Evernight Page 23

“But nothing. Lucas was trying to isolate you from everyone else so he’d have more power over you.” Raquel shook her head. “You’re better off without him.”

I knew she was wrong about Lucas, but I also knew that I hadn’t come close to figuring him out.

Why had Lucas started criticizing my parents? The only time he’d ever seen us all together was at the movie theater, and they’d been friendly and welcoming. He’d claimed that it was about my halfhearted attempt to run away on the first day of school, but I didn’t know if I entirely believed that. If he had a problem with Mom and Dad, he’d obviously dreamed it up for some bizarre paranoid reason that I was better off not having to deal with.

Explanations invented themselves in my head. Perhaps he’d had some girlfriend before me—probably chic and sophisticated, a girl who had traveled all around the world—and her parents had been snobbish and unfair. They’d shut Lucas out, maybe had forbidden him to ever see their daughter again, and so now he was scarred and distrustful.

This imagined story did me absolutely no good whatsoever. First of all, it made me feel sorry for Lucas, like I understood why he’d behaved so strangely, when really I didn’t. Also, I felt insecure compared to this theoretical sophisticated previous girlfriend—and how sad is it if you feel threatened by a person who doesn’t even exist?

I don’t think I’d realized just how important Lucas had become to me until then—until we were separated and I had real reasons for staying away from him. Chemistry class, the only one we shared, was an hour of torture every day; I could almost feel him near me, the way you can feel a fire’s presence in a cold room. Yet I never spoke to him, and he never spoke to me, respecting the silence I had demanded and maintained. I didn’t see how he could be in more pain than I was. Logic said I was better off walking away, but logic didn’t matter to me. I missed Lucas all the time, and it seemed like the more I told myself to leave him alone, the more I longed to be with him.

Did he feel the same way? I couldn’t be sure. All I knew for certain was that he was wrong about my parents.

“How are you feeling, Bianca?” Mom asked softly as we cleared away my dishes from our Sunday dinner.

I hadn’t slept well, hadn’t eaten much, and mostly just wanted to pull a blanket over my head for the next two years or so. But for virtually the first time in my life, I didn’t want to confide in them. They were Lucas’s teachers; it wouldn’t be fair to Lucas to tell them about his suspicions. Besides, talking about the fact that Lucas and I were apparently over before we’d even started would have made the loss more real. “I’m fine.”

Mom and Dad exchanged glances. They could tell I was lying, but they weren’t going to press me. “Tell you what,” Dad said, heading toward the record player. “Don’t go back downstairs just yet.”

“Really?” Normally, the Sunday dinner rules dictated that I return to the dorms for studying not long after dinner had ended.

“It’s a clear night, and I thought you might want to get in some telescope time. Besides, I was about to put Frank Sinatra on. I know how you love Ol’ Blue Eyes.”

“‘Fly Me to the Moon,’” I requested, and within a few seconds, Frank was singing it to us all. I showed them both the Andromeda galaxy, directing them to look up from Pegasus, then go northeast until they saw it, the soft fuzzy glow of a billion stars far away. After that, I spent a long time combing through the cosmos, each familiar star like a long-lost friend.

The next day, on my way to history class, I glimpsed Lucas in the hallway at the very same moment he spotted me. Sunlight from the stained glass windows painted him the colors of autumn, and it seemed to me that he had never been more handsome.

When our gazes met, though, the moment lost all its beauty. Lucas looked hurt, as bewildered and lost as I’d been feeling ever since the argument in the restaurant—and for a terrible second I felt guilty, because I knew that I’d hurt him. I could see guilt in his eyes, too. Then he clenched his jaw and turned from me, shoulders slightly hunched. Within seconds, he was lost in the crowd of uniforms, one more invisible person at Evernight.

Maybe he was telling himself, once again, that it was best to keep his distance from people. I remembered how he had acted when we were together—so much happier and looser, more free—and I hated the idea that I might have forced him to shut himself off from the world again.

“Lucas’s totally dragging ass around the dorm room,” Vic informed me later that day when we ran into each other on the stairwell. For once, Vic was dressed normally—at least, from the ankles up, because the red Chucks he had on his feet were definitely not part of the uniform. “He’s kind of a moody guy anyway, but this is beyond moody. This is supermoody. Megamoody. X-treme moodiness.” He made an X with his arms to spell out the last.

“Did he send you here to plead his case?” I tried to make it sound light. I don’t think I did very well; my voice was so ragged that anybody could tell I’d been crying earlier that day—even someone as oblivious as Vic.

“He didn’t send me. He’s not like that.” Vic shrugged. “Just wondering about the source of the drama.”

“There’s no drama.”

“There’s totally drama, and you’re not going to tell me about it, but, hey, that’s okay. Because it’s not my business.”

I felt so disappointed. I would have been angry if Lucas had sent Vic to argue on his behalf, but it was depressing to realize that Lucas was going to let me go without a fight. “Okay.”

Vic nudged my elbow with his. “You and me are still friends, right? You guys get joint custody in the divorce. Generous visitation rights.”

“Divorce?” Despite myself, I laughed. Only Vic could call the aftermath of a bad first date a divorce. We hadn’t exactly been friends beforehand, so “still” was an exaggeration, but it would’ve been mean to point that out. Besides, I liked Vic. “We’re still friends.”

“Excellent. The weirdos have to stick together around here.”

“Are you calling me a weirdo?”

“Highest honor I can bestow.” He held out his hands as we walked through the corridors, taking it all in with one gesture: the high ceilings, the dark, scrolling woodwork that framed every hall and door, the shaded light that filtered through old windows and streaked long, irregular shadows on the floor. “This place is the capital of weird. So what’s weird here is what’s normal anywhere else. That’s how I look at it, anyway.”

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