Afterlife Page 81

“I do not see how this is different than explosives,” Ranulf said.

That won a round of laughter, and then people began talking animate — dly about the plan and our chances of success. For some reason, it hit me then how extraordinary it was that these people had come together. The only obvious thing they had in common was that they each knew me, but they weren ‘t here for me — at least not only. or not mostly for me. They were here because they’d learned to look past their old prejudices and fears and see each other for who they were. Maxie’s willingness to engage again with the living world, the vampires’ acceptance of wraiths and humans as their equals and allies, Lucas taking what was good from his Black Cross training and leaving behind what was bad, Vic’s ability to deal with the supernatural world as easily as the natural one — that was what bonded us now.

For a moment, our plan seemed easy. If we’d managed to come together like this, surely we could do anything.

Chapter Twenty

“HOW DOES A TOWN THE SIZE OF RIVERTON KEEP a classic movie house going?” Lucas said, standing before the red — and — gold blinking lights of the marquee.

“It’s a very small town with very good taste,” I whispered into his ear.

Behind us, in the town square, the charter bus from Evemight Academy was emptying out the last students who had come along to Riverton fewer than before, due to fears of “gang violence.” There Wasn’t much to the city — a pizza place, a diner, a couple of vintage shops, and this amazing movie theater. This week, they were showing An Affair to Remember, my favorite Cary Grant movie ever. It made me wish we’d actually come here to see the film.

Lucas had his hands stuffed into the pockets of his jeans. In one of those pockets was my jet brooch, but I didn’t think he was checking to make sure he had it. He looked more like he was attempting to stay calm.

“You’re nervous,” I said, keeping my voice low. “Dana was right about 13lack Cross not coming here again, right?”

“That sounds right. But, yeah, I’m nervous anyway. Can you blame me?”

He still had trouble believing that Dana would accept him as a vampire. Maybe he still doubted that he would be able to keep himself from attacking her. “It’s going to be okay. I promise.”

Lucas bought a single movie ticket, and I floated invisibly in along with him. He half grinned as we went up the steps to the balcony. “Can’t say you’re not a cheap date.”

“Shut up, or I’ll make you buy me dinner after.”

“You don’t even eat!”

“Doesn’t matter.”

We took our seats just as the film began, with loopy cursive text for the credits and the lush theme song. Although there were other viewers on the bottom floor, we were alone in the balcony, so I went ahead and materialized; Lucas pressed my jet brooch into my hand, so that the process became effortless for me. I pinned the brooch to my camisole, and Lucas offered me his coat, so it Wouldn’t be totally obvious that the girl he was sitting next 212 to was wearing pajamas.

I felt weird being away from the school when so much was going on. My parents were keeping tabs on Mrs. Bethany; if she left tonight, they would have to find out how long she’d be gone, and if not, they’d have to come up with a way to get her to go, at least for a day. Meanwhile, everyone else was smuggling the traps to the Great Hall, preparing for tomorrow night’s efforts. Going to a movie — one of my all — time favorites — felt a little like playing hooky.

Enjoy it, I told myself. Everything’s about to change.

As Vic Damone crooned about a love affair, a couple of other people edged their way onto the balcony and sat by us: Raquel next to me, and Dana on the other side, next to Lucas. “I got popcorn,” Raquel said.

The two of us grinned at each other, and for a moment it was like nothing had ever happened — no, I corrected myself, it happened. And we got through it anyway.

Next to us, Dana and Lucas didn’t seem to be able to find words. Lucas leaned back in his seat, as though he were exhausted and couldn’t go any further; despite the darkness in the theater. I could see that Dana’s eyes were filling with tears.

She took his hand in hers, and I remembered what a shock it had been to me the first time I touched Lucas when he had no warmth, no pulse. He had always been the most alive person I’d ever known. No matter how many powers and abilities he now had as a vampire, there was no forgetting what he’d lost.

“Little brother, what happened to you?” Her voice shook.

“I keep thinking it’s a bad dream,” Lucas said. “But there’s no waking up. Not from this.”

“And yet — You’re still you,” Dana said.

Lucas sighed. “More or less me.”

“They never told us that, in Black Cross.” Dana wiped at her cheeks with the back of her free hand. “How come they never told us that?”

He turned his face toward the movie screen, where Cary Grant was striding along the deck of an ocean liner. I could tell he didn’t care about the 213 movie; he was fighting to remain steady. “Mom always said that, if she got turned, I should forget I’d ever had a mother. I guess she forgot she ever had a son, huh?”

Raquel put her hand to her mouth. That small gesture — compassion for a vampire — told me how much she, too, had changed. “It’s okay,” Lucas said, before he corrected himself. “It’s not okay. But it’s over.”

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