Evernight Page 21

“The ending isn’t fake if it’s the ending.” I insisted. The lights came up for the brief intermission before the late show began. “Let’s go someplace else, okay? We’ve got a while before the bus.”

Lucas glanced upward, and I could tell he wouldn’t mind getting farther from the parental chaperones. “Come on.”

We made our way along Riverton’s small main street, where it seemed like every single open store or restaurant was crowded with refugees from Evernight Academy. Lucas and I silently passed each of them, searching for what we really wanted—a place to be alone. The idea that Lucas wanted some privacy for us made me feel both thrilled and a little bit intimidated. The night was cool, and the autumn leaves were rustling as we went down the sidewalk, stealing glances at each other as we made small talk.

At last, once we’d walked beyond the bus station that marked the end of the main street, we found an old pizza place just past the corner that looked like it hadn’t been redecorated since about 1961. Instead of ordering a whole pie, we just grabbed some plain cheese slices and sodas and slid into a booth. We faced each other across a table with a red-and-white checked cloth and a Chianti bottle thickly covered with candle wax. A jukebox in the corner was playing some Elton John song from before we were born.

“I like places like this,” Lucas said. “They feel real. Not like some corporate focus group designed every inch of it.”

“Me, too.” I would’ve told Lucas that I liked eating eggplant on the moon, if he liked it, too. At the moment, though, I was telling the truth. “You can relax and be yourself here.”

“Be myself.” Lucas’s smile was sort of faraway, like he had a private joke. “That ought to be easier than it is.”

I knew what he meant.

We were all but alone in the pizza parlor; the only other occupied table had about four guys who seemed to have come from a construction site, with plaster dust clinging to their T-shirts and a couple of empty pitchers testifying to the beer they’d already drunk. They were laughing loudly at their own jokes, but I didn’t mind. That gave me an excuse to lean across the table and be a little closer to Lucas.

“So, Cary Grant,” Lucas began, shaking red pepper flakes onto his slice. “That’s pretty much your dream guy, huh?”

“He’s sort of the king of dream guys, isn’t he? I’ve had a crush on him ever since I first saw Holiday when I was about five or six.”

You would think Lucas the movie buff would agree with that, but he didn’t. “Most girls in high school would be crushed out on movie stars who, you know, are making movies now. Or somebody on TV.”

I took a bite of pizza and had a very awkward cheese-strand situation to deal with for a second. Once I finally had a mouthful, I mumbled, “I like a whole lot of actors, but who doesn’t love Cary Grant the most?”

“Even though I totally agree that this fact is tragic, let’s face it: A lot of people our age haven’t even heard of Cary Grant.”

“Criminal.” I tried to imagine what Mrs. Bethany’s face would look like if I suggested a Cinema History elective. “My parents always introduced me to the movies and books that they loved back before I was born.”

“Cary Grant was big in the 1940s, Bianca. He was making movies seventy years ago.”

“And his movies have been on TV ever since. It’s easy to catch up on old movies if you just try.”

Lucas hesitated, and I felt a tug of dread, a swift, urgent need to change the subject to something else, anything else. I was one second too late, because Lucas said, “You said your parents brought you to Evernight so you could meet more people, get a bigger view of the world. But it seems to me like they’ve spent a whole lot of time making sure your world stays as small as possible.”

“Excuse me?”

“Forget I said it.” He sighed heavily as he dropped his pizza crust onto his plate. “I shouldn’t have brought this up now. This should be fun.”

Probably I should have let it go. The last thing I wanted to do on my first night out with Lucas was argue. But I couldn’t. “No, I want to understand. What do you even know about my parents?”

“I know that they packed you off to Evernight, which is basically the last place on earth the twenty-first century hasn’t reached. No cell phones; no wireless; cable Internet service only in a computer lab that has, like, four machines; no televisions; almost no contact with the outside world—”

“It’s a boarding school! It’s supposed to be separate from the rest of the world!”

“They want you separate from the rest of the world. So they’ve taught you to love the things they love, not what girls your age are supposed to love.”

“I make up my own mind about what I like and what I don’t.” I could feel my cheeks flushing hot with anger. Usually when I got this mad, I ended up bursting into tears, but I was determined not to. “Besides, you’re the Hitchcock fan. You like old movies, too. Does that mean your parents run your life?”

He leaned across the table, and his dark green eyes were intense, holding me fast. I’d wanted him to look at me like this all night, but this wasn’t the way I’d wanted it to happen. “You tried to run away from your family once. You brush it off like some stupid stunt you were trying to pull.”

“That’s all it was.”

“I think you were onto something. I think you were right to feel weird about Evernight. And I think you ought to listen to that voice inside yourself and stop listening so much to your parents.”

Lucas couldn’t be saying these things. If my parents ever heard him talking like this—No, I couldn’t even think about that. “Just because Evernight sucks doesn’t mean my parents are bad parents, and you have a lot of nerve criticizing them when you hardly know them. You don’t know anything about my family, and I don’t understand why you care.”

“Because—” He stopped, as if startled by his own words. Slowly, almost disbelieving, he said, “I care because I care about you.”

Oh, why did he have to say that now? Like this? I shook my head. “You’re not making any sense.”

“Hey.” One of the construction workers had just punched up some tacky eighties metal on the jukebox. Now he was strolling toward us, off balance. “You givin’ that little girl trouble?”

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