Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 6

“Highest peak in Virginia?” echoed Malory.

“West,” said Gansey and Adam at the same time.

“West Virginia,” Gansey repeated, studiously avoiding eye contact with another slowing driver. “Sixty miles west of here. Seventy, perhaps?”

Malory dragged his square fingertip a few inches along one of the many short highlighter paths. “And what’s this?”

“Coopers Mountain.”

Malory tapped it. “What’s this note? Giant’s Grave?”

“It’s another name for the mountain.”

The professor raised his hairy eyebrows. “Interesting name for the new world.”

Gansey recalled how excited he had been to learn Coopers Mountain’s old name. It had felt like a stunning bit of detective work to stumble across it in an old court document, and then it had been even more thrilling to discover that the mountain was appropriately odd: situated all by itself in the middle of sloping fields, two miles away from the main ridge.

“Why is it interesting?” Adam asked.

Gansey explained, “Kings were often giants in British mythology. A lot of British locations associated with kings have the word giant in them, or are giant-sized. There’s a mountain in Wales, what is it … Idris? Dr. Malory, help me.”

Malory smacked his lips. “Cadair Idris.”

“Right. It translates to the chair of Idris, who was a king, and a giant, and so the chair in the mountain is giant-sized, too. I got permission to hike on Giant’s Grave — there was some rumor of Native American graves on there, but I couldn’t find them. No cave, either.”

Malory continued tracing the highlighter line. “And this?”

“Mole Hill. Used to be a volcano. It’s out in the middle of a flat field. No cave there, either, but lots of geology students.”

Malory tapped on the last location on the line. “And this is us, yes? Mass-a-nut-ten. My, this line of yours. I’ve waited a lifetime to see something like it. Remarkable! Tell me, there must be others prowling around poking at it as well?”

“Yes,” Adam replied immediately.

Gansey looked at him. The yes had left no place for doubt; a yes not of paranoia, but observation.

In a lower voice, for Gansey, not Malory, Adam said, “Because of Mr. Gray.”

Of course. Mr. Gray had come looking for a magical parcel, and when he’d failed to deliver it to his employer Colin Greenmantle, Greenmantle had flooded the town with people looking for Mr. Gray. It would be foolish to assume they’d all left.

Gansey preferred to be foolish.

“Unsurprising!” Malory concluded. He clapped a hand on Gansey’s shoulder. “Lucky for both of you that this young man has a better ear than most; he’ll hear that king long before anyone else has thought to even listen. Now, let us flee this coarse place before it rubs off. Here! To Spruce Knob. By way of these other two lumps.”

Out of old habit, Gansey gathered up the transit and GPS and laser rod as Malory climbed into the Suburban to wait. Adam went into the woods a bit farther to pee, an action that always made Gansey wish that he was not too inhibited to do the same.

When he returned, Adam said suddenly, “I’m glad we’re not fighting. It was stupid for it to go on so long.”

“Yes,” Gansey replied, trying not to sound relieved, exhausted, pleased. He was afraid to say too much; he’d destroy this moment, which already felt imaginary.

Adam continued, “That thing with Blue. I should’ve known it would be weird trying to date her once she was one of … you know, with us all. Whatever.”

Gansey thought of his fingers on Blue’s and how foolish such a gesture had been. This equilibrium was so hard-won.

He preferred being foolish, but he couldn’t keep on that way.

Both boys looked out through the bare spot in the trees toward the valley. Thunder rumbled somewhere, though there was not a cloud in the sky. It didn’t feel like it came from the sky, anyway. It felt like it came from below them, down in the ley line.

Adam’s expression was ferocious and pleased; Gansey was at once proud to know him and uncertain he did at all.

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Gansey said.

Adam replied, “I can.”


This was not Blue’s real life.

As she leaned against the wall outside the guidance counselor’s office, she wondered when she would start to think of school as an important thing again. After an extraordinary summer full of chasing kings and disappearing mothers, it was hard to really, truly picture herself going to class every day. What would any of this matter in two years? Nobody here would remember her, or vice versa. She would only remember that this was the fall her mother vanished. This was the year of Glendower.

She peered across the linoleum-basted hall to the clock. In an hour she could walk back home to her real life.

You are coming back tomorrow, Blue told herself. And the next day.

But it felt like more of a dream than Cabeswater.

She touched her palm with the fingers of her other hand and thought about that flag Malory had found, painted with three women with red hands and her face. She thought about how the boys were off exploring without her.

She became aware of Noah’s presence. At first she just sort of knew that he was there, and when she considered how it was that she happened to know, she realized she could see him slouching beside her in his rumpled Aglionby uniform.

“Here?” Blue demanded, though really she was pleased. “Here, and not in the raven cave of death?”

Noah shrugged, apologetic and smudgy. His proximity chilled Blue as he pulled energy from her to stay visible. He blinked at two girls who walked by pushing a cart. They didn’t seem to notice him, but it was difficult to tell if it was because he was invisible to them or just because he was Noah.

“I think I miss this part,” he said. “The beginning. This is the beginning, right?”

“First day,” Blue replied.

“Oh, yeah.” Noah leaned back and inhaled. “Oh, wait, no, it’s the other one. I forgot. I actually hate this part.”

Blue did not hate it, because that would require acknowledging that it was really happening.

“What are you doing?” Noah asked.

She handed him a brochure, even though she felt self-conscious sharing it, as if she were giving him a list for Santa Claus. “Talking to the counselor about that.”

Noah read the words as if they were in a foreign language. “Ex-per-ie-ence di-verse fo-rest types in the A-ma-zon. The Sch-ooool for E-col-o-gy fea-tures a stud-y a-broad — oh, you can’t go somewhere.”

She was very aware that he was probably right. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“People are going to see you talking to nobody and think you’re weird.” This amused him.

It neither amused nor worried Blue. She’d gone through eighteen years as the town psychic’s daughter, and now, in her senior year, she had already held every single possible conversation about that fact. She had been shunned and embraced and bullied and cajoled. She was going to hell, she had the straight line to spiritual nirvana. Her mother was a hack, her mother was a witch. Blue dressed like a hobo, Blue dressed like a fashion mogul. She was untouchably hilarious, she was a friendless bitch. It had faded into monotonous background noise. The disheartening and lonesome upshot was that Blue Sargent was the strangest thing in the halls of Mountain View High School.

Well, with the exception of Noah.

“Do you see other dead people?” Blue asked him.

Meaning: Do you see my mother?

Noah shuddered.

A voice came from the cracked office door. “Blue? Sweetie, you can come in now.”

Noah slid into the office ahead of her. Even though he looked solid and living in the strong sunlight through the office window, the counselor looked right through him. His invisibility seemed downright miraculous as he sat down on the floor in front of the metal desk to pleasantly eavesdrop.

Blue shot him a withering look.

There were two sorts of people: The ones who could see Noah, and the ones who couldn’t. Blue generally only got along with the former.

The counselor — Ms. Shiftlet — was new to the school, but not to Henrietta. Blue recognized her from the post office. She was one of those impeccably dressed older women who liked things done right the first time. She sat perfectly straight in a chair designed for slouching, out of place behind a cheap shared desk cluttered with mismatching personal knickknacks.

Ms. Shiftlet efficiently checked the computer. “I see someone just had a birthday.”

“It was your birthday?” Noah demanded.

Blue struggled to address the counselor instead of Noah. “What — oh — yes.”

It had been two weeks ago. Ordinarily, Maura made sludgy brownies, but she hadn’t been there. Persephone had tried her best to re-create their undercooked glory, but the brownies had accidentally turned out pretty and precise with powdered sugar dusted in lace patterns on top. Calla had seemed worried Blue would be angry, which bemused Blue. Why would Blue be angry at them? It was Maura she wanted to slap. Or hug.

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell us,” muttered Noah. “We could have gone for gelato.”

Noah couldn’t eat, but he liked the gelato parlor in town for reasons that escaped Blue.

Ms. Shiftlet inclined her head to Blue without disrupting her perfect posture. “I see here you talked to Mr. Torres before he left. He has a note here about an incident in —”

“That’s all taken care of and done with,” Blue interrupted, avoiding Noah’s eyes. She slid the brochure across the desk. “Pretend like it never happened. All I’d like to know is if there is any way to get here from what I’m doing now.”

Ms. Shiftlet was visibly eager to get off the topic of anything that could be considered an incident. She consulted the brochure. “Well, this looks like a barrel of monkeys, pun intended! Do you have an interest in wildlife? Let me pull up some information on this school.”

Noah leaned over. “You should see her shoes. Pointy.”

Blue ignored him. “I’d like to do something with river systems, or forest —”

“Oh, this school is very competitive.” Ms. Shiftlet was too efficient to let Blue finish her sentence. “Here, let me show you the average scores of the students who get accepted.”

“Rude,” Noah commented.

Ms. Shiftlet turned the monitor so that Blue could see a somewhat demoralizing graph. “You see how few students get accepted. That means financial aid would also be very competitive. You’d be applying for aid?”

She said it like a statement instead of a question, but she wasn’t wrong. This was Mountain View High. No one was paying outright for a private school. Most of Blue’s peers considered community college or state schools, if they considered college at all.

“I don’t know if Mr. Torres went over the types of schools you need.” Ms. Shiftlet sounded as if she suspected he hadn’t, and that she judged him for it. “What you need is three different types. Reach schools, match schools, and safety schools. This one is a wonderful example of a reach school. But now it’s time to add some others to your list. Some schools that you can be sure you can get into and afford. That’s just good sense.”

Ms. Shiftlet wrote reach, match, and safety on an index card. Underlining safety, she slid it across the desk. Blue wasn’t sure if she was supposed to keep it.

“Have you filled out your application fee waiver form?”

“Four of them. I read online I could get up to four waived?”

This show of efficiency visibly pleased Ms. Shiftlet. “So maybe you already know this is your reach school! Now it’s time to make a sensible backup plan.”

Blue was so tired of compromises. She was tired of sensible.

Noah scratched his fingernails on the desk leg. The sound — which was admittedly uncomfortable — made Ms. Shiftlet frown.

He said, “I’d be way more sunshiney if I was a counselor.”

“If I did get in,” Blue said, “could I get loans and aid to cover it all?”

“Let me get you some paperwork,” Ms. Shiftlet said. “FAFSA will pay for a percentage depending on your need. The amount varies.”

Blue couldn’t expect any help from the lean budget at 300 Fox Way. She thought about the bank account she’d slowly been filling. “How much will be left over? Could you guess?”

Ms. Shiftlet sighed. Guessing clearly fell outside her realm of interests. She flipped the monitor around again to reveal the school’s tuition rate. “If you were staying in the dorm, you’d probably be obligated for ten thousand dollars a year. Your parents could take out a loan, of course. I have paperwork for that, too, if you would like it.”

Blue leaned back as her heart vacated her chest cavity. Of course it was impossible. It had been impossible before she arrived and would continue being impossible forever. It was just that spending time with Gansey and the others had made her think that the impossible might be more possible than she’d thought before.

Maura was always telling her, Look at all the potential you hold inside yourself!

Potential for other people, though. Not for Blue.

It wasn’t worth shedding tears over something she had known for so long. It was just that this, on top of everything else —

She swallowed. I will not cry in front of this woman.

Suddenly, Noah scrambled out from under the desk. He leapt to his feet. There was something wrong about the action, something about it that meant it was too fast or too vertical or too violent for a living boy to perform. And he kept going up, even after he’d already stood. As he stretched to the ceiling, the card that said reach, match, and safety hurtled into the air.

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