By: James G. Boswell

Julia sipped beer from a plastic cup as she stood with her friends in the house’s living room. There were people all around them talking, laughing, and drinking. Pop music played in the background. A man walked by and made eye contact with her for a brief moment. Then he continued on as if he hadn’t seen her. She felt anger well up inside her as he passed.

“Hey Julia, there goes that jerk, Josh,” said her friend, Maddie. “That guy was so mean to you.”

“Keep your voice down, Maddie,” Julia said. “I don’t want to make a scene.”

“Who are you talking to, Julia?” said her friend, Sarah.

“I’m talking to Maddie.”

Sarah gave her a strange look and said, “Maddie?”

“Yes, Maddie. She’s standing right next to you.”

“Julia, there’s no one there.”

Julia saw that Maddie was gone. Confused, she looked around the room and spotted her standing next to where Josh now sat in a recliner. He held a cup of beer on his lap.

Maddie bumped into the chair as if by accident, causing him to spill his beer all over himself. Then she gave Julia a thumbs up and winked as she walked away.

Julia snorted with glee, and her friends all stared at her.

“Are you feeling alright, Julia?” said her friend, Alexis.

“Yes, I’m fine,” she said, smiling. Her friends exchanged worried looks.

Josh headed toward the bathroom to dry himself off. Before he could get there, Maddie pushed a random girl into him, causing him to fall over. Julia laughed at the sight.

“Julia, what’s so funny?” said her friend, Hannah.

“Nothing,” Julia said with a smirk. “Maddie’s just being a good friend to me.”

Hannah looked at Alexis and mouthed the word, “Maddie?” Alexis shrugged and shook her head.

Maddie went into the kitchen and then came back out into the living room a moment later. She locked eyes with Julia as she held something up for her to see. It was a container of rubbing alcohol. Maddie smiled as she walked out the front door with it.

Julia watched through the house’s front window as Maddie went to where Josh had parked his car in the street. Maddie poured the rubbing alcohol into the car through its open window, then tiptoed out of sight.

A few minutes later, Josh exited the bathroom and left the party. He hurried over to his car and got inside. Julia watched in horror as he put a cigarette into his mouth and took out his lighter. Before she could react, he flicked the lighter and his body became engulfed in flames. His screams caused everyone at the party to stop what they were doing and rush over to the window to see.

“What happened?” Alexis said.

“It was Maddie,” Julia said with despair and regret. “She did this. It was her!”

Julia’s friends looked at her with confused expressions and said in unison, “Who’s Maddie?”

“What do you mean?” Julia said. “We’ve all been friends with her since we were kids, remember? We’ve known her our whole lives. And now she just burned Josh alive!”

Sarah said, “Julia, we don’t know anyone named Maddie. You’ve never even said that name before tonight.”

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