Afterlife Page 66

“It helps,” she whispered. “When you’re not alive but not totally dead — it can feel like everything is gray. You want black. You want white.”

“I know.” And I did.

At that moment, the door opened, and Vic and Ranulf walked in. They had lunch period now. “Wait, wait,” Vic was saying. “You got Cristina Del Valle to go to the Autumn Ball with you? How did you work that? She’s the hottest girl in school.”

“I am wise in the ways of comely maidens,” Ranulf said. Then they both stopped as they saw me — and, I realized, Maxie, who hadn’t made herself invisible in time and now seemed to be too startled to do so, or anything else but gape at them.

Quickly, I said, “Maxie, obviously you already know Vic, but have you met Ranulf?”

“Still more wraiths,” Ranulf said. He’d been uneasy about socializing with me at first, after my deatl1, but it only took him a second to get past it now. “Welcome. Will you be here often? If so, please do not frost too many of the seating places. Bianca often leaves them too cold to be of use to others.”

“Hey!” I protested, but Ranulf suddenly seemed very interested in the Elvis posters.

Vic just kept staring at Maxie. She’d interacted with him throughout his life, but always invisibly; this had to be the first time he’d ever actually seen her. “Wow,” he said. “Uh, wow. Hey there.”

“Hello,” Maxie whispered. I knew that was the first word she’d ever spoken to him. She’d crossed the line — the one she didn’t want me to cross, and I liked it. Was she starting to think for herself? To understand that the lines between vampire, wraith, and human were as blurry as the ones bet\veen life and death?

“Do you want to .. . hang out for a while?” Vic looked around the room wildly, obviously trying to figure out what might entertain her. “We could just talk or .. . I’ve got some music — ”

“I should go,” Maxie said. But before I could be disappointed, she added, more quietly, ““ll come back sometime.” Vic grinned. “Great. I mean, that’s — That would be great.”

Maxie vanished, but I could sense her. She was. drifting out of the room very slowly, as if more reluctant to leave than she’d let on. As she finally 174 rose through the roof, Vic turned to me and said, “That was unbelievable!”

“Was it great? Finally meeting her?” I grinned up at him. His mouth was parnvay open, half smile and half amazement. “I guess .. . I never realized . . . I mean, I knew she was a she and all that, but I never realized my ghost was a girl.” Ranulf said, “Vic has not yet learned the arts of interaction with females.”

“You gonna teach me your tricks, buddy?” Vic said.

“It is only a small matter of observation over several centuries.”

“Great.” Vic sighed, throwing down his backpack.

Til be right back, okay?” I slipped off my bracelet and dematerialized, drifting up through the roof. As I’d suspected, I found Maxie high in the sky. We could see each other, mostly — misty outlines of ourselves that would be invisible from the ground.

“I talked to Vic!” she said. Her smile was part of the afternoon sunlight. “I talked to him, and he talked back!”

“See how much fun it is, crossing the lines?”

“It’s not wrong to move on,” she said, more firmly. “You know how much better it is there than here. But — as long as we are partly here — ”

“I think our afterlives have to be about the people we love.” I started drifting higher, mostly out of curiosity to see how high we could go. “Nothing else makes any sense.”

“But I didn’t know Vic before. Not when I was alive,” Maxie protested.

“If you ask me, it doesn’t make any difference when you start to love somebody. just that you love them.”

Merely saying the word Jove reminded me of Lucas and the news I wanted to share with him so badly that it burned inside me. But I had half an hour to kHI. So I pushed myself higher; Maxie followed.

“How high up can we go?” I asked.

“Oh, crazy high. Above the troposphere. You can see the stars during the day, if you want.”

“Really?” I could go stargazing right now — anytime, in fact. I wouldn’t have a telescope, of course, but nevertheless, that view would be something to see, like a picture from the Hubble. “Let’s go, okay?”

Maxie started to laugh, and I knew that this was what she’d wanted all along. Not for me to choose sides — just for her to have a companion in her in — between world. “Okay, sure.”

We rose up, farther and farther, until Evernight Academy was only a speck on the ground, then obscured by clouds. The sunlight above was brighter than bright. Blinding.

Then this enormous silver shape appeared in the distance, coming closer, faster than I could imagine. “What in the world is that?”

“Hang on!” Maxie yelled.

Is that — is it an airplane?

A commercial jetliner zoomed straight toward us, until I could see the outline of it — the front windows — the pilots inside — and then, wham, Maxie and I slamming directly through the center of the plane, front cabin, the long aisle, dozens of passengers, the little drink cart, the tail — and it was gone. We’d gone straight through.

Maxie and I drifted there, dazed, for a long second. She finally said, “Do you think anybody on the plane saw us? “We were going too fast,” I said. “But maybe they hit some turbulence.”

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