Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 11

Gansey stood and put on his coat.

“I think,” he said, “that if — when — we find Glendower, I will ask him for Noah’s life. Do you think that would work?”

It was such a non sequitur from the previous conversation topic that Adam didn’t immediately answer. He merely looked at Gansey. Something was different about him; he’d changed while Adam’s back had been turned. The crease between his eyebrows? The way he ducked his chin? The tighter set to his mouth, perhaps, as responsibility tugged the corners down.

Adam couldn’t remember how they had managed to fight so continuously over the summer. Gansey, his best friend, his stupid and kind and marvelous best friend.

He replied, “No. But I think it is worth asking.”

Gansey nodded, once. Twice. “Sorry for keeping you up late. See you tomorrow?”

“First thing.”

After Gansey had gone, Adam fetched the hidden letter. In it was his father’s rescheduled court date. A remote part of Adam marveled that the mere sight of the words Robert Parrish could twist his stomach in a muddy, homesick way.

Eyes forward, Adam. Soon it would be behind him. Soon this school year, too, would be behind him. Soon they would find Glendower, soon they would all be kings. Soon, soon.


The next day after school, Blue sat at the table with a spoon in one hand and Lysistrata, the play she’d chosen to analyze for English, in the other. (It’s not easy, you know, for women to get away. One’s busy pottering about her husband; poking the servant awake; putting her child asleep or washing the brat or feeding it.) Gray drizzle pressed against the windows of the cluttered kitchen.

Blue was not thinking about Lysistrata. She was thinking about Gansey and the Gray Man, Maura and the cave of ravens.

Suddenly, a shadow the exact size and shape of her cousin Orla fell across the table.

“I get that Maura is away, but that is no reason to go around being a social tard,” Orla said by way of hello. “Also, when was the last time you ate a food that wasn’t yogurt?”

Sometimes Blue couldn’t take Orla. This was one of those times. She didn’t look up. “Don’t be offensive.”

“Charity told me that T.J. asked you out today and you just stared at him.”


“T.J. asked you out. You just stared at him. Ringing bells?” Orla had long since graduated from Mountain View High, but she was still friends or ex-girlfriends with her entire class, and the collective power of all of those younger siblings served to provide Orla with a view, somewhat incomplete, of Blue’s current high school life.

Blue looked up (and up, and up) at her tall cousin. “At lunch, T.J. came over to my table and drew a penis on the unicorn on my binder. Is that the incident Charity is referring to?”

“Don’t Richard Gansey the Third at me,” Orla replied.

“Because if that’s what she meant, then yes, I just stared at him. I didn’t realize it was a conversation because penis.”

Orla flared her nostrils magnificently. “Here’s some advice: Sometimes people are just trying to be friendly. You can’t expect everyone to be profound all the time. There’s just chatting.”

“I chat,” Blue retorted. The T.J. incident hadn’t offended her, although she’d preferred her unicorn non-gendered. It had just made her feel wearily older than everyone in the school. “Do you mind? I’m trying to get this done before Gansey gets here.” (O Zeus, what throbbing suffering!)

“You can be just friends with people, you know,” Orla said. “I think it’s crazy how you’re in love with all those raven boys.”

Orla wasn’t wrong, of course. But what she didn’t realize about Blue and her boys was that they were all in love with one another. She was no less obsessed with them than they were with her, or one another, analyzing every conversation and gesture, drawing out every joke into a longer and longer running gag, spending each moment either with one another or thinking about when next they would be with one another. Blue was perfectly aware that it was possible to have a friendship that wasn’t all-encompassing, that wasn’t blinding, deafening, maddening, quickening. It was just that now that she’d had this kind, she didn’t want the other.

Orla snapped her fingers in between Blue and her book. “Blue. This is what I was just talking about.”

Blue folded her finger in the pages to keep her place. “I didn’t ask for any advice.”

“No, but you should,” Orla said. “What do you think’s going to happen in a year? All of your boys are going to go off to fancy schools, and where will you be? Here in Henrietta with the people you didn’t chat with.”

Blue opened her mouth and closed it, and Orla’s eyes flashed with victory. She knew she’d dug down to marrow.

Outside, the familiar grumble of an old Camaro sounded, and Blue leapt up. She dumped her spoon in the sink. “My ride’s here.”

“Temporary ride.”

Blue exploded, hurling her yogurt container into the recycling bin. “What is it, Orla? Jealousy? Or what? You just don’t want me to like them as well as I do because … you’re trying to save me from being hurt? You know what else is temporary? Life.”

“Oh, please, don’t you think you’re taking this a bit —”

“So maybe I should have spread my love out through some other mothers, too!” Blue snatched up her jacket and stormed down the hall toward the door. “If I didn’t love her as much, then it wouldn’t feel so bad when she was gone! I could have some fallback parents, each containing a tiny piece of my affection so that when one goes away, I barely notice! Or maybe I should just not love anyone or anything! That makes it the easiest, really, because then I’ll never get let down! I will build a tower for my heart!”

“Oh, calm your ass down,” Orla said, clomping after Blue in her platform clogs. “That wasn’t what I meant.”

“You know what I think, Orla? I think you’re a big, fat bully —” Blue barreled right into Gansey, who had stepped inside the front hall. For a moment she smelled mint, felt the solidness of his chest, and then she wheeled back.

Gansey untangled his watch from Blue’s crochet jacket. “Hi. Oh, Orla.”

“Oh, Orla,” echoed Orla, not pleasantly. It was not at him, but he didn’t know that; he flinched.

From upstairs, Calla roared, “SHUT UP!”

“You’ll remember this conversation later and say sorry to me,” Orla told Blue. “You forget who you are.” She whirled with as much grace as she could manage on her long legs and massive shoes.

Gansey was too gracious to inquire after the source of the argument.

“Get me out of here,” Blue said.

Outside, it was a miserable day, soggy and cool, late fall come too early. Malory was already installed in the Pig’s front seat; Blue was at once regretful and glad that he was along. He would keep her from doing something stupid.

Now she sat beside the Dog, looking out the backseat window as they passed Mole Hill on the way to Coopers Mountain, feeling her bad mood leach into the gray. This was a very different part of the world than Henrietta. Rural, but less wild. More cows, fewer woods. And very poor. The houses that lined the highway were smaller than single-wide trailers.

“I’m not hopeful about this,” Gansey was saying to Malory. He plucked at his left shoulder; rain was coming in through his window, though it was rolled up. Water also dripped onto the dash beneath the rearview mirror. Malory shook water off the map in his hands. “I crawled all over this mountain a year ago and saw no cave. If there is one, it’s someone else’s secret.”

Blue leaned forward; so did the Dog. She said, “There’s this super clever way that folks in the country find out someone else’s secrets. We ask them.”

Gansey met her eyes, and then the Dog’s, in the rearview mirror. “Adam keeps his secrets pretty close.”

“Oh, not Adam’s sort of country people.”

Blue had discovered that there were two distinct stereotypes for the rural population of her part of Virginia: the neighbors who loaned one another cups of sugar and knew everything about everyone, and the rednecks who stood on their porches with shotguns and shouted racist things when they got drunk. Because she grew up so thoroughly entrenched in the first group, she hadn’t believed in the second group until well into her teens. School had taught her that the two kinds were almost never born into the same litter.

“Look,” she said. “When we get there, I’ll show you the houses to stop at.”

Coopers Mountain turned out to be more of a mountainette than a proper mountain, impressive mostly because of its sudden appearance in the middle of sparsely populated fields. A small neighborhood lay on one side. Widely flung farmhouses dotted the rest of the surrounding area. Blue directed Gansey past the former and toward the latter.

“People in neighborhoods only know about people in neighborhoods,” she said. “No caves in neighborhoods. Here, here, this one’s good! You better wait in the car with your fancy face.”

Gansey was too aware of his face’s fanciness to protest. He minced the Camaro down a long gravel drive that ended at a white farmhouse. A shaggy dog of no breed or all breeds burst out to bark at her as she climbed out into the rain.

“Hey, you,” Blue greeted it, and the dog retreated immediately under the porch. At the door, an older woman holding a magazine answered her knock. She looked friendly. In Blue’s experience, everyone who lived in remote tired farmhouses generally looked friendly, until they didn’t.

“What can I do for you?”

Blue slathered on her accent as slow and local as possible. “I’m not selling anything, I promise. My name’s Blue Sargent and I live in Henrietta and I’m doing a geology project. I heard there was a cave round here. Could you possibly point me in the right way?”

Then she smiled as if the woman had already helped her. If there was one thing Blue had learned while being a waitress and dog walker and Maura Sargent’s daughter, it was that people generally became the kind of person you expected them to be.

The woman considered. “Well, that does sound familiar, but I don’t reckon I … Have you asked Wayne? Bauer? He’s good with this area.”

“Which one’s he, now?”

The woman pointed kitty-corner across the highway.

Blue gave her a thumbs-up. The woman wished her luck.

It turned out Wayne Bauer wasn’t home, but his wife was, and she didn’t know anything about a cave, but had they asked Jimmy down the road, because he was always digging ditches and you knew you found all kinds of things in ditches. And Jimmy didn’t know, but he thought Gloria Mitchell had said something about it last year. They discovered that Gloria wasn’t home, but her elderly sister was, and she asked, “What, you mean Jesse Dittley’s cave?”

“You don’t have to look so smug,” Gansey said to Blue as she buckled her seat belt.

“Sure I do,” Blue replied.

The Dittley farm was directly at the base of Coopers Mountain. The swaybacked wood-frame house was surrounded by partial cars and entire sofas, all overgrown. The abandoned tires and broken window air conditioners inspired the same feeling in Blue as the cluttered kitchen-bathroom-laundry in Monmouth had: the urge to tidy and impart order.

As she climbed out, she turned the name Jesse Dittley over and over in her mind. Something about it poked the back of her mind, but she couldn’t think what. Old family friend? Sex offender from a newspaper story? Character from a picture book?

Just in case he was the middle one, she made certain that she had her pink switchblade knife in her pocket. She didn’t really think she would have to stab anyone, but she liked being prepared.

She stood on the slanted porch with fourteen empty milk jugs and ten cats and knocked. It took a long time for the door to open, and when it did, a puff of cigarette smoke came out with it.


She peered up at the man. He peered down at her. He must have been close to seven feet tall and was wearing the largest white wife-beater that she’d ever seen (and she’d seen a lot). His face was mild, if surprised; the booming, Blue decided, was from chest capacity and not from malice. He stared at her shirt, which she had made from ribbons and soda can tabs, and then at her face.

“Excited to meet you, is what I am.” She peered past him into the house. She saw more recliners than she’d ever seen in her life (and she’d seen a lot). Nothing hinted where she might have heard his name before. “Are you Jesse Dittley?”


It was true that Blue was just shy of five feet and it was also true that she hadn’t eaten her greens, but she’d done the research and she didn’t think the two were related. She said, “I lost the genetic roll of the dice.”


“I’m here because folks are saying you have a cave.”

He considered this. He scratched his chest. Finally, he looked to where the Camaro sat sodden in the pitted driveway. “WHO’S THAT?”

“My friends,” Blue replied, “who are also interested in the cave. If it exists.”

“OH, IT EXISTS.” He let out a hurricane-sized sigh. “MIGHT AS WELL TELL THEM TO COME IN OUT OF THE RAIN.”

The Camaro was theoretically already out of the rain — well, perhaps not Gansey’s left shoulder — but Blue didn’t argue the point. She gestured for the others to join her.

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