Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 7

“Oh?” said Ms. Shiftlet. Her voice wasn’t even surprised, yet.

The warmth sucked from Blue’s skin. The water in Ms. Shiftlet’s glass creaked.

The business card holder upended. Cards splayed across the desk. A computer speaker fell onto its face. An array of paper swirled up. Someone’s family photo shot upward.

Blue jumped up. She didn’t have any immediate plan but to stop Noah, but as she flung her hands out, she realized that Noah wasn’t there.

There was just a tossed explosion of tissues and business envelopes and business cards, a frenetic tornado losing propulsion.

The material collapsed back to the desk.

Blue and Ms. Shiftlet stared at each other. The paper rustled as it settled completely. The knocked-over computer speaker buzzed; one of its cables had been knocked ajar.

The temperature was slowly rising in the room again.

“What just happened?” Ms. Shiftlet asked.

Blue’s pulse galloped.

Truthfully, she replied, “I have no idea.”


Blue arrived at Monmouth Manufacturing before anyone else. She knocked to be sure, and then let herself in. Immediately, she was enveloped with the comfortable scent of the room: the faded library-smell of old books, the cool odor of mint, the must-and-rust scent of century-old brick and ancient pipes, the note of funk from the heap of dirty laundry against the wall.

“Noah?” Her voice was small in the huge expanse. She dropped her backpack on the desk chair. “Are you here? It’s okay, I’m not upset. You can use my energy if you need.”

There was no answer. The space was turning gray and blue as one of the strange flash thunderstorms roiled over the mountains, filling the floor-to-ceiling windows of the warehouse with clouds. The sharp afternoon shadows behind the stacks of books mutated and diffused. The room felt heavy, sleepy.

Blue peered into the dark gathering at the far-above peak of the roof. “Noah? I just want to talk about what happened.”

She put her head in the door of Noah’s room. Malory’s things occupied it currently, and it smelled mannish and evergreen. One of his bags was open and Blue could see that it was entirely filled with books. This struck her as impractical and Gansey-like and made her feel a bit more benevolent toward the professor.

Noah was not there.

She checked the bathroom, which was also sort of the laundry room and kitchen. The doors hung open on a small stacked washer-dryer unit; socks draped over the sink’s edge, either drying or flung. A small fridge lurked dangerously close to the toilet. A length of rubber tubing strangled a showerhead above a grimy drain; the shower curtain was strung from the ceiling with fishing line. Blue was disturbed by the number of chip bags that were reachable from the toilet. A dark red tie on the floor pointed a jagged line toward the exit.

Some foreign impulse urged Blue to pick up any of the mess, any single component, to improve upon the disaster.

She did not.

She backed out.

Ronan’s room was forbidden, but she looked inside anyway. His raven’s cage sat with its door ajar, impeccably and incongruously clean. His room was filled not so much with filth, but clutter: shovels and swords leaned in the corners, speakers and printers piled by the wall. And bizarre objects in between: an old suitcase with vines trailing out of it, a potted tree that seemed to be humming to itself, a single cowboy boot in the middle of the floor. A mask hung high on the wall, eyes wide, mouth gaping. It was blackened, as if by fire, and the edges were badly bitten, as if by a saw. Something that looked suspiciously like a tire track ran over one of its eyes. The mask made Blue think of words like survivor and destroyer.

She didn’t like it.

A crash behind Blue made her leap — but it was only the apartment door opening. Guilt had amplified the sound.

Blue darted out of Ronan’s room. Gansey and Malory trailed in slowly, deep in conversation. The Dog sulked behind them, excluded by virtue of not speaking English.

“Of course Iolo Goch would make sense as a companion,” Gansey was saying, sloughing off his jacket. “Him or Gruffudd Llwyd, I suppose. But — no, it’s impossible. He died in Wales.”

“But are we sure?” Malory asked. “Do we know where he was buried? That he was buried?”

“Or if he was just made into nightgowns, you mean?” Gansey caught sight of Blue then, and he rewarded her with his best smile — not his polished one, but the more foolish number that meant he was excited. “Hallo, Jane. Tell me what Iolo Goch means to you.”

Blue pulled her thoughts from Ronan’s mask and Noah and school. “A chest cold?”

“Glendower’s closest poet,” Gansey corrected. “Also, very funny.”

“Did you find anything?” she asked.

“Absolutely nothing,” he replied, but he sounded cheerful about it.

Malory lowered his mass onto the leather couch. The Dog lay on top of him. It didn’t seem as if it would be very comfortable; the Dog draped over the professor like a slip cloth over a chair. But Malory merely closed his eyes and stroked him in an uncharacteristic show of affection. “Gansey, I perish for a cup of tea. Can such a thing be had in this place? I cannot possibly hope to survive this jet lag without a cup of tea.”

“I got tea just for you,” Gansey said. “I’ll make some.”

“Please not with loo water,” Malory called after him, not opening his eyes. The Dog kept lying on him.

For an overwhelming moment, Blue was afraid she was going to be unable to prevent herself from asking what the Dog was for. Instead, she followed Gansey back to the kitchen-bathroom-laundry.

He rummaged through the cluttered shelves. “We were just talking about the mechanics of bringing Glendower over here. The books say he traveled with mages — are they the ones who put him to sleep? Did he want it? Was he sleeping before he left, or did he fall asleep here?”

It suddenly seemed like a lonesome thing to be buried a sea away from your home, like being shot off into space. “Iolo Goch was one of the mages?”

“No, just a poet. You heard Malory in the car. They were very poetlitical — poet — political.” Gansey laughed at his own stumble. “Poets were political. I know that’s not really a tongue twister. I’ve been listening to Malory all day. P-p-political. Poets. Iolo composed these really flattering poems about Glendower’s past prowess and his house and lands. His family. And such. Oh, what am I even looking for here?”

He paused to locate a tiny microwave. He examined the interior of a mug before filling it. Pulling a mint leaf from his pocket to suck on, he spoke around it as the water heated. “Really, if Glendower were Robin Hood, Iolo Goch would have been … that other guy.”

“Maid Marian,” Blue said. “Little John.”

Gansey pointed at her. “Like Batman and Robin. But he died in Wales. Are we to believe he returned to Wales after leaving Glendower here? No. I reject it.”

Blue loved this ponderous, scholarly Gansey, too involved with facts to consider how he appeared on the outside. She asked, “Glendower had a wife, right?”

“Died in the Tower of London.”




“A million of them, but most imprisoned and dead, or just plain dead. He lost his entire family in the uprising.”

“Poet it is, then!”

Gansey asked, “Have you ever heard that rumor that if you boil water in the microwave it will explode when you touch it?”

“Has to be pure,” she replied. “Distilled water. Regular water won’t explode because of the minerals. You shouldn’t believe everything you read on the Internet.”

A roaring sound interrupted them, sudden and complete. Blue started, but Gansey just cast his eyes upward. “It’s rain on the roof. Must be dumping.”

He turned, mug in hand, and suddenly they were an inch apart. She could smell the mint in his mouth. She saw his throat move as he swallowed.

She was furious at her body for betraying her, for wanting him differently than any of the other boys, for refusing to listen to her insistence that they were just friends.

“How was your first day of school, Jane?” he asked, voice different than before.

Mom’s gone. Noah exploded. I’m not going to college. I don’t want to go home where everything is strange, and I don’t want to go back to school where everything is normal.

“Oh, you know, public school,” she said, not meeting his eyes. She concentrated instead on Gansey’s neck, which was right at eye level, and on how his collar didn’t lay quite flat against his skin all the way around because of his Adam’s apple. “We just watched cartoons all day.”

She’d meant it to be wry, but she didn’t think it quite worked.

“We’ll find her,” he said, and her chest twinged again.

“I don’t know if she wants to be found.”

“Fair enough. Jane, if —” He stopped and swirled the tea. “I hope Malory doesn’t want any milk. I completely forgot.”

She wished she could still evoke that Blue who despised him. She wished she knew if Adam would feel terrible about this. She wished she knew if fighting this feeling would make Gansey’s foretold end destroy her any less.

She shut the microwave. Gansey left the room.

Back on the sofa, Malory viewed the tea as a man would view a death sentence.

“What else?” Gansey asked kindly.

Malory shoved the Dog off him. “I’d like a new hip. And better weather. Ah — however. This is your home and I know that I’m an outsider, so far be it from me to chastise or generally overstep. That being said, were you aware there was someone under …?”

He indicated the storm-dark area beneath the pool table. If Blue squinted, she could make out a form in the black.

“Noah,” Gansey said. “Come out at once.”

“No,” Noah replied.

“Well! I see you two know each other and all is well,” Malory said, in the voice of someone who sensed trouble coming and hadn’t brought an umbrella. “I will be in my room nursing my jet lag.”

After he had retreated, Blue said with exasperation, “Noah! I called and called for you.”

Noah remained where he was, arms hugged around his body. He looked markedly less alive than he had earlier; there was something smudgy about his eyes, something uncertain about his edges. It was kind of hard to look at the place where Noah stopped and the shadow below him began. Something unpleasant happened in Blue’s throat when she tried to make out what was off about his face.

“I’m tired of it,” Noah said.

“Tired of what?” Gansey asked, voice kind.


He had been crying. That was what was wrong with his face, Blue realized. Nothing supernatural.

“Oh, Noah,” she said, crouching down.

“What can I do?” Gansey asked. “We. What can we do?”

Noah shrugged in a watery way.

Blue was suddenly desperately afraid that Noah might want to actually die. This seemed like something most ghosts wanted — to be laid to rest. It was a dreadful notion, a forever good-bye. Her selfishness warred mightily with every bit of ethics she had ever learned from the women of her family.

Blast. She had to.

She asked, “Do you want us to find a way to, um, to properly, to lay …”

Before she’d even finished, Noah started shaking his head. He hugged his legs closer. “No. Nonono.”

“You don’t have to be ashamed,” Blue said, because it sounded like what her mother would have said. She was certain her mother would have added something comforting about the afterlife, but she was unable, this time, to sound comforting when she herself wanted to be comforted. Lamely, she finished, “You don’t have to be afraid.”

“You don’t know!” Noah said, vaguely hysterical. “You don’t know!”

She stretched out a hand. “Okay, hey —”

Noah repeated, “You don’t know!”

“We can talk this out,” Gansey said, as if a decaying soul was something that could be solved through conversation.

“You don’t know! You don’t know!”

Noah was standing. It was impossible, because there was not room beneath the pool table for him to stand. But he was somehow escaping on either side, surrounding Gansey and Blue. The maps fluttered frantically against the green surface. A flock of dust wads tumbled from beneath the table and raced down the streets of Gansey’s miniature model of Henrietta. The desk lamp flickered.

The temperature dropped.

Blue saw Gansey’s eyes widen behind a cloud of his own breath.

“Noah,” Blue warned. Her head felt swimmy as Noah robbed her of energy. She caught a whiff, strangely, of the old-carpet smell of the guidance counselor’s office, and then the living, green scent of Cabeswater. “This isn’t you!”

The swirl of wind was still rising, flapping papers and knocking over stacks of books. The Dog was barking from behind the closed door of Noah’s old room. Goose bumps rippled on Blue’s skin, and her limbs felt heavy.

“Noah, stop,” Gansey said.

But he didn’t. The door to the apartment rattled.

Blue said, “Noah, I’m asking you now.”

He wasn’t attending, or there wasn’t enough of the true Noah to attend.

Standing up on her wobbly legs, Blue began to use all of the protective visualizations she’d been taught by her mother. She imagined herself inside an unbreakable glass ball; she could see out, but no one could touch her. She imagined white light piercing the stormy clouds, the roof, the darkness of Noah, finding Blue, armoring her.

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