The Dark Divine Page 8

Daniel looked up at me. His dark eyes searched my face. There was something different about those too-familiar eyes. Maybe it was the way the orange light from the streetlamp illuminated his pupils. Maybe it was the way he stared without blinking. His eyes made him look ... hungry. He dropped his gaze. "You wouldn't understand."

I folded my arms. "Wouldn't I?"

Daniel turned to the engine, hesitated, and then looked back at me. "You ever been to the MoMA?" he asked.

"The Museum of Modern Art? No. I've never been to New York."

"I ended up there a while back. You know they have cell phones, and iPods, and even vacuums in the MoMA? I mean, they're everyday things, but at the same time they're art." His voice seemed softer and less raspy. "The way the lines curve and the pieces fit together. It's functional art that you can hold in your hand, and it changes the way you live your life."

"So?"

"So?" He came up real close to me. "Somebody designed those things. Somebody does that for a living."

He stepped even closer, his face only inches from mine. My breath caught.

"That's what I want to do," he said.

The passion in his voice made my heart beat faster. But his hungry stare made me step farther away.

Daniel slumped back to the engine and yanked something loose. "Only that's never going to happen now." He leaned forward, and his black stone pendant dangled from his neck over the open engine block.

"Why?"

"You know the Trenton Art Institute?"

I nodded. Almost every senior in my AP art class was shooting for admission into Trenton. Usually only one student made it per year.

"They have the best industrial design department in the country. I took some of my paintings and designs there. This woman, Ms. French, looked them over. She said I have promise"--his voice skirted around the word like it was bitter to the taste--"but I need more training. She said if I get my diploma and graduate from a respectable art program, she'd give me another chance for admission."

"That's great, isn't it?" I shuffled closer. How did he always do that--make me completely forget I was mad at him so easily?

"The problem is, Holy Trinity has one of the few art departments that Trenton even deems worthy as a prerequisite. That's why I came back." He glanced at me. It seemed like there was something else he wanted to say, something more to the story. He brushed the pendant that rested against his chest. It was a smooth black stone shaped like a flattened oval. "Only that Barlow guy kicked me out the first day."

"What?" I knew Barlow was mad at Daniel, but I didn't think he'd actually kick him out. "That's so not fair,"

Daniel grinned in that mocking way of his. "That's one of the things I always loved about you, Grace. You've got this overriding sense that everything in life should be fair."

"I do not. That's so not ..." I cringed. "Justified." Daniel laughed and scratched behind his ear. "You remember that time we went to the MacArthurs' farm to see their puppies, and one of the pups only had three legs and Rick Mac Arthur said they were going to put it down because nobody wanted it? And you said, 'That's so not fair!' and took that puppy home without even asking."

"Daisy," I said. "I loved that dog."

"I know. And she loved you so much she barked her head off whenever you left the house."

"Yeah. One of the neighbors called the sheriff so many times my parents said I'd have to give her away if it happened again. I knew no one else would want her, so I kept her in my bedroom whenever we were gone." I sniffed my running nose. "Then she got out of the house one day ... and something killed her. Ripped her throat right out." My own throat ached with the memory of it. "I had nightmares every night for a month."

"It was my dad," Daniel said quietly.

"What?"

"The one who called the police all those times." Daniel wiped his nose with his shoulder. "He'd wake up in the middle of the day in one of his moods and ..." He reached under the hood and jiggled something into place. "Start the car."

I backed away and got in the driver's seat. I said a small prayer and turned the key in the ignition. The engine chugged a couple of times and then made this sound like an asthmatic cough. I tried the key one more time and it started. I clapped my hands together and thanked the Lord. Daniel dropped the hood. "You should get out of here." He rubbed his hands on his arms, leaving black, greasy tracks on his skin. "Have a good life." He kicked one of the tires and walked away. As he slipped out of the light of the streetlamp, I jumped out of the car. "That's it?" I shouted.

"You're just going to take off again?"

"Isn't that what you wanted?"

"I don't, I mean, aren't you coming back to school?"

He shrugged, his back to me. "What's the point? Without that art class ..." He took another step into the darkness.

"Daniel!" My frustration fired like a pottery kiln. I knew I should thank him for fixing the car--for coming along when he did. I knew I should at least say goodbye, but I couldn't make the words come.

He turned and looked at me, his body almost lost in the shadows.

"Can I give you a ride somewhere? I could drop you at the shelter so you can get some clothes and something to eat, maybe."

"I'm not the shelter type," Daniel said. "Besides, I'm staying with some guys over there." He thumbed in the direction of the squatty building across the street.

"Oh." I looked at my hands. I'd actually thought he'd been following me, but he was probably just walking down the street when he saw me with Pete. "Wait there." I went to the car and tore open one of the boxes in the backseat. I dug around and pulled out a red-and black coat. I took it to Daniel and handed it to him.

He held it for a moment, fingering the embroidered North Face logo on the front. "I can't take this," he said, and tried to hand it hack.

I waved it away. "It's not charity. I mean, you used to be my brother." He flinched. "It's too nice."

"I'd give you another one, but the others in this car are women's. Jude has the rest, so unless you want to come to the shelter?" "No."

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