Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 15

Blue asked, “What kind of job are we talking about here anyway? Like, a job where we pull a salary and at the end we get our faces put up on the wall of a magical forest with Most Valuable Employee of the Epoch?”

“A job like, at the end of it, everything settles into balance and we all live happily the damn ever after.”

“Well, that sounds great, except a, what about that sleeper in the middle and b, you can’t actually complete a negative job ever, i.e., when does Mom know she’s successfully not woken someone, and three, does this still involve Gansey dying? Because f, that is not my idea of a happy ending.”

“I regret this conversation,” Calla said, and began stacking receipts.

“Also g, I don’t want to do school anymore.”

“Well, you’re not quitting, so I’m sorry for your loss.”

“I didn’t say I was quitting. I just have a very low level of job satisfaction right now. Morale is low. The troops don’t want to go to community college.”

Calla punched another button on the calculator. Her mouth was making a very unimpressed shape. “The troops shouldn’t whine to someone who worked her ass off to be able to go to community college, then.”

“Is this going to be one of those ‘I hiked uphill both ways to school’ thing? Because if so —”

“This is a you-should-go-contemplate-your-entitlement-Blue-Sargent-thing.”

Blue, shamed, huffed and stood up. “Whatever. Where is the list from the church watch?”

“That won’t make Gansey less dead.”


“It’s in the box over the fridge, I think.”

Blue stormed from the room, deeply unsatisfied, and dragged a chair through hordes of soap-making children to the fridge. Sure enough, she found the church watch notebooks in the box on top. Taking the entire collection, she pushed back through the industrious children and then out the sliding door into the dark backyard.

It was instantly quieter. The yard was empty except for some mums waiting to be planted, the massive beech tree with its great yellow canopy, and the Gray Man.

He sat so quietly in one of the lawn chairs that Blue didn’t notice him until she turned to sit in the other.

“Oh! Sorry. Are you having a moment? I can go back inside.”

His expression was pensive. He tipped his mostly full beer toward the other chair. “No, I’m the intruder. I should be asking you if you want this space to yourself.”

She flapped a diffident hand toward him as she sat. The night smelled foxy and damp, all rain and failed leaf fires. For a moment they sat in quiet as Blue shuffled through the papers and the Gray Man nursed his beer in a contemplative way. The breeze was cool, and the Gray Man doffed his jacket without any particular ceremony and handed it to Blue.

As she draped it over her shoulders, he asked, “So what do you have there? Sonnets, I hope.”

Blue drummed her fingers on the pages, thinking how to sum it up. “Every May, we hold a vigil and we see the spirits of people who are going to die within a year. We ask their names, and if they’re clients, we let the living people know we saw their spirits so they can get their things in order. This is the list of names.”

“Are you all right?”

“Oh, yeah, I just have, this, eyelid in my eye or something,” Blue said, wiping her right eye. “What’s that face for?”

“The ethical and spiritual ramifications dazzle.”

“Don’t they?” Blue held the most recent list up over her head so the kitchen light illuminated her handwriting. “Oh, well.”


She had just found what she was looking for: JESSIE DITTLEY.

Spelled wrong, but there nonetheless.

Blue sat back. “Gansey and I met someone and I thought I remembered his name.”

“And he’s there.”

“Yeah. The thing is that I don’t know if he’ll die because we’re in his life, or die because we’re not, or if he’ll die either way.”

The Gray Man rested his neck on the back of his chair and gazed up at the low clouds reflecting light from Henrietta. “Fate versus mere prognostication? I suppose you know more about how the psychic business works.”

Blue shrank further into his jacket as the breeze ruffled the beech leaves. “I only know what they’ve told me.”

“And what have they told you?”

She liked the way he asked. It was less that he needed the information and more that he was enjoying her company. It seemed strange that she felt the least lonesome and uneasy sitting here with him, instead of with Calla or Persephone.

She felt more eyelids prickling in her eye.

“Mom says it’s like a memory,” Blue said. “Instead of looking backward, you’re looking forward. Remembering the future. Because time isn’t like this —” She drew a line. “It’s like this —” She drew a circle. “So I guess, if you think about it that way, it’s not that we can’t change the future. It’s that if you see the future, it already reflects the changes you might have made based upon seeing the future. I don’t know. I don’t know! Because Mom is always telling people that her readings are a promise, not a guarantee. So you can break a promise.”

“Some guarantees, too,” the Gray Man observed, voice wry. Then, suddenly, “Is Maura on the list?”

Blue shook her head. “She was born in West Virginia. The church watch only seems to show us people who were born in the area.”

Or, in the case of Richard Gansey III: reborn.

Mr. Gray asked, “May I see it?”

She handed it over and watched the slowly moving leaves overhead as he made his way through the names. How she loved this beech tree. So often as a little girl she’d come out to rest her hands against its cool, smooth bark, or sat herself down in its twisted, exposed roots. She had written a letter to it, once, she remembered, and put it in a pencil case that she’d wedged in the roots. They had long since grown around the box, hiding it completely. Now she wished she could read the letter again, as she remembered only its existence and not its content.

Mr. Gray had gone still. Voice careful, he said, “Gansey?”

The very last name on the last of the pages.

She just chewed on her lower lip.

“Does he know?”

She shook her head, just a little.

“Do you know how long?”

She shook her head again.

His eyes were heavy on her, and then he just sighed and nodded, the solidarity of being the one left behind, the one not on the list.

Finally, he said, “A lot of promises get broken, Blue.”

He sipped his beer. She folded the piece of paper to hide JESSIE DITTLEY and then reveal it again. In the dark, she asked, “Do you love my mother?”

He gazed up through the darker lace of the leaves. Then he nodded.

“Me too.”

He somberly flexed his index finger. With a frown, he said, “I didn’t mean to put your family in danger.”

“I know you didn’t. I don’t think anyone thinks that.”

“I have a decision to make,” he said. “Or a plan. I suppose I will make it by Sunday.”

“What’s magical about Sunday?”

“It’s a date that used to be very important to me,” the Gray Man said. “And it seems fitting to make it the day I start to be the person your mother thinks I could be.”

“I hope the person my mother thought you could be is a person who finds mothers,” Blue replied.

He stood up and stretched. “Helm sceal cenum, ond a þæs heanan hyge hord unginnost.”

“Does that mean ‘I’m going to be a hero’?”

He smiled and said, “ ‘A coward’s heart is no prize, but the man of valor deserves his shining helmet.’ ”

“So, what I said,” she replied.



Gansey was not sleeping.

Because Blue had no cell phone, there was no way for him to break the rules and call her. Instead, he had begun to instead lie in his bed each night, eyes closed, hand resting on his phone, waiting to see if she was going to call him from the Phone/Sewing/Cat Room at her house.

Stop it, he told himself. Stop wanting it —

His phone buzzed.

He put it to his ear.

“You’re still not Congress, I see.”

He was wide-awake.

Glancing toward Ronan’s closed bedroom door, Gansey got his wireframes and his journal and climbed out of bed. He shut himself in the kitchen-bathroom-laundry and sat down in front of the refrigerator.


“I’m here,” he said in a low voice. “What do you know about the blue-winged teal?”

A pause. “Is this what you discuss in Congress when the doors are closed?”


“Is it a duck?”

“Ding! Point to Fox Way. The bank holiday crowd goes wild! Did you know they become flightless for a month during the summer when they molt all of their flight feathers at once?”

Blue asked, “Isn’t that all ducks?”

“Is it?”

“This is the problem with Congress.”

“Don’t be funny with me, Sargent,” Gansey said. “Jane. Did you know that the blue-winged teal has to eat one hundred grams of protein to replace the sixty grams of body and tail feathers shed at this time?”

“I didn’t.”

“That’s about thirty-one thousand invertebrates they have to eat.”

“Are you reading off notes?”

“No.” Gansey closed his journal.

“Well, this was very educational.”

“Always is.”

“Okay, then.”

There was another pause, and Gansey realized she’d hung up. He leaned back against the fridge, eyes closed, guilty, comforted, wild, contained. In twenty-four hours, he’d be waiting for this again.

You know better you know better you know better

“What the hell, man?” Ronan said.

Gansey’s eyes flew open just as Ronan hit the lights. He stood in the doorway, headphones looped around his neck, Chainsaw hulking like a tender thug on his shoulder. Ronan’s eyes found the phone by Gansey’s leg, but he didn’t ask, and Gansey didn’t say anything. Ronan would hear a lie in a second, and the truth wasn’t an option. Jealousy had ruined Ronan for the first several months of Adam’s introduction into their group; this would hurt him more than that.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Gansey said truthfully. Then, after a pause, “You’re not going to try to kill Greenmantle, are you?”

Ronan’s chin lifted. His smile was sharp and humorless. “No. I’ve thought of a better option.”

“Do I want to know what it is? Is it acceptance of the pointlessness of revenge?”

The smile widened and sharpened yet more. “It’s not your problem, Gansey.”

He was so much more dangerous when he wasn’t angry.

And he was right: Gansey didn’t want to know.

Ronan pulled the fridge door open, shoving Gansey several inches across the floor. He retrieved a soda and handed Chainsaw a cold hot dog. Then he eyed Gansey again.

“Hey, I heard this great song,” he said. Gansey tried to tune out the sound of a raven horking down a hot dog. “Want a listen?”

Gansey and Ronan rarely agreed on music, but Gansey shrugged an agreement.

Removing his headphones from his neck, Ronan placed them on Gansey’s ears — they smelled a little dusty and birdy from proximity to Chainsaw.

Sound came through the headphones: “Squash one, squash tw —”

Gansey tore them off as Ronan dissolved into manic laughter, which Chainsaw echoed, flapping her wings, both of them terrible and amused.

“You bastard,” Gansey said savagely. “You bastard. You betrayed my trust.”

“That is the best song invented,” Ronan told him, through breathless laughs. He got himself back together. “Come on, bird, let’s give the man some privacy with his food.” As he departed, he turned off the lights, returning Gansey to the dark. Gansey heard him whistling the remainder of the murder squash song on his way to his room.

Gansey pushed himself to his feet, collecting his phone and his journal, and then he went back to bed. The guilt and the worry had already worn off by the time his head hit the pillow, and all that was left was the happiness.


Gansey had forgotten how much time school occupied. Perhaps it was because he now had more to do outside of school, or perhaps it was because, now, he could not stop thinking about school even when he was not in it.


“Dick! Gansey! Gansey boy! Richard Campbell Gansey the Third.”

The Gansey in question strode down the colonnade with Ronan and Adam after school, headed toward the office. Though he was dimly aware of the shouting, his mind was too noisy for the words to register. Part of it was donated to Greenmantle, part to Maura’s disappearance, part to Malory’s exploration of the perpendicular ley line, part to the cave of ravens, part to the knowledge that in seven hours, Blue might call him. And a final, anxious part — an ever-growing part — was occupied with the color of the fall sky, the leaves on the ground, the sense that time was passing without being replaced, that it was running out and spooling to the end.

It was a uniform-free day in honor of the school’s win at a regional quiz bowl, and the lack of uniforms somehow made Gansey’s anxiety worse. His classmates sprawled across the historic campus in down vests and plaid pants and brand-name pullovers. It reminded him that he was existing now and no other time. The other students had marked themselves as unmistakable inhabitants of this century, this decade, this year, this season, this income bracket. Human clocks. It wasn’t until they all returned to the identical navy V-neck sweaters that Aglionby slipped out of time and all times started to feel like they were in fact the same time.

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