Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 31

Adam and Noah craned to look out the back window.

Blue’s voice came again. “No. No. How about you see it my way? How about you don’t reduce me to a commodity and then, when I ask you not to, tell me it’s a compliment and I should be glad for it?”

Noah’s mouth made an oooo shape.

“Yeah,” Adam agreed, climbing out.

Blue stood a few feet away. She wore a big boxy T-shirt, teal shorts, combat boots, and socks that came up over her knees. Only four inches of bare skin were visible, but they were a really nice four inches.

An old man wearing a seed cap was saying, “Little lady, one day you’ll remember the days people told you that you had nice legs as a good memory.”

Adam braced for the explosion.

It was nails and dy***ite. “Good — memory? Oh, I wish I were as ignorant as you! What happiness! There are girls who kill themselves over negative body image and you —”

“Is there a problem here?” Adam broke in.

The man seemed relieved. People were always pleased to see clean, muted Adam, the deferential Southern voice of reason. “Your girlfriend’s quite a firecracker.”

Adam stared at the man. Blue stared at Adam.

He wanted to tell her it wasn’t worth it — that he’d grown up with this sort of man and knew they were untrainable — but then she’d throw the thermos at Adam’s head and probably slap that guy in the mouth. It was amazing that she and Ronan didn’t get along better, because they were different brands of the same impossible stuff.

“Sir,” Adam started — Blue’s eyebrows spiked — “I think maybe your mama didn’t teach you how to talk to women.”

The old man shook his head at Adam, like in pity.

Adam added, “And she’s not my girlfriend.”

Blue flashed him a brilliant look of approval, and then she got into the car with a dramatic door slam Ronan would have approved of.

“Look, kid,” the old man started.

Adam interrupted, “Your fuel door’s open, by the way.”

He climbed back into his little, shitty car, the one Ronan called the Hondayota. He felt heroic for no good reason. Blue simmered righteously as they pulled out of the station. For a few moments, there was nothing but the labored sound of the little car’s breathing.

Then Noah said, “You do have nice legs, though.”

Blue swung at him. A helpless laugh escaped Adam, and she hit his shoulder, too.

“Did you get the water at least?” he asked.

She sloshed the thermos to demonstrate success. “I also brought some jet. It’s supposed to be good protection while you’re scrying.”

“We’re scrying?” Noah sat up straight.

Adam struggled to explain. “Cabeswater speaks one language, and I speak another. I can get the broad idea from reading the cards. But it’s harder to get the specifics of how to fix the alignment. So I’m scrying. I do it all the time. It’s just efficient, Noah.”

“An efficient way to get your na**d soul stolen by forces of raw evil, maybe,” Noah said.

Blue exchanged a look with Adam. “I don’t believe in raw evil.”

Noah said, “It doesn’t care if you believe in it.”

She turned in her seat to face him. “I don’t normally like to point out when you’re being creepy. But you are.”

The dead boy retreated farther into the backseat; the air warmed marginally as he did. “He already called me creepy today.”

“Tell me more about the aligning stuff,” Blue said to Adam. “Tell me why it wants you to.”

“I don’t understand how it matters.”

She made a noise of profound exasperation. “Even putting aside every single spiritual consideration, or, or, mythological consideration, or anything that actually means anything, you’re manipulating this massive energy source that seems to communicate directly into your head in a different language, and that, to me, seems like something I would have a lot of questions about if I were you!”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“But I do. You’re driving all the way out here, and you don’t even ask why?”

Adam didn’t reply, because his reply wouldn’t have been civil.

His silence, however, seemed to be worse. She snapped, “If you didn’t want to talk, I don’t know why you asked me if I wanted to come!”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have.”

“Right, who wants someone who thinks along with them!”

He reined himself in, with effort. With only a little barbed wire in his tone, he said, “I just want to get this done.”

“Just put me out here. I’ll walk back.”

He slammed on the brakes. “Don’t think I won’t.”

“Do it, then!” She already had her hand on the door handle.

“Guys,” Noah wailed.

The best and worst thing about Blue Sargent was that she meant what she said; she really would walk herself back to Henrietta if he stopped now. He grimaced at her. She grimaced back.

Don’t fight with Blue. Don’t fight with Gansey.

With a sigh, he sped up again.

Blue got herself back together and then turned on the radio.

Adam hadn’t even realized the ancient tape deck worked, but after a hissing few seconds, a tape inside jangled a tune. Noah began to sing along at once.

“Squash one, squash two —”

Adam pawed for the radio at the same time as Blue. The tape ejected with enough force that Noah stretched a hand to catch it.

“That song. What are you doing with that in your player?” demanded Blue. “Do you listen to that recreationally? How did that song escape from the Internet?”

Noah cackled and showed them the cassette. It boasted a handmade label marked with Ronan’s handwriting: PARRISH’S HONDAYOTA ALONE TIME. The other side was A SHITBOX SING-ALONG.

“Play it! Play it!” Noah said gaily, waving the tape.

“Noah. Noah! Take that away from him,” Adam said.

Ahead of them, the entrance for Skyline Drive loomed. Adam was ready this time; he opened his wallet as they coasted closer. Inside nestled precisely fifteen dollars.

Blue handed over a five. “My contribution.”

There was a pause.

He took it.

At the window, he exchanged their combined funds for a map, which he gave back to Blue. As he headed into a slanted parking area shortly beyond the entrance, he uncertainly examined his pride for damage and was surprised to find none.

“Is this the right place?” she asked. “Do you need our fifteen-dollar map?”

Adam said, “I’ll know in a second. We can get out.”

Before them, the ground dropped sharply into a bottomless ravine; behind them, the mountains ascended darkly. The air was clouded with the pleasant and dangerous scent of woodsmoke: Somewhere, one of these autumn mountains was on fire. Adam squinted until he found its source, smoke shrouding a distant peak. From this far away, it seemed more magical than threatening.

Blue and Noah horsed around as Adam retrieved his tarot cards. Squaring his feet so that he could better feel the line’s pulse, he placed a random card on the warm hood. His unfocused eyes skipped over the image — a black-smudged knight on horseback carrying a vine-wrapped staff — and began to remake it into something wordless and dreamy. Sight was replaced with sensation. A vertiginous feeling of travel, climbing, rightness.

He covered the image with his hand until he got his eyes back, and then he put the card away.

“Knight of wands?” Blue asked him.

Already Adam couldn’t remember what the card had really been. “Was it?”

“Now who’s creepy?” Noah asked.

Adam shouldered his backpack and headed toward the trailhead. “Come on. It’s this way.”

The rocky, narrow trail was dusted with crumbled leaves. The ground fell away abruptly on one side and rose as precipitously on the other. Adam was hyperaware of the massive boulders that jutted into the trail. Beneath a furring of mint-green lichen, the stones felt cool and alive, wild conductors of the ley line. He led Noah and Blue upward until they came to a confusion of boulders. Stepping off the trail, Adam climbed alongside them, finding footholds on jutting stones and exposed tree branches. The big, blue stones were tumbled onto one another like a giant’s playset.

Yes, this is it.

He peered into a man-sized crevice.

Blue said, “Snakes? Nests? Bears?”

“Protected national park,” Noah said, darkly funny. And then, with unexpected valiance, “I’ll go in first. They can’t hurt me.”

He looked smudgy and insubstantial as he slid inside. There was silence, silence.

Blue squinted. “Noah?”

From inside the crevice came a great rustling flurry. All at once, a large puff of oak leaves exploded from the opening, startling both Blue and Adam.

Noah reappeared. He plucked four and a half oak leaves out of Blue’s spiky hair and blew some leaf crumbs from the bridge of Adam’s nose. “It’s safe.”

Adam was glad to have them with him.

Inside was dim but not dark; light came from the entrance, and also from below, where the rocks were stacked imperfectly. In the middle of the small space was a large boulder the size of a desk or an altar. The surface was worn and cupped.

He remembered or recognized it from his insight in the garage.

He felt a little shake of nerves, or anticipation. It was strange to do this with an audience. He didn’t quite know what he looked like from the outside.

“Pour the water in there, Blue.”

Blue ran a hand over the stone to clear out debris. “Oh!” Retrieving a black stone from her pocket, she placed it by the indentation. Then she slowly filled it with water.

The shallow pool reflected the dark ceiling.

Noah backed well away from it, making sure he wasn’t reflected. His fear sucked the warmth from the space. Blue stretched a hand to him, but he shook his head.

So she stayed by Adam, shoulder pressed to his, and Adam found he was glad for this, too. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had touched him, and it was strangely grounding. After a second, he realized that part of it was probably the fact of Blue’s ability, too, amplifying whatever part of Cabeswater he was tied to.

They eyed the water. He had done this before, but never like this, surrounded by rock. It felt like there was someone else in the room with them. He didn’t want to admit that he was already intimidated by the dark pool even before anything supernatural had happened. Neither of them said anything for a few minutes.

Finally, Blue whispered, “It’s like, if someone said to you, ‘Nice sweater, dude!’ when you were in your Aglionby uniform.”


“I wanted you to know why I got so angry at that old guy. I’ve been trying to think of a way to explain it. I know you don’t get it. But that’s why.”

It was true that he hadn’t understood the fuss at the gas station, really, beyond the fact that she was bothered, and he didn’t like for her to be bothered. But she was right about the sweater, too. People assumed things based on the Aglionby sweater or blazer all the time; he’d done it himself. Still did it.

“I get it,” he whispered back. He wasn’t sure why they were whispering, but he did feel better now. More normal. They were in control here. “It’s simplifying.”

“Exactly.” She took a deep breath. “Okay. What now?”

“I’m going to look in and focus,” Adam said. “I might zone out.”

Noah whimpered.

Blue, however, sounded practical. “What do you want us to do if you zone out?”

“I don’t reckon you should do anything. I don’t really know what it will look like from the outside. I guess, use your judgment if something seems wrong.”

Noah hugged his arms around himself.

Leaning over the pool, Adam saw his face. He hadn’t noticed that he didn’t look like everyone else until he got to high school, when everyone else started noticing. He didn’t know if he was good-looking or bad-looking — only that he was different-looking. It was up to interpretation whether the strangeness of his face was beautiful or ugly.

He waited for his features to disappear, to smudge into a sensation. But all he saw was his Henrietta-dirt face with its pulled-down thin mouth. He wished he wouldn’t grow up to look like his parents’ combined genes.

“I don’t think it’s working,” he said.

But Blue didn’t reply, and after half a heartbeat, Adam realized that his mouth hadn’t moved in the reflection when he spoke. His face just stared back, eyebrows drawn into suspicion and worry.

His thoughts churned up inside him, silt clouding a pool of water. Humans were so circular; they lived the same slow cycles of joy and misery over and over, never learning. Every lesson in the universe had to be taught billions of times, and it never stuck. How arrogant we are, Adam thought, to deliver babies who can’t walk or talk or feed themselves. How sure we are that nothing will destroy them before they can take care of themselves. How fragile they were, how easily abandoned and neglected and beaten and hated. Prey animals were born afraid.

He had not known to be born afraid, but he’d learned.

Maybe it was good that the world forgot every lesson, every good and bad memory, every triumph and failure, all of it dying with each generation. Perhaps this cultural amnesia spared them all. Perhaps if they remembered everything, hope would die instead.

Outside yourself, Persephone’s voice reminded him.

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