York for the summer, working as an intern at a company down on Wall Street—think Ruth could get a better, more highly paid summer job, considering she goes to Columbia, which is an Ivy League school, and all.
But Ruth’s all, “I’m making a difference,” which is cool, because she is. What she does is, she organizes musicians and actors and stuff to go around to inner-city day-care centers and camps, and they help the kids put on plays or musicals or whatever, because the city doesn’t have enough money to hire actual, certified teachers for this.
At first I thought this was stupid—Ruth’s summer job, I mean. What can putting on a play during day camp do for some kid whose mom is a crackhead?
Then one day Ruth forgot her wallet at home and needed me to bring it to her. So I did, even though this put a major cramp in my practicing.
But it ended up being worth it. Because I saw right away that I was wrong. Putting on a play at camp can make a huge difference to a kid, even a kid with serious problems at home (not like having a dad in a U.S. detention center, but like having a junkie grandma, or whatever). It’s pretty cool to see a kid who’s never seen a play before suddenly ACTING in one. Or—which is the part where I come in—a kid who’s never played a musical instrument suddenly PLAYING one.
And it’s cool for me, too, since I get to do what I love doing best, which is play my flute. I mean, I suppose I could have gotten a summer job doing this in an orchestra.
But have you ever hung out with people in an orchestra? I’m not talking about kids who are in orchestra at school. I’m talking about actual, paid classical musicians.
Yeah. Well, since I started going to Juilliard last year, I have.
And believe me, it is MUCH more fun to do what I’m doing, which is teach kids who’ve never seen a flute before how to play one. This rules. Because their eyes get so big when I rip through something really fast, like “Flight of the Bumblebee” or some Tchaikovsky, and then I tell them I can teach them how to do it, too, if they just practice.
And they’re all, “No way, I could never do that.” And I’m all, “No, seriously. You CAN.” And then I show them.
That part kills me every time.
Skip says Ruth should have gotten an internship at some advertising company, and that these kids are never going to amount to anything no matter how much art we throw at them. He doesn’t say that kind of thing to me, but that’s only because he wants to get into my pants. The company he’s interning for is paying his rent for the summer (which is why he is crashing on our couch: to save his rent stipend for something he really wants, which, knowing him, is probably something completely asinine, like a Porsche). He’s here right now, as a matter of fact, sacked out on our couch (or, should I say, his bed), watching Jeopardy! with my brother Michael, who’s also interning in New York for the summer, and also crashing at our place. (He gets the floor. Skip called dibs on the couch first.)
Mike—who ended up at Indiana University, as well, after having deferred admission to Harvard, due to being in love with a girl who later dumped him for a guy she met doing summer stock in the Michigan dunes. We are no longer allowed to mention the name Claire Lippman in our house—is in New York for a summer job that involves a think tank and computers and tracking cyber-terrorists. Sort of like what I was doing during the war, only he gets to do it from a cubicle on the Columbia campus instead of a tent in a sandy desert.
Sometimes Mike talks about his job to us. We all wish he wouldn’t.
Both Skip and Mikey are yelling the questions to the Jeopardy! answers at the TV screen. Skip is getting most of them wrong. Mike is getting most of them right.
It’s cool having one of my brothers around for the summer, even if it isn’t my favorite brother. That’d be Douglas, and he’s back in Indiana, renting a room from my parents.
But at least he doesn’t LIVE with them, which is an improvement. He’s renting a studio apartment above one of their restaurants, Mastriani’s, which was rebuilt after a fire there. He works in a comic-book shop and has been doing some drawing of his own. I think he could have a career as a comic-book writer/illustrator. Seriously. I don’t know if it’s the voices he used to hear in his head, or what, but his stuff is really good.
So that’s cool. Because for a long time, we thought Douglas wasn’t going to make it at all, let alone on his own.
I personally never thought Skip would make it—without someone killing him for being such an annoying parasite—but according to him, when he graduates from the Kelly School of Business, which he is now attending, he will land a job making over a hundred thousand dollars a year.
So I guess I was wrong about Skip, too.
He’s still annoying, though. Sometimes I let him take me out anyway, because, whatever, free food. A girl could do worse. That’s what my mom keeps saying. She would LOVE for me to hook up with old Skip, the hundred-thousand-dollar man.
Yeah. That’s the other normal thing about me: I have no boyfriend. Not that Juilliard—not to mention the nonprofit summer job community—isn’t rife with hot heterosexual guys. (I’m kidding. Because they totally aren’t.) I guess I just haven’t found Mr. Right. I thought I had, once, a long time ago.
But it turned out I was wrong.
So you can imagine my surprise when—just as Ruth was going, “O
kay, seriously, you guys, we HAVE to get a share somewhere this summer. I mean it. Skip, are you listening? You’re the one saving all the money, sleeping on our couch, you have to pony some up for the rest of us. I am not spending August sweltering in the Manhattan heat. I am talking Jersey Shore on weekends at least,” and Skip and Mike were both yelling, “Orion! Orion!” at the television—there was a knock at the door and I went to answer it, thinking it was the pizza delivery guy, and instead found my ex-boyfriend standing there.
You would think a psychic would have a little warning about these things.
But then, that’s what sucks about being me: I’m not a psychic anymore.
“Jess,” Rob said, looking past me into the living room, where Skip and Mike were sprawled across the couch like a couple of beached tunas. “Is this a bad time?”
Jess, is this a bad time?
That is what my ex-boyfriend says to me after what turned out to be two years or so of radio silence. Not so much as a phone call.
And okay, yeah, I’m the one who went to Afghanistan. I will admit that.
But need I remind you that it was TO HELP FIGHT A WAR?
It wasn’t like I was out there HAVING FUN.
Not like HE was having, the entire time I was gone. Or so I can only assume, since when I got back, I found him in a liplock with some bleached blonde in a tube top outside of his uncle’s garage.
Oh, sure. He said SHE’D kissed him. For fixing her carburetor. He said if I had stuck around, instead of just taking off like a coward and running, I’d have seen him tell her off.
Yeah. I bet. Because guys just so hate it when blondes in platform heels with spray-on tans and boobs bigger than my head lean over and plant big wet ones on them.